You may be asking, “What’s with the name ‘Geeb’ anyways?”
While walking through the grocery store one day with the family, my older brother noticed a familiar face on the Gerber Foods labels. He was convinced that I was the baby illustrated on the small jars. At that time he was still trying to master the art of communication; he mistakenly screamed out “Geeber!” instead of “Gerber!” From then on my family kept the nickname.
Cool story bro! So why use “Geeber” as your online alias?
At the point of site creation, I realized I had two paths to take (this should be an important decision for anyone making a new site)—I could try to generate traffic from a pre-existing keyword, or I could forge my own. As you can imagine, my birth name, Christopher Smith, is generic and hard to promote on Google as a keyword. Luckily, creating a new identity is something I am comfortable with. Growing up as a gamer, I’ve had to do it almost everyday of my life.
In games my “player” handle is usually, “TheGreatG33b3r” or variations of Geeber. L33t Speak FTW!
So how do people find you?
Exposure is essential. As I have learned, creating a new keyword is more challenging path of the two. Keyword density plays a huge role in visibility on the web, and in my professional opinion, might be the most important aspect of site SEO. This doesn’t matter as much when you are creating your own identity. Visibility will come from individual pages on your site, how you market yourself through social networks and online communities. It requires a lot more work upfront to establish yourself as a voice worth hearing. Ultimately, quality content will prevail. While SEO will expose people to the long tail of your site, great content will keep your audience exploring. Eventually return visitors will grow and a community is born. It all takes time.
When did you get into all of this web stuff?
As I have previously mentioned, I’ve always been a gamer. I have played almost every game system that has come out during my time—even some odd ball ones like 3DO. However, when my dad built us (I have two brothers) our first PC, my life changed instantly. Computer games were always of higher quality than their console counterparts and I still very much believe this. Even at a young age, I saw the PC as a tool and found consoles to be too restrictive. I’ve probably clocked insane hours in Worms 2 and Diablo 2 in the first 20 years of my life.
When I was about 8 years old, my dad entered in a 3D level design contest for Quake. He ended up winning 3rd place and was awarded a Voodo graphics card. This inspired me to get creative with the computer—I had to start creating my own levels. I started with the Virtus Deathmatch Maker for Quake, then moved onto Quark for Quake 2. I found my groove with Valve Hammer Editor building levels for Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat. My love for level designed continued into high school.
At a certain point, I decided to take my hobby to the next level. I was playing a lot of 3rd party Half-Life mods and wanted to get in on the action. I found a mod called Battle Grounds (BG). To sum up quickly, the game-play was Day of Defeat meets the American Revolutionary War.
Shortly after playing the game for the first time, I applied for an open mapping (3D level designer) position for and was accepted. Over time I became the lead level designer and made dozens of maps for BG. Overall, it was an amazing experience. I worked with game developers from all over the globe, 1,000′s of people played my creations, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I was an important part of a larger community. This was my first big step into digital culture.
Ok, I get that you love games and technology, but what about Web?
After high school and after my BG days started to wind down, I was on my way to college. At the start of my education at Illinois State University, I was an undeclared major. I knew I’d pick something that had to do with tech so I just kept looking. I found the Arts Technology (ATK) program and never looked back. In the ATK program I gained skills in all forms of digital media. This included video, sound, design, and web development.
After graduating the economy was in shambles, so I started looking for masters programs. Upon hearing this news, I was asked to stay at ISU with a graduate assistant-ship. As a graduate, I decided to focus on Web Development under my mentor, Rick Valentin (you’re the man Rick!). Rick was pivotal in expanding my web, video and teaching skills. I also picked up an internship as a web designer on ISU’s web development team, Institutional Web Support Services (IWSS). At IWSS, I worked under Lead Designer, Jacob DeGeal, developing sites like ISU’s new search and a digital fireworks display for the 4th of July. Jake was a great mentor for me as well. I was blown away by his ability to pitch any design; he is a true master of his craft.
During my time with Rick and Jake, I was also freelancing as a WordPress Developer. Over a short year, my knowledge of web expanded quickly.
What can you tell us about geebArt.com?
It is my creative sanctuary. I blog about what I am currently interested in or what I am currently working on. I like to write tutorials on current web technologies like jQuery, HTML5, CSS3, PHP, and Content Management Systems. My favorite CMS is WordPress (WP) by a long shot. GeebArt does run off of WP and will for a long time. Don’t be surprised if my site is broken from time-to-time. I treat it like my virtual sandbox. I’m not afraid to showcase my talents as well as my shortcomings.
