WIMPgives 2015 to Donate Websites to Eight Nonprofits in Daylong Nov. 7 ‘Hackathon’


Members of local digital media community, WIMP, to help local nonprofits create online presence

Santa Rosa, CA – Members of WIMP – Web and Interactive Media Professionals – will gather on Nov. 7 for a daylong “hackathon,” WIMPgives, during which they will create, free of charge, websites for eight local nonprofits. The event will take place at SoCo Nexus, at 1300 Valley House Dr. #100 in Rohnert Park from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

All work will be provided by WIMP members, over 50 of whom have volunteered for the event. Each nonprofit will be assigned a team of professionals in the various technical disciplines needed to build a website – project manager, web developer, designer, content strategist, online marketing specialist and a student apprentice. The goal is to build a website for each nonprofit in a single day. WIMP also plans to offer continuing support for the sites it builds.

This year’s event is the third annual staging of WIMPgives. The previous two events provided 12 nonprofits with websites. Some $75,000 worth of services were donated at last year’s event alone.

“It’s great to give back to the nonprofits that make Sonoma County a great place to live and work,” said Melissa Geissinger, President and COO of WIMP. “And the results from the first two WIMPgives events were spectacular, with the nonprofits we helped now better able to get the word out about their services and raise funds. But beyond that, we’ve found that coming together for a high-energy, fast-paced project like WIMPgives teaches us about the amount of good that exists in our world and makes WIMP a stronger community. Everybody who volunteers and sponsors tells us afterwards that they got a lot more out of the event than they put in, and I think that’s why it’s been so successful.”

The nonprofits selected to receive WIMPgives websites are Code Blue, Coast Ridge Community Forest, Daily Acts, Halleck Creek Ranch, LandPaths, Rotary Club of Sebastopol Sunrise, Sonoma Valley Dog Owners & Guardians, and Sonoma West Medical Foundation. All were chosen on the basis of need and a commitment to participate alongside WIMP volunteers in the website building process.

WIMPgives takes place thanks to the commitment of the Sonoma County nonprofit community and the support of the generous businesses and individuals that donate money, food or in-kind services. Sponsors include 1 Day Web Designer, Anthroware, The North Bay Business Journal, O’Reilly Media, Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, Slow Food Russian River and SoCo Nexus. Direct donations are still being accepted through a crowdfunding campaign on Plumfund: http://bit.ly/wimpgives.

WIMP – Web and Interactive Media Professionals (http://beawimp.org) – is a community of professionals working in all sectors of digital media. In addition to an active online Facebook community of over 1,000 people from around the world, WIMP also hosts a variety of meetups, classes and workshops from WIMPspace, its coworking and event space located at 201 D Street in downtown Santa Rosa. WIMPspace is a founding member of CASC, the Coworking Alliance of Sonoma County (http://coworksonoma.org).

More information about the WIMPgives event and how to donate or sponsor can be found at: http://wimpgives.com.

More information about WIMP can be found at: http://beawimp.org.

More information about WIMPspace and its coworking and colearning space can be found at: http://wimpspace.com.

Telephone number at WIMPspace is (707) 827-1334.

Life After Wimptator

A screenshot of an email: "Melissa Crain wants to be friends on Facebook."

Melissa and I first met at A’Roma Roasters on Wednesday, April 6th, 2011. It’s easy to remember, because the WIMP meetup was registered on the same day. That’s probably the first sign that we were going to kick ass. Since then, WIMP has changed Sonoma County: it’s a far less lonely place to be a technology or media professional now than it was 5 years ago.

WIMP has changed me, too. For all my labors of love, none have been as enduring or meaningful as WIMP. The friendships I forged, especially with Melissa, Randy, and Cole, are ones I can’t imagine living without.

Now it’s time for more change. After four and a half years, it’s time for me to step down from WIMP leadership. Deciding to resign is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, which I recognize makes me one of the luckiest guys alive. But giving up your baby is hard, especially when it’s doing so well.

First trace of Melissa in my life is a comment on this photo Philip Wyers posted to Facebook in 2010. Nerd humor FTW.

First trace of Melissa in my life is a comment on this photo Philip Wyers posted to Facebook in 2010. Nerd humor FTW.

