It’s a foreign language. Communication between a web designer and a web developer is like debating politics with a goldfish. It’s hard to measure success.
The Deathstar here at Mindfly is never a dull place. What I think would be a straightforward yes/no answer becomes an hour-long debate as to why this won’t work or why it would take 5+ hours to perfect. Luckily, I am able to escape upstairs to Cloud City where I can go back to using English 101. That talk makes my head spin.
When I stumbled across this comedy sketch posted by HIVESeattle for HIVE2011, I couldn’t resist sharing it. These people know my pain. And I love them for it.
We get pretty excited about the holidays at Mindfly. In exchange for working the day after Thanksgiving, we celebrated by decorating the office for Christmas (and any other winter holiday that your family may [or may not] celebrate. Really, when the centerpiece of our decorations includes little bottles of liquor hanging on an artificial tree, you can tell that no one around here gets too uptight about the political correctness of the holidays).
In anticipation of the holiday marathon ahead for the rest of the month, here are some handy iPhone applications that might help you survive the holidays.
Please note that my suggestions in no way endorse these as "the best apps" (I honestly haven't even downloaded them all). But if you're looking for an app to make your holidays more bearable, these ideas might point you in the right direction.
I’ve made it my own personal mission to as little physical shopping as possible for the holidays this year. No visits to the crowded mall, no wasted money on wrapping paper, no trying to figure out how to get Christmas gifts for my whole family into my carry-on bag. But if you’re a thrifty holiday shopper, you might want to check out Red Laser, which iSmashPhone heralds as "The First Accurate iPhone Barcode Scanner". Scan a product's barcode or enter the UPC number to compare prices. Available for $1.99 at the iTunes store.
Look, there are a lot Flight Status-esque apps out there, but I don't like to spend money on apps if I can help it. But a handy app for when you've already reached your out-of-town destination is AroundMe, which features categories of nearby restaurants, ATMs, pharmacies, and more—everything you need to survive a visit with your relatives. There's also a search function that's useful if, say, you’re in an unfamiliar city and you're looking for a restaurant known for its infamous macaroni and cheese concoctions but of course you forgot to write down the address when you looked it up the night before. Available for FREE at the iTunes store.
A really good app that a good friend suggested to me is AllRecipes.com Dinner Spinner. There are three categories—Dish Type, Ingredients, and Ready In—that you can spin or select to find recipes that will match your requirements. For example, maybe you have some leftover ham that you want to use to make a quick breakfast. View matches and—ta-da— Dinner Spinner suggests "Plantation Ham Cakes". What I love most about this app is that other cooks can leave reviews and provide their modifications to the recipes. Available for FREE at the iTunes store.
For the Kids
I don't have kids, so it sometimes baffles me when I see so many child-oriented apps in the iTunes store. Are there really kids out there with their own iPhone? The answer is probably, "Yes, but not as many as you fear," as I’ve also discovered that a great way to distract a child is to give them free reign of your phone for awhile. At least while their PSP recharges. But the holiday season gives adults an excuse to act like a kid again, and to celebrate, I downloaded Christmas Countdown to mark the days until the BIG day. It's a musical app with animation and the best part is that you can select a song from your own musical to play whenever you open the app; I have selected my favorite Christmas song of all time (or at least the past two years), "Why Can't It Be Christmastime All Year?" by Rosie Thomas. Available for FREE at the iTunes store.
For the Awkward Pauses
The holidays are a time to gather with family that you don’t see for the other 364 days a year, to remind you why you only see them once a year. Just kidding, Mom! I'm really looking forward to seeing you guys for the holidays this year. But just in case you don't get along with your family as well as I do with mine, the Touch Hockey: FS5 app is always an option when you hit that long lull in the conversation. It's a great time killer and topic starter if you’re grasping at straws to find something in common with your second cousin from Akron, Ohio. Available for FREE at the iTunes store.
October is one of my favorite months of the year in Bellingham. I always look forward to watching the leaves of deciduous trees on Sehome Hill change from green to gold, and the days of rain interrupted by unpredictable bouts of sunshine. A trip to a different Whatcom County pumpkin patch has become a tradition with a good friend, and I am constantly in search for the perfect cup of hot apple cider at downtown Bellingham’s many cafés.
And now that I work at Mindfly, the first full month of fall is also a time of firsts and fun celebrations.
Last October, I went on my first business trip to Las Vegas. While I was there, I got to see my first Cirque du Soleil performance for my job. Not a bad deal.
