In my quest to learn front end web development I’ve been bouncing around some different free courses online. The Odin Project seems to be a very good, free collection of resources to learn web development.
I got the project completely finished, but as soon as I resized my browser window, all of the elements on the page moved out of order and generally looked terrible. Dang it! I spent hours trying many different methods to get the elements to stay in place and to move together in unison when resizing the browser window, all to no avail. I eventually went to StackOverflow to ask for help and submitted my code to JS Fiddle. I got some decent answers, but eventually couldn’t get it to work perfectly.
I ended up realizing I should completely scrap my code and start over. Let me rephrase that: I did a very good job using comments in my HTML to explain the different sections of code, which made it easier for me to find which code referenced the specific sections that weren’t working correctly. I didn’t truly throw out my old code: I simply made a new file and only copied over the parts that weren’t working. By isolating the problem code in a new file, I could play around with it and try different methods to get it to work. Once I got it working I was able to copy over the working sections to the new file.
In addition to learning CSS and learning how to build a CSS file from scratch and one that’s connected to an HTML file, I learned some more GitHub basics. I had learned some a few months ago, but I forgot a lot of what I had learned. After finally getting my project to work, I uploaded to my personal GitHub, then pushed the code public via GitHub Pages. Check out my Google homepage project here or click the image at the top of this blog post!
Five years ago my wife and I made the long move out to Silicon Valley from Houston settling in Mountain View, California. After returning home to Houston in 2013 I joined my second startup, Streak.com, earlier this year!
Back in 2011 I moved to Silicon Valley with zero connections and hustled my way into a job at a small ad tech startup called isocket thanks to meeting the author of an awesome blog post I read on Hacker News, Jason Shen. Jason was leaving isocket to join Y Combinator’s summer 2011 batch as a co-founder of RideJoy and he intro’d me to isocket’s CEO/founder John Ramey, who eventually hired me as Jason’s replacement.
Working at the isocket office in Burlingame I would frequently ride the CalTrain to work. Each time I took the train I would walk down Dana Avenue, past the Hacker Dojo, and past the Y Combinator offices on the corner of Dana and Pioneer Way on my way to the station.
I’ve been a daily Hacker News reader since 2010 and Y Combinator has long been an inspiration to me. Walking to the Mountain View train station I would often think about all of the entrepreneurs working on awesome innovations inside those walls. AirBnB, Reddit, Dropbox, and Stripe are just a few of the hundreds of startups that went through the YC program that have shaken up industries and simplified life for millions of users around the globe. Walking by those offices I would dream about one day working for a YC startup and perhaps eventually starting my own company in the future.
The Road Less Travelled
After my position at isocket was eliminated in 2013 and moving back to Houston, I worked some different jobs while I tried to figure out what I wanted to do next. Even though I was initially burned out on startups at the end of my first startup experience, over the coming months I had plenty of time to reflect on my two years living and working in the Valley.
What’s fun about startups is they are vastly different than normal corporate jobs because they’re not yet successful businesses and may or may not be profitable. Startups move at lightning fast speed and I like to think it’s a 1:10 ratio: 1 year in startup life is the equivalent to 10 years in the typical large tech company. Startups and the products they make change rapidly. But working for a startup also comes with a big degree of risk, but without risk there’s no personal growth.
Some people aren’t built to rock the boat and need a certain deal of certainty in their lives. It took me a long time to realize that I’m not built for that certainty: I need and thrive on chaos and constant change that startup life provides. I can’t do the same thing over and over again every day: I need to be learning every day and constantly challenging myself to improve.
When I moved back to Houston I tried to work regular jobs just for a paycheck and not trying to find something that I thought I would really enjoy, but eventually something kept gnawing at me: I was restless because I wasn’t challenging myself to get better every day in my job. That Bill Burr quote above always serves as a reminder to me: We only have one life to live and we don’t get a do-over, so we might as well live the life we want and not the life that other people live or the life that other people think we should live.
Just When I Think I’m Out
Once I realized I wanted to join another startup, I realized the best option for me was to try to find a remote customer support position since my wife and I were happy in Houston and not ready to leave behind our family to head back to SF (and SF isn’t exactly cheap). I decided to focus on support because support workers at small startups work closely with the founders and engineers in communicating product feedback and documenting bugs. I spent nearly two years and sent out over one hundred extremely targeted resumes and did some freelancing on the side to help bolster my resume.
Eventually I met the awesome folks over at Streak.com and they hired me back in April. I went out to work in their San Francisco office for two months to get to know the team and learn the product. I hadn’t been back in SF since we moved three years ago so it was an incredible rush to be back in the Bay, surrounded by other startup geeks like myself.
