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

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 Smile)...

2012: The First Year To....

Signs!

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.

Time for a Break

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.

Changes

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.

One Person's Work is Another's Play

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.

Leo
Leo

Article C6377 - March 31, 2013 « »

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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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43 Comments
Christo
April 1, 2013 8:04 AM

Happy you're back :) I for one have learned a lot from you.

John
April 1, 2013 9:19 AM

Been checking your site ever day for years now. Thanks for all the tips you have offered. Since they have saved me money, I just bought you a cusinart.

I will continue to recommend your site and its tips/insights to my friends.

Randy
April 1, 2013 9:59 AM

I look forward to exploring your future directions. +1 on "raising the quality bar" and continuing on. Let's rock!

Ken B
April 1, 2013 10:20 AM

I have your "Ask Leo" site permanently open in one of my browser's tabs, right next to some other tech-related blogs and "ask so-and-so" sites. (I think I may have even bought you a latte or two over the years for answering my questions.)

I, too, have a tech blog (educating people about malware -- I'm not linking to it here, since this isn't a venue for such things), and I haven't updated it for months, perhaps for similar "issues". Maybe I should take this as a sign that I should "reboot" it?

In any case, it's good to see that you're back, and I'm looking forward to your future posts. Even after my 40+ years of using/programming computers, there's always new stuff to learn.

It's linkworthy Smile.

Ken's blog is http://blog.runonfriday.com/
Leo
02-Apr-2013

Maxine
April 1, 2013 10:35 AM

Glad you are back. I think everyone needs to take a break now and then, and you should include a nice vacation in your work. I would like to see more technical question, other then what people can find in their general "help" from Microsoft Windows section. Thank you for all that you do to help people. I, for one appreciate any help I can get.

Vic
April 1, 2013 12:22 PM

Welcome back. I'm very happy to hear that you intend to keep "Ask Leo" going. When I have a computer problem yours is the first site I go to and I'd be horrified if I couldn't find it. Thank you for being there!

Michael Moseley
April 1, 2013 1:37 PM

Welcome back! Enjoy your site and your homey approach. Makes me think we are all friends.

Ron Hazlett
April 1, 2013 2:20 PM

It is we that need to remember all the good you have done for all us computer junkies over the years-you need a break every now and then! Glad you are back!

Walter Davis
April 1, 2013 9:07 PM

You have saved my (and my computer(s)) butts multiple times. Keep up the great work. Appreciated you and your site.

Mimi Zwolak
April 2, 2013 12:15 AM

Glad you are back. Your site is the first one I go to when seeking answers to computer issues. I have gotten really good information from you. I recommend you to everyone. Thanks for all you do. I think I'll buy you a coffee or a beer!

Deidre
April 2, 2013 8:50 AM

Hi. I'm glad you're back and that you had some time to reboot. I'm happy you'll be continuing to offer Ask Leo! - you are such a great source of information and help.

Gary T
April 2, 2013 9:12 AM

Glad that you're back Leo, and keeping the newsletter alive. I, personally would love to see more " how to " articles on hardware issues and changes. I enjoy reading what you put ut now and look forward to better articles also. Thanks, Gary.

King John
April 2, 2013 9:29 AM

Thanks for your explanation and honesty Leo. So pleased you decided to carry on, i'm sure that apart from myself there are thousands of readers that are grateful for your expertise. For the majority of computer users the technicalities are a mystery.

Tom
April 2, 2013 9:39 AM

Congratulations on making a great use of your sabbatical! Now I know why they're not called vacations.

I like the directions you're taking the site, especially getting rid of the hover-over ads -- they SO annoyed me!

Good luck, and I hope keep having fun with Ask Leo! -- if it ain't fun, why do it?

Pattie Barlow
April 2, 2013 9:59 AM

I for one, am very glad you decided to stick with "Ask Leo"! My 30 year old son has masters degrees in both Computer and Electrical engineering and is always a great source of assistance for me. However, if it weren't for your website, newsletters, q&a's and so on I would no doubt end up bothering him all the time. Of course he says I'm not bugging him, but after working on/with computers 6 days a week, I know I wouldn't want to deal with them when I managed to get some time away from everything they represent. So, for both my son and myself, THANKS SO MUCH! BTW - What you are calling a sabbatical indicates that you were still working. I think you probably need to take more VACATIONS!! We all need them!