I have spent the better part of my adult life as a scrappy careerman trying to overcome circumstance — and myself. While the journey continues, my time as a careerman has to end.

I still have ambitions to leave this world a better place than I found it. Hell, I’ll still be a big WIMP supporter. But my priorities have to change… As I approach my 30’s, I want to spend more time with my family and friends. I also want to think about building a family of my own.

And WIMP is growing up. What WIMP needs now is different from what it needed to get started. While I’ve got some skills, I’m no CEO — I learned that the hard way with my startup, Bluebird.

In closing, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for the support. For the creativity. For the love. I’m sure I’ll see you around.

Your Wimptator emeritus,
Josh Simmons

Be Your Business: Don’t Forget to Fail Well

Photo Credit - Chuck Olsen CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Photo Credit – Chuck Olsen CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0

Adversity: The New Normal

It happens. Things go south and it’s not even clear how. Your client and you can’t see eye to eye, or your enthusiastic new business partner has dropped off the radar. The project you’ve invested weeks, months, or years into may never see the light of day.

Failure comes in many forms and the increasing complexity of our projects and the world they operate in doesn’t help. Despite our best efforts, learning the hard way is often the only way. Perhaps this is why modern startup culture has rallied around the mantra: “Fail fast. Fail early. Fail often.” But I spent the better part of my career failing, and the experience leads me to believe the common refrain to be lacking.

Like gymnasts who train to fall properly, I believe we must learn to fail well. Something I never did. It took me 12 years and spectacular failure as a freelancer and as a startup CEO, but I think I’m starting to learn the art of failing well.

Don’t Make Things Worse

Here’s the framework I use. I hope it helps you remain lucid in the face of failure and, FSM willing, makes your next failure a little less painful.

  • Managing Yourself: Stay calm. There are plenty of fish in the sea. Mindfulness meditation, hikes, and frequent visits to the beach helped me through my most challenging failures. We can easily be our worst when things get rough, so proactive self-care is fundamental to failing well.
  • Managing the Relationship: Failure tests relationships with coworkers and with clients. Do not seek blame – most failures are collaborative – but do a post mortem. Your goal is first to establish a conciliatory, productive, tone, and only then dive into the nitty gritty of resolution. Be generous. Learn to apologize well. And, when appropriate, cut your losses.
  • Managing Your Reputation: Do not bad mouth former clients and coworkers. Learn to tell your story without peppering them with mitigating factors – they sound a lot like excuses. But actions speak louder than words, so focus on doing good and learning from the failure.

Those should help you think through your next rebound. But I’d be remiss if I left you with advice only in the abstract. I have stories and practical applications of the above framework in depth, and I’m happy to share my wisdom.

Upgrade to Better Failures

I will close with my list of the top 10 freelance pitfalls. Do your best to avoid these, or at least learn from them!

  1. Fail to Measure: Do not put this off. Do not believe the voice in your head, you should be measuring even if you don’t “have to.” Track your time. Watch your cash flow. Without data, both your business and your welfare is subject to the winds of intuition. With data, you can build ever more precise estimates and craft ever more lucrative proposals.
  2. Work Without a Contract: I don’t care if you are BFFs or married to your client, you need a contract. Even if money is not changing hands, a contract brings clarity to critical issues like ownership of intellectual property, communication standards, and warranty/maintenance. Don’t want to pay an attorney? Look online for templates, or just write a “Memorandum of Understanding” in plain English and have both parties sign it.
  3. Over Commit: It seems obvious but we humans are skilled at overestimating our own abilities, so it bears repeating. Of note, it is shockingly easy to over commit if you have failed to measure and do not know either your capacity or the current utilization of that capacity.
  4. Give it Away for Free: Pro bono work is good. But ask for a recommendation, referrals, or a case study. Even if your invoice shows a 100% discount, send that invoice. And if you’re doing a free consultation, remember you’re there to build a rapport, not to instruct your lead on how to provide the service you are offering.
  5. Surprise a Client: I’m not talking about flowers or wine here. I’m talking about failing to set expectations, or over promising then under delivering. People are more forgiving than you think, so alert them at the first sign of danger. Nothing is worse than radio silence.
  6. Do Everything: Don’t be everything to everyone. Even generalists need a specific hook. Consider subcontracting for things that aren’t central to what you offer. For instance, don’t do your own taxes just because you can. Your time is more valuable than that.
  7. Be an Island: You cannot learn all of the things, and there’s no better way to find new opportunity than to meet new people. Engage the world around you, seek community online and offline.
  8. Work Yourself Out of a Job: Sure, you didn’t choose a creative profession just to find yourself doing sales. But if we only engage in our craft, one day we’ll finish a project and go white with horror as we realize we don’t know where the next check is coming from. We must learn to juggle promotion and production.
  9. Put All Your Eggs in One Basket: Failure is inevitable, but diversity builds resilience. Don’t set yourself up for catastrophic failure by having only one client, or one marketing channel, or one pitch.
  10. Lose Touch with Your Clients: The easiest way to grow your business is by selling more to the clients you already have. Stay “top of mind” with a newsletter and cards for birthdays or holidays.

