Be Good Not Bad by Brian Warren

Recent pages from the journal

6 January 2009

Jason’s Flying Solo 

Our good friend Jason Santa Maria is leaving Happy Cog to do full-time freelancing. Did I not just say that 2009 was the year of the indie? Congrats Jason!

5 January 2009

The Royal We Are Excited About 2009

Happy to Serve

I spent December of 2008 in mixed states of both reflection and eager anticipation. I realize our economy is in shambles, and optimistic may not be the most popular word these days, but it’s hard for me not to be excited about things to come.

2008 Was Pretty Awesome

Just days before sticking a fork in 2007, my daughter was born, and a month previous, my wife quit her day job for good. What was to follow was both the most awesome year of my life both personally and professionally.

I was a little nervous with Mrs. Warren quitting her job. The main question on our minds was: How were we going to replace her income? We just bought a new house that year, and one income disappearing did make things feel a little more tenuous. Amazingly enough, just a couple weeks before she stopped working, some really good opportunities came in the door. I started working with Happy Cog on some projects followed by a fantastic project with the fine chaps at Airbag Industries. The Mrs. and I never hit a wall, never got scared, and just made sure to stay super thankful that it was working out this way.


And boy did we have a lot to be thankful for. Little Bridget has grown up exceptionally well, and our far flung family is very much enjoying my geeking out with making a website for her, while filling up my Flickr and Momentile streams with lots of photos and videos.

2009 Is Looking Good

So you can see why 2009 is looking good for us. Work with Be Good Not Bad has been going well, and the projects we’re working on right now are very fun. One minor side-note: I’ve decided that for the foreseeable future I’m going to refer to Be Good Not Bad in the “we”. I haven’t hired anybody full-time or anything (yet), but it’s extremely rare that I work on a project by myself; in nearly every project I’ll bring in one of my ninja cohorts to work with me. This gives me a wonderful opportunity to work with extremely talented people with everybody learning from each other. The client benefits too, in that they get lots of talented people working together on their project. It’s one of my our favorite things in this work.

Seriously? Like, Seriously?

Practically daily people ask me how work is going. What they really mean is: “Are you running for the hills and/or filling out Starbucks applications?”. The economy is about all people can talk about, especially if they know you own your own business. I confess, I slipped into that mode too, becoming a hypochondriac for a few weeks this fall. If we didn’t get a project that we estimated, or a client was late on a payment, I thought “Oh man, this is it. We’re going down, folks”. But once I took a step back and stopped hyperventilating, I realized that we weren’t, in fact, going down.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m under no illusions about the state of the world economy. But it’s times like these I’m very glad I’m not working at a big company.

Consistently I am finding that the smaller the company, the more stable and optimistic people seem. The solo freelancers are the most positive and excited people I know. The way I see it, 2009 is the year of the indie. The smallest groups and independent people can work harder, faster, and, most importantly, they can work smarter than the big guys. We can partner with others like us, doing excellent work while keeping exceptionally low overhead.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Jeffrey Zeldman wrote about it in his 24ways Article: Recession Tips for Web Designers

Bad times are hard on overweight companies and over-leveraged start-ups, but can be kind to freelancers and small agencies. Clients who once had money to burn and big agencies to help them burn it suddenly consider the quality of work more important than the marquee value of the business card. Fancy offices and ten people at every meeting are out. A close relationship with an individual or small team that listens is in.

Greg Storey, founder of Airbag Industries has some fantastic advice to business owners in an amazing post about our current situation:

Don’t turn away any work that comes through your door. Get it. Grab it. Take it —as much as you can— and network with the people who are ready and willing and have the skills you need. Team up, and conquer.

Go read the rest of his article. It’s marvelous.

To You

It’s in that spirit I say thanks to you, friends, clients, and readers. I hope you have an awesome year. I can’t wait to see what it brings for all of us. If you happen to be looking for an agile team of ninjas for your next project, well, do get in touch!

