Feedback on Your LinkedIn Profile

[Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse]

This was first written in response to the flood of requests for individual profile reviews. Henrik Kjærulff started what became a very popular group discussion titled “What do you like about the profile above you.” I participated by reviewing a few profiles in the comments section. The idea was to review the profile of the person who left the last comment, and in turn, the next person would review and comment on yours. Great idea, and as I write this, there are currently 953 comments.

There were no expectations regarding expertise from those who provided feedback. (I certainly do not have any.) It was enough to get some objective feedback on both the good and not-so-good. Most people were very constructive with any suggestions they provided.

As I reviewed earlier comments, I noticed the trend of people getting skipped. Not intentionally, but the flow would sometimes get sidetracked when someone used the comments section to thank the person who gave a review. There were also a few folks who may have missed the detail about first reviewing someone else before expecting one in return. Oh well, it happens. I tried to help out by taking time to review anyone who may have been inadvertently missed. I no longer expected mine to be looked at. It just felt good to help someone out.

So here I am trying to “work smarter.” As much as I’d like to comment individually, this post will hopefully summarize the feedback I found myself giving again and again. While this post is meant for a more general audience, I hope readers will still find a few things applicable to their individual profiles.

Profile Photo: At The Very Least, Have One.

There are plenty of resources and tips out there regarding the LinkedIn profile photo. I stumbled upon one the other day written by Rachel Zoe – “5 Tips For Looking Better In Your LinkedIn Photo“. Great tips so I’ll just emphasize what I think is the most important one.

Within the group discussion, one of my recurring observations was that several of the profiles had no photo at all. (If you’re waiting for the perfect photo before you upload one, you may be missing out in the meantime.) Rachel Zoe cites this stat in her post, “…having one makes your profile 14 times more likely to be viewed by employers.” Personally I would love to update my profile photo with one taken by a professional photographer. Alas, I’m being frugal and just asked my wife to take a shot. Not ideal, but I’ll circle back to that eventually.

Avoid Copying Your Résumé Verbatim: Tell a Story

There was a point when my profile was pretty much the LinkedIn version of my curriculum vitae. This wasn’t necessarily ineffective, but when recruiters would reach out and ask for my résumé, I didn’t have any more information to give them other than what was already detailed in my profile.

I decided to follow the lead of some of my mentors and tell my story instead of just making bullet lists of my past responsibilities and accomplishments. I went against my own reservations about being too personal, and injected more of my personality. Now it feels more genuine and less scripted. I figure that if this turns off potential partners/employers, I probably wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.

This may be the wrong direction. I’m still not sure. You’ll know what’s best for your particular case.

Endorsements and Recommendations: Sometimes It Helps to Ask

When LinkedIn first rolled out the endorsements feature, I enthusiastically added it, perhaps too much so. I went overboard with the number of skills I listed. I’ve been fortunate to receive many endorsements from my peers and colleagues. Of course, I make sure to also give honest endorsements  for everyone I’ve gotten to know during my career. I’ve never asked for endorsements and I still prefer not to.

On the other hand, when it comes to recommendations, it’s a little different. Writing a recommendation for someone, at least a good one, takes thought. Everyone’s busy. So having someone write you a recommendation just because they like you so much, probably won’t happen. For the longest time, I only wanted to receive recommendations that weren’t solicited. I actually got a few. (Many thanks to…you know who you are.)

Then I decided to actually ask, albeit selective whom I asked. I made sure to give everyone an easy out so they wouldn’t feel obligated. It’s true what they say – you often get what you ask for.

Publish a Post: Stop Hovering

For the past year, any time I was editing my profile, my mouse would hover over ‘Publish a post’ but I didn’t feel I had anything worthy to share.

Hmm…I was fairly successful as a digital marketer. Should I write about that? Nah, too many people out there much smarter and with more expertise. Plus it will take too much time and I’m busy. Forget it.

I would move on to editing some other section of my profile.

