Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

As the new year begins, I've taken some time to reflect on what Ask Leo! is about, where it's been and where it's headed.

As the new year begins, I've taken some time to reflect on what Ask Leo! is about, where it's been and where it's headed. This article has no answers, and perhaps might even get a little "touchy feely" for some, but at the risk of sounding too self-absorbed, I wanted to share my thoughts and aspirations.

I also want to share some of the conclusions I've come to, and a couple of changes that you'll see this year.

Yep, I want to share some of the lint I found as I did some navel gazing in recent days.

Oh, and I'm also going to ask for your help.

Walk away now if any of that's not your cup of tea. Smile

Ask Leo! has always been about helping people, though it came about in sort of a back-handed way. Back in 2003 it started, quite honestly, as a hobby. Rather than repeating myself, I started writing up the answers to questions and posting them on my site.

A couple of years later it became profitable and I started viewing it as a source of income. Most recently Ask Leo! is seeing record web site traffic and newsletter subscriptions.

I'm choosing 2010 as the year I refine my focus again. Not what I do, but more how I do it, and how I look at it.

"I'll try to do the obvious: produce more answers that help and fewer answers that suck."

2010 is the year I focus on something other than traffic or revenue.

2010 is the year Ask Leo! focuses on helping people.

Helping More

I've already started to streamline some of my internal processes with the goal of being able to simply answer more questions. Be it more articles, or more direct responses from myself or my staff, the goal is simple: more answers.

I also recently revamped the Ask Leo! Mailbag. The Mailbag is where many of my direct response answers are archived. Not every question warrants a new article on Ask Leo!, but many of the answers are, nonetheless, interesting and valuable - both for the person receiving the answer, and for people that then later have the same question and find that answer archived in the mailbag.

I'll never be able to answer all the questions I get, for a variety of reasons, but hopefully I'll be able to answer more, and more of my answers can be found by those searching.

Helping Better

Answers, in and of themselves, aren't enough - they have to actually help.

I've recently put into place tools that will let me measure just how helpful you think I am. Using those tools I'll be able to identify exactly what kinds of answers you find the most helpful, and conversely which answers ... well, which answers suck, to put it bluntly. I know that some do.

Using that information I'll try to do the obvious: produce more answers that help and fewer answers that suck. (And as appropriate, replace the answers that suck with something better.)

As I said, the goal here is not just to answer questions, but to have those answers actually be helpful.

Helping Others

This has been the most thought provoking part of this years reflections.

The fact is that Ask Leo! can only do so much; what I do really only scratches the surface of the overwhelming need for support and education.

But I want to help more people - and in a way, more directly.

To that end, this summer on August 10th, 2010, the 7th anniversary of Ask Leo!, I'll make grants totaling $10,000 (USD) to as many as 4 non-profit organizations involved in computer and/or English literacy.

I'll be asking for your help. I haven't identified those organizations yet, and quite frankly I'm not even sure where to start. So in the coming weeks, in the Ask Leo! newsletter, I'll be publishing more details about my plans and criteria, and asking for your assistance. It's an experiment and a risk, but it's a risk that I think could be very ... helpful ... to take.

The Opportunity

I won't stop looking at traffic and revenue - those are still critical components to keeping Ask Leo! a viable and helpful resource. But my focus won't be quite as much about maximizing either as much as it will be about simply helping people with the tremendous opportunity sitting in front of them.

Computers and the Internet are incredible tools that open up worlds of opportunity for people. It's my hope, and even my aspiration, that by helping people become more effective and fluent in their use of the technology, or even by simply helping them overcome a particularly frustrating roadblock - I can help them go on to accomplish meaningful things. From things as simple as finally connecting with a grandchild to as complex as writing the next great novel to inspire the masses, with nearly 2,000,000 visitors a month you know that there are people doing wonderful things in both small and large scales.

I want to help them.

Changing the world, one frustrated computer user at a time.

Here's to a less frustrating 2010.

Leo A. Notenboom

Article C4007 - December 31, 2009 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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