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A friend with an Asian background complemented me recently on being “blunt” about things. While, I agree that being straight-forward in conversing with other people, it’s not really in my nature to be that way. You see, I’m also half-Asian and half-Italian – born and raised in the United States and probably have a much different “way” of conducting myself than most Westerners. The “Chinese way” of dealing with others whether in business or relationships has  a lot riding on something they call “guangxi” – or “relationships.” The Chinese business model – if you can call it that has to deal with how one person inter-relates with another. Their businesses have a lot to do with family and developing friendships and taking a business proposition from there.

For instance, if someone wants to start a business in Taiwan – let’s just use a “teashop” for example, these individuals can turn to their relatives and friends for support – to help them pool-in and finance their businesses. However that doesn’t always mean that a business is going to be successful. In fact, when I taught there I used to go to teashops to meet people and work on lesson plans on a regular basis. One day my favorite teashop would be open, and the next day it would be closed. Then right around the corner from there, another one would “magically appear.” The same applies to their restaurants and shops as well. And that’s not an exaggeration. For the most part, it is a model which has worked fine for Chinese culture for many thousands of years and their culture continues to operate in this fashion to some degree.

However, in the United States – while some businesses do start with familial support, many business owners take the “familial” portion out of the equation and often substitute their start-up and operational costs with loans from their local lenders. In this way, their dealings seem less “personal” and perhaps more “professional” by Western standards and practice. The whole method tends to be more direct and to the point.

Now, I’m not advocating “wrong” or “right” here. But there definitely is a cultural divide which happens between the two cultures. I acknowledge from both sides that it exists.

As much as I would sometimes like to “take” the Chinese way of doing business out of me, a lot of this is habitual and stems from my upbringing. By nature, I tend to be polite and gregarious towards others. I don’t hesitate to make “small talk” or even “negotiate” (another standard Chinese practice) with people – in fact I enjoy it and it comes somewhat naturally. However, I’ve noticed over the years of running my business that these rules and habits don’t seem to translate too well for business practice in the United States.

For many years, I’ve spoken with some of the biggest developers and architects in this country. Some of these individuals wield more financial power than entire countries. Some of them can make or break you. Sometimes it’s a phone call, and other times it is an email or two. One thing that I’ve discovered is that when I’m talking with a head or president of a major corporation in the US is that they often don’t make small talk. I say that with some caution – I don’t want to come off as stereotyping – this is just my own personal observation. Usually, it entails getting straight to the point – “how long will it take?” and “how much will it cost?” That’s the essence – the “meat and potatoes” of a conversation. They don’t necessarily want to know the ins-and-outs of what may potentially go wrong or what problems you may encounter. They don’t want to know that you’re busy because “family is coming in from out of town.” They just want simple, straight-forward answers. And the few times I’ve tried to make small-talk when I first started out, I think there’s times where it may have actually back-fired on me ( I’ll never be 100% sure if that has ever occurred.)

I think that there may be some sort of disconnect which happens in business when the East meets West. I often think that if you’re “too friendly” in your business dealings, Western culture tends to interpret this as being untrustworthy, or it’s marked with a red flag. And if the reverse situation occurs, Westerners can be viewed as being “short” and perhaps even “unfriendly.” From a business psychology stand-point, this is actually a form of “communication barrier” or even “language barrier” and can lead to some major misunderstandings – whether it involves people directly, businesses, or even on a global political level.

So it’s unfortunate, but when I’m on the phone with clients nowadays, I’ve become somewhat “straight to the point” as well. I don’t mess around with people’s time because I don’t want to lose a potential project on the simple fact that I was “being friendly.” That’s not to say that I am being “unfriendly” – I do in fact occasionally joke around with a client if we’re feeling comfortable with one another – but perhaps it should be considered “professional” by Western standards.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

I had talked with a client over the past couple of days regarding a non-architectural project. He said that he received three estimates in total. One was from a Flash developer who wanted most of the work already done for him. The second was me – I was prepared to handle everything. And the third was from, in his own words a “high-end advertising service” that wanted to charge a fortune but would provide everything “on a silver platter.”

I told him that if he wanted to, “I could raise my prices and we could call it high-end as well.”

I just hope my joke went over well… Sometimes I don’t know when to shut up.

P.S. – I ended up getting the job.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

***Please note that this link has been removed. This article was from 2009 and since then, Google Knol has fallen out of the public eye.***

I was recently awarded a ‘Top Viewed’ as well as ‘Top Pick’ award regarding an article I had written on Architectural Renderings from Google Knol. I had written the article and posted it to my main graphics forum, where others began to read it. It quickly made the Internet circuit gracing some of the top architecture sites found on the web and the traffic to it exploded. While I’m not one to boast about ‘accomplishments’, having these awards lets me know that I’m not too far off base from my assessments.

