P&B: Kev Quirk – Manu
Kevis currently Senior Vice President in Bank of America’s
Information Securityteam and also runs one the largest tech focused Mastodon instances: Fosstodon . He’s also on a mission to not be a fat boy at 40 (rooting for you Kev ).
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Let’s start from the basics: can you introduce yourself?
Sure. My name is Kev Quirk(yes, that’s my real name unfortunately), I’m in my late 30 ’s and I live in North Wales on a beautiful 2.5 acre smallholding with my wife, 2 sons, 2 dogs, cat, many fish and chickens. I’m originally from a fairly large town just outside of Liverpool , called The Wirral . Professionally I’m a Senior Vice President in Bank of America’s
Information Securityteam, where I lead a global team in the phishing/social engineering space. Before working at the bank, I worked for Hewlett Packard Enterprise on their InfoSec team, and before that I was in the British Army , where I served for 5 years , all over the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan . I actually dropped out of university after my first semester as I knew I’d end up with a very poor result, a lot of debt and an even bigger hangover. I did study IT in college though, so when I went to sign up for the Army and they learned I had IT qualifications, they snapped me up. I didn’t even know you could do IT in the Army , so it was a win for me. I originally joined as a Radio Operator , where we would manage the encrypted radios, however, when I got back from Iraq , I decided to re-train to the computing side of things. I was a SysAdmin with some networking thrown in. After getting out, I went into networking with HP , then transitioned over to InfoSec while there. The rest is history. 🙂 Outside of work, I spend a lot of my spare time with the family and our animals, just looking after our little patch of land. I also love motorbikes; both riding them and restoring them, as well as watch collecting. I currently have around 50 watches in my collection (yes, I’m a huge nerd). Then there’s the normal stuff – reading, writing (on my blog, obviously) etc.
What’s the story behind your blog?
I’ve never really been one for social media, which is ironic considering I co-run one of the largest technology focussed Mastodoninstances on the fediverse, Fosstodon . Anyway, “hot takes” have never really interested me. I’ve always preferred longer-form writing, so a little over 10 years ago , I spun up a Blogger site, which then evolved through multiple iterations to the blog I have today . I actually started a more commercial blog first , it was called Refugeeks (a refuge for geeks), which I sold after a few years . While I was running Refugeeks , I also started my personal blog, which was (and still is) kevquirk.com (having a weird name has some advantages, I suppose). You can read more about the evolution of my blog here. When it comes to inspiration, I don’t think I was ever inspired by anything or anyone in particular. I’ve always enjoyed learning new things and playing around, and blogging was no different. It started with my motivations to learn some basic web design skills, and it went from there really. It’s almost a meme at this point as to how many iterations my site’s been though, both in terms of design and platform. I’ve tried Blogger, WordPress , Ghost, Grav , Blot , Jekyll , and many more. I’m a sucker for the new shiny – I’m always changing something.
What does your creative process look like when it comes to blogging?
My creative process is very simple. I’m lazy, so it has to be, because I know if there are too many barriers, I just won’t write. I keep a list of drafts in Apple Notes; they’re just a rough title and a few bullets that cover the high level points I want to the post to cover. Ideas can come from a number of places, it could be something I’ve read on another blog or on Mastodon , it could be something I see on TV or hear on the radio. It could be a book I’ve read, or anything in between. There’s also a lot ideas that just come to me like a bolt out of the blue. Usually when I’m doing something completely unrelated, like walking the dogs. That’s why the drafts list is on Apple Notes – so I can jot them down on my phone whenever they come to me. When I sit down to write a post, it’s either an idea I’ve had that I want to write about immediately, a meta post about something to do with the site, or if I find myself with an hour to spare, I’ll consult my list and pluck something from there. I tend to write a single draft, give it one proof read, then publish it. I don’t dwell on making the message perfect – I prefer to get my words out there instead. That probably makes me a pretty crappy writer, but I think it’s fine for a personal blog to be a little rough around the edges. It adds personality and character. Depending on the topic, I will do research if needed. A lot of my posts are opinion pieces, with it being a personal blog, so they obviously don’t require a lot of research. Usually it’s just fact checking. My more technical posts (which have been lacking lately because I’m enjoying the opinion stuff more) tend to require far more research so I can ensure what I’m sharing is technically accurate.
Do you have an ideal creative environment? Also do you believe the physical space influences your creativity?
I really don’t. Most of my writing (including what I’m writing now) is done at home, in my study. Having lots of animals and a couple of kids, the house is generally quite busy and loud, so I just have to make the most of what I can get. I know some people really need a zen space that they can use for creative endeavours, but I just get on with it and write wherever. If it’s not in my study, it could just as easily be in the lounge, or in the garden with a beer in my hand. I’m not fussy. Again, a lack of creative environment probably makes me a worse writer, but I don’t really mind. My motivations to write are because I enjoy it, and I enjoy the discourse I have with my readers. I’m not in it to be as popular as possible, so producing “the perfect post” isn’t important to me. I do like to have background music when I’m writing (I’m currently listening to She Moves In Her Own Way by The Kooks if anyone is interested), oh and everything is written on my M1 MacBook Air.
