Coding before reading. Yep, you just read that.
What the?! In my day you didn't learn how to "code" until the 5th grade. And by coding, I mean we were taught how to create a 40x40 pixel graphic image using Apple Basic. There was no animation, photos, or story telling. The closet we got to "interactive storytelling" was this crap, and it required knowing a lot about PEEKs, POKEs, and GOSUBs. Which you didn't learn until you where in the 6th grade.
Okay, so kids aren't walking away from 30 minutes of using ScratchJr with the ability to knock out HTML or Objective C or Swift. After looking through the website this app looks like the cross between a coloring book and Flash 1.0. But, hang on, don't get me wrong, this is amazing. And I can't wait to watch my nieces (side note: yep, that's right, the #storeystyle line ends when I'm gone, get it while it lasts folks) tear this up.
For a while now I've had this assumption that soon, people will knock out websites using nothing but a tablet. And, oh look, it just so happens that that makes this possible. Well timed Cabel, well timed.
So now we live in a world where children, unable to read, are able to create robust content for the web. And people a bit older than 5 are able to interact--edit/add files--with web servers using nothing more than a tablet. If you are in the business of making websites, you need to pay attention to these developments because they are going to very likely going to have an impact on your career path.
People, we are living in science fiction times right now. Next year, it will all start to feel like a family sitcom.
Recently, two friends have lamented what Twitter has turned into, for very similar reasons. For Jason, "it takes away so much more than it gives. Like the conversations are often more impersonal and inflammatory than they used to be. Like the experience is more toxic than nourishing." Erin's experience was, perhaps, not as toxic:
The tone of these statements could be applied to blog comments from days past.
There was a time when blogs and their related discussions were engaging, sometimes enraging, but otherwise fun and interesting to take part in. These exchanges of ideas, thoughts, and their related discussions helped to create the foundation of today's web design and development community. Twitter helped to extended and then eventually replaced the platform for discussion within the community. And our discussions and connectedness has never been the as it once was.
As the World Wide Web gets wider, the quality of interaction tanks. While I am glad that more and more people have access to this digital world, the continual addition people and applications has not helped improve the quality of discourse.
Nothing I am saying is new. I'm allowing myself to reminisce and be a bit curmudgeon about what we once had, knowing that we'll never get it back.
I don't think I'm alone with my thoughts. Carole Guevin (aka Netdiver) is doing her damnedest to spark a fire on Ello right now. While Ello itself is under debate, you have to admire the time and energy that Carole is devoting to get the community back in action.
Should Ello fizzle, then I'd love to help find/create the next inspiring and supportive place for our community to exchange thoughts and ideas. If you have any ideas, leave a comment on Ello.
We need a web design museum.
We need to start collecting and gathering artifacts (physical and digital), stories, documents, whatever we can get our hands on to preserve the history of web design. From the launch of the World Wide Web to Netscape 1.1 to the adoption of web standards which enabled Web 2.0, Responsive Web Design and the multi-device world that we live in today.
For too long we have relied upon a service that "archives" other websites but it's not enough. The archives are tragically incomplete and lack the means to provide the full experience of what used to be. Archive.org does not adequately preserve enough information to serve as a lasting account of the web. We can not rely on large, multi-billion dollar companies to do this for us. Nor can we depend upon individuals to properly archive their PSDs, HTML, their work, which helped to change the world.
We have already lost too much. There are so many wonderful sites from 1994-2004 that have disappeared. All that is left are domains that have been turned into Go-Daddy-SEO-Landing-Page-clutter because the old site had a Google Page Rank higher than the pulse of a nursing home. I hate to think about how many amazing pre-Web 2.0 sites that are gone for good because a service shut down, ad revenue dwindled, or there was a lack of time or interest or both.
Somewhere in Christopher Schmitt's home is a Zip disk with a complete backup of High Five, one of the first sites dedicated to the review and critique of web design. I know he's looked up and down for that disk but it might be gone forever and with it, an important piece of our professions' history and heritage.
We need a museum! An institution that can help preserve first-hand accounts of how things were done, what went down in the past. The working files, important emails, formative essays, and forgotten blog posts. We need to preserve the story of how web design began and how it has evolved to today.
In 1996 I purchased my first web design book, Designing Web Graphics by Lynda Weinman. Since then, I have amassed a small library of web design books. Looking through the collection you can see how web design changed with larger screen resolutions, new versions of HTML, and eventually different devices.
While I love to look through that collection, it only provides glimpses of the design, not a complete representation of the experience. We shouldn't settle for this and certainly not for anything less.
Related: The tragedy of the commons.
Earlier today I wrote out two checks to the IRS and neither of them were for the current tax season. Both were for mistakes that were made in last year's filing. The mistakes were made by my CPA at the time. Despite my efforts my filing was done literally at the last minute. The accountant was also responsible for my bookeeping which made it difficult to pick up and go to another consultancy. Furthermore, it's not like good CPAs are everywhere. It takes time to gather recommendations, get introductions, and go through an interview (the good ones always work from word-of-mouth, not advertising). So, there I was running right up to the last minute when I finally got my return.