Interestingly enough the Streak team was part of the same, summer 2011, Y Combinator batch as RideJoy.
Right At Home
When I joined Streak I loved the random conversations colleagues would have about cool stuff like the future of virtual reality and companies like Oculus. As a sports fan, I can chime in with how Stanford’s football team is pioneering the use of virtual reality to train their players and nobody looks at me like I have three heads.
There’s a saying that goes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” and I think it applies to careers as well. If I want to be on the forefront of technology and startups I need to surround myself with like-minded people.
I’m fascinated by technology and how web development works and I’ve been working hard picking up some front-end web development skills. If I’m the smartest person in the room, from a technical perspective, then I need to find another place to work because I’ll likely not be learning anything.
Sometimes you have to work many jobs in different positions and/or in different fields to realize exactly what you want out of a career. I’m glad I’ve had the experiences I’ve had to keep me focused on exactly the type of future I want. I plan to write even more over the coming months about why I enjoy startup life and the differences between startups and corporate life. I’m not saying I’ll never work in a large company, but likely only startups that were formerly startups themselves, the Googles and Facebooks of the world.
My UH blog has been exploding rapidly in growth over the past few months. I’m mostly writing this blog post to keep track of the growth over time so I can look back many years from now and see how much has changed. Since December 30th the blog has grown from 189 Facebook followers to 640 and 1,892 on Twitter to 3,026. January was also my biggest ever traffic month with 36,929 page views. It’s al pretty wild! I’ve got to grab the reins and hang on this wild ride!
January 17th of 2015 I launched my Houston Cougars fan blog, Cardiac Coogs, and it quickly become the dominant UH blog on the planet.
I wrote in this blog post a few months ago more details about my motivations for creating it. The simple version is that there wasn’t anyone who wrote about the Houston Cougars football and basketball teams from a fan’s perspective. So many other schools are also covered by SB Nation and Bleacher Report and UH gets minimal coverage. I decided I knew enough about college football to start my own blog just for fun with no clue anyone would actually read it. Boy was I surprised!
Since launching in January I’ve published 414 blog posts and I’ve had over 100,000 visitors to the blog in 2015! Not bad for a hyperlocal blog. The blog now has 1,892 followers on Twitter, 189 on Facebook, & 37 subscribers via email (as of Dec 30th). Pretty good for not spending a single dollar on marketing!
I’ve learned a lot about how to write quality content to build an audience and how to keep the audience engaged and coming back for more. I’ve primarily spent my social media efforts on Twitter (which is reflected in the above numbers) and learned how important of a tool it is for media. Without Twitter, Reddit, and Google Alerts running the blog would be nearly impossible.
Reddit has also been instrumental for reaching a larger audience within the University of Houston as well as the greater college football landscape. Also, I’ve learned how to break news anonymously on Reddit: I submitted a post with the link to the original author (as opposed to re-creating the content on my own blog) and the article went viral. Soon every major college football outlet was covering the story: ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, CBS, as well as countless blogs. I nearly fell off the elliptical one morning seeing Dan Le Batard and Bomani Jones discussing the same story on their ESPN show! Pretty cool stuff.
I’m running the blog mostly for experience instead of looking at it from a potential revenue stream. It’s more important to me to retain 100% control and to focus on content and the audience as opposed to aligning with a larger media company and/or to sell advertising for a small paycheck. Unless someone is willing to hire me to do this full-time or wants to purchase the blog outright, I’d rather stay independent and do everything on my own terms. I had brief discussions with a large media company earlier in the year but it quickly became apparent that I would have to give up too much control and wouldn’t get much money in return. I’ve already got a job where I have to follow orders and unless I can make enough money run the blog full-time, it’s not worth it to give up control for another boss.
For 2016 I plan to continue to work hard on adding more quality content and also growing my social media audience.
For the past few weeks I’ve been diving in to learning how to be more technical. I’ve always worked in technology and with programmers and developers, but I figured it’s time a get a bit more technical so I can better communicate with coders. Even if I don’t decide to pursue a career on the programming side, just being able to communicate effectively will help me tremendously in my career. Another benefit to learning some code is to be able to mockup my ideas and even build my own side projects for fun.
I figured learning Bootstrap would be a good idea as well while I learned how to use GitHub. Instead of just putting a basic HTML+CSS landing page, I wanted something that actually would look semi-decent. I found these excellent videos on YouTube by a user named Microwave Sam on how to use Bootstrap. There’s lots of hand-holding involved, which is exactly what a n00b like me needs! He not only tells the viewer to do something, he does a very good job explaining why he’s telling us to do it.
