An Event Apart Boston 2017, Wrap-Up Edition

Well, I finally have some free time to sit down and collect my thoughts about the past couple weeks that have been a whirlwind of activity. Here, however, is the wrap-up for An Event Apart that took place this past Monday through Wednesday.

So without going into painfully long and exhaustingly minute detail, here’s the quick rundown, or as quick as I can relay the conference to any readers out there.

Day One. Kicked off with Jeffrey Zeldman leading the conference with From Research to Redesign: an Unexpected Journey. Talking about how design begins with the product, in the example he chose, was engagement rings. In my case, at my work, it is a web application that our clients use for automatic payroll deduction.

Data, people, patterns, how to use your site to convey to visitors what you’re product is and how to do it clearly. Similarities to his talk and what I am undertaking at my work were strikingly parallel to each other.

Jaimee Newberry followed with The Art & Soul of Selling. This talk helped me in many crucial ways. I was glad to have been there for this one.

Her 12 “Check Yourself Checkpoints” were fantastic. She touched on emails, word choices, and speaking with confidence that I had struggled to do in my entire professional career.

“Be Specific Immediately”, “Don’t Be A Jerk”, “Follow Up”. Some of the points she touched on. Especially the being specific immediately and word choices. Now I can take these, shorten my lengthy emails, with clear and concise emails that get the point across to our clients immediately.

Instead of “Well, I can look into this issue, but I’m not sure what the issue could be, it may consist of a number of things that I would have to look at.” I can now shorten that to, “I will look into this.”

Simple as that.

Brad Frost then came up to the podium and spoke about collaboration with others when working in teams. Mission statements and company values. I work with others, so this came in handy.

What was touched on next, I found more intriguing and very useful. Brand style guides, code style guides, voice and tone style guides. Creating a design system at work. These are so very invaluable to me. More on research and priorities. Design principles.

I joked around when I thanked Brad for his talk, I told him he, “helped me exponentially broaden my bookmarks about 100X with all the great links to tools and examples, as well as things he has been working on. There was a ton of information, notes, links and ideas I took away from Brad’s talk.

I’ll leave out the bees, I went Twitter happy with that gif I think.

Dan Mall came on after Brad to discuss Gantt charts. No, actually it was about strategy with deign and development process. Collaboration, Should designers code? Should developers design? If they don’t, then it’s okay.

He spoke about CSS briefly, did a quick, “how-to” for folks that did not know CSS or how to code it, talked about tools, the 8-point grid and a host of other small topics that I found useful.

I think I may have asked a question very much way off-topic to what he had spoken about regarding clients/bosses and their penchants for “this is not the same color I see on my phone as it is here on your computer”, when you copied the hex code as it was… I guess my question had to do with the process, so I may have not been as far off as I thought.

First time speaker Laura Martini was next and gave a great talk about “Designing the Right Thing”. Designing needs for the business, the user and yourself. The HEART framework (Happiness, Engagement, Adoption, Retention, and Task Success).

Laura dove into the NPS, CSAT, and CES scoring systems, do’s and don’t(s), tools and research. She gave a great talk for her first at an An Event Apart and it helped me out and gave me some invaluable information.

The day was a long one, but the information up to this point from all the speakers was phenomenal.

Chris Coyier, the guy (or one of the people) behind Codepen and CSS-Tricks finished off the first day with a talk on SVG. Something I have been reading about, looking into, and trying to adopt for what seems like ages.

I’m basically going to leave this at, why wasn’t I using SVG more often on the projects I had done? Chris wrapped up the day nicely and I had a ton of notes to take with me, go over and bring back some great ideas to work.

Day Two. Val Head spoke about “Animation in Design Systems and Process”. Communication, Storyboards and sketches, Motion comps, interactive prototypes. Tools to use when you’re creating things of the animated nature!

Defining your brand. Brand & Experience Pillars, Voice & Tone, building animation guidelines. Documenting your decisions, durations, easing values and a host of other tidbits in the animation design and documentation process that really gave me ideas for the redesign of the company site I work for. Thanks for the time to chat with you Val!

Rachel Andrew and Jen Simmons followed. What they both spoke about, the CSS grid layout, was the meat and potatoes of what I went to the conference for.

Rachel spoke about the browser history briefly, how Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera all adopted the CSS Grid support in their respective browsers. IE had yet to support it fully.

Rachel spoke about the Grid layout and showed some code examples, a great example was a magazine layout she “build” (sort of) in front of all us attendees.

Rachel also touched on Media Objects, auto as flex-basis, minmax(), and Feature Queries to name a few. An eye-opening look into what I had been questioning myself for since I was hired at ART. Incredible keynote that was.

Jen followed touching on the web when it first came out to the public, table-based layouts, and the evolution up to all the different sized mobile devices used these days.

