My Writing Process

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by Jess Brown

I recently took on a challenge to write a blog post for every day of the week for 30 straight week days. At the beginning of this year I had a goal to write more. I started off writing a couple of posts per week, but eventually faded to 1 per month. I probably don't have 30 blog posts for the whole year, so how will I ever do 30 straight?

Blog waiting

Well, so far I haven't found it too terribly difficult. For this post, I wanted to briefly explain how I get from idea to published.

Capturing Ideas

Once you know that you have to write that day and you know you need an idea, they seem to start rolling in left and right. What experience do you want to share, what did you find interesting, helpful, what problem did you face, etc. The key is capturing all of these ideas and thoughts as they arise. I mostly use Evernote to capture these things. I create a tag called "blog idea" and tag each note with it. Evernote is good for this because, you can pretty much capture anything: urls, emails, photos, pdf's, voice memos, and just regular notes. Then once you capture this media, be sure to jot down exactly what you're thinking about when you have the idea. I've created plenty of notes that I opened later and wouldn't have a clue what I was thinking when I wrote it. Sometimes, if I'm at my computer, I go ahead and start the post, or at least jot down the outline for it. Voice memos are great for when you cannot write -- driving down the road, exercising, etc.

Writing

I typically take a coffee break at 3.00PM or so each day and while I'm sipping on my coffee, I do the Pomodor Technique (spend 25 minutes of extreme focus) to write out a blog post. I usually don't worry too much about details (spelling, grammar, etc) I just want to get the rough draft written.

Review & Publishing

Either later that evening or first thing in the morning I'll review the post. It's amazing how letting a little time go by and letting the words sit will bring clarity to the article. I'll usually spend 10-25 more minutes rearranging and getting it ready to publish.

Promoting

Once I publish the article, I'll share it through Buffer so it'll post to all my social accounts. Then I'll try to think of a person, group, or organization that might benefit from my writing. For example, if it's a Ruby topic, I'll send it to Ruby Weekly or just recently my accounting article was shared as a guest post on the LessAccounting blog. This has been a great way for me to gain so readers and help folks at the same time.

I hope that helps! Happy Writing!

A Day In The Life Of

Profile
by Jess Brown

One of my favorite creative / techonolgy magazines is Offscreen. They have a feature that I've seen in every issue called A Day In The Life Of.

A day in the life of

It's a collection of several featured artists that describes what a typical day looks like for them. The artists aren't necessarily popular or famous, although some of them do work at high profile companies (Google, Facebook, etc), but for some reason I find it really interesting to read through. It must also be interesting for others too since it continues to be in the magazine.

So here, I'm officially submitting my chronicle: A day in the life of Jess Brown

Jess Brown

Independent Web Developer, Monroe, GA

6.00AM -- Things start early here. But, first things first...my wife is nudging me out of the bed to start coffee.

6.15AM -- I work from home, so a quick walk up the stairs to my office places me at my desk. I lead a Bible study group once a week, so I begin the day in prayer, thought, and then begin preparation for the next lesson.

6.45AM -- I check my email, calendar and moleskin to review the tasks/projects for the day. I typically come up with an idea of when and how I'll work on each project.

7.00AM -- Time to wake the kids up for school. I have a 3 and 7 year old. I get them dressed and fed while mom gets herself ready.

8.00AM -- Mom and kids head off to school, while I head out on my bike. Today I have planned what's usually a typical ride of around 2hrs. Exercise is an important part of starting the day off right for me.

10.15AM -- After a shower and a small snack, I'm back at my desk tackling the plan I laid out earlier that morning. Today I'm monitoring the relaunch of a client's app. They provide exercise programs for university courses, and since most universities are on semester systems, 30-40% of annual sales will come in this week. We just upgraded to a new server environment, so everyone is anxious to see how it handles the rush.

1.00PM -- Aside from a few little tweaks, the new servers are handling the load just fine. Since things seem under control, I'll grab a bite to eat with my wife downstairs. We're pretty health conscious about what we eat, so we end up cooking quite a bit, which means leftovers are usually the only item on the menu.

1.30PM -- I'm back at my desk and am on a conference call with my client. We discuss how things are progressing and discuss a few features to implement that could make ordering a little easier for students. I also work on set of other features that have been scheduled to be integrated in the application.

3.30PM -- Time for an afternoon coffee break. Today I'll use my AreoPress and try out a new recipe I found. While I'm brewing, my kids get home from school so I get to give them hugs and chat with them a few minutes before heading back to my office with coffee.

3.45PM -- I like to use my coffee time to either learn something new (reading a book or article, following a tutorial, etc) or writing. Today I'll be writing on my blog. Writing, and especially teaching through writing is really rewarding.

4.15PM -- Back to finish up the latter part of the workday. I'm completing a few features I started earlier and after all my tests show passing, I deploy to production.

6.00PM -- I head down stairs to start dinner. There are no church or school meetings or meetups tonight, so I get to relax spending time with my family. Cooking, cleanup, and getting the kids in and out of showers take up the bulk of the evening (kids are hard work :).

8.30PM -- We have story time every night with the kids. Right now, we're reading our second Sammy Keys book called Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief. The adults even like this one!

9.00PM -- It's lights out for the kids. I sit in my older son's room while my wife is in the other. I have my laptop out, quietly checking email and studying up on a new project.

9.30PM -- My wife and I get to spend a little time to ourselves. Tonight we're watching TV and we're currently in the middle of a really good Netflix series called The Killing.

