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I can remember an email to-and-fro between Ian Whalley and myself, perhaps a decade or more ago, in which we were trading light-hearted tales of Internet domain purchases, registrars, horror stories and the like. Ian was rightfully pleased that he’d managed to get all his domains under a single registrar. I seem to remember, but this is a little hazy, that he’d got visibility of all his expiry/renewal dates, and also the correct details in the whois info.

My first domain purchase was with an Australian registrar whose name escapes me. I registered beatnik.net when I visited Sydney and Melbourne for trade shows during my Sophos days. It was cheap, as I recall, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, but it looked really cool, or something. On my return home I realised that I’d made a terrible mistake and sort of left it to fizzle and die.

Next up was gaekwad.com which I registered with Joker in Germany. Joker was a pretty neat system, but I never really got on with it. It was too technical for my know-how at the time. I snagged a few other domains around the same time, none of which really came to anything.

For reasons of national pride, or perhaps a feeling of bashful stupidity, I moved my domains to 123-Reg. I bought a few more, sold a few, let a few lapse and forgot to renew a couple. This was how it worked until perhaps 2004 or so when I discovered Go Daddy.

The following decade was not kind to my wallet. No fault of Go Daddy, I might add. They offer(ed) a vast selection of domain types at silly prices. They had coupons to take the prices down even further; coupons which, thanks to an affiliate deal with Podshow/Mevio/BiteSize TV paid my mortgage and bills for a number of years.

I’ve been gradually slimming down my domain portfolio from a somewhat bulky and expensive 250+ domains to the low teens. I’ll soon be in single figures, which is nice. I’ve sold a bunch, made a nice chunk of money on smart purchases and been a little unscrupulous with some others that took advantage of fat-fingered people mashing away on keyboards. I regret nothing.

I’ve had a working relationship with Go Daddy since 2006, both as a promoter and user of their services. I have been paid, continue to be paid and have paid them. I’ve seen good times and not-so-good times. They’ve received about $US10,000 from me for domains and related services, and I’ve been paid an order of magnitude more in return for my promotion services.

I’m an expert at navigating my way through the checkout process and avoiding the infamous Go Daddy up-sell. The domains I buy are likely loss-leaders, and the offers of additional trinkets with a cheap domain almost always get ignored by me.

Earlier this week I was reading about Go Daddy on Hacker News. Sort of due diligence after the fact, I suppose. Go Daddy are reportedly preparing for IPO. My understanding is that Go Daddy management changed considerably in the past few years. The founder and CEO has moved on, the higher-ups have changed tack and the current Go Daddy is not like the old Go Daddy.

This New Go Daddy is a double-edged sword. They’re less brash and showy, the commercials are less controversial and I’m confident the guy in charge doesn’t hunt elephants. New Go Daddy acquired Media Temple, the hosting company I’ve used since 2006. At the time it was announced, the somewhat inevitable customer backlash and fallout was brief and likely lost Media Temple some customers. It wasn’t a fatal move, both Go Daddy and Media Temple are still trading.

I don’t have access to any concrete source on this, but I’ve read reports that Go Daddy is losing money and has been for years. Having poked around and read lots of articles, I’m a little nervous having my hosting and domains under the same ownership umbrella. Not, like, losing sleep or jaw-clenching levels of nervousness, just a bit of first-world mild concern.

Last week, I started a search for a new domain registrar. I’ve skim-covered my emerging email strategy in recent days, but domains are another thing that need my attention. Most of my domains are with Go Daddy; there’s one with Names Beyond that I wasn’t able to migrate to Go Daddy. Remember that conversation with Ian about one registrar? Yeah, that rogue Names Beyond domain that wouldn’t budge has been annoying me softly ever since I bought it.

Someone once said that domains are like girls: most of the best ones are taken, but if you go searching around in faraway lands you can find some real gems. With that in mind, I went to Antigua and Barbude to buy pr.ag. Well, I didn’t actually get on a plane or anything proper, I just found a registrar that would sell me a domain for a reasonable price. Names Beyond got my business.

Most domains, subject to some rules and exemptions, can be transferred from one registrar to another. Go Daddy, for reasons that aren’t clear to me, cannot transfer a .ag domain in, which meant I was stuck with Names Beyond for the duration of my ownership. Actually, that’s a lie. I thought I was stuck with Names Beyond and their low-rent website interface. It turns out, I’m not.

I am about 24 hours away from being in the position that Ian was in a decade or more ago in having all my domains under one registrar, with full visibility of expiry dates, correct whois info and a slight air of smugness.

