Back not because of demand, but because I can. Only this time I outsourced the board to an open source package instead of making my own. Why?
Security and handling.
My last message board venture at Moogman.com got overthrown by gamer invaders. The traffic to a specific board about a Playstation game went through the roof, but failed to lead visits to the non-gamer features of the site – which was my intention.
The lack of security features and control from building my own message board forced me to close the board all together. Since then Moogman.com has folded and the Morning Toast replaced it in a more blog-esque fashion.
So we’ll try the boards again and see what happens. For the stuff you want to talk about but don’t want to write a full article about – and for your every people that aren’t staff members.
Bookmark it and check back often. Before too long I hope to have some sort of feed on the front page.
Based on my archeological digging, I hypothesize that my creativity started to leave around 2002-2003. Up until then, I was designing some good stuff. Not all of it good, not all of it bad, but regardless which way the axe swung it was creative design.
Just look at some of my work, circa 1999 – 2002.
Looking at recent web sites (including this one) against past web sites, where has the flare gone? I’ve lost my flare! I am way below the minimum 15 pieces of flare.
Why did it leave? One word: programming
My leap from visual designer to technical programmer really dampened my creative output. It was a gradual loss of creative juice after I started making software. Before I really understood how to make software (and didn’t care how I made software), I was able to balance my design and programming. I was still more concerned with how the end product looked to how it functioned behind the scenes. Over time that changed.
As I got into managing rather complex software systems, I was focusing more on making it go, rather than how it looked. Novelty lied in the ability to do something, not in how well it was designed. I let the medium dictate what direction I would good. Not a good route to take.
Now a shift back the other direction is happening. The novelty of ability is gone and the demand for design is back. Thankfully, I can make things go behind the scenes without much effort. Sure, there is work to do and improvements to be made, but how the software handles data – I have decided – is taking a back seat. Good products (or web sites) are all design, nothing more – like a car, say a BMW.
All BMWs have an engine, four wheels, headlights, a horn, and all those other things that are responsible for making it “go” and frankly, the things that every car shares. So what separates the Beamer from a Honda? Design. Features? Yes, to a degree, but design more so – which is applied for comfort, features, safety, etc.
At one point I was making Beamers. Right now I’m making old Mitsubishi Eclipses, which look good but dated, and are known for being seen with three out of for hub caps. I want to get back to making stuff that looks good. I want to make Mini Coopers - small, effective, efficient, good looking, and scalable.
The only way I can even draw a parallel between “clinic” and “conference” is when clinic is used in that I-just-whooped-your-ass-old-school-and-you-could-learn-something-from-it type context, such as “The Harlem Globetrotters put on a clinic when playing the other team, they totally kicked their ass.”
Annually, my employer puts on a conference dubbed the “ISBE Clinic” where all the nerds from our enterprise gather to praise each other for the hard work we’ve done throughout the year. Personally, I don’t feel you can truly celebrate anything when you are forced – or should I say, “preferred” – to come and participate. The conference is legendary for its overall yawner rating.
The conference has your requisite guest speakers, of which this year primarily comprised of executives from our own enterprise. In half the cases, the presentation they made wasn’t very interested from an information standpoint. But none of them were interesting from a stay-awake standpoint. Granted, they are executive managers and not trained speakers, but if you are going to be a position of power, I think you are obligated to have some sort of panash, even if in the most generic sense.
Every other year it seems the conference actually hosts a mildly interesting speaker. Last year, they brought in some 30-something guy that was behind an on-line start-up and he talked about how he did it with nothing but the change he had in his pocket and how he leverages Google to make $5 million a year. Even if the story was somewhat cookie cutter, he presented it in a way that kept you awake and listening. This year’s agenda did not fair so well. I felt like I was back in school listening about the trial and tribulations of some one-eared painter from medieval England?which actually might have been more interesting.
Now, I could have told my boss I had a lot of work to do and needed to work instead – and frankly that was the truth. But along with the boring speeches comes free breakfast, free lunch, and door prizes. Not to mention the best thing, you’re not at work! In fact, I scored nicely in the door prize department by winning a copy of some top-notch video editing software ($100 value!), which was much better than the can cozie I won last year emblazon with the corporate logo.
I am sure it was the intensions of organizers for us to come away amazed, entertained, and more thoughtful towards our own jobs, but they just never do. Granted, it is a bunch of nerds, but even then I would hope for a little ooo and ahh type stuff. You can only take so much speaking from people speaking that no right speaking to a group and the yellow-on-white Powerpoint presentations. I’m not saying the only people that should give presentations are professional speakers – frankly, I’m not sure they exist – but everyone expects the speaker to really care and be passionate about what they’re talking about, and that just never shows through at our “clinic.”
