I just spent two weeks on my couch, staring at the wall, nursing a bad case of bronchitis, desperately trying to convince myself every morning that I was healthy again, and then falling over ten minutes later.

This was poorly timed. I had just asked the internet/universe for new clients (and it was delivering); I needed to promote and host January’s Queer Open Mic; I had to host, edit the audio recording, book the next guest, and kick off some written content for Deviants Online; there were a handful of loose ends at Genderfork that I was dropping the ball on (including a physical interactive art exhibit that we were sponsoring and needed to build); and there’s also a big sorta-secret dream project that I’m determined to kick off this year, and I had planned to announce it in January to find out who wants to help.  But instead, I’ve been curled up in a ball, unable to think or do.

Pretty much all I managed to pull off in this time was gathering a few new (less linear) perspectives. Here’s one:

I used to write — poems, stories, essays, daily journal entries, thoughts on napkins, whatever I could use to spew ideas on. I also blogged almost daily here, and was thrilled by my ability to publish something to the whole world with just a click. My writing slowed when I got into building more websites “just for fun” — there’s a lot of creative energy that goes into getting the CSS and HTML, the content and audience, just right.  And now I organize.  My creative needs are met by arranging people, ideas, and spaces together like I used to string together words or snippets of code.  The result is still a piece of art — something I can point to and say, “I did that, and it’s beautiful, it’s even more interesting than I imagined it would be, and it has an effect on the people who encounter it.”  Only now the art is much more alive.  It grows and changes and takes on its own personality and it needs to be constantly fed and nurtured to survive.

I’ll be honest: poems were way easier.  They certainly didn’t care if I got sick.

About a month ago, when I was having a crisis of direction, I called my dear friend Melissa and demanded, “What do I want to be when I grew up, again??” She said, “Sarah, you’re a poet who raises armies and brings people together, and sometimes those poems look like websites.” And sometimes those websites look like armies. And sometimes those armies look like poems.

Genderfork was a photo-a-day project in which I posted photos from flickr to represent my unusual sense of style.

Genderfork is a community space for 13,000+ devoted readers a month, and it’s managed by a staff of ten.

Queer Open Mic was my writing deadline and my creative home — I went there to perform every two weeks for a group of friends in that tiny cafe, whether I was ready to or not.

Queer Open Mic packs 80 grateful performers into the back of a bookstore each month, and they thank me afterward for making them a home.

Deviants Online is a baby now, and I’m excited to see where it will grow.

And there’s this other big project that I want to talk about — it’s not ready yet, but it will be real soon.  As soon as I catch up from being sick.

And my clients, I love you, and I love that you trust me to advise on your organizing — that music you play to your audience and the way you inspire them to dance.

I live for this stuff. I work to build and I build for work. I’ve been sitting on a couch for two weeks agonizing over how disconnected and depressing it feels to not be creating.

But one thing is loud, bright, and obvious from where I’m standing now: It’s gonna be a damned good year.

Over dinner last Thursday night, maymay and I spent several hours discussing what makes a Good Web Development Team, based on our particular work styles.  Here’s what we came up with (refined from a crude notebook sketch):

collab-webdevteam

Particular things to note here…

  • All team members have direct access to one another, and are encouraged to work together in real-time.  Quality assurance, scope agreements, user experience development, and engineering development all depend on direct collaboration.
  • D@n has already pointed out that we left out Sys Admin.  That’s a good point, and it should probably be its own person, with direct lines to Front-End, Back-End, and Project Manager.
  • He also expressed concern about QA not being a specific person.  I stand by the current model for dev teams that don’t aspire to grow any bigger than the setup above — peer-checking is sufficient.  As maymay put it, “QA is a state of mind.”  It’s always happening, and it can be structured to happen systematically.
  • Job roles and personal skills don’t always perfectly align. In my case, I can play both Front-End Developer and Project Manager, each with a particular flavor.  And maymay can take on both Front-End and Back-End Developer roles if the expectations are right.  But for both of us, it seems the case that if we only have to take on one role per project, we’re able to do better work.

This is just an abstract exercise in theoretical structuring based on our experience — not meant as anything to be set in stone. Take it for what you will, and feel free to expand on it.

Enjoy!,
Sarah

Last week I asked some of my recent and current clients to offer up a short paragraph that describes what it’s like to work with me, in an effort to update my website’s sidebars.

What I got back was overwhelming.  If you need me, I’ll be over in the corner being bright red and hiding under a jacket.

“I just love Sarah Dopp!” is a pretty common phrase uttered around our office.  Sarah is amazing at what she does—she’s fast, efficient, and detailed oriented—yet she remains humble. No question is ever too stupid to ask Sarah, no task too small.  But the most important thing about Sarah is that she gets our organization, through and through.  Unlike others we’ve worked with in the past, we’ve never had to question Sarah’s advice or intentions, because we know she inherently shares the same set of beliefs as our organization.  And there’s nothing quite as refreshing as working with a consultant like that—a consultant like Sarah Dopp.

— Amy Lafayette
Community Engagement Coordinator/Web Specialist
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

The first person I hired to set up my website made all sorts of promises and delivered on very few of them. The site languished. As soon as Sarah took over, she sent me lists of everything we should try to do to improve traffic, and immediately set me up to track visits and to easily send her updated tasks. Whenever I have an idea, it goes into our planning grid. We prioritized the tasks and are gradually implementing them as the budget allows.

She has made numerous changes to QlownTown, improving keywords, membership setup, access to the daily cartoon, text and more. She gives me helpful feedback on my ideas and provides great ideas of her own. She always works in my best interest and—very important—can be trusted with confidential information.

I finally have someone I can partner with to take my website to the next level–and beyond!

— Don Smith-Weiss
Cartoonist
Qlowntown.com

Working with Sarah has been a real pleasure, she is fast, direct, communicative, funny and kind to those of us who know very little about the particulars. She brought her skills to our design and concept seamlessly, and made some serious magic.

— Nancy Schwartzman
Filmmaker and Activist
WhereIsYourLine.org

Rarely are people this gifted in technical troubleshooting, editing, and understanding the nuances of communicating with target audiences. Sarah Dopp, it turns out, is a one-stop-shop. Our team loves her! Of all consultants I have hired and collaborated with in my career, she is by far the most thorough, efficient and pleasant to work with. Always focused, prepared and completely tuned in to the project.

My organization can either pay me for 10 hours of frustrating work to troubleshoot something, or I can call Sarah, who will solve my technical problems within minutes with humor and incredible expertise. She is pleasant, accessible, thorough, and knowledgeable. All her suggestions are well considered and appropriate for the scope of whatever project is at hand. I have yet to get any advice less than brilliant.

— Valerie Vass
Director of Community Engagement
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Sarah has the remarkable ability to distill a project down to its essence, even as that project changes, which they always do. Building and developing on that essence is where Sarah truly thrives, and I’d have been lost so many times without her magic moonshine.

— Hugh Howie
Producer
hughhowie.com

And on that note, I’m currently available for new clients. :)