Archive for December, 2016

December 31, 2016

An Odd Realization

You know what’s an odd realization? For the first time in six years, we’ve had a year without a major life changes.

In 2010 Domingo and I got married. After what felt like an eternity of trying, we became pregnant in 2011. In 2012 we welcomed our first child, Nicole, to the family. I graduated, started a job and we moved in 2013. In 2014 we welcomed Alexis to the family. In 2015 we bought a house in the suburbs and drastically changed our lifestyle.

What happened for the Colon/Tyler Clan in 2016? Not much out of the ordinary. Domingo continues to work for the same employer doing much the same work, but is traveling a few times a year now. I continue to try and get my company off the ground, and continue to pretend like I’ll find time to put the house together. The girls are at the same daycare/preschool, though I will register Nicole for Kindergarden in a month and she starts in the fall.

Now that’s another odd realization: I will soon be the parent of a kindergartner.

Things are moving forward, just slowly. My business finally got a name, and has been finally started to gain traction, but it’s still small potatoes compared to what my salary once was. There’s potential there, but it’s not there yet.

My hope for 2017 is more of the same.

If Datayze continues to grow at it’s current rate it could replace my previous salary sometime in 2018. Of course I’d love to get it there earlier! I have a couple of ideas that could help spur some more episodes of rapid growth, but with the kids home the past couple of weeks there hasn’t been much of a chance to test my ideas. I’m dying for a work day! I stated my goal at the beginning of the year was to reach $100/mo, perhaps this coming year I should aim for $1000/mo. That would raise revenue by a factor of 10 in 2017 compared to 2016’s factor of 5. Feels like a stretch, but in theory doable.

I plan on continuing to work on weight loss. I was disappointed the daily exercise wasn’t helping as much as it once did, but at least I know what does work for me – counting calories. Dang my sweet tooth.

My hope for the house is that our roof holds out until the solar roof becomes a reality. Supposedly it’s cheaper than a traditional roof, and lasts way longer with the added benefit of giving us solar power and cutting down on our energy bills. It’s supposed to hit the market next summer, but the initial roll out may not include our area. We have 3-4 years left on our roof (weather permitting). It would be preferable to not be an early adopter, if possible. Here’s hoping the timing works out.

December 28, 2016

Holiday Travel With Kids

We’re back home from visiting family for the holidays, and this was – without a doubt – our most painful traveling experience. It was rough all around, but our trip out was pretty epically bad.

Flying from West coast to East we pretty much had two options: wake the kids up early, or keep the kids up way past their bedtime. We opted for the latter. I figured interrupting their morning sleep would set up a painful rest of the day, even if they went to bed at a reasonable time, whereas if we kept them up late we’d just experience a bad evening. We had a short hop to Vegas and then a long lay over. Up to this point things were going reasonably smoothly. The girls were super excited about the whole process, and very well behaved for the first plane. Vegas is where it all went to pot.

After lunch we made our way to the gate to discover our next plane was delayed. How delayed? Well, it was almost boarding time, and the airline had made a decision to wait and hold the flight for additional passengers from another flight. There were 30 people scheduled to take our flight out of Vegas, who were arriving from Los Angeles. Their plane out of Los Angeles hadn’t even taken off yet. We were waiting for passengers who weren’t even airborn yet!

I can’t really blame the airline for their decision. There were no other available seats between then (the 20th) and Christmas. The airline’s choice was to inconvenience a hundred people, or ruin Christmas for 30. They made the right call, even though it made things painful for us.

Vegas is most definitely not a family friendly airport, and probably one of the worst to be stuck in. Any open area is occupied by slot machines, and the kids are not allowed to be near those machines, which means there’s no real place to let them stretch their legs. By the time it was boarding we had some very wired and very tired kids.

We took off about an hour after Alexis’ effective bed time. She was mighty cranky and overtired. I got her to nap on me about 45 minutes into the flight, but sleeping on the plane proved incredibly difficult for her. The next three hours were spent in 20 minute nap cycles and 5 minute crying cycles. Adding insult to injury Nicole started to get really tired about an hour before landing. At this point she had been up four hours after bedtime. She kept asking when it would be her turn to sleep on me. Oh how I longed for four arms and two laps.

The only saving grace was that Alexis was just a few weeks beyond two. Technically she’s supposed to be in her own seat, and we did have a seat for her, but the stewardess assumed she was under two and let her stay in my lap for landing. Normally I’m one of those really annoying strict rule followers, but I figured the difference in safety had to be minimal. After all there were some 18 months old bigger than her who would still be allowed on a lap!

