Category: Blog

Inboxing

Inboxing is a term I coined to refer to the process of clearing out the inbox.

It’s not just about replying and archiving… and it doesn’t just refer to email.

Multiple Inboxes

Yes, I have more than one. An inbox is a file, folder, or pile of inputs that have to be processed.

  • Email – This one is obvious. People send me messages.
  • ToDo List – In my To Do list app, Wunderlist, I an have multiple lists. I created one called “Inbox” and I set it as the default list. So that any todo I create (unless I manually add it to another list) will go into the Inbox list.
  • Evernote – I store all my notes and ideas here. Screenwriting notes, finances, blog ideas, links to articles to read later, and more. I’ve got a default notebook called “.Inbox” (the period is so it shows up first on the notebook list).
  • “The Pile” – Then there’s the physical. Notes I scribble on paper, snail mail, things like that. This lives in a semi-organized pile near my desk.

An inbox has one job: to collect. It’s not where I do work.

For example, I often capture writing notes in evernote on my phone while I’m on the go. I don’t want to deal with it then and there. This allows me to save something important and deal with it later.

With tasks, I can do the same. I’ll be with friends who suggest I contact so-and-so about such-and-such. So I’ll fire up the Wunderlist app, make a todo and save it.

It only lives there until I…

Process It. aka, Inboxing

Now I’ve got all these ideas and notes and emails and papers. What next?

I don’t start working with them yet. Because then I’d still be reacting to the overwhelming mass of notes and communications.

The goal here is to put every input into a place where I can work on it at the appropriate time.

In Evernote I’ll put my blog post ideas into the notebook for blog posts. I’ll take the ideas for my screenplay and put it in that notebook, or copy the info into an existing note.

My todos I’ll move into the apropriate list, or I’ll add an event into my calendar.

Email, I will reply if necessary, or I’ll use Boomerang to move it out of my inbox until it’s relevant. Or I’ll save the info into Evernote if I need to access it later with something else I know I’ll need that’s already in there.

And the pile of papers will get scanned into evernote for reference, recycled, or whatever I need to do with them.

Do It Consistently

This is the kind of thing that should be done on a regular basis. I’ll try to do a little daily, but I’ll be sure to be at Inbox Zero for all inboxes during my Weekly Review.

Put it in your calendar! So that when I actually sit down to write, I don’t need to hunt through my inbox.

I’ve already got that blog idea where I know I can find it in Evernote. So my writing time is just writing.

And other work time is working. Not hunting through emails.

That’s It!

In order for this to work, you’ll need to have other places to store notes, tasks, events, and ideas. But once you do, it’s a great system.

What do you think about my Inboxing system? Tweet me!

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

I am the Awesome Web Guy

Sort of sounds like a super hero. Hadn’t thought of that before. But that’s not what it is, at least not yet.

It’s my latest business project!

Awesome Web Guy is my new moniker for doing web work. My services have evolved since just doing custom web design. I tend to do more random web help, plus instruction, and website set up. Plus my previous work was either just me as me without a formal business behind it, or behind a boring sounding business…

So I’ve created something that’s a little more me.

The first stage in the launch of this project is a free email newsletter. This will give subscribers weekly tips on web tools to make their lives easier. And it will give me an audience of people who are interested in what I do.

I’m excited for this one! Lots of people ask me for help, now I’ll have a central spot to send people. And if they need a quick bit of info, I can point them to a tutorial I created, and if they need more they’ll be able to hire me for whatever 1-on-1 work they need.

So head on over to AwesomeWebGuy.com and check out what I’ve got… and then sign up for the newsletter.

Calling all actors who need websites

This week I launched a new service for actors in LA.

I’d grown tired of seeing friends with an embarrassingly amateur looking online presence… Either from paid services that just aren’t up to snuff, or lack of funds to get those services.

There are an infinite number of ways for actors to write a check, and websites are no exception.

But when online business is the norm (and acting IS a business), these artists should be able to present themselves online in a professional manner.

And not be at the mercy of the myriad out-dated products and services that exist in this industry.

I want to empower others to take control of their own acting businesses by teaching them the skills necessary to create and maintain their own website.

Will I squeeze every last cent out of my clients with this service? No. Will I provide great value? Yes.

Many of the actor-specific services I see out there I feel are unfairly priced once someone has spend a small amount of time researching. A lot of businesses make plenty of money making actors dependent on them. I don’t like it.

Honestly, I’d rather spend a day with someone (and support afterwards) giving them all the tools they need and building it with them, instead of crafting something on my own over the period of a few weeks and charging a lot more. I also think this creates more value. And gives an actor a type of service that nearly no one else is doing.