Also in October of 2008, Mindfly celebrated Christmas early with a trip to the AT&T store to stock up on iPhones to reinforce our company’s dedication to design for mobile and the use of social media in online marketing and image branding. And decorating for downtown Bellingham’s Halloween Trick-or-Treat is always big day at Mindfly. In fact, John Raasch even asked me if I had a Halloween costume ready at my interview two years ago.
Yep. October 29, 2009 marks my second anniversary as Mindfly’s resident journalist and go-to grammarian (it’s also the 40th anniversary of the first communication sent over a host-to host connection via the ARPANET, a precursor of the Internet, which is certainly something to celebrate at Mindfly Web Studio).
Two years might not seem like a long time, but it’s a big achievement for a twenty-something Millennial in her first real post-college position. I’ve learned much more about websites than I ever thought I would, and I’ve also learned a lot about online journalism through trial and error. It’s been a unique experience to help start a local website from scratch and watch it grow.
Although we’re missing out on some of the Halloween fun in 2009 (don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining that the studio won’t be open on Saturday), Mindfly still has a reason to celebrate as October comes to an end.
I’m not at liberty to divulge too much information just yet, so allow me to paraphrase Mr. McGuire and his famous advice from The Graduate; I just want to say one word to you – just one word. Boogaloo. Think about it.
Today is National Punctuation Day. I know that this means very little to non-grammar nerds. It’s like March 14th for mathletes or October 23rd for chemistry geeks. Although I don’t think the number 9/24 has any significance to punctuation itself, I’m still glad that there is at least one day a year that reminds us about the importance of proper punctuation.
In honor of National Punctuation Day, I’ve decided to highlight a punctuation mistake that sends me through the roof.
Its and the Apostrophe
You probably use the apostrophe most often in contractions or to show possession. For example:
I can’t go to John’s birthday party.
Can not becomes can’t, and it’s a birthday party that belongs to John. Seems simple enough, right? Not for everyone.
One of my biggest pet peeves is the misuse of an apostrophe in its. And I understand the confusion because an apostrophe shows possession for nouns. But, unfortunately, it’s and its are two different words. It’s is a contraction of two words (it is), whereas its indicates that something belongs to it.
Have I lost you yet? Here’s another example:
Have you seen the birthday cake? It’s huge and its bottom layer covers my whole desk!
The next time you come across some its/it’s confusion in your writing, just ask yourself, “Possessive or Contraction?” Possessive is its; contraction is it's.
You can also substitute it is to see if the sentence makes sense still. Make sure you say it out loud too, so you can really hear how it sounds.
“It is huge.” Yep. “It is bottom layer covers my whole desk.” No.
And if you’re still not sure, take it out. Changing a vague, nondescript pronoun like it back to the original noun will bring clarity to your writing and you won't have to worry about making an apostrophe mistake.
So go out into the world, properly prepared to punctuate like a pro! And celebrate with some cake, if you can.
Walter Cronkite retired as news anchor for “CBS Evening News” in 1981, three years before I was born. Although I never had the chance to watch him man the news desk on a regular basis, he introduced my generation, in archive footage, to some of the most world-altering events of the 20th century. With his touching response to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and his energetic coverage of the first moon landing, which took place 40 years ago today, Cronkite was influential in pioneering television journalism as we know it today.
His death on July 17, 2009 caused the nation to stop and remember Uncle Walter, as he was affectionately known.
In our current milieu of multimedia overload, it seems strange to think that, prior to the Cronkite era, only two television stations existed with a 15-minute program dedicated to news summary. According to Cronkite’s obituary from CBS News, serious journalists in the 1950s eschewed the idea of television news. “Radio and print…were for real reporters,” they claimed, and “television was for actors and comedians” (“Walter Cronkite Dies”). Cronkite changed that attitude for journalists and the American audience when he became anchor and managing editor of the first 30-minute newscast in 1963.
Perhaps Cronkite’s legacy is augmented by the fact that he was the first. If there had been a live television broadcast at the signing of the Declaration of Independence or Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, America would have been watching. This conceit does not in any way challenge the importance of the events that Cronkite reported, but only suggests that immediacy of “breaking news” and ‘round the clock coverage played a part in sensationalizing the events, burning the images into the memory and psyche of the Boomer generation.
Cronkite’s reign as anchor also coincided with a changing America. At a time when the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement forced Americans to confront their own demons, Cronkite provided a steady voice—and a face—of reason and conviction.