Our return trip was a bit smoother. Alexis fell asleep during take off and slept the entire first hop. No mid nap fussing. That meant both kids stayed awake the second flight. We kept the entertained by singing songs, and lots and lots and lots of snacks. Alexis also had a ton of fun feeding her stuffed cookie monster by shoving gold fish into his mouth. Cookie monster is most definitely in need of a bath.

By the end of the flight Alexis was so deliriously tired that she’d burst into google fits when ever I’d wiggle her stuffed cookie monster in front of her. She did request to sleep on me about a half hour to landing, but we thought it best to keep her awake, rather than wake her just as she’s getting into a deep sleep.

A while back I said it was good our difficult flight was the return trip so we didn’t spend our entire vacation dreading flying. With our difficult flight being up front this time, we definitely dreaded the return. The benefit of having the smoothest flight being our final flight is that the girls ended up making a lot of friends around them. After we landed no less than four people praised them for being such good fliers. It’s nice to end travel on a positive note.

December 19, 2016

Coming Together

Don’t you just love it when things work out?


There’s nothing like waiting until the last minute to ratcheted that stress level up to eleventy. Today starts our winter vacation, tomorrow we get on a plane to visit family. Before leaving I wanted to get a nice photo of the girls in their Christmas pjs to print and frame. I have been planning this for a few weeks. Today was our first attempt, you know, hours before I needed the photo. I am smart. S-M-R-T.

The chips were stacked against us. The thermostat went a little AWOL last night again, and the low extra temperature combined with Christmas vacation excitement meant for light sleep all around. The girls were a little wired to begin with, and not in the most cooperative moods though happy(ish). We did have a few temper tantrums today, not going to lie. Such is life with over tired little kids.

I took 110 frames in 8 minutes and 22 seconds (fastest shutter finger in the West, thank you very much), and most were pretty bad. Alexis thought it would be fun to pull her hat down completely over her head. Big sister thought it was hilarious and started copying, just as we convinced Alexis to leave her hat atop her head. At various times one or both of the girls would leap up from in front of the tree and run away. We got 109 frames of out takes and one perfect shot. I was shooting in continuous mode, like always, and this is still the only frame of both girls looking directly at the camera and smiling. The fact that it’s also the best cropped photo in the bunch and in focus? Icing on the cake.

How rare is it to get a photo I’m completely happy with? Let’s put it this way, I’m getting quite good at head swapping. The one with the good expression is the one where my camera settings are wrong, or it’s poorly framed. As long as it’s not a motion blur or depth of field issue I can usually fix it up in post processing. That’s usually my goal: fixable in post processing.

The above exposure is one of those rare times where the good expression coincides with the good settings and the good cropping. I brightened the image a scotch to post it online, but the original raw was what I used for both family and face book.

The good thing about taking a lot of photos? Sometimes you get lucky!

December 16, 2016

Finally Trimmed

I was on top of things last year. This year? Hah.


“Santa” brought our Trees after Thanksgiving. Normally Santa sets them up before going to bed, but got tired before trimming our main tree. Three weeks later, on the day of the kid’s Christmas party at school, and four days before flying out, I finally found the time to finish our last tree.

Nicole and Alexis noticed the difference right away. Alexis kept pointing and screaming “Tree! Tree”! Nicole wanted to know “Who did that?!”

“Santa?” I propose.

“No, Mommy!”

Someone is already on to me. Adding insult to injury, we purchased two of those little foil trees to put on the girl’s dressers. I wanted to claim Santa put those up as well, but Nicole caught me sneaking into her room. She was quite annoyed at me when I tried to convince her she was mistaken, that it was actually Santa disguised as Mommy.

I am not ready for the Christmas magic to be over yet!

Trimming our main tree this year proved to be a little more challenging because I just didn’t like the ornaments we had.

Our white light tree uses shatter proof ornaments, as does the kids’ tree. The later was out of necessity, the former because I fell in love with the champagne set that only came in the shatterproof variety. They’re realistic enough to pass for typical balls. Shatterproof ornaments have come a long way. You used to be able to spot them at a distance. Now you have to get close, and even then it’s not always obvious. I can attest that they are, indeed, quite hardy. I dropped two on the hard wood floor with the kind of thunk you would have thought would wake the kids. Ornament survived. Not so sure about my hardwood floor.

Sadly many of our non shattered resistent ornaments have bitten the dust over the years, and what we’ve been left with is a miss match collection of balls for our main tree. So miss-match hodgepodge-y that it’s noticeable, even on our tree with five different color lights and collection of non-ball, non-collection ornaments. We barely put any balls on our main tree last year, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it again this year. As I was going through the ornament box I discovered two sets of shatter resistent mini balls I had purchased a few years ago in an after Christmas sale. It was forty little balls, just red, green and white/silver, but it worked. I think I’ll probably stick to the same color scheme. While the mini balls really make the hallmark ornaments stand out, I think I want to experiment with some traditional sized balls as well.

