The future is a scary thing, its a leap into the unknown and yet for all of us itâ€™s always the next step
Since the birth of my daughter I have been pondering the future, it has been at times a quite dark place to visit but slowly Iâ€™m seeing a light. She has certainly changed my priorities, I need to find a work life balance that allows me to spend these crucial years with her and Carolyn as much as possible, while having a steady income to provide for them.
So I look to the future, but before I talk about what could be the future, itâ€™s worth looking at the past and present, one of the common questions I get at WordCamps (and life in general) is what do you actually do?
When you describe yourself as a stuff consultant, it does rather leave what you do open to interpretation, do I revel in this mystery? Probably just a little.
So here is what I do, I help organisations empower their development teams, which is even more fluffy then stuff consultant, so let me show you my 4 hats I wear as a stuff consultant.
The security consultant, my background is heavily laced with security and compliance work especially around payment systems and PCI-DSS compliance. PCI what now? If you work with e-commerce systems and havenâ€™t got a clue what PCI-DSS is then you need to go and do some research right now. For the rest of us, PCI-DSS is the industry standard regulations for how to handle payment information to keep data secure.
So what does Tim the security consultant do? Well site and plugin review audits, if you have followed me on Twitter you might have had the â€œfortuneâ€ of watching a live plugin review dissection itâ€™s not pretty.
Wonder what happens if you call uninstall.php directly in the browser in incognito mode? oh
â€” Tim Nash (@tnash) April 14, 2015
While Plugin reviews are fun, more often the work I do is on specific sites, looking for vulnerabilities and making sure itâ€™s compliant with any regulations its meant to be.
My second security hat is part of a more broader hat that of a facilitator or mediator, normally coming in after a major incident, or if the company has enough foresight prior to a major incident to help work out what went wrong and what can change. What I do not do is come in as the hatchet man, I try hard to avoid â€œassigning blameâ€ to any individual because itâ€™s never one persons fault. Coming in as an outsider to help lead blameless post-mortems is always interesting, initially universally distrusted by both sides it can be a challenge to get everyone talking but the goal is not only to work out what went wrong, what can be done to rectify it and what lessons can we learn but also to bring a culture of doing internal blameless post-mortems and convincing people failure can sometimes be good.
Taking the security hat of but leaving the facilitator hat on, I provide training and performance coaching for development teams. Every developer has gone down their own path and everyones knowledge is different. Most companies canâ€™t afford to run a comprehensive training courses for their developers or have a performance director on staff, so thatâ€™s where I come in. Sometime it might be introducing code reviews or pair programming, or it might be bespoke training on a subject. Ultimately Iâ€™m there to help teams gel better, pass on knowledge within the company as well as fill in some missing holes for some developers. For me this is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job, I get to meet some great individuals and teams and I get to learn a lot from them as well as impart some good (I hope).
My 3rd hat, The fixer, is helping dealing with sticky problems, Iâ€™m not a developer, in fact while I have led a development team, my day job has never been development. That said I would consider myself a programmer, indeed I can code in several languages to a reasonable standard and have a good understanding both of academic computer science principles and a range of best practices and standard patterns for day to day use with any programming language. So my 3rd hat can see me working on improving complex queries, looking at server stability issues and proving architectural support. Nearly always this will involve some coding or sys-admining but in a limited way with the goal being to show the client how to fix things and move forward. For example some recent work has included helping with a rather complex Varnish configuration, helping to develop static site generator and writing some code to work out walking distances between multiple points (yes good old fashioned travelling salesman problem)
My final hat, is one that is confusing for many and that is as an open source advocate, working for organisations who understand that when they put out something to tender that they could easily be locked in to a large closed source solution that will be nearly impossible to leave. So they hire an outsider to provide an alternative open source tender, one that can be implemented by anyone and hopefully has reduced maintenance and no lock-ins. This last hat is tedious, frustrating and I will be honest rarely met with success. Of all my hats its the one I can say I made a difference at a large scale, but itâ€™s also the most bitterly disappointing one to wear, and itâ€™s simply no fun.
So that was Tim of the past and present, however; What about Tim of the future?
Well all of my hats are worn and getting old, since my daughter was born I have taken on no new clients, except for bespoke training courses and slowly have been reaching end of contracts with existing ones. For the first time in a couple of years I have no major clients and consequently no major income. This is rather scary.
So the future?
I could go back to consulting and get new clients, the work I do is pretty niche but people do need these services, most donâ€™t realise it so I spend a lot of time educating folks, which is good itâ€™s what I like to do. Consulting is actually a lot harder then it seems, and while itâ€™s great to tackle new problems is often unrewarding as rarely do you see a project through to completion.
I could go get a job, the problem is Iâ€™ve reached the point where I think I am un-employable. I am not a developer and I quite like my comfortable lifestyle so hiring me as a developer would probably not be all that cost effective. Where I could potentially fit within a company is as a technical director or performance director level. The problem is those sort of positions within the WordPress world at least are rare and nearly always held by founders. There is also the fact Iâ€™m not 100% sure I would want that job, it would have to be with an amazing company with the right culture. If anything the role I really want is more of an evangelist role for WordPress and WordPress community for Developers and system administration. WordPress wrongly still has a terrible reputation within certain circles and it would be a great to work 100% of the time to change that. So if you want a â€œWordPress evangelistâ€ to help spread the wonders of Dev-Ops and WordPress then you are welcome to get in touch.