We now live in a world with multiple 24-hour news channels, information is constantly at our fingertips with the Internet and mobile devices, and if the revolution will not be television, it can be Tweeted (“Iran’s Twitter revolution”). And in an interesting twist of fate, television journalists now question the legitimacy of bloggers and other online media as reliable news sources.
The way we receive information has changed dramatically since Cronkite first told us “and that’s the way it is” and it will continue to change as new forms of media continue to appear and spread around the world. While accessibility to information is easier these days, no other generation will have a news media icon as ubiquitous as Walter Cronkite.
Semantic website coding is not one of my hobbies. Search engine optomization is of special interest to me though. Search spiders cannot read your minds business owners, come on now. They also have a hard time reading images and flash, they are pretty though (images and flash not search spiders). And the question I have had answered recently is how a search engine categorizes website's content? How will Google know what me, the owner or you, the designer want to prioritize for the search results and the consumer/viewer. Here is an awesome link going over what is coming as far as RDFA.
What does this mean to the business owner interested in SEO? Search Engine Optimization is the term for how your website speaks to the search engines. Do you want to tell the search engines what you want them to think or let them figure it out? In the sales and marketing field I have learned that the outcome is better when you organize your results into a well defined-concise suggestion and then threaten someone. I am getting bored it is time for a joke. Is this the new Internet Explorer 7 website? » IE7.com. Wow, I laughed so hard my @Twitter name tag fell off.
On the serious note, it is all about context. If the search spiders understand how to categorize your titles and links, then they will know if it is the name of the author, the name of the company, physical location. Instead of your code generically saying that this is my header and this is my text (I can't get this tune out of my head…"header, nose, knees, and text…knees and text") you can explain that it is an article written by "Joe Cool" about "Semantic Web Design and SEO". Now this blog post has a lot to do with seo and a little to do with semantic website design. If you are interested in reading more about the design and application side I suggest you read posts' by Kyle and look forward to posts by Rusty, follow them on twitter accordingly. Them and the other's here at Mindfly can explain these things technically but I can help you get in the door, or at least knock – get ignored by Pandorans (wikipedia coming soon), or get chased off by cyber dogs.
What does all this have to do with Internet marketing? When a search spider scans your website they can easily and quickly digest what your content is and organize it accordingly. So that when you drop the style sheet or look at your website on your iPhone it doesn't look like Picasso designed it. What that means for your search results, is that when I am searching for an article on "Semantic Web Design and SEO" the search spiders are like, "Here yah go buddy article written by "Joe Cool"". It is an assurance for them (them being Google) that you (you being the Googler) are getting exactly what you (you being the Googler) are searching for (for being my article). So then i don't have to write "blog post" in my lemming-zombie-ghost text a bunch of times so that Google knows that this is a blog post or relates to one. All in all, you can separate the painting from the structure of the website like a funny car. When the spiders come and get you (which they will) they will know exactly what you want read on your site and how you want it read technically and semantically, which helps big time for SEO. On the flip side, a talented designer from an awesome web design studio in beautiful Bellingham Washington can slide in and paint a portrait of your company to impress the critics and get your fans to do the wave.
Being on the internet marketing side of the website business I do not dive too deep into what is going on behind the scenes, as not to drown (with boredom). I guess I have always assumed that something like this was in place for web design. You know what assumption does, you and me buddy. Anyways, I have to finish this post. As the person who’s job it is to explain how the website will work and what it will do for an unsuspecting business owner it gives me great confidence to know that our designers and developers here at Mindfly are doing it right once, right the first time. A website built with semantics in mind has legs, it will make you more money, and be sustainable for years to come which will save you more money. Second to last Joke. Last Joke. Lied.
I am quite positive that I have gadgetitis. Gadgetitis, Noun, general meaning: A severe and debilitating disease specifically related to a love and craving for gadgets. Side effects can be late night ebay searching, maxed out credit cards, and a grating voice that people flinch from whenever you utter the words "Guess what I got!"
This is not to say that gadgets make me sick, or that I'm contageous (although I very well might be… perhaps I'll get myself one of those trendy face-masks that are so big in cyber fashion). What I mean is that I love love love gadgets. I love tablets and iPhones, I love hand-held video games, I love those tiny little picture holders that you hang from your key chain, and I love love love the flip! I also love my My Little Pony candy dispenser, but that is another topic entirely…
What I have discovered is that Rustyalso has gadgetitis. Whenever there is a new app for the iPhone that seems spiffy (and have you seen the LogMeIn one? Seriously, remote desktop from my phone… yikes, it's awesome! Right, all tangents aside…) he can't help but spend as much time as possible talking to us about (or talking us into) it. Rusty also likes gadgets for the front page of Mindfly's website, not unlike how I enjoy the many little gadgets that I have on my own blog. He has a flickr feed, I have a flickr feed. He has the business portfolio, I have my personal gallery. There are similarities here, people! Perhaps we're kindred spirits?
