Tag Archives: life

Helium Marketplace

So I have been conspicuously bereft of posts for quite a while – a fact I blatantly ignored in my recent posts. Two reasons for this. One is that I desperately wanted to update my site – the user interface, more RSS feeds to the sidebar for my ma.gnolia / flickr / reddit /etc, more free templates and/or WordPress themes, and to update the actual WordPress software – 2.5 looks awesome.

I accomplished none of those – yet. Hopefully some will be checked off my list soon, but no guarantees.

The second reason was work. Don’t get me wrong – I love my job, a lot. They pay me a good salary to do something I love. I have basically full control over the UI so that I can design with web standards – something I’ve gotten progressively better at even though I’m no Meyer or Santa Maria. However, when you do something all day it’s hard to come home and relax by doing more of it – even if it’s for yourself and something you enjoy.

The product of this recent work is of course the Helium Marketplace. This is something we’ve had in beta for awhile, had been a big success, and that we wanted to launch with extended features. This is also something – along with our rating engine – that sets us apart from every other site on the web. Which I enjoy because that means my stock options might be worth more than the paper they’re written on someday.

The basic premise or buzzword associated with this sort of entity is “citizen journalism” – of which you can read a sometimes slanted view of here. This was started really by the blog surge of the past 5-10 years. Normal, everyday people could write about what they know and become a “citizen journalist” – someone who might not have formal training and is not part of the main media machine, but that still has an opinion or knowledge about a subject that may be of value to someone.

Although some blogs are huge, it’s a rarity. Some gather a good niche audience of friends, family, and people with similar interests – my friend Paul’s blog would likely qualify. Most blogs – as I have experienced first hand with mine – experience little or no traffic. So 90% or more either toil on in obscurity or fail.

Helium was originally founded to help with this. Instead of one person writing in obscurity they could come to Helium, write about what they know, and be ranked against dozens or hundreds of others who did the same. Helium would grow much, much faster than a blog, would have the resources to market itself much better, would have better SEO, and, therefore, would have a much larger traffic base. In return, Helium shares it’s ad revenue with those same writers based upon their contributions to the site. This was citizen journalism – except on a much more massive scale than seen before and with many voices instead of one – like Wikipedia.

It takes awhile to build a good knowledge base, to train your writers to think beyond the – typically short – blog post writing, and to market that resource to the web community. As we did, a new need in the writing community became apparent – freelance writing. For the most part, when a magazine or website needs an article that their normal staff cannot produce – either because of under staffing or simply using freelance writers to save on the cost of staffing – they turn to the freelance market. They use different sites and services that allow you to list what they’re looking for and in the end it becomes like a job posting. They “interview” many candidates, pick one, pay a fee, and get an article.

The issue is the freelance community is small and you pay before you see results. This was fine because it was the only method of supplying the need. However, we found a new method. We had a collection of motivated writers looking to become more legitimate and make more money. So the premise was simple. You, as a magazine editor, need an article on “Real life Gardening stories.” You can go the old route, pay $500 for a freelance and get 1 article. Of you can post that title on Helium Marketplace, dozens or hundreds of writers will write on the subject, we will rate the articles, and then for $25-100 you can have your pick of the one (or two, or three) you like most.

It’s a win-win-win situation. The magazine gets many articles to choose from instead of one at a fraction of the cost. The writer gets a – for them – hefty payment and a byline in a real media source. Helium gets a small percentage for brokering the deal and the ability to add any unpurchased articles to our knowledge base.

So far it’s taking off and there has been a lot of buzz. It’s a huge niche that needed filling, we’re the only one filling it, and we’re learning more every day. It was an awesome learning experience to help build it – even my small part in it. Most importantly the community loves it. We have community boards in which I get the privilege of interacting with the intelligent, active, fun, and (sometimes intensely) passionate “Heliumites.” It’s a learning experience for me as I’ve grown from someone who simply went on there to read what users thought, to someone who explained features and informed the community on things like social book marking and networking, and now to someone who (surprisingly for me) has become a respected voice in the community. It’s a rewarding, sobering, maturing, and sometimes downright scary feeling.

I don’t cross link too frequently. However, since this has become a cross between a “Helium History” post and a press release I might as well :). You can see my Helium articles here – most, if not all, have been dual posted on this site in the past (granted with formatting, links, and in some cases revisions). You can see my board contributions here – though you are warned some of my early ones are bad and I freely admit to making mistakes.

I look forward to working at Helium as long as they’ll let me. I definitely feel I would wear out my welcome before I would decide to leave. Besides doing something I love and getting paid for it I also get to work with some really great people (best development team, or team period, I’ve been on, ever, by far), learn a great deal about new technologies (Git, Ruby on Rails, working on a Mac…), drink beer at work (paid for by Helium == awesome), and when we need a break (work hard, play hard) break into a game of Nerf war or hackey.

And now back to my regularly scheduled insomnia.

Random Tidbit: In a truly random tidbit, my favorite pastime Magic the Gathering is releasing it’s new set Shadowmoor soon. Which means I will be spending way too much money on boxes of tiny cardboard cards and way too much time opening and then sorting said cards. Perhaps too much time placing them on Ebay as well – a painful subject I may yet expand upon in the future.

