Founder, Designer, Developer, Surfer

First Impressions of San Diego

It’s been 5 months since moving from Maui to San Diego. I’ve had fun exploring the area — hanging out downtown, visiting north county, surfing cold water, eating delicious Mexican food and much more. San Diego is an awesome place. It’s beautiful, diverse and there’s plenty to keep me busy. When it comes to living on the mainland, San Diego — Actually, Encinitas would be my town of choice.

However, there’s nothing anchoring me to San Diego. Hawaii still feels like home. My friends and lifestyle are primarily in Hawaii. The ease and enjoyment of life in the islands is unparalleled. Some days I love San Diego, but every day I love Hawaii. Constantly putting yourself out there to make new sets of friends gets exhausting when you’ve moved every year for 9 years. Ultimately though, San Diego is a place I could be happy living, without question.

Positive impressions of San Diego:
  • Lots of young people and families
  • Beautiful landscape
  • Great surfing
  • Great downtown
  • Great dining options
  • Plenty of entertainment
  • Super dog friendly
  • Convenient for walking and biking
  • Large tech, web, and art communities
  • Educated and ambitious people
  • Clean and safe
Negative impressions:
  • Extremely expensive real estate (even more so than Hawaii)
  • Expensive lifestyle
  • An abundance of pretentious, materialistic people
  • Cold, polluted water

Update: In hindsight, after 2 years of living in San Diego, I can say with confidence it was the best place I’ve ever lived for my personal lifestyle. I hope to move back someday.

10 Things I’ll Miss About Hawaii

1. The View

I lived in Launiupoko. Every evening I had incredibly epic sunsets over the island of Lanai, with views of Molokai and Kahoolawe on each side. Behind the cottage lies the West Maui Mountains. They are a sight to behold when the sun sets on the golden fields of grass, with the horses and chickens in the pastures, and the moon rising in the valley. The night skies are so clear you can see the satellites passing overhead, the Milky Way and several shooting stars on any given night. I’ve been lucky enough to live in one of the most stunningly beautiful locations on the planet. I can’t think of any place that compares.

2. Geckos

I love those little critters. I love listening to them chirp at night. I love watching them munch on bugs. I love picking up just about anything, and seeing one of them look up at me with those big, cute eyes. I’ve always lived around geckos, even in Florida (actually they’re the same species of gecko in both locations). I was excited to learn geckos exist in San Diego as well. If it’s good enough for a gecko, it should suit me just fine.

3. Perfect Surf

Maui tends to have pretty crappy surf when compared to Oahu or Kauai. However, the “crappy” surf of Maui would be considered near perfect to anybody on the mainland. I will particularly miss surfing Honolua, Hot Sands, Rainbows and Woody’s on Maui, and I’ll miss Diamond Head, Tongs, Pops and Publics on Oahu.

4. Warm Water

Not only do I love to surf — I like to swim, snorkel and relax in the water. The water temperature in Hawaii averages 78 degrees year-round, which shouldn’t be taken for granted. San Diego has the warmest water on the West Coast, but I’ll still be wearing a wetsuit for the majority of the year. I’ll miss jumping in to the water at any given moment in Hawaii.

5. Aloha Spirit

It isn’t just a tourist slogan — It’s real in Hawaii. On the whole, most people are as warm as the weather. In times of tragedy or celebration people come together like nowhere else I’ve seen. On Oahu, it was incredibly easy to make great friends my age with people that had similar stories, and put everything on the line to live in paradise.

6. Friends

To all friends and ohana on Oahu and Maui, I’ll miss you! I hope you can visit me in San Diego!

7. Waikiki and Front Street

They are the playgrounds of Oahu and Maui. While I don’t enjoy being asked, “How’s the honeymoon going?” or “Where are you visiting from?” constantly, it’s a small price to pay for spending the evening in such fun places.

8. The Exclusivity

It sounds corny, but there’s a certain heir of exclusivity to living in the islands. Whenever you travel outside the islands, you’re always proud to say where you live — and everybody loves Hawaii!

9. Virtually No Crime

You can’t live in a safer place than Hawaii. Sure, you might occasionally have your car window smashed in, or bike stolen, but violent crime is a rarity in the islands — particularly in the outer islands. Even the newspapers are filled with positive articles about the community and island life.

10. Everything Else

There’s a thousand little things to miss about Hawaii. Seeing tents on the beach, watching kids surf better than you, the delicious taste of haupia pie, an eveing of wine and food at Olive Tree. Hawaii, you will be missed, but I’ll see you again soon!

