The economy of time

I’m back (physically, not mentally) from a reasonably long five-week vacation, only wishing for it never to end. I still feel pretty energy drained and would have needed at the very least twice as much time off to recharge fully. I am not exactly looking forward to going back to work.

During my vacation I have spent more time away from computers and the Internet than I have for the past 12 years or so. I’ve been at my dad’s house, watching the nearby lake, reading books, solving SuDokus, swimming, fishing, feeding ducks and just being generally lazy. I’ve also been thinking a lot, and I have realised that it’s time for a change.

Not sure yet how much you will notice of it, but here’s what’s going on: I can no longer justify spending nearly every waking hour of my spare time working on this site. That includes writing and researching articles, responding to comments and email, deleting and blocking spam and so on and so forth.

Why? At this point, I really need to buy a house in order to get on with my life. Houses cost a lot of money. This site does not generate a lot of money. It generates a lot of other nice things, but not enough money to buy a house, or even pay for the mortgage. So I need to spend more time on things that will generate more money. Exactly what that is, I don’t know yet. I’m open to any and all good money-making tips.

Yes, I also have a full-time day job. Unfortunately, that doesn’t generate enough money to buy a house either. Not the kind of house I’m looking to buy anyway. I like doing a bit of fixing up around the house, but I’m no handyman, so a house that needs a complete restoration is not what I’m looking for. I’m also not interested in a 2 hour daily commute. And that brings me back to the money issue.

To avoid any potential misunderstandings, my main goal with this site is not and has never been to make money. Being able to get a little bit extra by putting ads on it is just a nice side-effect. But when doing the math and dividing the revenue by the time spent working on it, the hourly wage is lousy. Really lousy. That’s why I’m looking to spend more time on something that has a chance of paying off better.

What will happen here is that there will be fewer articles of the technically oriented kind, especially advanced tutorials and references since those articles are the major time eaters.

I’m not going to stop writing completely, and it’s possible you won’t even notice that I’m spending less time here. I do have a few article drafts that I’ll finish up and post in the next few weeks. This is just a heads-up in case some of you start wondering.

Posted on August 7, 2005 in Site news


  1. That’s sad for us, but that kind of post arrives soon or later…. I totally understand, and I do thank you for the incredible work you do there. Hope you’ll find your dream house and the way to afford it.

    Let just ask one more think : please don’t close the website ! It’s such a precious ressource and a handy lab !

    Many thanks again.

  2. Your articles always make a good read are really useful references so it’ll be a shame to see them in less abundance, have you thought about enrolling “guest” authors for the more technical/time-consuming articles?

  3. That’s shocking. I visit your site regularly because it provides great and interesting information on webdesign issues and so on.

    A few days ago I have found accidently a website giving tips to save money in the daily life (

  4. Right on. Your site has been an fantastic resource and I am always amazed at how much time you and many others put in on writing articles that are well researched and incredibly well written.

    I wish you all the best in trying to achieve this - I am at that point myself, I have eased back on writing music simply because i cannot survive on it. Now I am trying to make a living making websites. (and we’re not talking mortgages, just enough to pay the rent and eat more than baked beans!)

    Garrett’s point of guest authors isn’t a bad idea. But that’s up to yourself really.

    Again, fantastic site.

    All the best. Alex

  5. Aww, another one bites the dust. Or, almost, anyway.

    Well, at least you’re not stopping entirely, that’s a good thing. It’s sad that circumstances have more or less forced you to stop with the most time-consuming aspects of this site.

    You can always do as Randy Mulholland of Something*Positive did: “donate enough money to me to make it worth my while and you’ll get what you want.” Of course, he has one of the most popular webcomics online, but it still worked. He vowed to quit his job and spend all his time on the comic if they’d donate more than his yearly salary, and they did, so he did. You won’t have to quit your job, however, you can just consider combining these possibilities. :-)

    Either way, I’m glad you had a good vacation, Roger, and I wish you all the best in your endeavours of getting a house that you like. :-)

  6. Good luck in your efforts Roger. You certainly deserve it. You’ve run a consistently solid site that has always been on top of my recommended list.