I’m sure there’s a lot I’ve missed. What advice would you add?

From The Wimptators: Volunteer for WIMP Contribute Day!

Photo Credit - TNaoko Takano CC-BY-NC 2.0

Photo Credit – TNaoko Takano CC-BY-NC 2.0

WIMP has been running for almost 4 years. That’s about 1,460 days or 35,000+ hours. Come April 2015, we will have achieved this with no sign of slowing down. In these near 4 years, the Wimptators (Melissa, Joshua, Randy and myself) have been hard at work pushing the community forward to its limits (hint: we have yet to find those limits!).

From the start, WIMP has been a community driven organization. We have many ideas and aspirations; however, there is only so much time and energy the Wimptators can put in.Even though WIMP is run by the four of us, it relies on the community’s efforts and contributions to make it what it is.

A Time To Give Back

Now is your chance to get more involved. WIMP is represented by the LLC, but it is by all accounts an open source community that thrives off of volunteerism and contribution. Last November we ran the first Contribute Day, we opened the WIMPspace doors for the community to gather and help improve and push forward our infrastructure. At first it was focused on our new website redesign, but we quickly realized there are many other ways one can contribute to the organization.

What’s great is that you aren’t required to be there all day – although I know you can’t stand the thought of being separated from your WIMP family. We had a few Wimps join us throughout the day, with some sticking it out for the whole day. Remember that you are always welcome to drop by at any time in the day, whatever works best for your schedule.

We had Wimps working on press releases, marketing materials, and getting our new website redesign a step closer to completion (note: still a work in progress!). Melissa had already worked on a mockup earlier in the year and we had volunteers slicing the mockup and building the HTML and CSS. We then converted the HTML/CSS into a WordPress theme. Meanwhile, others were working on refining the information architecture and sitemap of the new site.

And there are even more ways you can contribute, besides what we accomplished on the first Contribute Day. There’s always room for help with SEO, editorial work, outlining future events/meetups, design and any other skills you possess. What we’re saying is: this is the time to give back! It can also be a great time to learn something new too! At the same time, it’s not a time to learn something completely new from scratch, but a great opportunity to further your skills and learn.

How Can I Volunteer?

Okay, so you’re pumped and now you want to know how you can join us on this magical journey? You’re in luck, because we plan to host a Contribute Day once every quarter, our next one will be January 17! All you have to do is RSVP to the meetup event and show up!

The only requirement is that you bring a laptop (or some type of mobile computer) and your boundless energy to contribute! If you plan to contribute with development, a GitHub account is required and basic knowledge of Git. If Git is still new to you, don’t sweat! I’ll be more than happy to teach you some basics to get you off the ground, or you might check out this awesome blog post (h/t Quinn Supplee). With all that said, you are also welcome to contribute to our GitHub repos by submitting pull requests! WAT.

I hope to see you at our upcoming Contribute Day! It’s a great time to give back to the community and help us push it to the limit!

From The Wimptators: Launching The WIMP Referral Program

Introducing The WIMP Referral Program

WIMP’s official Referral Program is a big fat GO as of last Friday [Ed: That would be December 12]. It may not seem like a big deal because it’s more or less what we’ve been positioned to do for quite a while, but formalizing and streamlining the process says a lot about where we are today as an organization.