Which leaves me to the final I couldâ€¦
I could focus 100% on providing content and training for Developers and System Admins using WordPress.
Switching from consulting to an information based product is something that has always been on the cards, many years ago I started writing a membership plugin for just that purpose, boy did that not go according to plan
Indeed I never did launch that site.
The problem is I have been intending to launch timnash.co.uk then the newsletter and videos and work out how to fund it. Then slowly slip into a point where I was working on timnash.co.uk full time.
The reality itâ€™s always at the bottom of the list, I tried to use Patreon to force myself to dedicate time, but to build up Patreon subscribers I need video content, which is sitting there unedited because I donâ€™t have time. Itâ€™s a vicious circle.
Others have successfully done the building up their sites over time, just look at what Brian fromPost Status has done but it wasnâ€™t working for me and with my time constraints being even further constrained if I make the jump its now or never.
One further hinderance while there is nothing wrong with membership sites and paywalls, it doesnâ€™t fit with the ethos of what I am trying to build. So where possible I want to make sure the content is free at the point of consumption.
So here is what I intend to do if I went full time into content production:
Carry on developing timnash.co.uk, but increase the content production, not daily, but twice a week.
Media wise, mostly video, 2 pieces every month to be full length 10-20 minute tutorials these to be funded by lovely patrons through Patreon, other media to be short tips, news articles and Q/A sessions
- Twice a month newsletter, yes I have a newsletter it was last sent in September but that will change.
- A monthly webinar, a 1 hour live session on a given subject, hopefully with special guests.
In addition I want to bring in and pay 2 to 3 guest writers, who I think will bring outstanding articles. It will not only bring in some diversity but also give me a break from writing (no it wonâ€™t who am I kidding)
Finally I want to bring back having an editor look at every post prior to itâ€™s release. Jokes about starting with this post are probably not welcome. So hopefully the spieling end graymar wil be gud! I have toyed with the idea of crowd editing, with pull requests. It might be a fun little side project for the future, along side having an editor.
So whatâ€™s going to differentiate this site from all the others out there:
Every post and video that is part of the weekly cycle should be available for free to everyone. No paywalls, no membership sites and nothing between people who are after the content and the content itself.
Free content for everyone with no strings? Travelling around the country evangalising WordPress, how exactly are you going to feed yourself?
Well that is pretty much exactly the same question, Carolyn asked while holding a baby and looking well befuddled.
I see three main funding sources:
- Patreon, itâ€™s been a bumpy road, not a great promotional start, then some legal issues and the platform is downright dreadful but the concept of individual patrons being charged per Video is I think a great one. I need to work on the rewards, I recently moved Patreons into the sidebar for greater exposure but Iâ€™m hoping to see a rapid increase in Patrons.
- Corporate Patrons (Sponsorship, Advertising) I was dead against any form of advertising as I was worried about giving companies value for money without being to in your face to visitors. I believe I have built a good comprehensive package for advertisers, and really am hoping that a few companies with the right ethos will consider sponsoring/advertising on the site. I have already turned away a couple of companies who were not the right fit (I really hope I donâ€™t regret that)
- Training Workshops, in person and online workshops providing, couple of hours, half and full day courses as well as continuing the bespoke training courses that I already do for businesses.
This is a huge gamble, with our savings buffer dwindling the 3 funding sources need to hit the ground running.
The site needs to take home to me around Â£2-2.5k/month currently with 12 Patreons, no commercial advertising and as of this morning no announced new courses it brings inâ€¦.
About Â£92 based on publishing 2 videos this month through Patreon.
Houston we have a problem.
I donâ€™t know what the future is going to bring, I have 2 to 3 months to make the site work at most. This month (May) I have some client work just to tied us over so I will only be 80% working on the site. June I have a couple of training courses booked in but am looking to be 95% working on the site.
When talking about my plans with friends and perspective sponsors, itâ€™s been mixed some were quite open to the idea, a few thought I was mad. One still is convinced Iâ€™m planning a membership site. Speaking to potential sponsor I realised my pitch to advertisers was not going to work and he simply didnâ€™t get the idea of â€œcorporate sponsorshipâ€ it was a pretty depressing conversation so I have totally rethought the benefits and the pitch. Others have been much more positive.
As you can imagine I wanted to write this article while announcing sponsors, thatâ€™s not happened but Iâ€™m hoping to be announcing the first corporate sponsors soon.
Lurching into the unknown without much rope and a torch with only 1 AA battery in it is not the smartest of moves. Iâ€™m jumping hoping folks are their to catch my fall, come to think of it this is pretty insane, but I have leapt now. Itâ€™s too late.
If you have looked at my Patreon page before and thought I might consider pledging once he starts producing some videos or I will do it later, then please consider pledging now.
If you run a business or have a great product/brand then why not look at my sponsorship opportunities? Seriously itâ€™s a great way to get your brand in front of the the right people.
If you are interested in courses and training, then hold your horses I have a couple of workshops to announce over the next week or so.
Finally thank you, if you read this far, you are clearly insane but wonderful.
The future is a little scary.
It certainly ainâ€™t what it use to be.
p.s consider signing up to the newsletter if you havenâ€™t already the first of the new edition will be out next week. Featuring a couple of ideas, some great links and a little bit of editorial content.