Grid systems, frameworks, all the different tools we see to help us build magazine style-layouts and column framework systems. Then unleashing the best thing I heard yet that day… CSS Grid also uses ROWS as well as columns!

Needless to say… things happened in my head…

Mind Blown

She went into a little about CSS Grid layouts (which I will get to soon. If you have read this far… you’re a trooper) but the meat and potatoes of this was in the third day, A Day Apart. Touched on tracks not having to be the same size, content sized by the size of a track, tracks sized by the content, the viewport, storyboards, overlap, framing, white space, verticality, flexibility and creativity.

Eric Meyer stepped up and spoke about “Design for Real Life”.

“When you design for interaction, you’re creating abstract rules to take unknown content and organize it in an unknown medium for presentation to unknown people who have largely unknown personal contexts.”

The example Eric used, was Facebook. Facebook and their “On This Day” to be exact. Now, this is an extremely touchy subject, and if I overstep my bounds, I would like to know immediately, as I will try and re-word things to the best of my ability (I’ll also follow-up the entire wrap-up with a brief “If you need to correct me, please do so”).

Back to the Facebook, “On This Day”… Eric lost his daughter in 2014, Facebook decided a few days after her passing, to throw up a “On This Day, Eric…” modal box/window a picture along with the dancing people in the background, of his recently deceased daughter.

Horrible.

It brought me back to when I remember reading his book (1st Ed.) CSS: The Definitive Guide, following him closely as I could in the CSS Working Group and wherever I could as he was (and still is) one of the most influential people in my life that brought me to my career path.

I remember when I read the In Memoriam page, wanting to say something, not sure if he would read it, not sure if there was anything I could say that hadn’t been said already.

I follow him because of the work he does in the field that I love. I was fortunate to be able to sit with Eric during lunches and the last day for a bit. Though not a huge talker, not wanting to interrupt anyone, not wanting to feel like a nuisance.

The first time I saw, met, and heard Eric was in Boston in 2008. It was like catching up with a friend. I enjoyed the time he gave me, and appreciated it. Through his rough time, I saw a man who kept going in his professional life. This led me to not give up, this led me to keep fighting the fight daily. His strength during one of the worst times a parent could ever live through made me realize my small, luxury problems were just that, insignificant and petty. Eric is a power of example to me.

Anyway, the other examples were of Pokemon Go. When people were walking in front of cars, on private property, crossing the border into Canada… warning modals stating that users need to be careful and stay alert when playing the game.

Instances where A tweet by Juliana Hatfield with a track on it was flagged by Twitter for having her track in it, the “Cheatin’uh?” error that was (and still is?) on WordPress and had a seven (yes, SEVEN) year support thread going.

Jason Grigsby then came on and spoke on “The Case for Progressive Web Apps”. Some of his points he touched on were the case between mobile web versus native apps, what is a PWA?, and much more.

Not every customer or potential customer will install your native app, how people just stop using apps after a day, a week, or a month. You should provide a secure site or app for your web customers. Providing a fast experience for your users just to name a few.

So if my company decides to roll out an app (which is highly doubtful at this time) then I have this to fall back on and use. “Not all users will add your web app to their home screen”. Our dependence on a mobile app is probably nil, but we do have a web app accessible through a browser.

I take this info and store it so I can access it and at some point, there may be a mobile app of some sort?

To wrap the second day up, Josh Clark, who in my opinion, gave me a lot to think about, which is okay. I could use the challenge!

Josh touched upon machine learning, pattern processing, personal data, image recognition, language and speech recognition. Artificial Intelligence (AI). Some of which made me think, especially the fact that if you type something to post on Facebook, that for instance, may be angry, and erase it because you don’t want people to think you’re going to go out on a murder spree… Facebook retains that data and you don’t even know it!

I was taken back by that little revelation.

Alexa ordering dollhouses when people that watched a newscast and had their Amazon Echo on, when the newscaster said, “Alexa, order me a dollhouse”.

The invasive Burger King ad that triggered Google Home devices and a parrot that placed an order on an Amazon Echo because the Echo cannot tell if it is a parrot or human talking.

Google’s “Featured” snippets. Josh touched on accuracy over speed, allow for ambiguity, adding human judgment, embracing multiple systems, make it easy to contribute data, and some other topics.

Some shocking examples. I don’t remember the gentlman’s name, but he is of Asian heritage, and his photo did not meet the criteria of a site because it stated… “Subject eyes are closed”.

Google tagging blacks as “Gorillas”, Microsoft’s failed “Tay” who went from excitable teen to white supremacist in 0.4 seconds.

Or possibly the worst case of machine bias was this.

The keynote from Josh was incredibly eye-opening and valuable as I look at data differently now. Carefully thinking of how we, at my work, present our data. He ended Day Two in stellar fashion.