The Impact of Referrals in the WIMP Community

In recent months WIMP has literally been put on the map with the opening of our physical location, and as we’ve put so many more hours into the running of the organization, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people coming to us for help with finding just the right freelancer or agency for their project or position. Up until now it’s been a matter of finding the time to send off a few names of people in the WIMP community we happened to know (through them being engaged in the Facebook group or coming to meetups) that specialize in a certain area.

It’s a great way not just for us to start to see some compensation for our effort, but to also more efficiently track the movements, metrics, etc. and better serve our community.

It’s impossible to quantify just how much work people have gotten as a result of being involved and engaged in the community. We’ve tried, and we have an idea, but what we have learned is that the impact of WIMP goes way beyond what is measurable. The bottom line is that the impact on peoples’ careers has been huge.

At lunch with a couple members one day I asked just how much work they get as a result of WIMP – their answer was about 80%. My mouth literally fell open. I couldn’t even fathom that work that we were doing to bring people together and connect clients with contractors and employers with employees was paying off in such a huge way.

That’s just one example. We have heard so many stories of how Wimps, as a result of engaging in the community, have managed to have success and stability. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re even at least partially responsible for someone finding work, but to me there’s no better feeling in the world.

The Reasoning

We started the formal Referral Program for a few reasons. The first is because we have an increasing number of inquiries that come our way and we’ve been sending them in the direction of all the same people, despite WIMP having well over 1,000 members. We wanted to give all Wimps equal footing and an opportunity to benefit from the jobs that come to us all the time.

The second is that we need revenue streams in order to keep WIMP operating, and establishing a commission for work gained from direct referrals seemed a fair step in that direction. After polling the community first, we settled on the decision of a 5% commission for direct referrals, which is well below average for what I’ve experienced and heard of in the web industry. (I myself have paid companies 20% commission for referrals before and that was beyond painful.)

The Referral Process

one-does-not-simply-make-a-referralOur referral process is a bit different from anything we’ve seen before. We don’t just put a link on a page and point potential clients that way – we recognize that we are the first point of contact. When someone comes to us asking for help, we provide them our Referral Questionnaire. We ask as many questions as we can to match them with the right person or company for their particular needs. We want to uphold our reputation of being a valued resource for the broader community to look to for anything related to digital media.

From there we send them a list of referrals based on Wimps who have submitted an application and been approved for the Referral Program. We match people based on type of service needed, technology and platform, industry specialty, budget, timeline, and a few other factors.

Each Wimp keeps track of their inquiries and jobs and then reports back earnings. It’s a great way not just for us to start to see some compensation for our effort, but to also more efficiently track the movements, metrics, etc. and better serve our community.

Join the Program

If you are a Wimp, no matter what skill level you are (student or seasoned professional) there’s a need for what you have to offer. It’s our biggest wish to see you succeed and have professional stability. Don’t hesitate – fill out the form and we’ll start to send your information to potential clients immediately!

If you need a Wimp, don’t worry, we’ve got you! If you are looking for a web designer, back end developer, social media strategist, video content producer, photographer, copy editor – odds are we have just the right fit for you. Better yet, they’re a vetted and reliable member of the WIMP community!

Share Your Story

Have you or your career been impacted by WIMP in some way? Have client referrals, either direct or indirect, helped you get work and maintain a steady income? We want to hear your stories! Please tell us in the comments section below!

Be Your Business: Meet Your Marketing Future

Later this week, I will turn 46 years old. Not a particularly noteworthy milestone, and I don’t say it as some sort of “dude, you’re old” message, but rather more like, “it’s never too late to define yourself”. Here’s what I mean.

Recently, Forbes published an article talking about marketing trends to watch next year. In it, Forbes contributor Avi Dan talks through some interesting developments, and in them, something extraordinary happened.

The Rise Of The Marketing Technologist

Companies using digital marketing strategies are preoccupied with your eyeballs: using these computers, mobile phones, basically anything with a screen on it to try and get you to engage and interact, with the possibility that you might, someday, possibly, turn into a paying customer. Treating the digital world much like they would the broadcast and print worlds they’ve been working in for decades or longer.

And while the so-called fundamentals are sound, their execution of it is wanting.

