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Be Kind, Rewind

Weekend mornings were made for reflection. I have a strong cup freshly ground coffee in my hand, and a head full of ideas. Shall we begin?

This blog has been stale for too long, I know. I added one small dispatch on the merits of mechanical keyboards, a post that, in retrospect, needed to address a myriad of topics. At the time, my head was simply too cluttered: I lacked the mental energy to cover them well, so I reverted to a topic that was of recent interest.

This post is the update my friends and contacts were likely expecting.

2015

Last year was an infinitely complex rollercoaster of emotion, and the latter months were it’s climax. In early November, as I was preparing for my talk at Nodevember, a couple of crucial pieces of studio gear began to fail. In fact, my main console failed while we were on the air.

If you’re a new friend, you may not realize that the past two years of my life were spent running The Machine, an online broadcasting network. We were a tightly knit group of volunteer radio storytellers, brought together by the common goal of creating fiercely educational, intelligent programming. The Machine was home to Dispatch, Inside the Machine, The Chillcast, Chick Habit — many others came and went, but these programs were mainstays in the lives of listeners around the globe.

We worked with local and nationally-recognized acts, shared the stories of local businesses, and provided insightful cultural critique when it was required. Bands like The Cellphones (pictured below) rocked our live performance series — I wanted this to continue forever.

A photo from our last show.

And now, for the first time in many months, the world is quiet.

Once our studio console died, I was faced with a potentially costly decision. Like any other nonprofit, The Machine never had adequate funding.

When I say we didn’t have money, I’m not joking. Many of my friends, including Charles Riffenburg (who handled our artwork design), and Jana Kinsman (the talented illustrator behind our signature record logo), offered their services pro-bono. But even with that help, it was tough to finance bandwidth and other outside costs. Donations, of money and time, were the lifeblood of The Machine.

Given the options and constraints, the number of potential outcomes, positive and negative, was rather short:

  1. Replace the failing console with another of similar quality?

  2. Shutter our broadcast operations.

  3. Ask for new donors to step in and fill the budgetary shortfall.

In the end, we chose a combination of the latter options. We asked our expansive listener base to step up with a monthly contribution of $5 USD. This would defray the cost of replacing gear, and push us towards financial sustainability.

Unfortunately, less than 0.00006% of our listeners responded (yes, I calculated that). Some instead took to Facebook, where they shared stories of having downloaded the whole back catalog of a given show, rather than contributing to keep it on the air. Most were just silent.

This realization, that I would be shuttering a project I launched in July 2013, weighed on me as I flew to Nashville for the conference. Ultimately, I knew it was the right thing to do, but I still faintly hoped that listeners or a sponsor would sweep in with the financial support we so desperately needed.

When I stepped onstage at Nodevember, nothing else mattered. My head was clear (if I could ignore the headache), and I had one purpose: to deliver an insightful talk in front of a packed house.

My talk at Nodevember. Photo by @GeorgeSpake.

By the time I finished, the decision was made. I could live with silencing The Machine because another passion would take over.


I am a man of many passions; radio storytelling is but one of them. But out of everything I love to do — deejaying, photography, or programming — one other passion is always linked: teaching.

In early high school, I authored curricula for a elementary introduction to robotics. Later that semester, I presented the course in our suburban home to a very excited class, with the blessing of our homeschool covering. Later, I taught photography to a similar audience, and I’ve continued this process in recent years, as I became a substitute teacher at a local college.

The desire to teach always stays with me, regardless of my current discipline. Even this blog entry could be, for someone, educational. I speak, write, investigate, and repeat; because I am a teacher.


The night before leaving Nashville, I consulted my friend Jeff Barczewski. With a beer in hand, I unwrapped the (previously private) concept behind Until Now. He approved, bolstering my confidence with a story of his own. I left the conference armed with a newfound sense of purpose.

With the support of my wife and encouragement of a friend, I landed in Chicago and immediately filed the paperwork for a new LLC. By mid December, my consultancy had signed it’s first client.

The holidays would pass with moments of quiet celebration, at home, via Skype.

2016

At 11:59PM, December 31, I was sound asleep. Big changes awaited my dormant body, predominantly, fatherhood. That’s right, this month we welcome a little Minion into the Young household. Life will be permanently altered, and while many joke about the expected lost sleep, I look forward to it.

No other experience in life can measure up to being called “Dad,” that very first time.

As I write this, Minion has not yet arrived. I’m settling in to a comfortable work schedule as a JavaScript consultant, chatting with future clients, and working on my next talk. If everything goes according to plan, by December, I will meet the following professional goals:

  • Speak internationally. (If you run a conference, get in touch.)

  • Work with a diverse group of clients, across multiple languages and problem domains.

  • Write more. (I’m working on this one right now.)

  • Finish the software ideas that are in progress, and only document new ones.

The latter is similar to one of my 2013 resolutions, but finishing what you start never goes out of style.


In the future, expect more JavaScript tutorials and career advice. I’ll share more when our Minion arrives too.

The Machine went silent on December 1, 2015. A baby is arriving. A new personal direction that feels so right.

Let’s do this.

Photo credits: @nicholaswyoung | @georgespake.

Published 17 Jan 2016