Plans for the rest of 2011

This post was written 7 years ago.
Thu, 19 May 2011

For various reasons the start of this year was not that easy for me, and something I wanted to become a tradition already got left behind: To write down what I had done each year, and make plans for the new one. After postponing it a lot, I have decided now is a good time for plans, as I am between projects, and I start to see a little more clearly where I might be going.

2010 + five months of 2011: How did it go?

2010 was a good year overall. New possibilities opened up, I met inspiring people and learned a lot. And it became really clear that web development was what I wanted to continue doing.

As for web projects, I mainly worked for the Centre for Deaf Studies at Bristol University, and in September 2010 I started working on a directory of Bristol and Bath therapists, commissioned by a group of local therapists. They were for my standards quite big projects, and given my restricted working times, I am happy with what I managed to do.

It was a great experience for me doing the therapists' directory. I was solely responsible for all the development of the site - including the design. There are some specific features to this directory that make it quite complex. Where previously SilverStripe had been a CMS for me, this time I made heavy use of its underlying application framework. My programming skills have improved a lot! (There were a few moments of despair, too.)

Find-a-therapist, this is now live after a 'soft launch'


First version of 'MyFriendCentral' - originally it was required to fit onto a netbook, vertically. Something I whish I had challenged more..

I almost forgot that I did another thing, a site for a German Saturday school in Croydon, similar to the one I did for Bristol, based on TYPO3, using a YAML-template. That was interesting as well, as it turned out the site was to reside on a server that somebody ran privately. I had to access it remotely and do all kinds of command line stuff, which I actually started to enjoy after a while. I would really like to learn how to administer a server, and I have toyed with the idea to get a bytemark server running symbyosis, but it is just the one thing too much. There are other things that I need to learn first.

Apart from creating websites, one nice thing I did was taking part in an SVG (scalable vector graphics) course run by the W3C. I have to admit that I have not used SVG since, but I think I will at least try it out. The course was quite challenging, there was a lot of ground covered in just 5 weeks. It took a lot of time to do the coursework as well. But there is something about these courses (I did the mobile course the year before) that I totally relish. They somehow lift me up, and it is just nice to be given some structure in your learning for once, and not have to do it all yourself. One nice effect of this course was that my final coursework that I built using the unofficial Google wheather API, was mentioned on the w3c blog, alongside with that of Sylvia Egger whom I admire. It was also rewarding in itself having been able to build this little 'app'.

The conference I didn't blog about

As a consequence of the w3c mobile course I did in 2009, I learned that its tutor, Phil Archer, was going to be in Bristol as a speaker at a one day free workshop about the "mobile web". It was an event organised by DevSCI, targeted at developers in Higher Education, but other developers were welcome to come along, so I did. I wrote a blog entry about it, and there are some video recordings including one where two lovely female freelancers give their expert opinion. This event was great. It was great hearing people talk who worked each day with the mobile web and were building projects for it. And I really got a good impression of the different aspects of mobile web development that I could use as starting points in case I wanted to do something similar.

Following on from that I was alerted to another DevCSI event, Linked Data hackdays. So I attended that as well, and it, too, was extremely interesting. I learned things beyond Linked Data as well. We used the commandline quite a bit. We installed a Triple Server, and we learned about the different notations that Triples could be expressed in. And much more.


Dev8D in London

And then there was this one: Dev8D. The developer happy days. Hugh? Look at the logo, it is meant to be an emoticon, a happy face. I only learned that at the very end of the conference. This two-day conference took place in London, in the ULU building. And it blew me away. Again, from the contents there was so much I enjoyed hearing about. There were "Ask the experts" sessions about the topics I had heard at the workshops, the mobile web, linked data and open data. There were also a lot of familiar faces from those workshops. Then I sat in a long introduction to Python and tried out writing some scripts. This was followed by an introduction to the Molly framework (which itself is based on Django). On the next day there was a hands-on session where you got to look at the framework in detail. Unfortunately I could not install the required Virtual Machine on my netbook (who uses a netbook for developing!), but I did follow along nevertheless. One thing I didn't do and the significance of which I discovered only gradually, is give one of the challenges a try, sit at "basecamp" on a round table with the laptop in front of me, and.. hack. Program, build something. Just like that. I would not have been able to, even if I had wanted.


Flip-Flop circuit obtained at Dev8D from Chris Gutteridge - brought this home and the children loved playing with it

It was only when I had left the conference that I suddenly got this uneasy feeling. Why had I been there, why had I been allowed to be there? These were all proper developers. Some of them not even web developers. They had studied this at university, unlike me. And a lot of them were, as I had just previously seen Margaret Atwood describe it, "so sharp their brains poke through their skulls like the pins in the Scarecrow of The Wizard of Oz". What on earth was I doing there? But then I kept telling myself: I had been welcome there, and those developers were very happy to share their knowledge. (I had even over lunch been let in on some 'political' issue at one of the universities, which I will keep quiet about though). There had been some other people there who did not work in HE (and with whom I had some nice conversations). I could just enjoy being in their presence, without necessarily having their expertise. And then this: It would be my challenge to come back to this conference and tackle one of the programming challenges. Maybe not in one year. In two? In any case I really want to learn some more programming, and it would be nice to go back there. It was just a shame there were no other 'commercial' developers there, as it was open to everyone. I think they would enjoy it, too.

A conference that I did blog about, if only briefly: DConstruct. That also blew me away, the quality of the speakers, the originality of their talks and their thoughts. It was like somehow you suddenly felt why you had this urge to do all this. Why web development? As if somebody was suddenly giving you a reason, and gave you some kind of belief system to go with it. I will also always remember the trip back to Bristol where among a lot of other interesting stuff I learned that the Paddington bear comes from Peru.

Then I also went to a few Bathcamps, and also a very enjoyable 'Tweetup'. Until writing it all down, I had not been aware how many things I had actually attended!

Next stop - mobile apps?

I really need to finish this post off. It is unbelievable how much time I have spent on it. And it has been more about what I've done than actual plans. But it has been quite therapeutic, and it will be great to have this record in years to come. A record of the year 2010 and a half.

So, finally, here are my goals for the remaining 7 months of this year:

There is one general thing I have decided. After the big (for my standards) project for the therapists, I would like to have some time to learn some new things, and also build many small personal sites where I try out the things that I have learned. There is also the portal website for bilingual families that I mentioned in the post last year. I am not sure if I will manage to do it, but it would be nice if I could. 

