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When I went on my sabbatical, I didn't share the whole story. Even the word "sabbatical" wasn't quite right. Here's the background.
When I went on my sabbatical, I didn't share the whole story. Even the word "sabbatical" wasn't quite right, but it was the best I could come up with.
A "reboot" is more like it.
At the risk of perhaps being too open and too personal, here's the deal (and you can skip this article if you're just looking for tech answers; I won't be offended in the least )...
After enjoying several years of success, 2012 was the first year Ask Leo! lost money.
A combination of decreased traffic, mostly due to losing half of my Google search traffic early in the year, and decreased advertising revenue even for the traffic I was still getting, conspired to make Ask Leo!'s bottom line ever so slightly negative. I had to dig into the reserves to pay the bills.
For a variety of reasons, Ask Leo! is most definitely a business, not a charity, and getting paid for what I do turns out to be one important factor that also keeps me motivated. Honestly, that realization surprised me somewhat, although I suppose it shouldn't have.
But while that realization was sinking in, another did as well: I just wasn't having as much fun as I used to previously.
Hence the sabbatical. Or, as I really thought of it, the reboot. Not just of Ask Leo!, but of Leo.
I needed to understand if Ask Leo! was something I wanted to continue or if my efforts were better spent elsewhere. I needed to understand if this is how I wanted to continue to spend my time. Not quite a mid-life crisis, but probably something similar. And yes, Ask Leo! was on the potential chopping block.
To get to the understanding I was looking for, I needed to step away from it for a while. No questions, no articles, no comments, no nothing ... just time to reflect. And play.
I'll probably detail more of what I did, or at least what I read, over in my personal blog. (In fact, I've kind of already started.) But suffice it to say that it took about a month for me to realize that, yes, Ask Leo! was still the best venue for me to do what I enjoy and exercise my talents in the aid of others. The next month was all about deciding how to make Ask Leo! better and more profitable. I don't have all the answers yet, but there are some changes that I've decided on that you'll see roll out over the coming weeks and months.
The newsletter will remain at its current weekly publication schedule. I'm raising the quality bar on articles, particularly those that result from Answercast transcripts. We won't be auto-posting to Facebook, but instead I'll be interacting more directly with you there. I'll be changing the technology on which I've built Ask Leo! to WordPress, and with that will come a new, more professional (and mobile-friendly) design.
And there'll be more books. I think I've figured out a way to work around my aversion to actually finishing them.
I've also dropped one of my advertising partners. Now, that probably sounds like I'm making the revenue problem worse, and I suppose I am, at least in the short term. These are, or were, the somewhat controversial ads that looked kind of like links and popped up even if your mouse pointer just happened to hover over them. I'm hoping that the improved user experience will benefit the site in the long run.
Now, if you've been watching Facebook, you may have noticed that I actually was not quiet there during my "absence." I posted some of the other things I was doing. While I was ignoring the Ask Leo! site, I decided that it was a good time to do a few things to my own computers that I'd been putting off. I upgraded my desktop machine to a solid state drive and then to Windows 8. I upgraded another laptop to an SSD as well. I bought a Microsoft Surface Pro and started to play with it.
Those might seem like odd things to do on something that's kind of like a vacation, but here's the thing: I had fun. I'm all about the technology, and that's what it looks like when I play. Along the way, I realized that those were all Ask-Leo!-worthy items as well, and you'll be seeing write-ups in the coming weeks. It's that realization that Ask Leo! could continue to be a venue for what I enjoy that contributed to the decision to continue.
But it also signifies a very subtle, very slight shift. In the past, I've tried to make Ask Leo! all about your questions and my answers. Questions will continue to be a major factor in what gets published, as well as a factor in the overall directions that I might take on the site (although I'm giving myself permission to skip answering variations of the same lost password question over and over and over ...). However, you'll also start to see a few more pieces that don't start with a question, but instead start with my story, experience, or opinion and end up being about things I enjoy or feel strongly about. Hopefully, you'll find those interesting and perhaps somewhat educational as well.
Because that's another realization I came to; I'm about education. I am first a software engineer and that defined what I did for a living for many years. Then, I started Ask Leo! and became a writer with a software engineering background. What I realized is that my passion for technology has evolved even further to be something that I want to share. By sharing my passion, I can help others break through the problems and frustrations that they face. That way, they can see computers and technology for the wonderful and exciting things that I know them to be.
As always, I thank you from the deepest recesses of my heart for being here, for supporting Ask Leo!, and for allowing me to do what I do.
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