Chris Shiflett http://shiflett.org/ en-us Chris Shiflett is an entrepreneur and web developer focused on building community and bettering the open web. Leaders Wanted http://shiflett.org/blog/2019/leaders-wanted http://shiflett.org/blog/2019/leaders-wanted In the best companies, everyone is a leader. Decisions are made by those best suited to make them, everyone feels trusted and respected, and a shared purpose provides unity and motivation.

I’ve been trying to be a better leader my entire career, and I still have much to learn. Nevertheless, some lessons I’ve learned along the way have stood the test of time, and I’d like to share them with you.

Mind your morale

Morale is a currency; spend it wisely.

One of the most important responsibilities of any leader is to manage the morale and energy of the team. If you’re a freelancer, self-awareness is key, because you must manage yourself, and tending to your own morale is critical to your success.

Managing morale doesn’t mean avoiding hard work. In my experience, providing an environment that lets people do their best work is what keeps morale high.

Decide who decides

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities help everyone. A leader’s job is to trust the right people to make the right decisions, and to provide the necessary context to do so.

When someone is a designated decision-maker, they are more likely to listen carefully to other views, because they don’t have to spend energy presenting or defending their own. Others will feel heard, because the decision-maker is actually listening. Everyone wins.

Choose words carefully

Language is important. The words we use shape our perspective and the perspectives of everyone we work with.

Make we a habit. They didn’t make a mistake; we made a mistake. The client doesn’t have a big opportunity; we have a big opportunity.

When you’re certain about something, say so, but also make it clear when you’re not. Expressing uncertainty doesn’t erode trust, but expressing certainty and being wrong does.

Set healthy boundaries

Communication is good, but be deliberate about it. The cost of real-time, always-on communication tools shouldn’t be overlooked, especially when used with clients. When possible, stick to email and scheduled meetings.

Avoid working outside of normal working hours, too. It’s more sustainable, and often more productive, to use a strict work schedule to help you and your team stay focused and driven. Don’t let the possibility of after-hours work excuse lacklustre performance during the day.

Make meetings count

Meetings are often unfairly maligned. It’s true that a poorly-organized meeting can be disruptive and wasteful, but a good meeting can be invaluable.

Every meeting needs a goal. Agendas are good, but goals are better. With a clear goal, it’s easy to intuit when the meeting is the least bit off-track, so you can correct course as you go. It’s also worth making clear if a meeting is meant to be divergent (new ideas welcome) or convergent (time to reach a consensus).

Make a habit of designating someone to take notes, and email the notes to everyone after the meeting. This will help you move more quickly, because no one will be worried about missing something. It also gives you a good excuse to exclude optional attendees; they can just read the notes. Small meetings without bystanders are more efficient.

Create your own rules

Some of the best lessons will come from your own experience.

A rule we adhere to on my team, for example, is to never estimate someone else’s work. This gives each person a sense of responsibility to the schedule and helps prevent unreasonable expectations.

Try to avoid treating any rule as dogma, however. ‘It depends’ is the only rule that is always dependable, so be willing to make an exception for a really good reason.

Stay humble

Leadership is a skill that requires study and practice, just like any other, and learning from one another is a great way to continue to improve. As peers, we share common threads, so the lessons we learn do as well.

I’m convinced that the most meaningful work is teamwork. Let’s learn together and work together to deliver on the web’s promise. Leaders wanted.

The original version of this article was commissioned for New Adventures magazine, January 2019.

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Fri, 06 Sep 2019 11:55:33 -0600
Domain Registrars http://shiflett.org/blog/2019/domain-registrars http://shiflett.org/blog/2019/domain-registrars A few years ago, I wrote about domain registrars. Realizing how often people still reference that post, and how old it is, I decided to ask what people are using these days.

There was a lot less variety in the responses than last time I asked. In fact, four registrars accounted for almost all replies I received, even via in-person and private conversations.

Here they are.

Gandi

My personal choice remains Gandi. Their new, JavaScript-heavy website belies the robustness of their platform, but if we judged companies by their websites, most would come up short. (This is why I want to rebuild every website I visit.)

The projects they support can give you a good idea of their principles, which is something that matters to me.

Gandi is committed to being the ethical choice for creating a web presence.

Notable features include:

  • Free SSL certificate
  • Whois privacy
  • DNS management
  • DNSSEC

Gandi is recommended by Derick Rethans, Simon Jones, Seppe Stas, and Graham Christensen.

Hover

Like Gandi, Hover is trying to make the web better.

From podcasts to festivals, we’re proud to be patrons of inspiring projects that help fuel the internet.

