2017 Year in Review

O God, Thou sellest all good things to men at the price of effort.” -Leonardo da Vinci

This year was about getting re-settled and getting re-situated. The main themes of the year were moving the family to La Crosse, selling the house in Tipton, the ramping up of t-shirt sales, and the ramping down of client work.

The work I was doing was different. Instead of making blog posts I would make over 1000 t-shirts. Instead of listening to podcasts on my way to and from work, I would spend more time with my wife eating out or taking the kids to the park.

January

At the beginning of the year I lived alone in a one-bedroom, studio apartment.

I designed t-shirts and sold them on Amazon when I wasn’t at Marine Credit Union.

One day in January, Jason and I went to the ice caves with his family.

And towards the end of the month I went up on Grandad Bluff to take a selfie.

February

In February I went to Kansas City to meetup with my wife and my aunt Peggy in Garden City.

Later on that month my boys visited me in La Crosse and took them to the quarry.

I’d go on walks along the La Crosse river during breaks at work.

And I kept making new t-shirts. This is from a bumper sticker my Grandpa Wade had on his truck.

March

In March, Suzanne and Carmina visited me and we went to the Mall of America. We haven’t been back since.

After they left I played Minecraft with Samuel remotely online.

Jason and I explored the coffee shop on the corner. It was the only time we did that.

April

In April I went back to Tipton to visit for Easter.

I took the kids to the park for one of the last times.

My brother, Mitch, came over and I gave him a t-shirt.

We took the kids to see their Grammy.

I went for my first bike ride of the year.

Jason and I went to Taco Bell.

I went to a payments conference in Austin, Texas with Jason.

I saw my aunt and uncle in Austin while I was down there.

I hiked the Balanced Rock Trail along Devil’s Lake.

And then Carmina came to help me move out of the apartment.

May

I rode my bike across the Mississippi for the first time. It was an odd feeling doing that from my house.

I continued walking on the trail at work. The leaves were starting to come out now.

We celebrated the lives of Joe and Helen O’Banion, my wife’s grandparents, in Tipton.

I was back at home alone. I mowed the yard for the first time.

June

I had to make my own breakfast.

But then I met this guy at Taco John’s. He recognized me from Instagram.

But at home I was still all alone in an empty house.

But then the kids arrived (along with a lot of help from my Mom, Dad, Mitch, and Jennifer)!

Magdalena setup her workstation in the basement.

July

I took the kids out for hot chocolate at the Root Note.

The Cobb’s came over for ice cream.

And we met new friends, the Miller’s, at Ranison’s for ice cream.

Samuel enjoys building things. We sold the house in Tipton. Suzanne drove back to sign the papers.

I went on a Dragon Boat race with Jason and Marine Credit Union.

Because we live close to work now, Suzanne would come bring me lunch and we’d go to the park to eat.

For my mom’s birthday, we drove back to Indiana to see her. My aunt, Mary, also drove to see her from Missouri.

But then my Aunt Peggy got sick so I went and visited her before she died.

August

The family came together for a meal in Garden City.

We celebrated my Aunt Peggy’s life.

See also Peggy’s 50th Birthday Party from August, 2006.

It was good to get the family together for a time.

I took a selfie with my two brothers.

And with my dad.

Back in La Crosse we went for a walk along the marsh.

We also walked to the Mississippi River.

Suzanne continued growing her essential oils business while I continued making t-shirts.

The kids went on a plane ride around La Crosse.

They were all very excited.

The girls were growing up.

The lights were going out.

It was a very exciting time.

September

In September I went kayaking with Jason.

I visited my mom in Franklin.

While I was there I visited my friend, Hans.

I recreated the Shog logo in Adobe Illustrator and turned it into a t-shirt for me and Samuel to wear.

Amalia learned how to ride a bike.

The kids really got into LEGO building.

And at the end of the summer we finally made it to the beach.

October

We went kayaking again. It was getting darker again.

Jason and I went to Minneapolis to see a graphic designer and tour the city.

I visited my mom and took a picture of my dad’s bookshelf.

Suzanne’s aunt Kathy visited us in La Crosse.

Suzanne and I visited New Glarus Brewery south of Madison.

Magdalena started swimming and I went to one of her swim meets for the first time.

We dressed up for Halloween.

November

I hung out with Hans in Franklin.

Kevin started a hot cocoa stand.

Carmina was in a ballet.

Suzanne and I started going on more dates.

December

I visited the Pearl Street Brewery.

Jason and I made a podcast.

I kept walking on the trail by work.

The kids had a good Christmas. I was glad to have everyone in the same place.

Like Andy Bernard says in the television show, The Office, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ole’ days before you’ve actually left them.” Well, maybe there is. Sometimes you just have to stop and pay attention to the moments you’re in and be thankful for them. They may never happen again.

Never thought we’d get old, maybe we’re still young
May we always look back and think it was better than it was
Maybe these are the moments
Maybe I’ve been missing what it’s about
Been scared of the future, thinking about the past
While missing out on now
We’ve come so far, I guess I’m proud
And I ain’t worried about the wrinkles around my smile
I’ve got some scars, I’ve been around
I’ve thrown some pain, I’ve seen some things, but I’m here now
Those good old days -Macklemore

What is a Shareasale Datafeed and How Does it Work?

As an IT and marketing guy I’m often asked to setup new software or help integrate one system with another. This post is about Shareasale datafeeds: what they are and how they are used – from an IT point of view. If you still need professional help, there is a link at the bottom.

Summary:

  • a datafeed is just a file that affiliates can download that contains links and info on our products
  • once the datafeed is downloaded, affiliates can use it with special widgets on their site
  • some affiliates specifically look for merchants who have a datafeed they can download
  • if the datafeed is visible in our Creatives under Datafeed, then affiliates can download it
  • it is not an integration, it’s only a file that can be updated at any time, overwriting the old file

What is a Shareasale datafeed?