Harish Dobhal
April 2, 2013 10:47 AM

Although I am not qualified enough to judge what could have gone wrong or gone 'not so well', in my humble opinion there might be two things:

1. Your shift to 'answercast'. I think the good old question and answer in its originality was good enough.

2. Your lack of graphics. I guess it is your style, but seeing a smiley and reading the word 'smiley' are two very different things.

So, my opinion is that you should make a slight change inclined towards graphics and keep the originality of questions and answers format as it was.

Steve Darling
April 2, 2013 10:54 AM

Leo- I successfully use my car every day despite the fact that I have no idea how an automatic transmission works. That is the way that I would like to use my computer - get on line, deal with email, not get spammed or phished, do some word processing, control my finances. And, that is exactly how reading you has helped me. I'm grateful for your efforts. Do people ever say "Thank you!" enough?

Lee Guptill
April 2, 2013 11:35 AM

Your "free" tech support has literally saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. I would be most ungrateful if I were not willing to subscribe to a "paid" newsletter. AskLeo is classy, informative, and sometimes just plain fun!

Gary Graziano
April 2, 2013 11:47 AM

Welcome back! I missed you, but understand the need for time away. I'm so glad you've decided to continue. Have you ever considered offering a tiered kind of service with some free, but a subscription option available with more features? It has been fascinating watching how businesses like radio figure out how to be profitable on the Internet.

I have no problem paying for the things I value--I even subscribe to a talk show's "premium" service. In return I get unlimited, commercial-free .mp3's of the show, access to chat room, etc. I would miss you not being there! I have learned so much from you about keeping my "thinkin' box" running right. If subscribing will keep the enterprise profitable sign me up.

Bharat Bhardwaj
April 2, 2013 11:55 AM

Hi Leo,

I am a blind user from New Delhi, India. I have occasionally posted comments on your website, sometimes read the entire set of comments of the other readers, have shared your links on Facebook, & without doubt, always benefitted from every word you've ever said!

Now to my next thought. I have always believed that you must make it a point to charge your users for your services. I have been told by my teachers from my school days that, "there are no free lunches" & my 30 plus years of of stay on this planet has only strengthened this belief! You say, one of the ways in which you earn is by selling your books. I would like to know, if you don't mind telling, how many people of these thousands, buy that invaluable content? I would strongly urge you to reconsider your decision to keep all this content free!!

Heartiest wishes for all that you do & plan to do!

Jeana Opting
April 2, 2013 1:17 PM

I greatly appreciate your "Leo's 2013 Sabbatical Results" write-up. Thanks to the openness that is one of your strong trademarks, you have lucidly explained to us all how you spent your time and the conclusions you came to regarding the work that you think will give you the most satisfaction in the future.

It's amazing that you got in touch during your sabbatical with some things that will make your work more fun as well as more worthwhile in your sight. Squarely facing the fact of declining enjoyment as well as revenues, and planning changes that will bring you what you perceive as a personal need is just plain smart. After all, why should you put in all those hours without appropriate satisfaction: financial, mental, and emotional?

I love your conclusion: "I'm all about education," and I'm glad that you will continue to steer the Ask-Leo ship, even with a few shifts in direction as you man the helm.

I think a lot of us could use a sabbatical from the lifestyle ruts that have us going through the motions and yet not as excited as we should be about our work in this world. There should be a company "out there" that facilitates people in a short breakaway from their usual lives to examine deep desires and to rethink new ways of operating for increased effectiveness. I congratulate you for following through on this. A once-a-year time set aside for a re-evaluation of my life might help a lot of folks, particularly if they could get facilitators in the process.

I'm curious. Do you think this kind of venture requires actually getting away geographically for awhile, or can it be done right in one's own home, thus saving on expenses?