6 December 2008

Be Good Not Bad Featured in ExpressionEngine Showcase Interview

In November, Leslie Camacho interviewed yours truly about a site we did this spring called Animal Internet. It was fun and I was honored to be interviewed. We chatted about what the site was all about and some of the specific challenges we faced when building the website. Be Good Not Bad partnered with Mark Bixby for the design and Corey Snipes at Twomile, Inc. for custom module development. Corey had never used ExpressionEngine before but by the end he was a pro.

From the interview:

It turned out ExpressionEngine was up to the task after all. It’s really a testament to not only the extensive built-in functionality, but the extensibility of the application. By the end of it, Corey was sold, wanting to use it on future projects of his own.

Corey and I are working on a new ExpressionEngine project this winter for some scientists at Harvard.

Read the entire interview on the ExpressionEngine site. While you’re there, check out the Showcase Gallery. It’s pretty wild how many sites are being developed with ExpressionEngine these days.

16 October 2008

Housing Works

Housing Works Homepage

Every now and then a project comes along that just makes me so glad to be doing the things I do. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my work. I even look forward to jumping out of bed and starting my day. But sometimes a project is just truly exceptional. Recently, I had the honor of working on just such a project with the brilliant folks at Happy Cog.

From Housing Works’ about page:

Housing Works is committed to ending the twin crises of AIDS and homelessness. We believe that all people have the right to a rich and empowering life. Since 1990, we have provided the highest quality services for homeless men, women, and children living with HIV and AIDS in New York City and beyond.

That’s a powerful cause, and it’s awesome to get to interact with and ultimately help those who are carrying it out. They are an awe-inspiring group of people.

With the excellent art direction of Daniel Mall, front-end development by yours truly, and Expression Engine development by the extremely talented Mark Huot we crafted the new Housing Works website that focused especially on the human side of their work.

For more about the project, check out the case study on Happy Cog’s website, and definitely make sure to visit Housing Works to see it for yourself.

6 August 2008

Mix Tape #3


Sure, it’s been awhile, but one might say I’ve had my hands full. I got the itch to put together another set for you guys, so I hope you enjoy this one.

I make no promises that I’ll do this with any regularity. That way, every time I make one you’ll just be so excited and thankful that it’s there. Something like that.

Brian’s Mix Tape #3 [34.8mb / aac]

I listed all the tracks below, along with links to where you can get them. Please buy the music, unless it’s already free. Except where indicated, I linked to the albums at the Amazon MP3 store.

  1. MGMT - Time to Pretend
  2. Magnetic Fields - I Need a New Heart
  3. Sigur Rós - Inní mér syngur vitleysingur
  4. Nico - These Days
  5. Stereolab - Long Life Love (This one’s off a 3 disc set, if you’re looking for this one track, check #6 on disc 3)
  6. The Submarines - Peace and Hate
  7. The Books - take time
  8. El Ten Eleven - I Like Van Halen Because My Sister Says They Are Cool (Some of their stuff is on Amazon MP3 but this particular album I only found on their site.)
  9. Bill Mallonee and Vigilantes of Love - Solar System

I enjoy making these, so I plan to keep it up. Let me know if you have any feedback, thoughts, or just if you enjoyed it. I’d appreciate it.

Related: My Summer Mix Tape; My October Mix Tape

31 July 2008

The Survey for People Who Make Websites 

My mates at A List Apart are conducting a survey for people who make websites. If you are a designer, developer, information architect, project manager, writer, editor, marketer, or in any way/shape/form involved in making websites, go now and spend five-to-ten minutes and take the survey. Last year nearly 33,000 people took the survey and loads of really important information came out of it. For 2008, A List Apart gave the survey a good overhaul, tweaking/fixing/improving lots of things, especially for us freelancers out there.

A List Apart: The Survey for People Who Make Websites This is an important time for this industry, as large companies are considering that maybe the website isn’t just an extension of the IT department, and maybe I can stop just checking “Other” for what industry I’m in when I’m filling out pretty much any form online. Data collected from The Survey goes a long way toward showing the world what’s going on behind the scenes of this internet people are so excited about.