Then I started journal writing again in the early hours of the morning. It was my way to capture important details of daily life and to reflect on my scattered thoughts. Since I was only writing for myself, I didn’t care about grammar, coherency, structure…I just wrote. It was in returning to this daily practice that I found inspiration to publish my first post. I wasn’t expecting much. I was only hoping that it might help others who were going through a similar career experience. After that first one, the subsequent posts followed without a lot of hovering.

As this relates to your LinkedIn profile, what you publish is an extension of your personal brand. It helps others get to know the person behind the job history and skills. For some it demonstrates their mastery in a specific field. For me, it’s about the career journey and how all the seemingly disparate moments come together.

LinkedIn Pulse can be a powerful feature if words don’t get in the way. Find the connection between what you do and what you love. The story will come.

Do What You Can Then Let It Be…For a While

During my career break last year, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to overhaul my LI profile and give it a major makeover. I tested and applied many of the suggestions I noted above. Eventually, I needed to just walk away. I was forcing it – with the aim of perfection – well beyond the point of diminishing returns. I’ve accepted that it’s probably best to let it gradually improve over time. To let my number of connections, endorsements and recommendations grow organically. To only post articles when I’m inspired. To shift my focus on what I can give rather than what I can get. Today, I’m ok with my profile, imperfect as it may be. It will improve in the long run.

I’d like to experiment with this being a “living” post. My hope is that I can continue to edit/add/remove/refine content within this post based on your comments and my personal experience. The sections covered initially only include what I found were common oversights. With the robust features that LinkedIn provides, there will be a lot more to cover as this post evolves.

Please leave a comment if anything I’ve mentioned is totally off-base or irrelevant. If most of it seems like common sense to you, please leave some suggestions on anything unique that you’ve found to be effective. Thanks in advance.

-Donn

[Last Updated: 03/04/2016]


Additional Reading:

 


Donn’s Blog: www.donndurante.com/category/career
Featured Image Copyright: inbj / 123RF Stock Photo

Excuse or Motivation: I Don’t Have a Degree

Feature Image Credit: http://startupcamp.com/4-brilliant-reasons-to-not-go-to-college/


Excerpt from James Altucher’s “The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth” (pp. 132-133 in Chapter on “Getting Rid of Your Excuses”):

I Don’t Have a Degree
I get e-mails every day. “I’d like to work at Google but I don’t have a degree,” Or, “I’d like to be a success but I don’t have an MBA.”
And it’s not just degrees. I get e-mails from people who think they need yoga teacher certification. Or a medical degree (you can be a healer without writing prescriptions). Or any flimsy piece of paper that ultimately is no indicator of value. Google’s head of HR has even announced that graduates’ GPAs are a waste to look at. And that more and more of their hires have no college degrees at all! It’s just another way the world is changing, and you have to grasp it now. It used to be that a stranger knew he could cooperate with you if you had that stupid piece of paper. Come up with ten ideas on how you can escape the trap of the degree and demonstrate you still have value. Ideas for the company you want to work for, or the person you want to work with. Or just go get a camera and start making movies without a film degree.

When actor Andy Samberg was starting at Saturday Night Live he didn’t just huddle in the writers’ room with everyone else and try to come up with jokes. There was too much competition! Instead, he took a camera and with his buddies Jorm and Akiva went out and shot “Lazy Sunday,” which was the first YouTube video to get over 100 million views and became his first SNL digital short. He didn’t wait to rise through the ranks and hopefully get a joke or a sketch produced. He went out and produced it himself.

Before Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” got a billion views on YouTube, the rapper turned down every record label. He realized he didn’t need the validation they have provided to generations of artists. The distribution is there to reach the world no matter what your field is. You validate yourself now through your work.


Apologies to Mr. Altucher for taking that much verbatim from his book. I just read those pages this morning and it hit home.