I could be accused of enjoying it too much, to just do this as some kind of self-indulgence, more like a hobby. But I don't really believe this to be true. A lot of people are passionate about the web, and there is nothing wrong with it. I also expect to occasionally do things I don't like, I still want to earn at least some money and then I can't always decide what to do.

But now the concrete skills that I would like to learn:

  • Learn more advanced programming (design patterns, architecture, testing)
  • Learn to work with APIs and data sets
  • HTML5/CSS3
  • Javascript/Ajax
  • Mobile apps

There is such a hype around mobile and responsive web design at the moment that it almost puts me off. And yet I feel strongly that that is the direction to go in for me. But I could also say, it is part of the direction. What I really want to learn is to build applications. I have really developed a love for programming. This might turn out a tragic love, because it can be a world full of pain. Still, it is a great feeling to be able to just build some new functionality. But I will only be able to tell what it will be like when I start doing it.

One thing not to forget is that I carry a massive responsibility as a mother. And as I have recently realised, as the children get older, they will actually need me more, not less. So all of this is really about finding a way of doing web development in a meaningful, but somehow... contained way. To be clear, of course fathers carry that same resonsibility, but the actual practical side of it still mostly falls to the mother. And in my case, I am fine with that, I am grateful that my husband goes to work everyday and earns enough money for us to live on. That is also a massive responsibilty. And I love being with the children, too, I wouldn't want to send them off to after-school club everyday - at the moment they go to none, which admittedly puts quite a strain on my work-days.

The many brilliant web developers here in Bristol, the underscorers, I think I just can't use them as my role models. I can admire them, but I should maybe not try to become like them, because I can't. (Apart from my being a mother, there is also the age question. How would I ever catch up with them, I started so late.) An interesting question here for me is the quality of my work, and especially what degree of complexity I can achieve. I have come to love programming, but I probably do it at a sort of 'embryonic' level. Still, I just have this feeling that I could get quite far with it. I mean the generic concepts of programming that are not tied to a specific language, I already know quite a bit about that, and I have grasped the concepts of object-oriented programming. I think it should be possible to slowly slowly get to more complex levels. I have been programming things I never thought I would be able to, maybe it could continue that way?

What I have often thought - and everytime I manage to think that way, it actually makes me feel good - is to see it all like a game, a challenge. I will just learn, and produce as much as I can, at a level as advanced as I can. And if I can produce something really good along the way, all the better. And if I managed to become good enough to even start earning some serious money with it, that would be fantastic.

I had some general goals, too, and one was to clarify my professional situation, which I think I have done. A second one was being more 'grown-up', which I would define now as: Move from analyzing and worrying too much, to just focus on the work I am doing, doing it the best way I can, be approachable and responsive to people and see how I can best be of help to them. In web development, but should apply to other areas as well! While I have moved a bit towards this goal, there is still much room for improvement. And finally there was this: Write more! I did write a few blog posts, and I think they weren't too bad. But I would like this here to be the start of something more regular. I just love to write, and it really is worth it!


  • Excellent blog post Katja! You write very openly and honestly, it's lovely to hear your inner thoughts.

    I'm really into learning more about those 5 things you mentioned, maybe not so much the mobile apps, but definitely design patterns, APIs and datasets, yum yum :D

    You said, "I have been programming things I never thought I would be able to, maybe it could continue that way?". I reckon that's true!

    Posted by tom, 20/05/2011 6:44pm (5 months ago)

  • Thanks very much, Tom! That's very encouraging!

    Posted by Katja, 20/05/2011 7:02pm (5 months ago)


This post was written 7 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: webdev / dev8d / uni /
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VolunTree - Ideas for an app matching volunteers with causes

This post was written 7 years ago.
Mon, 07 Feb 2011

This is my report back to Local by Social, following an event in Bristol on 29 and 30 January 2011 that I took part in. The event was about using Open Data to improve services to the public. The first day consisted of a series of talks, followed by a brainstorming session about what comunity apps we would find useful. The second day was a 'hack day'. The ideas by then had been distilled down to five projects, which about 30 people worked on. (The audience at the first day had been at least a hundred.) Ours had a varying number of participants, but I think the final number was three: Mark Braggins, Tim Winship and me. It fell to me to present our ideas at the end, and write it up.

In our group we outlined what our app should do and how it could work, but did not get to the point that we discussed the practicalities of building it. Part of our time was devoted to hearing Tim Davies explain about Open Data, including his Open Data cookbook, and the differentiation to Linked Data. This was very worthwhile, and I will attach some notes at the end of this post. But first:

VolunTree - a future volunteering app

Initial ideas

We started by discussing our ideas of what a "volunteering app" should do. The consensus was that it should be a matching service for both people wanting to volunteer, and organisations (or even individuals) in need of helpers.

We also agreed that it should, at first, be restricted to a local level, that is, Bristol, and that it should be integrated with already existing services.

What is already out there?

We had a look at some sites that were providing services in the volunteering sector:

UK-based:
Do-it
i-volunteer
Reach
Timebank

US-based:
Volunteermatch
Hands on Nashville
Groundcrew

iPhone apps: 
Volunteermatch, iLocate, vinspired

In Bristol:
Voscur
bristolvolunteers

What service does the app provide that's not already there?

Many of the existing sites let organisations looking for volunteers post their profiles and their needs. People willing to offer their time can then scan these posts and contact the organisation in question. Our idea was to let potential volunteers enter profiles including their skills, interests and availability, and give organisations the opportunity to contact the volunteers, based on these profiles. I subsequently found that there are some websites that use volunteer profiles (VolunteerMatch, Reach), so part of this has actually been done. 

What does the app do?

Volunteers

  • provide contact details
  • select categories they are interested in (children, arts, IT etc.)
  • indicate whether they want to donate time as a one-off, on a regular basis, or occasionally
  • indicate when they are available

There could be some additional 'rating mechanism' where volunteers collect rewards for volunteering. We had slightly differing opinions here. I thought there should just be a reward for having turned up and done the job, while my 'colleagues' thought a star-rating by the organisation that had requested help would be good.

Charities, or even individuals

  • provide contact details
  • select the categories that apply to the work they've got
  • have option to post when they need help for a specific event, project

The app can be used by volunteers to match the posted work against their profiles. Also, there could be the option that when an organisation posts about a one-off event or project they need help with, a text/email/other kind of notification goes out to those volunteers that have a matching profile.

As mentioned before, there could be some rating mechanism, and we were also thinking that sponsors could donate 'rewards' that could then be given to the 'best volunteers'.