Most people who recommend Hover cite their excellent customer service as a reason. They also have a helpful article on how to register a domain name.

Notable features include:

  • Whois privacy
  • DNS management

Hover is recommended by Kyle Meyer, Paul Reinheimer, and Tim Cheadle.

iwantmyname

iwantmyname has an awkward name but a loyal customer base, and they have a wonderful sense of humor. The one-click setup of popular services like Google and AWS is a convenient way to get started quickly.

Notable features include:

  • Whois privacy
  • DNS management
  • Developer API

iwantmyname is recommended by Aaron Gilmore, Dan Duncan, and Chanpory Rith.

Namecheap

Namecheap continues to be a popular choice, and their mission and values are admirable. They even advertise their support for the EFF and Fight for the Future in the footer of every page.

Their domain search is one of the best I’ve seen, with a beast mode that unlocks the full gamut of search options.

Notable features include:

  • Whois privacy
  • DNS management
  • DNSSEC

Namecheap is recommended by Ben Bodien and Jeff Lupinski.

Summary

I hope these recommendations can help you choose the domain registrar that’s best for you, especially if you don’t already own your own domain name(s). As I wrote in a recent article about personal websites on 99U:

Owning your own domain name is important, and if this article can convince you of only one thing, let it be this.

If you have any additions or corrections, please let me know.

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Mon, 19 Aug 2019 15:07:31 -0600
2018 Highlights http://shiflett.org/blog/2019/2018-highlights http://shiflett.org/blog/2019/2018-highlights 2018 was a good year.

My web design and technology studio Faculty did some good work this past year, and we’re on our way to more with a promising new client. I’m optimistic that we can start to have a bigger impact on the web.

My coworking studio Roost is thriving, with a wonderful community of creative people that inspire me daily.

Below are some additional highlights.

January

Sean and I have been working together for many years, and in January, he officially joined Faculty:

Faculty is not just new to me, but something altogether new. It’s also something that feels older than it is. The familiar, experienced kind of old. The good kind. The kind I like.

Nick also joined Faculty at the start of the year. Nick is an incredible software engineer, adept at everything from infrastructure to frontend development. I’m excited to be working with him again.

February

Tegan and I participated in Family Code Night at her school, which was a fun introduction to some basic programming concepts. She was a natural. It was also my first exposure to Scratch, a programming language from MIT that was created especially for kids.

March

Sara Distin joined Faculty. Sara is an excellent writer — the best I’ve ever worked with — and she also brings a plethora of tangential skills, from content strategy to marketing. I’m thrilled to have her on the team.

At the end of the month, we took another family trip to Breckenridge. We’re pretty fond of the place, both for its proximity to Boulder (long road trips are still rough) and its relaxed vibe. Christina took Tegan and Killian skiing while we were there.

April

We launched a new website for Tia. The work itself wasn’t especially notable, but we were struck by Tia’s mission and thrilled to help them on their journey.

At the end of the month, I took a short trip to Tennessee to attend my little sister’s wedding.

May

Sanette, Amanda, and Jesse started a skeeball league. It was a lot of fun, and it’s great to watch the Roost community continue to grow.

I had jury duty. I liked it a lot more than I expected to, partly because the judge was so great. He really instilled a sense of pride in all of us, and a deep respect for the whole process.

I participated in a debate at Boulder Startup Week on remote work. It reminded me of Keenan’s wonderful Designer’s Debate Club.

I went to my first concert at Red Rocks to see Haim (with Maggie Rogers and Lizzo) and was blown away by the venue. The crowd was great, too. I’ll never forget everyone singing along to Whitney Houston while we waited for the show to start. Magic.

June

We took a family trip to Ireland for two weeks, visiting places like Dingle, Galway, Inishmore, Donegal, and Carrick. While in Donegal, we were lucky enough to meet up with Christopher Murphy and his wife Cara.

July

We held our first Faculty retreat in Colorado. It was an opportunity to look back, learn from our successes and mistakes, and plan for the future. As a remote-friendly team, our retreats are critical to our success. The entire week was full of planning, discussions, work, movies, and adventures. We drove into Denver for dinner a couple of times. At one such dinner, we saw Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford.

We published Good Work. This was a very important milestone for us at Faculty. I'm sure we will reference this constantly for years to come. Our hope is that not only can we continue to hold ourselves to these standards, but that we can also encourage others to do the same.

August

Christina and I spoke at an AIGA event in Denver about Roost. It was fun to be able to share our story and see the enthusiasm for what we’re doing on people’s faces.

I led two more Backcountry Club trips, to Maroon Bells and Indian Peaks. It’s always great to take time away, and it’s especially fulfilling to do it with friends, many of whom have no backpacking experience.

