Freelancing Gods 2014

God
14 Jun 2010

Laughtrack Review

So, it’s been a couple of months since the Melbourne International Comedy Festival wrapped up, and thus, a couple of months since LaughTrack went silent. I just want to write up a last batch of statistics, as well as some broader thoughts on how the site went in general.

I should have been doing this back when the festival actually finished, but some things got in the way of catching up on classifying all the tweets, and so I only actually got through the last of it yesterday.

The Leaderboard

A quick look at the top 10 (well, 11, given tied scores), going by quality:

Show Rating
The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason 93
Nina Conti: Talk to the Hand 93
Ross Noble: Things 91
Jamie Kilstein: Revenge of the Serfs 91
Adam Hills: Mess Around 91
David O’Doherty: David O’Doh-party 91
Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry 91
Frank Woodley: Bewilderbeest 90
Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos 90
Josie Long: Be Honourable 90
Melinda Buttle: Sista Got Flow 90

Most of those are quite established, but it’s worth noting those who are relative newcomers to the comedy scene: Celia Pacquola and Melinda Buttle – and those who are relative newcomers to Australian shores: The Pajama Men and Jamie Kilstein.

Gains

Here’s who made the biggest gains by rating over the final two weeks of the festival (I’ve trimmed the list to 8 – there’s another 7 on the next score down):

Show Initial Rating Current Rating Difference
Poet Laureate Telia Nevile: While I’m Away 0 65 65
Smart Casual: Same Mother, Different Fathers 0 60 60
Spontaneous Broadway 27 84 57
Mark Butler: I’ve Been Watching You Australians 0 53 53
Good News Week 0 53 53
Stevl Shefn and His Translator Fatima 0 53 53
Terry North: Life’s A Joke 0 53 53
Die Roten Punkte: Kunst Rock 27 72 45

In most of those cases, it only took a handful of positive tweets to gain some serious quality points. So again, let’s go by tweets instead of rating – because this turns out to be a far better metric for who has been getting a lot of buzz.

Show Initial Count Current Count Difference
Arj Barker: Let Me Do The Talking 43 77 34
Ross Noble: Things 29 62 33
The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason 26 54 28
Josh Thomas: Surprise 17 38 21
Rich Fulcher: Eleanor the Tour Whore 23 42 19
Tim Key: The Slutcracker 32 50 18
Adam Hills: Mess Around 26 44 18
Sam Simmons: Fail 15 31 16
Jamie Kilstein: Revenge of the Serfs 15 30 15
Josie Long: Be Honourable 13 28 15

I’m not going to bother analyse the data from which shows were sold out – it’s far from complete.

What’s next?

LaughTrack was a fun experiment for the festival, but I’m not quite sure of its future.

It’s possibly useful for other festivals (especially those with repeat performances – so, Fringe festivals much more than Film festivals), but I don’t quite have the passion for those festivals compared to the MICF. In other words, I’m probably not going to commit the time to keep the site up-to-date for the Melbourne Fringe (for example) without some personal incentive.

The classification system also needs a lot of work. I spent many, many hours classifying tweets, because automating that kind of intelligence into a website is far from easy, and I couldn’t get it to a reliable state without human interaction. I could open the classification out to everyone who visits the site – and if I run this for next year’s MICF, that’s quite likely – but again, it’s additional work.

And it’s worth noting that most tweets that LaughTrack picked up were not reviews – there was a lot of noise, and very little signal (which is the main problem with automating classification).

So where does that leave us? Well, I’m definitely interested in reprising LaughTrack for next year’s Comedy Festival, and hopefully can get the people behind the festival to send some data on ticket sales through.

As for other festivals, I’m going to need some financial support to dedicate any time to adapting and maintaining the site. If you’re interested in sponsoring development on LaughTrack for a festival, then please do get in touch.

I would love to hear feedback on whether you found the site useful during the festival, and how it could improve. From a personal level, I know I found new shows to go see purely by reading the thousands of tweets that came through.

