Dream “Car”

February 26th, 2015

You ever have one of those days? You know, the one where your brain is taking you places you didn’t know existed? I had one of those mornings a few weeks ago where I felt so free and capable of thinking so deeply and profoundly. I can’t even remember the last time I felt that way. It was absolutely glorious.

Where am I going with this? A little patience, friend, we’re getting there. Ever since our amazing ski trip to Ischgl, Austria, I’ve been completely obsessed with on-slope transportation, particularly snow cats. In fact, I was so obsessed, I actually purchased a Pisten Bully toy snow cat. I’m not even ashamed to admit it, I think it’s badass.

Around that same time, I saw an article on Autoblog about the Nissan Juke Nismo RSnow, which started out as a Nissan Juke RS, but instead of wheels and tires it was outfitted with a Dominator Track System (all terrain tank-like treads). The article mentioned that it was built for an ice driving event in Finland and showed a video of the Juke cruising through the snow with ease.

That got me thinking, what other kind of all-wheel drive vehicles could a track system be added onto to create the perfect unstoppable skimobile?

Then it hit me.

What is my dream car? A Porsche 911 Turbo…which has all wheel drive!!!

It was time to do a photo search to get the biggest photo of a Nissan Juke RSnow I could find as well as finding a 911 photo taken at a similar angle. This is the final result, a vehicle I would be proud to drive around Vermont, Utah or Colorado on those fresh pow days when others are stuck in ditches. Behold, the Porsche 911 TurbSNOW (OK, we may need a better name…and a ski rack).

August 21st, 2014

When most folks think of an ideal August weekend in NYC it usually involves going out to the Hamptons, boating on the Hudson River, hanging out at your 1%er friend’s rooftop pool, or maybe just hanging out in Central Park. Did I forget, hanging out in Brooklyn Marriott hotel conference rooms? How did that slip my mind? If you’re a WordPress developer or designer, then you were in luck, because WordCamp NYC 2014 took place at the Brooklyn Marriott August 2-3.

Not really sure why, but WordCamp NYC only takes place every two years which I find surprising. Considering there were 4 tracks running simultaneously, I have no doubt that the area could support a conference every year. Regardless, I’ve put together a collection of my notes from the conference. Hey, better late than never.

JavaScript Performance – Max Cutler

First up was Max Cutler from Microsoft speaking about JavaScript performance. The browser render path first takes your HTML, then starts to go through the DOM and CSSOM to establish the Render Tree which are the nodes required to render the page. Having a lot of JavaScript loading upfront can slow down the critical path so users will be stuck seeing a blank page waiting for content to load. With the explosion of mobile usage over the past few years and with our attention spans growing considerably shorter, initial page loading has become critical. The focus now is to get the “above-the-fold” (ugh, yup it’s back) content to load as soon as possible with less critical JavaScript and heavier “below-the-fold” content loading in after. One way to improve this process is to avoid “Layout Thrashing” which occurs when JavaScript violently writes, then reads, from the DOM , multiple times causing document reflows.

One of the best ways to analyze your site and see how it renders is to use the Chrome Developer Tools Timeline. This shows what is going during your page loads and can identify where there are hold-ups that can then be addressed.

WordPress Examples Toolkit – Richard Dinh

Richard’s presentation focused on creating a repository of WordPress examples on GitHub. Having these examples in place allows a developer to reuse code and not have to recreate the wheel each time they’re working on a new project. Here’s a list of examples from Richard’s repo:

  • JS Example
  • filter example
  • custom menu
  • custom meta boxes
  • short code example
More complex
  • batch example
  • books – custom post type
  • customize theme
  • plugin activation
  • CSV import
  • tiny mce add on
  • widget drop down demo
  • query vars
  • foscam

Large Multisite Networks – Sam Hotchkiss

Ever since I learned that it possible to run multiple sites off a single WordPress installation I’ve wanted to learn more about how to set it up and possibly use for future projects. Unfortunately, one of the first things that I learned in Sam’s presentation is that for the small-to-medium size projects that I work on, having a multi-site set-up would be overkill. Despite that, I found the presentation very interesting and came away with some great info that may be helpful down the road.

  • easy to create new sites based on template
  • easy to update
  • only one management account
  • one db to share content
  • plugin/theme restrictions
  • security
  • performance
  • SSL
  • can’t modify core for single site
Great uses
  • offering website as a part of “complete business package”
  • divisions or employees of a single company (mortgage brokers -> legal)
  • customized solution to a well defined vertical
Tips and Tricks 101
  • be mindful of performance and bloat
  • install BruteProtect
  • WPMU Dev has awesome tools – they’ve done 90% of the way there.
  • hire an awesome server admin – hard to find a good one
  • CloudFlare
Tips and Tricks 201
  • put as little functionality into your Themes as possible – plugins
  • use MU plugins strategically
  • use version control
  • use customizer – save to wp_options
  • make smart decisions for your users
Business Tips
  • not cheap
  • everything takes longer
  • if client is cost sensitive, frame your costs through the lens of per-site cost
  • don’t be afraid to suggest other suggestions

Getting Sassy with WordPress – Tracy Rotton

Ever since I first heard about Sass, I was excited about the capabilities including variables, mixins and @extend, but as is life sometimes, I couldn’t find time to start using it in real world projects. Luckily, this year I was given the opportunity to lead a site development project earlier this year and was able to implement Sass into our workflow. Like many people say, it does make CSS fun again.