Further thoughts

We did not get to the question "How do we realise this technically". As these days were about Open Data, how could these be used? There is certainly the element of locality. Which places where volunteers are needed, are near me? But could there be more to it? Charities are pushed to publish more data, especially on how they use their money, how much organisational overhead is there, what part of the money does actually go to the causes themselves? Could these data become part of the app? And how about the volunteering being done for the charity? Perhaps the data on how many volunteers worked for a charity could also become part of the Open Data. Eventually, could data about where, when and how many volunteers are needed, be fed directly into the app from the charities' sites? We are certainly a long way from that, and it would be more a case for Linked Data, and Linked Data that can be published easily and routinely.

Apart from the technical aspects, there is a lot to consider here. If you include skilled workers, and people working with children, there is the problem of having qualifications verified and CRB checks carried out. Could a service be integrated that checks the volunteer, and, once this is done, allow their profile to be marked as "checked"? All of us agreed that the current situation where a CRB check for one school cannot be used for another is creating a lot of unnecessary work and is just annoying for both the applicant and the employer. But as long as the situation is like that, should one perhaps restrict the app just to unskilled work without special requirements? And, what's more, how could such a service be funded?

Conclusion

Our group had quite a few ideas about this app, although we didn't build anything. It would have been great if we could have started on that, perhaps by pulling existing data from the web, but there was little time, and admittedly we also did not have the expertise in this topic to achieve something like that in one day! To have such a service would certainly be desirable, and considering that people aged 16-24 are the main age group offering to volunteer, an app seems the right format.

Funnily enough, while I was looking for the Guardian article, I learned about the website for vinspired (see above). And it seems to do exactly what we had in mind, including the rewards scheme (and there is an iPhone app!) - but only for 16 - 25 year olds. Vinspired seems to be quite successful and working well, which is good to see. It could perhaps be an inspiration to build a similar service for people of all ages, and an app that works on all mobiles..

 

Tim Davies talking about Open Data and Linked Data

I have to admit that my notes on this are a bit sketchy, so if I get anything of this wrong, it is definitely my fault, not Tim's! Also, our little group joined in only half-way through, so I did not catch all of what he was explaining.

When you look at Open Data, the first thing to consider is the different formats that data can be in. One of the main objectives of making data available to applications is to turn data present in a human-readable format, into data understandable by machines.

The simplest way to present data in a human-readable format is in a spreadsheet. However, if you use Excel, you might use different colours that communicate additional meaning, and sometimes you have more than one piece of information in once cell. To make these data machine-readable, the first step is to convert the extra meaning into completely "flat data", as you would have it in the non-proprietary format CSV.

A good tool that can be used to 'clean up' data in that way is Google refine.

I think at that point we started talking about Linked Data, and how those were related to Open Data.

Open Data can come in all kinds of formats, while Linked Data is always in the form of RDF.* But that is just the technical aspect. The idea of linked data was to get context back into the data, to create self-describing data. You get the context by data linking to other data (as the name says).

If you want to create Linked Data, you describe it using RDF. As for the terms that you use for describing your data, you first look at what other people have used before. The namespaces definining the properties you can use are those belonging to so-called ontologies. There are well-known ontologies like FOAF (to describe people) or Dublin Core (to describe resources, among others web pages). If the terms you need for describing your data are not in an existing ontology, you can just create your own. There is a guideline describing how to author new ontologies, called OWL.

An important aspect of Linked data is that each item has its own URL. Each ontology has a URL, too. There is a service called prefix.cc that lets you look up existing ontologies.

The main characteristics of Open Linked Data are summed up in the 5 stars of Open Linked Data. (There could also be Linked Data that is not open**)

Going back to Google Refine, this lets you import all the properties from a namespace by providing the URL for that namespace. Another helpful tool Tim mentioned is Geonames, which gives you coordinates and other data for place names.

One of the listeners remarked that in the local councils there was a lot of scepticism about the use of Linked Data. Mostly because of the resources you would need to create this form of data. And what benefit did you get from it? Tim replied that indeed at the moment there were few simple use cases for Linked Data. But that in areas where there were standards emerging (as is the case with spending data), it would get easier to publish data, and that the benefits would become more apparent.

One aspect that can make a difference is certainly to make data viewable. One example is the Comparator tool that is part of the Young Lives Data project that Tim did. The site also includes a good description of the process of making data available in that way.   

As Tim concluded, in the future the best way to publish your data might be to provide it as linked data, but then also transformed back into CSV and made viewable.

So basically, the data goes on a loop, but afterwards it is linked, and that could make quite a difference.

-----------------------------------------

*Actually the term format is not totally correct when you talk about RDF. As Tim pointed out, RDF is more a model than a format. The standard format is RDF/XML, but the data can be presented in other formats like N3 or also inside an XHTML document as RDFa. The data can also be hosted in a so-called Triplestore.

**This article is also quite interesting in that respect: Open Data, Linked Data & the Semantic Web)

This post was written 7 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: open_data / linked_data / apps /
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Workshop: Developing for the Mobile Web

This post was written 8 years ago.
Fri, 29 Oct 2010

Web developers flocked in their hoardes to two big events in Bristol last Wednesday: the Web Developers Conference and the Plone Conference, the latter of which is still going on as I write. Both are/were for sure excellent events and I had planned to attend WDC2010. However, I eventually chose to go to a third event that was also being held in Bristol and I did not regret it one bit.

The event in question took place at the ILRT premises in Bristol, and was called "Developing for the Mobile Web". It was mainly directed at developers in higher education - being part of the DevCSI project - but was open to other developers, too.

A large part of this one-day workshop consisted of accounts, sometimes quite in-depth, of the speakers' day-to-day work with the mobile web. That, together with a very informative talk by Phil Archer from the W3C about Mobile Web Best Practices, and a CSS-session at the end, made for a very successful mixture.

Topics covered included mobile university web sites, the geolocation API, HTML5, native apps versus web apps, mobile development frameworks  - a topic that was completely new to me - as well as best practices (mobile web, css, accessibility).

How have Mobile Best Practices changed since 2006?

I won't go into all the talks in detail but rather pick a few that impressed me. After short introductions by Mike Jones and Mahendra Mahey, who had conceived and organised the event, Phil Archer kicked off with the question of what has changed since the creation of the W3C's Mobile web best practices document.

This document was put together in 2006. But shortly after most of the substantial work had been done, the iPhone hit the scene. So what has changed since then with regards to best practices? The answer is - suprisingly little. In fact, details of the document have not changed at all. And while the reality of the mobile web has changed a lot through the arrival of the iPhone and Android, the principles of designing for the mobile web have not.

