Sleeping late is a bad idea

Staying up late is almost always a bad idea these days. Especially two hours over.

Note to self: get an earlier start, 1130pm is get-your-ass-off-the-internet hour. Otherwise, zombiefication might occur.

But man, watching basketball is so engrossing.

Times when the mountain never lets up on you.

“Death is lighter than a feather, but Duty is heavier than a mountain.”

― Robert Jordan, To the Blight

Sometimes, it feels like The Pick and Roll is exactly that. Obviously, I knew it the moment I made the decision to start it, but it’s been an incredibly fulfilling, educational, and at the same time, one of the most exhaustive things I’ve ever done. There is no off day, no offwhateveritis. I’m deeply thankful to #TeamPnR for being there and helping out with various aspects of the site. From writing articles to promoting them. Posting entertaining content to keep the fans coming back for more. Committing to our advertisers and keeping the ship afloat. Endless discussions with the core. Too many to name, and if any of you are reading this: never forget that The Pick and Roll would not be what it is right now, without you. And for that, I’m just glad to have a group of enthusiastic folks share in what seemed like an idea born out of frustration, supreme self-confidence that we could pull it off somehow, and of course, like Terry put it – naivety.

At this point though, I’m just chugging along with a stubborn unwillingness to not make it happen – I’ll do every and any task required to take it to the next level, even if it means burning the candle at both ends and losing more sleep. Just hanging on for the ride!

None of this would have happened of course, without the immense (and sometimes seemingly insane) amount of time and energy I’ve invested. And how did that happen? Only with the unfailing support of my family, have I been able to work at this with 100% focus; safe in the knowledge that my mum, my brother, and my wife would be there to help with everything else. Of course, the reality check inevitably comes, and decisions have to be made.

Life never stops grinding, and it’s all about rolling with the changes that happen, and making adjustments. Whoever said it would be easy? But hell, that’s exactly what I signed up for. One way or another, rest assured in the fact that The Pick and Roll is going to grow.

Settling into the new routine.

This is what life on a weekday looks like after The Pick and Roll site was launched last month.

  1. Sleep an average of 5-6 hours.
  2. Get up, go to work. START GRINDING.
  3. Answer #TeamPnR emails if I have a few minutes to spare.
  4. Fix up publishing mistakes pronto if any of the other guys notice something.
  5. Enjoy an hour of lunch and quiet reading.
  6. Get off work.
  7. Enjoy dinner, family time.
  8. Proofread and format at least three drafts and schedule them for publishing. Leave feedback for writers.
  9. Attend to anything else that’s required. This varies from discussing new ideas for articles to checking site statistics to sorting T-shirt orders to preparing contests to finding some amazing new plugin to make the site better. For example, I spent about 3-4 hours last night creating the Editorial About page. Or sometimes, it’s just talking with Steve and Terry to get ideas on what needs to be done.
  10. Check the site to see if any drafts have been unattended to. Making sure nothing gets left on the shelf, very important.

Weekends are sometimes worse, especially if I have spare time on my hands. For example, I probably spent eight hours (minimum) clearing up drafts and tidying bits and pieces all over the place.

I’m looking forward to spreading the load out more among the editors, and to spend less time slogging like a workhorse every night at this. Not complaining though, it’s more of a labour of love than anything else.

The other upside: I’m starting to write more at Celtics Down Under, which is one of the reasons I started the site to begin with, but ironically got sidetracked into doing so much of the other stuff essential to running the site, writing got sidelined. Hoping I keep the writing up this time!

Taking it to the next level.

Life is about learning, and growing. It’s about making mistakes, recognising that we fcuked up really bad, and knowing we shouldn’t be repeating the same dumb actions anytime soon. Not only do we learn at work, I believe it’s essential, even critical that we learn from every aspect of our lives.

Knowledge is the key to being a better person, and only by keeping an open mind and retaining that willingness –perhaps even an active hunger– to learn, can we get better.

Enough of the life philosophy, we’ll shelf that for a bit. I’m writing tonight because things have come a long way for this latest project in the past months, back when it was just an idea being tossed around on Facebook and emails, to the brand it is fast becoming.

What the hell am I talking about? Namely, the birth of an NBA opinion site known as The Pick and Roll. From a personal perspective, this is becoming an ideal marriage between my two passions, writing and basketball. Add the years of experience from messing around with WordPress, general knowhow with PHP/HTML/CSS, and a stint of writing for other sites since last year, and everything just seems to click into place. Nothing you learn is ever wasted, and this is fast becoming reality.

Granted the site isn’t even launched at this point, but I have high hopes for the site, and am deeply thankful to everyone who has been involved in it so far. The level of enthusiasm and belief in the vision has been mindblowing so far, and should it do well in the days ahead, a great deal of credit will go to everyone at #TeamPnR.

The people factor

What is my role in it though? I sum it up in three words: getting shit done. Uncouth as it sounds, that’s more or less my forte.

Half my time is spent vetting writer applications, proofreading drafts and to stay accessible to writers who need their concerns addressed. As it is with everything else, open communication is the key.