  • how can you make it part of your life?
  • introduces programming into CSS
  • faster, easier, and more organized
Why Love It?
  • almost anything can be a variable
  • great for defining colors and font stacks
@extend & placeholder selectors
  • use extend for clearfix
  • can’t use in media queries
  • Sass has partials
  • do one thing and refurn a result
  • calculate modify color
  • let CSS do the calculations
  • Rems are a great responsive unit, need pixel fallback for IE8
Media Query Bubbling
  • media query goes right in the selector properties
  • nice and together
What sucks about Sass
  • code bloat
  • adds complexity
  • grunt.js
  • gulp.js
  • brunch.js
  • JavaScript task runners
  • requires node.js
  • sequence of steps you chain together
  • can use functions.php to target file that’s not style.css and use that for main CSS
More Sass Info

Advanced Custom Fields – Jared Novack

One of my first big breakthroughs in using WordPress was when I discovered how to use custom post types. This unlocked the ability to create so many different experiences with content and made WordPress significantly more powerful. I was vaguely familiar with the Advances Custom Fields plugins, but had always used Types as my custom post type creator.

Real-world ACF
  • Harvard Law Review – subhead, customize where it shows up.
  • no photos, but has different graphics
  • drag and drop, related topics field
  • checkbox on the side, custom field appears
Killer ACF5 feature
  • can store fields as JSON data.
  • acf-json
Random House
  • worlds largest book publisher
  • different sites with different content and fields
  • teaser and trailer, emails sign up
Make your own fields
  • custom field type with visual radio button
  • /acf-field-type-template on GitHub
More Links

Six Ways to Up Your Theme Game – Tracy Levesque

At the last WordCamp in 2012, I saw Tracy speak and learned a great deal about child themes and was able to incorporate the what I learned into several projects. When I saw that she was speaking again I made sure that I attended her presentation.

  1. Use a starter theme
    • they’re meant to be hacked
    • they give you a head start
    • they often come with your framework built in
    • have very little design built in

    Underscores – fan favorite

    Need to have a starter – will take work, but will get you where you want to start

    • quark
    • roots
    • wp-bootstrap
  2. Know the WordPress template hierarchy

    Make unique templates

    Category archives
    • tag
    • category
    • author
    • date

    – can make custom pages based on slug

  3. Register Nav Menus
    • put them where you want them
    • make life easier for clients
    • register the menu in functions.php
    • load menu in the front end template
  4. Register Sidebars
    • register in functions.php
    • load the sidebar into template
    • check out dynamic sidebar
  5. Register Custom Thumbnail Sizes

    Why register custom thumbnail sizes?

    • control the width, height and crop
    • use unique images in loops
    • add custom sizes to functions.php
    • x_crop_position and y
    • check codex add image size
    • load them in your template
    • does all the work for them, avoid Photoshop
  6. Write Your Own Queries
    • use fewer plugins
    • have control over field
    • gain total design freedom
    • wp_reset_postdata
  7. Pro Tip – Transients API
BONUS – use a CSS preprocessor
  • it’s fun
  • it’s powerful
  • it makes your life better
  • Use Version control like Git or subversion
  • Learn version control with Git
  • Tortoise control for windows

The next couple of talks I went to were on NONCE and advanced topics and I don’t think my notes really do the topics justice, so I’m just going to move on to Day 2.

Day 2

These Fragments I Have Shored Against My Ruins’: Modernism, Post-Modernism, and Responsive Web Design – John Eckman

OK, so looking at that talk name could make you go in one of two directions. I’ve heard the terms Modernism and Post-Modernism before, but I didn’t really know what they meant. So, even if some of the WordPress stuff was going over my head, at least I could take a stab at learn some art concepts. The presenter, John Eckman, has made quite a career shift from PhD and potential career-academic to web designer to CEO of 10up.com, a web design studio with multiple offices across the U.S. There were two main takeaways from the presentation

We keep trying to make the web into something it’s not.

Responsive Web Design is more than a set of techniques: it’s a push that forces us out of the collective hallucination of fixed web design.

These quotes, at least for me, really helped tie together the concepts of Modernism and Post-Modernism and made them more concrete. We, as humans, are always trying to control our environment and mold it into the things we know and have real experience with, but what is real? We’re still just figuring out what the web is and what it’s capable of and it’s those who can see the potential are those who will mold and shape the future, not to use it as a new tool for the same old paradigms.

Underscores, A 1000 Hour Head Start – Konstantin Obenland

So after the more abstract presentation, it was time to get back into WordPress goodness. During other presentations, several people had brought up Underscores and how it’s a great place to start to build themes. I had heard of it before the WordCamp, but knew almost nothing about it. After Konstantin’s presentation, I’ve been very motivated to learn more and start using it for my next projects.