Take media queries, which get talked about a lot these days, and seem to be the essence of how to code for the mobile web, but have in fact been around since 2001. One kind of sad thing is that the different media types (screen, handheld and so on) cannot be used in the way they were intended. Because people tended to write pretty bad stylesheets for handheld devices, a number of manufacturers decided not to support this media type. To me, that seems like a wasted opportunity. These days to target handhelds with css alone, you have to write a combination of media types and media queries.

It's also worth remembering that developing for the mobile web does not mean developing for the iPhone, and also the idea of "one web". If you have one website, to render very different versions for mobile and desktop is not really the idea.

If you want more information about the talk, the slides are online.

Geolocation API and HTML5

I was also very impressed with the second talk, although admittedly I understood a lot less about it. And yet, given the topic, I found it at places surprisingly easy to follow. The talk was given by Ben Butchart of EDINA, which is part of the University of Edinburgh. His group is investigating ways of delivering maps to mobile using the geolocation API and HTML5 techniques. While the group is specifically targeting SmartPhones, they do not want to develop native apps for specific providers. I hope I got that right, but, if not, quite a good summary can be found on the Wiki of the GeoMobile project .

A good source of information is also their blog, mobilegeo.wordpress.com. The slides of the talk contained quite a bit of code, mainly showing how the geolocation API was used, and also HTML5. The HTML5 techniques used were Canvas, Local Storage and Cache. It became clear, for example, that it is quite important to be able to store data locally as well. HTML5 Canvas has great potential because it allows to get inside the image itself and use an array of pixels that can then be processed.

What I found quite interesting was the fact that the Ordnance Survey had to make their data publicly available and there is an API that can be used for that. (They also have a 'web-map builder' that might be a nice alternative to embedding google maps - I have tried it out for outlining the itineray of an up-coming lantern walk)

There were quite a few interesting technical details -- take a look, for example, at this blog post about touchMap, which examines using a different framework from OpenLayers. But although I found them interesting, I have to admit I don't really know anything about them, so it does not make so much sense if I just list them here. I am waiting for the slides to become available!

Ben Butchart concluded that it was a really interesting time to be in web app development, because of the competition between browsers in terms of performance and implementation of new standards, and it would be interesting to see how the translation from desktop to mobile browser will work out. Some emerging technologies were mentioned as well, as Canvas 3d and Augmented Reality.

Oxford and the open-source mobile framework

And so on to my third highlight -- three presentations about mobile university projects targeted at students at the universities of Liverpool, Bristol and Oxford. Each was clearly at three different stages of development. Anthony Doherty from the University of Liverpool gave an overview of his project, which was still in a planning phase - or, one could say, in a review phase, after initial trials (one done by themselves, a mobile web app, and one by an outside provider, a native web app). But there was no clear result yet and no live site was demonstrated.

The Bristol University project, in contrast, mymobilebristol, already has a beta site m.bristol.ac.uk up and running, with quite a few features. This project was presented by Mike Jones. It displays the content of the university website in a way suitable for mobile (although not yet for all mobiles!, as Phil Archer observed), but the most striking bit is certainly the maps. And I was not alone in thinking that live bus departures was a very useful and cool feature, as were wifi hotspots and free computer places. It is worth mentioning that the workshop was done in conjunction with the mymobilebristol project.

The Oxford mobile site, however, was better than the other two by quite a margin. They seem to have got an awful lot right. I have to admit not having properly checked the site out yet, so I could be blinded by the good looks. But the list of features is equally impressive.

After the talk I got the chance to briefly talk to Tim Fernando who gave the presentation, and who was also one of the (few) people working on it. Naively, I had thought there must have been loads of people developing it. Fernando said this was a "testament to the Django framework". Oxford University has also released the project as an open-source framework now (a framework using a framework then..), which is certainly worth checking out: mollyproject.sourceforge.net.

One neat thing about it is that it is not device-specific. Towards the end of the day, the discussion native app versus web app came up again, and Fernando conceded that it was much quicker to develop a native app, and that there was the benefit that local storage could be used much more, thus reducing both band-width and processing power. But he did think and hope that developments would converge on using the mobile web. The Oxford site is certainly a good example of this.

This blog post is getting very long. I would have liked to lose a few words about the virtual CSS session with "Big John" Gallant of positioniseverything.net which was also very good although he was not specifically targeting CSS for mobile. Some great lightning talks (check out the programme). And the nice lunch-time chat with Phil Archer and Gicela Morales where I learned that we were in quite a historic building (FoaF started here). But I have to go..

Anyway, thanks everybody who organised this and the speakers! It was a great day and I learned a lot (and hope I can make use of it soon).

  • Thanks, Katja, for your report, very interesting!

    Posted by Frances de Waal, 01/11/2010 10:30am

This post was written 8 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Comments

dConstruct 2010

This post was written 8 years ago.
Sun, 05 Sep 2010

I have not been to many web design conferences. And still I'm pretty sure they won't get much more impressive than this. I heard some criticism before going. That dConstruct was not very hands-on and you didn't learn much that could be applied directly. That might be true. It is not so much for the hands than for the mind.

First of all, the speakers were extremely talented and professional. Even if you didn't care about the theme of the conference - which this year was "Design and creativity" - you could take a lot away from the talks, many insights as well as amusing anecdotes from fields as varied as typography, filming and musical improvisation. It was a joy to listen and watch the speakers on the stage.

So what about the talks? There were nine of them, each one half an hour long, stretched out over a day.

And there was Jeremy Keith speaking the opening and closing remarks. At the start of the conference he announced that Clearleft, the agency he works for, are hiring a UX person. So if you fancy living in Brighton and are an excellent UX person give it a go! He also announced that the twitter hashtag for the conference was #sausagebap and you will find some tweets under that.

I was going to write about each talk in detail, but I realize I just don't have the time for it, and if I don't write now, I never will. So I will try to do some twitter-style summaries of them. But if you really want a comprehensive overview, the best is to turn to (in this case hand-drawn!) infographics, as we learned at the conference. Check out evalottchen's sketches.

The talks:

Marty Neumeier - The Designful company:
Be radically different - tell if, apart from that, you are good, from the first reactions to a product. If good, it won't do well to start with, but will pick up soon!

Brendan Dawes - Boil, Simmer, Reduce
A design is best when you can't take anything away anymore. But before that, collect, develop and play, play, play!

David McCandless - Information is beautiful
Graphics make information more accessible. But always has to be in context. US spend most on defence, but not per person! Porridge is most popular cereal, but beaten by miles by toast.

