2014 = FOCUS

No, New Year’s resolutions for this guy, but this year’s theme will be “FOCUS”. Themes is an idea, which was taken from Jared Goralnick’s blog posts from a few years ago:

Instead of doing New Year’s resolutions, which I haven’t done in decades I’m going to spend an extra five hours a week minim, hopefully at least ten hours, a week on a given subject for a month or more depending on the amount of knowledge gathering needed for a given subject. More time will be spent each week if my schedule happens to allow for more, but at least five hours a week, which will make over 250 extra hours of training over the course of the year. The week will start on Monday and ending Sunday night, which allows me the opportunity to either catch-up on the weekends of add more hours for that week.

Plan for Spending My Time

I will spend the first two to three hours per month writing down more details of what and how I’m going to spend my time learning that month. The months focus maybe to spend the next five or ten hours reading blog posts, books, etc. on a given subject before diving in to learn and work on a given subject. Or it might be to spend an hours reading a book, blog post or whatever and then another hour or to doing something like coding or painting.

Will also need to spend and extra hour or two towards the end of each month contacting people that are smart and know more about a given subject for recommendations on what to read and anything else I will need to stay focused on the next month’s subject. This time spent asking questions, for help, or recommendations will not be part of the hours each week/month focusing on a given subject.

I want to spend at least four full weeks on the subject. If the month starts or ends somewhere in the middle of the week, I will need to decide if I have learned enough or if I should spend and extra day or so continuing to learn or move on to the next subject/area of focus.

Topics of FOCUS

A lot of the topics I’m going to be focusing on for one month will hopefully help prepare me for the next month and be able to be improved upon and use this whole time. By the time, I get into the months of August and September (PHP), October and November (mySQL), and finally December these focus areas are going to get me closer to finishing my web based event registration application Hold An Event or at least build something a little less complicated, so I have some kind of finished project by the end of 2014.

Below are the months and what subject I plan on focusing on during a given amount of time. Some subjects span a few months because I have determined that to learn anything useful I will need to focus on them for a longer amount of time. Under each month/topic of focus is a list of things I can think of now that I want to focus on with more to be added at the beginning of each month or as I delve deeper into a subject.

January – Improve My Writing

  • Start with doing a bunch of reading on how to improve my writing and grammar.
  • Create outlines for some writing examples.
  • Next will be outlines of blog posts, slide presentations, etc.
  • Write short blog posts or stories to get more practice in .
  • Write Hold An Event content from the perspective of first time user/visitor to website/application.

February – Creativity, Inspiration, and Passion

  • Read about how to be more creativity, inspired, and passionate.
  • On the weekend or weekday night take a trip to the National Gallery or Art.
  • Take a bus road trip to NYC to visit MoMA or one of the other museums.
  • Spend time painting.
  • Watch YouTube videos to learn how to play the guitar.
  • Take a guitar lesson or two.
  • Do some sketching on iPad using Paper from 53 of new “I Gotta Eat Here” web application.

March – Learn Git, along with Github

  • Learn Git.
  • Learn Github.
  • Practice starting with:
    • Improving my website content.
    • Update blog posts for grammar and spelling issues.
    • HTML code, JavaScript, CSS, etc:
      • Improve or remove obsolete code.
      • Delete commented out code.
      • Make pages responsive.
  • Add META data to web pages.
  • Continue to improve my writing by re-writing website content for:
  • Accessibility improvements need to be made in the process of learning Git.

April – Learn More about Accessibility

  • Some subjects include ARIA, JAWS, Dragon Naturally Speaking, VoiceOver, etc.
  • Use accessibility information gained at CSUN to start working on being a better developer.
  • Focus on improving my knowledge about ARIA/accessibility issues the better I will be at building websites, web applications, and making JavaScript/jQuery items more accessible.

May – Better Health

Originally had this January as everyone does to start the year out on the right foot and decided, since that usually doesn’t work, why not try it later on. This allows me to focus on other subjects during the colder months and start with health once ti gets warmer, since I tend to like to walk as my exercise.

  • Starting with food (better choices, smaller portions, etc.).
  • Exercise more by walking after work and on weekends.
  • Work on having more energy to be able to stay up late to work on Hold An Event later on down the road and still feel rested.
  • Create easy ways to cook and prepare healthy meals.
  • Decide how many days during given a week I should cook/prepare my own meals.
  • Decide how to have me to bring my own healthy food to work for lunch, which saves me money.

June and July – Javascript/jQuery

  • Find best book(s), video tutorials, or blog posts to learn JavaScript.
  • Learn JavaScript and to start with the basics, maybe with Jeremy Keith’s book (DOM Scripting), if it’s still a good resource, which will make understanding and fixing jQuery issues easier.
  • Learn jQuery, since most websites now a days use it to perform their JavaScript functionality.
  • Create accessible examples, along with ARIA, error messages, etc. examples for others to use.

