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New Year's in Algarve

New Year's in Algarve

Just came back from the second consecutive New Year's trip to Algarve, Portugal. Last year we went to Lagos, so this time we went for a house in Vale da Telha, Aljezur. Which is basically still Algarve, south Portugal.

I find it delightful to be able to have beach fun around New Year's, mainly because I could never have that for most of my live in Romania, where temperatures in December and January are usually around zero Celsius.  

With a total of 9 friends, some came later, some left earlier, our days were usually waking up, getting coffee, a good stretch, then everyone pitching in on getting the breakfast ready. Having so many people preparing breakfast made it a highly diverse and consistent breakfast, which was great for the day ahead.

Some days we went hiking towards the breathtaking views of the ocean cliffs. We used Gaia GPS to find secret trails towards the ocean front.

Other days we left a bit later and made it a beach day. The water was cold, about 17 degrees Celsius, but I was proud to go on an adventure into the foamy waves for a proper swim.

Got to play Spikeball which is highly active and fun to play.

As for the rainy Tuesday we had, good thing I brought board-games and my PlayStation 4, we did a solid game day by the fireplace.

Looking forward to 2022!

Bye bye 2021

There's one more sunset of 2021, and I'm aiming at getting some mind space for a retrospective of the year that passed.

Despite the plague, which is still rolling around, it's been a good and full year.

I've been blessed with a lifestyle that I could only dream of, enjoying sunny and warm days, amazing views, delicious food and doing plenty of what makes me happy.

Plenty of activities, trips, new friends and new experiences. I can only hope that 2022 brings more of each.

I understand that everything changes, and things left by themselves tend to go from bad to worse, but what I intend on keeping is my positive attitude towards life, my laughs and smiles, and keeping up the good work.

As I rarely have vacations, this week feels a bit weird. There's nothing that I have to do. Of course there's plenty that I can do, but nothing urgent, nothing important. I guess it's a good time for some downtime and reflection.

And Netflix. The Witcher and Outlander.

And PlayStation. For the last few years I played one single-player game per year. Head to tails, in a few weeks.

A bit about me

So I finally made some updates on my site to make it more appealing (for me, at least). Two main things are worth mentioning.

  1. I updated my blog by removing all images.

    I feel like I have the photography section for the highly visual creations, so it made sense to have the blog focused on words.

    This way, I hope I'll be motivated to write more.
  2. The about section of this site was a little thin, showcasing more about the site itself than about me.

    So I added some info on me and my past.

    This has been a bit of an effort, as I usually am a pretty private person and I intend to keep it that way.

Oh, and I thought about it and couldn't find a reason to keep the footer so I sent it away.

A pinch of Seville

Plaza de España

Yesterday went on a little road-trip to Seville, because it was just 2.5 hours drive away, and because... why not?

Seville is a large and marvellous city in south-west Spain, very animated, with narrow streets, big parks, orange trees and exotic birds.

I thought it's not a very touristic time being middle of November.

I thought wrong.

All the main attractions were packed with people and the city center was full of life. Seemed like there's a continuous festival going on.

Accomodation near the center is a bit expensive in weekends, somewhere between 90 EUR and... well... no limit.

Traditional bars and restaurants are pretty much on almost every street, and it's a shame not to try the jamon iberico, the churos, and even the paellas.

And then there are the parks...

Huge, green, lively parks, full of all the exotic trees and birds make it a great place to get some fresh air and good vibes.

Last but not least, there's Plaza de España which is a definitely must-see if you're in Seville...

November seems like a wonderful time of the year to visit both south of Spain and south of Portugal. Not too cold, not too hot, just the right weather to go around and explore.

The social media publishing conundrum

The social media publishing conundrum

As I mentioned before, I'm not keen of producing a ton of content on social networks, or any closed 3rd party platform, as that involves granting a license to your content, contributing only to their success and expansion.

However, social media still is an important source of exposure, where your content easily reaches your friend and followers. So I went back and forth for a while as to where should I publish content that I'm creating, being nature or travel photos, or my portrait photography adventures that I'm so passionate about.

