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An interview with Ev Bogue

I’ve been a bit of a fan of the writer and traveller, Ev Bogue, for quite a while now, and I’m very grateful for his time after (finally) agreeing to an interview with me. This interview was done as an email ‘conversation’, back and forth over the past few days with Ev who’s currently living in Mexico. Without further ado, an interview with Ev Bogue…

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Alan: Hi Ev. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me, I really appreciate it. I’ve been cyber-stalking you for a few years now, and have been quite enjoying your adventures back when you were helping others become minimalist, and then you were traveling around the world, exploring social media and then spitting on it, and living in Mexico. It’s been quite a ride! So what are you up to these days?

Ev: Hey Alan. Well, I thought we could talk about the Alan Howard inspired Client List that I launched in April of 2015. The idea came about because you emailed me insisting that books weren’t what I needed to be doing, instead I needed to do a paid newsletter. I’d done one once before in 2011, when I first moved to Mexico, but I found that recurring subscriptions freaked people out, so while I had some initial success with it many of the people ended up unsubscribing after a few months because of the recurring payment.

The link is here: http://evbogue.com/clientlist/

So after you gave me the idea for The Client List, I knew I didn’t want to just offer that option, so instead I’m giving a 6-month Client List subscription to anyone who buys a book. This way people who get freaked out about recurring payments (such as myself) can opt for a one-time-fee that is also less than paying every single month.

That is what I am working on. I launched The Client List in April 2015 and now it’s been a little over a month since it launched. So far, so good. I think it’s led to some sales, and I have at least one other person besides yourself paying for it monthly. It’ll be interesting to see if people keep paying, or opt instead to buy a book.

Alan: I can only imagine that the more you promote your Client List, the more interest you’ll gather. So what’s your intentions with The Client List? Why do you think people should pay you money for it? What value will they get from it?

Ev: One of the on-going challenges of a paid mailing list is what you just asked: ‘what’s in it for me?’. Where my books have a set topic, such as Designing websites or programming web servers in JavaScript, The Client List doesn’t have a set topic. I find myself writing on whatever pops into my head that day. I believe this is leads to occasional gems, but I imagine that some of what I write people find boring. It all depends on the day. This is why I try to set the expectation low around The Client List, and see it as an added benefit above and beyond the books I’ve written. Because the books have a very clear reason for why you’d want to buy them, but it’s challenging to keep the goal and value prop clear on a mailing that I write two times per week. I never know what I’m going to write!

What do you get out of The Client List?

Alan: For myself, the value in your Client List is that I get to learn more about you as a person. I get to see your thoughts, your insights, your complaints, and your life experiences. It’s that aspect of your writing which connected me to you in the first place, some years ago. I get a ‘virtual experience’ through your writings of life as a minimalist who travels, and this is of more value to me than the technical books you write. You do what I would like to do, and reading of your experiences and your thoughts and your values is of far more value to me than learning how to code.

Over the past few years, the theme of your writing has changed. You’ve written about minimalism, and you’ve written about travel, and you’ve written some fiction, and these days you’re writing about code. Can you share some of the life experiences you’ve had that has resulted in you changing the theme of your writing? For example, what happened to make you want to write about minimalism? What happened that made you want to write about code instead?

Ev: The primary reason I started writing about programming is because I ran out of money in 2012 writing about other things.

I was doing a lot of traveling, this era started with me living in a hotel in Mexico, flying back to San Francisco, then onward to Singapore (horrible place), Tokyo (good sushi) and finally Berlin. In Berlin I completely ran out of money. I had this idea before I started traveling that people would ‘give a shit’ about my travels, but it turned out that the moment I started doing extensive traveling my audience dropped off. There was also tons of jealousy from various people. I made a handful of mistakes during this time, such as using social media, traveling to expensive places, but the biggest one was thinking that anyone cared that I was traveling. I thought my income would go up, not down, from jumping on planes and exploring new places. I was wrong.

The programming era began when I ran out of money in Berlin in 2012. I sold my Macbook Air to a reader and was able to afford a ticket back to the USA. There I kind of vagabonded around for awhile trying to figure out what I was going to do next. I moved back to Brooklyn in 2013, and simultaneously I launched a Node.js book. People bought it, because they didn’t know how to code in Node.js, and I had spent enough time learning it to know how to explain it. Right now I’m working on the second version of that book.

Writing about programming is a selfish pursuit for me, based on the experiments during 2012, where I learned that almost no one cares about my own life and experiences, especially when I’m traveling. Instead people want to read about things they don’t know how to do, and for many people that is how to program the web.

mexico

Now (May 2015) I live in Mexico City where the rent is cheap, the smog is horrible, and I can write programming books full-time. As well as write The Client List, where I can let those life experiences I’m tempted to write from time to time creep in.

