Ward Nicholson

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“Think Outside the Box” blog: beginnings

After fifteen years with no personal presence on the internet, events over the last year or two have pushed me into gearing up to become active again. It has been a “long time gone,” as well as a long time reaching a turning point where the time feels right and I’m now ready to surface online again beyond just lurker mode.

Currently I’m putting some pieces in place — web design and infrastructure related to my self-hosted WordPress site here, mainly — to keep the effort from becoming too burdensome long-term, which leads to the demise of many personal websites and blogs. Also, a considerable amount of typographical work with CSS to make articles and posts enjoyable to both write and read, since for me each are among life’s real pleasures. (Typesetting was my first serious full-time occupation as an adult, and remains one of my first loves in addition to the printed word in general — first as a voluminous reader, and later on, writing, as the mood struck.)

Motivations: business, to begin with

A large part of the reason for establishing a presence online again was to try and generate more leads and customers for my business activities. For some years, Leeward Productions, my custom promotional license plates business, has been the primary effort, although recently things have been shifting.

Previously, a Google AdWords campaign had contributed about half the traffic to the LeewardPro website. Over the last few years, though, getting a good return on AdWords has become a much more challenging, overly complicated, and especially time-consuming proposition. As has getting “organic” search traffic through SEO (search engine optimization) without becoming involved with social media to get incoming links to the LeewardPro site, or at least “putting oneself out there” more on the internet. Hence, one of the motivations behind this site and blog, to begin with, at least.

Also, for almost a couple of decades now I have done freelance proofreading for a few advertising agencies, although at a limited level on the side. It’s a niche business I’ve been looking into expanding, though, since it’s second nature (a skill learned through many years of having been a typographer), and a much simpler business than something like LeewardPro. So that has provided another motivation to pull in more work via the website.

Personal reasons

All along, however, even when the above needs were a primary part of the motivation, I was planning for the website to be about more than just business, with a separate focus on blogging about my life interests. I very much enjoy writing on a personal level, and some may remember the in-depth articles I researched and wrote for the Beyond Veg website I founded in the late 1990s. (And then moved on from in about the year 2000.) After the extended 15-year sabbatical, I eventually realized I missed the creative endeavor of writing, and have found myself with new motivation. Once the business sections of the site are completed, I’ll be looking to focus much more on the blog side of things.

There is a wide range of topics I suspect I’ll end up writing about, as my interests are continually evolving. Often there are what appear, to my eye, to be fundamental points missing — large gaping holes — in articles and debates on the subjects I’m most interested in. Key issues seemingly gone AWOL, such as, to cite a past example in my own experience, the subterranean but widespread “failure to thrive” issue in vegans, which at the time the Beyond Veg site came into being, no one else was talking about publicly, and which led to the site’s creation.

At that time, I had been a vegetarian myself for many years, but eventually ran aground on the failure-to-thrive shoals after I got more serious about it and tried a much more strict vegan diet for a few years. Later, after that failure ran its course, I cast my net wider and moved on to a more “paleo”-style diet. However, this was at a time when paleo diet as a movement had yet to begin, and Beyond Veg staked a claim as one of the few websites at that time exploring the evolutionary basis behind paleo, although we were doing so primarily in the context of combatting vegetarian myths.

So the thrust of Beyond Veg was “beyond” in both the sense of thinking beyond the myths of vegetarianism, as well as about what other dietary horizons there were to explore such as paleo, which put emphasis on “naturalistic” or evolutionary reasoning, as some vegetarian schools of thought had also looked to for some of their rationale. (Or at least until vegetarian interpretations of that were eventually debunked, both by Beyond Veg, initially, and then by more and more sources as time went on.)

Looking ahead

All this is just by way of saying that other missing-in-action observations akin to the above on various topics should provide some of the motivation for posting on the blog here. Although I should mention that my interests these days are pretty far afield from what I was exploring then, so its unlikely I’ll be covering that ground again, other than in reviewing past activities for perspective.

One of the first posts, not counting this brief intro, will be about why I was gone for 15 years. Which might ring a bell with many, since it has to do in part with the love/hate relationship with the internet many of us probably have, but which you don’t see written about that often. Or at least not without apologies for it. (Later note: see “Emerging Online after 15 Years of Radio Silence” for a review of the Beyond Veg endeavor and its aftermath.)

I’d be interested in hearing from old friends too, although I’ll say in the same breath that when it comes to dietary issues such as the “paleo diet vs. vegetarianism” debate I was known for back in the Beyond Veg days, my attitude these days is “been there, done that.” I don’t have too much interest in rehashing or debating that piece of ground again, so keep that in mind if you’d like to get in touch. Having said that, gaining perspective on and learning from the past are worthwhile — things along those lines are always welcome.

What are we doing that’s different from what we’ve done before, what have we learned from it, and where are we going now, and why — that’s what’s most thought-provoking.

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