Did New Go Daddy figure out how to transfer that lone domain into their flock? Did Names Beyond make me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Nope. I went to the French.

Gandi, a French company, are now guardians of my domains. In less than 24 hours I’ve moved 90% of my portfolio over to them. There are three more in the process of moving over: two .co.uk domains and pr.ag. Names Beyond are going through the motions of transfer, I’m told. I am not totally confident that will happen without a hitch, but that’s life.

The two .co.uk domains are ultimately handled by Abominet Nominet and need their IPS tags switched from Go Daddy to Gandi in order for me to push them. Go Daddy don’t offer this tag switching function in their control panel, it’s a case of contacting them and asking them to do it for you.

I prepared some text to raise a support ticket at Go Daddy. Get all the info into one message, get the issue raised, get a ticket reference, get it actioned, get the domains out, drink a celebratory beverage, etc.

New Go Daddy have removed the ability to raise a support ticket over email.

Huh?

OK, no worries, I’ll email their catch-all support email address. That didn’t help, and advised I either call them on the phone or use the live chat. To their credit, they have a UK geographical number (020 for London) to call, and it appears to be VoIP. This means I can call from my mobile phone and use my allocation of minutes.

Great. I call. There’s a 30 minute wait to be served. I hang up.

I look around for the live chat option. I fail to find it. I’m pretty good at Internet-fu, and this stumped me for a considerable while (almost 5 minutes). It turns out that the live chat option was not available from my browser, either because of my browser being unsuitable or because – and get this – the live chat queue was too large. Seriously.

I’ve read reports of people not being able to find the live chat portal thingy because there’s too much of a backlog. Conspiracy theories aside, it turns out that I wasn’t able to start a live chat for a more obvious reason: where I live.

Compare the following two screenshots. The first is how the Go Daddy support homepage looks if you’re in the US:

This is how the same page looks from the UK (note the change of country in the top bar):

The red emphasis is mine. In the US, there’s a live chat box. From the UK, there’s only a telephone line option. – no live chat. A telephone-only option for an Internet services company. This is baffling.

Note that when I took these screenshots it was before 5am at New Go Daddy, so their live chat was closed and the wait times for telephone support are much lower. I used the US location option and used live chat. I waited about 40 minutes, not quite focussing on the other tasks I was doing due to the inaccurate waiting time progress indicator, before a cheery-sounding lady responded with something that I’ve never experienced in live chat. I’m paraphrasing because I didn’t save the chat log, but it was along the lines of “Hi, please ask your question and be prepared to wait a little while because I’m dealing with other people at the same time as you”. I assumed this kind of thing happens a lot at busy companies, I’m not naive – but it didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy about the whole thing.

After a 40-minute wait, and a further two-minute chat to request an IPS tag change, I was done. I received an email with an incident number and advice that this tag change process would take 24-72 hours to complete. I don’t mind that it’s going to take 1 to 3 days to get this job done, but a email or form to open a ticket would’ve been far more straightforward for me. Selfish, I know.

Interesting point to note: zero up-sell on the chat. None. No attempt to have me stay with Go Daddy. I guess this is down to the operators not having any spare time to sell stuff while they juggle a bunch of support requests at the same time.

As is customary at the end of a support chat, I got to rate the operator and leave feedback. I was going to request that they bring back the email support option, but on the basis that I’d essentially just quit New Go Daddy as a customer, I left that field blank.

A tinge of sadness, a little reminiscing about how things were, and I was done.

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My quest for minimalism is continuing and my thoughts have turned to email. Like many people, I have a Gmail/Google Mail email account. My email strategy is changing, and that Gmail account will likely be closed by this time next year.

I was an early adopter of Gmail and I’ve recently passed my ten-year anniversary of having a Google account: I have no clear recollection of May 31, 2004 when I created the account, but I remember it was via an invite. I was attracted to a bunch of free email storage, and at the time I liked the Google user interface. I was instantly impressed and switched from Hotmail, which I used as an ISP-agnostic email account.

Hotmail was, well – it was Hotmail. It worked OK, and as long as I logged in every month or so, it was a free email account. I’d dabbled with Hushmail too, but ultimately moved away from it. I’ve been using Gmail for ten years, both as a catch-all for website sign-ups and predominantly non-work emails.

I have become reliant on Gmail. A massive Internet company looks after a large proportion of my email. I have, to date, never had a problem with Gmail. It works. I access my email over IMAP, which means I use Gmail for their email infrastructure and use a mail reader on my computer & phone to view, send and sort.