One of my favorite parts of any blog is the ubiquitous tag cloud. For me, the tags on geebArt are a running summary of my life. Those specific words create a simple visualization of who I am and what I am currently doing. I get excited when new tags make it to the top 10. It usually means I am working on something new that I am very interested in. Tag clouds are somewhat of a fad in the web world, but they will always hold a special place for me.
I do have an end goal in mind for geebArt.com. I am not going to tell you what that is, but I am roughly 50% of the way there. Time will tell…
Besides blogging, what are you doing now?
Fast-forward—now I am a graduate of Illinois State University with a Masters of Science in Arts Technology (2011). Over the last four years I have amassed skills in all forms of digital media. This includes video, sound, graphic/visual design, 3d level design, web development, digital photography, and other fine arts. Currently, I work for ARS Interactive as a Front-End Developer. At ARS, I build/maintain sites for fortune 500 corporations like Whirlpool, Kenmore, Craftsman, and Sears. I am always learning something new.
What are your plans for the future?
Some may label me as a jack-of-all-trades, but I see my wide range of skills as a huge advantage. While I feel my strength is web development, all my skills reinforce each other and allow me to take on any task with confidence. With my current skill set, I plan on making additional money building WordPress themes and plugins. Down the road, I have a lot of great website ideas I’d like to bring to life. I plan on working with fellow ATK alumni on some of these projects. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about these sites at some point in the near future.
Why not build them now?
Timing. I know I am lacking in some areas of web development to make these things perfect. I’ll know when I’m ready.
What kind of advice would you offer new ATK grads?
I don’t feel I have worked in the professional world long enough to give a completely sound answer, but I do have some tid-bits I could share.
- Promote Personality. Some people get overly concerned with process and documentation. This makes them forget what it means to be human. Be social and try not to be robotic. People will take notice of leaders and those who are never “around”. Human robots are anti-social and tend to slow creative production.
- Be Confident. Don’t let fear make you feel vulnerable or inadequate. You always have something to offer. Figure out what that is and use it to your advantage. You don’t have time for fear—be bold instead.
- Take Risks. Don’t play it safe all the time. You’ll find you’re miss out on a lot if you do. Some people may see this as a liability, but just do what you feel is right. Later in your life you don’t want to be telling yourself, “I never stood up for anything.”
- Work Hard, Play Hard. Work hard, but take time to celebrate milestones. Life is too short for work-aholics. Also, you will have moments in your life when you hit a creative block. Use this time to relax, the next creative boom is right around the corner. Just promise yourself you’ll never forget to live life.
- Don’t Be an Asshole. If your an asshole people will put up with you and not actually work with you. Their is a big difference between the two.
- Be Positive. Remember, their is a difference between those who challenge us and those who just complain. No one likes negative drama. It is all about progress., progress, progress.
- Learn, Ask Questions. Take every moment, good or bad, and learn from it. Continuously ask questions almost to the point of annoyance. Again, this is about progress.
- Be Willing to Compromise. Have principles, but be willing to listen to others. If you don’t have principles than you did something wrong in college. Your principles don’t always have to be rigid. Sometimes it will be necessary to make amendments to your personal constitution. Keep an open mind.
- Have Patience. You are going to meet a lot of people that think completely different than you do. Remember, most people don’t spend four+ years in an art program. Nor are most people technocrats or IT specialists. Give colleagues your time and expect all processes to slow down. Always take a deep breath and do things right.
- Plan Carefully & Dream Big. It is important to plan for the future. When doing so, remember the points above. When dreaming big people often think of it as, “how do I get from point A to point B.” The reality is, you should be asking, “how do I get from A to Z.” Don’t forget all the other steps (B to Y) you have to take first before achieving your dreams. Some of these steps won’t be apparent to you until you have finished the first few. Be patient, and realize that everything is about timing. Keep learning, keep working and keep dreaming.
Remember where you are and all of those that helped you along the way. Their are going to be 2 types of people in your life… One, those that never believed in you or never gave you a chance. Two, those rare few that did give you that chance. Don’t make the mistake of being that first person in other peoples lives. Everyone deserves a small amount of your time no matter how busy you are.
With that said, special thanks to the following people who sacrificed their time for me, you will never be forgotten.
Rick Valentin, Jacob DeGeal, John Walker, Philippe Moore, Rose Marshack, Matt Erickson and Shawn Smith.