The Trip Full Circle

I fall in the category of those who dropped out of college. While I had many an opportunity to finish, life went on and I eventually decided not to. When I’m having an insecure moment, I like to remind myself that I only had two classes to finish (and they were both freshman level electives!) so really, I earned pretty much everything I needed for that Liberal Arts degree in Psychology. I guess I just didn’t cross the finish line which could be perceived as inability to follow through. I understand and respect other perspectives. I just don’t personally see it that way. It doesn’t have to be a negative. I have worked very hard since then to show that it doesn’t have to matter if you don’t let it.


The Road Not Taken

 …Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost


It was 1991 and I was scheduled to graduate at the end of Spring semester. This was all the JET Programme (Japanese Exchange and Teaching Program) needed to know at the time I applied and interviewed. They didn’t actually ask to see my degree before it was time for me to board the plane that summer. By the time the University of Illinois notified me that I failed two classes (English 101 Introduction to Poetry and Classic Civilization 115 Mythology of Greece and Rome), I was already all set to leave for Japan. Although becoming an Assistant English Teacher (AET) had nothing to do with my major, it was a 1 year adventure abroad with all expenses paid as well as a monthly salary. I wasn’t about to pass on the opportunity unless absolutely necessary. That degree would have to wait.

I had lady luck on my side. After the year was over, I had the option to extend for another year and I definitely wanted to. The only catch – I had to renew my work visa and I was told they required a copy of my college degree in the process. I figured I had better start packing my bags but then again…why not just go through the motions and see what happens? Even if they sent me home, I already had my adventure. For some unknown reason, the Japanese government renewed my visa without any questions. One year turned into two and next thing you know 3 years later I was still in Japan. That was the maximum length that anyone could stay with the Jet Programme. As the third year winded down, a Japanese friend referred me to the CEO of a private language school under the Terakoya Group. They offered me a job and I had to go through the process of renewing my work visa for another year. Again, nobody asked to see my college degree. Surprising enough, the person in front of me in line was asked for his. To this day I can’t figure out how I got away with it year after year, but my luck lasted long enough for me to meet my future wife. Caro was on a 9 month work-study program and just happened to be assigned to Matsuyama City where I also lived. After 6 years in Japan, instead of calling it luck, I’d like to think it was serendipity.

Unlike I did in college, note that I wasn’t just sliding by while I worked in Matsuyama. Knowing that I didn’t finish school, I felt like I had to prove something and make my mark anyway. My second year, I was elected as the Ehime Prefectural Representative for AJET (The Association of Japanese Exchange and Teaching) and after 1 year at Terakoya, I was promoted to Head Teacher at the private language school.

Ok. The story goes on, but I need to pause here for now. The kids are awake and I’ve been writing since 5am.

[2/16/2016 4:38am] Picking up where I left off…

When I returned to the States in the summer of 1997, it was like “Oh sh*t, what do I do for work now? I don’t have a degree.” I was going on 28 years old and still didn’t have any solid plans for my career. I was back with my parents and when my Dad asked me what I was planning to do next, I told him I was thinking about starting a DJ business. I could sense his disappointment. When your parents go against all odds to earn their college degrees in the Philippines and then move the entire family to the Unites States so we can have a better life in the Land of Opportunity, I can understand why being a DJ might not be what they had in mind for their son. When I was still at the University majoring in Electrical Engineering, I think I was living up to expectations. We all imagined my future becoming an engineer like Dad and having a secure and well-paid profession for life…I guess I’d be disappointed with my DJ ambition too.

Got to get ready for work. I’ll continue later.

[2/16/2016 7:45pm continuation]

While I worked to put things in place for the DJ startup, I took a commissioned sales associate position in retail. Retail store positions don’t often require a college degree. I chose Bachrach, a men’s clothing retailer founded in Decatur, IL with locations all around the Chicago area. I’d always been into fashion so this would be aligned with my interests. Sales was not my strength, but it paid the bills and helped fund the DJ equipment and music I would need. For years, I tried to work both paths in parallel without any breakthrough success. I knew very little about operating a profitable business and everything I learned was from trial and error.