Samantha Warren - The Power and Beauty of Typography
Posters differ from websites. Much colour - and no Georgia! Typefaces are like shoes for your website, if well chosen they take you a long way.

John Gruber - The Auteur theory of design
Auteur is different from author - not restricted to writing; the auteur is making. The quality of a product approaches the quality that the person in charge is capable of recognizing. 

Hannah Donovan - Jam Session - What Improvisation can teach us about design
Improvisation is: spontaneous - performing - cooperation - trading parts. You lose yourself in it. Good design is like that

James Bridle - The Value of Ruins
Wow, impressive recount of history. Introducing wiki-race (how many links from random to target page) The edits of wiki page on Iraq war fill several large volumes of books.

Tom Coates - Everything the network touches
Coates also starts with history, Darius's great network of roads. Talk is one of the highlights apparently, but Mrs Durrani drifts off to the land of nod more than once, and cannot report any more. Shame!

Merlin Mann - Kerning, Orgasms & Those Goddamned Japanese Toothpicks
(Can explain the title no better than before) Funny talk and much advice. People outside web community don't understand what you are doing (yes!). Good advice often hurts. Growth hurts.

Merlin Mann talked in an accent that I could mostly understand, and there were loads of times when I wholeheartedly aggreed with what he was saying, but than he got to the point, everybody laughed - and I hadn't understood it. - Although it seems I was not the only one. Apart from this one talk I had no trouble understanding anybody, and as I said they were all great to listen and watch. John Gruber told some really interesting things about Kubrick films.

As somebody else remarked, talk about user experience was notably absent from this conference (except opening remarks by Keith), more power was placed in the hands of the designer again. Ford was quoted twice ("If I had asked people what they want, they would have said faster horses"). It was interesting in that respect though that the talk about the "auteur theory" in which one man informs the whole project was followed by a talk about improvisation and collaboration among more or less equal partners. Unless I missed something. Maybe different cases call for different approaches?

In any case it was great being there!

This post was written 8 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: dConstruct / design /
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Plans for 2010

This post was written 8 years ago.
Fri, 08 Jan 2010

There is still snow in the streets and it is freezing cold. Yet after two days of closure, school is on again (starting at 10 instead of 9) and my girl has gone, somewhat grudgingly, her brother is off to nursery and their father off to work. Quiet, uninterrupted time, the time to be productive!!

How best to use it? Sometimes a certain anxiety comes with that question. How much will I be able to tick off this time, how much can I manage to squeeze in, is this really the best thing to do right now (GTD is beckoning)? I'm sure I am not the only one who feels like that! Yet today, once everybody had left I decided to write this post, and I was sure it was the thing to do. I might feel a bit stressed once I have finished it, but I wanted to write it all week. It means something to me, because it is about making (professional) plans and targets for the year, and committing to it "in public" - although hardly anybody will read this post ;) (which, at this stage, I don't actually mind).

So, let's get cracking. First, some general considerations. I almost wanted to call this post "The end of the baby years", and this has a double meaning to me. My little boy is to start school in September. So, this year, I definitely want to clarify my professional situation. On a most basic level I can phrase the question like this: "Will my main source of income be from web development?" And I don't only want to answer this question, but start earning some money.

Secondly, I want to grow up! This might sound curious and I struggle to explain it. In the widest sense, it has to do with being too self-focused. - This is partially through no fault of my own (but also nobody else's fault! Just the circumstances). I won't write more, it is too personal and also would take too long at this point. In any case, I never want to lose the ability to play, that is for sure!! I realize more and more that it is a big leap to go from voluntary work to - continuous - professional work, and the biggest leap is in my mind! Otherwise it didn't need to be, and I think people are ready to accept me as a professional, probably more ready then myself. I think I am professional in the way I look at making websites. Knowledgewise, I am pretty up to scratch with how to create websites in a professional way. I follow web standards, and I follow relevant podcasts and blogs with the latest news on how to best do things. It is clear that I don't manage to implement all of it. That is just normal. But to my liking, I turn to little of what I hear and read to practical use. So, this is a second area to change something (and of course linked to the first). There was one post I read, called "The one thing you need to do to become a top designer", and the answer was: Practice, practice, practice. Yes, I think that is very true! (not only for designers) And I want to live by it.

A third general thing is, I want to write and document more. This post is personal by it's very nature, but in future posts I would like to become less personal and hopefully manage to write things of use to other people. This could in some cases be personal things as well, but hopefully also some just technical. And then there's the "one resolution to rule them all" : Get better organized. I just read the first chapter of the above-mentioned GTD again, and find it is so true what Allen writes, and it is comforting to see that it is a common phenomenon. I tried to implement his system before, and to start with, it seemed to work well. I just had problems with the "weekly review" and ironically did not find the time and quiet to do this regularly. Also, at some point I had this thought "What do you want with these manager methods, this is overkill to organize your mummy/aspiring web developer life" - which, of course, is just b*ll****. It applies to everyone. What I do think is that I need to modifiy the methods. I will give it a go again. So, here to the (a little more) concrete plans:

Projects (of which not all definite yet):

  • Do one personal project, where I use new techniques or use already known ones in a better way. So far I am thinking of this: Create a portal for bi- or multilingual families with German as one of their languages. Use PHP for overall navigation, user login, and accessing member information (probably just email). Try YUI (reset, fonts and grids) for the layout. Add some unobtrusive jQuery. And - optimise for mobile. But the content! Well, I will, at least initially, supply some. I have left the Saturday school committee, so I guess I can devote a little time. Part of the content will be from already existing sites. For example I can access the database of the Spielgruppe and pull a random cake recipe (Real cake, not the framework) to the homepage. Who needs APIs?
  • Make little changes to last paid-for website
  • Work on a Uni web site
  • Website for a company in Germany
  • Two websites for and artist and and illustrator (not at all clear when!)

 

Work at an agency! (if only a short time)

 

Learning:

  • Learn PHP more in depth, use a framework
  • experiment with APIs
  • Create aesthetically pleasing websites, OR if not aesthetically pleasing it has to be deliberate -> I want to at least be able to create aesthetically pleasing websites; they might look the same as lots of other websites, but then if you open a book, it looks like other books; it's about facilitiating that peoople can take in the content and move around confidently

 

Community:

  • Go to at least one conference and one networking meeting (like Media Tuesday. Scary!). Also continue to go to Silverstripe Meet-Ups that have a talk, and maybe go to one Web Standard Meet-Up in London.
  • Perhaps set up Web Standards Meetup in Bristol!! Not very likely, this is a bonus target if I have managed to feel integrated into the "community" and feel a professional! 

