Beyond “Responsive Web Design”

As our office’s sole web developer, my role is to be a one-stop shop for all of our programs’ basic web communications needs. Except in cases where one of our programs demands a web application that requires specialized computer programming, people in my office come to me when they need a website made start-to-finish, soup-to-nuts. In this sense, I’m a generalist.

But even generalists have specialties, and mine are the ones I’ve found serve me best as a one-stop shop—namely, the kinds of skills that fall under the umbrella of Front-End Development. Things like visual identity, marking and branding, layout design, user interaction design, and the HTML/CSS/jQuery coding needed to realize these things.

Why the CV? Just to tell you a little about what flavor of web-guy I am: the kind that cares, really cares, about the side of the website that real people really see, use, and interact with. That’s me! (more…)

Evolved Altruism

I hear the same question asked again and again in different guises. Why do we spend our valuable tax dollars on international aid? (See Edin’s post on the topic.) Why should we, as a people, spend resources on Food Stamp programs, Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and/or any other of a host of ways we help out people who can’t (or, in a worst-case scenario, won’t) minimally-thrive without it? Why should I help that guy; what has he done for me (lately)?

Well, I aint no politician (if you’ll pardon the vernacular). And I aint no scientist, per se, but for questions like this I tend to fall back on my philosophy degree, which had an academic concentration on psychology and thus included lots of psychology classes. I’m fascinated by the relatively young field of evolutionary psychology. (more…)

A Day in the Life of a Web Developer: Improvise!

Friends, family, and work colleagues all know that I have a passion for music, but rarely am I able to get across just how much the things I’ve learned through my musical adventures are directly applicable to my career and everyday life. I’ve written on such topics before (links at the end of this post), and today I have a fresh (to me) perspective to ponder with you.

I’ve just gotten back from what is turning out to be an annual vacation to a week-long singing workshop led by Bobby McFerrin and 5 of his long-time associates (Rhiannon, Dave Worm, Joey Blake, Christiane Karam, and Judi Vinar). It seems that I tune in to some different aspect of vocal performance each time I go. This year, one of the things I noticed has a lot to do with one of the main foci of the workshop—the nature of improvisation.

Improvisation is simply making things up (musically or otherwise), but it is rarely as simple as that. To improvise well, you’ve got to have a firm grasp of the “language” you’re improvising with, and the structure of the kind of improvisation you’re doing. In music, that means things like scales, rhythms, chord progressions, meters, longer-scale forms, and different varieties of improvising formats. Perhaps the analogues for web development are the code languages (HTML, CSS, jQuery, PHP), design competencies (color, typography, layout), and design/dev tools (Dreamweaver, Photoshop, WordPress).

But improvisation also needs a certain sensitivity and discernment. Something along these lines: “…here’s a musical moment coming up. Given all I know about this kind of music, I can imagine these options for what I can make up to add to it. Which do I pick?!?” Perhaps there are several musicians improvising together; how do you know when to jump in, when to lay back? (more…)

This Solution Proposes to be a Solution


The breakfast, lunch, and dinner of champions?

Hackers will hack anything.

Now there’s a guy who has dissolved multivitamins, oat powder, whey protein, brown rice syrup, and other things in olive oil and water to make a solution that purports to completely replace the eating of meals. His name is Rob Rhinehart, and he’s a software engineer, of all things. But that’s hacker culture these days: it doesn’t confine itself to code. Anything: life, design, our brains, gadgets, and even human nutrition are all things to be tinkered with, broken down, unlocked, re-engineered.

He calls it Soylent. He should have consulted a professional communicator first. I know which Charlton Heston movie quote is probably echoing in your mind right now, and the associations there aren’t too positive. How about Lembas? Or Mudder’s Milk? Those are some names with positive vibes and serious geek cred!

But I digress. (more…)

Things We Take for Granted

One of the existential strategies I like to use is to try to differentiate between what is actually real and necessary to the human experience versus what’s a cultural or societal overlay.

(Huh? What does that sentence even mean? I’ll try to illustrate.)

We all know what life is like, right? Wake up early, shower, coffee, eat, dress for work. Get in the car, drive to work. Work, eat lunch, work, mid-afternoon doldrums, coffee, work. Get in the car, drive home. Eat, maybe some entertainment or hobbies, go to bed late, sleep. Repeat. Repeat again. Do laundry, clean the house, buy groceries, maybe see a movie. Get your paycheck, pay rent, pay bills, set some aside for next month’s groceries, put some away for a rainy day. Repeat. Repeat again. Maybe take a vacation once a year, blow through some of that rainy-day money.

I mean, that’s life, isn’t it?

Or is it? One of the benefits of working in the field of international development is the constant opportunity to be reminded that life is not at all like this for many people around the world. (more…)