August and September – PHP

  • Learn the best way to optimize code.
  • Create ways to read different parts of the database by changing parms.
  • Create API to use to create, read, update, and delete records.

October and November – mySQL

  • Create databases.
  • Write new records.
  • Update/delete record (not really deleted, but mark as done using date so I will know when record was deleted).
  • Find the best way to optimize database to get information as quickly as possible.

December – Security

  • Stop denial of service.
  • Look into protecting data, but mostly user information.
  • Figure out how to add SSL to website, along with cost per year, etc.

In Conclusion

After each month, I will write a blog post to continue to improve my writing, along with explaining what books, blog posts, videos, etc. I read or watched to help me focus on that months subject. Will also rate myself on how I thought I did with a given subject and if I truly learned anything, long with to tell everyone how many hours I managed to focus on that months subject for.

So this year I plan to “FOCUS” on monthly topics and hope to be better and more knowledgeable person by the end of 2014.

What are you planning to accomplish in 2014?

Looking for Mentors and Willing to Mentor Others

Lately, I have been thinking about the fact that I seem to be falling behind my peers on what I know and can do in the areas of web accessibility, along with front-end coding (HTML, CSS, and JavasScript (jQuery), programming, business, promoting myself and my events.  It’s finally time to start looking for mentors, along with mentoring a few people in what I know about accessibility, food, wine, etc.

About a year and a half or more ago I started a list of several categories/areas I was looking for mentors for work and in my personal life. To this list I have even  adding people’s names that I have met and think can help me in one way, or another. I’m not going to list those people here, but will list the different categories or areas I’m looking to improve on.

By writing this blog post, I will now have to start contacting people and seeing if they will be willing to help me further my career, along with improving the way I learn, teach others, present, etc. For those that are local it might be going out for food on me or a quick phone call or e-mail once a month or less if needed. For those that are not local or close (100 miles) it might work to do phone calls, Skype, and some other new modern way. I’m even willing to pay for food for them as well, so we can both do this over a good meal, which I find has worked at different conferences and after parties to learn sometimes even more than talks earlier in the day.

Below are the different areas I’m looking for mentors. Some have to do with my current work, and others are there for in the future either for starting my own accessibility company with others or working more on my event registration web application – Hold An Event.

Looking for MENTORS

  • Accessibility – I know a lot of general information, but need to work on the details and other areas I’m not the most knowledgeable in
  • JavaScript/jQuery – need to catch-up, since most places use these so much, and I have not had to do much of this type of work at my current job
  • PHP and other programming languages – need to learn more languages, so I know how to recommend changes to improve peoples or companies accessibility
  • Building web applications – help me improve Hold An Event with lessons learned
  • Running conferences – need to find ways to improve Accessibility Camp DC, BarCamp DC, along with monthly meet-up
  • Presenting and teaching – Need to improve both my style and knowledge for my talks, along with the quality of my slides/materials
  • Learn to design – to be able to improve my websites and web applications so they are simple yet appealing to others
  • Usability/UX – need to be able to build websites and applications that are usable and have a great user experience for people
  • Content Strategy – need to improve the wording and style of my writings (even this previous sentence needs work)
  • Business from an information technology standpoint – how to start thinking about getting Hold An Event into a stable form so people can start working with it, along with thinking about its future
  • Business from how to run a business – for ways to run my web applications Hold An Event once it’s closer to being rolled out to the general public
  • Marketing/Social Media – how to better publicize myself, my business, and my web application
  • Health and Fitness – if I’m going to do mentoring and be mentored I need to have more energy, which means exercising, along with better eating and sleeping habits
  • Food and Wine – always need to learn more about how to prepare food, where to go eat and find nice wines

The fun part is some of the people I have in mind as mentors fit a few of these categories which are really cool. Others on the list I’m not sure how I’m going to get in touch with them to ask for help, let alone if they can or want to mentor me.

The next step is to figure out how I’m going to ask people for help, let alone to mentor me once in a while or long term, since so many are overbooked like the rest of us with work, families, traveling, speaking, etc.

Willing to MENTOR Others

I’m also willing to help and/or mentor those that can use some of my knowledge about accessibility, food, wine, etc. So please get in touch with me if you want me to help you or maybe you only need a little bit of my time to run a few ideas by me or just to get my opinion or recommendations on how best to do something. If I can’t help you  on what you’re asking about I’m likely to be able to point you to  someone who can.

Final thoughts

So if you have any ideas on people you think that can mentor me in any of these areas or want me to mentor/help you leave a comment or get in touch with me from my website or twitter.


Project 52 Plans

I’m still working on my plan of how to complete Project 52, but I first want to thank Anton Peck for coming up with the idea to get himself and others to blog at least once a week for a year. Anton at first thought that maybe 25 or at most 50 of his friends would participate and ended up with over 700 last time I checked the list.