Looking at the things Google have done in the decade-or-so since Gmail first appeared, I am not confident my method of accessing Gmail will continue. No inbox ad revenue is gained from people like me. I wouldn’t be surprised if Gmail IMAP was switched off in a year or two. I have no data to back up this statement, it’s more of a gut feeling than something based on empirical evidence.

Google make lots of stuff, then decided to stop supporting some of it – and that’s totally understandable. Whether or not various security agencies have read access to my email makes no difference to me at all, perversely. What does concern me is that I don’t have any control over the @gmail.com part of my email address.

I’m going to switch to Fastmail. I will use my own domain for email, and pay for the service. I pay for website hosting – something that I place a commercial and monetary value in having run well, and be able to control. My email is equally important to me, if not more so, but having it on a free service (Gmail) does reduce its perceived value to me.

The Fastmail model of charging on a per-account basis has got me thinking, too: how many email addresses do I actually need? I have ten. Some are for projects that are active, others are throwbacks to another time where things were needlessly complex. The web hosting I mentioned earlier allowed me to have a bunch of domains, each with a bunch of email addresses. I created many of both.

This complexity issue is actually two-fold as my web hosting is changing, too. I’ve been with Media Temple for years, since I saw a recommendation for them in my early podcasting years. Renting a virtual private server on Media Temple gave me the scope to rapidly set up websites and email addresses without paying each time.

The only thorn in this arrangement was that the server itself was maintained by Plesk, a software product that appears to be written and maintained by drunk Russians. I say this not in a xenophobic way, but having visited St Petersburg it’s pretty clear to me why they invented vodka. My setup is a server, with Plesk, some websites, some email and some databases. Whenever Plesk updates itself, I cross my fingers that nothing breaks. I’ve lost count of the times it has.

So, email is going to Fastmail. Web hosting will move to Digital Ocean and/or Linode. Having trialled a few things with Digital Ocean, it’s been an eye-opening experience. Sixty seconds to commission a server instance with an operating system, then you get to work on doing what needs to be done. Install as little or as much as you need or want to. That’s it. There is no Plesk. There is no Plesk. NO PLESK.

Back to email again. I’ve got ten years of using Gmail to gradually undo. Hundreds or thousands of websites. In some respects, it’s tempting to cherry pick the top twenty sites that use it, switch the email address to my new one and then move on. Realistically, though, this is not ideal. The ‘forgot password’ option won’t work when I delete the email address – which then raises the question of value for that particular website. Do I need to have an account there? Can I cut my losses (if there are any) and register a new account?

The work involved with a gradual migration is tolerable, and I figure that if I don’t use an account in the next year or so, it’s likely I can do without it. This caveat doesn’t apply to work-based stuff as I have that taken care of outside of Gmail.

When my Gmail account hits its 11th birthday next year, it should be all but unused. Whether or not I can still access it with IMAP is another question entirely.

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I can finally see space where I live. Free space that’s a direct result of a concerted effort to declutter and minimise what I own. I’ve achieved things in recent months that have eluded me for years. I’ve gone from the mindset of a packrat to something on the way to bodged minimalism. The mental processes are addictive, truly and honestly.

A few days ago I had a conversation with Jen about death. We’re both going through a period of depression in our own worlds, punctuated with occasional spikes of mania. We’d both had challenges over the week that had left us struggling on one level or another, and tensions spilled out. We talked about death, dying, not being around, that kind of thing.

It was all very matter of fact — unsurprisingly so. People who go through depression do so in their own way. Some folks cope, some work through it, others don’t. As crass as this may sound to you, I’m lucky with my depression; I don’t keep it a secret and frankly I’ll talk about it with anyone who asks, including a small bunch of people who seem to understand what I go through. This conversation was something of a turning point for me, especially combined with the progress I’d made in terms of decluttering and minimising. I could see evidence that my bullish attitude toward not keeping useless stuff around the house has finally starting to have a positive effect. I’d decided by the end of the conversation that I want to continue my path and make a life worth living.

Living alone is a unique experience. It’s liberating and frightening, it’s restorative and exhausting (sometimes at the same time) — I’d also go as far as to say it’s an experience everyone should have at one time in their life. I’m responsible for everything that happens around here, and for the last two years I’ve been finding my way. In some respects, living alone for two years has fundamentally changed me, but in other ways I’m just the same; I still (still) want a better life for myself, and I have an inkling that I’ll never be entirely content with what’s going on, whatever that might be.

