Category: The Heartographer (page 1 of 2)

My AltConf 2016 talk: Sell Out and Save the World!

Woohoo! I’m so excited! Last year I spoke at AltConf in San Francisco during Apple’s WWDC week. I’m really proud of the talk I gave—I had refined it a bunch, tested it in front of different audiences, and poured a lot of my soul into it. (And yes, a lot of emojis.)

It’s a little bit about how to feel OK having a corporate job. It’s a little bit about diversity in tech. It’s a little bit about why online dating sucks. If any of that sounds interesting to you, please watch it!

(And feel free to let me know what you think, but you know, be gentle with your constructive criticism. I’ve literally never given a talk at a conference before.) <3!

Sell Out and Save the World – AltConf 2016 (best viewed on a bigger screen so you can follow the slides. And none of the videos or animations play in this slide processing, but if you’re DYING to see the Taylor Swift Apple Music ad, go here.)

Donut.JS lightning talk

Back in late May, I spoke at DonutJS, a totally rad Meetup organized by a bunch of Portland tech wonder-folk. It’s such a great and fun community! I highly encourage folks to attend and/or present if they’re in Portland and can swing it.

This was my first-ever public speaking gig! OK, I guess second, since I spoke to a Meetup group of all of three people about social media one time in like 2013. And I’m always the MC of App Camp for Girls in Seattle, and I’ve been leading webinars for my Microsoft job for months. But still, it was my first “someone asked me to speak at a thing and I said yes!” engagement.

It was challenging because I knew I was later going to speak at AltConf, which was a much longer time slot—10 minutes at DonutJS vs. 45 minutes at AltConf. So I had to choose where I wanted to chop things apart and which points I wanted to focus on. In the end, even though the App Camp discussion was more personally meaningful, I thought the online dating failure arc made for a better ten-minute story for a semi-technical audience, so I went with it. I hope you enjoy; I’ll post the longer AltConf version as soon as it’s out!

Udacity interview with Kate Rotondo

When I spoke at AltConf back in June, Udacity asked to interview me and I was lucky enough to get paired with my pal Kate Rotondo as my interviewer. Hooray for networking! Hooray for connections! Hooray for women in tech! :)

You can read about the interview here, or just cut to watching the video below.

This was a ton of fun, and we covered a lot of different topics including App Camp for Girls. Thanks to Udacity and Kate for the opportunity!

Speaking in Portland and San Francisco

I’m speaking at two upcoming events—I’d love it if you came!

First we have Donut.js, a casual gathering that is so very Portland. “A fun night of code and donuts” is the slogan, and your entry includes a donut, come on! I’ll be presenting on Tuesday, May 30th, talking about online dating (but more from a UX perspective than a dating advice perspective). Tickets are $10 atCup & Bar, I’d love it if you came to join us!

Then on June 15th at 1 PM, I’m speaking at AltConf in San Francisco. AltConf is a free conference that runs parallel to Apple’s WWDC; I’d be honored if you came to hear me, but the session will also be recorded if you miss it. This talk will be more about my transition from The Heartographer to working at Microsoft, why online dating is kind of a garbage fire these days, why I made the shift away from entrepreneurship, and partly about App Camp too. It’ll be a longer time slot and a much more robust discussion, plus I think you’ll find my slides funny. :)

Speaking of, I’m also in town for the James Dempsey and the Breakpoints/App Camp for Girls fundraising party that night, which you should absolutely buy tickets to before they all disappear. (And by the way, you can always contribute whenever if you just wanna be rad.) Hope to see you there! Fuck it, hope to see you at all three things! (Might as well go big, right?)

Not that Virginia Roberts! :)

Many people have name twins. When I hadn’t yet married, my name twins were mostly elderly ladies in the southeast United States, because “Culler” is a more common surname in that area, and “Virginia” was popular there many decades ago. But now that I’m married, I’m Virginia Roberts—and boy, is my name twin having fun stirring the pot!

Shortly after I married, some teenager named Virginia Roberts made some allegation about something with some British royal. (I seriously don’t even know the details; Google it if you must!) She’s back at it now, apparently.

Anyway, that’s not me. I am not a former sex slave writing a tell-all memoir. However, I am an online dating coach who works with clients all over the world. If any of you folks looking for that other Virginia Roberts decide to drop me a line for some help with your love life, please do so. :)

Carry on!

Resolutish

Intellectually, I’m not a huge fan of new year’s resolutions—heck, I’m not even sure about how you capitalize and punctuate the phrase. :) I like to think that the time of year shouldn’t have a massive impact on deciding to make improvements in your life, you know?