So, this post might get amended a bit over the next few days, and I could write so much more - but that might become blog posts of their own. Anyway, now I have put down some of the things I would like to achieve over the next year. It might all turn out vastly different, who knows.

This post was written 8 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: webdev / gtd /
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1st UK Silverstripe meetup

This post was written 9 years ago.
Mon, 07 Sep 2009

Thursday, 3 September 09: Off to my first ever Meetup, 120 miles from where I live. Crazy? Maybe, but it is on a topic I am really interested in, and so far I don't know anybody whom to talk about it properly : SilverStripe, a new CMS that has become my preferred choice for making websites.

It was all worthwile, some of the reasons being:

  • Met some interesting and enthusiastic people to talk about web design/development in general, and SilverStripe in particular
  • Got confirmation that SilverStripe is a really good system
  • Also got to know about some of its limitations
  • Heard about some new devlopments

There was a good mix of people, mostly from the London area. My fear had been that everybody would be 10 years younger than me and/or have 10 years more experience with web design and development. Neither was the case. There was a considerable number of people who have children and one who was to become a father for the first time, and all of these, I reckon, were about my age. Regarding experience, there were some people who weren't actually professional web designers, but just use SilveStripe for their own or their spouse's or friends' websites. But then, there were some very experienced people as well. I found it valuable hearing from them how they use Silverstripe and when they don't use it (for example, ecommerce sites).

The meeting was organised by three members of the company GPMD who specialise in Silverstripe websites, mainly by Richard Johnson. Mark Slocock founded the company 10 years ago with a partner. He explained how he had built his own CMS that the company then used for building websites. But as he had come across Silverstripe he realised "it was 5 years ahead" compared to his own system. This, he said, made it an easy decision for him to abandon his own system and switch to Silverstripe.

I also talked to Jamie Neil, who works at GPMD, too. He has a degree in Computer Science and worked in various IT roles before joining GPMD. I asked him why SilverStripe wasn't more popular. "Mainly, because it is a very young system. But there are strong communities in New Zealand and Australia." To not give a wrong impression, there were not only people from GPMD present. Jeff van Campen, who has organised the London Web Standards Meetup for a year, is a web designer especially interested in user design/interface design. He is thinking of re-desining his own website with SilverStripe. He also said it was surprisingly difficult to find venues for these meetups in London.

The pub where this meeting took place, by the way, was not bad, it had a seperate area where we could sit, but the music was a bit loud at times. My suggestion would be to have the next meeting at Bristol! I think there must have been around 20 people at the meeting. Some left quite early, not long after I arrived (got there 45 minutes late). I liked the fact that it was a relatively small group. Generally, as mentioned before, there is not such a strong user base in the UK yet.

There would be more people to mention and more of the conversations, of course. I just wanted to give a glimpse of the meeting. To round up this post, a list of new and old conclusions about:

Why I love Silverstripe

  • Easy to use for the end user/client
  • HTML/CSS is completely independent, you can have any layout you want
  • Customizing the CMS is done through PHP code, not through a user interface
  • PHP is very well structured, all based on PHP5, capsuled functionality, easy to build on and extend
  • Enthusiastic community ready to help with questions

For me it is both a very versatile tool for building applications (I have just built one for teachers, for discussing and publishing lesson plans online), and a good way to improve my PHP! If you use SilverStripe and live in or near Bristol, please do get in touch. For the moment, I am happy to go to London for the next meetup!


This post was written 9 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: silverstripe /
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Positively unsure

This post was written 9 years ago.
Mon, 17 Aug 2009

There seems to be a conundrum in my life, and this has been going on for a while. - How best to describe it? It has to do with the definition of a role I think. It is about being attached professionally in some way.

My story so far: Mum and hobby web designer (personal website created with Dreamweaver) decides to set up interactive website for toddler group, then a school website which runs on - very powerful - Content Management System, Typo3. Learns HTML, CSS and some Javascript and PHP along the way. Becomes increasingly interested in web standards and doing web design in a professional way. Internship at university finally means working with other people, and learning a lot more. And there's the decision to do web design/development professionally. Currently working on somebody's website, and there has been work for the university, there might be more. That is really good, because I get to do what I love.

But: At present my main job is being a mum, so I can only be a part-time web designer/developer. And I am still at the beginning. I think it's that that creates a certain restlessness. When I wander through the web, see all those brilliant websites by the professional designers, or read blogs by developers, a part of me is saying: This is way beyond what you are doing. (But then it is way beyond what a lot of others do :) ). Where do I fit in here? What can I call myself? - I am not a student, not an established web designer, but not a hobby designer either. But does it matter? Perhaps when the dreaded question comes: What do you do? No, maybe not. A new answer coined just this moment: I am primarily a mother, but do some web design on the side. I plan to do more, and get a job, in a year, when my son will be at school. That sounds better and more straightforward than all the long-winded explanations I have given so far.

The as yet unanswered question is: How will I get there? Creating a few personal websites and occasionally doing some work for uni, will that be enough? - Doing the toddler group 2.0 project I am planning? Work experience? It is an adventure and it is quite exciting. I don't want to see any of the above as a problem. I feel very privileged to have "problems" like that. The thing is, with our basic needs fulfilled, we strive to do something we can be good at, gives us some fulfilment and meaning, and for me that is building websites, no doubt, and - provided my general circumstances don't change in some dramatic way - I will keep thinking about how to best pursue it, even if I tried not too.

I am aware that all of this post is very self-indulgent, self-reflective (and probably naive), which I normally try not to. Yet I think by putting this all into writing, I have banned a little deamon that kept fluttering through my mind. I can pursue professional web design, I am allowed to, even if at this point I am not a full-time designer/developer. Silly that one should think otherwise, isn't it? Specifically, goals are:

Learn to design good-looking things!

Bring to perfection HTML and CSS skills (incl. learning about CSS3 and HTML5)

Improve PHP

Become really good SilverStripe developer!

To conlcude this post, I just want to mention a selection of articles I read in the Guardian magazine this weekend, just because they are an inspiring read. By sometimes stating the not-so-obvious they could significantly extend your knowledge about what can make and keep you happy. This is the link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/series/how-to-be-happy Positive psychology as opposed to positive thinking! My favourite bit is from the article by Oliver Burkeman: "The advice is straightforward. Remember to be grateful. Spend your money on experiences, not objects. Volunteer. Nurture your relationships. Spend time in nature. Make sure you encounter new people and places. And never assume that you know what will make you happy."


