Between November 2011 and June 2012, I only published two posts: my introduction to blogging tutorials part 1 and part 2. It may seem like I fell of the edge of the world, but I was actually fairly busy. Now that I look back on it, I accomplished a lot in that short span of time.
I created some apps.
My wife and I have been thinking about moving back to California basically since we moved to Austin. The problem is that California is really expensive. So for awhile we were looking at places in Oregon, Colorado, and everywhere else west of Texas.
When you don't have a job or family to move for, it is actually really hard to just pick a place. So, being a developer (not a programmer), I wrote up a small app in PHP and CodeIgniter to rank different cities on a range of criteria.
For the data I used city-data.com, a brewery directory, localhikes.com, weather data, etc. The factors I looked at were population, density, climate, average cost of living, well-being index, the number of breweries per person, number of hiking trails, etc. Oh it also gave bonus points for being near to Costco, an airport, and Trader Joe's. I came up with a really complex rating system that was a lot of fun to build, but ended up not being so useful.
The problem was that I could continually tweak the formula to make one city end up better than another. Just favor low density and suddenly mountain towns far away from everything shoot to the top. Or favor cost of living and all the cities in the midwest rise above everything in California. Ultimately it didn't help us decide anything, but every time we hear about a new place to live, I add it to the database to see how it compares. The code is pretty terrible (I skipped using a model), but I might someday put it up on GitHub at least.
I also made a similar app for cars, but to measure a very specific stat: horsepower to weight ratio. The "app" lets you rank them based on that output. I also threw in the dollar amount per unit just for a fun comparison. I used this for comparing hatchbacks. Although at first it seems interesting, it quickly becomes obvious that yes, with a few notable exceptions, you generally pay a premium for diminishing returns in performance. No duh.
I took some online courses.
After debating it for months, a coworker asked me if I wanted to split a course taught by Ramit Sethi called Earn1k. It is supposed to teach you how to earn $1,000 in a side business, with a heavy focus on freelance consulting.
Although I had already had some mild success with that, I never devoted enough effort to earn more than a couple hundred dollars a day. Part of the reason was that I always hated having deadlines looming over my head and doing freelance while still working a full time job is pretty draining. Earn1k was great though because it gave me a lot of information on dealing with clients that I was able to use at my job at SiteGoals; both with my bosses and with actual clients.
At the time I was working heavily on Evenflow, so it also helped shape some of the strategy both for the production and the marketing of that app. In the end, I felt like the course was worth it and I hope to go back and follow it more rigorously sometime in the future.