Being a web developer first, working and understanding images is always an added bonus to your toolkit. When I was invited to the ColorMeRad 5K run to help with photography, I thought to myself I don’t have time. How am I going to fit this into the one thousand other things I wish to do. A persistent girlfriend got the best of me and I found myself picking up a camera bright and early on a Saturday morning to do the 11 hour drive from Melbourne to Geelong.What won me over, other than my girlfriend, where 2 things. The first being attending the ColorMeRad event would be a great opportunity would be perfect for me to review it for my review website JustMadeBetter.com. Secondly, it was also an opportunity to brush up on my photography skills. All the photography I know is self taught. I have never attended a class and neither did my multimedia degree cover photography. Other than watching online tutorial videos, I prefer getting out there and just doing it.
Half of what makes a website is the look and feel and that often means good images. A bad image no matter what layout will always take away from your design or make it tacky. You can start to see the need for me to continually want to improve on my photography skills as that can in turn contribute to web design. In fact, one of the reasons I started JustMadeBetter.com was so that I could use, explore and develop my web development skills beyond what my current job requires.
Then end result was a fun day out taking some stunning photos. The overcast day made the colour on the subjects just pop out more and it was stunning. The ColorMeRad event made me fall in love with photography like I have never before. I could start to understand how someone could do this as a full time profession. There is still a lot for me to learn in Photography.
I even got round to making an animated gif of a girl doing a cart wheel I captured that we shared on the JustMadeBetter Tumblr blog. Here is a link to the review I wrote for the ColorMeRad 5K run event and at the bottom of it is the image gallery I released with it. For more exclusive photos, follow JustMadeBetter on Instagram and scroll through the timeline. Enjoy!
On your marks, fingers on the keyboard, Go. So begins the race of getting our ideas & thoughts from your mind to the computer as fast as you can. Why race you might ask? The short answer to that question would be efficiency. Well, most of us speak as fast we can think. Most of us write slower than we can think, because we have to take time to shape our letters in our handwriting. Typing however, is an interesting one because you can type much faster than you can write – with the proper training and practice. If you are still poking the keyboard with predominantly 2 fingers while looking at the keyboard instead of the screen in this day and age, you need to stop it… and go learn touch typing and become more efficient.
I remember how my journey of learning how to touch type started, looking back it was almost God sent. I had failed my ‘A’ levels and was certain of it even though the results hadn’t come out yet. All I did in those 2 years of my senior high school life was play as hard as we had during our ‘O’ levels holiday, but that’s a story for another day. One day, my older brother Ngoni in the UK had sent us a CD with some software you could install on a computer and it would teach you touch typing. I just want to say thank you Ngoni if you get to read this. That turned out to be the best gift you have ever given me, all things considered including some of the pretty generous, temporal stuff that you gave, however this one is the best.
This software was the meanest piece of technology I had ever used and would occasionally pass comments like ‘are you sure you are not wearing gloves’ in between learning exercises on your score results screen.
What followed was somewhere along that time when I decided to turn my life around and not be a failure. Most of my friends in my age group had already flown off to study in University, but I had this one hurdle that was my qualifications stopping me. I had faith that my turn would come again, to go study in university so I made sure I would do everything to be prepared and hit the ground running when my time came.
I would spend something like 20 – 30 mins a day with this software, music plugged in, learning how to use more than two fingers and not look at my keyboard while I was typing. Sometimes it would be longer than that and sometimes shorter despite my passion for our new home computer, which we had also recently acquired around that time to replace our now battery dead, IBM laptop. At first all my fingers wanted to move together and struggled reaching other keys altogether, but then I got better at where I was meant to place my fingers as they learnt to become more independent of each other. The only musical instrument I had played in my life, by the way, was a flute called the ‘recorder’, that is if you don’t count the triangle in grade 1-2, so this was a completely new skill for me.
Other days I didn’t feel like being insulted by that piece of software, I’ll be honest. Imagining the glorious sound I would one day make with my keyboard as I dance my fingers across it, in a programmer or hacker kind of way as seen in my favourite CSI episodes, managed to motivate me into gear most times. Fast forward to the time I got to university, I had drastically improved also considering I had been working as web developer for a while at this point. I felt ready for the assignments, and lecture note taking on my computer. I even hoped to be that much more efficient that I would do assignments faster so I can do some freelance work, on the side.
“I had been robbed of my super man privileges, some of the people who could touch type weren’t even going to study Information Technology (I.T.)”
When I did arrive in Australia and started taking classes plus doing assignments, I felt like an Olympic athlete in a high school race. It was gloriously easy, right up to the point when the slow pace started to drive me crazy. I endured with it thankfully, and instead focused more of my attention on knowledge retention and laying the foundation I had come all the way across the world for – that was simply too hard to lay on the job.