This post was written 9 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: personal / web_design /
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Summer of 2009 - Learning journeys and inhabiting the web

This post was written 9 years ago.
Thu, 09 Jul 2009

Is the web of today a place mainly for teenagers and geeks? You are reading the blog of someone whose "social network" (I mean the offline one) is in big parts not represented on the web, not even on facebook (which I myself don't like very much).

Whose friends seem to regard blogging as a slightly strange and obtrusive activity. - This is only in one case based on direct evidence. But I can certainly say it's unusual. I don't know of any of my friends that they are writing a blog. Maybe they do it in secret ;) Saying that, I have not told many people about mine, but that might change soon. Let's face it. Many people my age (and please, I am not ancient!) do not really participate in online life as it exists today. I have one friend in Germany whom I could imagine exclaiming now "What do you mean? Online life? That's not life."

I first became aware of how big that generation gap was through a very insightful and funny article in the "Berliner Morgenpost" - "Brauche ich das wirklich :-)!" ("Do I really need this :-)!" ) In it a journalist describes discussions and arguments with his teenage children regarding social networking and online games. His children are way superior to him in their ways on the web, their virtual world is their very own space that the parents don't understand. The children wind their father up about his cluelessness, while people his generation are romanticizing the past without the web. Of course there are parents and generally, middle-aged people, who move on the web as skillfully as today's teenagers. And where could that be more true than in the world of web development? The geeks embraced Twitter years ago. I assume most of them won't take the social networking as far as the digital natives - they are probably more interested in building the technology behind social networks-, in any case, they are much closer to the youngsters' experiences than your average end-thirty/forty-plus parent.

For me, one big difference between somebody "inhabiting the web" and someone who doesn't is whether you bring some of your personality to the web. That means that people you have never met have the possibility to get to know you a little. It is up to you to determine the level of personal detail and how sincere you are. As a reader of (mainly web developers') blogs, I have enjoyed learning about other people's thoughts. Often it is not the "47+ ways of promoting your website" that get my attention but when people write about big or little incidents in their lives that gave them new insights, or just ideas they have about a certain topic. In fact, in my case there is the danger that I get too interested in learning about people rather than web development!!

So far I am not that connected on the web. This is not a problem as I have enough friends in "real" life. Also, for a long time I've been suspicious of the online networking because of the time it will take up. Still, it would be more fun to know more people online. Especially on Twitter. I joined Twitter out of curiosity and because I was interested in working out how you can pull your tweets on your homepage. But what I found then was totally unexpected. People writing witty comments in just 140 characters, passing on useful links I'd missed out on otherwise, chatting with their friends. Even people giving a running commentary on their baby's birth ("Wife 7cm dilated" - not what I would have liked my husband to blurt out to the world, but as I said, it's up to you). My own tweets are pretty daft most of the time, although I have passed on links that I found interesting. I don't know if my followers even read them. I'm curious how it will all develop . It's kind of funny, the social networking I so long refused by not joining facebook sneaked in through the backdoor, and now I find few people to network with ;) I could do it through facebook, of course, I just still can't warm to it.. So I will see that I get more people I know onto Twitter or meet more people on the web ;)

It is time to wrap this post up. One of our digital natives has joined me, and we'll soon set off to the Tobacco factory to watch "Pinocchio". But as I was thinking to point friends and relatives to this post, I will quickly write about what we've been up to otherwise. Our daugther received her very first school report on Friday. It was really good and I am very proud of her.She has progressed well on her "learning journey" as it is called in school speak. The report also stated that she "enjoys using the computer and demonstrates excellent mouse control". That's my girl! Matin last week went to the "World Conference of Science journalists" in London where he chaired a panel discussion about the role of blogs (!) in science jorunalism. Luckily this event took place in a bigger hall than most of the other talks. The conference happened during the tropical heat wave of last week and it was incredibly hot in the old Edwardian building, but that specific room was okay. Tube and train though must have felt like sitting in an oven, and it only took Matin two seconds to get under the shower after he had arrived home.

As for me, I would have liked to write about a recent development regarding an organisation I am part of, and what I have learnt from being there. I might do it another time, but maybe it's better to leave some things unsaid. Apart from that, I am still determined to progress further in my web development, and to some time earn a proper income from it. It should be easier when both children go to school. I might be an unlikely candidate, but that could also be an advantage as I see things from a different angle than many of the younger developers. That of a 30+ year-old digital immigrant ;) . As you can see, we are on the way to becoming a "digital family". Curiously, screens don't play a big role in my children's life, they hardly spend any time with them. They still mostly play as I used to as a child. Some things change, some things stay the same.


This post was written 9 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: twitter /
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Twitter, politics and the web

This post was written 9 years ago.
Sat, 04 Jul 2009

It has been so hot here over the past few days, this doesn't feel like England anymore. A light, but persistent headache plus a toddler who was going berserk at times, did the rest to make me stumble, more than walk, through the day. But the headache is gone, and the heat seems to be subsiding. So, what do I have to report? My online life has clearly been dominated by Twitter.

While I've been following a lot of the links to web resources, I didn't get round to reading most of them. For a while, I also got distracted by politics. One thing was a series in the Guardian - published in May - about this year's Bilderberg conference (Matin laughs at my sudden interest in "conspiracy theories" - except they are not, Bilderberg does exist!). And then there was the fervent discussion in Germany about internet censorship. This was in many ways remarkable. It demonstrated once again how politics and political propaganda work, but also, it showed that there is a new group of young people taking on the conventional parties, and this can only be positive for the German political landscape.

The discussion was about a law proposed by the governing coalition which would introduce access blocking of certain web pages. Seemingly, this was being introduced to combat child pornography, but in more than one publication by the governing parties themselves it transpired that they were also, in the long run, interested in protecting copyrights, especially of the musical industry. The power to blacklist the sites would lie in the hands of the "Bundeskriminalamt" (federal crimnal police office).

Now, how could you be against something that is combating child pornography?? The question is, is access blocking an effective means to do this? Apparently it is pretty easy to get round the "stop sign" posted on the internet when you try to access and indexed site. And why not force the sites to be taken down altogether? A lot of people spoke out against the law, people working with the internet day by day, saying they were ineffective methods (leading to the slogan "Löschen statt sperren" (don't block, delete) and also that this was paving the way for a general censorship of the net, and the power shouldn't lie in the hands of the federal police. There was an e-petition, the most successful to date, to prevent this law. Over 130.000 people signed it. - Still, the law was passed on the 18th of June. But while this might seem a victory to main-stream politics, it has caused so much stir and made many people aware of how poor the understanding of middle-aged politicians of the internet is, that it might just give the pirates a lot of winds in their sails.