Then, I watched his videos on how to use GitHub and learned how to create a repo and upload files onto the website. Being non-technical and logging into GitHub the first time and trying to figure everything out was very overwhelming. So, I just watched a bunch of videos and did lots of Googling until something finally started to make sense.
I followed his guides and ended up realizing I could actually make this project into a portfolio page to show off my n00b web dev skills to other people. As I learn more and more web development, I can go back and update the original source code and have new items listed on my portfolio page. Now I’ve got some basic GitHub and Bootstrap skills under my belt! Double-Win!
I’ve still got a long way to go learning all of these new tools, GitHub especially, but I’m so excited I finally got up and running! Check out my project page here: westonludeke.github.io.
I’ve been using WordPress for over five years now, which is hard to believe it’s already been that long! This website (westonludeke.com) was the first site I launched on the WP platform. I was just a simple blog I created on the WordPress.com platform.
One of the original reasons I created this website was because I found out there was someone else out there in the universe named Weston Ludeke and I didn’t want him to be able to have WestonLudeke.com. I also wanted to take control of my name: I didn’t want him to do something stupid and have it hurt my chances of obtaining a job. The goal of this site would be for me to give myself a voice and so I can control the “branding” of myself… for lack of better term.
Over the years the Automattic team has been adding advertisements on blogs on the free WordPress.com to help cover costs of those free websites. The downside is publishers on the WP.com platform don’t receive any revenue from those ads. To remove those ads publishers have to upgrade to the WordPress Premium plan which runs $99/year. Ugh. I’m already playing about $10/yr for the domain name (via NameCheap) and $13 to map the domain via WordPress so visitors see westonludeke.com and not wordpress.westonludeke.com. So, instead of paying $23 per year I’d be paying $109 (domain name + WordPress premium). Multiply that by many websites and that starts to add up quick!
I decided it was time I look into self-hosting my own WordPress websites via a web hosting service. Doing some research I decided to go with Bluehost. I did a lot of research on how to do the migration from WordPress.com to WordPress.org via Bluehost and created a game plan. I did the migration first on some small websites I own before the bigger websites. Some good resources I recommend for anyone thinking of migrating:
• Bluehost Customer Support – Their support team is available 24/7 and was extremely helpful with me getting my account setup. I used their live chat which was great because I was able to ask all of my questions and email myself a copy of the chat transcript to reference later.
• WordPress Forums – The WordPress forums were a very valuable tool for me as well to read through other questions users had around migrating.
• WordPress Sub-Reddit – The WordPress sub-Reddit was super helpful as well. I was able to ask questions on there and get very helpful responses quickly. Also, I found myself helping out others users as well who asked questions. Gotta pay it forward!
I still have a lot to learn about the different best practices and plugins, etc. on WordPress, but I’m so glad I dove in feet first and got most of my websites migrated over. I’m using the Bluehost Plus hosting plan and I can host all of my websites for only $5.95/month.
A few months ago I realized there wasn’t a good football blog written by a fan for my alma mater, the Houston Cougars. The feedback and growth of the blog in such a short period of time has been pleasantly surprising.
An Idea Is Born
I’ve been a hardcore fan of the Houston Cougars football team since my freshman year at UH in 2004. Frequently over the years I’ve shared UH news and blog posts on my personal Facebook page, which naturally is limited in scope since it’s private. I’ve always been a bit obsessive with my fandom for the Coogs and football as a whole. I spend countless hours reading about football in my free time. I’m okay with baseball and basketball, but football is an obsession.
In one evening late December of this past year (2014) I started coming across rumors that the head coach of the Cougars football team was going to get fired. I posted that to Facebook and sure enough the next morning he was fired. I then started thinking about it and realized that there really isn’t a good fan blog for the Houston Cougars. We have a local beatwriter covering the team for the Houston Chronicle and occasionally get written about in other local and national publications, but nobody had really done any posts from a fans perspective. I’m by no means a professional journalist, but since I read constantly… everything from books, to articles online, to magazines… I knew that I have enough of a grasp of writing to be a blogger. I also have an insatiable appetite for learning about things. When I get interested in a topic I become obsessive trying to become an expert and wanting to learn every little detail. The Houston Cougars and college football has been one of those topics. Might as well put all of this otherwise useless info to good use!
Since I couldn’t find a good Houston Cougar sports blog out there I decided I needed to start my own. I did some brainstorming about finding a good name and decided on “Cardiac Coogs”. Cardiac Coogs is a nickname people have given the Houston Cougars for having several close games go down to the wire, giving their fans a heart attack or cardiac arrest in the process. I had my idea cemented and then I was off to the races!