The DJ business wasn’t growing fast enough and we were getting deeper and deeper into debt. Thousands of dollars spent on music, lighting and other gear without enough gigs to pay for it all. When I found out that Caro was pregnant with León, I knew I needed to change my approach if I had any chance of providing for my growing family. I decided to focus on Bachrach and work my way up the ladder. We could stabilize our finances and buy me time to figure out what to do as an entrepreneur. Looking back, that was a pivotal point. After my motivation shifted from selfish ambitions to providing for the family, my career started to take off.

Within a few years, I went from Sales Associate to Store Manager to Director of E-commerce. (I’ll save my success strategy for a different post.) I worked in several locations and eventually had my own office at the downtown Chicago corporate headquarters. There were several rungs in between and along the way, but I won’t get into those details now. What happened with the DJ business? One thing led to another and it eventually led to the launch of ChicagoWeddingServices.com. Although small potatoes compared to other dot coms, it was a business model that made money while I slept and the site could often run on autopilot. It supplemented my income at Bachrach quite nicely. (For more details, see my post on Website Experiments Throughout the Years)

After 10 years at Bachrach, I had to move on. Too many acquisitions had taken place and it was no longer a fit. I began looking elsewhere. When I was offered a position at Dreams Retail in 2008, I jumped. Fortunately, during the interview process, my college education wasn’t a deciding factor.

I would have to say that my years at Dreams, Inc. have been the highlight of my career to date. Kevin Bates and the team he built created a work environment that brought out my best. I started off in an Account Management role but followed the same strategy I used to work my way up at Bachrach. I went from non-management to executive management with a team of more than 50 people to lead. I eventually got promoted to Director of Marketing and in less than two years after that, became VP of Marketing.

This too eventually came to an end. Dreams Inc. was acquired by Fanatics Inc. and I relocated from the Chicago area to the Jacksonville, Florida area. (The kids didn’t like the move, but we had a new house built in a nice neighborhood. It also helps that we live only a couple hours from Disney.) I was able to keep my position as VP of Digital Marketing but with so many changes during and after the integration period, it was the beginning of the end for that chapter. My time at Fanatics officially ended in January of 2015. Without having anything lined up yet, I spent 6 months  in what I call “mid-career retirement” – a career break if you will. We didn’t have to worry about finances, at least for a while, so I had the luxury of time to decompress, reconnect with my family, and think about the next chapter. As scary as it can be to lose a 6 figure salary, I’m grateful for what I’ve gotten in return.


“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
– T.S. Eliot


Today, I feel like I’ve come full circle in a way. I’m back in fashion retail and am making about the same income as I did when I first started my career. I see everything through a different lense though. While money is still important, it’s no longer the carrot. It’s no longer about the prestigious title, but more about the unique contribution and value. Being hourly no longer has a negative connotation to me. It now means I have more work-life balance. Instead of thinking so much about what I want in the future, I spend more time appreciating what I already have and whom I’m with today. Things will have to change again I’m sure. Even though we’ve always lived below our means, our current lifestyle is not sustainable in the long run with my current income. Surprisingly, I’m not very worried though. We’ll figure it out. I know because we’ve done it before.

Definition of Success - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Definition of Success – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Regarding my college degree, or lack thereof, it has definitely made a difference in my career choices and the life I’ve lived. I’ve spent most of my career proving that you can succeed without a degree. When the competition was smarter, I just worked longer and harder to compensate. Most of my lessons learned were from the school of hard knocks. I learned the simple yet important lesson on how to make a positive difference…always strive to leave it better than you found it.

I’m content with what I’ve accomplished as a college dropout. I have no regrets.

Special Acknowledgments

Caro and I were married in 1998, not too long after I started at Bachrach. Although she has seen and experienced all the ups and downs of my career, she has never stopped being supportive. Even when she didn’t agree with all my choices, she has stood by my side and was always there to give me strength when I needed it most. I can’t imagine how things would have turned out without her. All these years later, I don’t worry too much anymore about climbing the corporate ladder or making lots of money. With her and our three beautiful children, I already feel successful. Together we’ll make life good no matter what comes our way.

