My voting strategy in Denver's Mayoral race worked much better than I imagined. My thinking was that Romer would win, and I should vote for someone else who seemed good, to keep Romer accountable. What I didn’t realize is Denver’s mayoral elections require a majority, not just a plurality. So Romer didn’t actually win by a small margin; he didn’t win at all. He did get the most votes. Mejia, who I expected to take second, actually took third slightly behind Hancock. So the runoff is between Romer and Hancock. I didn’t pay much attention to Hancock the first time, and looking more closely at him now, I don’t like him as much as Romer. Specifically his suggestion to set "performance goals" for city agencies feels like an empty gesture at best, an opening to cuts based on the ability to quantify rather than actual importance at worst. So unless something significant changes before the runoff, I’m voting for Romer this time.
I haven’t been paying much attention to the candidates for Mayor of Denver this year, but I just got my mail-in ballot, so now it’s time to figure out how I’m voting. As I’ve done before, I’m going to share my thoughts publicly. On my long list of websites I’d like to see is a site for recording my votes and the thought that went into them. Until someone makes that (or points me to it, if I’ve missed it), I’ll be using my blog.
There are a whopping 10 candidates for Mayor this year. I’m not sure how the ordering works, but on my ballot, they are in this order: Doug Linkhart, Carol Boigon, Chris Romer, Thomas Andrew Wolf, James Mejia, Jeff Peckman, Theresa Spahn, Michael B. Hancock, Danny F. Lopez, and Ken Simpson. Romer is the only name that sounds familiar, and I’m not sure why, so I’m going into this with close to a blank slate. Let’s pull up the websites.
Right off the bat, I’m eliminating Peckman as a choice. Turns out he’s the guy who pushed for some sort of government alien welcome committee. Even if that were an especially reasonable issue, I’m not voting for someone who only cares about a single issue.
After that, there’s only one candidate who doesn’t seem to have a website: Ken Simpson. I’d be willing to look past that if the Westword article suggested he’s especially good, but it doesn’t. On his top issue, jobs, he’s quoted as saying
Atlanta, Minneapolis and Austin always seem to be getting companies to come to them, and I don’t know why. Maybe learn why first, then run for mayor.
So now I have 8 websites to look at. At a quick glance, 2 of those sites look like they’re not very serious: Wolf has a number in his domain, a title of "Home Page", and what appears to be a free hosting icon at the bottom. Nope. Danny Lopez has the domain name as a title, some terrible graphics, and starts with "I am the Real Deal." Nothing says "I am not the real deal" like starting your pitch with "I am the real deal."
Now I’m looking at 6 mayoral candidates who are at least serious enough to get a decent website put together: Linkhart, Boigon, Romer, Mejia, Spahn, and Hancock. Time to look at issues. All 6 are talking about the economy and jobs. Boigon is the only one who doesn’t really say anything specific, so -1 there. Linkhart seems big into cutting services, so -1 there.
Beyond jobs, everyone but Boigon talks about being "green" or sustainability. So another -1 for Boigon. Let’s go ahead and focus on the other 5. Next issue: education. And ... everyone sounds pretty similar. That’s about it for issues at the city level. I did notice Romer has a section on LGBT equality, and while that isn’t especially relevant for Mayor, it’s nice to see he’s not afraid to say the right thing without an obvious political advantage.
Let’s move on to experience. Linkhart was on City Council. Romer was in the State Senate. Mejia was on School Board. Spahn was a judge. Hancock was City Council President. So they’re all experienced, but Romer and Spahn are the only two with political experience outside Denver. That suggests they’re looking at a future beyond Mayor, which seems good to me because they’ll need to be relatively popular as Mayor to successfully move on to anything else.
Next up: endorsements. Linkhart has a bunch of names. I guess that would be okay if he had larger endorsements too, but he doesn’t. So Linkhart’s off my list. Romer was endorsed by the Denver Post. Mejia was endorsed by AFSCME, a large union. Spahn was endorsed by a State Representative, who was apparently her 7th grade teacher. That’s less than impressive. I think I’ll take Spahn off the list. Hancock, like Linkhart, was endorsed by a bunch of names I don’t recognize. Maybe he wasn’t popular as City Council President?