05 Apr 2010

LaughTrack: Week Two

Another week has passed, so time for some more LaughTrack statistics.

First up, acts with the best ratings improvements since the start of the Festival:

Show Initial Rating Current Rating Difference
Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry 0 88 88
Ursula Martinez: My Stories Your Emails 0 84 84
Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos 0 84 84
Adrian Calear: Code Grey 0 79 79
Asher Treleaven: Secret Door 0 79 79
Daniel Burt: Yes Man Syndrome 0 77 77
The Festival Club 0 75 75
Catherine Deveny: Gold is Bullshit 0 72 72
Peter Helliar: Dreamboat Tour 0 72 72
Nelly Thomas: I Coulda Been A Sailor 0 72 72

That list is almost identical (ignoring the order) to last week… essentially: those who did well to start with, have solidified their position.

So let’s look at the differences just in the last week instead.

Show Initial Rating Current Rating Difference
List Operators For Kids: More Fun Than a Wii 0 60 60
Puppy Fight Social Club 0 53 53
And The Little One Said… 0 53 53
Jack Druce: Wild Druce Chase 0 53 53
Peter Helliar: Dreamboat Tour 27 72 45
Simon Keck: Dead Under Fluorescent Lights 0 43 43
Sadie Hasler: Her Lady Bones 0 43 43
I Heart Frankston: The Musical 0 43 43
Matthew Kenneally Flips the Bird at the Finger Pointers 0 43 43
Bart Freebairn: A Breathtakingly Magical Journey into the Ordinary 0 43 43
Greg Fleet: Big Love 0 43 43
Supermanchild 0 43 43
Metrosketchuals 0 43 43
Nick Cody: Lust Actually 0 43 43

This list could be considered shows with potential: towards the end, it only took two positive tweets to get them onto the list.

So, let’s now look at who has garnered the most positive tweets. Again, since the start of the festival:

Show Initial Count Current Count Difference
Wil Anderson: Wilful Misconduct 11 42 31
Arj Barker: Let Me Do The Talking 23 43 20
Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry 0 19 19
The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason 7 26 19
Rich Fulcher: Eleanor the Tour Whore 5 23 18
Nina Conti: Talk to the Hand 13 30 17
Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos 0 14 14
Ursula Martinez: My Stories Your Emails 0 14 14
Tom Green: World Standup Comedy Tour 8 22 14
Tim Key: The Slutcracker 19 32 13
Melinda Buttle: Sista Got Flow 4 17 13

Some big names there, though good to see some relative newcomers appearing too (Ursula Martinez, Melinda Buttle and Celia Pacquola).

As for the increases over just the last week:

Show Initial Count Current Count Difference
Wil Anderson: Wilful Misconduct 17 42 25
Arj Barker: Let Me Do The Talking 25 43 18
Tom Green: World Standup Comedy Tour 8 22 14
Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry 9 19 10
Ursula Martinez: My Stories Your Emails 5 14 9
The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason 17 26 9
Nina Conti: Talk to the Hand 21 30 9
Frank Woodley: Bewilderbeest 19 27 8
Sammy J and Randy: Ricketts Lane 6 14 8
Melinda Buttle: Sista Got Flow 9 17 8

Not much difference in the names this time around…

But what can you take away from this?

  • Ursula Martinez was an unknown before this festival. She’s just added three extra shows, which matches the buzz she’s received.
  • Melinda Buttle is another festival newcomer who has been getting a lot of buzz.
  • The big names draw the tweets – but Wil Anderson and Tom Green have both finished their festival runs.
  • The Pajama Men won the Barry Award for the best show last year in their first festival, and they’ve followed it up with another fine offering, going by numbers (and reviews).

I’ve also started tracking which performances are sold out – but there’s no point offering stats on that, because my data is far from complete. However, some of the smaller names regularly selling out:

Nick Cody, Daniel Burt, Vigilantelope and Clodhopper: Miami all sold quite well too – but they’ve finished their runs.