To my band of brothers who joined me on my crazy adventure as an entrepreneur: That was an awesome ride, let’s do it again!

Grateful to the many coworkers who I had the privilege to work with, and my bosses/mentors who also shaped who I am and how I work today – they were some of my best teachers. To the organizations and hiring managers who took a leap of faith and gave me a shot, thank you.

I also want to give a shout-out to all my family and friends, near and far. You’ve never judged me and accept me for who I am, warts and all.

And special thanks to Mom and Dad, for always loving me even when I disappoint. From you I learned what is possible when you work hard.
[2/17/2016 4:38am] Today is Dad’s 70th Birthday. I dedicate this post to him.

Featured Image Copyright: kaczor58 / 123RF Stock Photo

Recommended Reading:

Website Experiments Throughout The Years

I was still living in Japan at the time (circa 1997) the web really started to take off. Caro and I were only dating then, but she saw my interest and bought us our first laptop. It was an early Mac Book and the screen was only black and white but we got it at a decent price ($1000 USD factoring in the dollar/yen exchange rate). That’s how it began. I got sucked into everything Internet.

So much about the Internet was exploding with potential. Living abroad, the whole concept of email was wonderful – no long time gaps between writing letters and receiving responses. It felt so instant. The only challenge was that not everyone was using email yet. I spent so much time playing around with this new tech toy, everything from learning design software to surfing the nascent web. I stumbled upon GeoCities, a web hosting service that gave people online tools to create their own website. It was exciting to think you could create something multimedia and then immediately publish it for others to see.

My first site was based on a theme I called “Spheres and Cones.” Basically it was model I used to frame the idea of self-actualization and personal growth. My friend, Scott Scholtens, also bought a laptop and he was better at the design thing than I was, so he helped me created a logo and other graphics for the site. Fond memories of the early days when I didn’t care so much about how good (or not so good) my web design skills were.

PSA2001ad
Advertisement placed in program for The Philippine Students Association 2001 Fashion Show at UIUC

 

After returning to the States, I continued web design and tried to take it to the next level. The next stage involved using websites to support my entrepreneur initiatives. While working retail, I spent my other time trying to build out concepts for a mobile DJ business which I called Sound ReCreation. I wanted to go all in so I formally incorporated the business and bought the domain name. Sound ReCreation, Inc. was an S corporation (Delaware) with the website www.SoundReCreation.com. It started with the conventional content (About Us, Contact, Services, Pricing etc.) then I tried to add song lists, music clips, PDF client forms, and a page for partners and related vendors. I’ve lost many of the original image files, but here’s any idea of the logo and site layout. I found an ad we placed for a University Fashion Show Program.

Credits for the logo and site design go to Tommy Torres, my lifelong friend whom I grew up just referring to as “cousin” though we’re not technically related.

Actually, I forgot to check the Internet Archives. WayBack Machine had some site pages archived. Here’s a capture from December 26, 2002 (Wow! Did I really write that content for our About Us page? Weird reading it after all these years)…Sound ReCreation Inc. about us

 

As Sound ReCreation evolved, I learned that the money was in DJing weddings so I focused on acquiring clients for weddings over other types of events. Eventually, my “Partner” page of the site expanded to a point where I decided to break out vendors into categories, such as Chicago Wedding Photographers, with a dedicated page for each category. Using what I learned from self-study plus trial and error, I optimized each category page for the search engines. Over time, the site analytics showed that the most visited pages of SoundReCreation.com were the wedding vendor category pages. Local wedding professionals started contacting us asking if they could pay to have their business included on our pages. They too noticed our high search rankings and decided it was better to pay us than figure out the SEO thing themselves. That’s when I had the idea to buy a new domain name so these pages could spin off into something new…ChicagoWeddingServices.com. (I went ahead and bought ChicagoWeddingDJ.com as well. I was surprised it was still available.)