But I’m in a weird spot this year. My part-time tech writing contract comes to a close at the end of January, which means I’ll be circling back to working on The Heartographer full time. I’m launching a few new products and initiatives soon that just happen to be coming out in Q1 2015. And I have a medical procedure coming up in March that will go much more smoothly if I can get a better handle on my physical health in advance.

For me, January 2015 will end up being a time to spark change and transition, whether I meant it that way or not. And while the philosophy of “make improvements independent of the new year” is a sound one, I never actually implement changes. Like, ever.

Discipline and follow-through have long been huge weaknesses for me. But as I prep for business and life shifts over the next year, it’s increasingly important that I get a better handle on the part of me that resists working hard to effect positive change in my life. It’s time to start actually trying instead of pooh-poohing the whole idea.

On La Dolce Vita, Paloma Contreras shared a few thoughts about how to make 2015 the best year yet. First on the list was setting intentions instead of resolutions. This totally jibes with me—on the one hand, I’d love to not give myself wiggle room to bail on what I set out to do, but I’m self-aware enough to know that the whole fear of failure thing would make me drop all my firm resolutions as soon as the going gets tough.

So, in the spirit of actually following through with some intentions, even if the outcome isn’t as drastic or simple as I’m hoping, I’ll share with y’all some of my intentions for the new year and beyond.

Learn

I’ve been wanting to get savvy with photo and graphic software for ages, so I can better self-help when I need to create a quick visual asset for my business or one of my many sites. I’ve made my poor husband (who is a video game designer, NOT a graphic designer) create and modify SO MANY business cards, ad graphics, logos, header images, you name it.

Photoshop is top of the list in terms of learning to create my own stuff, but OmniGraffle is next, as well as learning a bit more about actually manipulating a camera to take better pictures.

And this may sound frivolous, but I’d like to get the hang of applying false eyelashes. I’ve read how-to guides online and grilled every makeup artist who’s ever applied them for me, but I think what I need more than anything is a few extra pairs and some dedicated time to practice.

Falsies (I swear they’re called that) make a huge visual impact in the videos I produce! Of course they’re fun in social settings too, but I really mainly wear them for business. God, how weird and boring is that? You’d think I was a burlesque dancer or something! :)

Ship

I’m working on an iPhone app with Brandon, who does 99.9999% of the actual coding. While he’s helplful in teaching me some stuff, I can only have a certain impact in how much progress we make—but if I stay motivated, ask questions, meet regularly with him, and generally keep the marketing and production balls rolling, we tend to do more actual coding work too. I’d love to see a working app prototype on my device by the end of this year, even if we don’t actually get a smoothly tested version for sale on that timeline.

I’ve been writing a book since 2009, for Frey’s sake, but I finally started making true progress this fall after applying a sort of GTD-like system to the project. I’d like to either get that book fully self-published this year, or have a firm deal with a traditional publisher.

I’m launching some video courses soon, which have been in the works since last summer. I expect those to ship in Q1 of this year, yay!

I’m also FINALLY launching a podcast soon. If everything goes as planned, it’ll be out in time for Valentine’s Day. Woohoo!

I’m also launching another blog at some time this year, which will be a more personal but specific venture. I’ll post here when it goes live.

Monetize

What a douchey word, right? But I need to make it a greater focus in 2015 and beyond. I spent the first seven whole years of my business under-charging, partly because I love what I do but also because I wanted my focus to be on great service and customer experience instead of great profit. But I’ve grown up and come to learn that those things aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s OK to make a decent living doing something you love.

Now that I’ve laid that foundation, I need to have a firmer focus on monetization with every single business decision I make. Heck, even that new personal blog I mentioned is going to have ads, something I’ve kept off my other sites for the most part. The advent of sponsored content makes this so much more OK for me—I’ve seen poorly integrated sponsorships as well as amazing ones, and I’m confident I can find a way to make good money on a blog and still provide unquestionable value to readers. I’ve never ever tried making a blog profitable before, but this year I’m going to make it a focus and at least see how it goes.

Limit

We need to lose weight. Especially me. We’ve needed this for a while, but it’s particularly urgent as I have a surgery type thing in March that will go better if I’ve lost even ten pounds.

The problem, in many ways, is that my weight is HAPPY weight. I met the love of my life, found a love of video games, and have been slowly getting fatter as I enjoy sitting around doing stuff I enjoy with someone I adore. The only times I’ve ever drastically dropped in weight were both when I was living abroad, isolated, and terribly ill to the point of hospitalization. NOT a good association, you know?