Starter Themes
  • not a parent theme
  • not a framework
  • foundation for a new theme
Why underscores?
  • just right
  • experience from 5 default themes
  • experience from creating themes for millions of users on WordPress.com
  • maximum flexibility with minimal content.
  • lack of features
  • everything but styles
  • readable code
  • active community

Lynda.com even has a course on underscores.


I bounced around a few more presentations, but at that point and I already had a list of objectives and things I wanted to start preparing for and my brain was full and any attempts to add more information could only be distracting. I really like the idea of using Underscores as a starter theme, setting up a library of reusable code snippets, then building child themes on top of that custom Underscores theme.

July 10th, 2014

It happens to the best of us.

Sometimes we just fall into ruts, get bored with doing the same thing over and over or even just get overwhelmed with the pace at which things are happening. I know I’ve been guilty of this lately, not of being lazy or not caring, but of not having that extra little of bit of inspiration or motivation that is harder to find as you get older and start to worry about other things.

The Smashing Conference started today and could not have come at a better time. The conference is all things web design and front-end development with only one track and focus on real-life projects and insights.

Aaron Walter

The conference began with Aarron the head of UX at MailChimp discussing his real-life experiment with using Evernote as a customer feedback repository that was eventually shared with his team and then the whole company. Not only did this help MailChimp improve their product, but it also brought together several different areas of the company that didn’t have much interaction, creating a more cohesive work environment.

– Turn Information Into Knowledge
– Culture of Inquiry

Meagan Fisher – The Business of Design

Megan is freelance designer who loves owls, creates beautiful slides and cursed the most of any of the presenters on the first day. She spoke about some of the pitfalls she’s experienced in her freelance journey. One of my favorite takeaways from her presentation was her process of building our website examples for products that you want to exist. Something about that was beautiful and awesome that I want to start my seaplane/houseboat website first thing tomorrow!

Scott Jehl – The Elusive, Inclusive Web App

Scott is a developer for the might Filament Group which creates so many amazing open source tools for the web community to use such as TableSaw and the Responsive Carousel. He started out by asking what is an App and stated that the most important aspect of an app is that it provides access.

Jonathan Hoefler – Web fonts

Jonathan is the head of Hoefler & Co. one of the world’s leading type foundrys spoke about web type and some of the thoughts that went into his company bringing their fonts to the web. When web design first started it was based on the rules of print graphic design and those principles and practices which were applied to the web. It’s often the cases with new mediums that we try to take the old ways of doing things and apply those to the new. Hoefler didn’t want to do that with their fonts. A typeface must solve a problem, encourage reading, conserve resources, save time and is meant to must convey information. Using fonts on the web that were designed for print won’t do that. They lose clarity and usefulness when being used in the improper medium.

– Web fonts were first available in IE4.

Divya Manian – Responsive Design – Who’s problem is it anyway

Divya is a Product Manager with Adobe and discussed some of the hang ups that can be encountered when creating a responsive design as well as some of the tools created by Adobe to make the process a little easier. Responsive design is a team effort with the UX designer, web developer, designer, client, creative director and required to work together to create a solution. As of now there’s no easy way to create responsive wireframes or choosing breakpoints while building those wireframes. It is not best practice to design for specific devices, but instead create breakpoints based on the design. Adobe Reflow is tool in Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite that allows for the creation of high fidelity prototypes using media queries and CSS for layout that attempts to make the whole responsive process easier.

– Linked Smart Objects – components updated outside a file are also updated in files that call those files

Andy Hume – Building for Performance & Resilience

Andy is a front-end developer currently working for the Guardian and his talk focused on performance, its value and how to improve it. Performance needs to tell a story and like any story, it needs a start. The performance story starts with measuring your site’s load speed and weight, then seeing how that compares to rivals. webpagetest.org is a site that allows you to do just providing information such as start render time, full page load time, number of HTTP requests as well as providing recommendations for improving scores. He also spoke of the concept of the Critical Render Path, which takes essential HTML, CSS and JS and loads that onto the page first, pushing all other to load only after the intial critical content has finished rendering. Another concept that will increase page load speeds is the new HTTP 2.0 protocol (based on SPDY protocol) that will allow multiplexing and cache pushing which will pre-emt sending of assets to browser.

Mark Boulton – My Handbook

Mark is a man that needs no introduction. His presentation was a collection of example and lessons from his career. I think the best way for me to present his points is just to list out some of his points:

  • Don’t screw around with things that work fine
  • What makes the web the web? We can just make something and hit publish
  • Building things is messy
  • Always be talking
  • Watch Real People – if you don’t see people using what you built, you don’t really know what they’re doing
  • Know your limits
  • Don’t Hide From Content
  • Instinct Not Data
  • Make something mundane delightful
  • Look After the Basics
  • People are weird

At the end of the first day I was excited, inspired and my brain was full. These were some of the things that came up several times that I will have to further investigate:

  • Flexbox
  • Backbone.js
  • Mustache

Day 2

Jessica Hische – Sketch to Screen

Jessica was the mystery guest for the second day. She is a letterer and web designer whose work has been used in countless websites and even in Wed Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom.” She spoke of her process and the tools she uses to create. I was so inspired by her tools that I went out and purchase my own Leuchtturm 1917 Master Notebook (which is unfortunately still blank because of how long it’s taken me to write this blog post). We’re always concerned where the line between being inspired and copying, so Jessica made the recommendation that if you find something that truly inspires you, sit on it a few days and let your own weirdness inject itself into the idea before creating something. Whatever you’re working always strive for substance and style in everything you do. Talking about logo redesigns, she delivered my favorite line of the conference – “You don’t want your logo to look like it had $100,000 worth of plastic surgery, instead like it had spa weekend.” She ended with some practical tips that we all can use:

  1. Always assume you’re dehydrated
  2. Take Vitamin D
  3. Quit cracking your neck
  4. Invest in a good toothbrush
  5. Don’t eat mediocre bread or dessert

This is an example of Jessica’s beautiful lettering
Jessica's beatiful lettering

Oliver Reichenstein

Oliver is a designer and head of IA in Zurich and Tokyo. His talk started out with a story about his greedy uncle and ended up having the moral that numbers are making us crazy.

  • Frankfurt is the opposite of California
  • Ask the quality question

Principals to Focus On:

  1. Slow down
  2. Focus on process not image – improve the way things work, attention to detail
  3. Negativity can be a good thing. Don’t react immediately. Embrace it.
  4. Building Trust – new is like free sex. Not-new is boring. We like repitition and ritual. Alter and copy. Privacy and intimacy have value.
  5. Care for detail. The little things and it builds a connection between creator and recipient. Add detail to make things better.

Brian Suda – Connecting the Digital to Analog

Brian is a designer and developer living in Reykjavik, Iceland. His talk was about how we are so fascinated with new and digital that we often forget the power of print and analog. He discussed some very interesting products like Little Printer and Paper Later, a company will custom print your internet news into a newspaper based on all the articles you’ve saved.

Eva-Lotta Lamm – Tips, Tricks & Hands -On Practice

First off, here’s an example of Eva’s excellent visual notes:

Visual Feedback loop:

  • Think
  • Visualize
  • Reflect & Evaluate
  • Making makes us think
  • Shared vision and understanding
  • Sketching is not about being a good artist, but about being a good thinker. – Jason Santa Maria
  • Fidelity
  • The fidelity of the sketch should reflect the depth of our thinking. – Bill buxton
  • Eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
  • Choose the level of detail based on what you want to explain

Tim Brown – Universal Typography

  • Set and fit chunks
  • Don’t compose without a scale

Jesse James Garret – 15 Lessons From 15 Years of UX

  1. Go Broad – insight can be found anywhere
  2. Go Deep – teams only work on one project at a time. learn about the others’ environment. Research the founders and they cast long shadows
  3. Go for a walk – shift your sensory inputs – work somewhere else. New patterns of thinking are created
  4. Go farther than you think you should – your own ideas should scare you. Zone of uncertainty
  5. Put away your notes – let the problem flow through you and you’ll find the solutions
  6. Learn to spot your assumptions
  7. Stay Curious – we are so goal oriented that we often forget that sometimes knowledge and impact are not immediately evident. Opportunities to advance and evolve
  8. Be as curious about your clients as you are about your users – business people are idiots and don’t know anything about users
  9. Hang with different crowds
  10. Cultivate allies
  11. Pick you battles
  12. Good work doesn’t speak for itself – you need to share with people why something is awesome
  13. Changing a design is easy. Changing minds is hard
  14. Pay attention to your failures
  15. Everything is Always changing – ride that change wave

As you can see, by the second day, my brain stopping working in narratives and just starting gravitating towards bulletpoints. I guess that’s how my conference experiences always seem to go, I get super excited that first day, then the second day I start to get a bit overwhelmed and try to just grasp at concepts. Either way, it was a great experience and I hope I have the opportunity to go again next year. Great job folks at Smashing!

December 27th, 2013

This past Sunday I decided to fire up the ol’ Apple TV to see if any new and exciting was available on Netflix or HBO. Before I even had a chance to scroll down to Netflix or HBO GO, Apple, in that way they are so good at doing, caught my attention with new movies that are new and available through iTunes. There I saw “The World’s End” and got really excited. Simon Pegg is one of my favorite actors and he’s one of those actors that when I see that he is in a movie, I’m pretty sure that the movie is going to be good, especially when his buddy Nick Frost is also involved as in this film.

So, I’m excited about watching this movie, but before I purchase I click on the movie in iTunes and see that it’s $5.99 to rent. That seems a little steep, so I decide to see if my cable provider, Optimum, has the film on demand and alas, they do and for only $4.99. I consider myself a pretty logical person so if I can spend $4.99 instead of $5.99 on the exact same thing, $4.99 is the way to go. The page of the movie has a menu on the left side with the options Preview, Add to Cart, Purchase and Close. Why exactly they have both Purchase and Add to Cart seemed a bit strange, but I knew I wanted to watch the movie and didn’t have time for the cart so I click on Purchase – BOOM, let’s make this happen!

Blank black screen.

I must have pushed the wrong button or something, so let’s do it again. Purchase – BOOM, let’s make this happen!

Blank black screen.