10.30PM -- We're heading to bed and I wind down by reading a fiction novel I'm about halfway through called Battlefield Earth (it's much better than the movie).

11.00PM -- ZZZ

Review of Apple Pay for developers

Profile
by Jess Brown

After hearing about Apple Pay the other day, as a developer who implements payment services through software, I was curious about what it might could offer myself and my clients. Here are some questions I had and what I found about about them.

Who's it for?

Two groups: the consumer and the business.

The consumer, anyone who has and iPhone 6 or Apple Watch. I originally envisioned Buy buttons on websites, but it's only for people who have iPhone6 or the Apple Watch.

Businesses who have retail or mobile apps. If a business has a retail store that already accepts credit cards with the scan and go technology, then they'll likely be able to accept Apple Pay.

Apple pay

Photo: (Apple)

Or, if you're a business with a mobile iOS app, then you can use Apple Pay to accept payment for any purchases within the app.

How's it work?

On the consumer side, you store credit cards in your passport. When you're ready to checkout, you choose a card and hit pay.

On the business retail side, Apple makes use of NFC-enabled credit card readers. Apparently Google Wallet already does this.

On the mobile app side, developers will likely still go through an existing payment processor like Stripe or Authorize.net.

Apple won't store any of the credit card numbers, but will work with the payment processors to store tokens and will randomly update them. This is similar to how Stripe works now with web applications. We send the credit card number to Stripe, then Stripe sends the appliction back a token, and then the application can use the token to make purchases in the future.

When does it get started?

It appears Apple Pay will get started in October. Apple has been working behind the scenes to preapre the payment processors, build partnerships with banks and get retail (220k) stores on board.

Resources

How We Learn

Profile
by Jess Brown

My kids, especially my 7 year old, have recently gotten into video games. It's a struggle to regulate the appropriate amount of time he should or shouldn't be spending. My wife and I are still trying to formulate a plan we think is reasonable and good for him. But that's a different story.

What I wanted to share is something I found really cool. One of the video games is called Farm Simulator. As you might guess, it puts the player in the role of a farm owner. You have to manage money, planting, harvest, workers, equipment, etc. It's actually a pretty cool game and teaches some basic business skills in addition to the entertainment. Well, along with "playing" the video games, he likes to look up videos of other people playing the games on YouTube. People who can record their screen will record the game and narrate what they're doing.

My son first starting doing this the first of this summer while we were on vacation. We didn't bring any games, but did have the iPad, so he would watch the videos during free time. What was cool was he started seeing all of the cool tricks and things he wanted to try when he got back. But, he was afraid he wouldn't remember them.

This was a perfect opportunity to introduce the pocket journal I had brought for him. I'm a big fan of writing and wanted start sharing the benefits of it with him. So he starts jotting down notes and before the trip is over, he can't wait to get back and try all of the cool tricks he had written down.

One interesting trick he found was how to hack the bank account for his farm and increase the money to whatever he wanted, which would allow him to buy whatever expensive tractor or equipment he wanted to try out. We had to actually help him with the details, but he found it and knew how to use it...I was pretty impressed.

Summary

I have a few takeaways from this experience.

One
How amazing the internet is. I've said before, I've gotten an additional degree free from the internet. I now make a living programming software 100% learned from teaching myself online.

Two
How cool is it that others are willing to share what they learn. What can I be sharing today to help others?

Three
How will the internet change education in the future? Will traditional education adopt more self taught, hands on learning methods. We don't all learn the same way, but we're almost all taught the same way in early education.

Four
There's something really cool about having a fascination and enthusiasm about something and a desire to learn it, and then given the opportunity and means to figure it out. That's one thing I love about my job. I'm essentially given that opportunity on a daily basis. Sometimes I may bang my head against the desk trying to figure out a problem, but eventually the satisfaction and reward of hard work pay off.

Shifting Gears

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by Jess Brown

I've been cycling more than usual recently. I'm not sure why really, just wanting to stay in shape and keep the weight off.

I noticed something the other day while riding. It's not the first time I've noticed it, but it doesn't happen often.

Sometimes you're pedaling along and enjoying the scenery, maybe daydreaming, and your thoughts turn to your pace. When you're riding by yourself, you know what kind of effort you want to target. You know the pressure and power you want to apply to the pedals. Most cyclists can consistently apply the same amount of power for long periods of time.

Occasionally, when you're riding along, and even though you feel you're at the limit of the effort you want, you'll shift into a harder gear. Sometimes it may be by mistake, and sometimes just to change rhythm. On rare occasion, you'll find that gear easier, or at least no harder. Surprised, you'll shift again, into an even harder gear. Sometimes, event a third or 4th time you'll shift and keeping the same cadence, you'll be going much faster with seemingly no additional effort. It's an amazing feeling because here you are riding along at what you think is your ideal pace, then you shift gears and are able to travel faster without trying much harder.

Well, as this happened to me the other day, I got to thinking about this and how it mirrors life in some degree. Don't we all get bogged down in a pace that we think is our best. Whether it's a career, relationship, skill, etc, sometimes we're just cruising along daydreaming, enjoying the scenery. I wouldn't say that is necessary always bad thing, but if you think that you're going full speed but are not, then what could happen? In your career, you may start to become invaluable or get passed by someone else or your marriage or other relationship could become stale.

I like this idea of shifting gears, changing things up. Learn something new, take a different position, go on a trip, or whatever it takes to refocus. For me, getting comfortable isn't a place I want to go yet.


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