When Anton first came up with the idea on his blog I was all for participating, because I didn’t do a whole lot of blogging last. Instead I attended a few web conferences, ran a few (Accessibility Camp DC and BarCamp DC) with help from others, along with starting a monthly accessibility meet-up here in Washington, DC.

Donate to Charity

In the comments of Anton’s blog post about Project 52 I even talked about why not try and do some good out of all this by donating $10 to charity for ever week I miss blogging, creating code examples, making a “How To” videos of either accessibility related items or whatever. So each quarter I will donate $10 per week of missed blogging to a local charity like Martha’s Table or to Kiva.

Blog Post Ideas

Some of the things I plan on blogging abut this year are listed below:

  • Accessibility related issues and best practices
  • SXSWi – spring-break for geeks in Austin, Texas
  • Access U – accessibility conference in Austin, Texas, put on by Knowility
  • Accessibility Camp DC
  • BarCamp DC
  • Accessibility DC monthly meet-up
  • Food and wine
  • An Event Apart DC – great web standards conference put on by Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer
  • creating my web application (more to following in a future post)
  • lessons learned from things I have done or from others (friends and experts)
  • book reviews – mostly technology
  • spending more time with friends
  • more writing

So those are some of my ideas for blog posts and plans for the next 50 weeks. Might have to write a few accessibility best practices or code examples posts in advance for times like when I’m at SXSWI for a week and won’t have much time to blog. I already have six or eight subjects with titles and a short outline started from ideas from last year, now to just do the writing and coding required.

Are you planning on doing more blogging this year or just more reading and other work?

Please tell me what you are doing or suggestions for me to do in the comments.

Wish me luck.

Anton Peck Made Me Write This!

Anton Peck did not really make me write this article, it was after reading his blog post the yesterday about “Beating Writer’s Block that got me thinking about my lack of writing blog posts too. Anton has been having trouble being able to write blog posts as of late. In his post he goes on to say how he was working to get around the problem. I like his analogy of blog post writing to taking a road trip. Sometimes when going on a road trip at first your not completely sure where your going, but all you know is you need to be going somewhere. Which means sometimes when writing you just have to start writing something and the idea or an article will come to you once you have begun.

My Problem

Part of my problem is not the same, as Anton’s with not knowing what to write. I seem to have the opposite problem in that I have some great blog posts and ideas for them, I just don’t have the drive or ambition to do them. I have about six to eight blog posts started, that I began last year. I usually create the article by coming up with subject (title) and then put a bunch of summary information about it into WordPress, that I go back to later create the post with.

My problem with getting my blog posts done is that normally they are more technical in nature and usually end up needing some kind of technical code example. These examples take time and I’m also trying to make sure the articles are written correctly, since I’m not an English major as I have always said, I’m a developer/coder.

The other thing that slows me down is once I get writing an post it tends to be long and verbose. I never seem to write short blog post like my friend Justin Thorp. He usually writes posts that are three to five paragraphs that get right to the point, with a few sentences in each one (his last few seem to be bit longer than normal). His are still much shorter than mine.

Mine on the other hand, end up having a dozen or so long paragraphs with really long sentences. I might have to work on being more succinct with my writing for the readers sake and my own.

I believe this is part of the same reason I have been fiddling with a few web application ideas/prototypes off and on for like almost two years. I tend to get them started and then find a better way to do them, by making them more accessible or more efficient from new techniques I have learned. I have even started to re-write one so I can start to learn PHP, being that I have been a classic ASP developer that uses XHTML, CSS, and bit of JavaScript for the first attempt at them.

My Burnout

Another thing that might be putting a damper on my blog post writing and enthusiasm for doing other web work after hours was also brought to my attention again from the A List Aparts article about “Burnout” by Scott Boms. Over the course of my technology career, I think I have been burned out or at least darn close, probably a good half dozen times. This is not something to be proud of at all. It first started while I was in college trying to finish large school projects while working 20 to 40 hours a week.

It also happened a few other times over the last 20+ years while working on projects for work and being responsible for making sure the production mainframe nightly jobs worked and ran smoothly. Because of this I now believe I try and spend more time away from the computer after work, besides checking e-mail and twitter, so I have a better life balance.

Life Balance

To have more life balance, I seem to spend more time watching mindless TV, keeping up with friends on Twitter, and just a lot of time reading others blog posts, instead of spending my time DOING real work and getting things done. As of late I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking about ways to help myself get over these issues so I can get back to building and creating more blog posts and finishing my web applications.

The sooner I can do this the more likely I will be able to help others with them and maybe if I’m lucky make some money to at least pay for themselves (hosting costs). And if they really get going I might be able to do one or all of them full time. My other big issue is which web application should I build first or at all, instead of trying to work on all of them and not making any real progress.


If you have any suggestions on ways to help me or others with any of these issues I would be glad to hear about them. Here’s hoping others will help you write that much needed blog post or build the next big thing.

Thanks, Anton Peck for making me write this blog post!