ChicagoWeddingServices-com
The original look of CWS in 2001. Tommy Torres Design came up with the elements and I pieced it together.

I had a feeling that these SEO friendly domain names could piggyback off the success I already had with the SRC vendor pages. I was right. ChicagoWeddingServices.com and ChicagoWeddingDJ.com started showing up in the top 3, if not number one, of the organic search results for many relevant search queries. Any time someone searched for something like “wedding reception venues in Chicago,” or something local and wedding related, we would come up. Call it dumb luck or whatever, but I accidentally became good at SEO when the search engine algorithms were not yet as sophisticated as they are today. That luck lasted several years until about 2005 I think. Google had a major algorithm update and I finally fell from grace with Google. Traffic died and today is less than a hundred visitors each day. It was great while it lasted.

While I was tempted to sell the domain and give up on the site as a business, I’ve kept it and tried to update it enough so it isn’t as terribly dated as the original design that was not mobile friendly. Last year, I finally had the time to complete a redesign that was years in the making. It was DIY since it made no financial sense to pour more money into a site that no longer made any profits. I used the opportunity to play around with responsive design and CSS. This is how it looks now on Desktop and Mobile:

Screenshot of ChicagoWeddingServices.com in 2016
Desktop Screenshot of ChicagoWeddingServices.com in 2016

 

MobileTest.me CWS with the HTC One
I have an HTC One M8 and this is how CWS displays on my smartphone

Lately, I haven’t spent much time on any new websites. That said, a month or so ago I agreed to help out the Boy Scouts Troop that my son León is a part of. They wanted to put up a website that they could leverage for recruiting new Scouts in the area so my wife and I bought troop23nocatee.com and I quickly put together a WordPress site hosted on my existing web server. The template is simple so it can be consistent with the printed flier they made for recruiting.

www.troop23nocatee.com
Boy Scout Troop 23 Nocatee in Ponte Vedra FL http://www.troop23nocatee.com

[Update 2/18/2016]

A few years back, I was overzealous and bought quite a few domains with the intention of monetizing them somehow. Most of them have just been parked yet I renew them every year, hopeful that I’ll eventually do something with them. Perhaps I’ll put them on the market and see if I can recoup some of my expenses. Most likely I’ll just let them expire so someone else may run with them.

I’ll list the domains here and if anyone has ideas and wants to partner on a project with any of these domain names, please get in touch.

Domains:

cityweddingphotographers.com
citywebmarketing.com
cityweddingservices.com
wedding-alliance.com
cityweddinginfo.com
cityweddingdresses.com
cityweddingplanning.com
cityweddingsites.com
cityweddingvenues.com
chicagoweddingmarket.com
cityweddingentertainment.com
cityweddingdjs.com
cityweddingmarket.com

The original intention was to spin off more targeted sites for specific services and/or cities. For example, cityweddingphotographers.com could have any number of subdomains for each city. NewYork.CityWeddingPhotographers.com would target photographers and their potential clients in the New York City area. Once upon a time, these niche sites would outrank the larger sites such as TheKnot.com. That’s how ChicagoWeddingServices.com took off. Advertisers on CWS would tell me that they got better traffic and more bookings from our site, and it didn’t cost as much to advertise with CWS. Nowadays, it will take a different approach to succeed. I have ideas but the time and effort needed is substantial (team of freelancers?). Collaboration seems to be the better option. If you’re interested in batting around some ideas, please mention that in a comment to this post and I’ll be in touch via email.

This DJ: Pinterest Boards and YouTube Playlists

For a while now, I’ve had a Pinterest board dedicated to the DJ culture. This morning, I read an email from Serato announcing their Serato Pyro release for iOS. One click led to another and I ended up on YouTube watching a video about Pyro under the hood. It was a longer video so I was going to flag it to watch later. I decided that I had so many DJ-related YouTube videos in my “Watch Later” list that it might be better organized if I just create a channel playlist for it. Don’t know why I didn’t think about it before.

