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I’m going to start by asking a question … are you a jack of all trades?  Are you the best at everything you do?  Or, are there people who know better than you?  This same question holds true with teams you are on.

When you hire a team, or are brought onto a team, the people that are chosen are normally there to expand on the current set of skills that the team has available to them.  So, I want to ask, why not trust them to do what they were brought on to do?

Lots of people get lost in the fact that they want to lead a team and by doing that try to control each of the interactions whic occur on it.  This sense of control could make it feel like the project is going smoothly and efficiently, but at the say time will likely start to make people feel untrusted which in turn affects productivity.  If people are constantly looking over their shoulders, to see if they are being monitored, or feeling pressured to work, the work that they produce will suffer.  But not only that, their desire to exceed expectations will likely also diminish.

Instead, in a team situation, you need to really stop and let your just work and do what they were brought on to do.

Of course, there will be times that this trust has been abused but those times generally followed up by some tough conversations where the situation is addressed.  If it isn’t, it still is not a reason to not trust the team, it is an issue for the team leads (or managers) to deal with.  Lack of trust breeds negativity in the work environment which in turn is counterproductive.

I would like to encourage you to trust those with whom you work.  Your team will end up being a lot more productive if you can.

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Holy smokes, it seems like just yesterday that I purchased IcePets.  But alas, it is not.  Today, my anniversary of owning IcePets.com, I come to you humbled by the overall tenacity of each and every one of the IcePets members.  You could have bailed a while ago, back when the site started becoming fairly static, but you didn't!  You had faith in us, and a love of the site which I am in awe of.  I know it has been several years (3 or more) since any huge features were added to the site, and that a battle system was promised very early on in the development.  However, each day I return to the forums happy because I see "10 unread" messages.  From the outside it may not seem like a lot, but it helps to refuel my passion for the project on the days that I start working on it and feel exhausted just thinking about all of the work that there is still to be done on the recode before we can actually have decent growth.

I don't know about you, but every day when I check on Virtual Pet Directory, I always look to see if the total active user count has gone up or down from the day, or days before.  I'm happy to say that over the two years that we have been tracking the user activity on there, it has remained around the same.  We have had some spikes, 257, and we have had our dips, 90, but now we currently stand 8 users more than we had two years ago, 118.  The total number of users isn't anywhere near our competition, but that doesn't matter.  From the outside, it would appear as though we are a site that is hanging on by a thread.  But that is not how I see it.  I personally see it as a site which is currently in a holding pattern, anxiously awaiting the recode which has been in the works for a little while now.

The biggest thing that amazes me about the members is how much of a community it is.  New members are welcomed in with open arms, old members are welcomed back with excitement as if a long lost friend has recently returned.  And most importantly to me, tell us that IcePets is a community where they feel safe place for them to post even if they are normally a quiet individual.  To me, this speaks wonders of the community.  Although small, we are a powerful community who just love to hang out and play together.

I would like to take this opportunity to also thank all of the staff who have given up countless hours of their personal time to help us grow.  I know that I haven't always been the easiest person to deal with, but we got through it and are stronger for it.  But, I will openly admit, if it wasn't for you, the site would likely be dead despite all I would have tried.  I can code, I can organize and on occasion, I can even chat on the forums.  But the one thing I cannot do is use your countless years of experience with the community to really understand what it is the users want.  You guys make my work look easy.  Throughout the years, some faces have changed.  We have lost some powerful members from the staff team due to real life commitments, but just when things look gloomiest, a different staff member steps up and takes the reigns.  For staff members who have had to leave the team, I am honoured to have worked with you.  And for the staff members who are still working with us, thank you for your continued support, it is greatly appreciated.

Thank you all for your continued support of IcePets.  If we band together and stay strong, we can make it through the current drought, and reach the promised land which is otherwise known as "the recode".

Thank you for reading.

Posted in icepets

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Some of you may know this about me already.  But for the last 4 years, I have been an active member of Toastmasters.  Through their program, and just putting myself out there in a calm supportive environment, I was able to break out of my shy shell and become a much more active communicator.  But confidence is not the only that that it has given me over the years.  Over the years I have taken on several executive roles at our club in order to help out.  This includes:

  • Sergeant at Arms
  • Vice President of Education
  • Mentorship Chair

While there, I found out about a program that I never knew existed.  It is called the “Youth Leadership Program”.  It is an eight-session program which is free for teenagers (from ages 12-18) to attend.  During these sessions, they learn a bit about leadership as well as improve their communication skills in order to boost their overall confidence.