We also need to limit our expenses. We’ve never made or stuck to a budget; we barely even try. But as we plan for our future, it’s more and more crucial that we not overspend. We’ve kept our heads above water and been delightfully debt-free or close to it except (now) our house, but we don’t really save and plan ahead.

I’d like to have a fund for home décor splurges, as well as unexpected repair projects. I’d like it to be no big deal when we’re confronted with astounding hospital bills from unexpected medical issues. I’d like to save up for vacations we don’t even know we want to take yet. But I need to get much more serious about seeing this desire through. Now’s as good a time to start as any.

Use

I have a ridiculously massive wardrobe, and yet I tend to get stuck wearing the same 5% of my clothes over and over again. That sort of makes sense to a point, since they’re items I love and feel great in, but it’s a bit silly and limiting. I also want to “shop” from my previous wardrobe by trying on stuff that I haven’t been able to fit into in ages—weight loss will give me a guaranteed shopping spree.

I have tons of craft supplies for cool projects that we just finally started unearthing when we cleaned out our basement. I’m excited to, say, check my Artsy Drawer (or Dresser) before I drive my ass all the way to Michael’s.

I feel the same about home décor and hardware—sometimes, we already have the right curtain rod that would look fine in a given room if I could just set my hands on it. I’m hoping that our Giant Basement Cleanse will assist.

Oh, and I love skincare and makeup, but I barely use most of my cool products. (For someone with an entire blog about this stuff, you’d be amazed how many nights I go to sleep without washing my face and then wake up annoyed that I have irritated skin.) I always want to spend more time and energy with my fun grooming products, because they really have an impact on how I look and therefore how I feel about myself. Why the hell am I just letting them expire under the sink? Let this year involve more masques and whatnot. And eyeliner. Use it or lose it.

 

So yeah, that’s my summary. What are YOU resolutish about this year?

Style Cure Day 10: Success and failure

Well, today is Style Cure Day 10, and the task is to make a shopping list and a budget. I basically already have that done, except that I’m still waiting on window treatment quotes. But I had a bit of a finances scare—nothing truly outlandish, but because I’ve been under the weather for so long, I’ve been less diligent about keeping tabs on our finances these past few weeks. And in checking into those, I’ve come to realize that my months of less-than-affluent entrepreneurship have been slowly taking their toll on our income and savings. So I suspect that my Style Cure will be put on hold until we feel more comfortable spending on bigger purchases like sofas. (We might still get the rug we have in mind since it’s a relatively inexpensive way to make a bold visual impact.)

I did get up the energy to paint my gorgeous Farrow & Ball large paint samples yesterday, so I’ll photograph and blog that soon. But that’s less exciting than the OTHER project I finally took on, haha.

The cover image for my ebook, "Window Treatments for Modern Pragmatists"I wrote a book! Sort of. A libellus, a brochure, a petit livre. I finally just went ahead and hit publish on this little ditty about curtains. I’m still looking into converting it to iBooks, but that’s in the works.

Why the heck did I write about curtains when I’m an online dating coach by trade? Well, I’ve been pondering and researching window treatments ever since we bought our house, and this really kicked into high gear since the room we were planning to redo for Style Cure is our living room that faces directly west. The windows have been bare for two and a half years, because we just haven’t been decisive enough about exactly what would work and look best. After all, it’s hard to part with money on an expensive fixed element like that when you know you’re going to change your whole look eventually, ya know?

But we recently had some house guests stay with us, whose squinting and sweating in the hot July sun made us realize it was time to suck it up and dress those windows. So I researched, and I blogged, and at some point my blog post was so dang extensive that it just seemed fit for book format. And I’ve been working on an online dating book for ages, so this is a convenient safe little test run just to make sure I know how Kindle plays and can hammer out any kinks before my *important* book comes out eventually.

So! As soon as Amazon lets me, I plan to switch the price to free, so my friends and clients can snag it for no money if they want. I’d make it free forever, but I kind of want to test how royalties and payment works as an Amazon author, so I priced it at the lowest US value possible. (I also made it a 99-like price in all other markets, even when that meant it cost slightly more. I doubt all of Europe and Asia will rise up in outrage over it!)

Anyway, there you have it! This is very much geared towards people with similar taste to mine, but if you’re designing a clean, modern space and you’re stuck on window treatment ideas, it just might help you out. And yeah, that goofy cover image is in fact a picture of some of my curtains, haha. I’ll probably change both the cover and title eventually, but I wanted to just hit go and get it out there, ya know?