  7. This site has been unbelievable useful and helpful for all of us. Thank you for putting so much effort to it. I fully understand your current financial situation as I am myself living in a developing country. Thanks again, Roger!

  8. I’ve been lurking here (this site has been one of the resources I check whenever time permits, to learn more about web design) for a while. I’d just like to say thanks for having put this much effort into it, and I wish you all the best in your efforts to buy a house.

    Good luck.

  9. Nobody can blame you for that. I mystelf find it increasingly difficult to keep posting fresh and original stuff for YourTotalSite. And you’re very away that I’ve always been amazed at how you manage to post so much.

    Good luck. You definitely deserve to slow down a bit, and thanks for everything you’ve put in here so far.

  10. I fully understand your motivations, and feel happy and confident that you’are focussing the “important” things in life. That point comes for everyone sometimes..

    Beyond that, I highly appreciate your work. For me (and I guess for many others) your site is one of the top resources to get detailed information on special topics in web design and web development.

    Just please keep your site up and running, like Dunstan did.

  11. Well, I’m sorry to read this. But I understand.

    Several of us had mentioned in previous posts that some of your articles would make excellent fodder for books. Perhaps becoming a book author could turn this site into more of a money maker?

    Good luck, whatever you decide.

  12. August 7, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Thanks for all your kind words!

    I thought I was pretty clear, but I’m going to repeat this since it seems I wasn’t:

    I am not going to close the site or stop writing.

    Heck, I just renewed the domain name. What I will do is cut down on the time spent writing articles, and as an effect of that focus on articles that don’t take me weeks to finish.

    The idea of guest authors is not a bad one, and something I have been toying with.

  13. I’d like to say a big thanks too, and I hope, and belive your web site will continue being a great resource.

  14. I just heard Liz Phair sing, “It’s nice to be liked but it’s better by far to get paid,” and it suddenly seemed really appropriate.

  15. Welcome back, sounds like your holiday did you well. A few years ago people would have thought nothing of leaving a website unaltered for a few months or even years. Take the dates out of your templates and take the pressure off. Unfortunately I can’t be much of a spirit guide on money making ventures as I quit a career in special FX animation to be a painter. Its easier to do what you love and if its done well people will pay for it. Best of luck can’t wait to read the new posts as they come.

  16. Welcome back Roger…and good luck with the money-making!! (Get any good ideas on this - pass it my way too eh?!)

  17. Don’t worry. One day you will be pleased to find you have arrived at the other side of your working life (like me). Then you will have time to do what you enjoy without worrying too much about money.

    Yours is an excellent website, but of course in x years everything will be different and you will most likely be doing different things.

  18. Good luck with the house Roger. Yes it’s a hard unpaid slog blogging - almost requiring obsessive voluntary workloads on top of one’s paid work.

    I think its a good thing you’ve gotten some renewed perspective away from computers. Family is far more important than meeting external expectations. Balance is the key we look for.

  19. I don’t know if this translates to Sweden, but:

    1. Lower your current standard of living. Move into smaller less expensive apartment. Eat out less, eat at home more.

    2. Set an amount to save each month and put it in savings.

    3. Regarding a house, lower your expectations.

    4. Think about trading for work. You do work for someone who doesn’t know how to do what you do and he/she fixes whatever you need fixed.

    5. Work more. My sister teaches at a local college, it works for her.

    6. If you have a television, put it away.

    7. Ask yourself, do I “need” this or “want” this, and if I want this do I really have enough money to buy it. What is my goal? (Make sure you set aside a small amount of “fun” money). All work and no play makes Roger a very unhappy person.

    8. Even though you don’t find yourself handy, think about doing projects on your own. Think of it as a learning experiance.

