What? Two posts that aren't over a week apart?! Believe it...
A lot of exciting stuff going on over here.
First - I have seroiusly neglected my friends and my desire to have fun for the past few months because I've been working on an awesome project (Sorry guys, I love you and miss hanging out). I haven't been this excited about working on something until I wrote my book (yeah... the marketing part of the book isn't so fun).
And the good news is... I'm almost done! I've built what I think is THE BEST multivariate testing suite available. Multivariate testing, for those interested, is the process of running tests on your site which show different combinations of variables to each visitor to figure out which combination yields the most sales/e-mail conversions/rss subscriptions/etc.
Examples of variables are things like headlines, colors, graphics, and button sizes.
One visitor might see headline A in a blue color with a picture of a dog and a large button. The next user might see headline B in red with a picture of an airplane and a small graphical button. The software tracks all of your visitors and calculates which combination had the most conversions.
I first came across Multivariate Testing when I worked at Smiley Media. I was charged with researching the different products and picking the best one for us to use. I had meetings and phone calls with all of the major players in the industry. We ended up going with a company that cost over $7000/mo.
It was great software and was useful, but I always got the impression that whoever designed the software had never owned a site that he was trying to optimize. The interface lacked, the test creation process was extremely cumbersome and error prone, the results were difficult to interpret. When you did finally find a winning combination you then had to design it AGAIN manually and upload it to your server.
Still... it was an invaluable tool and was worth the money we paid.
I wanted to optimize my Make Her Chase You site, but couldn't afford the $7k for the software we used. So what did I do? I started making my own program. My first test let me cut 80% of my advertising costs because my program can easily analyze different traffic sources independently. I then tried a new set of bullet points that my friend suggested and my e-mail conversion rate improved by about 25%.
My program was awesome.
So I spent 8+ hours every day working on it to make it easy for anyone to use. Of course I kept adding new features too.
"Wouldn't it be cool if it could..." BAM.. three days gone.
When the test is done with theirs you have to manually create the new page and upload it to your server. What a pain! With mine you click ONE button and the new version is live. Best of all, it doesn't mess with your underlying files. So if you want your old file back, it's no problem.
Why don't the other guys do it like this? I don't really know. That question haunted me while I was building it... "Am I going to hit a wall that makes this method impossible?"
Before this I had never written in PHP, AJAX or MYSQL, the key underlying technologies. I had to learn as I went along from google. As I learned better methods and became a better programmer I rewrote massive sections of code. I learned about MYSQL optimization because I want to make sure that it can handle high loads. Several times I got to brick walls that were seemingly impossible to break through. I'd spent over a week over three lines of code, knowing there must be SOME way to do it. In one case the experts in #php and on forums couldn't figure it out. I refused to give up and found a solution. I had written WAY too much not to figure it out.
Now I'm writing little bit parts. I'm writing help files, adding little functions like renaming test variables, etc. The functionality is done and has been actively tested on my site for the past month. I even did a fresh install last week to make sure it all works seamlessly from the beginning.
I'm really excited to launch it. I think customers are going to flip out at how awesome my program is. The cheapest serious contender is $1250/mo. I'm going to charge way less than that, but it will still be a lot of income and it will be regular. Best of all, they will make way more per month than I'm charging, so it's a win-win!
Anyway... moving on
TICKETS ARE PURCHASED FOR LIFE NOMADIC 2008!
I'm out of here on Jan 7 2008. We've added a couple stops to the trip. Todd is going for sure and Elisia is going to AT LEAST go to Panama. DJ Doug of Tazeroke fame is going to visit us in all the major stops. Lots of other friends are going to meet up with us at some point.
Here are the FINAL SET IN STONE DATES:
Jan 7 - Panama City, Panama
Mar 2 - Los Angeles, United States
Mar 10 - Tokyo, Japan
May 5 - Taipei, Taiwan
June 23 - Hong Kong
July 4 - Doha, Qatar (ironic that we happen to be in the middle east for July 4)
July 6 - Paris, France
That's all we have so far... we had to buy the ticket in two parts. I could not be MORE excited about the trip. I still have to sell my car and RV and some other little stuff, but that's ok. I have a few people interested in the RV. If anyone from the blog is interested, let me know. I'd love to have someone cool continue with it. I still love living in it after 6 months!