Living room makeover

I didn’t grow up super decor-minded, you guys, despite what you read on this blog and possibly see in my obsessive Pinterest habits. I grew up in a bunch of weird different homes over the years, the most stable of which had cheap-ass wall-to-wall builder-grade beige carpet, Formica countertops, those ugly schoolhouse linoleum floors, and aluminum blinds. It also had ugly pseudo-modern 90s light fixtures with that pale green glass and shit, and the first-ever energy-efficient CFLs, which were not all that C and which emitted an even greener, buzzier, flickerier lighting than today’s CFLs. I kinda thought everyone grew up with builder-grade fixtures; I was fascinated by the people in my co-housing community who had a bunch of fancy much-nicer upgrades done to their unit. I never had, like, coordinating sets of anything growing up, except the duvet and matching sham my mom made me, and I rarely cared about things like thread count. I had a preference for natural materials, but that was about it. (It blew my MIND in 1998 and 2001 that all the Spanish kitchens I saw had granite countertops. I literally never met a single person growing up who had those. Were they just not a thing before the 90s in this country?)

Because of this less Home and Garden focused upbringing, it took me a long time to blossom into someone who appreciated nesting. Before I had my own apartment, I was really uninterested in home décor stores; I’d get super bored while my nestier friends wanted to poke around looking at cute vases and photo frames and such. And my first apartment on my own was a tiny studio and I was super-broke, so I didn’t do a ton of decoratey spending there either. From that abode I moved into a house with roommates so I also didn’t feel wildly motivated to decorate outside my own bedroom. However, being annoyed by one roommate’s constant revolving door of dudes I had to awkwardly share a bathroom, kitchen, living, and dining room with meant that I really put a lot of effort into making said bedroom an amazing little sanctuary. I went high-end for Ikea (this was pre-Stockholm collection) and bought stuff from their actual-wood HEMNES collection. (I guess having a woodworker for a father did rub off on me in that way; I’m not super duper handy or crafty and I certainly can’t build my own furniture, but I do have a respect for wood itself rather than MDF crap.) I also scoured Garnet Hill and West Elm for great clearance bedding and Overstock for great basics like real down pillows and comforters, and I suppose that broke-yet-nesty period was the beginning of the home décor obsessed Virginia I am today.

It wasn’t until I moved from that shared house into an apartment with Grant that I really started to get the appeal of interior design. And that, my friends, has still been a slow process. Plus, in blending our two tastes, as well as working with the strange 50s fixed elements in that rental, we haven’t always been that interesting, because we’ve tended to stick to kinda boring palette of too many neutrals as a strategy for compatibility and for blending a bunch of different stuff together. But that All Neutrals All The Time crap is getting boring.

A picture of my house, featuring a chair with my cat Trumpet sleeping on it.

We own a house now, that we’ve been in for two and a half years with only this amazing yet possibly way impractical rug as a major purchase. We’ve been here long enough and we’ve fixed and re-fixed enough small things that we’re finally getting kinda handy, a little, and we’re getting used to the idea that we can do whatever we want to any of the walls and fixtures, and we’re starting to actually become comfortable with spending some of the money we’ve saved up.

This is not a starter home; we hope to raise our kids through college here if life permits it. (I moved around a bunch as a kid, Grant didn’t; our small survey indicates the latter is better if you can pull it off, so we saved up to avoid the Starter Home phase.) That knowledge of this being our Foreverish Home has made us yet slower to make big changes, since I’m now consciously striving to be less trend-driven and go for more timeless/classic looks, which sometimes means not updating fixed features like a brick fireplace or an old-fashioned lighting fixture since you may regret it in five or even fifteen years when the old look comes back around and it’s hard to undo and you wish you hadn’t spent that money in the first place. You can see how this type of evaluation would take me time! But over the past few years, I’ve been researching home design excitedly, and let me tell you, shit’s about to get real. Real bright and colorful and coordinated and classy and comfortable and maybe even a bit glamorous, that is. And probably real messy while we figure it out.

A picture of my dining room.

Next on my list is a combo of things: sofas/LR seating for better flow, capacity, machiness, and comfort; possible rug swap-out for better matchiness; window treatments for light blocking, coordination, and drama, not to mention energy efficiency; paint for looks; lighting fixtures for looks and functionality; and possible fireplace and surround revampification for total room coordination and possibly glamour/drama. Not necessarily in that order, but probably, sorta.