I have spoken to many groups and departments within my company talking about intranet technology and on-line communication. I am not a good speaker. I barely outline my presentations. I typically have an idea of what I want to address and wing it from there. But the feedback I get is always positive because when I’m speaking I speak with excitement – because I am excited. This is my stuff, I’m proud of it, and I want people to use it. If you can’t speak with some conviction then your audience will not believe anything you are saying – just like at this conference. They preach and talk a good deal about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going, but people just shrug it off knowing status quo is where they want to be.
The last item on the agenda is always the awards. The department managers and directors get up and lavish praise on a few people – including other managers! – and give them their $25 gift certificate to the mall. I know what these people do is important and probably great work (I’ve won in the past), but it all seems so pass?. I guess I’m just not one for awards, even when I get them. They are not something I flaunt and not something I strive to get. Their only purpose (for individuals) is for resume building. I think I honestly believe that “When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all,” as was so wisely said in an episode of Futurama. Praise and good fortune will come on by itself. And if you need praise and awards to keep you at your job, then you’re at the wrong job.
Honestly, I don’t know what a “good” conference consists of, having never been to one. If the food and prizes are the most memorable parts, then it wasn’t a good conference. I would hope that a good conference gives you new ideas, makes you evaluate your current position, and gets you excited about where you are going. I hope to be around long enough for the day our annual “clinic” qualifies.
There is always something new on the horizon. Sometimes it hits you upside the head like a brick, other times it subtly makes its way in the backdoor. If you’re not one of the people that have stroke, which I’m not, you’re on the receiving side of the shift – meaning you read about on your favorite blog or magazine. Then you go, “oh shit, is that’s what’s coming next? I better get a move on it.”
The problem is, when this happens you are just getting comfortable with (what was) the previous shift in technology. For some reason, I have a lot of trouble not getting excited and diving into the new shift.
I get all happy with what I’m creating and how I go about creating it, then kablooey, someone comes up with a good idea and changes how we all have to do things. Do I have to change? No. But if the new way makes sense, it makes sense – there’s no reason to fight it.
Unfortunately, this keeps me in what seems to be an infinite loop of do and redo. The curse of programming (which is just turning written text into moving parts) is it is easy to redo because there is no physical overhead in doing it.
You build a new house with blueprints. You get your house designed with all the little nooks and crannies you like and have it built. But then you see something at someone else’s house and want it because their way makes more sense to you. But with a house, you can’t just tear it down and start over – you could, but the expense and hassle is not worth it. But imagine the house you would have in the end?essentially perfection, well?almost. You can’t reach perfection, you can only reduce the number of imperfections to as few as possible, though never reaching zero.
In my world I make a lot of the tools used to build programs and web sites. Sure, I use some things other people have made, but I usually change them around and build myself a nice base set of tools to work with – a framework. I get it just right and start building with it. I get one or two products made and then something else pops up, or heaven forbid I read and find a new method that makes a lot of sense. I evaluate my framework and refactor – that is, seeing where I can add, move, and remove pieces and parts to make an even better framework, thus allowing the creation of even better products.
You can see where the loop starts to set in. And all this trouble from reading. I knew reading was dangerous.
In most cases changing for a better future is good. And it is good, but the reason for my loop is the lack of mates – that being people that do what I do. The Lone Ranger act is starting to be more of a hindrance than a benefit.
The good thing to being the only sheriff in town is I can change on the fly, which keeps me lean and flexible to anything thrown at me. But as I detailed above, it is counterproductive to the ultimate goal – making things for people. I never get there because I’m working towards the next level.
Reading and demo-ing, I get idea after idea for products to sell and even just products for myself (which may end up going public), but they always die midstream because by tool sets have to be rebuilt each time to account for new methods and technology.
My character seems to be unable to break the loop. And I’m not exactly sure how to about embracing the loop, structuring the loop, or even breaking free from the loop.
John Seigenthaler was a former assistant attorney general who worked under Bobby Kennedy. According to Wikipedia, he was also involved in the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy. The 78-year-old Seigenthaler had to file a petition to get this information removed, as it is unfounded. Who knows how many high school freshman wrote Kennedy conspiracy reports with this man’s name listed as a suspect in two assassinations.
In Wikipedia’s defense, the website makes it clear that their information is contributed by anyone and everyone. As seekers for information, we need to use the internet wisely and check out facts before we claim them as truth. Maybe, especially if a grade or a job is on the line, we should crack open a good old’ fashion encyclopedia. Britannica.com anyone?