The secondary aspect that troubled me for quite a while is how do I keep my Instagram account clean and tidy. If I post a mix of everything I do or like, it will become a salad of everything. And I'm not the "salad of everything" kind of person.

Of course all the main content goes on my website, so then what do I do with social media? I tried creating a secondary Instagram account, just for the portrait photography, but then found it's hard to increase the follower base and it felt like I'm wasting precious time for nothing. Then I started publishing portrait photos together with nature & travel photos. Then I concluded that it might be sub-optimal to mix these two, as followers interested in nature photography might not be interested to see gorgeous women & man. And the other way around.

So I (re)started using a different secondary account called Chuckleberry Sin, because I liked the ring to it. So I've posted and posted and posted. And finally, after over a month of constant publishing on a daily basis, I got... 3-6 new followers. Bummer!

In the end (meaning up to today), I decided to publish them on my own Instagram account, alternating a nature & travel photo with a portrait one. And I intend to do this for the next 6 months. Then I'll draw conclusions.

Follow me on Instagram to see what I mean.

You are your greatest treasure

You are your greatest treasure
Photo by chloe / Unsplash

I often find myself getting involved into project, hobbies, jobs, relationships, adventures. Challenges of all types, from financial to finding time to meet with quality people. I love it and it gives me a sense of living a full life.

We gather stuff from all around, value and treasure it, buy it, receive it, gift it or sell it. It’s all a circle of matter, a flow of objects.

I keep finding myself coming back to… what do we really own? What is our treasure? And that seems to continuously be… us.

Me. You.

I am my greatest treasure.

You are your greatest treasure.

I’m excited about reading books. I’ve read about 7 or 8 books this year. And from those, 3 of them I finished in the last 2 weeks. Just because I made it a priority. I found the joy of reading, even if it’s fiction or personal growth.

And everything I read and learn is my treasure, because it’s mine and me and no-one can take it away from me.

I am writing here, because this blog is mine and no-one can take that away from me. Yes, the blog can be taken down, but nobody can take my writing away from me. It’s done. It’s out there. Someone has seen it.

Therefore, everything I write is mine. It’s still my treasure.

Getting into the artistic mood

It is time to bring some art to this website.

Getting into the artistic mood

I realized I now have over 8 thousands professional photos that I took over the last 6 years, of which I've published less than 200.

I tried 500px, I tried Behance, I tried social media.

Nothing sticked.

But now, since I have my very own website, I think I'm going to go the extra mile and publish them here, in the Photography section.

I feel like I'm free to express beauty here, there are no community guidelines and rules, no censorship, no tracking, no cookies, no need for GDPR and regulations.

Just photography.

Enjoy!

The AI beat me at copywriting

The AI beat me at copywriting
Photo by Michael Dziedzic / Unsplash

You might have heard about the new GPT-3 language model that enabled a whole new world of AI-generated content, much closer to human quality than any previous attempt. We’ll among a lot of other AI-powered tool out there, I discovered Copy.AI, a tool that helps craft copy of all types, from sales page to social media posts.

And I was surprised to get some pretty decent results. I asked it to generate Pain-Agitate-Solution type of sales copy, and this is what I got:

Pain: Uptime is critical to your online business. It’s your store front, it’s your signpost, it’s you.
Agitate: You can lose time, money and customers if your site goes down.
Solution: Our Web and SMS monitoring service ensures that your site is up and running 24/7/365 all year round. We watch the site non-stop from all around the world and instantly notifies you if anything goes wrong. We also give you complete control over our monitoring service via our powerful control panel – so you can change your settings at any time.
Pain: Online stores with e-commerce websites running on poorly configured servers can expect a lot of technical difficulties.
Agitate: High-end online stores are crucial for any brand, therefore downtime can prove devastating to almost any business.
Solution: Learn how Monitive – an uptime monitoring service – can help you keep your business up and running around the clock.
Pain: Dealing with customers complaints about websites going down, and losing potential customers during those times.
Agitate: The thing is that not every Internet Service Provider is equipped to monitor website uptime levels for you.
Solution: That’s where Monitive comes in. There are no more excuses and no more downtime! Learn more about our services and how it works.
Pain: Visiting a website but getting an error message? Waiting 24 hours for the customer service to call you back?
Agitate: People working on the Internet should know that it is a very sensitive ecosystem. With over two billion websites online and a thousand more launched every day, every second millions of people experience failures that make their websites unavailable.
Solution: Try Monitive. We automatically monitor your website, and we immediately alert you if something happens. You can count on us to check your websites instantly from all around the world, continuously, 24/7/365. And we never sleep!