I’m taking advantage of Apartment Therapy’s Style Cure program this month to (loosely) follow along and stay motivated about making the changes we’ve been fantasizing about for years now. The primary focus is the living room, which is super important because it’s what our front door opens into, and where we spend the vast majority of our time now that we have a TV in there. (I don’t wanna hear it, hippies; it’s well documented that TV is higher quality than ever and we don’t watch the crap. Well, mostly. I haven’t stopped watching True Blood yet but I’m ashamed of and exasperated with myself, and I’m working on it, OK? OK.) PLUS, my Heartographer clients walk through that space to get to my office, so I want it looking awesome. Therefore, we’re tackling every single one of the above-mentioned topics in just that room alone, haha. With no clear budget, more like “as little as possible yet make it as awesome as possible” so yeah. It’s a bit cray.

Even though it may seem like a lot, I’m reveling in this new-found joy of decorating. And in all this research, I’ve come to realize some things that are damn near epiphanies to this cheap-historied décor novice. I’m going to start blogging about some of those epiphanies soon, in sort of mini-installments by topic so they don’t get overwhelmingly long, and I’ll also probably do a couple of round-ups of my favorite sites and resources since many friends have been asking me for those lately anyway.

First up will be one about curtain (and window treatment in general) epiphanies! So look out for that post soon if you give a damn about all this decoratey stuff, and if not, please feel free to ignore this blog until I go back to whining about iOS 7 in September-ish. ^_^

OmniSavvy

Image directly from OmniGroup, with permission. <3When I first started listening to Back to Work, I had never heard of OmniFocus or Getting Things Done with David Allen. But since hearing Merlin extoll this system’s virtues, I got on board and eventually got the book (print AND Kindle), and eventually even wound up buying a Mac and shelling out for both OmniFocus for Mac and OmniFocus for iPhone. I’d literally never spent that much on any given product before.

And now, I feel like I’m finally starting to get it! I still haven’t even finished reading Getting Things Done (for shame; I know) but I’ve started implementing more and more of my obligations and commitments into OmniFocus. And you know what my real epiphany is? The “Waiting” category. As you knowI’m a big fan of email. But given that other people aren’t always great with email, I’ve taken to sticking my outgoing emails (and even phone calls) into the Waiting context after I reach out to someone. Now, if other people drop the ball, I have a much better record of who I need to re-nag. This is excellent for clients who pay me to bug them about their online dating goals.

I can’t tell if this is how the Waiting context is supposed to be used or not, but it’s been a HUGE help for my business. Not only does it track which outgoing contacts I need to follow up on, but it helps me learn which clients are email averse, so I can adjust my communication style and method to better reach them and ultimately to help them find love more effectively. After all, if receiving a bunch of emails from me is annoying, then that isn’t how I want to reach you! (But, ya know, go sign up for my newsletter anyway.)

I’ve also learned how to apply radii to specific errands, which ROCKS. Now I have blips go off whenever I leave my little Ballard bubble and venture east of the freeway—one reminds me to pick up swanky cocktail ingredients at Wine World, because I am a lush who works from home and drinks sidecars when she damn well pleases; and others remind me to buy certain items whenever I geolocate near certain stores. Organic bagged lemons at Whole Foods, where they’re a fraction of the price. Cat food at the vet that carries our special prescription. Epsom salts at the drugstore since I use them constantly for my tennis elbow. I even have a reminder to think about whether there’s anything I want fixed, purchased, or demoed (demo’d? Demod?) when I’m near an Apple Store.

The yellow kind, people. Trust me.

Merlin mentioning this geo-functionality in relation to toilet paper in a very early episode of Back to Work is actually what got me interested in OmniFocus in the first place. What can I say? Icky though it may be to talk about, he’s right: you think about buying more toilet paper when you’re on the can and you run out, not when you’re out in the world near a Target or Fred Meyer (because those are the two places that carry Charmin Basic, the stuff that is nice on your derrière but doesn’t screw up our 1940s sewer system.) Not anymore, friends! Now I think about toilet paper whenever I drive near an appropriate vendor. Look, I never promised not to overshare here. If you’re a geek like me, you know that despite being an uncomfortable discussion, this is a friggin’ EPIPHANY.

Frankly, I couldn’t have figured all this out if the OmniGroup didn’t have such fantastic phone support. But they do! You can just call them! And they answer! And they’re super nice and patient! And funny on Twitter! So quit waiting. Go get yourself set up with this software suite ASAP if you’ve been holding out like a dummy. Heck, I’ll probably be confident enough to help you learn how to use it!

Shameless affiliate links, in case you didn’t already click to kick me a few bucks, you Scrooge:

OmniFocus for Mac
OmniFocus for iPad
OmniFocus for iPhone
Getting Things Done by David Allen

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