Day Three. Jen Simmons. CSS Grid layouts. Five or so hours of going over layouts, writing modes, alignment, logical properties and a little Flexbox. Mostly though it was an introduction to the CSS Grid layout. Nothing really in-depth, because in the words of Eric Meyer, whom which I was seated next to this day, “It would take three days to go through everything.”

A phenomenal(yes, again) and fantastic glimpse into the CSS Grid layout. With examples and questions from the audience, and a quote that I really liked, from another person I had met in 2008 at the same event, Bruce Lawson, she put up on a slide to make a point about writing modes;

“It’s the World Wide Web, not the Wealthy Western Web. — Bruce Lawson”

Funny story related to that encounter but that’s for another day.

Overall, I recommend this event to everyone in the creative field. A must-go, a must-attend.

Lastly. I arrived in Boston looking forward to seeing Jeffrey Zeldman again, and did so. Like with Eric Meyer, it felt like I was catching up with a friend. Jeffrey is one of the two (again, along with Eric) that shaped the way I thought about the web and helped me stay the course.

He was gracious in allowing me to hang around and during a break, we spoke in great length with Claudia Snell and we spoke of things we had in common. It was nice not to feel alone in this crazy world, that there were others that have had similar issues and have walked through hell and kept on walking.

For that, I am very grateful. I was probably (again) like a groupie or roadie hanging around backstage at a concert. AEA was my concert. I enjoy connecting with people in this field, I enjoy talking to and following the people that speak. I try not to intrude too deeply, keep a distance as to not seem like I’m some character like Jim Carrey’s character Chip Douglas in The Cable Guy.

Simply put, I felt like I was in a room filled with people I follow and enjoy reading their books, speaking to, corresponding with and following online to see how they are professionally doing, and in real life. Many don’t know me, but they work they do, has helped me, helped shape me, and helped me be the professional I am today.

Even going back to 2008 when I met Jeff Veen, Doug Bowman, Jason Santa Maria, Andy Budd, and listened to the keynotes from Kimberly Blessing, Peter-Paul Koch, Ethan Marcotte, Jared Spool, Christopher Fahey, and Luke Wroblewski to the folks I met that I named previously. I can’t even begin to describe the gratitude that I have still, and now, for what they have done to help me in my career.

Even the folks at other AEA events that I did not see but always said, “I’ll be down next year!” to which I never was. People like Jeremy Keith, Andy Clarke, Dan Cederholm, Mark Boulton, Karen McGrane, Lea Verou, Mike Monteiro, Sarah Parmenter, Kristina Halvorson, Paul Irish, Jon Hicks, and Cameron Moll.

In 2008, I took back information and used it to do the job I was hired to do then. 2017, I intend to do the same with the plethora of information I brought home with me. It took me 9 years and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get back to where I am today and get back to see these professionals speak. It was well worth it.

If you are a speaker that I have misquoted, or misconstrued the information somehow, please feel free to drop me a line or comment, to make a correction. I appreciate your time, thank you, and want to convey the information correctly to anyone interested in reading this novel.

and with that, I finally end this post. My apologies to all if you suffered through this, and thank you for reading this if you got this far.

Loading Likes...

An Event Apart, Tuesday Edition

The end of Day Two brings a lot of excitement and anticipation. Lots of great information, great talks.

Val Head, Rachel Andrew, Jen Simmons kicked off the first half of the day with fantastic keynotes. Eric Meyer, Jason Grigsby, and Josh Clark capped off the second half of the day with their phenomenal keynotes.

I got to eat lunch with Eric Meyer, while sitting with and having great chats with Jeffrey Zeldman. It was a day that is beyond words. It has felt like I have been catching up with old friends. It has been quite some time since I had been to AEA.

Tomorrow, sadly, is the last day. Jen Simmons wraps it all up with her workshop on Designing Layouts: The New Superpowers of CSS. I look forward to digging in.

I did this morning get to chat briefly at breakfast this time with Chris Coyier. His SVG keynote was stellar and has me chomping at the bit to get back and integrate SVG into the redesign of the company site.

I have taken a lot of information from every speaker that has spoken and can use something from each keynote and apply it to the redesign of the website or even the UI for the web application.

Thursday I will have more, and an in-depth wrap-up. That is all for now.

Loading Likes...

Busy, Volume II

So I have just gotten around to posting an update. With basketball (the high school season) thankfully over, we move on to the AAU travel season which officially starts next week. The boy starts this year with new team that plays ball in A division tournaments and gets prep/college scouts looking at them, so maybe he has a chance to be noticed. How he does is on him.

The break in-between was much needed, but there will still be plenty of traveling to do. I managed to get the Wikipedia project for FreeCodeCamp done, you can view the CodePen “pen” here, or you can also view it over on my site right here.