We sent our first Faculty newsletter. Each month, we’ll share our favorite links on design, technology, and business. You can sign up here.

September

I took Tegan on her first backpacking trip, an overnight to Crater Lakes in the James Peak Wilderness. I love this photo of us, because her excitement and anticipation are so visible.

We started working with Simply Framed.

For many reasons, we decided to sponsor New Adventures, a conference I love organized by people I love.

October

I decided to start tweeting only links as a way to curb my habit of using Twitter as a substitute for blogging. So far, it hasn’t resulted in more blogging, but good habits take time. It does help me focus on using Twitter for what it’s good at (spreading content) instead of what it’s not (hosting content). I’m optimistic.

November

At Roost, we started a monthly gathering called Breakfast Club. One Friday each month, we eat breakfast burritos, drink mimosas and lattes, and discuss the topic of the month. Our first topic was communication, and we talked about the downsides of always-on, realtime comunication mediums like Slack, and how to establish healthy boundaries with clients.

December

We spent the first few days of the holiday season in a cabin in the Rockies. I went for a run in the mountains while we were there, which was a nice place to reflect on the year past and the year ahead.

I hope you have a wonderful 2019.

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Mon, 31 Dec 2018 22:42:06 -0700
Sponsoring New Adventures http://shiflett.org/blog/2018/sponsoring-new-adventures http://shiflett.org/blog/2018/sponsoring-new-adventures The intro to Good Work starts with a simple statement:

We love the web.

This sentiment is core to the vision of Faculty. It is also a common thread that ties together most of the professional endeavors throughout my career.

My love of the web has led me to do something I’ve never done before. Faculty is sponsoring a conference. Not just any conference, of course. New Adventures.

For a new company, any expense (even a small token of support) is a big decision. Here are a few of the reasons we decided it was a good idea:

  • We share a similar ethos. The company you keep reflects who you are. It’s important for us to align ourselves with those who share our values.
  • Our friends deserve our support. When I started Faculty, it felt like starting over. Although my career spans more than two decades, Faculty itself is new. I’m sure bringing New Adventures back after all these years feels a bit like starting over. I have benefitted from the support of my friends. I want them to benefit from my support, too.
  • I miss it. I attended New Adventures all three years (2011, 2012, and 2013), during the heart of the Brooklyn Beta years (2010–2014). There’s heavy overlap between our communities. I’m confident the return of New Adventures can refresh our optimism and spirit.
  • We need this. We’re no longer standing on the shoulders of giants like we once were. We need to ground ourselves in the lessons of the past to reach new heights. By sharing our experiences, we can help newcomers get a head start and push the web forward.

There are many conferences I love. (I’m looking at you, Webstock.) It’s possible we’ll sponsor more conferences in the future. For now, we’re incredibly excited to be heading to Nottingham in January.

Grab your ticket, and we’ll see you there.

Until then, happy holidays!

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Mon, 17 Dec 2018 22:42:06 -0700
Tweet Only Links http://shiflett.org/blog/2018/tweet-only-links http://shiflett.org/blog/2018/tweet-only-links I’m going to try an experiment. Starting today, I’m making a commitment to tweet only links.

Why? I’ve been blogging for more than 15 years, but I blogged far more in the first 5 years than in the 10 years since. While there are many factors, I think joining Twitter drove the decline of my blogging habit more than anything else. Now, if I have something to share, I’ll write a sentence or two on Twitter and be done. Twitter lets me scratch the itch.

If I have something to share going forward, my hope is that this commitment will compel me to blog about it. If I can’t take the time to explore a thought by blogging, I should link to someone else who has. Twitter can still be great for spreading ideas, but it’s not a particularly good home for them.

In order to make this commitment more palatable (to hopefully inspire others to join me), there are a few exceptions:

  • Personal tweets are still allowed. This includes most replies. Some judgment is required, but if it’s not something you would ever consider blogging about, then it’s probably trivial enough for Twitter. I like to wish friends a happy birthday, for example.
  • Retweets are discouraged, but still allowed. I personally turned off all retweets, but retweeting doesn’t violate the spirit, since it’s similar to linking to someone else. Just be mindful not to spread the sort of shallow tweets that you’re trying to avoid yourself.
  • When you tweet a link, you can add some commentary.

If you have something to share, don’t give yourself the easy out and temporary relief that comes from a tweet. Let your desire to share lead to a blog post.

I mentioned this idea to Chad this morning, and he committed to tweet only links. I hope you’ll join us, too.

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Mon, 01 Oct 2018 12:45:22 -0600