At this point, I’m looking at Romer or Mejia. I suspect Romer will win, as everything about his website suggests he has the best campaign. And I’m okay with Romer winning; he looks like he’ll be a pretty good Mayor. But I’m going to vote for Mejia, because I don’t expect him to win. It’s not that I want to support the underdog; I just think closer elections keep politicians thinking about their constituencies, and that will result in better government. If Romer wins 30% over Mejia’s 29%, I expect he’ll be a better major than if he won with over 50% of the vote. And if Mejia ends up winning, I’m okay with that too.
I didn’t realize I hadn’t written anything here since September until I read it in a post by my brother Kevin. I would have responded earlier, but I’ve been kind of busy lately, as Kevin well knows, since he’s been making me busy. Specifically, I’ve been buying a house, starting a company, and trying to hire a coworker while doing the excess work I need a coworker to share at my day job. Before explaining why I think Kevin is only half-right about his theory that bloggers are looking for better jobs, I should probably explain some of that.
Let’s start with the house. Kevin and Jackie came to Denver last November and stayed with Jessica and I for a couple weeks while they looked for, and until they could get into, their new apartment. While walking their dog around the block, they noticed the triplex just behind our current rental duplex is for sale. I think Jackie jokingly said something like “we could all buy that and move there.” After talking about it a bit more, it didn’t seem so ridiculous. So we started looking at different multi-unit housing for sale around Denver.
I don’t even know how many places we’ve looked at by now, but it’s a lot. We just made our first offer on a place yesterday, and we should get a counter-offer in another hour or two today. The specific house we’re offering to buy is… wait for it… the one just behind our current rental. We’ll know soon if we’re buying that or continuing to look.
So now the company. While Kevin and Jackie were between jobs, and to a lesser extent since they’ve both found jobs around Denver, they’ve spent a lot of time helping out with Playing Here. As a result, the site is crazy busy now, which means it takes even more work to maintain. So now we need more people to do this work, and — lacking volunteers — we need to pay these people. To do that, we need an actual company with a tax ID and limited liability and a business bank account and whatnot. So now we have all that as Make Data Make Sense, LLC, as well as a vague business plan for sustaining and growing the site. We should know in the next six months or so whether or not this plan will work out.
So I’ve been looking at houses and working on Playing Here most nights and weekends. By day, I continue to work as a web developer at The Integer Group, which I can’t link to without disclaiming that I didn’t make the website. Since I last wrote here, I’ve lost two part-time coworkers, which sucked because I’d only been less than six months and suddenly I was responsible for everything web related. But I’ve been working on some fun projects and it looks like I’ll have another co-worker or two soon. This will be my first experience as the senior member of a team, so that should be interesting.
So back to Kevin’s suggestion that bloggers are looking for better jobs. I think that’s only true to the extent that people looking for better jobs have time to write, either because they’re unemployed or because they don’t have enough interest in their current jobs to spend any more time than necessary on that. Bloggers are just people who have time to write. I wrote about this about 4 years ago (back when I didn’t bother with capitalization) in because i have ample free time. Specifically, I said:
what makes bloggers more elite? having computers for one. and having free time to read and write. heck, having electricity. what doesn't make bloggers more elite? doc's suggestion that "it doesn't take ample free time" is simply not true. it does take ample free time.
I still think that’s true. And while people looking for jobs is one group that has ample free time, other groups include professional writers (e.g. Doc Searls) and students. I started blogging as a student, but I continued blogging through my first several jobs out of college, up until this one. And while I do like my current job more than any previous job, I also liked my previous job more than any before that. I wasn’t really looking for this job when it appeared, so that’s not why I kept writing.
But why did I keep writing then and stop just recently? I think there are several factors, but the main one is that I wasn’t as busy when I was writing as I am now. But with everything making me busy promising to come to some resolution relatively soon, it looks likely I’ll be less busy soon, so maybe I’ll start writing more again, even though I still won’t be looking for a better job.
For those of you following along with the experiment at home, initial tests suggest adding beer to a web geek meeting does indeed make it more interesting. Or maybe having it on a weekend does that. Or maybe a smaller group. Or pizza. In any case, I had fun yesterday, learned a lot, and I would no longer say “Denver’s web community is boring me.”
Here’s something I learned before lunch even started (aside from the restaurant not opening until noon — oops): I had always assumed punch card computers worked by circuits connecting through the holes in cards. But it turns out they were entirely mechanical, with air bursting through the holes and flipping switches on the other side. Neat.
