pixelyzed.com Now Running on WordPress

This is just a quick note to tell you all that I just migrated the pixelyzed.com blog to WordPress. I will post again in the next few days to explain the reasoning behind the change and speak  of my experience doing so.

For now, you will notice that he blog is no longer under a sub-directory of the pixelyzed.com domain. I think it makes a lot more sense as I use this site mostly to blog anyway. On the other hand, I have put code in the old blog location that should correctly redirect any old /pixellog URLs to their corresponding URLs in the WordPress blog.

It’s now late for me and I have client work to do tomorrow… ;) So please contact me at stephane@pixelyzed.com if you notice any glaring problem.

Thanks you all for sticking with me all this time!

Looking Back at 2009

As is becoming a tradition for me, I’m writing a post to reflect on the last year as we’re jumping into the new. I will write another post later to talk about new tools and new technologies I discovered or started using in 2009. In this one, I reflect on the past year, the things that went well, the things I learned and what I intend to do different in 2010. If you run a small business or are a freelancer yourself, you may learn a thing or two from my experience.

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Do You Listen to Music While Working?

There is a meme popping on Twitter and the blogosphere where some Web professionals are wondering if it is a good thing to listen to music while working or not. I had been reflecting on that very thing recently so this comes at a timely moment for me.

Of course, to a point this comes down to personal preferences but it seems that, musicians like me respond to music in a different way than non-musicians which makes it harder for us to concentrate on the work at hand when listening to music. For example, look at the quote from Mark W. Shead in the “Should we listen to music while working?” post on Designer Daily. Thanks to Mirko Humbert on Twitter for the heads up on that article. He makes the point that if background noise is needed, the sound of waves or rain or something equally neutral is better than music as he states that he simply cannot perform tasks requiring high levels of concentration while listening to music.

I myself generally like to listen to music while working but whether I do or not depends directly on the kind of task I am working on at that moment and how I feel on that particular day. If I’m more tired for example I’ll have a harder time concentrating to begin with so I may prefer the silence. Furthermore, my music listening habits have evolved over time and as my circumstances changed. When I was still a student living with my parents, I used to need to put some music on at a reasonably low volume to “shield” myself from the noises in the rest of the house. That “wall of sound” effect permitted me to reach incredible levels of concentration. When I was in the “zone” like that, a train could have passed in my room and I would not have noticed. I’m not exaggerating. As a teenager I could reach levels of concentration that I simply cannot attain anymore which makes me very jealous of my teenage self…

Nowadays, I’m a full time freelancer working from home in a very quiet environment. I need no shielding from ambient noises but I still need the music a lot of the times for different reasons not the least of which is that it can get lonely working alone in complete silence. But what I listen to is directly related to what I’m doing. For example, when I’m doing simple administrative tasks or anything around the office not requiring great concentration I’ll listen to either my MP3 player on shuffle (very varied stuff in there) or to XM Radio (I particularly love XM Café and the alternative channels). But if I’m in developer mode writing HTML, CSS, JavaScript or ColdFusion code, I usually switch to mostly non-vocal music and for that I really love the XM Radio Chill channel. The fact that I do not know a lot of the music helps me “ignore” it better. Like I said before, I’ll often just turn off the music if I don’t feel it is helping at a particular moment.

When I’m in design mode, I usually like more upbeat or heavier music. I rarely design in silence. The musical stimulus really helps idea generation. The style here is very varied and depends a lot more on my own mood than the type of project I’m working on. Again here, I often turn to XM or to my MP3 player but with a more focused genre depending on the day.

So, what about you? Is music part of your work process too or do you need complete silence to be able to work?

I’m Now a Full Time Freelancer

3 days ago, I started my new career as a full time Web design professional freelancer…

Well, it’s actually not a new career because I’ve been doing it for over 12 years now. But for a while in the mid 90’s, it did play second fiddle to music and working a production job in a screen printing company. But as it became clear I would not succeed professionally playing in my band, I put more and more time into working and learning the Web design craft. When the band ended in early 2000, I put all my “free” time into the Web work and built my clients base and kept on learning new skills.

In 2001, I got promoted at the screen printing job into a multi tasking position. I worked as a Customer Representative but also worked in the design and drawing of membrane switch keyboard circuits. I spent a lot of time in Illustrator which I’d started learning in 1996. I will keep doing that on a contract basis for the foreseeable future. I’m now realizing how much the customer rep work taught me even if it was truly challenging for me. I learned how to interact with clients, be there for them and support them and realized how much easier it is in a service industry like Web and new media design than it is in a commodities B2B market like industrial screen printing.

I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback on my service and attitude from my Web design clients and it makes me happy I didn’t rush into going into it full time until now. My basic work skills never worried me but I feel like it’s not until recently I developed the business skills that now makes interacting with my clients easy and fun.

I feel very excited about this new chapter of my life that is just starting and, although I’m the kind of guy that tends to worry about a lot of stuff, this decision and move just feel right and I have very little worries about the future. For now, I have a lot of work on my plate for clients I love to deal with and I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I feel like I just took back control of my life and it feels very empowering…

I’m back!

It’s been a long time since I posted here. I mean a long time even for me ;-) If you read this soon after it was posted you’ll see that I have gone back to bloging using Ray Camden’s BlogCFC and the layout of the blog is BlogCFC’s default skin. I wanted to wait until I re-skined it before switching but I was starting to have all sorts of problems with BlogFusion (the blog software I was using before) and I needed to switch ASAP. In the next little while I will gradually give pixellog the same look as thge rest of the site. I’ll also post again later to explain why I gave up on BlogFusion and went back to BlogCFC.

Anyway, going back to my not posting in a long time, the last year has been very crazy for us here (more on that later as well) and it left me little time for posting. But it was not just that. I used to think that if I didn’t have something really important or useful to say then I shouldn’t post at all. I missed out on on sharing many discoveries and things I have learned in recent months that could have been of interest to the like minded people who come to this site. I have the intention to post more frequently from now on and live up to my original goal of making this site a vehicle for self expression but also an experimental ground and a way to share my experience.

I came to the realization that I had not found my "voice" yet… that unique style or tone that makes one’s writing interesting to its readers and have them coming back for more. I read several blogs because I like the particular blogger’s take on a variety of subjects. They have helped me broaden my outlook and I want to find a similar "voice". I already have a style that is my own but I was pusposefully limiting the kind of things I wrote about here. This means there may be more posts of a somewhat personal nature in the future and more stuff about things not related to working the Web. But there will be more of that too of course. Spring is out in full force up here and I feel as good as the weather looks outside and I want to share that energy with you all…