Obviously, something that I’m doing is wrong, because Optimum, in their wisdom and infinite supply of money, and thus limitless user experience and testing resources, would never make it difficult for their customers to give them more money, right? So, I add the movie to the cart, so far, so good – until I try to complete my purchase again – you guessed it, blank black screen.

Back into Apple TV I go, annoyed at Optimum for their crappy user experience as well as with myself for having subjected myself to that to save a whole $1. The movie was right there at the top of the home screen, I was able to click on it, click the purchase button, enter my iTunes password and the movie started playing. It was so simple. I’m sure there’s a setting that automatically remembers my iTunes password that would’ve made it even easier to complete the purchase – so simple!

This whole experience couldn’t be that dissimilar to what others must have experienced when trying to purchase on demand movies through their cable/satellite providers. I consider myself pretty tech savvy and I was having problems, so I’m sure others who are less so would have also given up trying to make a purchase and may never go back to trying again. What sort of unrealized annual revenue are cable companies losing out on due to their shortsightedness in regards to testing and user experience? I have no idea and I’m almost positive they don’t either. That got me thinking about Apple and their model of selling through iTunes.

Apple and Cable/Wireless – Enemies and Allies

Apple has two classes of products, hardware: iPhone, iPads, Macs and content: movies, music, books sold through iTunes and now (ugh) iBooks. I don’t know the breakdown in terms of revenue for Apple, but I find it interesting how dependent Apple is on another company whether it be the cable/satellite or telecommunication providers who are also selling the same products. It’s an interesting relationship that Apple has to maintain with these companies are imperative to Apple’s success. I’m sure deals are made and the cable/satellite/telcomms are receiving a money from Apple to assure that this relationship continues to be beneficial for both sides.

But what if the cab/sat/tel companies got their acts together and created some exquisite user experiences that made users want to use their native interfaces for media instead of iTunes? Even more potentially game-changing, what if one company created hardware and access to content like Apple but also controlled the network connection. Imagine and company crazy enough to try that?!

The Google

Back in March of 2011 Google announced that they were going to roll out their Google Fiber initiative which would bring broadband internet and television to a small but growing list of communities in the U.S. Though Google has said that they don’t intend to become an internet service provider, the fact that they have gone ahead and done this is a massive game changer in the ISP realm, shaking up the monopoly and lack of choices that has been in place since the beginning of cable television. The number of communities they service is still small, but what it shows is Google being able to control the entire media transaction. A user in Kansas City, MO using Google Fiber at home can now use their Google Nexus 7 tablet running the Android operating system (another Google product) to access the Google Play store, which is similar to the Apple iTunes store to purchase music, movies, books, apps, newspapers and comics. That is the ultimate start to finish transaction through Google. The only way it could be more Googley would be if Google curated their own content like Netflix has done with “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” That doesn’t seem likely at this time, but if someone told you 3 years ago that Google was going to roll out broadband service, you might have thought that sounded crazy too.

Why is it important to control the end to end connection, besides the fact that it gives you ultimate control?


In May of 2011 the Protect IP Act (PIPA) was introduced to the United States Senate that would give the U.S. government more tools to fight “rogue websites dedicated to the sale of infringing or counterfeit goods,” especially those outside the U.S. Opponents to the bill included Google and American Express who proclaimed that the proposed law would defend and protect outdated business models while stifling innovation from newer, more innovative companies and smaller businesses who wouldn’t have the legal and administrative budgets to protect themselves if they were found in violation and needed to defend themselves.

Shortly after PIPA, SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that was created with similar intentions to PIPA, protecting content creators from having their works of art stolen and pirated by blocking access to sites that contained pirated material and blocked as well as blocking advertisers and search engines from linking to infringing websites. Sounds like a nice thing, right? The can of worms that it opened was that it violated first amendment rights in the United States and would attempt to use U.S. law to block international sites without jurisdiction. It has had the potential to take down entire domains where only a fraction of the domain was in violation. Imagine if you had an entire network of 50 websites built upon one WordPress installation and one of those sites was in violation and your entire network was taken down. That’s the reality of life in a SOPA world.

The latest bill to come through congress is Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which allows the sharing of information between the U.S. Government and technology companies in hopes of preventing network cyberattacks. This bill used the Patriot Act and PROTECT Our Children Act to boost support which it already had from some big name tech companies like Verizon, Oracle, Symantec, AT&T, IBM and Intel. While there was a large amount of support, there was equal if not greater opposition from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) the Constitution Project (TCP) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) among many others. Opponents saw this as “Big Brother” collecting massive amounts of information on user behavior, without any restrictions or guidelines to how that data could be used. The bill had passed in the House of Representatives, but was blocked in the Senate.

Luckily, all three of these acts have been shot down for the time being, but there always seems to be the threat of another law. What makes laws like this so tricky is that with the increased use of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we are often reposting content from elsewhere to share with our friends and users. That could be interpreted as copyright violation, even when the content is being shared, giving credit to the original creator. That’s a very slippery slope, especially since we are now being an online society of sharing which is only going to increase over time.