So, I was excited to read the following:

We will witness the emergence of the marketing technologists. Too many companies think in terms of digital marketing. Instead, they should be thinking in terms of marketing in a digital world. The best marketer in a digital world would be the marketing technologists, people with heavy digital DNA and technology acumen.”

Themes such as authenticity, transparency, agile processes, lateral thinking, and breaking down traditional silos all play prominently in any marketing campaign going forward, because they’re the only ones that are expected to really work going forward. Sure, the old shotgun spray-and-pray marketing will still be seen out there in the world, as it steadily rides the curve under the noise floor of consumer attention spans. But as businesses need to execute these new strategies and apply these new ways of thinking to marketing problems, they’re going to need people who can actually, you know, do this.

“Crap, this is me they’re talking about!”

For the last two decades, I grew up immersed in this lifestyle. Occupying the gap between business and technology has largely been a “red-haired stepchild” situation: at first glance, nobody can quite tell what value you bring to the marketing process: you’re not purely product, and you’re not purely marketing. However, as soon as you open your mouth and use your technological know-how to inform how people will perceive and receive the marketing strategy, the product people say, “he understands us!” and the businesspeople say, “I get it!” Suddenly, instead of being the red-haired stepchild, you’ve become the “lovely auburn-haired wunderkind”.

Of course, I have my own name for it: Unicorn.

Can You Get Here From There?

However, while we can’t all be mythical magical creatures, there is a very closely related cousin to the unicorn who is equally capable as marketing technologists: we call them generalists. These are rare people who simultaneously exist across many skill categories, who aren’t easily pigeonholed into a single role (though many middle managers try their hardest to do exactly that). These folks have wide and seemingly improbable interests. They are hard to identify, and even harder to retain, mainly because you don’t realize who they are until they’ve moved on.

Occupying the gap between business and technology has largely been a “red-haired stepchild” situation

What’s more, there is no recipe for becoming this nexus of technology and business know-how. If there was, every MBA program in the world would churn out as many of these beings as possible.

Okay, that isn’t helpful, but this might be: When you find yourself struggling to work out a digital marketing strategy, realize that it might be that you’re thinking about the problem the wrong way. Try turning it into a question of how to demonstrate your company’s relevance to your audience, letting them know that you get them, that they are your tribe and you are one of them. The hard part here is that it can’t be forced or faked.

Most importantly: if you don’t feel connected to your audience in that way, then find someone who does. Hot tip: they are not likely to be the marketing consultant, or the MBA graduate, or the cousin who “knows social media”.

It’s more likely to be an unassuming person from the community who listens and observes but rarely speaks. However, when he or she does speak, the things they say are profound and insightful. And if you can get them on your team, you should rejoice, because that person will be your greatest marketing asset this coming year.

Community Survey: Measuring the Might of WIMP!

Measuring the Might of WIMP! Please take 3 minutes to fill out our anonymous survey.

It’s time for WIMP to take the pulse of our local creative economy. Our little community isn’t so little any more, and while the WIMP leadership (your “Wimptators”) feels in tune with our group, intuition doesn’t scale the way real data does. We want to better understand our demographics, benchmark our progress and, perhaps most importantly, shine a light on the tricky issues of compensation and contracts. That is why we are in the midst of conducting our first annual Community Survey.

Where WIMP Is Now

Discover whether you’re leaving money on the table, or perhaps that you’re charging as much as the market can bear.

The WIMP community is now over 800 people, mostly in the North Bay, 50% of which are freelancers. Yet, many local businesses needlessly send contracts for web development and design out of county and out of state. And freelancers, a population that is projected to outnumber regular employees by 2020, still don’t factor into long-term economic policy, school curriculum, and government reports on employment.

By taking our survey, you help us change that. While we know we’re playing the long game here, this survey will also deliver short-term value, and not in an abstract hand-wavy fashion.

In early 2015, we will publish a report based on the survey responses. That report will be full of useful information, but there are two things everyone is expecting to see:

  • How much people charge, and,
  • An analysis of modern creative contracts.

Money is the real elephant in the room, especially for freelancers and small agencies. It is impossible to know what is fair and what is competitive without sharing data. And sharing pay data in-person can be risky, not to mention uncomfortable.

