I went through seven years of higher education to learn how people work in groups and organizations, and how to do research — to summarize a huge body of knowledge in one phrase.
Then I ran Allpar for, let’s see, yes, twenty years. What did I learn from that?
- Maintaining positive relationships with people on the things we hold in common, ignoring the areas where we would fight like cats and other cats
- Advertising management, some tax accounting, and freelancer management
- Bringing the systems approach that was part of my formal education to bear in my writing and understanding of how cars are made and sold
- Linux server management, through Webmin, CPanel, and the command line
- Dealing with people who are extremely dedicated and convinced of their points and positions, so they don’t alienate and drive away everyone else but still contribute positively to the discussion; and with people who are just jerks; and knowing the difference
- PHP, Perl, html, and batch-file coding, not to mention all those configuration files (not many people know that Allpar was originally hand-coded, and that much of the site uses php code I wrote myself through trial and error — not just the random/new features systems but also various caches and the responsive/adaptive headers and footers).
- The rudiments of journalism, including the odd relationship reporters have with the people they cover — nothing like what you’d expect from movies, TV show, or the journalism classes I’ve taken (I have to say, this is where I’ve made the most mistakes)
- Figuring out which sources are real, which are fake, and which are real but mistaken
- Knowing what has to be run by the company and what doesn’t, and where (and how) to push back
- Developing the emotional maturity to deal with people who don’t have any
- Being able to create news from dribs-and-drabs when there isn’t anything really new out there
- Developing a good working knowledge on how engineering and product design works, in general, and how the automotive world works, in particular
- SSL, SSH, and how to detect and avoid bots and script kiddies
- Photography, photo editing, and high-speed photo editing
- High speed writing and editing; and editing to keep the original writer’s flavor
- Layout, first by html elements, then by tables, then by CSS, with input from analytics to find the best bounce and click-through rates
- GREP — searching for and replacing text by regular expressions (looking for patterns) for extremely high-speed conversions
I started what became Allpar in late 1993 or early 1994 — 24 years ago. I started relying on Allpar income in 2001, when I went part-time at my “real job,” and today the places have switched and it’s essentially my full time job; and organizational consulting is a spare-time occupation. Allpar has been featured in the New York Times, CNN Money, and Hemmings Motor News; and used as a source by all sorts of major publications. I personally was interviews by Business Week, the Rockford Register Star, USA Today, Detroit News, and the Daily Telegraph.
It’s been an interesting ride, and I’ve learned a lot — most of it, without intending to.