Thanks for letting your fans in on what happened and for giving us a chance to respond to the most excellent way that you communicated with us on your return.

It can be done from home, 'cause that's how I did it! (I had planned a couple of trips, but live intervened such that I could not, so I simply made the best of it.) Thanks!
Leo
02-Apr-2013

ron l
April 2, 2013 1:37 PM

When Fred Langa merged his LangaList with Windows Secrets, they created two versions of the newsletter: a free version with some content, and a paid version with additional content. I was happy to subscribe to the paid version because each subscriber gets to choose the amount to pay for a year’s subscription.

Having to prepare two different versions and maintain two different subscriber lists seems like more work than necessary. What if you kept the newsletter as it is, and implemented an automated subscriber system that sends a yearly renewal notification, and made it possible to include a subscriber-chosen amount? This way, the Web site remains free and available to everyone, and subscribers can have a yearly reminder to send a contribution.

You can add a subscription link at the bottom of every Ask-Leo article so that readers who discover Ask-Leo during an Internet search will see the opportunity to subscribe to the newsletter, and make a donation. Noting that subscribers get a link to submit questions directly to Ask-Leo would be an added incentive to become a subscriber. Hopefully, a find/replace could be used to automate changing each Web page.

susan
April 2, 2013 7:04 PM

i'm so glad your time 'away' helped. i thought maybe you'd mention your corgis as part of your r&r. so glad you're back!

dick s.
April 2, 2013 7:41 PM

Leo, you have helped me in many ways. I would hate to see you check out of something you love to do and which is also helpful to so many. I would have no problem coughing up some cash for your valuable advice. Like some other readers, I am a paid subscriber to Windows Secrets and I feel you should adopt a similar voluntary "donation" format. You should be rewarded for sharing your vast talents with us.

Ron M
April 2, 2013 10:54 PM

Hi Leo,
Leonard Cohen, the iconic Canadian singer, songwriter, poet, lyricist (remember the song Hallelujah) once said something as follows, "I don't do what I do for the money, but I want to get paid for what I do". He had a knack for putting matters correctly. I think that's how business works. Hell that's how life works. All the best in the future. Ron M

Roger & Cyndy
April 2, 2013 11:05 PM

Leo,
You have been my secret partner towards getting my grandchildren's admiration for a couple of years now. You have helped me from being a complete computer idiot to someone my grandson recently said "has awesome computer skills" (I just pass on YOUR words... shhh don't tell anyone!) I am sad to say that I have only purchased you one $3 latte in all this time. I vow to do better in the future. Glad you have decided to stay around... Stay, at least until my grandkids are grown... give me at least another 10 years... O.K. ;-)

Jim H
April 2, 2013 11:53 PM

Glad you carried on doing this Leo. Even though I consider myself an advanced PC user your explanations of various PC related things are elegant in their simplicity. You have a knack for making the complex, digestible. I often 'borrow' (verbally) some of your explanations because people understand them better than many of my personal attempts.

I really got what you meant about your soul searching about doing this. I ran a motorcycle shop for a number of years, a business that began as a paying hobby but was always driven more from love of the machines/lifestyle/sport than money. I promised myself if it ever stopped being fun I would shut the doors. With success came a lessening of the fun and what was once nurturing became a drain. I had to shut the doors to save myself and have since been reintroducing the fun factor. It is a fine line we walk when we love what we do and make money from it as well.

Again, thanks for coming back.

Chilla1142
April 3, 2013 4:16 AM

Love all of the positive comments. Leo, your talents lie, not only in the environment of technology but in that often under-rated realm of communication. You are a natural teacher, able to make the apparently complicated, comprehensible.
So glad you have resolved your 'doubts' and are continuing. Thank you.

Mary
April 3, 2013 4:51 AM

Agree with everything everyone has said!

