Created in August 2018

This August, I’ve created 9 tech articles, uploaded 16 videos, narrated and edited my book BROKEN BOWELS (twice), created/revived five podcast feeds, created logos for them, overhauled one of my websites, and took on a part-time job with Instacart.

It was a very busy month, and a lot has happened. Looking back over this extensive log entry alone, it baffles me somewhat to see just how much I have achieved! It’s all been about streamlining some aspects of my life, as well as finishing off things that have been sizzling in the background for some time. 

It feels good to free up some room to take on new challenges. Here’s what I’ve been creating this month:

Tech Articles

Videos

In addition to these four new ones, I’ve also released several iOS tutorials on YouTube this month. They date back to 2014 and 2015, having previously been available only to members of my iOS Dev Diary. Those are beefy in-depth courses on

  • creating searchable table views
  • how to code in-app purchases
  • and how to use iCloud in iOS.

I decided the time has come to make them available to everybody. So the total amount of uploads to YouTube this month was 16 videos.

Broken Bowels Audio Book

 

I’ve finished narrating my book… twice! After listening to my work, which took the first half of August to narrate and edit, I’ve noticed that my performance was not as good a listening experience as I had hoped it would be. I read my material too fast, and as such, much of what I’m trying to convey did not have the impact I had hoped it would have.

Towards the third act I got much slower, reading things with more emphasis, and I personally had a much better listening experience.

Taking some time to reflect was a great learning experience for me, and good feedback on how I can present material better in the future. Don’t rush through things, otherwise the fast pace makes the listener feel like being bombarded by a machine gun.

Hence, being the perfectionist that I am, I started narrating and editing the whole thing again – or at least most of it. I re-did the whole first and second act, and re-narrated parts of the third act I was not happy with. The result of the second pass is nearly 16 hours in total duration, two hours longer than my original pass.

Audio Book Cover and Submission

Once finished, I submitted the 62 files of all chapters and additional material to a service called ACX, short for the Audio Creation Exchange. It’s an Amazon owned service that syndicates audio books to Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

Strict broadcast audio specifications aside, they also required the cover text and praise section, opening and closing credits, as well as a square version of the cover. This was slightly tricky to accomplish, because I used Amazon’s Cover Creator for making the cover for the paperback and Kindle versions. Those are portrait type and rectangular.

Cover Creator is a web based tool that does a decent job without having to spend any time in graphics applications, but of course it’s very limited because you don’t get access to the actual components that make up the cover. In my case, it meant that I had to extract them cleverly, then re-compose them in Photoshop. The whole process took another day or so, but eventually I came up with the version you see above.

ACX currently do a quality check on my work. I liked their automated response, “we can’t wait to hear your audio book”. Nice! If they like what I did (technically that is), BROKEN BOWELS should be published sometime during September.

Podcast Feeds

Inspired by the “Power of the Spoken Word”, I remembered that – a while ago – I had setup two Podcast Feeds, one for The WP Guru, and the other one for the iOS Dev Diary. Neither of them haven’t seen much love recently. 

Both feeds were Video Podcasts, which required separate encoding and hosting in addition to my YouTube videos. Since I started with the production of my audio version of BROKEN BOWELS, I started listening to spoken word tracks a lot more. As such, I was wondering if instead of offering Video Podcasts, my content would have value as much easier to host Audio Podcasts.

After converting some of my video episodes to audio tracks and listening back to them, I was surprised how well they worked as standalone audio versions. Video is often more difficult to consume than audio, the latter being a nice “in-the-background” addition to other activities, whereas video requires the viewers full attention.

Inspired, I’ve setup a total of FIVE new podcast feeds, with several others in the pipeline.

All podcasts are available via iTunes and Stitcher:

In total that’s over 10 hours of audio materials for ya’ll’s enjoyment – and I haven’t even finished releasing going through my archive yet. The above links will get you to the iTunes listing for each feed, which will either display in a web browser or open the Podcast App on your mobile device. Enjoy my “dulcet tones”, as Dave Lee describes them ๐Ÿ˜‰

I will talk more about podcasts and how to create them in an upcoming article on The WP Guru.

Podcast Covers

For each podcast feed, there is a requirement for a 3000×3000 pixel square image that needs to be uploaded, so that each feed has a visual identifier. I already had feeds and icons for The iOS Dev Diary and The WP Guru in place, and all I needed to do was to convert them into audio episodes, and slot in additional material. 

Therefore I already had two out of five assets. For the three brand new podcasts, I had to create new feeds and hence new logos. I started with this one for the Commodore podcast:

It’s a simple Photoshop job, using the Commodore icon with some grunge overlay, faded  out a bit and some added text elements on the top. To finish the retro look, I decided to add the little Plus/4 strip at the bottom, and of course add The WP Guru branding in the corner.