Brand Naming Tips

Whether you’re naming a baby or a brand, it’s not a task to be taken lightly. Like a baby named Jack, a bad brand name can negatively effect the life of a business. Naming a brand is a deceivingly difficult process — particularly if your brand has an online presence.

The value is still in the dot com. Sure, other domain extensions such as .net, .org, .me, .us, etc. have their place, are well known or can be used creatively. However, there is no substitute for dot com. Like a great brand, “.com” is imprinted in the psyche of any fool that has ever browsed the internets. When .com meets the naming of a new brand or company, difficulty ensues. Every real, and almost every fake word has already been registered as a .com domain. You really have to get the creative juices flowing to find that perfect name, and I have a few suggestions:

  • Keep it to only 3 syllables per word — max. Preferably 2.
  • Make up a word. Get hooked on phonics and define your company without defining it. Examples are Hulu, Zappos, Acura.
  • Combine 2 short words.
  • Use a thesaurus.
  • Make sure it “rolls off the tongue” like Google or Twitter.
  • Make sure there’s no hidden negative or pornographic meaning. People’s minds wander to dark places, don’t make it any easier for them.
  • Don’t get caught up in the SEO of the name. SEO isn’t worth sacrificing the integrity of the brand. What’s more popular, Zappos or
  • If it’s just you, use your name if you can. Unfortunately for me, there’s thousands and thousands of David Morgan’s.
  • Run it by your friends and family. They’ll let you know if it sounds stupid.
  • If it doesn’t have a meaning, make one up. Muku has several meanings — purity, the crest of a wave, the New Moon phase in Hawaiian…

Approaching Theme Design Presentation

Just a head’s up, the audio isn’t working properly for the first minute.

Here’s my first real speech in front of a large crowd since D.A.R.E. To Keep Kids Off Drugs when I was like 12-years-old. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the presentation was filmed.

Jeff and I presented our topic of Approaching Theme Design to the WordCamp Phoenix crowd this past January. Almost as exciting as our speech, is the controversy that was stirred up in the comments of the WP Candy post on our speech here.

I was stoked to be presenting at such a large WordPress conference.

Why I Like Twitter

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard Twitter mentioned — on the radio, news, in the grocery line. Of all the social networking platforms, Twitter is my weapon of choice, and here’s why:

  1. It’s easy to update — Thanks to iPhone Apps, Tweetie and Tweet Deck.
  2. My tweets post to Facebook. So, my family and friends know what I’m doing without me ever having to visit Facebook.
  3. Networking. Twitter gives you the opportunity to open a dialog with people you never imagined possible.
  4. Direct Messaging — It’s way better than online chatting or email. It’s brief, to the point and on my own time. Just how I like it.
  5. Promotion. When I release a new product I can always count on the Twitter community to carry a torch for me.
  6. No “online” status. I hate broadcasting to the world that I’m online. Sometimes Mostly I want to work online without being interrupted.
  7. 140 characters — Leaves no room for getting wordy or beating around the bush.
  8. Seeing what other people are up to. Whether it’s work related, buying groceries or a funny blog post.
  9. Fights. Little arguing exchanges and passive aggressive remarks via Twitter crack me up, and I can just sit on the sidelines.
  10. It’s free! That seems pretty obvious, but hey — it’s such a great service I’d be willing to pay for it. Don’t quote me on that though.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @MukuStudios.

Free vs Paid Digital Goods

I may be a little late, but I just read an old post by Justin Tadlock, Screw the Premium Theme Market. It’s not as abrasive as the title would have you believe. Basically, he makes a case for free WordPress themes versus the premium market. He makes some valid points — there are several free themes that are of equal or better quality than the so-called premium themes. However, the post is obviously biased (as most popular posts tend to be) towards the free market.

After attending a few WordCamps, there seems to be a divide of people in the WordPress community. Those that believe everything related to WordPress should be free, since the platform itself is free, open-source software — and those that have made a business around the platform.

Giving away everything is cool and all, but I prefer to pay the rent. Perhaps, if I was still single and lived in my parents basement with no hobbies other than 0100111001011, then I would be more apt to give all of my creations away. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a little compensation for a lot of hard work and skill that comes with the price of an education. Call me crazy — or greedy — but I want some coin for my work.

That being said, I’m not opposed to giving some stuff away — as can be seen via the Structure Theme, Verbage Theme and Blissful Blog. By giving away killer products for free, people are more likely to pay for the “premium” product with enhanced features and support when they want a little more ooomph! Not to mention that giving away quality products for free will generate a buttload of traffic for your site.