Over the course of the last month, I received hundreds of emails from people thanking me for having written this article. In some ways, I think it accurately describes the difficulties and tribulations that other artists encounter. It also gives them some insight into how I started and continue to operate my business.

If you’re an architect, student who is looking to possibly get into the architectural rendering field, or a budding artist trying to build up your work – I would recommend reading this article. It’s a bit long, but I tried to cover most of the bases in having written it.

As always, please let me know if you found this article interesting or useful.

Thank you for your support,

-Charles

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

***Please note that there is an updated version of this article  as of 3/25/10 posted here: https://www.lunarlog.com/setting-wordpress-blog-part-ii/ – you may want to read this article still but keep in mind that many plugins and techniques have changed.***

I spent the last few days working on this blog – basically rebuilding it from scratch sans previous articles. I also wanted to document some basic steps and the plugins I used for this installation as it may come in handy for other people thinking about revising or creating a blog on their own. I’ve also learned some very useful tips and techniques over the years, and it might even help the most seasoned of website owners and bloggers.

Now if you want, there’s plenty of other free resources out there which will allow you to host your own blog. You can go with something like WordPress.com (different from the .org – they actually will set up and host your blog for a cost as well) or Google Blogger. I personally choose my own website because I like having my own domain name, and secondly it gives me full control over templates, what is posted, and which plugins I choose to install and use.

While I used to like playing around and experimenting, I find that I don’t have as much time as I used to. Running eight websites and actually doing ‘real’ work can do that to somebody. So lately I’ve been of the opinion that I like to keep a blog as simple as possible. Not only does it make life easier to maintain things, but when there’s a major engine update, things are less likely to break. That and a simple and clean looking blog is less likely to turn readers away and may even keep people coming back. Plus, keeping it “simple” can also lead to higher search engine returns.

I would also like to mention that it is a good idea to employ these practices at a start of creating a new blog. Changing a blog that has already been around and spidered for a long time may have unintended consequences such as a temporary drop in rankings for various keywords and phrases. But in the long run, you will most likely see much great returns in readership by employing these techniques (one of my blogs saw a traffic increase by over 1000% when I followed these steps.)

I’ve tried to outline my ‘simple’ steps below and cover as much ground as possible with what I use and what I don’t use:

Website Hosting:

  1. I use Total Choice Hosting for all of my websites as well as my friends. The uptime on most of their servers is pretty good. Their technical support is excellent. They also use Cpanel which makes checking your web logs and setting up websites a breeze through Fantastico. And for roughly $4/month, you get very good hosting package. Keep in mind that I’m not receiving any advertising royalties for mentioning their service here – it’s simply what I choose to use.
  2. I also buy my domains through Total Choice Hosting. It probably costs a dollar or two more than most other providers, but the extra dollar you spend per year makes life that much easier as the sites sync nicely. I never sign up for their additional packages and promotions. All I get is a “basic” domain name.

Basic WordPress Blog Installation and Steps:

  1. Once you have the host and domain name, navigate to Cpanel.
  2. Set up an email address there.
  3. Click Fantastico afterwards and click WordPress.
  4. Set up a username, enter my email address, and password.
  5. Your default WordPress blog has been created.

Additional WordPress Configuration:

  1. Enter the administration panel through: //yourdomain.com/wp-admin
  2. You’re going to want to add your email address in your General WordPress Settings.
  3. You also want to change your default WordPress install under ‘General WordPress Settings’ for ‘WordPress address (URL)’ and ‘Blog address’ to read: https://www.yourdomain.com – adding the ‘www.’  portion is very important for search engine ranking. If you use both ‘//www.yourdomain.com’ and ‘//yourdomain.com’, search engines such as Google actually read your website as two different websites and duplicate content, and penalize your ranking by splitting your rank in half. This is one of the most common optimization mistakes for webmasters.
  4. Set up your ‘Users’ account by ‘Adding New’ and adding additional details under ‘Your Profile.’
  5. Go through the ‘Settings’, and add additional information as necessary. Most of the settings are pretty standard and you really won’t have to change much of anything.
  6. You may see that an update to WordPress is available at the top of your screen. Sometimes this contains improved functionality, or improved security. I like to keep my engine as up-to-date as possible. Click and follow the link in order to update your blog installation to the latest version. Just a warning – sometimes this can get a little messy, and you will need to update this manually through a free FTP program such as Filezilla.
  7. On the right-hand side of this website, you will see several tabs. These currently include ‘Topics, Recent Posts, Links, Tag Cloud, and Meta.’ You can add additional ones or delete these ones at will. They’re called ‘Widgets’ and fall under the ‘Appearance’ category. To activate them, simply drag them from left-side of your Widgets administration scree, and vice-versa. You can find additional Widgets by clicking ‘Plugins’, ‘Add New’, and searching for ‘widgets’ in the search field. Keep in mind that not all themes you install play nicely with widgets.
  8. Please note: I recommend this ‘last’ step as an optional one. If your new to WordPress, skip this for now and just playing with your blog’s default template until you get the hang of things. You can change your blogs appearance easily by clicking ‘Appearance’ and ‘Add New Themes.’ Generally, I don’t click anything other than the ‘Find Themes’ button at the bottom of the screen. Then I browse until I find a theme that I like and click ‘Install’ followed by ‘Activate.’ Often, I’ll install a theme that matches the approximate look and feel of what I’m going for. Then through advance coding, hacking, and redesign – I modify it to meet my design needs. However, recently I haven’t had much time to play around with doing that. Just keep in mind that when adding themes, you should test out each them as some of them are older and portions may be incompatible with your WordPress engine. To be on the safe side if your coding skills are non-existent, you may want to check ‘Featured’, ‘Newest’, or ‘Recently Updated’ when browsing themes. Most of these should be fully compatible with your WordPress installation.