So take a look, tell your friends. Check out YourActorWebsiteNow.com

Any questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment!

Arts Reach Conference Time!

Somehow I’ve been asked to speak on a panel at an arts marketing conference. I’m an actor, so I should be able to pretend like I know what I’m talking about.

But seriously folks, there’s gonna lots of cool people talking about lots of cool things. I’m excited for it. Let me know if you’ll be there too!

Why Being Shy About Promoting Your Show Could Be Hurting People

From a very young age we learn that selling is bad. Anyone who is constantly pushing their goods or services and doesn’t take no for an answer shouldn’t be trusted. We’re taught that any sort of marketing might be unethical. We’re taught to be bashful when it comes to promotion.

Bashful
We don’t want to bug people or seem needy so we don’t promote. Do you think marketing is a bad thing?

If you answered “yes” and you’re still wondering why you don’t have anyone coming to your productions. It’s time to STOP THINKING THAT WAY.

If you’re not so shy and do plenty of promoting but it’s still not working, I’ll have another post for you soon.

Let’s look at it from another point of view…

Have you ever been to a performance and been inspired? Did it brighten your day? Did it teach you something about yourself? Did it make you laugh or cry? Did you feel more alive after going? Did you get ideas for your next show? Did you find new meaning in your life or career?

I’m guessing you have.

So now that you have a production that could have the same effect on someone. By not actively promoting it, you may be DEPRIVING SOMEONE OF THAT SAME EXPERIENCE.

That’s right. You could be doing a disservice to the world by not promoting your show.

So find those people that your show appeals to, who you think would be inspired by what you have to give. Don’t say everyone or anyone — be specific — there’s no way that one show appeals to everyone in the world, let alone everyone you know. Give it a try. Remember that you could be helping someone, hell, maybe even saving someone’s life. So stop being shy, emerge from your chrysalis of bashfulness and emerge a beautiful marketing butterfly!

What other obstacles stand in the way of you feeling comfortable promoting your show?

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This Post is About the Human Condition

I had been thinking a lot last month about the silly cliches we use to tell people about the shows we produce, largely inspired by a post by Howard Sherman.

There are some gems on there. Oh, and there’s a follow up post with even more good ones.

Then I stumbled across an article on LA Stage Times about Waiting For Godot.

…talks about what he focused on while directing – “revealing human condition through real character and behavior.”

What the fudge does that mean? Everything is about the human condition. Why just say “we’re doing a play with people in it.” OH GOOD. THANK GOD IT’S NOT CATS.

Howard Sherman defines it as…

“It’s about the human condition” = a) we don’t understand it at all, or b) if we told you what it’s actually about, you wouldn’t come.

I think that’s pretty much accurate. But what’s worse than hearing it from the director talking about his work is a marketer using it to try to motivate people to come see the show. Their plan must be following:

A patron gets a postcard in the mail from a theatre company he occasionally attends. He looks at the the title on the front with his usual disinterest when reading mail. He turns it over and reads the brief summary; suddenly he is filled with energy. “Hey honey! So-and-so Theatre has a play about the human condition! Let’s get tickets.”

Now that I think about it, I doubt that marketer (or whoever wrote the copy on that postcard) put that much effort into thinking it through.

My father recently told me about a positive experience he had with a local theatre. “It had everything I liked in a play: comedy, drama, and an intermission.” You know what I’m gonna tell him the next time I’ve got a play I want him to see?

Know thy audience.

But before I wrap up…. just WHAT IS THE HUMAN CONDITION?

Wikipedia says

the Human Condition is “The human condition encompasses the unique and inescapable features of being human in a social, cultural, and personal context. It can be described as the irreducible part of humanity that is inherent and not connected to factors such as gender, race or class. It includes concerns such as a search for purpose, search for gratification, sense of curiosity, the inevitability of isolation, or the fear of death.”

Oh, got it. I love shows about that stuff.

What silly things have you heard people say about shows?

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Stop Making Excuses for Non Profits

Non Profit is not a business model. It’s a tax distinction. It means the organization fits within a set of guidelines created by the IRS to allow them to accept tax-deductable donations and not have to pay taxes on income related to their mission.

THAT’S ALL IT MEANS. Nowhere does it say that we can let these businesses suck and people will understand. Bad business is bad business, no matter what status the IRS decides to give you.

And yet…

“As a non-profit theatre, [some theatre company] is run entirely by a volunteer force.” – Some job posting

NON PROFIT DOESN’T MEAN NO MONEY! There are 501c3 organizations that have multi-million dollar budgets, and there are regular businesses that can’t seem to turn a profit.