All this by feeding it the brand name (Monitive) and the following description:

An uptime monitoring service which checks the customer’s websites non-stop from all around the world and instantly notifies the customer whenever their website goes down. For online business owners.

That’s it. Click “Create”. Boom! Instant copy.

I feel like the copywriter job, and many others, will cease to exist in the not-so-far future. Including software developers. I mean, it makes sense that no human can build computer software better than an AI that has all the manuals, open source code and the complete knowledge available on the Internet.

Until then, let’s enjoy the ride and sunny days.

The hook, the story and the offer

The hook, the story and the offer
Photo by Brady Rogers / Unsplash

Started my day at 7am, to get on top of things and prepare a few Google Ads copy variation for my Ads meeting coming up soon. I see a lot has changed since I last ran my Google AdWords campaigns, now we have three headlines and two long descriptions. Moving up, I see!

Yesterday I learned that whenever your sales or conversion funnel is not working, it’s either the hook, the story or the offer. One or more of these are not compelling, suited for your audience or attractive enough for your target customers. That’s what Russell Brunson is saying in his Traffic Secrets book.

Which does make sense. You’re scrolling your never-ending timeline on your favorite social media time-consuming app once or several times a day.

Some ads catch your attention, some don’t.

For those who do, if they’re attractive enough for you to tap on them, if the story you’re reading isn’t compelling, they lost you. And if they didn’t, you finally get to the “offer”.

Which, again, if it’s not making you dream of having that already, they’ve lost you.

Now, in our scenario, they is you. Or me, to be more precise.

How do I make my funnel perfect for my target audience?

I guess I just have to experiment until I get it… just right.

Powering ON the marketing engine

Powering ON the marketing engine
Photo by Sebastien LE DEROUT / Unsplash

Monday morning. It’s a quarter after 8. Dew drops give me the impression that it’s raining, but the sky is almost clear so I’m looking forward to a beautiful and sunny day in Lisbon.

I’ve been journaling for a lot of years. Started being passionate by writing with pen on paper, then discovered the amazing Moleskine notebooks, and finally discovered the Bullet Journal system and their magnificent dotted Leuchtturm1918 notebooks that I’m using ever since.

However, now I’m writing on my blog. This makes me go a bit beyond the mundane depiction of what happened and how I feel, providing some value to the future reader, but also pushes me to be radically honest about facts and feelings.

Yesterday I went for a walk, then read a few chapters from Hacking Growth by Sean Ellis, and I fell asleep and dreamed about creating a promotion and how would that work. I literally started dreaming about marketing. That’s where I wanted to go at.

Throughout the last 10 years, I’ve built or participated in building about 8 different online products and services. None of them got any significant traction. They all resulted in failure but with a big experience package that I cashed in and used in my next projects.

That’s why I’m completely shifting from building amazing things to learning how to tell compelling stories, identify ideal customers, create offers, build awareness and generate leads.

At least this year, my number one focus will be marketing. I will learn and read and apply everything relevant on this subject.

I am confident that if I gain at least half of the amount of knowledge I have about engineering, but of marketing, it will help me in my dream of improving peoples lives not only by providing useful tools in doing so, but also in getting actual people to use them.

That being said, I started diving head first into the following books and resources:

Rosanna Lopez is helping me out get my marketing strategy straight. She has a huge experience in Digital Marketing and I am deeply grateful for her taking the time to help my awareness-building endeavours take shape.