Basic WordPress Posting and Editing:

  1. ‘Pages’ on the left-hand side will appear as navigation tabs (or buttons) along the top of your blog. You might choose to have a navigation bar which reads, ‘Home, About Us, Contact, Directions.’ That’s your choice. I try to keep things as simple as possible in order to avoid confusion and improve a user’s experience. For this blog, I currently have ‘Home’ and ‘About’ buttons. I don’t need anything more than that… In order to add a new page, simply click ‘Add Page’ and fill out the information.
  2. ‘Posts’ on the left-hand side is basically where you will want to post your main blog articles. It’s pretty straightforward on how to use that.
  3. ‘Links’ on the left-hand side is additional links that appears on the main page of your blog if you have the ‘Links’ Widget enabled. By default, this is called a ‘Blogroll’ which can be a little confusing, however you can change it to read ‘links’ on the Widgets setup page. On this blog, I list a few favorite websites as well as my own on the right-hand side of this page under ‘Links.’
  4. ‘Comments’ is pretty straight-forward. You can see other people’s comments here and moderate these by editing, deleting, marking as spam, etc…

Adding Functionality to WordPress through Plugins:

Once you have a decent working knowledge of your blog, you can start to add to its functionality. WordPress by default is like buying a standard card with manual everything, except the ‘car’ was free. There’s so many things you can do (and will want to do) in order to make life easier through less steps, as well improving your websites visibility in search engines. Besides writing plenty of good content, the last part is important in order to be a successful blogger. Most people are never found on the web, simply because they skip out a few additional steps.

Here’s a list of the plugins I installed and use for all of my WordPress (version 2.8.4 as of 8/27/09) blogs and installations. Please keep in that mind most of these plugins are directly available and free from with the WordPress ‘Plugins’ ‘Add New’ tab. Some of them might say that they’ve been untested and may not work for your current version, but I’ve installed these and as far as I can tell most of these are working just fine. I’ve also installed these based on user-experience as well as overall ratings and downloads as you can’t completely trust the WordPress rating system (something may have 5 stars and only 1 rating, while another plugin might be 4 stars and have 1,000+ ratings):

Some Additional, Useful Blogging Information:

First and foremost, Google is your friend. Before you write asking questions, I recommend Googling any potential problems you have encountered. Also use the WordPress.org forums as they can occasionally provide help. It can be difficult to troubleshoot something locally, let alone having to do it on someone else’s computer remotely. Whenever I encounter a problem, I generally turn to Google for answers.

Secondly, if you don’t have a Google account, I would really recommend getting one and signing up for their Webmaster’s Tools, Analytics, and Feedburner programs.

Finally, this is just a nice little added touch – sign up for a Gravatar at gravatar.com. Gravatar is known as a ‘Globally Recognized Avatar.’ A Gravatar is a small photo that appears to a lot of your blog comments throughout the web. It syncs up with your email address, so whenever you fill out a comment form, the blog you are writing on hits the gravatar website and automatically serves up the photo of your choosing.

Current WordPress Wishes:

At the moment, my biggest wish is the ability to automatically turn all of my internal post links into a target=”_blank” tag automatically. target=”_blank” tells each link to open in a new window instead of taking a user away from your page or post. I’ve hunted around for a plugin that would do this and haven’t found one yet that alters the WordPress Editor default behavior. If someone comes across anything, please let me know.

I would also like to find an alter­na­tive to Socia­ble — the book­mark­ing plu­gin that puts these “Share The Posts” tagline under­neath every one of my arti­cles. I’m all about stream­lin­ing and sim­pli­fy­ing the way a web­site appears. As much as I like the plu­gin, I feel that it adds “clut­ter” to a design. I came across the “addthis” plu­gin to Word­press — it’s more in the direc­tion I’d like Socia­ble to be but yet I’m not too crazy about the look and feel of it. I’m sure it provides some configuration options and I could spend some time hacking it – but I really want the least amount of hassle possible.

And Last but Not Least:

Please let me know if this post helps you. Thanks!