Category Archives: Writing

February 2015 action plan, now with more JavaScript.

What with the safe arrival of the finch and all that entails, I’ve been remiss in documenting just what I hope to achieve this year. So now, one month in to motherhood, whilst still professionally and intellectually ambitious, here is my plan.

Technical Projects

  1. Pursue the wily beast JavaScript and her purportedly easier cousins, Angular, Bootstrap and JQuery, via the Girl Develop It, Women Who Code and General Assembly Meetups. Document this progress in projects showcasing understanding of the concept. Voila a coding portfolio.
  2. Amazon Web Services – get it up and running so my Recycling Hack product works. This sounds simple, but isn’t.
  3. Get to grips with Terminal and use it to update my Github account. Like real techie people do.

It’s still in formation, but some likely projects include a responsive Resume page including a slideshow and finally nailing the Blue Project, which is pure whimsy but fun, for I love a bit of colour devotion.

Creative Projects

  1. The political pregnancy debate
  2. Finish Crap Jobs
  3. Tangled Up in Blue Project
  4. Finish The Finch
  5. Art History illumination

This might be woefully underwhelming but JavasScript alone has given me comical levels of neurosis so any progress with that would be a considerable achievement. JavaScript is an ongoing project, for this year and beyond, however the other projects are more contained and specific, which means I can enjoy the feeling of evolution whilst still waging the war of my ignorance, nobly, fearlessly fighting the 6 headed hydra of JavaScript.

My First Web Dev Project: Chelsea Rubbish & Recycling Hack

First hard-coded project is alive and out there!

Built using HTML, CSS, AJAX and JavaScript

There’s no denying it, this is a big deal. My first project, conceived and built from scratch. I mentioned it in an earlier post and after no small amount of panic, despair and sweat. It is now live! It lives! It lives!

The site can be found here: Chelsea Rubbish & Recycling Hack.

DISCLAIMER: I’m still struggling with Amazon Web Services ( I need to install node.js and run code from their cloud, this is surprisingly difficult).

Built with UX in mind

I’m influenced by Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think, the basic gist of which might be clear from the title: do not make users work when using your product. Instead it is much better for everyone if it’s painfully clear what needs to happen. Based on this idea, I decided that my product would not require any user input. This would be an upgrade (IMHO) from the existing products available through the city of New York. The existing product requires the user to enter three fields of information.

See below:

Source

NYC's existing rubbish & recycling product
NYC’s existing rubbish & recycling product

Given that every field requires user input, they are essentially obstacles for the user, standing between their current position and the information they want. The existing site is also not responsive, making it a rather clumsy experience for any users on a mobile.

The Code

Using the city’s 311 API I can check the schedule is either on track or not. Combining this data with the pre-set schedule, a healthy series of JavaScript if/else statements set up the four states. Each state (normal collection, collection exception, no collection day, recycling collection) has a corresponding image, which loads upon page load. The images are in an array and function like a slideshow. Simples.

Recycling Day - this image auto loads when it's time to take the recycling out
Recycling Day – this image auto loads when it’s time to take the recycling out

Design!

Hmmmm, I rather imagined that I would be better at design than turned out to be the case! However I persevered and I’m more or less happy with with I ended up with. I created this header in PhotoShop, which was fun. Other than that, I went with grey and bright orangey-red for the colour scheme.

Recycling Site - Header
Recycling Site – Header

Next Steps

Ideally, I would have preferred to have this product work for anyone in NYC, but that would involve user input. When I’m super-clever with location APIs perhaps I could use this data to build something like that, but of course, it’s just as likely that someone could look whilst commuting, meaning it would return data for that location, instead of where they live. Unless of course, there was some sort of cookie functionality… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I still dream of Google Now integration, to take all of the effort out of it for the user, meaning they would just see a card reminding them to put out (or not) their rubbish. One day, one day.

Next Project

I still dream of combining my love of art and technology to build something. Showing auction results in the search results for example, but that’s a bit beyond my scope, I don’t have access to Google’s Search results! Also, clearly, that’s a fairly ambitious coding project, I’d need to join forces, which, by the way, would be awesome. Anyone? Tony Stark? Do you have a minute?

Front End Development and projects galore

Or, what can I achieve in the 80 days remaining?

Willy Fog went around the world in 80 days, what can I do?

As a documented procrastinator, suddenly seeing that I had 80 finch-free days left surprised me. Clearly, now isn’t the time for a 70.3 Ironman or spartan race, but perhaps some of my more sedate, creative ambitions could be tackled?

In this spirit, I have been updating my honest pregnancy timeline, documenting minute but telling details of the experience.

I am also working on my first ever JQuery, JavaScript product for my final project in my front end development course. Oy vey. There could well be tears before bedtime on that one because I’m finding it very difficult to filter the info I need. It’s due on the 28th October. Time is running out…

My final push is another ‘honest’ bit of nostalgia, it’s called Crap Jobs and it’s my attempt to analyse my less-than-stellar career so far, to spot patterns, acknowledge my mistakes, as well as those moments of bad timing. Whilst writing it is grimly entertaining, it’s also galling to write from such a perspective of failure, clearly, but hopefully I will learn something form it and expel a few demons at the same time. On verra.

White Spaces and Pacing in Storytelling

Or – what unites Frank Rose, Charlie Melcher, Maria Popova, Scott McCloud and Derek Walcott?

 

In my mind, something does, but first, some exposition:

I did one of those slightly useless but thoroughly interesting degrees, studying Classical Civilisation at the University of Warwick and whilst this degree in no way trained me for any sort of profession, it was definitely influential for shaping some of my ideas and critical thinking skills.

Continue reading White Spaces and Pacing in Storytelling

And so today in personal growth: front-end web development

Front-End Web Development and I are going on a date tomorrow night and I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s going to lead to several more and be the start of something enduring.
In a bid to just be a bit more technically on it, I’m enrolled in General Assembly’s Front-End Development course and will be learning the following: HTML5, CSS and Javascript. It’s the Javascript in particular that floats my boat because it can be used in both front and back end. Maybe now I can build those pipe dream projects that sometimes keep me awake at night? Projects that include, but are not limited to:

Continue reading And so today in personal growth: front-end web development

Writing up the Clickz conference in NY for State of Digital

Whilst I neglect this blog like a fool, I have at least been busy writing up the ClickZ conference for State of Digital.

The conference itself was a mixed bag in terms of quality speakers, some were more forthcoming with actionable information than others. Two of my favourite presentations, one about the success of Amazon and the other about Schema.org were embarrassingly useful. The ideas shared in those two sessions will influence my thinking for some time to come. Besides, I’ve always wanted to get a client to implement Schema but always struggled to make a compelling business case, as it turns out there is very little data out there. Until now. Brilliant!

The posts can be found as follows:

Uncovering the Secrets of Mobile Video

Reputation Roadkill: Learning from brands’ biggest ‘OMG’ moments

Randi Zuckerberg’s Tips on 10 Digital Trends Shaping the Lives of Modern Consumers

The posts on Amazon and Schema markup will be going live shortly and I will add links when they are alive.

Absence…

I’ve had a couple of posts to write for le works recently, which has rather consumed my attentions, well, that and Sherlock.

Here’s one I wrote on Moz, detailing what publishers are doing for growth in 2014 and what I’d like them to be doing.

The second was a wee one for the work blog, covering in scant detail the state of TV right now, to set up the work of my colleagues, many and varied, and the great work they have done on the future of TV.

These are just a couple of small steps that I’ve taken, in an attempt to fill this odd creative frustration.