“If it’s not chaotic, it’s not non-profit.” – Paraphrase from a board member from some organization.

NON PROFIT DOESN’T MEAN BAD BUSINESS! Some very successful non profits are run very smoothly, just as there are tons of for-profit businesses that can’t get their shit together.

Haters gonna hate. We can’t change what the world thinks, but it really pisses me off when people working for a non profit say these things. The lack of confidence and lack of caring about good business practices suggests to me that this business is unlikely to amount to anything in the near or distant future.

How about we commit to BETTER BUSINESS? Time to draft contracts for everything, create a company handbook, document all processes, research business and marketing, start caring more about budgets, do better financial planning, create the awesome website you should have, and raise more funds to PAY PEOPLE. Let’s stop depending on passion to fuel these businesses; it’s enough to get one started, but not enough to keep one going or growing.

Why do you think the excuses exist for NPOs? What do you think we should do about it? Let me know in the comments.

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Making Your Website “Grandma Proof”

Nothing against grandmas or their computer skills, and yes their are many grandmas who are quite computer savvy. That said…

Old Laptop
Back in my day, laptops were the size of many people's laps.
A big way I hear people reference usability (or lack thereof) of websites is “even my grandma can/can’t use it.” Now that flashy, sparkly, sardine-can-style-packed-information is no longer the norm for websites (but still present — yuck) and having been thinking about who uses the websites I’ve been making (now that I make more for others than for personal projects), I’ve been giving usability a lot of thought.

These are some easy design principles that I think are pretty easy. Some my fellow designer friends will think are obvious, but I’ve navigated many websites that just aren’t user friendly — even from companies that have large budgets to hire good designers.

1. Generally speaking, the navigation should be the same on every page
Same links, same colors, same location. In a book I always know where the next page is. The contents of the table of contents are always in order, nor does the table of contents move elsewhere when I come back to it.

2. Text should be BIG.
Not huge. But if you don’t think grandma can read it without a microscope, don’t put it on the page.

3. Clickable items should be easy to find
A) If it’s clickable, it should be noticeably different than other stuff.
The default for text is black and links is blue and underlined. This is what many people have come to expect. Make it clear what I can click on. To help that I suggest…

B) If it’s clickable, it should change somehow when cursor hovers over it.
Not everyone does this, but I’m a fan. If I hover over a menu item, text link, or clickable image it should change somehow. Background changes, border color changes, underline goes away, text color changes. Something like that.

4. Make it clear what to do next
When I land on a page, what am I supposed to do next? Sign up for your email list? Buy tickets? If I don’t know what the next step is or why that page exists within 3 seconds of it opening… goodbye. Tell the user what to do. Part of that is making it big. And at the top of the page. If someone doesn’t want to be told what to do, let that be their choice, not their inability to find the “buy now” link that’s tiny and at the very bottom of the page all the way to the right after some very large and unrelated images.

5. Minimize scrolling
If your header image and navigation take up half the height of the page, users probably won’t see what you really want them to do right away. I don’t care how pretty the header image is or how well you think it represents you or your company. Your losing sales because someone didn’t scroll down the 800 pixels to get to the info they were looking for. Put headlines and other general info “above the fold.”

That’s just a few I thought of off the top of my head. There’s a lot more that can be said on the topic, and an increasingly important one as the number of internet users continues to increase.

What usability features do you like to see on websites?

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5 Things Movie Theaters Must Do To Survive

Movie Theatre
Movie theater of the future?

I don’t usually go to see new movies in theaters. The past week I’ve gone 3 times, reminding me that I have strong opinions about why I think they usually suck.

Movie theaters used to be the only method of distribution for films. They adapted when TV came out with color, then widescreen, then big sound systems. Now home theaters can have all of that and the convenience of it being in your living room. Latops, tablets, and phones now have HD capabilities and the convenience of watching anywhere. Some of the devices in are homes create a much better quality viewing experience than those at a large theatre. Are movie theaters going to disappear? Not of they get their heads out of the sand and evolve.

What should they do?

1) Picture Quality
They MUST upgrade to digital projection. I would say with a projector with a resolution of nothing less than 4K. Digital projection was the next big thing 13 years ago. Not everyone has upgraded. An HDTV doesn’t have grainy spots, a file on an iPad doesn’t fade with time. The point should be to have an offering that no one can get at home. Ginormous screen with 5K resolution? TVs can’t do that. Not for a few years, anyway. And without film, there’s no 35MM reel to keep track of. It’s a file. Suddenly distribution can be on a flash drive, or over the internet.