Part of the reason the internet has always fought these bills is that the people who are trying to enact them don’t seem to understand the technology they are trying to create rules for. Let’s me honest with ourselves, if a lobbyist who is pledging to give you $1 million for next campaign and access to a private jet, would you be able to do the right thing, or would you just keep pushing the agenda of the group funding you? We’re all humans and we all have biases that affect our judgements, values, beliefs and actions. It’s not possible for human’s to be able to decide which sites are in violation of these rules with 100% accuracy.

Can You Have it All?

The landscape of the internet changes so quickly and smart corporations and governments of the world (don’t laugh) are doing all that it can to adapt and protect their interests. It’s hard to say where things will be in 5 or 10 years. The internet is still so new and so quickly mutating that if we were today shown what our internet looks like in 10 years, we might not recognize it. What must happen in the future is that for the internet to continue to have value, it must continue to build on its collaboration capabilities and increase interactions that were once only possible in person in the ways that Skype, Facebook and Twitter among others already have.

What that all starts and ends with is the network connection. Where will it come from and who will own it? Ten years ago, most of us had to get internet from our cable or DSL providers. Now usage is split between cable/DSL and mobile providers. Right now Google looks to be in the best situation with their Fiber product as well as the hardware and Android OS, but only time can tell. All we can do as internet users is to support companies that believe in a free and open internet, because it’s that freedom and ability to connect that gives the internet and in turn, us, its power.

October 31st, 2013

It’s now been about a week since my wife and returned from our trip to the West Coast (OK, it took me a month to hit the publish button…I”ll explain why in upcoming posts). It was a typical Schneider vacation with 50% more things to do than time provided, little of which is relaxing. It’s not for everybody, but it works for us. The trip started in San Diego, followed by a drive up the coast to Sonoma, concluding with a short flight up to Seattle before an unpleasant red-eye flight home before driving from Hoboken to Richmond, VA.

Many people that I spoke with before and after my trip have told me about how they are obsessed with San Diego and understandably so. The weather is always perfect, the beach is right there and there’s no shortage of great mexican food, bars, breweries, parks, museums and other various attractions. We even took a drive across the Coronado Bridge and drove down Silver Strand Blvd. all the way down to Imperial Beach, about two miles from the Mexican border. It was definitely worth getting the convertible, even if it had just been for that drive.

Upon conclusion of our long weekend in San Diego, we began our drive up the famous Pacific Coast Highway – Route 1. I had done the drive once before about 10 years ago, but it was my wife’s first time. The first time had been in a Coors Light colored Chevy Malibu, but this time we were doing it in a candy apple red Ford Mustang, which was way for fun. Even before we got on the PCH, we started playing California songs – my favorite being Marlena Shaw’s “California Soul” (Verve Remix) and the one that I’ve heard thousands of times, but didn’t resinate with me until listening to it in California – the Mamas and the Papas – “California Dreaming.” When you see the incredible landscapes of the ocean and beach hitting the mountains it blew me away. How someone could have grown up in Southern California experiencing that beauty everyday and being immersed in a life that revolved around the sun, beach, outdoors and everything that goes with it, then to be taken out of that and transplanted anywhere else, especially somewhere much further north, in the winter time, I could see how someone would feel like part of them was missing -like losing a limb or an organ – that all made perfect sense to me at that moment.

It’s not just the weather, but what that weather does for one’s way of thinking. In the northeast, many people start to get seasonal depression when the mercury begins to drop. It’s going to get cold and we’re going to have to be inside more, binge-watching shows on Netflix, gaining weight because we’re only watching TV and eating take-out until the merciful spring thaw which usually takes place somewhere in mid- to late-March. So roughly 3 months, or 1/4 of your life, you’re in hibernation/depression mode. That’s a scary way to think about it, 25% of your life is winter, where you’re depressed.

Not in Southern California.

There’s something to that, when you don’t have 1/4 of your year that you always dread it frees your mind to focus on the things that you truly enjoy – like surfing, skateboarding, golfing – whatever outdoor activity it may be. It sounds a bit cliche, but if you look at where a large number of elite athletes in those sports have come from over time, it’s been Southern California. Besides the weather, which plays into it, there’s the vibe that is equally as intoxicating. The laid-back, chill attitude that even penetrates the rock-salt encrusted, bitter New York/Northeast defense layer. The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” slacker/Buddhist existence is so real and prevalent you get it in your head that you to can see yourself ridding your existence of worldly possessions, save for some Credence tapes and join a bowling league and let the universe play out for you the way it is meant to.

We meandered up the PCH all the way to San Francisco and Sonoma, stopping in Big Sur for an beautiful hike where fortunately we did not encounter any mountain lions, rattlesnakes or poison oak, even though we were frequently warned that all three of these could be encountered. What we did encounter was a hike to a beautiful beach. Beaches are always great, but there were two things that made these beach particularly special, one was that at that spot, there was an estuary, where the river met the sea and the second was the large collection of rocks right by where waves broke. Each wave crashed over this collection of rocks, but as the tide went back into the ocean, the water pulled over these rocks creating a calming, peaceful harmony that I couldn’t get enough of.

