Crafting The Story Arc of My Next 20 Years

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 11/26/2013

For personal branding online and eventual alternative income purposes, I need to work on what I’m going to call the arc-of-interest. Namely, at least a major portion of what I’m writing about has to be stuff that some portion of the population actually cares about. And to that end, I have to explain my topics and actually generate some of the hunger and demand for that which interests me.

This is an arc-of-interest, because not everything seems connected, but it is, but takes some time to get there like a story arc. I talk about a Linux distro for education in old-school programming, then I delve into the minutiae of what it takes to get there—of no interest at all to the people who will be using Levinux. Then I have my day job, which must take priority, but which also must be made to align to my mission and passion in life—a greater purpose, without which, I’m just some online marketer.

Lately, I’ve been called upon to communicate better visually, but my skills have gotten rusty. After 2 decades of alternately paying Adobe and digging up old versions I’ve suffered terminal adobefatigue. So have others, and Adobe chose to solve it with a minimum $49/mo subscription service. That’s the modern-day equivalent to a guild membership fee. If you want to be a visual communication professional, you’ve got to pay your dues—or you can’t even open your files anymore!

Well, there’s at least three things wrong with this. First, I am not a visual arts professional, and it isn’t my primary job-duty so I won’t score one of the company seat licenses. Paying $49/mo just for myself for software I might only use seriously once every 2 or 3 months isn’t worth it. Sure, I might need to start communicating visually a lot more—but I’m not willing to spend that amount of money for the off-chance.

Second, I don’t need the massive bloated feature-creep of THESUITE. I just don’t need to magically extend scenic landscapes and unblur faces. I need to illustrate—and not necessarily the Illustrator-way. I much preferred Aldus Freehand, whose remnants can still barely be found in Flash. But Flash is just more software in the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite now—and deprecated, at that. All I need is good illustration software with a feature-set equivalent to about Illustrator or Freehand 3.0 generation software—which primarily uses the modern SVG structure graphic standard.

Third, I’m on Linux desktops now as much as Windows and Mac. I fully plan on embracing the Ubuntu Unity Mobile approach once it’s ready for prime time, and all my tools are being selected with this in mind. I would prefer to stay away from visual software entirely, considering how it’s so tied up in proprietary software and mountains of dependencies—but insofar as I can’t, I intend to choose the best that the free and open source software communities (FOSS) have to offer. And that means Gimp as a Photoshop alternative and Inkscape as (my immediate need) an Illustrator alternative.

Replatforming off of Adobe and into Gimp and Inkscape is not unique to myself. Tons of people are struggling with the very same issues that led me down that route, and how I’m handling those issues, and whether I will be successful at it will be of great interest to them. It is very similar to my replatforming off of the Microsoft server environment and onto the Linux server environment. It’s like switching religions. It’s like losing all your knowledge and being reborn as a child. It’s not pleasant when you have the pressures to perform in your day-job.

Am I making things harder for myself? Why not just give in and pay the guild-fee and use the defacto standard software of visual communication professionals? Well, the Adobe software has changed enough since the last time I seriously used it (Creative Suite 2) that a certain amount of relearning will have to happen anyway—so why not invest it where you’ll never have to pay again, and can truly install it guilt-free and with no restrictions on any hardware you happen to have access to running whatever OS it happens to be running? Similar arguments go for Linux server software over the Microsoft stuff. Yep, there’s some steep learning curve up front, but it’s worth it in the long run.

And so goes my story arc. It takes me through really obscure QEMU C source code compiling issues on various OS platforms to get Levinux polished up to come out of beta. It will go through some very interesting and useful applications built on Levinux (web apps, scheduled tasks and such), and how to make the applications impervious to hard drive crashes, cloud service termination or platform switching through the use of the git distributed version control system aka source code management. That’s the origin of the “code for life” tagline of Levinux.

I will also take you through how to communicate your ideas brilliantly to those around you—initially through helping you master various methods of visual communication. Doing good illustration work in Inkscape is the start, but there is also how to write a good story as a script that you can animate against. There’s no good free and open source alternative to Flash yet, but there will be, and I’ll cover that. There is a FOSS alternative to Prezi-style presentations, and I will be learning/teaching that time allowing.

One of the latest realities you can’t escape is HTML5 / CSS3 / JavaScript. So, I need to master at least a portion of that too—but don’t over-invest! Why? User interface hardware is a moving target—touch-screens, form-factors, browser capabilities and such. Mastering the nuances here is like investing in a milk that’s about to expire. But you need the principles of object-manipulation and control. JavaScript was written as a control-language for devices that expose their capabilities through something like the browser document object model (the DOM). So, you’ve got to go there—but don’t need to become master gurus.

Think of it like visual communication—learning illustration, without becoming a master artist. The browser DOM is the human-interaction API (application program interface). Just like you can’t get away from communicating visually and taking up programs like Gimp and Inkscape, you can’t get away from building interfaces to your software—web forms for data-input and charts and graphs for output—that sort of thing. So I’ll take you along that journey with me too—but unlike so many others, I’ll resist teaching you the “once JavaScript, always JacaScript” mentality.

And finally, I’m going to take you through projecting your personality out through digital communication media. This means script writing, story telling, brand and voice development, knowing what your audience cares about, utilizing YouTube, Google HangOuts, Khan Accadeny-style blackboard lessons and services like them. I’ll be doing all this stuff for myself anyway, as SEO shifts towards mega-reputation brokering. I have to end up one of those mega-reputations.

That means actually doing and being someone noteworthy. And that means achieving your goals. And that means staying focused and on-mission. It means knowing your mission and purpose and discipline yourself. I’ll teach you how to utilize your downtime more productively, and even how to plant the seeds of productivity into your relaxation and recharging the battery activities.

The craft and challenge now for me is delivering what I need to for my day job, being an awesome daddy as my baby girl grows into her critical formative years, and find the time to knit the overarching effort I’m making into a smooth-enough story I can tell, make that in itself a source if alternative or supplementary income—and do it all successfully.