Maybe because I only started just playing around with YouTube channels a couple weeks ago. It started when I created a “Pick Me Up” playlist of songs/videos based on the “Inspire” playlist I have set up in Google Play Music.

That then gave me the idea to create a separate YouTube playlist for my DJ mixes using iTunes Visualizer as a video background. I wrote about that in an earlier post.

Creating YouTube Versions of My DJ Mixes

DJ ReCreator I m Beautiful Mix YouTube
YouTube version of “DJ ReCreator: I’m Beautiful Mix”

During my mid-career retirement in 2015, I had a chance to revisit and spend time on hobbies such as DJing. I dug up old recordings from CD burns, MiniDiscs and even cassettes 🙂 I also added a few newer mixes using mp3s, time-coded vinyl and Traktor software. Everything was converted to mp3. After finding a site to upload my mixes, I compiled a collection of my recordings and made them available on MixCrate.com.

http://www.mixcrate.com/djrecreator/dj_mixes

The whole process was fun. I got some initial engagement in terms of likes and downloads then things tapered. Interesting how fleeting things are these days with all the “noise” and options out there for our on-demand generation. Anyway, I got pulled into starting my next career chapter and stopped spending as much time on the DJ stuff.

Recently, I had the idea of expanding my reach by using YouTube…but how? I’ve seen many YouTube ‘videos’ that were primarily music with a static image as the video. I didn’t want to go that route. So I thought about ways I could add motion to my mixes so they could be uploaded as videos. The challenge was to do it without making it such a big production. iTunes has the Visualizer built into the player and I enjoy watching the hypnotic movements as the tracks play. Doing a little research and testing, I tested a few screen recorders and then made YouTube videos using screen recordings of iTunes Visualizer while my mixes played. The first batch of videos is now uploaded to my YouTube channel. They’re not getting much attention. Maybe they never will. It doesn’t bother me too much because I enjoyed the process of testing an idea and figuring out out to pull it off.

 

View The Resulting Videos:

How I did it…

  1. Downloaded Bandicam Screen Recorder as a trial to test. It worked better than the other free software I tested and it had good reviews. A few trial runs is all I needed. I went ahead and purchased the registered version of the software for $39 because I didn’t want the large www.bandicam.com watermark to be included with the video output.
  2. Loaded my mixes into iTunes as single song playlists so that I could record the visualizations without having to worry about captures bleeding into the next track in queue.
  3. Read Google’s recommendations for optimizing video uploads: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/1722171?hl=en
  4. Aligned the iTunes window and Bandicam’s screen capture frame so it was a 16:9 aspect ratio (1280×720 recommended). I didn’t want the screen recorder to capture my mouse movements so I chose not to do full screen.
  5. I read an article on cool tricks for controlling the visualizer display in real time: http://www.instructables.com/id/Cool-Itunes-trick-VISUALIZER/
  6. As cool as visualizer can be, all the videos looked too similar so I began manually changing the visualizer theme in sync with the music as it recorded.
  7. I uploaded each video via the interface in my YouTube account. While each video uploaded and processed, I added descriptions with track names and a link to the corresponding mix available on MixCrate.

If the opportunity presents itself, I may actually take the time to produce videos for my DJ mixes and not just screen recordings. Baby steps.

The What, Why and How of This Blog

What

The intent is to focus on topics I already write about in my personal journal. Of course, there are details I will exclude for obvious reasons, but many of the topics cover passions and interests that I’m sure many people share. This is my way of sharing and contributing to those communities.

Why

  • To benefit others with similar interests, challenges or experiences by sharing insights and lessons learned. Or simply to entertain with personal stories.
  • I have the ambition to author and self-publish a book someday. It is my hope that this blog will exercise my writing and help me determine what topics would be worthy of a book.

