Category Archives: Uncategorized

MVP: The Web Team Facilitator

Web teams for any organization’s own websites typically consist of a manager, visual designer, web developer, copy writer, photographer, and assistants. And missing from this list, is perhaps the most necessary role! Usually, one (or more) of the enumerated persons assumes its function: it is the product manager.

What product? yes, well, if you were building these sites for a client, you’d have one, right? Of course you would. But for internal websites, perhaps it is more intuitive to call this person the team facilitator. Same thing, really: that you are your own client does not remove the need for that position, although it may not need a full person staffing unit (FTE) allocation most weeks.

If your organization is enlightened enough to have a chief digital officer, perhaps that person could have the bandwidth to function as the web team facilitator. My experience however is that the CDO is far too busy holding girders together with brand identity, representation, management, engagement and interaction to act in that capacity.

What about the line manager? Usually s/he is multitasking already, devoting just a fractional slice to managing some or most of the web team personnel, and is too preoccupied holding other things together to have the flexibility and time to fill the gap.

From my experience, it is usually the designer or the developer who puts on the cat herder cape & shoes, who makes the launch happen. If this happens in your organization? honor and recognize it! You’re fortunate to have a soul with the empathy for the team, dedication to the mission, and passion for schedule to give delivery wings.

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Agile

We have come to value individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

That is the first value statement of the Agile Manifesto. And it is the essential cornerstone for creating software together.

It is a concise statement that is easy to miss. It is an epic statement that can span all of human history from our fall to our salvation. Kings have stumbled, and empires have fallen, tripping over it.

To illustrate that I’m not being dramatic would take much more of a platform for communication than this blog. All that I can effectively convey in this medium, at this space and in this time, is that a software engineer with two decades of experience considers it the most important sentence of my career.


Keep Austin Weird

Keep Austin WeirdThe city of Austin is a stuff of legends. For a young man, its annual festivals, its club scene, and its diverse cuisine, build it a reputation, as the Texas-sized playground. A city of mirth, a city of mystery, & a place of music.

Of course people who live in its overcrowded neighborhoods, who rake leaves and pick up bottles and send kids to school don’t have the same perception of their city as in-state tourists. But since when has fantasy needed to have correlation with reality?

My first week as a resident of ATX, I know it is a city of tolls, traffic congestion, and road construction. With people of many hues, shades, and values. I found a place to buy bread, a place to fuel my car, and a place to work out. The regular things seem to have taken on the trouble of legend; just living is harder, more because I’ve moved than because of Austin.

There is the sense that this city is buckling beyond maximum occupancy, coping to contain its citizens. Each of the 70 people who relocate here per day add to the payload of penance that the people pay. Moving trucks are on every road; it’s common to see 2-3 per day, and with each sighting, locals sigh outwardly. But deep within, there is a rising groan. The city’s unofficial slogan, rising to replace “Keep Austin Weird,” is a bit more obvious: “Austin: don’t move here.”

But the hypocrisy is palpable; there are corporate brands on every street corner. It’s clear that the city’s elite did not share the value of keeping Austin weird.

It’s still possible to foster local loyalty and love one another by giving our business to families who will keep the profits in the city instead of sucking them offshore. This is what it means to keep Austin weird. Preferring mom & pop – and insisting on knowing the owners we deal with – is how we can preserve a cultural legacy. I don’t buy into the “don’t move here” t-shirt; that angst is just misguided.

Let’s welcome the newcomers with open arms, giving the “keep Austin weird” vision to them as the key to our city.


Get Retina Ready, The Retro Way

retinaThe first step to becoming buzzword compliant is to remove the buzz and unpack what is real from the hype.

To be retina ready is to make the images on your website look good on devices which have a higher pixel density. That’s all.  How do you increase the pixel density of a 50×50 icon, say? Just save your original graphic as a 100px square and use CSS to cause the browser to resize it to 50px.

Could that cause the kilobytes of your images on your homepage to double, hurting your page performance? No, not double; although there will be an increase in weight if you persist in saving JPEG’s at the same level of quality. I’ve found, however, that increasing the pixel density allows me to double up the compression on JPEG, so the resulting image file sizes are actually smaller.

In the end, getting “retina ready” may have been a good thing, because it causes us to re-examine some old defaults that made sense five years ago. And, bonus: when your CSS fixes the image dimensions using percentages or em’s instead of pixels, wham your new, smaller, more beautiful images are responsive now.

That was easy.


Simple Joys

I marvel at how benevolent an environment for us my Father created. It clearly shows His thoughtfulness, care for us, and love. Simple things like water, sunshine, sleep & oxygen are so good for us.

Men have polluted the creation but still it’s not too hard to find drinks of refreshing, rays of joy, naps of bliss, and breaths of freshness here & there.

Sometimes the cure for an ailment is found in the seed of some flower that grows on an Asian island, a berry that grows Brazilian rain forests, or in an extract from coral reefs off the shore of Okinawa, it’s true.

But we’re amiss if we neglect things that are good, near and abundantly supplied to us without much expense or travel.


The New Favicon

Ten years ago, having a favicon for your website was a big deal. Windows 98 users were putting bookmarks on the desktop, and your site’s favicon logo could show up there. Getting on desktops was very important.

Fast forward to 2009… who has even closed enough windows to see the icons on your desktop this year? Having a favicon has diminished in importance considerably. Do you even take note if websites you browse to have one or not?  Seriously?

But there is one thing that matters in 2009, as much as the favicon did in the late 90’s.  That is: the text & image which appear in Facebook when someone tries to link to you.

Helping people who want to help you? no brainer.  Make it a high priority, even if you do little else to promote yourself.  Make this experience pleasant; support the fans who are trying to promote you.  Neglecting them will hurt your reputation and your SEO pagerank (yes, that’s right, your buzzwords will suffer! ;).

Most websites fail this miserably.

Show some fan love? make the Facebook link to thing flow.