Mugsy: A Friend Remembered

It was one year ago that I had to make that trip. The vet had called me and told me that although things had been looking up the day before, when Mugsy woke up this morning and the vet looked at her, he knew she would not recover. She couldn’t feed herself or move and there was nothing we could do.

I had lost 3 other ferrets at this point. Mugsy had been the first in my family and the last to go. She was the most loyal pet you could ask for. She would always cheer me up when I was down. Somehow she always knew how I was feeling.

People will judge you for being too attached or close to a pet, but I don’t really care. I had her for 7 years and, except for a few trips I made, was responsible for her care every day. She came with me to Virginia Beach and kept me company in a place where I knew no one. She was my navigator for the many trips home as well.

Like any pet owner I have many regrets – things I should have done or shouldn’t have done or should have done more. But you do the best you can and hope that it’s enough. I think my ferrets had a good life. I hope so.

Unlike my other 3 ferrets who died from cancer, Mugsy had survived cancer for several years. She had a different type that we were able to control. But she was getting old and her vision and hearing was not as good as it used to be I think. A friend was holding her, I picked up a plastic bag and the noise was enough to startle her. She leapt from my friend’s hands and hit her head on the floor. I think he blamed himself, but I never did. I did blame myself for a long time because I scared her and because I didn’t check her well enough after. She seemed ok, but shortly after my sister said something was wrong and when I looked at her my heart broke.

I spent that night with her on my chest, talking to her. I couldn’t sleep and she couldn’t really move. The vet gave me hope – I thought she would be immediately put down – but as I mentioned before that hope was dashed one year ago today.

I thought after losing the other 3 ferrets, after almost losing my dad and after my brother’s accident it would somehow be easier. It wasn’t. After I said goodbye and saw her fade, I went numb. I don’t think I felt anything for a week. I had to puppy sit for the next 2 weeks and I was so numb that as my friend lost her dog – the mother – and 5 of the 6 puppies I just couldn’t grieve anymore. I felt bad for her but my heart couldn’t hold any more pain.

It’s funny because all the things I used to get irritated about sometimes – having to take hours out of my day to let them out and make sure they didn’t get hurt, stopping them from getting into or breaking my stuff, etc. – I miss. They could break anything I have if I could see them one more time. I still wake up sometimes and think “ugh, I have to get up and let the ferrets out.” When I realize I don’t have to it only depresses me.

I don’t know what else to say other than I miss my ferrets everyday and I hope that this will never change.

Mugsy and Me

Mugsy and Me – taken just a couple of weeks before she died

All 4 of my ferrets

All 4 of my ferrets in happier times


Compilation – scanned from 35mm prints, forgive the low quality

Not So Random Tidbit: The Rainbow Bridge

My Uncle

I’ve had these thoughts for almost 2 weeks now.  Ever since I heard my uncle has passed away.  The last time I saw him was over a year and a half ago.  He was very sick at the time and from what he told me and what I saw I didn’t think I’d see him again.  I was right in that, but wrong in that he would live so long.

My uncle was a deacon, a father, a husband, a brother and above all else a good man.  I didn’t know him as well as I wish I had, especially considering the fact that he was my Godfather and my father’s big brother.  But from what I do know about him I know that I respected him a great deal, that he had a great sense of humor that could make you laugh at the oddest times at the oddest things, and that if when I die if they say I was half the man he was then I can consider my life worthwhile.

My uncle wanted his 4 brothers to be among his pallbearers but my father suffered a stroke a few years ago and was not able to.  I was given the honor of taking his place.  At the reception afterwards, my aunt thanked me for what I had done and I was too overwhelmed at the time to correct her – that I should have thanked her for letting me pay my respects to him and honor him in that way.

When my father had his stroke, I prepared myself mentally because for awhile, it looked like he would not survive.  I was lucky in that God saw fit to grant me more time with him.  After many years of bad blood between us we had just recently, at the time, started to make amends.  The passing of my uncle led me to think of the fact that soon my parents might follow.  I wish I could say I am a strong enough man that the thought didn’t scare me to my core – but I can’t.

My uncle was a man of faith and his faith in the face of cancer strengthened my faith.  I hope that he knows that.

How You Know You’re Old

When you get a MySpace friend invite… from your 10 year high school reunion.

The added irony is I added a friend from high school… and they didn’t believe it was me.  If that’s not funny, I don’t know what is.

I know, MySpace is horrible.  I actually use Facebook more, but I keep the old MySpace around for I don’t know what reason.

As for everything else, no I’m not dead or have given up on the site.  It’s been heads down at Helium and we’re helping my brother with my niece nearly every night.  That plus other stuff has caused my site to drop in priority unfortunately.  I do have some new templates photoshopped – I just have to code them up.  They’ll probably go to OSWD or OWD as well.

Random Tidbit: Use WordPress to host your site/blog?  Check out Smashing Magazine’s WordPress Plugin and Tutorial article.

Proud Uncle

I have been lax in my postings but I am working on several revisions, templates and a reskin of the site.  That, plus personal commitments has kept me away.

I did want to announce that I am the proud uncle and godfather of one Victoria Madison.  She was born around 5pm.  I have never been more proud of my little brother – which is saying a lot because though I may not tell him enough, I have always been proud of him.

No random tidbit today.  Possible pictures once I get permission and my Flickr integrated.