That said, I happen to have videos of my cats embedded into the sidebar on my site. Rusty wants to embed videos of his cats onto the Mindfly site. Okay, I lie I lie. He actually wants us to embed videos of ourselves into some sort of spiffy .NET control that I won't understand at all. Developer/Designer language barrier, my friends, as sad as it may be. And with that purpose in mind, he went out and purchased the marvelous flip for the office. Of course, like children at Christmas, the Deathstar (most especially me… darn that gadgetitis) dove into it in a manner akin to a piranha feeding frenzy. And W.D. Weems (aka Kyle) was a happy guinea pig for testing out the functionality. Therefore, without any more ado, may I present to you yet another amusing moment in the life of W.D. Weems?
If you want to check out more Mindfly videos before we get the control on our front page, feel free to check us out on youtube. Otherwise, be afraid, be very afraid… the gadgetitis is spreading, and you may find yourself dragging a flip home next (I know I'm going to be…).
I’ve been thinking about words lately. Not a bad idea for a journalist, from time to time, to think about words. Maybe I’m reverting to my undergraduate literary theory days, but lately I’ve been thinking about the ambiguity of words.
In a recent Tweet, Mindflyer Karina used the phrase “it’s all downhill from here.” Without context, what do you think she was saying? She was saying that it was smooth sailing here on out, that we’d overcome the hard part and could coast the rest of the way down the hill. But I was confused by her statement as first, because I consider the phrase to mean something negative; such as, we’d achieved the pinnacle, enjoyed the view, and now all that lay before us was the long, arduous journey back down the mountain. “It’s all downhill from here.” One phrase, two very different meanings.
(By the way, your interpretation of the phrase might also indicate whether you’re a “glass is half full” optimist or a “half empty” pessimist.)
Another example. One day, in the course of studio water cooler conversation, Rusty mentioned where the name of our business came from. The name is meant to convey an inspiration of creativity, like “letting your mind fly.” Pretty poetic for a web developer, huh?
I definitely hope that above phrase is the connotation that most customers associate with the name. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the image I initially conjured based on the name “Mindfly” was a bit less appealing. I thought of it as having an idea stuck in your brain that wouldn’t go away (which would, hopefully, inspire innovative web sites), like a nagging fly that keeps buzzing around your mind. I know, I know…I said it was an unappealing image and that I was embarrassed to admit it. But that’s where my brain went.
Still, although provoking widely different examples of visual imagery, the meanings of our interpretations were essentially the same: ideas, creativity, innovation.
(And yes, I am aware that my “it’s-all-downhill-from-here-the-glass-is-half-empty-nagging-fly” interpretations are revealing me to be a bit of a pessimist…I blame the weather).
Finally, I’d like to direct your attention to the other end of Holly Street, to Bowl n’ Roll (207 W. Holly St.), which occupies the space where Mallard Ice Cream used to be. The restaurant was called Shahrazad (which still exists as a Bellingham Farmers Market prepared food vendor and a catering business), but the owners decided to change the name and the menu in September of this year. When they did, the name left me wondering.
Did “Bowl n’ Roll” mean bowls of soup and fresh rolls? Or was it more of a teriyaki bowl and eggroll establishment? (One of my friends pointed out that it would be also be a good name for a business that provided items for the use of illicit substances, or a bowling alley/roller skating rink).
The restaurant’s menu actually includes soup and rolls, as well as eggrolls and other “big bowls” of daily special items. The menu offers a variety of international dishes (and with prices capped at $4.99, it’s a great deal), but I wouldn’t have figured what kind of restaurant it was without stopping in to check out the menu.
My point (if there is one, besides an excuse to share “funny” stories about deconstructed language) is to remember to take care with words. The same phrase, in different contexts, can have opposing meanings. Or a phrase might have the invoke the same meaning, but the perspective of the reader reflects whether the phrase has a positive or negative meaning. And instead of one or the other, a phrase might even mean “all of the above.”
We each bring our own personal experiences and memories to the table when interpreting text—and we all interpret text, whether we’re examining the instructions for assembling IKEA furniture or reading Tolstoy—that shape our understanding. Words and phrases have the remarkable power to inspire, to break hearts, to fight injustice, to advertise…sometimes all at the same time.