2) Larger Range of Film Choices
Unless there’s a 32 screen cineplex, you’re not going to be able to have one place to have a choice of the blockbusters, the art films, and the romantic comedies. Theaters have had to be very selective to maximize sales and potential profit, while simultaneously stomping out possibilities for alternate programming. If only there were a way to offer more movies in fewer theatres… oh wait. Digital makes this possible. No need to keep a reel on the same projector at a screen, just open a file and you’re ready. Time between films can be decreased without changing out a reel. There can be showings of the blockbuster and night, an art film matinee, and that’s just one screen.

3) Get rid of the crappy, overpriced junk food.
Theaters have been screwed on profits by major studio distribution so they have to squeeze every penny they can out of the customers. But $5 for a regular sized popcorn is too much, so they make it a huge one without costing them much more. So instead of a little crap for a lot, I get a lot of crap and still pay a lot. You know a relatively low-cost consumable that is sold for several times it’s cost that people actually want to buy? Alcohol. Yes, there will be those few that abuse the bar and drink too much, but the profits will be good. And might motivate people to actually hang out at the theatre. Suggestion 4 will also help.

4) Better Security and enforcement of no talking rules
“Please don’t spoil the movie for others by adding your own sound track.” “Silence is Golden.” We are told at the start of the film. But is anyone told again after that? No. Not even when there are “No, YOU shut up!” exchanges going on that don’t end. Even when dozens of people are trying to enjoy the movie they came to see, the establishment doesn’t seem to care. I could go out and complain, but they generally won’t do anything to solve the problem. If I complain after, they give me a half-hearted apology and a comp ticket. They give those things away like candy to keep the people quiet. Some people complain after every movie they see just to get a free ticket. BUT WHAT ABOUT SOLVING THE FREAKING PROBLEM!?

5) Start caring about your customers
This is really what all of the above comes down to. Movie theaters don’t provide me with a better experience than I can get elsewhere. The technology may be 20 years old, yet there are posters or trailers warning me about piracy or telling me that a movie should never be reduced to a small screen. They invite me to come back often, but the selection of films isn’t diverse. They don’t allow outside food in, but they only sell crap. They ask me to be quiet, but don’t do anything when someone ruins it for everyone else. It sounds like they just don’t care about my experience.

So step it up, movie people. Give me 5K projection on a huge screen with 15.1 digital surround sound, cushy stadium seating, many films to choose from at a range of times, edible food, some alcoholic beverages, a guard checking in on theaters who will throw out those assholes that have nothing better to do than to ruin movies for people, and a reason to come back because I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. Not because you gave me free ticket to come back because everything sucked.

What have your movie theater experiences been like? Are there any points I missed that you’d like to add?

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That’s Not A Word, It’s Not In the dictionary

a dictionary
Words, words, words...
A lot of people say this. A lot of people say this to me. I like to make up words once in a whiloccasion. So let me set the record straight.

If I said it and you understood it, it’s a word.

“How dare you say such a thing! Ms. So-and-so yelled at me in 4th grade for making up a word so I won’t let anyone else do the same!” you might be thinking. Well Ms. So-and-so was wrong about such-and-such.

First, let’s get rid of this phrase: “the dictionary.”

There is no one dictionary. There are many dictionaries. Different publications with different editions and different versions with different editors. They don’t have all of the same entries. They don’t all have the exact same definitions. Each dictionary serves a purpose and is edited as such. If you consult your Webster’s College Dictionary, it might not have complex medical terms. If you look up a word in your Writer’s Dictionary you might not find old slang.

Next, “That’s not a word.”

The first definition of word in the American Heritage Dictionary (notice that I specified the dictionary I referenced) is the following:

n. A sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing or printing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning…

If you look at other definitions from that or other dictionaries I’m pretty sure that you will not find any that says inclusion in a dictionary is a criteria for being a word. I’d like to call your attention to the end of the above definition: COMMUNICATES MEANING. Here’s more evidence:

The beauty of words is that we are all in control of them: everyone who is a competent speaker of a language is able and allowed to produce new words when needed and to alter the meaning of existing ones, and as long as grammatical rules are followed these new words will be understood even by people who have never heard them before. – “What is a word?”

I’ll repeat one of my above statements. If I said it and you understood it, it’s a word.

You now have my permission to create words. Others create new words all the time. That’s how English evolves, it’s not an inflexible set of items and rules to govern them… no matter what Ms. So-and-so said. Language is a tool for communication; as many tools are it can be fun to use. So go have fun. Find a locution for the nonce. Happy neologizing!

Any questions? Feel free to share words you invented in the comments!

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