I finished learning Japanese!
If you read my forums you know I started it 90 days ago. I didn't miss a day, doing a tape every day. WOW. Three months ago I knew NO Japanese. Now I can definitely say anything I'd need to say. After two months in Japan I'm pretty sure I'll be fluent. I know a bunch of people will tell me how hard it is, but I don't care. I'm ONLY going to speak Japanese there. I've already done 45 hours of speaking and have that stuff down. I'll get it down no problem.
By the end of the year I'll also have Spanish, Chinese, and French down. Don't believe me? Wait and see, ladies...
For those curious souls out there, I did the Pimsleur series. They are AWESOME. Todd is doing the Spanish one now and his Spanish is very impressive now. He's only 2+ months in, too.
I personally challenge everyone reading this to do the full 3 months of a language of their choice without missing a day. I'll call up anyone who does it and give you pickup advice for free or something and will talk about how awesome you are on the blog. Keep track of your progress on the forums. You can get the CDs for free at your library.
Jay-Z has a new album out. It's called American Gangsta and is pretty great. I really like the song "Blue Magic".
I like supporting Jay-Z because I really listen to his albums a TON. In fact, he's 80-90% of what I listen to. I like classical music and Frank Sinatra too. I think I'm going to just send him a check for $15. I have no use for a CD since I don't drive my car anymore, and I don't want some crap 192kHz AAC from itunes. Or maybe I'll buy a CD and throw it away so that everyone else involved with the CD gets money too. Then again, it's $15, so it's not that important.
One more little story.
Back in 2000 I was at UT. I loved rap. I decided I wanted to be able to freestyle. I would download Eminem freestyles and my friends and I would sit around amazed.
One day along with two friends, Cheeze Cracka and Adam Hammonds, I decided to try to learn how to freestyle. We sat in a circle on my bed and took turns.
We couldn't rhyme two lines. Just couldn't. None of us, especially me, had ANY natural aptitude for it.
Ever since that day I've practiced almost every single day. I'm sure I've missed a few days, but I can't remember the last time a day passed where I didn't practice.
I'm not excellent by ANY means, but I'm good. I can go pretty much indefinitely, rap about actual content (rather than regurgitating and rephrasing popular rap cliches), and don't feel embarassed when I freestyle in front of people.
For the first YEAR I couldn't do more than a couple lines.
Soon I could do a couple rhymes and then weave in a few lines I'd thought of before.
A couple years later I could freestyle for fifteen or twenty seconds.
Then I got to the point where I could go for a while but would constantly repeat the same phrases. I thought I was good, but it was embarassing to listen to recordings because I repeated stuff so much.
After that I reached the level where I could go for a very long time and rarely repeat myself. But my range was limited to things from other rap songs (selling drugs, making money, getting ladies, etc.).
NOW I'm at the point where I can rap about 50% about how great I am (an easy topic) and 50% about situational stuff. Obviously the goal here is to get to 100% situational. I occasionally back myself into a corner where I can't think of a good rhyme in time so I say something lame or that doesn't make sense.
Also, my intonation isn't great now. I'm not very emotionally expressive with my voice. This is getting better, but not quickly. I AM getting better at varying my rhyming pattern by doing segments of quick rhymes, segments with pauses and callbacks, etc.
I'd say my skills are somewhere around 6/10. 5 on a bad day and 7 on a good day.
My recent breakthrough has been getting over my fear of freestyling in front of other people. Half the time I'll freestyle sometime during tazeroke, which I think will be very beneficial to me.
Anyway... it's just cool to think about how practicing a skill for just a little while each day can really bring some benefit down the line. What else should I practice? What can you practice?
That's it for now. If I was a reader of my blog I would be disappointed with it recently. I'm aware of the problem and will fix it, so hang in there!
Great Post! You've motivated me as well. I studied French for four years in high school. Then, last year I started studying again when I was dating this French Cougar but quit once that was over. Now, I'm back! Yesterday, I went to the Library and got the Pimsleur Conversational French Audiobook. Fluency...here I come!