Enter WIMP’s Community Survey, which we conduct anonymously in order to protect your privacy. And since we are surveying freelancers, employees, students, professionals, business owners, designers, developers, marketers and other creatives, we can correlate compensation with context.

Why You Should Care About A Survey

The report and analysis will help you figure out where to set your rates. You can discover whether you’re leaving money on the table, or perhaps that you’re charging as much as the market can bear. However, that insight is impossible without this survey and your participation!

And how about those contracts? I am not a lawyer (IANAL), but I think it’s safe to say that boilerplate contracts are generally terrible. Templates available from reputable trade groups like the Graphic Arts Guild (GAG) are passable at best.

We live in a mixed media world and our contracts should reflect that.

With your help, we will put together tailored contract templates that reflect the needs of a modern digital media professional. For standard clauses such as payment, termination, and arbitration, we want to find the best of the best. And we want to craft state-of-the-art clauses for things you may not have considered including IP transfer, warranty, maintenance, and more.

The Rising Tide

All of our ships rise with this tide. Please, take a few minutes to answer our survey and also share it with friends and coworkers in the industry. Whether you’re a “WIMP member” or not (you probably are), whether you’ve been to an event or not, whether you’re based out of the North Bay or not, we want to hear from you.

Help us make 2015 the year we stop running our careers on guesswork. Let’s make some data driven decisions!

WIMPgives: Paying it Forward


On November 1, 2014, WIMP volunteers donated $75K worth of services to local nonprofits

About two years ago, the Wimptators and I were sitting in our office brainstorming. We had done a great job up to that point making WIMP known as the go-to community for web and digital media industry professionals in Sonoma County, but we knew something was missing. We lacked a connection between our group and the outside world.

We knew what we wanted:

  • To give our members an opportunity to collaborate with one another
  • To let the outside world know who we are as an organization and just how much talent there is in our local industry
  • To challenge and grow our skills by putting them to the test under pressure
  • To genuinely make a difference in the community

And so WIMPgives, our annual ‘charity hackathon’, was born.

It’s impossible to quantify the impact these websites, and the relationships these projects catalyzed, will continue to make on an ongoing basis.

Last weekend we held our second WIMPgives. We had over 50 volunteers (twice as many as last year) donate 750+ collective hours building seven websites for Northern California nonprofits in one day. It was impressive to witness on so many levels.

This event has become something so near and dear to my heart – easily one of the highlights of my year. Since it brings together individuals who normally don’t work together, it’s very interesting to study the dynamics of the teams.

I loved seeing those members who are role models and trend-setters taking charge and inspiring and leading their teams.

I loved seeing people who normally work in isolation realize they do know their craft in comparison to others in the group.

I loved seeing the teams’ apprentices hold their own, gaining the confidence they need to attack their next project.

I am both humbled and awed by the genuine generosity and desire to give these amazing nonprofits the tools and knowledge they need to continue to effectively make a difference for the communities that they serve. It’s impossible to quantify the impact these websites, and the relationships these projects catalyzed, will continue to make on an ongoing basis.

While I’m always flattered when people thank us for making the event possible, we wouldn’t be anywhere without the folks that stepped up to brave the challenge and take time out of their lives to work so hard and not expect a darn thing in return.

Here are the websites completed during this year’s WIMPgives:

A massive thank you to everyone who helped make this day possible: each one of our project managers, designers, developers, marketers, content specialists, apprentices, photographers, film-makers, crew and fellow organizers.

A special thanks to our sponsors including Monster Gardens, SoCo Nexus, 1 Day Web Designer, O’Reilly Media, Beaver Builder, Mr. Pickle’s Sandwich Shop, VOM Productions, WIMPspace, and especially TriNet and Pantheon who swooped in at the last minute to feed all of our volunteers breakfast and dinner!

Photo credits: Arken Studios

WIMPgives 2014: Wimps give $75K worth of services to local nonprofits

Fabulous Women of Sonoma CountyNorthern California nonprofits, rejoice! Our annual tradition of giving continues this year with WIMPgives 2014. Last year we mustered over 24 volunteers to build websites for five local nonprofits. This year, we’ve rallied 50 volunteers to make it happen for seven – with added strength in the marketing department to make our impact last even longer.
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