The Datafeed functionality allows merchants like us to upload lists of products to their ShareASale account and provides us with the ability to manage multiple stores and product level commissions as additional options. The Datafeed upload completely replaces the existing product listings in our merchant’s account with every upload. Any items not included in the uploaded file will be removed from the product listings. The full overview of the Datafeed specifications can be found at this Shareasale datafeed setup link.

Why use a datafeed?

It allows any affiliate that wants to feature a product on their page or through one of Shareasale’s content tools to display our products on their page. Some affiliates specifically look for merchants with datafeeds.


How long have they been around?

At least since 2013.

How do I check to make sure a datafeed is working?

It appears to be something only an affiliate can see, but the documentation makes it seem like it’s not an integration, it’s just a file that affiliates download and then use as a source file on their sites. So as long as it’s in your creatives and approved, then it’s “working”.

Why would it not be working or how to update the file?

We could find that either Shareasale has an issue with the file or the affiliates themselves have an issue with the file once they go to use it. Once we have feedback, we can upload it again at any time and it will overwrite the file that is currently in Shareasale. Here are some common datafeed problems to watch out for and here are some examples of how to create a product datafeed.

Conclusion

I didn’t know anything about Shareasale and I didn’t take the time to learn it before, but when I did take the time to learn it and build context I was finally able to know what a datafeed was used for and to tell whether or not the datafeed was setup correctly. This blog post is meant to help others like me who are tasked with setting up a Shareasale datafeed know what a datafeed is and how to check it so I have more context about what they are for and how they are used.

Professional Affiliate Setup Help

If you’re reading this you may be a merchant on Shareasale that is looking for an affiliate management company to help you get setup and build a network of affiliates to help market your products. This is not a sponsored post, but I have worked with Priest Willis and his team at Affiliate Mission and have been pleased with their work, their communication, and their integrity. I highly recommend Affiliate Mission for affiliate management and marketing services.

How to Write Blog Posts Like General Motors Makes Cars

General Motors pushes a new car off of their assembly line once every minute, but it takes 2 months in total to make a car. How is that possible and how does that apply to writing blog posts?

To use another example, the online retailer, The Grommet, launches a new product every day, but it takes them two months to prepare for a single launch. How can both timelines be true?
A New Way of Thinking about Blogging
What if I told you that you could publish a new blog post every day by only working one day a week? Would that interest you? What if you didn’t have to do it in one day, but could stretch it out?
The reason why General Motors and The Grommet and you can do all of these things is because of the power of batching work. Instead of building one thing at a time, each sub-task is batched.
The idea is that each sub-task can be optimized by not having to get your workspace and mindset setup for working a particular task before putting it away and switching to the next part of the process.
Playing Devil’s Advocate
However, there are also studies that have showed that when a human is tasked with making something with multiple steps that in the short run it’s actually faster to finish each item instead of batching.
There are also advantages to building something to completion if time is a critical element. If you only have a short time to do something, it’s better to get 1 thing done than 1000 unfinished things done.
However, I have found that there is a difference between physically building something to completion and doing the mental work of creating a blog post due to the cost of task switching between the different steps.
How to Batch Creating Blog Posts
Writing a blog post is actually a series of several different, distinct steps:
  1. Determining what to write about – this could include browsing BuzzSumo, news sites, or Google Trends to see what people are interested in; it could also include asking customer support or the social media marketing team for what questions they’ve been getting or seeing online lately
  2. Researching a topic – once you’ve determined what to write about, it’s time to research the topic to see what sort of angle you can bring to the story. You want to add value to the conversation. One way to do that is to find an answer to a problem someone has (where our product is the answer).
  3. Writing the first draft – this process could involve two steps of writing an outline and then going back and filling it in or you could write it all down as fast as possible. The goal of this step is not to write a finished draft, but only to write as much as possible and as quickly as possible.
  4. Editing the first draft – after you’ve given yourself some time, come back and (or have someone else) review your work. Don’t be afraid to delete things you’ve written. Your words are not your babies. Some writers even go so far as to delete their entire first paragraph. Edit for grammar.
  5. Editing the second draft – after some time has passed, go back through and edit for readability and SEO. Make sure it flows in the right order, has the right sub-headers, and has the right amount of keywords and internal and external links, and also make sure it has a call to action.
  6. Finding images to use – I add this as a distinct step because it’s a different mindset and skill to find an image for use with a blog. There are different ways to do this from searching Dropbox, to asking the Marketing department, to taking a photo yourself, to making an image, to stock photos.
  7. Publish the blog post – when a blog post is published, there are several things to consider such as what the title of the blog post is, what URL is used, what the description of the blog post is, what thumbnail is used, what tags are applied, and when the blog post will be published.
  8. Promoting the blog post – this step could be as little as handing off the URL of the new blog post to the social media marketing department or it could be doing the posting yourself to Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You could also make a custom graphic of the post for Instagram.
  9. Repurposing the blog post – [optional] once you have the blog post created, then you can record yourself with some b-roll cut in reading the blog post in your webcam. The resulting video could then be uploaded to YouTube. In this way each blog post could also become a video.
  10. Aggregating the blog post – [optional] once you have a series of blog posts, they can be combined into an ebook and sold on Amazon or used as a giveaway to attract new email subscribers or as a free gift in an email newsletter.
If you did all of these steps in one day, you would likely be worn out from all of the task switching. But if you could spend one day doing step 1 and found 20 things to write about, that would be one month’s worth of blog posts. On day 2 you would spend all day doing step 2 for all 20 blog posts. By the end of the second week you’d have 20 blog posts published one month in advance and scheduled on social media.