Alas, the store does not have any in the right color pallet. Trends tend to change from year to year. The ones I have are deep green and slightly blue tint. The current green ones at the store are leaning more into a lime direction. I dislike yellow greens, and fuschia pinks and neon oranges which appear all the rage these days. It may take a few years for the colors I like to come back in style, so I’ll have to wait.

I finished Christmas shopping yesterday, and the cards went out earlier this week. That just leaves baking, and getting some Christmas themed photos of the girls. I can do this.

December 15, 2016

Projecting Out

On the 25th of October datayze reached 10k unique users for the month. In November datayze reached the 10k unique user mark by the 19th. I’m projecting datayze will reach this mark early tomorrow morning. After a year of almost no growth, the past six months have felt incredible.

I spent this morning analyzing the data and doing some projections. The last four months have corresponded with a 32% month-over-month growth rate in users. Projecting out, I’ll earn 17 times more in the coming year than this current year, and by the following year I could replace my previous full time salary! And in a little less than five years, my monthly user base will consist of everyone on Earth!

Ok, the trend isn’t likely to continue that long. Making five years worth of projections off of four months of data isn’t mathematically sound. There are other variables that will impact datayze’s growth not accounted for in the last couple of months. For one growth will likely slow as Google finishes indexing the site. I’m also missing seasonal data. Still, it’s hard not to get excited. Still, it’s a very good sign for the near future. Growth will likely slow, but it’s unlikely to stop completely any time soon. I now have a better idea what works (and what doesn’t) and can be smarter about where I devote my energy. With a little luck I may yet make this pipe dream idea work.

All this growth does have a downside. I’ve become quasi addicted to watching my stats of late. I code with Google Analytics open, and find it difficult not to check a few times an hour. It’s the first thing I check in the morning, and the last thing I check before going to bed. I love numbers and these are easy numbers to love. But that distraction does interrupt work time. A morning spent making projections may feel good, but it doesn’t contribute to the bottom line.

Back to work for me!

December 13, 2016

Our Sunshines


Last Last weekend it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t done anything in terms of Holiday cards.

I do everything for the cards, from concept to design and photography. It’s a lot of work, and the effort to payoff ratio isn’t always there, but I take pride in it. In the past I’ve queued up a bunch of different designs, which helps reduce the December time work load. In good years I not only have a concept in mind but have already taken the family photo. (Recently the family photo happens in early to mid December.) This year I had… nothing.

Since time was running out I decided to do things a little differently this year. Rather than one big family photo, I decided to use the individual head shots of the girls I had been working on the past month. (At least it’s a recent photo, if not a holiday themed one, right?) I was initially going to get a similar style photo of Domingo and I, and do a three-photo card. (It’s a lot easier to get a good photo of adults on cue than it is to get one of the kids!) After a little design work I decided to just forgo that idea.

I dub this year’s card “My Sunshines.” Not exactly Christmas themed, but I like it. Call it “California Christmas.”

I finished the card a week ago Monday. I figured I’d print them and address the envelopes one of the days the kids are in school. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

When I finally got around to printing the cards this afternoon I discovered we were out of ink. Out printer is pretty old at this point, and finding ink for it is getting harder these days. I usually have to buy it online, but I didn’t want to wait for shipping. Fine, I’ll use one of the local print shops. Queue eye ball popping, you are charging how much?! for a five by seven realization. Ugh. And there was no time to bulk print online. ARGH.

If I was going to pay a lot, I decided I was going to get something extra out of it. I decided to use Shutterfly* and have them mail the cards directly.

* Disclaimer, that’s an affiliate link. If anyone clicks on it and signs up I can order more discounted Christmas cards.

Entering the mailing address was a giant pain in butt, but all the addresses were saved, which should make this much easier in future years, should we decide to do it again. The final per-card price ended up being about 40 cents more than printing locally would have been, which seems worth it. Next year I’ll keep an eye out for a coupon. I’m sure the prices are better much earlier in the season.

December 6, 2016

Let’s Talk Metrics

The monthly progress and income reports have proven to be a great motivational tool over the past year. There have been times that I get too focused in the minutia, and minor dips can feel like major back steps. By keeping monthly totals it’s been easier to see the true progress I’ve been making. Not all metrics are created equal, and some are better at showing the current progress and potential growth.

By far, the best metric I’ve found for tracking growth is Weekly Search Result Clicks, the number of times someone has found my website by clicking on a search result. One of the advantages to Search Results Clicks is that it’s largely independent. What one user clicks on has minimal effect on what another will do1. That makes it easier to see trends. Referral and Social Media Traffic can spike depending on who is sharing the URL and when. I’ve found that if Weekly Search Result Clicks is on the rise, referral and social media traffic will likely follow suit, but that spikes in Social or Referral Traffic generally don’t lead to changes in Weekly Search Result Clicks.