One is limited by one’s resources at hand however, and so the plan is to train up dedicated editors who will be able to form a synergistic relationship with their writers and produce quality work together. As a writer, it is often all too easy to get caught up in pride and believe one’s work is perfect, but sadly reality is often otherwise. Rather than being grammar Nazis, I firmly believe editors are there to offer guidance, support and improve the level of writing.

To quote what I tweeted the other time:

I also spend time talking to potential partners/merchants who would be keen to work together with us in promoting their products. While not a major focus right now, it is something that needs to be done gradually in terms of building relationships. No better time to start than now!

Of course, credit also goes to the social media guys for building up such a strong presence. The Facebook page has been steadily growing since last year, and the Twitter account has gained a decent following of nearing 4,500 at the time of this writing.

Much credit goes to:

  • The unsung efforts of Terry’s analysis in building Twitter up, and also in scouting talented writers who would be keen to join up.
  • The ceaseless work done by our Mr X on tweeting solid content, day in, day out.
  • Steve’s work on the Facebook page, and also on slowly expanding our focus on the NBL, along with Dean.
  • And of course, not forgetting everyone else who are actively contributing to site launch.

The techie bit

The other half is used in research on the site, tinkering with ways to make the backend easier for the writers and editors. WordPress in its vanilla form is functional as a writing platform, but is hardly intuitive for a multi-author site, especially one that requires constant communication and collaborative discussion.

With the use of appropriate plugins, the backend is extensively enhanced when it comes to ease of use. Providing a clean and uncluttered interface is very important for the writers, and showing them a thousand options and menus after logging in just isn’t the way to go.

How about making life easier for the editors as well? It probably doesn’t mean much to the big picture, but I managed to find a plugin that would display a dropdown list of authors as a filter. Trust me when I say it makes a huge difference in the ease of navigation, because an editor would be able to view the posts of his assigned author, rather than having to wade through a chronological sea of posts by everyone else.

Work was also done on setting up an internal mailing list for the writers, just so that important updates reach the ones who are not on the Facebook group. CC and BCC works, but it gets unwieldy after a certain number of people get onto the recipient list.

-start of rant-
Not forgetting the gritty, hands on stuff like domain registration, web hosting, updating patches, creating user accounts, resetting passwords and all that. And talk about teething issues! For a while, there was a real problem with displaying accented characters on the site, which nearly drove me nuts because the hosting provider declared it wasn’t their problem. That brought on countless hours of fruitless Googling. It wasn’t until I did a clean WP install with the same setup (sans data) and proved conclusively it wasn’t the software, that finally got them going for a deeper look. (It turned out to be a PHP setting on the Apache web server in the end.) These are the kinds of issues no one would be interested in knowing about, other than asking if it has been fixed yet. Annoying, but someone has to do it.
-end rant-

The system

More than the technology however, comes the need for a system. There has to be a recognised process in getting things done, along with training/communication in getting everyone to adhere to a common mode of operation.

With this in mind, self-help guides were written and placed within the backend for reference. A simple flow chart was drawn up to clearly illustrate how articles would be handled from inception to publication. Granted advice and guidance is still necessary for everyone to come on board with the system, but I’m a firm believer in documentation being the foundation for structured processes.

As with everything else that requires juggling multiple balls in the air, a tracking system is required. Nothing complex, but something as simple as a spreadsheet would allow tasks to be kept on track, along with writer profiles and other equally important information. The key here is discipline of course.

The legalese

Wording the terms of use, having a privacy policy, all of these are important because they outline what the site does, and demarcates a boundary for everyone to know where they stand. Recognising the rights of the writers in terms of the content they produce, and most importantly? Handling intellectual property with care. It’s easy to be irresponsible and grab stuff off the internet, but treating material with the proper respect takes effort.

Referencing existing policies out there, to understanding what we needed and reworking the terms to our requirements. Even with the assistance of a law professional, all of these took the better part of a week

In short

A lot of work, a lot of energy invested, and along with it comes a lot of hope and pride. It’s no joke juggling a day job while getting this on track, and I have to be thankful to my family for being supportive on this, for allowing me the space and time to get work done.

It’s been an exhausting journey so far, but there’s a lot to be said for things you are passionate about. Things are gonna be LEGENWAITFORITEFFINGDARY.

Battery low.

Yet another one of those nights. I’m too bushed to write anything meaningful, so this is it. I can feel my lifespan shortening, a bit at a time heh.

Good night folks, have a good weekend.

FEED YO KID! (aka Running on fumes.)

Growth spurts can be deadly for the parent.

Elly gets hungry easily these days, and that has been carrying over into the wee hours as well. Hello graveyard shift once more. I have not been sleeping in my own bed for the past week, simply because she slept in the living room on her daybed after the graveyard feed. Guess who’s elected for sentry duty?

A good thing beanbags are a great substitute for beds.

That being said, I was averaging five hours of sleep a day. So very tired, I crashed into bed right after bathing Elly and blacked out for a couple of hours on Friday night. The game plan now is to get enough food into her, a challenge considering how easily she gets distracted.

The one ironclad rule that’s hammered into my mind these days: feed your child until they conk out from carb overload, period. They sleep, you happy man. They pissed, you get pissed on.