I, on the other hand, are trying to relax and rest before a 3 month long tour of New England and basketball tournaments. I’ve been filling the time with my keeping up over at Code School, work at my full time place of employment, parenting, and other things/people that matter.

I’ve been doing some courses over at Udemy and Coursera, Saylor, I have been immersed in learning, downloaded some great eBooks on programming, and just trying to save up for a nice vacation this summer.

Look for my next post, whenever that might be, on Building A TwitchTV Viewer from FreeCodeCamp.

Loading Likes...

Show the Local Weather

So here we are, it’s after the Christmas holiday, before the New Year, and that cannot come quickly enough if you’re a celebrity or high profile figure.

With this project, I looked around at other examples. I usually do. I find inspiration in bits and pieces of other projects. Whether it is design, code, layout, fonts… with this zipline, I wanted to make sure all the guidelines and objectives were met.

I wanted the background to change with the weather also. So I found some great background images on Unsplash. Then I made sure the code ran on my pen at Codepen and then uploaded it to my site for another backup to have.

I couldn’t get the backgrounds to work, and usually with me, when something does not work, the solution is a rather elementary, easy one that I should have known, but overlooked. This one was referencing the image URL in the JavaScript… yes, I have my moments a lot.

I’m using Unsplash more and more and find it a great resource for images that are free and high quality. So with that, I’ll retire for the evening and be back next time with the Wikipedia zipline, which was a challenge in itself. See you next time.

Loading Likes...

Build a Random Quote Machine

So this project was the next in line. With a little bit of an odd layout, I used some basic JavaScript and just ran with it.

There is a slight issue with a real quick flash of a quote, then another when the button is pressed. Once the holidays are over, I plan to take a look. Possibly even change the entire JavaScript file.

I also threw it up on my site here.

Merry Christmas to all, Happy New Year, loking forward to 2016 dying and 2017 being born. Cheers!

Loading Likes...

Code School Curve Ball

Been pondering over a bit of code of late that has me a little boggled as to why it is not working 100% and yet the project passed. The badges are not appearing and they don’t on the Code School GitHub page either. I do need to take some time off away from the computer, keyboard, laptop, MacBook, internet this weekend though.

Now usually you would use the user ID, but using the username was suggested. Neither work. I’m at a loss.


EDIT: As of right now, everything seems to be working both on the ID and username front, so all is kosher.

Loading Likes...

Angular 2

I’m really looking to dive in, looking for good online content to start from the ground up. I’ve found plenty of content to read and pour over, but precisely where to begin, to develop an application I am in the concept phase of, seems a little daunting. Perhaps I need a mentor.

I know if I implement Angular 2 and some other technologies behind the app I have in mind for development, it could be huge for the people I have in mind. I guess more hunting around for tutorials, reading, etc. is in order.

I want to be able to fully grasp Angular 2 and take it, run with it, and develop with it. Those are my final goals in this phase of my life. I am pretty certain that this could land me some opportunities outside of what I already do and go from there.

Loading Likes...

JavaScript Defer & My Ignorance

In my programming travels, I have never seen this before until now…

The W3C states;

When set, this boolean attribute provides a hint to the user agent that the script is not going to generate any document content (e.g., no “document.write” in javascript) and thus, the user agent can continue parsing and rendering. https://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/interact/scripts.html#adef-defer

It’s pretty fun learning something new every day.

Loading Likes...

Oddities

I reflected a little bit today on the 45 year journey I have taken and where I am now. Ups and downs, highs and lows. Oddities of life as they came my way. Battling alcohol and drugs, depression, and divorce.

There have been a lot of people that have come and gone in my life, professionally and personally. There are many people that professionally, I could have done a better job, moments of reflection make me think of those situations.

All it boils down to is doing the next right thing and being a better human being. For the last six months, things couldn’t be any better. I have everything I need. If I had everything I wanted, I know I wouldn’t be happy. Things happen for a reason.

Professionally, I have an amazing job that affords me the luxury of being so family friendly and flexible it boggles my mind. I’m not trapped into thinking if I need time off, I am petrified to ask because I am afraid I may be fired.

Personally, I haven’t felt this way ever. Happy. At peace. Content. Sure, life has its moments, tonight was one of those nights where what I have learned in the last three years of my sobriety, I don’t have to react, or overreact. I can just be the best father, son, friend and colleague I can be.

I have pretty much given up the dream of working in a professional development firm doing what I love to do. Make things happen on the web. I live in the day and only have the 24 hours I am afforded this day.

It’s these “oddities” that make me grateful to be where I am today. I call them oddities because I have never had it this good. I hope if you’re reading this, the same can be said for you.

Loading Likes...