"Good news," I was told. "Looks like you're going to get a refund and a hefty one." My gut said that this was all wrong. Though I am not an accountant, I've been in business long enough to know that when you have money in the bank at the end of the year the IRS gets some. Instead, I was told that I would be receiving a five-digit refund. Assurances were given that all the numbers lined up and so the filling was made.
Two weeks later a paper check arrived in the mail. It felt wrong just to have it.
Weeks later I found a new tax professional. After having passed the interview process I hired them to audit my PNL and tax fillings for the year. After their initial review I was asked to make introductions to the former CPA. A slew of accounting questions soon followed. Some of it I recognized, a lot of it was like a foreign language.
Eventually a meeting by phone was requested with the former accountant. I was there too, but primarily as the audience, trying to pick up words I understood. The meeting was mostly a boring review until it came to a discrepancy that the new accountant could not reconcile.
"Hright, shughtyt," questioned the new guy.
"Aie! K, ms osjup jsjughe!, " answered the old.
"F-me," I thought.
Turns out the old CPA forgot to carry over revenue from the previous year. The submitted PNL and income tax filling were off by a lot. As in, a lot, a lot. Just weeks before I had received a low five-figure refund. Now, after the accounting correction, I owed the United States close to six-figures. Though my gut knew it all along, the revelation still felt like being relentlessly hit in the abdomen for the better part of an afternoon.
Fortunately, I had prepared for this conclusion and was able to write the IRS a new check with a lot of zeros without having to liquidate anything. Years ago, this would have kicked off a Defcon 1 level stroke, but after being in business for nine years I have come to learn that there is only one real way to look at events like these: Mistakes were made, thankfully no one died.
After close to a decade as a business owner, I have learned a lot from mistakes. I have lost a year of sleep from anxiety attacks at 2AM--reminding myself that I wasn't having a heart attack and to just relax and go back to bed. I've had to cancel vacation or worked through holidays because of mistakes made by contractors, employees, or clients, or all three. It's just part of being an entrepreneur and an owner.
My business partner Greg Hoy and I were invited to host a half-day workshop on running a business at ConvergeSE. In about 30 days are going to share many of the mistakes we made staring, growing, and managing our business and how we got through all of it. We'll be there to share our experiences, laugh, cry, hug, answer questions and do what we can to help other shop owners learn from our experiences, good and bad.
If you haven't read it yet, Jeffrey Zeldman shared a few memories and thoughts about his experience in public speaking since he began in 1998. Over the years, I've seen Zeldman give plenty of talks. He's become a natural and is comfortable on stage, in-between a large screen and a large audience. His speaking style is one that I myself favor, story telling, a few slides and plenty of opportunity to ad-lib should the audience react to one direction over another.
After years and years of experience and success, Jeffrey has been inspired by other speakers to up his game by changing the format of his presentation style to one that I have come to fear the most:
I may read the speech out loud, word for word, as Mike sometimes does, or I may revise and practice it so often that I no longer need to see it to say it, like Karen. Either way, my talk this year should be tighter than any I've given in the past decade. Hopefully, that's saying something.
The thought of having a fully prepared speech/presentation gives me the shivers. This reaction is in response to a horrible public speaking experience I had in college.
As a student studying advertising, I joined the related student club to get more hands on experience than the coursework offered. Like many national student programs, we had an annual competition. The American Advertising Federation sponsored an annual contest wherein students were given a client (in 1997 it was Saturn, the now defunct automobile manufacturer) an imaginary budget and constraints regarding the brand and the direction the "client" wanted to go with the campaign.
Our task was to create a national campaign that would reach the primary audience and convince them to check out Saturn through advertising placed in all markets and included print, radio and television. It's not as easy as it may sound.
Many months were spent on research, costs, schedules, potential reach, and media buys with flights for optimal market penetration. The business side of our work had to be published in a book and sent to the judges in order to be invited to the competition (they didn't just let anyone in, you had to show that you knew what in the hell you were doing as compared to what a real agency would recommend). Once our spot in the competition was confirmed another six weeks was spent producing all of the advertising creative work, which was to debut at the competition. Many days were spent into the pre-dawn hours (which included "borrowing" a few Macintosh SEs from time-to-time because the student lab closed at 11PM). And a lot of money was spent to get things developed, printed, fabricated and produced.
At the competition, each college team was given twenty minutes to pitch their campaign to the judges (aka The Client). Each pitch was required to provide a review all of the data driven decisions made and the debut of all of the creative work. Our presentation had to be well rehearsed and choreographed. As this was 1997, the only way to present our work on stage was with synchronized Kodak slide projectors that had a propensity to jam. In order for us to have enough visual aids for twenty minutes of dense charts, bullet points and creative work slides had to be sequenced in alternating carousels. Should a jam occur, we were given verbal instructions how to recover, which involved more luck than technique and time--which we would not have during competition.
