What We Should Have Learned in College

16 Mar
March 16, 2014

This article previously appeared on the Tuts+ blog last year. Since the Tuts+ team is retiring the blog in it’s current form, I asked for permission to republish some of my favorite articles that I wrote during my tenure. Hope you enjoy! – Amanda

If you’re like me, you spent a lot of time in the university learning all the wrong lessons. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely loved college and think it’s a valuable achievement that’s enriched my noggin in so many ways. I liked it so much I stayed for two degrees. I encourage everyone to explore degree programs and see if it’s right for them. I’ve written lots about the value of education.  College and education in general is awesome.

But I spent a lot of time learning the wrong lessons. Read more →

Only the Educated are Free

20 Feb
February 20, 2014

This article previously appeared on the Tuts+ blog last year. Since the Tuts+ team is retiring the blog in it’s current form, I asked for permission to republish some of my favorite articles that I wrote during my tenure. Hope you enjoy! – Amanda

Only the educated are free. – Epictetus

When I graduated from grad school, my father gave me a coffee cup and trivet gift. On both were that quote: “Only the educated are free.” The roots of that quote were in Epictetus’ life. He was born a greek slave. We quite literally don’t know his real name because “epíktetos” simply means “accquired.” But, because his master allowed him to study with philosophers, he was eventually able to rise to privilege through the educated elite of ancient Greece, became a noted stoic philosopher. Learning, quite literally, set him free.

Epictetus’ story has been going through my head quite a bit lately, as I’ve reflected on education here at Tuts+ Premium and the liberties my own continued learning has given me. I’ve been working remotely with Envato, parent company of Tuts+ Premium, for several years now. Despite the freedom that affords me, I’ve lived a pretty traditional life with my family and a home here in the American midwest. Read more →

The Feels Audit for Content Strategy

04 Jan
January 4, 2014

Last month, I started work on a new project at Stash Rewards. What’s made this project interesting for me was the fact that most of the plan hinges on content and community growing in a new industry that’s rather new and alien to me, your average web nerd.

But one of the favorite parts of my job is to be a Professional Sponge and soak up new fields pronto. I dug into the background work and, like all well-read strategists, I got out my spreadsheets and my paper and prepared to do a by-the-books content audit.

Luckily, the site had completed a recent migration, so there was a pretty good handle on what content was actually there. The team knew what content we had and had at least a starting idea of what the biggest problems were. I reviewed what we had and didn’t have, and a basic content audit was completed without too much fuss. Good insights were had. I walked in on the first day ready to start discussing goals and voice and tone and doing all that exciting, glamorous strategy stuff.

I forgot about the Feels.

Oh, dear reader, never let yourself forget about the Feels. Read more →

Freelance Confidential now $8 on Amazon Kindle

06 Jul
July 6, 2013

The publisher of my first two books, Rockable Press, has decided to stop selling their books outside of the Tuts+ Premium membership library (both Rockable and Tuts+ are owned by parent company, Envato). That means that Web Design Confidential will be going out of print and the eBook edition will only be available as part of the Tuts+ Premium membership (starting July 1st). The publishers have very kindly granted me the right to continue selling my first book, Freelance Confidential, on Amazon in both print and eBook editions using my own resources and time. I want to especially thank Collis Ta’eed and Naysan Naraqi of Rockable Press for understanding the importance of a published work and supporting my authorial career over the years. You guys really are the best.

Both eBooks will continue to be available to Tuts+ Premium members. With so many eBooks there, the membership really is a great deal and if you’re at all interested in learning design or development, I encourage you to check it out.

To celebrate the relisting, I’ve lowered the price of Freelance Confidential’s Kindle edition to just $7.99 for the time being.

I’ve been able to republish the book on Amazon’s Kindle marketplace, and I’m working on getting a print edition re-approved for Amazon. To celebrate the relisting, I’ve lowered the price of Freelance Confidential’s Kindle edition to just $7.99 for the time being. I realize the survey data is a couple years old now, but it’s still chock full of statistics and data, and wisdom from some very gracious freelancing experts I had the pleasure of interviewing. If you haven’t already had the chance, feel free to check it out and let me know what you think. If you enjoy it, please leave a review on Amazon or at GoodReads. Happy reading!

Creating Consistent Content in Remote Teams

21 May
May 21, 2013

Here’s what I learned about remote content production.

I’ve worked with Envato for four years and done the most challenging, inspiring work in my entire career—all while being remote. I’m the biggest proponent of remote work and collaborating on remote teams that you’ll find. I believe it’s a viable and growing way to get work done, by the best people for the job, anywhere.

But 18 months ago, when a Tuts+ manager approached me to discuss this new product idea she had, I was skeptical. I thought I’d finally found the project we couldn’t accomplish outside the office.

The idea was to produce sophisticated video courses for Tuts+ Premium. These courses would not just merely be screencasts. They’d have the highest production standards, tackle complex ideas, and teach in-depth skills in creative and technical topics. They’d include on-camera teaching, motion graphics, eventually interactive quizzes, responsive Q&As with instructors, even projects and code challenges. [pullquote align="right"]I was asked to develop a third option with the new Tuts+ Premium team.[/pullquote]

And since our team is located in 5 time zones, we’d do it all remotely, with instructors located all over the world.