The world is becoming more and more digital, and yes like the annoying Treehouse.com advertisement that streams from time to time before your YouTube videos play, understanding how to manipulate a computer effectively is becoming as essential as reading and writing. For those of you that already can touch type, more power to you but you can always improve. This article is for those of you that can’t touch type, YET. It was to my surprise that when I did come to the a ‘worldly’ university, that I wasn’t the fastest typer around. I expected to be in a league of my own, however all the other people that came from all corners of the world, Asia, Europe, America, wherever, all seemed to have this touch typing super power too. In fact it was the normal thing to be able to do and no one gave it a second thought, except me.
I had been robbed of my super man privileges, some of the people who could touch type weren’t even going to study Information Technology (I.T.) Some where doing accounting and some were, then, iMessenger & Skype chat specialists. My natural instinct is to direct this touch typing advice to everyone in Africa that doesn’t have regular exposure to electricity let alone a personal computer, but I would be wrong to stop there. I have worked here in Australia where some people still do the two finger keyboard dance, some managers even, so I am sure there are still plenty all over the world who need this skill. Stop being your worst enemy and learn how to use a computer correctly, seeing as it will be used in every profession soon, if not already.
In part 2 of this touch typing series, I will look at a more detailed, assignment like approach to this topic, with statistics pulled randomly from Google searches so some people can be convinced that this is in fact a truth or, to put it more bluntly, show them I know what I am talking about.
At the time of writing, I stopped to take stock of how many years I have been working in the web world. 9 years ago, I got hired by a small web design company in Africa by the name Webspace Africa, now known as 7 Afripixels in the United States. The company was new start up, and it was a subsidiary of a bigger Internet Service Provider (ISP) by the name Telco. My boss was a champion, and she would teach me principles that would steer me through my career in this fast paced, ever changing digital field.
The IT industry never stands still and most of us knew that’s what we were subscribing for when we signed up. After seeing the landscape change, from flash being the king of the hill, to the iPad coming along and knocking it off it’s high horse, it really does feel like 18 years in another field (at least for me). After sitting through many client consultations, coding sessions plugged into some music and enough review processes to last me a life time, I feel like I can give some web spills in my sleep. One starts wanting to leave more than just a corporate website for a client that will be redesigned in another 2-3 years to keep up with even more changes in the digital world.
One must stop looking at them as websites, rather as online solutions.
This was when I decided to tackle a solution I had discussed with one of my web confidants, a certified geek by the name of Andrew Gibson. After one day discussing and sharing my review website with him, and the latest gadget I had just shot a YouTube video review for (a digital industry that has also taken off in the last 5 years or so), the conversation turned to a question. “What if there was a website that you could see what products were coming up with regards to release dates?”
We debated on the question, what the solution would look like and how it would have to navigate very differently from a traditional website to lend itself visually to the user. We both looked at our work load, and just shelved it to carry on with our day to day accountables. This is usually the case with many ideas that cross my mind and end up having a domain that is registered and parked for later use. In fact, the review website justmadebetter.com is one such website that finally got to see the light of day.
A few months later, everything seemed to align perfectly for me to tackle the challenge and I walked over to Andrew and said to him “I think I will take your challenge.” It is very much a practise of mine to consider some projects a challenge to spur me on to see the projects completion. After bringing him on the same page as to what I was on about, it was off to the lab after work hours putting things together, testing and retesting until it was ready to go live.
No one can explain the feeling of pushing a solution live that you know a few people, at least, will find useful. In fact you finish coding it, you visit it a couple of times and look at it. You use it again, this time trying to imagine you are seeing it for the first time. Then when you are content with the few things that can be improved upon later, which is almost always, you can’t wait to tell the world and see them enjoy it.
So what are you waiting for, go ahead an experience this web utopia that is Just Made Better Release Date we have prepared for you. We can’t wait to pull out more projects of the shelf to build for you all.
A web designer/developer’s own website always seems to be at the mercy of other projects. This website is no different, it has taken almost 2 years to finally publish this website. This was due to me being very particular about the photographic concepts, that I couldn’t steal time away to execute. With my fingers in a lot of different pots, consulting, designing, developing, assisting friends with trouble shooting, this site kept falling lower on the priority list. That is the problem with being passionate about many things, however I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In a truly Agile (Framework) approach, I decided to work with what I have and iterate to the desired version in small increments. I hope that doesn’t mean the website ends up being good enough as I focus more and more on other peoples projects.
—Update 24 March 2014—
Finally we are live.