Alan: Yeah, I know I’m a bit weird that way, wanting to know about people. I also know that a creator will get the most success if they create something people want, and will pay money to have. Writing about your travels isn’t necessarily creating something of value that people will pay for, but writing about something like programming is creating something that will help other people earn money, so I can understand why they’d pay for that.

You’ve recently written on The Client List that you’ve given away your fish so you can ‘be ready to roll’. You remind me of what Robert De Niro’s character had as a philosophy in the movie Heat:

heat-around-the-corner

So Ev, where are you thinking about rolling to next? And do you think the theme of your life is changing again in a way that encourages you to move on to somewhere new?

Ev: I haven’t seen Heat, but I agree with the quote.

I had a tropical fish habit for around a year, because it’s an inexpensive habit to have in Mexico City. There are two mercados (markets, in English) with 45 or so tropical and salt water fish vendors. So whenever I needed a break from work I’d take the metro (subway) to the mercado and look for fish to buy.

However fish tanks are heavy, and I can’t carry a fish tank on my back. I began to see the habit as against my nature. It was fun to watch the little guys swim, and it gave me something to do, but in the end I came to the conclusion that it’s better to be ready to roll. I found a fish store owner I’d bought from before and asked if it was okay to return them, and then I gave the little swimmers back.

I’m not sure when I’m going, where I’m going, or how I’m going to get there, but what I do know is everything I own fits in my pack again. The potential to leave is there, and that is the kind of forward momentum that I thrive in.

Perhaps that’s what I enjoy about The Client List. Every post moves through space/time, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. I don’t have to maintain the post or figure out where it goes. The Client List is a fleeting moment in your inbox that will never come again.

Alan: I hope you’re keeping a copy of them? It could become a future book, with each of your best emails making up each chapter of The Client List book, or some other title. What you do now for email subscribers could become a book for others to buy from you.

Ev: I run my own email server and I delete every email right after I reply to it, and sent emails once per month. I could collect all of The Client List emails, but if I did then I’d have to worry about them, and I don’t want to worry about them. I delete them from my sent folder once a month, so there’s no way for me to recover them.

I can say for certain there will be no Client List book in the future.

Alan: Are there any countries in the world that you think you’d like to visit? What is it about them that attracts you? And what do you think it is that drives you to keep travelling? What are you looking for? Or what are you running from?

evbogue2Ev: What am I running from? Good accusation. I know I have at least a handful of readers who never leave their homes/cars/wives because they’re afraid of being the bad guy. I figure someone’s going to think I’m the bad guy no matter what I do, so I might as well live my life while I’m alive. As for not living in The United States, it’s so fucking expensive there right now and from my wandering around in 2013 I couldn’t find any benefits to being there. Plus it’s all so boring, spread out, and Walmart-y at this point. Unless you live in SF or NYC you have to settle for the life of bland Chinese-made culture that everyone else subscribes to, and I don’t make enough money right now to live in SF or NYC. Get me a programming job in one of those cities and I will let y’all relocate me there.

As for what countries I want to visit, right now I’m in Mexico. The reason I’m here is it’s cheap and challenging. I can go wander through Tepito when I get bored and get hawked at every half a step, or go to Merced (which is a Mercado that must be the size of two football fields) and buy food to cook that night. This keeps me busy during the long boring years of living on this planet.

I do want to move to India at some point, that’s my only life goal right now. I expect India will be similar to Tepito, but on a grander scale. I love Indian food, and when I traveled around getting broker and broker in 2012 I found that I enjoyed the company of Indian expats more than anyone else. But everyone I’ve ever known who’s gone to India has fallen off The Internet almost immediately because of the overwhelm, so I imagine I’d need to save up a decent amount of money before going.

Other than India I don’t have many life goals right now. I keep myself busy by writing to The Client List and getting The Node.js Book finished at http://evbogue.com/

Alan: Thank you so much for this interview Ev. It’s been great to spend some time with you. All the best with your travels and your writing, and I’m very happy to be going along for the ride! Even if it is via the internet….


Thanks for reading! Please add your own thoughts below.



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  • Hey Alan,

    I stopped by to say thank you for the original idea to do The Client List, and also for taking the time to run this interview with me.

    If anyone has questions after reading the interview feel free to ask me here, or email me at [email protected]

    Best,
    Ev Bogue

    • Thanks for stopping by. It was a pleasure to interview you. Maybe another one in a few years to catch up on what you’re doing then. 🙂

  • Miles_Moyers

    Good job guys

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