And of course there were web-specific topics too. But you’ll have to come next time to experience all the excitement. Maybe we’ll swap out pizza for ice cream or something, continue experimenting. In the distance, I still have my eye on BarCampDenver. Things are looking up.
The lack of interest in any of those specific trends is not itself a problem. They may all turn out to be just passing fads. But I think these are symptoms of a larger problem: Denver web geekery is not a creative industry; it's a manufacturing industry. There’s an important difference between a web manufacturer, someone who churns out sites on an assembly line schedule using the exact same tools over and over again, and a web artisan, someone who takes the time to investigate, compare, and understand those tools, could maybe fix them when they break.
I want to be in the latter camp, not least because the former camp is being gradually replaced by increasingly automated tools. The manufacturing industry is not a sustainable career path; robots can manufacture. The plethora of web-related jobs and scarcity of candidates (I’m seeking a new coworker, by the way) in Denver is, I think, another symptom of this problem. The jobs are open because they’re unappealing. They’re boring, low-paying, and bound for obsolescence. Just as monoculture is bad for biological communities, it’s bad for this industry.
That’s my theory anyway. So what should I do about it? I’m still trying to figure that out, but when I suggested to the Denver web design MeetUp that once a month meetings wasn’t enough, some good ideas came up. Specifically: 1) go outside, and 2) drink beer. So as a test of these ideas, I’ve proposed an event, and a few people have signed on already.
So if you or anyone you know is near Denver and interested in beer, pizza, free WiFi, and web geekery, please spread the word. Hopefully we’ll be doing this more in the future.
I’m back from Peru now, and getting settled in Denver before I start the new job this Friday. Right now I’m living in a mostly empty apartment with no furniture and no internet access. Surprisingly, it’s not that bad. I don’t really find it uncomfortable sitting and sleeping on the floor, with the exception of eating, when it would be nice to have my food closer to my mouth without holding a plate with one hand.
For internet access, there are enough free wireless networks nearby that I’m considering not getting home internet access at all. I called Qwest today and found that I will need to be at home a whole weekday to get service started, because they won’t schedule at a specific time. That, on top of leaving my old Qwest modem in Illinois, means I’ll be waiting at least until Jessica gets here before signing up for internet access. If I don’t find those two weeks too unbearable, I expect I’ll not sign up at all.
Just imagine: a professional web developer without internet access at home. Crazy, huh?
I’m a little late in mentioning here that Jessica and I are moving to Denver after we return from Peru. The possibility first came up a few months ago, but we just signed a lease this weekend, so it’s fairly certain now. I also signed a contract this weekend, to become a web developer at the Integer Group. Astute readers will notice I am already a web developer at the Integer Group. I’m just moving from the Des Moines branch to the Denver branch.
I’m also moving from working remotely back to an actual office. For much of my life, my dream job was to work from home online. When Jessica found work in Illinois after searching for teaching work in Des Moines, I actually had the opportunity to work from home online. I was surprised to discover it wasn’t all I had hoped. It was certainly a luxury to be able to fold laundry while thinking about issues at work, but it was also somewhat of a burden to be thinking about issues at work while folding laundry.
And living in a small rural town didn’t help much either. I wasn’t especially excited about Denver itself until our visit this weekend, but now I am. There’s a lot more going on near our new place in the middle of Denver than our old place twenty minutes outside of Carbondale. I wasn’t really happy with working from Carbondale, and Jessica wasn’t really happy with working from Des Moines, so hopefully we can both be happy working from Denver.
My work transition is actually a bit more than just moving between two branches of the same company; my job will actually be changing slightly. For example, I’m currently one of three full time web developers in Des Moines, but I will be the only full time developer in Denver. The company is twice as large in Denver, so I’ll have a bit more responsibility. But I also won’t be doing any work for client websites as I do now, only making internal tools for the people at Integer.
So I still have two more weeks in Des Moines, helping to train my replacement, Dan. Then we have a week and a half in Peru for vacation (scheduled before Denver came up). Then I head out to Denver, with Jessica to follow shortly after. Hopefully I’ll be done moving and travelling for a while after that. It’s exhausting to be in a different city almost every week. But Denver was certainly worth the visit this weekend, and I have high hopes it will prove worth the move later this month.