The pirate party are pretty much a single issue party, one could paraphrase the issue at heart as "freedom on the web" I would say. Is that the most pressing problem in politics at the moment? Maybe not, but it is an important issue I think, and definitely worth fighting for. In this country, we already have a technology called "cleanfeed" cleaning up the internet, and you won't even notice it, as you just get an error message "page not found" when you try to access a blocked site.

It might be working fine and serving its cause, but can we ever be sure someone won't abuse it for blocking out sites that they just don't agree with? - On a wider level, also taking in other articles/radio programmes etc. there is one thing in politics I am now convinced of. We have to resist the state gaining too much control over our private lives, private data. I understand a lot better than I used to when people say "NO to identy cards". I cannot mention Twitter and politics without writing about Iran and the protests there, following the elections of 12 June. But I have read less about it than the previous topic. There was a lot going on on Twitter, that is one thing I can say, and quite a few of the people I am following coloured their avatars green. Also, people changed their locations to Teheran. There was a massive wave of support for the protesters in Iran. Hopefully, in the end they will prevail.

It is getting very late once again. I should better stop soon, although I would have liked to write much more, about what we've done and seen in the past month. So, when is this going to become a web design blog :) Well, it was a lot about the web, at least. Good night/good morning for now.


This post was written 9 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: twitter / censorship /
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The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work - and Twitter

This post was written 9 years ago.
Wed, 27 May 2009

Alright. This will be a round-up of a talk I heard last week(!), plus my own thoughts on the topic. I have very little time to write.. The talk was called "The pleasures and sorrows of work", by Alain de Botton who has written a book of the same title. This event was part of the "Festival of Ideas" in Bristol.

The topic is close to my heart, as it must be for many people, but I was also interested in seeing AdB as a speaker. He turned out to be a very good one. He went straight "in medias res" and gave what I suppose was a summary of his book with extensive explanations of his thoughts. It was also very entertaining. He talked about people with various professions he had come across during his research. In one case this was everyone who had handled a fish on its way form the Indian Ocean to - Bristol.

Then there was a careers counsellor, people at an accountancy firm, people marketing a biscuit (did I get this right?)... He also talked about his work as a writer which I found particularly interesting. What also stuck with me, were thoughts about the nature of work. One thing was his view that the main criterium to see a job as fulfilling is that it makes a positive difference in people's lives. The more I think about it, I think this is really true - for most people. AdB observed that the sense of making somebody's life a little better was often lost these days. For example, if you are a worker on a production line, making biscuits, you are not involved in selling the biscuits and seeing the satisfaction people get from it. (By the way there was a really funny reply to a question at the end - the question was staged I suppose - about what biscuits people in the South West were inclined to eat. AdB confessed to being a huge fan of fig rolls)

Also very notable was his account of seeing the careers counsellor being called in to conduct a session with workers that were being made redundant. AdB stated that he was initially very "suspicious" of this approach, it seemed forcefully optimistic in an American way, which he thought was often rousing suspicions with British people. However, he found it extremely moving when he saw people taking part in this session. It involved them being asked to stand up and talk about their childhood dreams. AdB recalled what a huge impression it could make when a burly 45-year-old man stood up and started talking about what he had wanted to become as a child. The approach the careers counsellor generally took was, first of all, giving people a piece of paper and making them write down everything they liked. This would bring to light what people's real interests were. It would very often turn out that a very little thing had made them veer off course. A throw-away remark by somebody, the wish of their father, some discouraging experience.

Interestingly, according to AdB, the notion that a job should bring fulfillment and also the idea that a job - kind of - defines who you are, is relatively young. AdB jokingly fixed the turning point to "middle of the 18th century". Before that, apparently people didn't expect to get any joy out of work. At this point I was thinking how starkly this contrasts with Tom Hodgkinson's view who in his book "How to be free" often cites the middle ages as providing a much better work environment, where people knew where there place was, didn't work too long hours, and often sang while they were doing their work. Maybe the two authors were talking of different things. In any case I cannot speak for or against either of them, as I don't know about that long gone-by past.

There would be so much more that one could mention about this talk. I'm sure it has been done somewhere on the web (I haven't looked) but more so certainly in his book. Which makes me think I should probably buy it. He has marketed it well to me ;) Shall I really speak about my own experience now? - Why not: I had a completely analogue childhood. The only times first signs of the dawning digital age showed up were when my father brought home funny coloured cards with lots of rectangle-shaped holes in them. (what are these called in English? - in German it's simply "Lochkarten" [punch cards of course!]) . So I couldn't possibly dream of becoming a web person. But as soon as I had discovered the principle of how to create websites, I was hooked. Without actually realising how much so. For a long time something has been missing - the belief and the will to go through with something you really like, I think, and the ability to take the necessary steps. I had mentioned to friends - and once even to a boss - that what I would really like to do is create websites. But it never occurred to me that I could actually try to make that my profession. I still sometimes have doubts about it. The worst thing is to compare yourself with other people, especially looking at other people's stylish websites. As Tim van Damme (the maker of http://madebyelephant.com) once wrote: Don't look at CSS galleries (although I think he certainly shouldn't have a problem with that).

But as mentioned before, I HAVE to re-design this my own website - or have several themes that can be selected, Jeremy Keith style. Keep on dreaming, baby ;) . Anyway, I do think I have found/will soon find a way to apply my skills in a meaningful and money-earning way, and I am quite glad about that. I think I love web design - because it is all about communication. Communication was not always easy for me as a child - mostly for external reasons - but something always important to me - it makes me see beauty in other areas of life. Since seriously learning about web design, I learn more and more about design principles and I have started to look at why things appear beautiful . I can only recommend to everyone doing it. - Because I like the marriage of creativity with the technical, logical. As a child I loved things like "Einstein's riddle" (different coloured houses, different nationalities, whose pet is the fish?) - more reasons I have not time to list.

I actually wanted to write about my Twitter experience as well. But that would be too much now, and is off topic. Just one thing, Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton) actually started following me after I had tweeted about him. But I think that's an app that just follows everyone who mentioned his name on Twitter. Still, looks quite nice to read "Alain de Botton" is now following you on Twitter! ;)

This post was written 9 years ago, which in internet time is really, really old. This means that what is written above, and the links contained within, may now be obsolete, inaccurate or wildly out of context, so please bear that in mind :)
Tags: books / work / webdev / twitter /
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