After some wine tasting in Sonoma and Napa, we took a flight up to Seattle to visit friends who had recently moved out there. Seattle has a very recognizable skyline with the space needle and Mt. Rainer looming in the background (assuming it’s not foggy and you get a chance to see it), but to be there in person and to go to the top of Queen Anne and look west out over Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains, when spin around to see the city skyline, dominated by the space needle and snow-capped Mt. Rainer you wonder if you are on another planet. That type of environment certainly played a part in how and why Starbucks was founded there, why Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, etc. spawned from there…it all just made sense. I wish I had the guts (and lack of family connections in the NYC area) to just move out there, but I know I don’t. We’ll see what the future holds. Hopefully the future is bright and snowy and I’ll be able to make my way back to the Pacific Northwest this winter.

February 22nd, 2013

What a crazy week it has been for my friends!

This past Wednesday, Joshua Sacks of the Oink and Moo BBQ food truck appeared on Fox 5 New York’s morning show “Good Day New York.” I got an email from Josh the night before and made sure to set the DVR to record his appearance.

The hosts of the show went on the truck and Josh made them several of the items off the menu. The one host, Greg Kelly ate two bowls chili, which is another great endorsement for

I have to tell you, it was pretty incredible getting to see the logo and truck that I designed on TV. The truck looked awesome and the food, even better. Great job, Josh. I hope the appearance gave you more business than you can handle!

In case you missed it, here’s the video:

Special Love Songs in OK! Magazine

Another surprise came this past weekend when I saw a tweet from my friends Karen and Eric at SpecialLoveSongs. A writer from OK! Magazine was doing an article about Valentine’s Day and the service provided by Special Love Songs. Basically, you tell them about the person or people you want to write a song about, choose a genre of music you’d like the song to be done in and Karen and Eric whip up a custom song (and even video or slideshow). They are amazing musicians and do beautiful work. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for the someone you care about, a special love song is a fantastic gift. Check out their website for information.

September 6th, 2012

Hey Bernardsville, not only do you have the 10th highest per-capita income in the state of New Jersey, you also get to honor of being the first to experience Oink & Moo BBQ’s debut to the NJ food truck landscape! That’s right, fresh from the vinyl wrappers to your stomach, the Oink & Moo BBQ truck will be at Bernardsville High School from 5-10pm. Check out oinkandmoobbq.com and follow them on Twitter at @oinkandmoobbq. The ribs are fantastic and I’ve been jonesin’ to try the pulled pork tacos. Here’s the first photo of the truck:
Oink and Moo BBQ Truck

I’m so proud of the work Josh and I did on the the site and the truck and I can’t wait to see it in action. Best of Luck, Josh!

August 19th, 2012

We as web designers are always clamoring to get our hands on the sexiest new toys that Apple or Samsung or even Microsoft is coming out with and making sure that our new responsive sites look great on these devices. Of course, this is important and having a future-forward, mobile-friendly is critical. With the rapid growth in browsers supporting the latest HTML5 and CSS3 standards, it easy to use these new features and forget that we have users who don’t have the latest browsers with blazing-fast network connections. Lately, I’ve been paying more attention to how many http requests my pages are making and the size of image files being downloaded, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the experience I had trying to check in to my flight at my wife’s grandparent’s house in Florida.

I brought my iPad down thinking that I’d be able to get on Twitter, do some emails and surf the web, but unfortunately, they are still using a dial-up modem so an iPad without 3/4G or tethering ability from the phone didn’t have any network functionality. OK, no big deal, it’s two days and I had my phone if I needed to get online. The OMG-moment occurred when I tried to use their computer to check into our flight and print our boarding passes. The computer they have is at least 5 years old, maybe older using a dial-up modem and AOL 9.0 as their main browser. It was kind of cute until I got to JetBlue’s website. The page took close to a minute to load. When the page finally loaded and I clicked the “Check In” button I got prompted that I needed to download the latest version of Flash to continue? Why would a company be using Flash for flight check-in? Regardless, I tried to download the latest version of Flash, but on a 56k modem, the 9 MB file took over 10 minutes to download! Flash did offer the option to download the latest version of Chrome, but that was a 22mb download which would’ve meant another 20 minutes of download time.

After 10 minutes of waiting for the download, I was able to install the latest version of Flash. Unfortunately, the install didn’t seem to do the trick and I still couldn’t check in. I did find a link to the mobile experience, but it wasn’t obvious or intuitive how to use it. After that, I found a version of IE8 and tried to get to Jet Blue’s site with that browser but encountered a javascript error that wouldn’t allow me to submit the form. I ended up downloading the JetBlue app and checking in using my phone, but we still had to get boarding passes at the airport.

There are two ways to look at a problem like this, but how it gets handled has to be dictated by the company’s usage stats. If your site is a web app that focuses on location and mobile interaction, you might be able to focus less on desktop users with older browsers since your users will likely be on latest generation mobile platforms. If you’re a business such as an airline you need to know what kind of systems and browsers your users have to make sure that everyone has a usable experience. Development tools like Modernizr provide CSS hooks for older browsers, which besides creating fallback for CSS3 and HTML5 elements can also be used to provide low bandwidth options. It’s not guaranteed, but it should be considered that users with older browsers may also be viewing sites with lower bandwidth connections. Users won’t get the elegant, higher-bandwidth solution, but they will be able to complete the task they came to your website to achieve and that is the most important thing.