A question for the techie readers: can you run us through your tech stack?
Now we’re talking! Like I said before, everything I write is done on my M1 MacBook Air. For writing I use Typora , because it’s brilliant and distraction free. My domain is registered with Namecheap and DNS is provided by ClouDNS , who are also brilliant. The blog itself is currently hosted with Blot , which I’m really enjoying as I just write, save the file and Blot does the rest. There are a couple of issues with it though – for example, the on-site search feature is atrociously bad. So bad, in fact, that I’m thinking about a switch back to Jekyll (or maybe Kirby ) because of it. I don’t use a CMS at the moment, but I’ve used many of them in the past. The problem I have with many of the CMS ’s I’ve used, is that they try to do too much. All I want is somewhere to create/edit pages, write posts and manage metadata. Anything else is just noise and should be abstracted from the writing workflow IMO. That’s why I really like Blot . I have a “newsletter” (it literally just regurgitates my posts verbatim to an email) that’s handled by Buttondown . It slurps up my RSS feed and sends it out as an email, so I don’t have to do anything. Social sharing is also automated. I have a custom RSS feed for social sharing, which includes the post description and a link to the post, nothing else. This is slurped up by Micro.blog and automatically re-posted to my social accounts. With all this in place, I don’t need to do anything when I publish a post. It’s automatically distributed around the places on the web that I frequent, so all I need to do is keep an eye on my notifications and enjoy any conversations that come as a result of my post.
Given your experience, if you were to start a blog today, would you do anything differently?
YES! I made tonnes of mistakes. The most egregious of which, I think, was chasing numbers. When I firststarted Refugeeks , my plan was to be the next Verge or Techcrunch. Sounds ridiculous now, looking back, but I was young and naive. I’d meticulously read all the ProBlogger crap – pick a niche, track all the things, CONVERT , become an affiliate marketer. All the horrible shit that ruins the internet. I did it all. If I had my time again, I’d have started a personal blog, not tracked anyone or anything, and just wrote for the love of writing and sharing my opinions. That’s what I do now and I thoroughly enjoy it. I’d also keep away from analytics from the very start. It’s something I’ve struggled with a lot in the past and since removing them, I’ve been far happier with how my blog is performing, mainly because I have no clue how it’s performance. Ignorance is bliss, and all that. :-). I wouldn’t change the flip-flopping between platforms and design though. I’ve really enjoyed exploring different designs and what features different platforms offer. Because of all the changes, I think I have a much better idea of what I want and need from the platform I base my blog off.
Financial question since the web is obsessed with money: how much does it cost to run your blog? Is it just a cost or does it generate some revenue? And what’s your position on people monetising personal blogs?
My blog doesn’t generate any revenue, and I don’t intend for it to do so. I have a Ko-Fipage that’s linked at the bottom of all my posts, so people can buy me a coffee if they’ve found my content useful, but apart from that there’s nothing. I make my money with my day job – the blog is a hobby. I think it’s relatively cheap to run my blog. Blot costs $ 4/month , Micro.blog is $ 5/month and Buttondown is $ 9/month (note: there is a free version of Buttondown that I could use, but I believe in paying for the products/services we use). So it’s $ 18 /month – let’s say $ 19 /month if we include the cost of the domain too. So pretty cheap, I think. I think if people want to monetise their personal blogs, it’s fine. It’s their blog after all. As long as it’s done in a manner that respects the reader’s privacy, I’m fine with it. No paywalls though – I hate those things. I don’t actually know of any bloggers that monetise their blogs, so I don’t support any. However, if any of the bloggers I read on regular basis decided they were going to make a living out of it, I’d throw them a couple quid a month to help.
Time for some recommendations: any blog you think is worth checking out? And also, who do you think I should be interviewing next?
Final question: is there anything you want to share with us?
The only thing I’d really like to add here is a piece of advice – if you’re thinking about starting a blog, but are on the fence for whatever reason. Maybe you think no one will read your content, or find it interesting. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by how to start it technically. Just. Do. It. Sign up for a wordpress.com account, or a BearBlogand start writing. Get your words out there. Oh, and if you do, please email me as I WILL read your stuff. Finally, thanks to your Manu , for putting this together. I think this is a great idea and can’t wait to read the interviews from other bloggers. I hope I haven’t bored you readers too much!
This was the 3rdedition of People and Blogs . Hope you enjoyed this interview with Kev . Make sure to follow his blog (RSS) and get in touch with him if you have any questions.
You can support this series on Ko-Fiand top supporters will be listed here as well as on the official site of the newsletter.
A couple of new people to highlight this week:
Firstwe have Raul with his blog, minim.blog (RSS). I love the super minimal design and also love the writing style and the overall theme of the blog.
Next we have Piet Terheydenwho has quite a few online projects going like minimal.gallery, fuckiwishiknewth.at, and literal.club.
And finally we have Eleonora, who’s a lovely young lady that unfortunately doesn’t have a blog (yet) but that didn’t stop her becoming a supporter of this series.
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