24 July 2008

Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible


I had no idea what I was in for when Anna sent me a link to the site for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. The name alone is fantastic, and then I’m greeted by a glorious graphic of Neil Patrick Harris donned in evil villain garb. Who could resist digging further?

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog is the creation of Joss Whedon. It’s a 45-minute film he co-wrote and directed starring Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day. Whedon basically got a bunch of his friends to pitch in, and, without the aid of studios or major (even minor) funding, made a movie and put it up on the internet. It was free for about five days, and now it’s available on iTunes for a mere $3.99.

It’s a fantastic, funny story, and also happens to be a musical (I kid you not). You can tell it’s not heavily-funded, but honestly, more money would have just added a bit of polish. The brilliance, talent and entertainment is all there. It’s a great example of how much can be done with very little.

I have no doubt they’ll make their money back and, given how little time they spent on it, I imagine they’ll see some good return on it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that professional writers and studios are worthless. But rather, this movie proves the notion that to be a success you don’t necessarily need to market to the masses. In fact, there is a lot of success to be had in the niche where you can be more original, more interesting, and get a more devoted set of fans than if you’re just making the next episode of a rapidly-forgotten reality television show.

Lastly, if you think that applies only to movies and television… well, then, think again.

Check out Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. There you can find a link to buy it on the iTunes Music store. You’ll be glad you did.

25 June 2008

Beating the Heat and the Gas Prices with My Scooter

My Scooter, with odometer reading 1263.3

It’s been just about a year since I bought my scooter. As you can see, I have gotten some decent use out of it, traveling over 1200 miles. I’ve had lots of fun driving all over the Denver metro area and finding the scooter to be even more useful than I anticipated. It’s nimble, fun, and exactly what I need for day-to-day driving. I think everyone should have one.

Here are a few stats for a year of riding (thanks to the geniuses at My Mile Marker):

  • Total Miles: 1263.3
  • Avg Miles Per Gallon: 93.9
  • Total Spent On Gas: $39.35
  • Projected Costs for next year: $42.75 (ouch!)

I’ll post again next year with the results. I have a hunch the numbers will be higher since I’ve, again, moved my office out of my house. It’s the perfect commuting vehicle. I just toss my lunch, MacBook Air, and house keys into the little compartment in the back, don my helmet, and ride off to work. You can’t beat it!

To quote Ferris Bueller (who was referring to a Ferrari): “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.“

My Scooter

22 May 2008

Why ExpressionEngine Should Be Your Next CMS 

Mr. Irelan waxes on about how rad ExpressionEngine is. I keep meaning to write a post like this, explaining just why I keep using it for pretty much every client site I do. The only problem is I’m too busy building ExpressionEngine sites to write about it.

17 April 2008

My Work on NetNewsWire

NetNewsWire Icon - Really Big

Recently Brent Simmons put up the latest version of NetNewsWire which includes a small attribution to yours truly in the release notes. Settle down, settle down, return to your seats, people.

The little itty-bitty thing I worked on was the page that shows up in the web browser when you hit a page that either doesn’t exist or the browser can’t find for some reason (the internet is down, server is down, etc).

This is the first time I’ve had the pleasure of having my work included in someone else’s Mac software. The kinda funny thing is that it’s been in there for nearly two years! I first sent that file to Brent sometime around the summer of 2006.

The error page has gotten better and more savvy since then, as I occasionally update it whenever I either find a way to improve it or tweak something that’s been bothering me about it. Brent always slides it into the next private beta and it eventually makes it to the public.

Another small thing I worked on that nobody will notice is that I redid the credits page in the “About” box. (Go to menu item: NetNewsWire -> About NetNewsWire) When I was nosing around the resource files, I saw that the credits page was an html document so I went in, took out all the font tags and made it all standards compliant. While you’re looking at that, you can scroll about 30% down the list and see my name.

So, this is just one of the myriad things I do when I probably should be doing real work. Better than starting fires and playing in traffic, eh?