How

  1. Generated ideas for content, context, structure and execution plan. This project started with one of my recent journal entries. (I keep a personal journal using Journey by Journal. This is one of my favorite apps and I’ll likely dedicate a post to it later). I jotted down several ideas a few days ago as part of a daily practice (see author James Altucher) and this was one of them. I must have been inspired that morning because the ideas kept flowing, came together and I got excited to start right away.
  2. I registered two domain names, donndurante.com and prodabbler.com, using my existing account with MyDomain.com. They each cost about $9/year and it was quick and easy because I’ve registered many domain names in the past. I’ve always been tempted to register my name as a dot com but never really had a good idea about what content it would house. Now I do. ProDabbler.com made sense to me since the overarching theme for this blog is my experience dabbling in several areas throughout my life. ProfessionalDabbler.com was already taken but I like that prodabbler is shorter and still easy to market if I ever decided to promote the blog. I’m actually surprised that prodabbler wasn’t already registered. There are enough self-proclaimed “professional dabblers” online, I’m curious why nobody thought about claiming the domain. Anyway, I’m glad it was available. For now, I’ve just set it up to redirect to donndurante.com
  3. Setting up server space was the next step. I already have an account with 1and1 which hosts several sites I still keep up and running. (Those sites have been on autopilot for many years but something tells me I shouldn’t give up on them just yet.) It was relatively quick and painless to configure the new domains registered with some dedicated space under my 1&1 Unlimited Contract. That package has plenty of available server space and allows me to run several domains under one account. 1&1 also has great features including an AppCenter that made setting up a hosted WordPress site very straightforward. Linking MyDomain registrations with 1&1 hosting can take up to 24 hours or so to propagate but in actuality, it only took a couple of hours.
  4. WordPress was the obvious platform choice for me. Not only is it well established and feature rich, it is already integrated with my hosting service and responsive to mobile devices. With earlier sites, I experimented with using CSS to manually create my own sites using responsive design…I found it took too much effort for something that is already included with WordPress themes and templates. Using the 1&1 utility wizard, it only took a few minutes to install WordPress and have it ready on the server space assigned to it.
  5. This step is where the creativity kicked in. After updating some of the general settings, I started customizing the site:
    • I searched for a theme that caught my eye. I wanted something simple yet stylish. Filtering the search results by newest first, I found a theme called “Curiosity Lite”. It had a layout that I thought would fit the concept I had in mind.
    • Once installed and activated, I began organizing the blog by adding pages, categories and placeholder content. I uploaded some media and played around with placement. My initial ideas for images and a logo didn’t display well with the theme so I undid them. I may come back to it later, but for now I’d like to keep it clean. Adding media just to have it feels forced and doesn’t seem to add value.
    • I wrote a short post titled “And so I begin” to replace the “Hello World” post that comes with the template.
    • I walked away from writing more even though I was tempted to keep pushing forward and adding as much starting content as time allowed. Like any other activity, it’s important to pause and reflect. I noticed I was getting tired and the writing wasn’t flowing as well. I had other things to attend to anyway so I decided to give it a rest and recharge.
    • I came back and restructured some of the categories by lumping some topics as sub-categories under more general parent categories (e.g. music and books were grouped under a new category I’m calling “media”). It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference when there isn’t much content, but as the substance of the site grows over time, content structure that is intuitive and well organized makes navigation and search friendlier in the long run. I also went back and started adding relevant tags to posts.
  6. I realized that the hosted version of WordPress doesn’t have built-in analytics. Coming from a digital marketing background, I feel blind when I can’t see the metrics of site activity. There won’t be much to look at until I actually have visitors and site engagement, but it’s one of those things that is good to have in place from the beginning. I search available plugins for “analytics” and chose Google Analytics Dashboard for WordPress based on its rating and the total number of downloads. Simple to install and configure since I already have a Google Analytics account.
  7. Knowing that the site will change as it matures, I took a screenshot to capture how it looks today. I wonder how it will look 10 years from now.
  8. From this point, it will be about adding content on a regular basis. Some days I plan to just go back in time and fill in the backstory. Other days will have current experiences that tie into the theme of pro dabbler.