When building a website and especially (for me) while trying to tune in a particular style with CSS, the “command-s” and “command-r” keys, by all rights, should be worn off of my notebook. See, these are the ‘quick keys’ for Save and Refresh. Here’s the drill… Change the style, save it, and refresh the web page to see what it looks like.
I don’t need no stinking refresh.
Just as Mozart didn’t need an orchestra in front of him to play the parts before writing the arrangements, I’m sure there are plenty of developers that can visualize exactly what they need to see on the page and write out the code to perfection. In fact, I think I work with a few guys like that. But, that’s not me. And, it’s probably not you.
A lot of us got into the technology business through the side door as marketers, publicists, editors, sales people, writers, and creatives. Tools like WordPress and simple, reliable services like ClearDev.net‘s web hosting, make putting together a site, updating it and maintaining it a piece of cake. The technical gets out of the way so you can do the work you were meant to do.
I guess this post is just a reminder to me that this why Thicksole is here: to help non-tech professionals get through the technical things so they can get down to what matters most and ship their art.
One of my favorite things about WordPress is the ability to quickly change the look of the site while all of the content just pops into place. Recently we updated 6 sites for John Wiley & Sons. They wanted the color scheme changed from green to blue with a new logo added. A few of the sites had hundreds of articles already produced, so in the old days, this would have been a long process.
But by changing a few things in the WordPress theme CSS, we updated all the sites in no time. I can imagine the pain this would have generated going through traditional channels, but one of the most beautiful things about WordPress is the way it empowers the end user. The marketing/editorial crew is often held hostage by layers of bureaucracy and hurdles from the design & tech crew. With a fundamental understanting of CSS and the WordPress structure, anyone can now make changes to their site. With websites, sometimes it’s just a splinter in your finger, and everyone is chomping at the bit to turn it into brain surgery.
These sites have been instrumental in differentiating their product from the competition, and it’s great to see them updated each week with fresh content, and there’s still drive to keep the look fresh and clean.
In the latest newsletter from the University of Richmond, they include a quick profile of Josh Abramson, the co-starter of CollegeHumor.com. At the end of the interview he gives some advice to students:
“Students need to learn how to build websites — it’s probably the most coveted skill in New York City right now,” he said. “If you have the business and the technical savvy, you’ll be incredibly well positioned.”
This isn’t great advice for just students, but for anyone in the workplace. If you can’t understand a conversation at a technical level, your value plummets. Last year we started a program for non-technical professionals (marketers, editors, writers, etc) to get started with WordPress. The program starts at the fundamentals from buying a domain and setting up hosting, to installing WordPress, customizing functionality, and even coding fundamentals. Just having a core understanding of these technical topics increases your value exponentially.
Some benefits of knowing tech fundamentals:
Can call BS on an issue when the tech team tries to jargon you to death
Independence of being able to start a web project without waiting for layers of bureaucracy
Gain respect from the tech team that realizes there’s a person that understands the work they do
Represent the tech work appropriately
Help the tech team make better decisions and vice versa
It’s a new year. What’s your plan for upping your tech game?
So you’ve had a book idea on your mind for months (maybe years) but never followed through because you couldn’t find an interested publisher (and, well, writing a book is hard work!). Well, now, with a little elbow grease, you can get distribution to millions of readers, publish on your own terms, and even have complete control of the finished product! Yesterday, Amazon.com announced their new tool set for building books in their new KF8 (Kindle Format 8 ) standard. Here’s a clip from the message that landed in my inbox:
We’re pleased to announce that Kindle Publisher Tools with Kindle Format 8 (KF8) support are now available for download. Kindle Format 8 is Amazon’s next generation file format offering a wide range of new features and enhancements – including HTML5 and CSS3 support that publishers can use to create all types of books. KF8 adds over 150 new formatting capabilities, including drop caps, numbered lists, fixed layouts, nested tables, callouts, sidebars and Scalable Vector Graphics – opening up more opportunities to create Kindle books that readers will love. Kindle Fire is the first Kindle device to support KF8 – in the coming months KF8 will be rolled out to our latest generation Kindle e-ink devices as well as our free Kindle reading apps.
So with a little HTML and some CSS, you can create world class books. Download the new tools here:
This goes back to my idea that coding fundamentals are a new standard set of office skills just like MS Office basics were mandatory as those Selectrics were carted away in the early 90′s. You have the tools and now you just have to write that book!
Amazon.com announced their new format for ebooks: Kindle Format 8. Goodbye to .mobi and .epub? I think so. This new format will use the language of the web: HTML 5. This new version of HTML is delivering fantastic sites with video, animations, wonderful fonts and layouts, and more. Here’s an example from Apple, and here’s another cool one from Google (just to keep things even).
So we’re going to see some ebooks that look great, are easier to format for different platforms, and have a whole bunch of new features. Exciting times!
I think this will also move ebooks to the forefront of the publishing platform rather than as the derivative to the main “hardcover” production. Readers will be expecting a lot from this platform and there will be rewards for those that deliver the goods. And those that don’t will get the negative feedback similar to the producers that price ebooks higher than (or the same as) the physical books today.
Late last year we went live with a website that was fundamentally a big database that was accessed and maintained through a browser. It was fantastic because it was secure, easy to design around, flexible to port the data to other websites for other purposes, and maybe most importantly – accessible to anyone in the office that had an Internet connection and a web browser. At home, at work, on the beach, where ever – as long as they were connected to the web, they were connected to their live data.
Here's the basic web interface.
Where the app fell short was when it was time to do something like mailing labels, a custom export (first name, last name, email, etc), form letters on letterhead, or even custom searches. This all sounds easy enough. In fact I think I’ve done all this stuff in the mid-90′s with Microsoft Works. But it was a real bitch to do through the browser.
Enter FileMaker. The little database program that I’ve been working with since the mid-90′s is all grown up and does amazing tricks. One of those tricks is to let you connect to an online MySQL database to view and edit live data. Problems solved!
Here's the FileMaker view. Look at all those layouts & reports!
Once I was connected,creating custom layouts and reports was easier than ever. The FileMaker / MySQL combo gave the client the best of both worlds.
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