    I have in the past and will continue in the future to find what you write as rewarding.

    Thank you and good luck on getting a home.

  20. We missed you while you are gone, so I’m sure I’m not speaking for myself when I say that we’re just glad to see you back. Your articles are always easy to understand, but incredibly comprehensive. Spend time on the things you love, and we’ll take what we’ve learned from you and continue to pass it on. That’s the spirit of the web.

  21. Good luck with the house, Roger. Hope 456 goes on - this site has been such a valuable resource for many of us.

  22. Hey, good for you! :)

    Of course we’ll still be here and happy to read whatever you do have time to post; and thanks a heap for everything you’ve posted so far.

  23. August 8, 2005 by Steve Williams

    Hi Roger,

    I’ve visited your site for some time and found you a huge inspiration, not only technically, but also in the attitude you display when approaching issues of accessibility.

    I’ve never posted before but feel moved to say I really hope you find the work/life/money balance you desire and enough time to keep the 456 the truly great site it is. Thank you.

  24. August 8, 2005 by Bart

    I appreciate your site for the great tips on CSS and web development, and I look forward to any upcoming articles that you find the time to write, even though they may be fewer in number.

    Good luck on saving for the house!

  25. You have a rare talent for writing content that is thorough and thoughtful, yet concise and easy to understand. Like all of your readers, I am really pleased that you intend to continue writing articles, but do understand the problem you have justifying the amount of time you spend maintaining the site. Considering your writing skills, have you considered writing a book?

    Thank you for everything you’ve done to date, and good luck with the house hunting :-)

  26. It is difficult to come to terms with the idea that you must a gain a positive return for an investment be it time invested in a pursuit or money invested in property. All things require investment, not all have the same benefits of return. There is no shame in cutting back on a loved pursuit to shore up one’s physical and financial world. Houses become loves too. And eventually it all balances out as you expand your domain and shore up your world, financially, physically, psychologically and mentally. Tackle it all one piece at a time. You created this so it is yours to enjoy as you please.

  27. August 9, 2005 by icaaq

    I have to agree with Gez, with your reputation around webdevelopers all around the world the publishers should be lineing up for your book. Either way i just love your site….

  28. August 9, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Wow, all these nice comments sure make up for much of the time I’ve spent working on this site. Thanks!

    A couple of you have mentioned that I should look into writing a book. Yeah, maybe. Not sure where to get started though, and what to focus it on. I guess co-authoring a book with someone could be a start too.

    Hmm. Thinking.

  29. Just wanted to say I agree you should write a book, if you wrote a book i’d buy it for sure (assuming it’d be on web dev.. especially the sorts of things you’ve written here). You wouldn’t even need to start from scratch, you have so much useful info here, all you would need to do was organise it a bit, add the missing bits in between it would be a force to be reckoned with!

  30. August 10, 2005 by Jeb B

    Echoing the comments above, I want to get it on record that I, too, find yours to be an incredibly useful and well written site, and have had you on my daily reading rounds for quite a long while. It’s at the top of my list whenever folks ask for frontend resources. Really, it’s of huge benefit to working designer/developers. Thanks.

  31. I’ve always found your site very helpful and informative but you’ve got to stand back sometimes and put yourself first in whatever you do so good luck :)

  32. I fully agree with your analysis, and would like to thank you for all the time you have invested in making this wonderfull resource a reality and sharing it with the community

    Now let us try to project in the future, having in mind a continuity of

    1. A subscription based model: Small yearly fee, large amount of visitors = good & steady revenues. Keep some content fully free (this will maintain your traffic to a reasonable level). Worth a try anyway, because it should not require that much investment

    2. On demand extended in depth articles or study cases: Higher value provided + practical examples. If you have a strong open/free articles base, I doubt the people will purchase in depth articles.

    3. Enhance offline activities: More seminaries, a book ? I am missing data to know whether such activities are really profitable.

