As many of you know, XBMC doesn’t pay any of its developers. Our coders earn money doing other things, like coding for other companies or running successful ventures. A few coders are students. One guy is even a butcher! This particular journal article is about what I do, and more importantly, what I’d rather do. Feel free to skip it, if that kind of thing doesn’t interest you, as in a very short period of time I’ll have written a much more exciting XBMC thing on a different page.
Last Friday, the 16th of March, I discovered that imo.im was hiring an Online Community Manager. As a fan of the imo.im software, I thought this represented an awesome opportunity for me, and one I didn’t want to screw up.
As many of you know, I am the Community Manager, right now, for XBMC, which is an awesome job full of cool opportunities, but decidedly lacking in the pay area. Most of my actual income these days comes from relatively unrelated self-employment situations, where I do the html/css work of developing websites. I also act as the MODX guru, where being the guru doesn’t connect up too much with being the SQL guru. It’s an OK job that pays reasonably well per hour, but simply doesn’t draw me like being the lead online marketing/tech support guy* for an international software organization.
*In the era of Twitter and Facebook, tech support==marketing, as far as intelligent people are concerned. There’s a reason Apple outsources the hardware but hires locals to staff AppleCare phone support.
So I saw this job opportunity, and I thought about how nice it would be to do what I like doing for pay. I basically think this every time I see a similar job opportunity. The key difference, in this situation, was that I actively like and use imo.* Honestly, I do. Up until fairly recently, Trillian has been my instant messaging software of choice. Imo DESTROYS Trillian in the mobile realm, and their online software is leagues ahead. If I had one wish, it’d be for a desktop client, but it’s possible that there’s a good reason for lacking that, that I don’t know about.
*As a comparison, Wells Fargo is also hiring a Community Manager right now. While I have no problem with Wells Fargo, I also have no great things to say about them. I’ve literally never done business with the company. They seem like a decent enough bank, and I’m sure I’d have no problem doing good work for them, but the implicit awkwardness I’d feel at getting rejected by imo just doesn’t exist with Wells Fargo.
So here I am in an awkward situation. I like imo. I don’t want to not get hired and then feel weird about using imo after not getting the job (even though I totally plan to). So, I decided this go around I had better really, honestly try, as hard as I could, to get the job.
These thoughts crossed my mind as I was filling out the relatively brief application on LinkedIn. I had gotten through a decent portion of the cover letter before I realized I was doing nothing new. This felt exactly like any of the other times I’ve been ignored while applying to work full time in community management. So I paused in writing. I opened a new page. And I thought.
I thought about how other marketers got jobs. I thought about the news stories of “best application ever”s. And I decided I needed to do exactly that. My plan was reasonably simple. Step one: make a video. Step two: make a website. Step three: convince people to share the site.
Step one: make a video.
I bought a MacBook Pro in January of 2012. To say that I’m not very skilled at iMovie is an extreme understatement. I’ve used it a grand total of 1 time, when we made a movie for XBMC on the Raspberry Pi.*
*A video which, btw, has over 300,000 views as of this writing!
This meant I needed an iMovie crash course. Fortunately, I’ve had some experience using competing software that behaves essentially the same way as iMovie, so I knew what to expect.
I grabbed some CC music from Jamendo. I pulled a few applicable pics from Google Images. I yanked a video I’d made of a pan cooking some sausage* using my iPhone as a sort of “let’s get cooking” backdrop. And I got to work.
*Long, weird story.
All told, including revisions, looking up how to do the traveling map thing, figuring out cross fades, syncing up music, and trying desperately to come up with a better ending than I had, the video probably totalled about 12 hours of work. If I were a professional video editor, I image it’d take 45 minutes, tops, and look 4 times as good. Still, it’s not the worst video ever. Hopefully.
Step Two: Make a Website
As I’ve mentioned, while I’m a complete n00b at video making, I’m relatively experienced in the realm of website making. I’m no designer, but I can toss some html together when necessary. While the video took me 12 hours, the website took, at the outside, maybe 6 hours. And I did almost all of it extremely late at night.
Step one was to install MODX, which I am always a huge fan of. Step two was to apply a grid system that I’ve been curious about called 1140 CSS grid. It’s a new fluid grid system (referred to as “responsive web design”) that’s nifty (in short) because it can handle being squeezed better than many competing grid systems.
After that, it was just a matter of tossing up my content and cleaning it up with some CSS as necessary. The CSS cleaning was absolutely my favorite part. Typically, I take somebody else’s (or, worst case scenario, my own) photoshop design, pull apart the pieces, and then stick them back into the resulting website. Because I didn’t want to mess around with Photoshop, I decided to lean exclusively on html5 and css3 for the pretty-fication of the site.
I only had one problem remaining. Because I was no expert in iMovie (or in how Youtube decides which video thumbs to show), I had made the error of creating a video using an ugly thumb. This would not do for my clean site.
My initial method of fixing this was relatively simple. Youtube videos show up in an iframe. My plan was to simply stick ANOTHER picture in the iframe first, and then link that picture to the Youtube video. From the user perspective, it would look like the white picture had turned into a video. Awesome, right?
And it WAS awesome, right until the moment a friend told me he didn’t see the picture in ie8. Now, ordinarily this wouldn’t concern me. Who still uses ie8?
But I’m randomly a perfectionist, and this happened to be one of those situations. What if the one person who was going to watch my video never had the chance to see it? I couldn’t take that risk.
This situation changed that lack of need.
And so, even though I’d already made the page public, I made a hidden test page, duplicated the code, and got to work.
In the end, it really wasn’t that hard to hardcode in a picture onto the site, and replace that picture with an auto-starting youtube video when a person clicks on the picture. The only detail I foolishly left off the plate was making the picture look like it was a link, where the cursor would change from an arrow to a pointing hand. At this point, fixing that little mistake is probably pointless,* but I wouldn’t rule out fixing it, given my random acts of perfectionsm.
Step Three: Convince People to Share the Site
Sadly, this may be the point where my entire plan falls apart. I’m pretty good at growing fanbases with limited resources. XBMC had 6,000 facebook fans and something like 2 or 3,000 twitter followers when I started managing those presences. Now they’ve blossomed to 22,000 and 10,000 fans, respectively, without any help from our main website. But as good as I am at promoting others, I’m TERRIBLE at promoting myself. That’s probably a prime reason why I’d ultimately make a bad actor or author. I feel weird promoting myself and doubly weird asking other people to promote me.
Anyway, if you like me or hate me or accidentally ended up on this page by doing a search for Natalie Portman, I’d really appreciate it if you checked out my job website Dear imo.im and shared it with all your influential friends. I even stuck some buttons on there to make it easier! You can do it with your computer, or, like Natalie here, eat an entire box of donut holes and share via mobile!
I started this application Friday night. I finished it at about 4AM Monday morning, after spending much of Saturday with family and most of Sunday watching basketball (including one of the most exciting games I’ve ever seen KU play). In the end, I may not get hired by the imo people, but I’ll at least know that I can make this kind of thing happen on an extremely limited timeframe.
I love adventure. I love tight deadlines. It’s possible that my ideal world would be one where every weekend was a crunch weekend, where all my coding friends and coworkers got together to really make things happen, and where life and the workplace was one big roller coaster. Of course, for that to happen, I’m going to start needing some actual coworkers.