Free = Worthless

People tend to associate free with worthless. While that may not always be the case, it often is. Sometimes it’s not worth the time it takes to sift through the mountains of free crap to find the diamond in the rough. Some people genuinely want to pay for a product because of the perceived quality attached to a price tag. There are people who exploit that fact, but they won’t last in this market. On the other hand, there will always be a market for quality products and service.

No respect for free.

Which clients are the easiest to work with? The clients that want everything for nothing, or those that are willing to pay for quality? Almost always the clients that are willing to pay are the easiest to work with — because they respect your work and your time. When you offer cheap or free services and products, there’s no respect. That goes both ways. I’m not exactly eager to provide a lot of help to people that have downloaded my free products — sorry.

So, if you offer a quality product and/or service online that people are willing to buy, why wouldn’t you want them to?

The Value Of A WordPress Theme

Not so long ago, I worked for a large interactive agency serving fortune 500 companies. The agency specialized in creating content management systems (CMS) for custom websites — which brought a particular amount of value to their services. So much value in fact — they charged millions of dollars for their web design and development services. Most the money was placed on the value of the client having the ability to easily change the content of their site.

The internet has evolved over the past 3 years. WordPress has brought content management to the masses. What used to take a large agency with a team of employees to create, can now be achieved by a single designer and developer with enough talent, time and ambition. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Far from it. However, it’s now attainable for a couple guys in a garage to compete with the big boys. That’s exciting for a lot of people, including me.

Now the WordPress theme market is becoming increasingly saturated. It seems a new theme shop opens every day. With that kind of saturation comes competition — and unfortunately fraud. As a result, customers are becoming more demanding, and you can’t please everybody.

While WordPress themes may not be an entirely custom website solution, the option is available with some fairly minor changes. So I have to say, paying less than $100 for the functionality of a million dollar site still seems like good deal to me. No website is going to build itself, but a WordPress theme comes damn close. That’s more than a good value — it’s practically a miracle, man. So, enjoy what WordPress and themes have to offer. A couple years ago most website owners paid $100 every time they wanted a sentence changed on their site.

All Of Which Are American Dreams

I’m a Rage Against the Machine fan. I consider myself to be somewhat anti-establishment. A few years ago I probably considered America an evil and corrupt nation. While it’s far from a perfect place, the American Dream isn’t evil. I’m not talking about a white picket fence in suburbia with a beautiful family and successful career. I am talking about the abundance of opportunities available at our finger tips. In comparison to much of the world, it’s amazing to think we have anything to complain about. It’s even more amazing to think of the amount of American’s that fail to take advantage of these opportunities. Which, is why I believe some cultures harbor disdain for us. Not because of what we have — but because of the opportunities available to us that we don’t act upon. A large portion of the population are lazy, ignorant sheep. That’s a crime considering the opportunities available to us.

This is still one the greatest nations in the world. It’s time more of us start taking advantage of it. Not by exploiting the system, but by utilizing our resources. The American Dream doesn’t come without hard work, but it’s out there. And most of the world would die for the opportunity to work hard for the American Dream.

Simple Slideshow Plugin

I didn’t think one existed. I’ve searched high and low for an ultra simple jQuery slideshow plugin that easily displays the post images from my WordPress gallery. Unfortunately, most plugin developers are horrible designers. The internet is littered with WordPress slideshow plugins featuring overly complicated options, text overlays, annoying transitions and ugly styling — until I stumbled on to Portfolio Slideshow. This plugin is a dream come true for designers! Finally, I can easily display just my images with an elegant fade transition. Here’s an example (with some very minor style changes):


An Aspiring Actor And Writer

That’s what my brother is. Elliott abandoned his education as a Dentist to pursue a career path that is laughable by most. To top it off, he recently moved to Los Angeles with his wife — an editor. Apparently it’s a stupid decision to follow your dreams. At least it seems 99% of the world’s population would have you believe so. In my opinion, it’s a bold move that’s so crazy it just might work.

Having a little experience in “crazy” life decisions myself, they only ever seem to work out for the best. They have been in LA just over a month and Elliott has already scored some paying acting gigs and landed a part time job as a Vet Technician. Meanwhile, his wife Tiffany has been killing it with her freelance editing services, Elliott has been writing religiously about his new experiences and thoughts on his new site, So check it out, and wish him luck for his next audition! He’s got the talent and the ambition — it’s just a matter of time before you see his mug on an episode of Law and Order.