    The truth might be in a mixed model Open Source minded + Pay for higher value, based on Point 1. In all cases, trying to increase the revenues around would require the same level of dedication (which may be a factor you would like to change).

    You’ve built a it is time to try to make something out of it. In any case don’t be ashamed to try to sell you expertise.

    Good luck in finding the best solution to this delicate equation

  33. August 10, 2005 by Teddy

    A couple of you have mentioned that I should look into writing a book. Yeah, maybe. Not sure where to get started though, and what to focus it on. I guess co-authoring a book with someone could be a start too.

    Maybe you could ask Dan Cederholm at SimpleBits for advice and/or maybe you two could work together on a book, that book would be some kind of dream for me ;)

  34. Although it’s not the end of 456 Berea Street, I think that now is an appropriate time to give you my sincere thanks, Roger. For me, 456 is the premier blog on CSS development and accessibility. Every day I eagerly wait as my RSS reader loads to see what gems of information that you’ve provided. I’ve learnt so much from visiting 456 and in my office it’s become a default reference on all web standards issues.

    I can’t say I’m surprised that you’re scaling things back a little…I have no idea how you have the time! I really appreciate the efforts in putting together such an extensive list of well written and researched pieces.

    I look forward to reading more from you in future, and I wish you all the best in regaining some semblance of a social life!

    Oh, and if you were to bind together a collection of your best articles, I’d certainly shell out for a copy!

  35. A fully understandable position to take. You’ve already given more than enough to the web producers’ community. We are all thankful for that.

    Much as I’ll miss your frequent writing, I still think it’s a good call on your part.

  36. Hey everyone. I need some help. Can any of you translate this: http: for me? i posted it in my Portuguese blog… but i don’t have a clue what does it mean. If anyone can help me send me an email ok?

    thanks for the time

  37. Maybe you could join Eric Meyer on the Couch Tour.


  38. Roger,

    I completely understand where you’re coming from. I just found your blog today and I am impressed by the quality of the stuff you have up here. Very inspirational. I’m going to try out more of this stuff and put up some of my own.

    With regards to a book. I would advise you to check out David St. Lawrence’s blog He’s recently self-published a book,Danger Quicksand the content for which came from his blog and he now has a new book in the works with all the blog entries and experience he’s gained in self-publishing. I believe you’ll read lots of good ideas and it’ll get the juices flowing for your own book, potentially based on this blog.

    Keep up the great work, and although it will be less frequent, I look forward to continuing to visit and see how things are progressing.

  39. August 15, 2005 by Erwin Heiser

    Solid decision, Roger. Lotta love and respect and post when you feel like it/have the time, we”ll still be around to read it ;-)

  40. I’ve been subscribed to your site’s RSS for some time, and have been amazed at some of the articles you’ve turned out on CSS, semantics, accessibility, etc. They show good depth, and share useful information - I’ve learned a lot from them! The visitor comments are also well worth reading through, discussing pros and cons and other ways of doing it.

    I hope you continue to write similar articles in the future - I always look forward to the next discussion at 456 Berea Street!

    Good luck with the house search…Hope your reduced work on the site helps you get everything together nicely. I know from personal experience that running a website can be very time-consuming. God knows I spend enough time on the computer, I’m amazed I manage to get anything else done!

  41. Why do you need a house!?

    Just kidding, I’ve loved this site ever since I discovered it, which was a pretty long time ago. Keep writing and -sigh- keep working for money.

  42. August 24, 2005 by Jake Robwood

    I think, the idea to write a book it’s pretty good. You have so much valuable infromation ‘uncompiled’ on this site and your writing style is so easy to read, that it’s worth a book. If you restructure your articles, and add only a few more articles to glue the entire thing together , it could be one of the best (IMHO). A few more ‘solutions’ about layouts would help of course - since they pose most of the problems for newbies.

    Also prepare a ‘downloadable only with the book zip’ , with sources for these many solutions you have all over in articles.



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