29 Mar 2010

LaughTrack: Week One

Last week, I launched a website I’ve been working on in my own time: LaughTrack. It follows what people are saying on Twitter about the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and provides ratings on whether the crowd thinks a show is good or not.

I’m not going to get too caught up in the site itself right now – that deserves a separate blog post, and I’ve not found time for that.

However, I just wanted to report on the acts that have had the most buzz over the course of the opening week:

Show Initial Rating Current Rating Difference
Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos 0 74 74
Ursula Martinez: My Stories Your Emails 0 65 65
Catherine Deveny: Gold is Bullshit 0 65 65
Geraldine Quinn: Shut Up and Sing 0 65 65
Good Evening: Shaun Micallef & Stephen Curry 0 65 65
Asher Treleaven: Secret Door 0 65 65
The Festival Club 0 65 65
Daniel Burt: Yes Man Syndrome 0 60 60
Adrian Calear: Code Grey 0 53 53
Dave Jory: Men Are From Mars 0 53 53
Donna & Damo: An Asexual Love Story 0 53 53
Fear of a Brown Planet Returns 0 53 53
Nelly Thomas: I Coulda Been a Sailor 0 53 53

I chose the top ten, but there’s quite a few that jumped up to 53, so you get a few extra.

It’s worth noting that those last five gained just three positive tweets. So, at this point it doesn’t take too many tweets to get someone jumping up the board. However, the higher the rating is, though, the slower the rating increases, so let’s look at who got the most positive tweets as a comparison:

Show Initial Count Current Count Difference
Rich Fulcher: Eleanor the Tour Whore 5 16 11
The Pajama Men: The Last Stand to Reason 7 17 10
Celia Pacquola: Flying Solos 0 8 8
Tim Key: The Slutcracker 19 27 8
Nina Conti: Talk to the Hand 13 21 8
David O’Doherty: David O’Doh-party 7 14 7
Russell Kane: Human Dressage 7 13 6
Tokyo Shock Boys 6 12 6
Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night 1 7 6
Wil Anderson: Wilful Misconduct 11 17 6
Fiona O’Loughlin: On a Wing and a Prayer 6 12 6

Again, a top ten, with one extra because of the same increase.

It’s interesting that almost all on the first list are comedians still making their stamp on the comedy scene. The second list has several more established acts. Only Celia Pacquola made it into both.

Of course, the older tweets were from other festivals – in particular, the Adelaide Fringe and the Brisbane Comedy Festival, which both happened in the lead-up to Melbourne’s Comedy Festival. So these numbers are far from perfect (but then, divining quality from Twitter isn’t a science anyway).

Hopefully you’ve found this somewhat interesting (well, if you’re a comedy buff) – expect more reports as the festival progresses. If you’re in Melbourne, I hope you’re making the most of this fabulous time of year!

30 Dec 2008

Freelancing Tips via Rails Camp 4

Context

The fourth Australian Rails Camp happened back in the middle of November – and it was unsurprisingly and extremely enjoyably awesome, just like the previous four. Ryan and Anthony did a sterling job with putting it all together.

I probably talked a bit too much – I certainly felt I had more than my fair share of peoples’ focus – and while I rabbited on about Sphinx and Ginger, the topic I really enjoyed ranting about was freelancing, because it became far less about me, and far more about sharing the wealth of everybody’s experiences. I provided a few starting points, and then wise RORO minds added their own thoughts and opinions.

I can’t reproduce all that here, though. I wouldn’t do it justice. What I can do is go over the same notes I had then, and you can add your 2 cents (or five dollars) in the comments.

Freelancing Maths

One of the first things you need to be aware of, when you start freelancing, is how much to charge. I didn’t have a clue, but some more business-minded friends put me on the right track, so I’m sharing their advice here – don’t give me any credit for it.