For a solid week we rehearsed our pitch, before classes, in-between classes, after classes, on the plane to the competition and later in our hotel rooms, right up until it was time for us to go up on stage. During all that time, our slide projectors did their job and we eventually stopped worrying potential technical difficulties. Murphy's Law caught up to us and right in the middle of our pitch, the slides jammed like two tectonic plates coming together to form a mountain range. It was a giant Kodak created mess.
Despite getting the slides back together, we never recovered. Six months of hard, extra curricular work and a lot of money was gone. More devastating for me, I lost all confidence in presenting or talking, especially with an accompaniment of visual aids.
To those of you who have invited me to speak or have have asked why I don't speak over the years--there it is, your real answer.
Haunting Kodak memories be damned, last year I was invited to speak twice with my business partner Greg Hoy. Despite sweating through some anxiety, it went pretty well and, thankfully, our slides never jammed. Our presentation was in the style Jeffrey found comforting and I have to say, it really made a difference after not being on stage for more than a decade.
Though I don't know if I'm ready to give the super polished talk another chance just yet, I'm am happy to be back on the stage and being a part of the community.
Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to seeing Zeldman's new presentation at AEA Seattle in March.
There has been some lamenting about the death of blogs as of late. Ok, maybe it's been over the last year or two but it's become a lingering topic. For me, if I look behind the curtain, I really stopped writing in 2010 (see fig. 1). Honestly, thats when my personal and professional life became much, much more complicated and stressful than at any time previously. Those complications doubled and quadrupled for a number of years and thankfully they are on the decline.
Lets be honest though, I had the time. I mean, I could have made the time to write and continue what I started twelve years ago, but I wasn't feeling it. There was that one time when Tumblr was fun to post too but I didn't really start to get the itch to write again until recently. That's when I decided that enough has been enough and the crap that has been plaguing me creatively for the last four years is going to get knocked on it's ass and kicked to the curb this year—So long sucka.
I don't think blogs are dead. Like anything we do, sometimes you just need a break.
Ok, introspection done. PSA delivered. Back to writing.
There always seems to be too much going on in the fall, let alone December, to have adequate time to reflect introspectively on the year and then make resolutions on what you intend to fix in the new year. It's rush, rush, rush, think a minute, proclaim something, fireworks are going off and before you know it, you really wake up and it's the middle of January. The first month of the new year comes with abrupt, quiet calm, fitness ads, and a relative absentia of events that I wonder why people bother trying to hit an annual deadline.
Any day is a good day to make changes, especially after you've had time to really consider what you're changing and why. With that in mind, this year I'm going to not buy anything that isn't consumable, required for work or necessary for living, like pants and maybe another piece of art.
Over the last four years Kitchen Storey (that's right) and I have moved from Orange County to San Francisco to Austin. And then again to our new home in South Austin. Each time we purged material goods, packing it all in boxes and donating the goods to the neighborhood "good will." In those four years we got rid of a lot of things bought, stored, collected over the many years we have been together. Looking back there was nothing left behind that we missed or needed.
This weekend, while She Who Takes to the Skies A Lot took to the skies for a family trip, I had plenty of time to consider the recent expansion of material and virtual goods. It's amazing what kind of damage you can do with an iTunes Store and a double income with no kids. I reacquainted myself with all of the albums, movies and television programs that I have purchased over the years through iTunes.
I had not seen this library in a while. Services like Rdio, Netflix and Hulu have improved so much in so little time that at some point I just started to ignore my iTunes collection altogether. So there I was on a Sunday afternoon, listening to music I hadn't heard in years and I started to think of all the stuff I purchased after arriving in Austin. Thankfully, it's not an obscene list--my home will never be featured in an episode of Hoarders--but it's long enough that I have things lying around, physical and virtual that don't get enough use. In addition to this problem, their presence causes me to consider devoting time to their use over others and I waste time and focus on choosing one activity/thing over another.
Simply put, I have continued to create more options than I have time for. More options than I should ever want to have time for. My enthusiasm for wanting to try everything has trumped my ability to really get the most out of anything. This personal crisis is similar to what I wrote about for Cognition, "the possibility of what could be deter you from forward progress."
The discovery of new things is a lot of fun, but I'm feeling the need for fewer options, fewer distractions. It's time to put less emphasis on discovery and more on appreciation and application. From here on out I'm going to look at my home, my life, like a museum values their permanent collection. Everything will be considered for how it works in the existing collection, the existing ecosystem. A few years back all the cool kids learned a new word, "curation." It was overused like white on rice, but in this case it is directly applicable to this situation and I intend to stick to it.
If you don't know him yet, Naz Hamid is a tremendously talented guy whom I admire greatly. He operates his company to fit an amazingly simple lifestyle that includes a balance of body, mind and spirit. A few months ago I got the chance to catch up with Naz. We talked shop and he told me that he has been working towards prioritizing travel to be equal with that of the time he spends on client work. It's right in line with the mythos posted at the top of his blog, "seek experiences, not materials."
Well put Naz, I couldn't have said it better myself.