Camran Manikfan
April 3, 2013 5:59 AM

Leo,
I hope you had a great time during your sabbatical and have returned refreshed, energized, and ready to be bombarded with more questions :P.
On a more serious note, I really, really appreciate all the work you do on this site and am a regular visitor to the site for your answered questions and Answercasts. Please keep up the informative and interesting work on your site, because I learned more from here than twelve years of school ... :D

Dave Vohra
April 3, 2013 7:05 AM

Hi Leo,
Interesting reading of your Sabbatical article. In life we all feel jaded at some point and those are the times and moments when we embark on a journey of "self discovery." I am pleased and glad you have re-discover-ed yourself. I enjoy reading what you write and say. Long may you continue.
Thank you.
Dave Vohra

Colin G
April 3, 2013 8:25 PM

71 year old PC enthusiast loves reading your articles emailed to me. Have been around and using since DOS 3.1 technology advancement is incredible and your "Ask Leo" assists me along the way I also enjoy IPad & IPhone and am a volunteer Tutor for Seniors to become Tech Savvy
Thanks again for your help Colin Australia

Lee Guptill
April 4, 2013 7:33 AM

You have saved me a lot of money over the years, and I would be most ungrateful if I were not willing to buy a paid subscription if that's what it takes to keep your newsletter up and running.

John Servis
April 4, 2013 4:25 PM

I've been an avid reader since '09 and you've helped me so much over the years. Glad to see you've opted to struggle onward. This economy has hit us all hard. I used to make good money fixing PC's, now people just by new ones. Best Wishes, My Friend.

Nick White
April 5, 2013 5:21 AM

Leo, I am so pleased that you will be continuing your newsletter! It has been a wonderful resource for me. You turned me on to Malwarebytes, Revo Uninstaller and Microsoft Security Essentials. You helped me solve problems and, sometimes, provided another way of looking at an issue.

Thank you so much, Leo. Best wishes for a rejuvenated future in the business.

Judy
April 6, 2013 10:54 AM

I also would be willing to pay for this newsletter. It is the only one I have found that speaks English (rather than geek talk) and then explains the geek. I applaud your attitude and value your opinions. I have learned a lot and would like to continue to learn more.
Thanks and please keep going.

William B.
April 9, 2013 10:04 AM

Leo, Glad you're back !! I, like MANY others, have learned and benefited greatly from all your knowledge advice. And I've contributed to your "Buy Leo A Latte (or whatever)" and was happy to do so. You are running a business and not a charity, I for one, or many, would pay for a subscription / fee for answers if you thought it would keep you in Lattes, beers, whatever. Keep up the good work, OK??

Geoff Ferguson
April 9, 2013 1:54 PM

Sounds like Leo hit his "refresh button". Perhaps more "About Leo" as I find you're experience so far beyond my understanding, what I do understand is fascinating. If you do decide to charge for you're help, I'm in!.

Richard Lovejoy
April 9, 2013 2:54 PM

Leo; glad you have decided to continue, I have found your letter most informative especially the recent discussion on Win 8.

David Miller
April 10, 2013 12:44 AM

Good on you Leo - I look forward to your no nonsense replies to sometime complex(difficult to understand) questions. I too would be willing to pay a subscription. Keep up the good work.

Robert Crumb
April 10, 2013 10:28 AM

I certainly DID Read the Sabbatical Results because, perish-the-tho't, Leo's Answers might be ending. Thank Goodness they will continue.
I've never looked at/on Facebook because I've Read of so many problems related to that - Leo's Comments suggest that Trouble does not have to be the case.
Glad that Leo re-assessed because his answers are understandable to those of my limited knowledge.
I am willing to pay for this information.
Thanks, again.

Trish M
April 11, 2013 9:40 AM

Glad to see you back Leo. Your calm demeanor has saved many a laptop of mine from being drop kicked into outer space. I also ruthlessly quote you near verbatim to my friends making me sound super smart and oh so tech savvy! More books...more books...more books!

Geoff Brown
April 11, 2013 10:03 AM

Glad to have you still with us, you had me and I'm sure many others worried when you went on the "sabbatical". I hope there was/are no other serious issues behind this that you haven't mentioned.
The "Windows Secrets" format already mentioned (I'm a paid member as well) is something I'm sure you've probably thought about, but may work great.

Cheers & thank you,
Geoff, Algonquin Park, Canada

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