June 11th, 2012

It was an action-packed weekend in New York City: the Big Apple BBQ block party, the Puerto Rican Day Parade and WordCamp NYC 2012 at Baruch College. I’ve been looking forward to going to a WordCamp since I heard about them on a SitePoint podcast last year. After seeing a tweet about it, I made sure I signed up immediately. I was so excited about WordCamp, my enthusiasm was caught by my wife, who also wanted to attend, so I got 2 tickets. I’ve been to web conferences before, but wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, partially because tickets were only $35/each and we’ve hear the old adage – something about paying for the value of something or something? I guess if nothing else, at least I got a t-shirt!

WordPress Community

One of the things that makes WordPress so special is that it is an open-source product. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, that means it’s FREE. As someone who has been working with a content management system that is the antithesis of open-source and even more so of free, I’m amazed at the high quality of all the free themes, plug-ins, extensions and help that is available. That same sort of giving back attitude was on display at the conference where they had a “Happiness Bar” set up to field any questions that you might have about WordPress. I spoke with a gentleman named Luke was doing his best to help me with my local WordPress installation on Windows issue that I was having. Being a Mac guy, he wasn’t exactly sure how to solve the problem, but he pointed me to the WordPress IRC Channel, something I would have never thought to use. That attitude was was pretty reminiscent of the speakers and volunteers. Since WordPress is such a deep product, it was very interesting

I Learned Stuff!

As someone who has built several sites using WordPress, I was pretty confident in my abilities and what I knew. After the first few sessions, I got a nice dose of reality and realized there was still much to learn, young Padawan. The first day, this eye-opening was from Jesse Friedman who spoke about Responsive Design in WordPress. One of the most important points he talked about was using the PHP Mobile Detection instead of depending on media queries in your CSS to determine what to different sized browsers. Another was great demonstration showed a script that was able to deploy different-sized images depending on the viewport in the browser.

The next two sessions had some similar underlying themes – using child themes. Tracy had a great presentation about the power of child themes and showed several examples of work she had completed using the standard WordPress 2010 and 2011 themes as the parent and using child themes to build off the parent theme. It was very interesting to see how functions.php would append the parent version of functions.php while a file like footer.php would completely replace and ignore the parent version of footer.php. Seeing this in action was a huge leap in understanding how WordPress works and is a technique I will look to use in upcoming projects. I’ve always thought that since I knew what I was doing, I should just take a theme and start hacking it up, or just build one from scratch. This concept really got me thinking about how I can just use what’s already and build faster, instead of having to always build up from scratch. It also got me thinking about how I use plug-ins and tend to edit the actual PHP and CSS, preventing them from ever being updated and over-writing my customizations.

Probably the most important thing I needed to further get my head around was custom post types, templates and the loop. All three of those need to work together and fortunately, that was something that several presenters were speaking about. Alex and Jeff discussed how to create templates and customize the loop based on the different types of content being displayed on the page. They were even awesome enough to link to all their presentation content on GitHub.

By popular demand, Sarah was asked to repeat her performance from Saturday about categories and templates. It was very informative to see how the fallback system for using template pages and categories. When you see concepts such as this explained, you realize that WordPress is a very intuitive system. She also recommended Digging Into WordPress, which I have subsequently purchased and look forward to…wait for it…digging into.

Another repeat performer was John, talking about custom post types and the Custom Post Type UI. It’s a great way to extend WordPress and make it more customizable and easier for a client to maintain.

In one of the last sessions, we got to see a preview of what’s coming up in WordPress 3.4 and it looks pretty sweet. The coolest feature we were shown was the real-time CSS theme editing that would be previewed and saved in the browser and saved right to your theme. Very cool stuff.

Was It Worth It?

In a word: Absolutely. To say that I the money would be an unfair understatement. I would have happily paid double for the experience and knowledge I walked with. Plus, I got an awesome t-shirt that I’ll get to wear at WordCamp next year. The community around this product is so active and enthusiastic, its no wonder that WordPress is such a great product. The people who work on it really care about it and want it to be awesome. Could you imagine if every product had that sort of support? Plus, everyone is super helpful which makes you want to learn, contribute and help others, too. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to make a presentation at a future WordCamp and do my part to give back, but for now I have a lot of knowledge that I have to get out of my brain and into my themes.

May 8th, 2012

As I alluded to a few weeks back, the last few months I’ve been working on a logo, website and truck design for Oink and Moo BBQ and I’m very happy to announce that the site is live! You can check it out at oinkandmoobbq.com. I’m going to have a full write up about the design and build process in the portfolio section in the next few days and I’ll be sure to update this post with the link.

In the mean time, check out the website and mark your calendars for the Oink and Moo BBQ truck, hitting the streets of New Jersey this September!

Update 5/14:
I’ve added a write-up on the creation of Oink & Moo to my portfolio section. There’s lots of good information about the logo, website and design of the truck. If I were you, I’d take the time to read it.