Over these 8 sessions, each Youth Leader is required to complete 2 speeches and 2 evaluations.  But these are not the only things that they will be doing during this session.  Each Youth Leader will be encouraged to participate in Table Topics (speaking off the cuff) and take on other roles, in order to gain even better experience.

This year, IcePets is partnering with Brampton Toastmasters as a sponsor for two of these programs.  The first program has been already been scheduled for August 8th - 12th, and the second will be planned out later on in the year.

Looking back, I personally wish I had known about and actively participated in a Youth Leadership Program in the past.  I managed to work my way through University and the first few years of my career with being that quiet individual that knew a fair bit, but wouldn’t share it unless asked.  However, thanks to Toastmasters, I was able to break from that mold which has helped me to excel in what I do.

Last April I had the privilege to be the co-ordinator for a Youth Leadership Program and it was such an incredible experience.  The Youth Leaders amazed me from the very first day!  Everyone started off very  quiet, not really wanting to talk even amongst themselves.  However, that changed within the first hour of the program and by the very end, the Youth Leaders had been transformed into much more confident presenters.

These programs are all around the world, so if you are not aware of where they may be, ask at a local library, or go on Google and look for a local Toastmasters club, they could point you in the right direction.

Posted in icepets

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My anniversary for owning IcePets.com is coming up fairly soon (August 8th) and all I can say is wow has it ever been a ride so far.

I had been working as a freelancer with them for a little over a year, so I knew exactly what I was getting into.  Some very bad legacy code which was pieced together (and still holding fairly strong) with super glue and duct tape.  When going through the code, I noticed numerous back doors into the site that a previous programmer had built in for "security reasons".  AKA, in case they were banned, they would be able to make their way back into the site.  Those were patched, and the user was banned.  But here I was, owning a site and working with a bunch of people who I now call my friends with no idea the full vision.

So, my first order of duty was to bring the recode up into the foreground because the site wasn't really moving anywhere fast because I knew if this site was to be anything, the recode would bring a definite life to it.

Laravel was just breaking through the headlines on the PHP front when I had started working on the site.  But not only that, I was just working through the framework at the time and was entirely overwelmed!  There was so much going on, I knew it was all good and neat but just so much stuff!  But, I managed to power through it.  I started building the site up with Laravel 3.  A month later I heard that Laravel 4 was getting ready to be launched and it had some fairly substantial changes in it (aka - don't bother even trying to upgrade, just re-implement (copy and paste code) and build it up that way.

I was a little hesitant, but decided it had to be for the best.  That was when I was first introduced to "composer".  I had always dreamed of a way to easily incorporate other open source work into my projects, but never really knew a way.  This in itself was confusing!  Finally I managed my way through that hump and then came the next releases of Laravel (4.1 and 4.2).  These were fairly big.  By this point in time, I had already really started to focus on coding lots of the features. There were things I felt were clunky but it worked.  But something felt wrong.

When Laravel 5 came around, I decided to revisit the entire framework that I had thrown together to build IcePets version 2 (yes - a bit of a framework on top of the framework).  So, I started from scratch again.  This was ok because this time I knew it felt cleaner.

The last two years have been such a learning experience for me both technically and with leadership skills.  Looking back when I had originally thought about my very lofty goal of finishing the IcePets recode in a year, I realize how oblivious I was.  And, to be honest, I'm glad I didn't make that personal goal.  The technical learnings that I have picked up through the multiple iterations through the code, has slowed down progress on the site, but it has also opened my mind to way more options which I never even thought was possible.

I would like to say thank you to both the IcePets.com staff members as well as all of our loyal members who stick with us through this recode.  The best thing about the recode to me is the excitement it brings to me each and every time I think about it.  There are so many opportunities for us to morph the site into something substantially better than it currenlty is.  Once the recode is done, I think you will love the site and it will be a great place for all of us to bond as a community!

Thanks for reading!

Posted in icepets

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