This blog has been around long
enough for its focus to shift a few times… The core mission of making
TypePad rock hasn't really changed, but the methods have shifted a bit. The original manifesto can be found here, but it seemed like time for an update.
Stage One: Consumer Advocacy, Guerrilla Criticism
I founded typepadhacks.org in 2006 to suggest features and
changes I felt would significantly improve the TypePad platform. The
initial focus of the site was:
- User Design: Collecting useful hacks for extending the capabilities of TypePad blogs.
- User Forum: Providing a forum for issues, news and user concerns about SixApart products and service.
- User Power: Organizing users into a unified voice to lobby SixApart for the features, fixes and changes to TypePad most important to us.
As it turned out, Michael Sippey (then GM at TypePad) got in touch
almost immediately to let me know that a lot of what I had suggested
was useful to the development team and that they would be implementing
many of my suggestions. The general response from the company is
exemplified by the following quote from the TypePad Featured Blog article about TypePad Hacks:
You might think that
Six Apart, as a company, would be embarrassed by Unger's focus on
explaining tricks to extend TypePad's functionality, or chagrined that
he polls his readers about what features we should implement next, but
the truth is: We're thrilled. Not only is TypePad Hacks a tremendous
benefit to all TypePad customers, especially those who want to ask
unique questions or try to "push the envelope," but it's also
incredibly useful for us to look over Unger's shoulder and absorb the
feedback his readers are giving. And we can assure you, we are most
certainly looking. Finally, we think it's an amazing testament to
blogging and to TypePad that Unger thought the best solution for his
effort was to start a blog and to use TypePad. We couldn't agree more.
While no formal relationship exists between TypePad Hacks and TypePad,
we have talked with Unger and consider him a wonderful asset to the
That was awesome, and they've been rolling out great new features,
improvements and fixes at a breakneck pace ever since. I put a lot of
effort into those first posts to make sure that the tone was uniformly
positive and I think that has paid off so many ways… I've almost never
had a negative comment directed at TypePad since the blog began (though
plenty of constructive criticism) and often the readers will answer
each other's questions in the comments. There's a community here that I
truly value, and I think that by providing a space for that here, both
TypePad and the user base have gotten a chance to interact and learn
from each other. A great deal of growth and understanding came out of
Stage two: Developing new Hacks and Writing Tutorials
But, I'm impatient (massively ADHD, actually) and so I started writing hacks
for some of the features that could be added without having to change
the back-end application code. It turned out I was pretty good at it.
It turned out that I have a special knack for looking at what things are and what they do,
not what they're supposed to be or intended to do… In other words,
every time I see a new snip of code, my brain immediately starts
thinking about what else it could be used for beyond the intended
purpose. This is the perfect mindset for finding new ways to use
things, and for finding solutions to difficult problems. Coming up with
hacks and writing tutorials was the second stage of TypePad Hacks,
although it followed pretty quickly on the heels of the activism stage.
I also did a ton of free tech support for other bloggers during this
period… I still like to help out when I can, but unless it's a quick
answer, I often don't get to it as soon as I would like. In some cases,
if it's a very long answer, I'll suggest that the person hire us.
Stage three: Hacks for Hire
It turns out that not everyone wants to do their own hacks… Some are
too busy, some are uncomfortable messing with templates, some just
would rather job it out. About a year into writing the blog, I started
getting a lot of inquiries about whether I was for hire. I kept saying
"no, actually, I already have a full time gig as an artist and this
site is my recreational outlet." I was kid of proud of being maybe the
only guy out there who did art for a day job and tech support as a
hobby. And the art still pays better, believe it or not.
Finally someone came up with a really interesting project that
caught my imagination and I said okay. And in the process I realized
the following: Hacks for hire is a service in the same way as free
tutorials are a service… it's a way to help people out, which I like to
reason I charge for it isn't that I need the money but because that's
how I schedule. There are only so many hours in the day and I need
about 48 of them to accomplish what I want to do. So, yes, I do blog
work for people and I charge for it to justify taking time away from
the other things I also want to do… like writing my blogs ;-).
As the business side grows, I've taken on some help with coding and
will also be seeking guest authors for posts. There will still be new
tutorials and reviews as often as possible. I prefer to post less
frequently in order to research deeply, test hacks thoroughly and
polish the tutorials to maximum clarity and simplicity… so the posts
here will never be overwhelmingly frequent.