When I was starting the blog I was wondering if I’d have enough content on the Houston Cougars football team to write about them during the offseason. I figured I may have a month or two where I scrounge up only one or two blog posts during the dog days of summer before football season kicks off. I had no idea how wrong I was!
Today marks 100 days since I published my first blog post and I’ve already successfully published 88 blog posts in those 100 days. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and a little shocked about how much content is out there about the Cougars. We hired a new head coach, Tom Herman, in January who was the offensive coordinator of the national champion Ohio State Buckeyes. Since the hiring everything has snowballed. Many national media outlets (Fox Sports, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, to name a few) have written extensive articles about the Cougars. It’s all surreal how much momentum the program has now.
The blog has mirrored the football program’s rise since launching in January. I’ve built up a pretty strong following on Twitter (500+ followers) and every month I’ve had more visitors than the previous month:
Very cool! We’ll see how long I can keep those graphs increasing. It’s a very specific hyperlocal website so there’s definitely a ceiling on how high those numbers can climb; but I intend to keep pushing very hard to see how high I can make that ceiling.
I’ve submitted things myself to other websites, like Reddit, to help the blog gain traction. But, I think one of my “holy cow” moments was when I posted a blog article to a small subreddit and it got re-posted by another user to a larger subreddit which in turn drove a lot of traffic to the blog. When your users are sharing your content on their own, you know you’re doing something right!
Another “holy cow” moment happened two weeks ago. I shot an email to the some people within the UH athletics department trying to see I could get a media pass to cover the Houston football spring game. To my pleasant surprise, they approved my media credentials and I was able to go in the press box and onto the field during the spring game. That was probably the highlight of my Cougar fandom so far. I was able to get some awesome photos and videos of the spring game, click here and here to view the two different blog posts where I wrote about the spring game. The picture at the top of this blog is my press pass for the spring game.
What The Future Holds
It’s now been 100 days since I published my first blog post and the feedback and results I’ve gotten has been awesome! I finally have turned a passion of mine into something useful that other people enjoy. I plan on writing more and more and I’ve got a few new ideas up my sleeve for the future.
Let this serve as a lesson for others: Don’t feel bad about your hobbies, passions, or obsessions if they don’t immediately make you money. You may find a way in the future to use those passions to bring value to others who share the same interests.
I finished the Codecademy course on HTML and CSS! I’ve known how to write HTML for nearly 8 or 9 years and never got around to advancing my computer knowledge. I was able to finish the course pretty quickly and was able to pick up some basics of CSS.
I’ll probably take some CSS courses from some other sources before moving on to another programming language. But, this was awesome so far to have finished this course!
I haven’t done a recap of my 2014 yet and February is almost over but no is as good as time as any. I’m very proud of myself and what I’ve been able to accomplish. I don’t write this to brag but if it motivates one person to go out there and kick some ass then it’s worth it!
Loving the Bookworm Life
Last year I had a goal to read more books and I was able to finish 29 of them! I read constantly and I’m almost obsessed with learning more about the world and things I know nothing about. Reading is very relaxing and if I didn’t have to work, I’d probably spend the majority of my days reading.
A special thanks to the Houston Public Library and their excellent selection of books.
The Push Towards Fluency
I also wanted to learn as much Spanish as possible. I got started practicing with Duolingo consistently in November 2013 and got hooked and fell in love with studying and seeing incremental improvements. I was able to study for over 350 days during 2014. The progress I’ve made in the Spanish language is monumental compared to when I started. I’m a long way from fluent, but I’m now super motivated to continue my studies.
In the first two months of 2015 I was able to complete the Spanish Duolingo tree and I recently started the reverse tree (English for Spanish speakers) to keep my knowledge fresh.
As 2015 got underway the Houston Cougars football team hired Tom Herman to be the new head coach. I’ve been a rabid Cougar supporter since I came to UH in 2004 and I frequently post many things about the Coogs to my Facebook friends. I soon realized that there aren’t any good Cougar fan blogs out there so I decided to start my own. I named my blog CardiacCoogs.com and I’ve been cranking out posts since then. The new blog is also one of the reasons why my 2014 recap took so long for me to write. It’s fun writing just for fun and for friends and not having any expectations of making money; it’s really liberating.
Looking Forward for the Rest of 2015
For the rest of 2015 one of my biggest goals is to be more consistent at the gym and keep pushing myself physically and mentally. I probably won’t finish 29 books in 2015 due to spending more time weight-lifting, still doing my Spanish lessons, and the new blog, but I’m okay with that. Thank you for reading this far and I’ll leave you with an awesome quote and video from Arnold to keep you motivated:
“When you’re out there partying, horsing around, someone at the same time is working hard, someone is getting smarter and someone is winning, just remember that”