Castle Bookula

I spent 3 years trying to catalog my library while continuously adding to it. My favorite open-source cataloging software had a habit of routinely crashing on me, especially after I’d just spent five hours configuring everything in excruciating detail, and my second-favorite software just didn’t have that many features. (Pretty much only a funny name…which is how it became my second-favorite.)

When all else failed, you could depend on my computer to have a meltdown.

I figured the writing was (not on) the wall: it’s the 21st century, you Luddite, sacrifice your library data to the cloud.

But Goodreads is Facebook for bookworms, and partially responsible for encouraging my book-induced poverty. LibraryThing is unappealing. And so for 3 years, my library organization levels veered between “piles of books on shelves” and “piles of books on the floor”.

Last night, the answer finally occurred to me as I struggled with a double-whammy bout of marketing ennui and writer’s block. I need to give my library its own website. GitHub, I said! To database or not to database, I wondered. Foolish question, I reminded myself. This is a chance to work on myself, not an excuse to work for myself. (Which is not to say I’m unequivocally opposed to working for Myself. Myself is a great boss; it’s like we always know what I is thinking.)

I just plain refused to touch the source code.

Luckily there’s a certain very popular blogging service that doesn’t let you touch the open-source code powering your site unless you pay for the privilege of doing so.



I get attached to the darnedest of things. Design–preferably good design–is one of them.

Over the past year, my tastes have shifted definitively towards minimalist looks with strong typography and content-focused design. Spending all your time living, thinking, breathing, and doing digital marketing + web development + copywriting is clearly a quick way to disabuse yourself of any fondness for websites that refuse to believe they’re actually just bits and bytes zipping around over the Internet. With glorious inky serifs on lined paper, Runo Lite is a great-looking theme–one I’ve bookmarked for use in other projects, other times–but I’m no longer okay with shoving a bunch of pretend pages in my readers’ faces.

The Barefoot Bookworm RunoLite Theme
Screenshot edited so it would not actually be website-length long. Last seen on: August 3, 2015.

Goodbye Runo, you will be missed. But hopefully not too much.

“Holding so much hourly work is selfish”.

I freelance on Upwork and visit the community forum every once in a while. Today was one of those times. That’s how I noticed a post in the forum, made by a fellow freelancer:

Basically some of the Veteran freelance are kept on Farming hourly work although they already have so much in list, this is a nice strategy in securing income but too selfish for those freelance with no work and newbies. Hourly job count should be limit into a small number.

(Emphasis theirs.)

Naturally, this led to a rather “spirited” debate in the forum, with a lot of critics talking about free market economics and basically shutting the OP down with the equivalent of “It’s called Capitalism, stoopid.” (Also: grammar snobbery, which I don’t truck with anyway.)

What’s a social democrat to do?

My comment on the situation:

First of all, why assume each one of those hourly contracts is active? I’ve got some 7 hourly contracts and all but two of them basically function as a retainer of sorts. Weekly hours worked are on a sliding scale, going up and down as the clients need. So why do I still have them? Because the clients like what I do, they trust me to do it, and we’ve both invested in a working relationship that stretches back years now.

I’m a bleeding heart liberal but this isn’t just the free market working–this is individual autonomy and freedom to choose and to consent, to enter only into the relationships we want. Newsflash: clients who want to work with other people work with other people! Why should those who don’t be forced to find someone else just because one project ended? Why should the freelancers they prefer to stick with be made to feel guilty for not “cutting them loose”? What, would you also suggest that because it’s so hard to find love in this world, all romantic relationships should have a built-in expiry date and it’s selfish to be in a long-term relationship (don’t even get me started about polyamory) when there are so many single people in the world?

Clients are not text on screen and a nice wad of cash in your bank account. As freelancers, we don’t deal with “money”/”jobs”/tasks. We deal directly with real, live, human beings. People are not currency to be passed around and redistributed in the interest of “fairness”. Relationships matter. They might in fact be the most important determinant of job success. You can learn to code, write, draw, manage–whatever hard skills you have, they can be standardized, measured, and improved through a clearly defined learning program. But your job is not to push pixels around. Your job is to help someone. You might be able to become a better PHP programmer after reading a technical book, but you can’t just become a better communicator overnight because you read a book about communication. And personality? Forget about it–nobody can pick up a book and just “learn” to have a different personality. That match is precious and I can understand why freelancers and clients would both be reluctant to give it up.

But hey, for all this, I still don’t get paid for hours I don’t log–if a client won’t need anything from me till October, does that mean I don’t have any bills to pay till October? I don’t only exist when somebody messages me either. I have to eat, too. So yes, if I see a project I like that sounds like something I want to commit myself to, I go for it. If the feeling is mutual, I get the job.

Quit shaming people for being honest and autonomous in who they work with and how. There are real problems with the freelance economy, but these things aren’t those problems. The one contract “arrangement” I find objectionable is when (often veteran) contractors bid and win a project because of course they’re overqualified for it, but then they secretly subcontract it to newbies/less ‘visible’ freelancers. I feel this exploits both the client (who paid to have YOU work on it) and the subcontractor (who doesn’t get a smidgeon of credit, and only a fraction of the budget the original client allocated for the job, despite all their hard work). That’s about it.

Transparent, mutually consensual and respectful long-term working relationships are neither exploitation nor unethical. They are something to aspire to as a personal and professional goal. Redirect that energy to finding people who are looking to work with someone like you. And once you find each other, you might also discover you’d rather not work with random other people either.