Next up was the 3D podcast logo. I thought it might be nice to reflect graphically what the “show” is all about, namely making stuff in 3D. My first idea was to use a simple cube and add text elements on top of it, much like I did for the Commodore logo.

But then I thought, perhaps it would look even cooler if I added those text elements as 3D objects and somehow integrate them into the cube. The result is this:

Again it’s not a major job, but it looks cute and simple. I finished it off with some strong side light from the right and added half-glossy shaders and basic colours to the words (the primary colours red, green and blue). 

The final logo I had to come up with was for The Storyist Podcast. Since I ran out of ideas and out of time this month, I used the original Storyist branding with my own logo in the corner. It was quick but serves its purpose (I hope Steve Shepard approves – I haven’t exactly asked his permission on this yet):

Even though they may not be masterpieces of graphic design, they fulfil their purpose nicely – and of course it takes time to make these things, and research how to do it. 

Somehow, I even managed to fit logo creation into my schedule this month.

New Theme on The WP Guru

My tech notebook site The WP Guru has been powered by Automattic’s P2 theme for many years, or more accurately, by a modified version I’ve specifically written for it called P2 Categories. It has served me well for many years due to its front-page posting capabilities, allowing me to take quick notes and turn them into blog posts for everyone to enjoy.

At the same time, I’ve always had some performance issues with this theme as the site attracted more and more visitors over the years. Besides, it wasn’t mobile friendly. This month I felt it was time to change it to a different layout, and I opted for my good friend the TwentyThirteen theme. I’m running it on versluis.com and on my iOS Dev Diary, giving a cohesive reading experience on all three websites.

That makes my maintenance life a lot easier going forward, and freaks my brain out much less than it used to, in turn giving me more time to focus on my content rather than technical shenanigans.

On this occasion I’ve implemented a popular feature on all these three sites now: a Table of Content with plain links to everything I’ve ever written on the world wide web, as well as a real-time word count feature to tell me how much I’ve written over the years. 

Those stats are… staggering!

On all three sites combined, I have so far published 2,270 articles with a total of 679,811 words. That’s not including the 102,364 words I have written as responses to my readers, bringing the total written word count to a breathtaking 782,175!

An average paperback has about 50,000 words by comparison. This article alone has over 2,200 words. No wonder I feel exhausted every now and again! Go check those Tables of Content out if you’re interested:

Multi-Camera Testing

Ever since I’ve started the Super Survivor Project, I wanted to shoot interviews with influential and inspirational people. I wanted to capture their thoughts on a variety of subjects, anything relating to both survival, as well as having an improved experience of life.

Candidates that sprang to mind immediately are those who have helped me through the fateful years of my cancer journey, but also those I thought to be inspiring leading up to it and following it. I’d love to head over to Georgia and have a chat with Jimmy Carter for example while I still can. Like me he was given Keytruda and was miraculously cured of cancer as a result.

In preparation for such interviews, I have spent several days this month testing my multi-camera setup, which consists of a couple of GoPro cameras and five or so iOS devices. I have so many other cameras to shoot with too, like my tiny key fob cameras – all of which would make for a great final product.

Footage alone is of course not enough. It also needs to be editable in an efficient way, something I’ve never explored before. All I ever did was edit several single camera clips together, interspersed with other footage.

I used to work as a director/vision mixer for the Financial Times multimedia division back in London in the early norties (naughties?), covering large shareholder meetings that were shot with two or five cameras. That was a nice gig! Switching live feeds from several cameras makes for a very efficient workflow and a great end result. It’s literally what sets an amateur production apart from a single camera setup.

Turns out that Premiere Pro has that option built in – even my ageing version CS 5.5 from 2012 has it, and my Mac Mini is very happy to handle it!

But of course to utilise it properly, this workflow needs testing and practice, both in the camera setup as well as in the software itself. And practice I did this month! Let’s see what this setup can bring to my YouTube channel over the forthcoming months ๐Ÿ™‚

Part-Time Job

Great news: at least for my bank manager, Mount Sinai Hospital and the many credit card companies that keep charging us cash for outstanding amounts owed. I have just taken on a part-time Job with Instacart to make some spare cash.

My new responsibility shall be to go shopping for customers at our local supermarket. How cool is that? It’s all iPhone based: I get an order, walk around the store and pack whatever people want to have delivered. I then check the items out, pay for them, and then a driver collects the wares.

The hours are flexible and fit nicely around my many creative projects. And of course, I’ll have plenty of stories to tell from the experience, all the while meeting new people (and get an insight into American consumer’s interesting shopping habits).

Strangely, while this appears to leave me less time for creative stuff, it seems a great catalyst for me to seize the time I have more efficiently – otherwise the amount of creations this month would be difficult to explain. 

I’ll keep you posted on how this is going when I find the time to write about my experiences in more detail.

Until then, have a great month!

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