This to-and-fro about death covered different experiences we’d both had, plans we might make for our own deaths and at the time I talked openly about how I presume I will take my own life at some point in my future. No emotion, malice or resentment, just an understanding that when my time comes it’ll be on my terms. Crucially, there’s no current schedule to do it. There have been times in the past that I’d‘ve preferred to just not be alive, something that appears to be common with many people going through depressive episodes, but I don’t have any suicidal thoughts right now.

The daily decluttering of my house is a warped simile of my brain. I haven’t been coping very well with life since about 2008, and although the happy graph is trending upwards overall it’s had many bumps along the way. This ideal of making a live worth living is a very recent realisation and will certainly influence what I do in the short, medium and long terms.

I don’t have mania episodes very often, and I’ve learned to handle the ones I do have. To that end, I haven’t made any abrupt path-changing decisions in the days following this chat. It probably helped that my family were staying down here last week. It’s an annual gathering that is becoming something of a tradition; last year it was Center Parcs, this year I suggested Cracky as a destination and a local holiday home became their base for 7 days. In that respect, I wasn’t alone. Truthfully, I never go a day without seeing at least one person I know, but having people around to keep my mind on other things was likely a good move.

It’s very clear to me that I’m not living the life I want, but at the same time I know I’m not a lost cause destined for quiet mediocrity. I have no desire to be well-known or a key industry player. I do want to carve out my niche and make the best of it. There are, of course, a hundred or so things I could be doing right now to get me closer to this seemingly mythical ideal path that I want to be on. Maybe this current path I’m on is just meandering a bit and I’ll figure it out on the way.

There is no big ending to this blog post. I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing: keeping a low profile, being relatively strict about what comes in and out, and treading the paths to a life worth living.

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I’m undertaking an experiment to see how my day is affected by not knowing the time. I stopped wearing a watch over a decade ago, and I switched my radio station to one that doesn’t broadcast news. The latest thing I’ve done is to remove the clock from my computer desktop.

If I have scheduled meetings and appointments, they go into my calendar with appropriate reminders and alarms. For billable client work, I use a stopwatch or timer to keep track. When I’m working on my own stuff, I check the time more often than is strictly necessary and I think this is a hint of procrastination beginning to creep in.

I have millstones in my job. There are a couple of projects that have been on my books longer than I am comfortable with. Work is progressing on them, but not at the rate I want it to. These millstones drag me down, negatively affect professional relationships and add an air of stagnancy to my day.

Not having a clock visible is making a marked difference in my day. Rather than telling myself I’ll work on a project at a given time, I just get on with it. There’s no delaying and my brain is happier as a result. I feel better for getting closer to finishing the project, and my day is better as a result.

Time is less of a factor in my day, and I’m not rushing around as often. I still make sure I am in the right place at the right time, but when I don’t need to be anywhere I consciously let time be more fluid. The net result is that I’m getting more done, feel less pressured to squeeze more in and have a more fulfilling day overall.

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I’m in the midst of stuff disposal. I can’t pin down exactly when this phase started, but it’s slowly been gaining momentum for the last couple of years. I’ve become more comfortable with it, and much less of a packrat as time has passed. Overall, I’m in a better place for it.

This ‘stuff’ I refer to used to be purely digital: photos, documents, music and the like. Then I started a reducing the variety and amount of paperwork in my world, and an ongoing process. I used to collect and maintain terabytes of data, mostly for my own use. The realisation that this was just noise in my already crowded head meant it had to go. So, it did.

More recently, I’ve been paring back physical things in my world that are not relevant: failed project reminders, things that I acquired with a view to working on, and items that I just need out of my life for the greater good. There’s much to do, though (do you want a leather sofa?) and it figures that since it took me years to accumulate all this stuff, it’ll take a while to get rid of it, too.

The difference this makes is profound. I occasionally fantasise about having all my possessions in a rucksack and just cycling off into the sunset to live my life. There are minor technicalities to contend with, such as not using my bike as much as I’d like to – my aerobic fitness will make this a bunch of short journeys interspersed with lots of resting – and an unhealthy fixation I have with wanting to fix the place I live in. Both of these contribute to a not-very-adventurous mentality.

At the core, I’ve been surviving for a couple of years. I had a truck full of belongings that I brought with me to Cornwall, most of which I either no longer have or am seeking new homes for. I have no love for the past, and the future isn’t here yet – so I live in the present, and think about it occasionally.

I’m not yet ready to thrive, nor do I expect to be in the next year or more. I’ve found a couple of new outlets that I can use to my benefit, and perhaps one day I’ll be that guy on the bike with a rucksack.

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