Ty, we need to bully Jonah into getting back on the Pimsleur wagon.
I've been doing the French Pimsleur, by no means as regularly as Ty, but it has helped my pronunciation immensely. I took 3 years of French in high school, and realized that for all the vocab and verb conjugations and tenses that I learned, I never actually learned how to speak it off the cuff at all. I would also vouch for Pimsleur in the sense that it really sticks with you: I have not been regular AT ALL (you're supposed to do one 30 minute lesson a day), and have sometimes gone a week or two between lessons, but I have yet to forget anything that I've learned.
You've inspired me and I'm on the case!
Did the first French tape today and it kinda made my head hurt! Technically, I should already be close to fluency in French since my parents originated from the lovely little island of Mauritius - but I was born in the UK and have never before fully committed myself to learning French.
I realised after the first few moments of the tape that this would be a slight uphill struggle as I'm going to have to rewire the bad habits and incorrect pronunciations that have become inset from previous attempts to teach myself. Perhaps this is why my head was hurting as I attempted to battle my instincts and instead pronounce phrases exactly as the tape did.
I'll let you know how it all turns out.
Tim Ferriss has a new post on language acquisition: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2007/11/07/how-to-learn-but-not-master-any-language-in-1-hour-plus-a-favor/
Very interesting stuff. I am studying spanish now.
if you have any questions with PHP, I'd be happy to help you.
I've worked with it since php3 which gives me about 10 years experience with it.
I hope you do well with your new software.. from what I saw it looked pretty cool.
I can do a security audit and review any trouble spots you might have as well since my background is in security.
I've noticed a commonality in all the great "pick up artists" and it's that you guys lead the most interesting lives.
Hey when you're in Japan are you just going to visit Tokyo or are you going to explore other areas of Japan as well? If you ever make it to the Hokuriku region I'd love to show you around.
When you're in Japan are you just gonna stay in Tokyo or travel around? If you stop on by the Hokuriku region I'd love to show ya around. It's way awesome out here and a totally different experience than what you'd get staying in Tokyo for the entirity of your trip.
Before I start this post - thanks so much to people who came to Karaoke. It was mostly people I already knew, but one reader, Curtis, came. I thought it was totally awesome that he read about Karaoke here and decided to go. Even better, he nailed Guns 'N Roses' Welcome to the Jungle. Also in attendance were my brother and his friends, Steve, Anissa, and Dan from work, and Todd and Doug who helped me run the show.
I had no idea what I was getting into. Things like "hey, I should probably have music for when no one is karaokeing" never even occurred to me. All I had was the leaked copy of Jay-Z's Kingdom Come, so I kept playing that. There was silence, there was no crossfading. That part of the show was a disaster. I also had no idea how to hook stuff up to their system, so the first hour was spent doing that. I felt really bad for people who came during that part.
Finally things got rolling, although I think only 4 people I didn't know sang songs. It wasn't too busy because the weather was cold.
I had a wonderful chat with Oscar del Ben last week. We swapped some interesting ideas, but one that fascinated me was him telling me how fast he learned English. Given I travel a lot, I was curious as to how he did it. Here's his thoughts -
Hey Sebastian, I think that in order to learn languages quickly, you have to use them. It took me a bit to learn English pronunciation, and I still make many mistakes without knowing it, but the trick is to continue despite the mistakes you make. When I was learning, my girlfriend said that there was no chance for me (bad memory, bad pronunciation), but I didn't give a damn.
Anyway, in my case I had some background from school, even though very little. What worked for me was reading tons of books in English, and then talk with other people via skype.
If you only read books, you'll be able to understand 70% of your target language in one month, assuming it's similar to ones you know (I've never tried wit very different languages). But by only reading you'll have no idea about pronunciation, so I encourage you to listen to music or audio as well. Note that you'll have to get the lyrics of the songs, otherwise it will be nearly impossible to understand, even if you already know the language.
With this, you can get very far, but you'll be missing communication abilities, because you never exercise your speaking abilities. To do that, find a friend who communicates in that language over skype (should be easy if you do english exchange), or practice alone by recording your voice.