So, let’s assume you want to start freelancing, and you have a target of earning $80,000 over the year (yes, some of you may say that’s too low, but others will say it’s too high – it’s just an example, okay?). You can use this as a basis for figuring out an hourly rate. There’s 52 weeks in a year, 5 days in a week, and 8 hours in a day…

 52 weeks
x 5  days
x 8 hours
x ?  rate
_________
   80,000

But wait a second – are you really going to work all of those 52 weeks? I doubt it. You’ll need time off for annual leave, sick leave and public holidays – the times when an employer would still pay you when you’re not slaving away. Australian annual leave is four weeks, sick leave is usually two, let’s add in another one for public holidays, and that brings us down to 45.

 45 weeks
x 5  days
x 8 hours
x ?  rate
_________
   80,000

What are the odds you’re going to have work all the time though, and are you really going to have eight billable hours each day? Unless you’re some sort of machine, the answer’s no, trust me. So lets drop eight down to six.

     45 weeks
x     5  days
x     6 hours
x 59.25  rate
_____________
       80,000

One thing we’ve missed in our calculations is superannuation. Again, using Australia as the example (because it’s all I can reliably comment on), you’re supposed to be putting away 9% of your income into your super account. Let’s factor that in:

     45 weeks
x     5  days
x     6 hours
x 64.59  rate
_____________
       87,200

Okay, so we can get an hourly rate of about $65 from that maths. And that could be fine… but maybe you’ve been eyeing off RailsConf or RubyConf or other such events. They’re not cheap – and hopefully employers would normally fork out the cash to get you there. You’re the employer now, so how are you going to afford it? Add an allowance into your calculations.

Again, due to the remoteness of Australia, it’s extra expensive to get to any of the major Ruby conferences. If we assume you’ll get to two of them (again, could be extravagant for some of you, but this is all hypothetical), then I’m adding a touch over $12,000 – flights, hotels, insurance, the conference tickets – to bring us to a nice round $100,000 target.

Also, I’ve dropped the number of weeks down another two – it’s not like you’ll be getting anything done for your clients as you jet around.

     43 weeks
x     5  days
x     6 hours
x 77.52  rate
_____________
      100,000

Okay, our final hourly rate is about $77.50.

I know a lot of the more experienced developers are looking at that value and thinking it’s pretty low – and going by market rates (for Ruby developers), it’s definitely below average. Some say a good ballpark figure for a decent Rails developer is $100/hour – USD or AUD (remember when the two currencies were almost on par?). This doesn’t mean you should charge that much (or that little) – but it should factor into your thinking.

All that said, you need to be comfortable with what you’re billing your time at, but don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth. If the idea of having more cash than you expect scares you, there’s plenty of charities who would like to be your friend. Or, you could just work less, and spend the extra time on cool things (and they don’t even have to involve code!)

Freelancing Profile

Knowing what to charge is useful, but it’s not going to bring in the clients. Being known will help that problem, though – and there’s a few things you can do to help that.

Blog

Interpret how you will – a normal blog, twitter, tumblelog, even gists and pasties – sharing your ideas and knowledge is a great way to get your name known to others. It also helps build some human connections, via comments, emails or directed tweets. If it is valuable, they will find you (and if you think they need help, use a site like RubyFlow or RubyCorner to bring in some eyeballs).

Talk

If there’s a neat bit of code you’ve found, library you’ve come across (or written), or knowledge you think is valuable to others, offer to talk about it! It can be at your local Ruby group, or at something like a Rails Camp or BarCamp, or if you’re really comfortable up on stage, think about applying for a RailsConf or RubyConf slot.

I’m not a natural public speaker – but my confidence has grown in leaps and bounds from giving talks to fellow developers. Granted, I need to build up a bigger repertoire of topics, but I’m a bit less nervous about standing up and announcing my thoughts and opinions to others. It all started with an email from Tim Lucas asking what I was going to talk about at the first Rails Camp – and now Rails Camp folks are probably sick of hearing my voice.