This is my first Blog. I've logged in the woods and into a computer but never blogged. Does the B in Blog stand for Blah, Blah, Blah , Blah? Like a logging of Blah, blah…? This is a real question. Anyways, my story begins in a small southern town on the wrong side of the tracks… Sorry, wrong story.
Web 2.0, is it grammatically correct to start a sentence with a Link?
Warning: I will not be parenthesizing!
I'll start from the top, Web 2.0 is overwhelming at first, like dipping your toe in an unheated pool. These are the worries; Where do I start? How much personal information should I really post on the internet? Does my facebook make me look fat? These are all concerns I share with you, you being the newbies. I had a Myspace back in the good ol' days but it seemed a little like your own locker in high school.
So why would a self proclaimed 3rd degree master of marketing the american way dive back into this pool party like somebody added massive amounts of cherry Jello sugar powder? and that is the question. Why did Brad Pitt wear a chicken costume and wander the streets of Hollywood? Why do spiders build webs? Why does somebody raise their hand in class? Why did the Seattle Supersonics have to move to (unamed); it still stings a little to say or write. It all has to do with Google, kind of like the 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon, or shaking hands with everybody in Dallas (the city). Now if you could do Dallas in one sitting that would be impressive but most people need to set up an old fashion pyramid scheme. It's not what you know, it's who you know or more like what you know about who you know or how you know who you know or who of you know what I'm actaully saying right now.
Are people that Tweet called Twitters or Twits? Can 1 person be called a Twitter if the are Tweeting? In all of my perusing for SEM applicable applications, I found using Facebook as a hub gave me the weekest excuse to spend hours posting and updating, and… My face book has almost every over the counter app syndicated to it that Facebook allows. I know there's a strategic space in my first face book in the last sentence. But I don't know if that matters. I love Del.icio.us , I wish I had always had that. It keeps track of neat sites and lets me tag them. Last.fm does kind of the same thing but with music and different. Google Reader gathers the best stories from all of the web and organizes them for you, kind of like an online newstand. I'm also using Flickr for storing images I like and then feeding that to my starving hub. I am trying to dig Digg but I was a landscaper for almost 3 years, so it feels like work to me. Moving on, to StumbleUpon I can just keep rhymin on and on. This bloggin makes me feel so insecure, like my thoughts or lack of are exposed to the elements. The disclaimer is, what I am trying to do here is express a real world trip and tumble, digg and stumble first time idiot's guide to social networking. Honestly, if you are interested in marketing your website on the internet, start getting creative.
This cornucopia of quirky computer show and tell can pay off in duckets!
So the real message of this is, if you are going to link farm, farm organically. Web 2.0
Well, here it is. My first Mindfly Blog post. The irony is that I was hired as a writer and it only took three and a half months for me to finally write a blog entry.
I could come up with a multitude of excuses for why it took so long for me to get here. I could tell you that I've been plenty busy writing for other cool projects. I could also mention the fact that it took three and half months for the powers-that-be to give me a login. But the simple truth is that I had no idea what to write about.
Hoping to cultivate some inspiration, I would diligently read the postings of my co-workers, trying to figure out just what belonged on the Mindfly blog or what I could add to the mix. And then I realized that the only thing I had to bring to the table was a background in literary criticism. So that's what I'm going to share with you: my analysis of my fellow bloggers.
Every Mindfly blogger has something unique to bring to their post, usually a tip for web design and websites. So even though when I read a post by Kyle and pretty much have no idea what he's talking about (because he speaks web developer and I do not), I know that I can rely on him to have plenty of links to other articles that will can give me more background. Plus, I know he's going to throw in a few pop culture references to make me laugh.
Now, Heather, on the other hand, comes at her posts with a completely different agenda. She wants to communicate her ideas to you in a clear fashion and equip you with the information to make these changes on your site. Most of her posts come with 1-2-3 step instructions and, I'm not going to lie, that's just what I need when it comes to some of this technical stuff. She's also very visual so she provides lots of screenshots in her examples.
So what I'm getting at is that every blogger has to come up with their own voice. They might not even know they're doing it, but it's there. And it's a good thing because the reason that people come back to a blog (we hope) is that they like something about the blogger; not just what they say, but how they say it. And what's great about the Mindfly blog. We all write with our own particular style about a variety of topics (okay, mostly websites) so there really is something for everybody.