In general I favor tracking users over revenue as revenue is highly dependent on revenue strategy. For example, in November I had twice as many mobile users as desktop users. Almost no mobile users used an ad blocker, where 20% of desktop users did. Despite that, mobile users accounted for 53% of my monthly revenue. Said another way, mobile users are generating approximately 40% less than comparable desktop users. My mobile ad strategy is not working! Changing ad networks could, in theory at least, generate vastly different amounts of revenue. No users means no revenue regardless of strategy.

The other drawback to relying on the revenue metric, especially if you rely on advertising dollars, is that revenue is likely influenced by macro factors that may not be visible to you. Advertisers tend to pay more in the the final quarter of the year then they do initially. They pay more when the economy is strong and consumer spending is high, than when the economy is weak and consumer spending is low. If you’re using an ad network, the cut and quality of the network can fluctuate. If you’re relying on revenue as an indicator of success it may be hard to see the signal in the noise.

Revenue is still an important metric, to be sure. I wish I had had more insight into how much revenue I could realistically expect to make before taking the self-employment plunge. I probably would devoted a little more of my free time, slept a little less, and neglected my household chores a little more than I already do.

Here’s hoping revenue increases before I run out of revenue. The search result click metric is strong, so hopeful a new mobile revenue model will give me a much needed revenue jolt.

1. User behavior can influence search result rankings. If more users click on your website in the search results the search engine may view their behavior that your website is a good result and may boost it’s ranking for future queries.

It’s another month and another record for me. In November I earned $90.50, which works out to be slightly more than $3.01 a day. It’s not quite the $100 I was hoping for, but still a very good month all things considered.

I knew last month’s insane user growth rate couldn’t continue indefinitely and it didn’t. My stats leveled off the first week in November, then declined the following week. I suffered about a 25% loss in clicks from organic searches in the days following the election which also corresponded to about a 25% drop in income for the entire week. (Perhaps a result of election burn out? Nearly 70% of my traffic originates from the US.) Chalk it up to one more thing I hadn’t anticipated about the election. I was nervous that the number of daily visitors would take another nose dive during the week of Thanksgiving, what with so many people spending time off line and with family. The first three weeks or so of November I was just hoping I would reach the same $70 I made last month.

To my surprise, Thanksgiving didn’t have nearly as big an impact on the number of users as I thought it would. Thanksgiving Eve I had a noticeable drop off in the number of users from 2 pm PST onward. Thanksgiving I had a noticeable drop off in users from 9am until 7pm, prime family hours. The rest of the week looked pretty much normal. In fact, after the election, my daily average users was starting slowly increase again and that trend continued through Thanksgiving. I saw a 13% increase in users starting from Black Friday onward compared to pre Thanksgiving Eve November. Revenue also increased from $2.52/day to $4.45/day which is what catapulted me to the $90/month mark.


Overall my numbers look good. The number of monthly users in November is up 23% compared to October. The daily average revenues are more uniform. This month’s best preforming revenue day is just a hair under last month’s, but this month’s low is much better than last month’s. I like stability. It makes it easier to project out, and more confident that trends will continue. There’s a part of me that’s nervous revenue will decrease after the holidays, but if I can keep the number of users up I can minimize future revenue decreases.

That app I launched last month was a Spell Checker. The dictionary I have been using for detecting rare words is great… for that purpose only. It’s not quite large enough for the task of differentiating rare words from misspellings. Too many of the predicted mispellings are false positives to make the app truely useful. I’ve been meaning to update the dictionary, but I just haven’t had time.

I did finally complete the d3 interface layer and address the last of the d3 v4 display issues, which has been on my todo list since August. It was a daunting task, but now it’s done.

The new app this month was Index / No Index. I didn’t want googlebot to index my data files, but if I blocked googlebot’s access to them, googlebot couldn’t fully render parameterized app pages that relied on those data files. It would miss content, which would affect how well those pages were indexed. I realized influencing what crawling agents do is a bit more nuanced than just writing a robots.txt file, and I needed to create a new testing environment to ensure I set up the index/follow directives correctly. My new philosophy is to create an app for anything that’s non trivial for me to do, hence Index / No Index.

So far in 2016 I’ve only written 23 new apps, a far far cry from the 100 I set out to do. If you’re considering new content and include the how to articles, then I’ve got 27 items. There’s still a month left, and I’m going to spend this month working on new content. I likely won’t reach that 100 count, but I can’t say I’m disappointed with the progress I’ve been making.