I started getting active on a few communities during my breaks, just to see what people are sharing, asking or teaching:

And finally, to measure the effectiveness of what I’m learning and applying, I’ve started studying Google Analtics 4, tracking ecommerce sales, setting up my funnels and tracking important conversion events. This is the only way I can measure how my experiments are performing.

Corona and storytelling

Corona and storytelling
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation / Unsplash

It’s Saturday morning. I hear the raindrops falling on the window sill, while I take a sip of coffee. Another rainy day of Frebruary in Lisbon. It’s been almost two weeks since I stepped outside. Somehow, as careful and responsible I’ve been with hygiene, I managed to get the shiny new Corona plague that’s been going around. Around the planet I mean.

That’s fine. Luckly I didn’t have severe symptoms, besides fever, tiredness, head aches, diziness, loss of smell and taste, and - as a bonus - a pink eye. And even more luckly, I have new antibodies to enjoy life even more for the rest of the year.

I’ve started diving deep into marketing lately, as I had an epiphany one day. In the 20 years of software and web development, I got really good a building things. Which is what I’m passionate about. However, I suck at marketing the things I build. My main professional goal of 2021 is to generate business for the uptime monitoring service that I founded almost 11 years ago.

I know this will be a long journey, but I’m confident that seeing actual people using the tools that I have built, to make their lives or businesses better is a huge motivator that will ensure I’m waking up smiling and eager to do more magic. Bring in more users. Grow the very machine that I envision will bring me fulfillment.

I have never published my long term vision for Monitive (or any other revenue generating business) and I believe it’s time I make the /about page on the Monitive website truly sketch my True North, my Why and reason to power through each day.

As for this blog, I’ll use it to keep track of my adventures and my groth, business or otherwise, and to practice my writing and storytelling. Because I believe storytelling is a big compass of our lives, especially when it comes to the stories that we tell ourselves.

Nevertheless, I hope the content on my blog is a useful beacon for my readers, as I didn’t keep a blog for nearly 20 years. Didn’t feel I have something important to say. Now, after 37 years of life, I think I have some stories and knowledge to share. And that I never stop sharing.

New year, new organizing tools

New year, new organizing tools
Photo by Hunter Haley / Unsplash

It’s a new year, so a good opportunity to try out new organizing tools and techniques to improve time management and, of course, my peace of mind.

For this year, I’m trying out two things:

1. Workflowy

Workflowy is a very neat organizing tool, where you can create infinitely nested lists, thus organizing your whole personal and work life using just bullet lists.

Use the invite link to get 250 extra monthly items, on top of the 250 you’d get for a normal free account.

2. Calendar as a to-do list

After reading Work from a calendar, not a To-Do list and The Case Against To-Do Lists (and What to Use Instead) I decided to give it a go and see how that works. Therefore, large tasks taking more than a couple of minutes go on my calendar instead of my To Do list (for which I usually use Bullet Journal).

First post

Starting with the Big Bang, there is always a first. This is the first blog post.

First post

It is a chilly evening in late December. I’m sipping Rooibos tea from a metal cup, typing on my my 2014 MacBook, on a round wooden table. Being a bit cold in the house, I turned on the AC to help out the two electric heaters. I don’t yet know how the electricity bill will look like, but it doesn’t seem to bother me that much. Not yet, anyway.

I am very enthusiastic about my new personal website, since it’s something I didn’t have for nearly 20 years. I envision it as a nice and cozy place, with interesting and helpful information for any web wanderer that lands here.

I aim to improve my story-telling skills, including the stories I tell myself. I aim to be radically honest, to build meaningful and healthy relationships with the people I come into contact with, I aim to learn and grow. I feel that I have learned a lot, and that the time to give back is coming.

I wish to help and inspire others, just like I was helped and inspired. I think I can pinpoint a handful of advice I’ve been given throughout the years that have become a part of my inner being. They became the compass of how I choose to live my life. I will share them in time.

And last but not least, I aim to go outside the norm.

To think outside the box.

To unlearn preconceptions and society constructs.

To live a full life.

To perpetually fall in love.