It’s a challenge that hadn’t really been accomplished well in the on-line education field before. Many services go one of two ways, either they take responsibility for the quality of the product and do it all in house—build a studio, maintain equipment and experts, hire instructors or fly them out, etc. Lynda flies in some excellent instructors to their recording studios and their quality shows it. Other services hire and maintain instructors in-house. Alternatively, they would crowd-source the content, allow anyone to submit, but not maintain too much control over the quality or teaching. Uneven quality, but lots of it.

I was asked to develop a third option with the new Tuts+ Premium team. Hire the best instructors, wherever they are, let them teach in their own environment, and still demand the very best from them. And produce a lot of it.

So we did. And after a lot of experimenting and improvement, I’m pretty proud of how it’s turned out. Here’s what I learned about remote content production along the way. Read more →

Celebrating Your Dumb Decisions

22 Jan
January 22, 2013

Upon graduating from college, I was cursed with a fantastic job. It was with a prestigious Fortune 500 company. Not only that, it was with a successful, altruistic well respected company who’s ambitions and works I respected. It was a posh gig with creative work, regular hours, job security, and that most rare of creatures, a fully funded pension. It was the kind of job that built your reputation. My family was incredibly proud. It was the kind of job good midwestern kids dream to have.

And the smartest thing I ever did was quit. Read more →

Using Flickr to Inspire Writing

10 Jan
January 10, 2013

See a story, write a story.

Bloggers love Flickr. What’s not to love? An endless wealth of amazing photographers, many of whom allow Creative Commons use on their photos? When I need a good featured image for a blog post, I usually end up on Flickr, searching for Creative Commons licensed good stuff. There’s something about the photos on there that usually has much more life and dynamic energy to it than the average, boring stock photo. The right image won’t fix bad writing, but it will help sell good writing.

So when I started my return to fiction writing a while back, I wondered if there was a way to incorporate images into the creative process for storytelling. After some browsing for inspiration, I came upon a writing exercise that worked enough that I’d share it here.

I write the stories that a photo tells me. See a story, write a story. Read more →

Review: Amazon Paperwhite Kindle improves on a good thing

05 Jan
January 5, 2013

The Paperwhite is a device that’s obviously a love letter to readers.

I’m going to admit that I’m old school. Though I’m usually an early adopter for gadgets, but being a heavy reader, it took me a long time to be willing to adopt a e-reader as a primary reading device. There’s been enough said about the reasons for this, so I won’t wax on about the smell of a book or the magic of a bookstore or library.

When I finally did, I decided upon the Amazon Kindle (the model now called the Kindle Keyboard). I liked it so much I went through two of them over the last few years. It was the perfect reading environment for me; no distractions, no gizmos, no flashy graphics. I love my tablet and laptop, but the multi-functionality of such devices meant I never did as much reading on them as I intended to. The Kindle fixed that by doing just one thing well: reading.

I was so satisfied with my Kindle that I didn’t pay much attention when the Fire and then the Paperwhite came out. I had no desire to upgrade. How could they improve on such a perfectly crafted experience? I had explored the Kindle Touch in a store demo when they came out and wasn’t impressed with the responsiveness. I stuck with the old Keyboard.

Lucky for me, Levi is just as big a gadget fan as I am, and gifted me the Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas. After spending a few weeks on the device, reading easily a couple hours every day, I have to say I’m really impressed. Amazon’s managed to improve on a good thing.

In case any other bookworms are thinking about upgrading, here’s a few of the features I was most impressed with in the Paperwhite. Read more →

Make Good Mistakes

01 Jan
January 1, 2013

It’s only fair to warn you that this space is going to get a bit unruly for the next few months. It’s been entirely too safe around here, and in order to stretch my writing chops a bit more, I’m going to try out a few writing experiments here on my site. You wouldn’t know it from the current state of things, but in addition to survey books and essays on e-readers, I’ve also written several published stories and fiction. So there’s going to be more of that untidy writing here. Bits of fiction, errant crusades, nerdy rants, crumbs of stories, probably a dollop of rubbish. Orderly posts need not apply; we’re due to become thoroughly unrespectable. We’re going to try some things, in order to stir things up and, hopefully, share something new.

Most likely, we’re going to make mistakes. But you know the great thing about mistakes?

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

- Neil Gaiman

Mr. Gaiman makes mistakes sound fun. Let’s get to it.

Articles on Tuts+ Premium

19 Aug
August 19, 2012

I’m in the midst of revamping my personal site here, reworking the dusty parts and getting into a regular writing groove again. In the mean time, I’ve been writing over at Tuts+ Premium where I am Producer for creative courses. Feel free to read my bits and leave a comment! My latest article, Only the Educated are Free, is on a topic near and dear to my heart that I’d love to hear other’s thoughts on.