They know who I am, though, and they know what code I’ve written. And that’s led to a referral or two for Rails work (usually Sphinx-related).

Socialise

Networking is a dirty word – and I can see how building connections with others for the purpose of connections, instead of meeting cool people, is a bit dirty. The much more fun alternative is to socialise – go out to social events, find those drinks happening in the evenings of conferences, have a conversation with a person you’ve not met before at your local Ruby meet.

Down the track, you will find these people may throw work your way – or maybe you’ll just learn cool new ways to code, or share some of your own knowledge, or make a good friend. All chalked up as wins in my book.

Release Code

Releasing your own code – from snippets to plug ins to full-blown applications – is a great way to show peers that you know what you’re talking about. It also shows potential clients that too, and reaffirms that you’re worth the rate you’re charging, and that you can be creative.

In my own case, I’ve done the occasional bit of Sphinx consulting due to my work on Thinking Sphinx.

Coincidentally, doing all these things are rewarding in and of themselves. I don’t do them to bring in work, I do them because they’re fun and I meet awesome people, which is (I think) the best approach. The opportunities they lead to are just an added bonus.

Your Turn

So, what’s your advice to a budding freelancer? Is there anything here that’s a bit Ruby or developer-centric? Any more general suggestions to keep in mind?

Also, please keep in mind I’m not an expert. I think the above advice is useful, but it is just advice. There’s no hard and fast rules that should be followed.

And the name of this blog has nothing to do with my work lifestyle, but the idea of deities who freelance for each other. Don’t take it as an indication of my ego. Honest.

17 Sep 2008

Three Twitter Tips

Now, I’ve been known to rail against people saying “This is the right way to use Twitter” – but there’s a couple things that I’ve started doing over the last few months that I think are worth sharing. I’m sure the expert Twitterers amongst you won’t find this new, and it really is only a couple of tips – so please suggest others in the comments – but perhaps some will find it helpful.

So, first up: If you’re following a lot of people (say, more than a couple of dozen), I recommend you don’t try to read every tweet everyone says. You’ll go crazy from the information overload. Don’t trawl back through the pages of tweets you missed while sleeping – just live in the moment.

Secondly, keep your eye on the Replies tab. This tracks every tweet addressed to you by others – whether or not they’re following you or you’re following them. That in itself is useful, but what makes this extra-special is the RSS feed for that page. This makes it super-easy for keeping track of messages, with one caveat: you need a feed reader that supports authentication (such as NetNewsWire).

The last tip I have also ties into RSS – the feeds for results from Twitter’s search. I use this to track messages about me (so I do get some duplicates with the Replies feed, but I also see all tweets that mention me but aren’t addressed to me), as well as a few other keyword searches – in particular, Rails Camp and Thinking Sphinx. The latter not only shows me the occasional tweet of people liking my plugin, but also gives me the opportunity to contact those with issues or complaints, see if I can help in some way.

See, told you I didn’t have too much to say.

So, how do you use Twitter? And what tips can you share?

28 May 2008

RailsConf 2008

I’ve just started my round-the-world conferences-and-holiday adventure, and the first stop is RailsConf in Portland – so if you’re in town and see me wandering around looking rather cluelessly, please say hi.

Also, in case you’re on the Twitter bandwagon, you’ll find me with the creative nickname of pat.

27 Mar 2008

Link: disambiguity - » Ambient Intimacy

"It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances. It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in whose lives we’re not able to participate as closely as we’d like."

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About Freelancing Gods

Freelancing Gods is written by , who works on the web as a web developer in Melbourne, Australia, specialising in Ruby on Rails.

In case you're wondering what the likely content here will be about (besides code), keep in mind that Pat is passionate about the internet, music, politics, comedy, bringing people together, and making a difference. And pancakes.

His ego isn't as bad as you may think. Honest.

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