Tag: programming

Be Social, Be Real

Courtesy HootSuite
I’m trying out HootSuite. These owls look like social creatures.

I’ve always been more comfortable with on-line conversations than real ones.

it might be because, for most online conversations one-on-one with people, I’m a known quantity. People know what to expect with me, and for the most part they like what they expect. There’s a reduced amount of anxiety involved. I’m less concerned about embarassing myself with somebody I know than with a stranger, especiall a stranger I’d like to impress for one reason or another. I guess we can chalk that up under the heading “massive nerd” in my personality dossier.

The meteoric rise of social media in all its myriad and ever-evolving forms has been a bit of a boon for people like me. It is easier than ever to put yourself and what you do out in front of an objective and potentially interested audience, where the true tests of your work’s quality lie. For writers, the process of rejection and resubmission was the only real way to test their work for a very long time. It’s still viable and I’m not going to discount how important it is to pitch as often as possible, but at the same time, you can start a blog, tweet your posts and get feedback for no investment other than time. And if your writing improves, it’s time well spent.

So it is with other creative professions, especially if they have anything to do with the Internet. Online designers and interactive developers need to discover and leverage the power of social media, if they haven’t already. Freelancers can drum up work and established employees can cultivate business contacts and fellow online pioneers with the power of these tools. You might be surprised, but the feeds and tweets from those who might seem to be impersonal or even automated can lead to new, exciting places if you pay close attention to what’s being said in which directions.

Don’t misunderstand, spam on Twitter or any other social media feed can be just as irritating as it is in your inbox. However, a Twitter bot or news feed from a company can be just as promising as a lead from a friend. Be it from a living, breathing person or a generated bit of data, turning an interesting bit of data into the next big thing takes the right timing, the right skill set, the right environment and the right need. Most of all, though, it takes you being there to take advantage of it.

So it is with the real world. You never know when the next big thing is waiting for you in your immediate future unless you put yourself out there with an open mind to process what your eyes are seeing and your ears are seeing. I would not have a manuscript under review by two fantastic ladies in the publishing industry if I hadn’t put myself out there. Getting that great job means showing up in person – not just for the interview but every day after. Don’t just heat up the seat your in, heat up the whole environment. That’s when you make your mark. That’s when you become invaluable, and invaluable is what you want to be if you want more than just a job to fill the hours and occasionally pay you some money.

It plays back into itself, as well. When you begin to inhabit a position, it pays to branch out from there. Both in social media and in person, if you know it or not, you’re putting a face on the people for whom you work. In some circumstances, you might be working for yourself, which is cool. People like to know who’s sending them hot new items in person instead of just reading text off of a screen. And if you’re employed by another, your personality, geniality and willingness to step out and be seen & heard speaks to the trust, passion and drive of the people behind you. This isn’t to say that every interaction with someone else in the industry you work in will reflect one way or another on your employers, but it is something to keep in mind when you approach the reception table, pin a name tag to your shirt and start shaking hands. Those people you exchange pleasantries with tonight may be people you tweet with in the days and weeks to come. And from those interactions, you may yeild more business. Conversion is conversion, no matter how it happens.

Creative folks sometimes fancy themselves mavericks, loners, those wild people on the fringes of society with a glimmer in their eye and gin on their breath. But when you get right down to it, if you want to make a living doing what you love you have to take what you love to the people who’ll love it and pay you to make more. That means bathing, brushing your teeth, shaking hands and becoming engaged in social activity. Social media has made it easier to do this, and expanded the possibilities far beyond what could have been considered just a few years ago. But it’s still essential for there to be a person behind the feeds. When one of them grows from a simple tweet or comment to the next step on the road between where you are and where you want to be, it’s going to require facetime. As much as social media has given us so many more ways to get to that next step, it’s not enough to just be social. You need to be social and be real.

Behold, the Webfolio!

Web Alchemy

It’s been a busy week for me, and it’s far from over. My mind’s practically on fire with everything coming at me, and I knew there was something necessary to start tying things together, to fully utilize that fire in a productive way. I needed a single location to feature my work, easy to locate and quick to load, to which I can point those interested in seeing exactly what I bring to the table in terms of programming skill and web-based creativity.

Hence, the webfolio!

Featuring projects past and present, I mean to provide little snapshots of my adeptness at programming, my willingness to work on a team and my propensity for trying new things. I’ll be updating this as my experience grows, but for now it features four of my best sites to date.

Waterfall Jewelers, featuring what may be my programmatic pride and joy to date: a Flash-based Pandora build-a-bracelet app;

Ellipsis Enterprises, an agile little brochure site;

Specialty Ring Inc., a site featuring JQuery drop-down navigation and real-time AJAX form authentication;

and GoreCon Inc., a brochure site including a WordPress blog skinned to reflect the shiny design.

More to come, as my skills and opportunities continue to grow!

Programming Mission Statement

Courtesy Leslie Town Photography

The creative mind is like a thoroughbred horse – it requires a firm but flexible grip, one that does not allow the beast to run wild, but also one that permits some leeway, lest the creature rail against its control and fight to be free. Just the right balance of control and detachment puts new ideas on the path to greatness. You know what you want, but permitting your trajectory to follow its own course allows for growth, stays agile in the face of inevitable setbacks and lends a sense of adventure to the overall process.

code

They’ve called it “the information superhighway.” If you want to travel on it, you’ll need a good vehicle. ‘Good’ is a subjective term – maybe you want something you don’t have to worry about, or perhaps you’re looking for a high-precision machine stuffed with power and bursting with cool gizmos. Either way, you need someone who understands both the beating heart of an Internet vehicle and how the paint’s going to look to visitors after everything is said and done.

That’s where I come in.

Web Alchemy

I take the ideas that float around the subconscious mind and make them manifest. I find new ways to get things working. I get my hands dirty. It’s messy and magical all at once. I turn dreams into gold – one jot & scribble, one line of code at a time.

Raison d’être

Red Pen

You see it happening more often than not. People in a situation that isn’t working as intended or isn’t yeilding the results they need or anticipated try repeating the same behavior of failure instead of doing something new. They attempt to capitalize on repetition rather than initiating change. Albert Einstein (reportedly) calls it the definition of insanity, and Gordon Ramsay has admonished more than one flagging resturaunteur to “change, or die.”

There are a plethora of reasons why people don’t change. Some are convinced that the failures are flukes and the forumla that’s produced the failures will yeild success sooner or later. I guess they’re right, but as they say a broken clock is right twice a day. Others grow complacent or even lazy, and when something they’re doing fails, they either scramble to restore the status quo or shrug their shoulders and let circumstances fall back into place whichever way the world around them dictates.

It’s an attitude I can no longer tolerate within myself.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s a result of Seth Godin’s excellent Poke the Box. Maybe I’ve seen too many friends succeed where I struggle to ignore the signals. And maybe I’ve been ignoring an essential truth about myself that’s gone unexplored for too long.

You see, I would never define myself as a programmer first and foremost.

It’s not that I consider myself bad at it. I’m not great, but I can get the job done while being easy to work with and puzzling my way through the problems that arise. The value I add to projects on which I work goes beyond my somewhat rarified knowledge of ActionScript and might have more to do with the way I work with people. The person down the row of cubes from you might be great at their job, but if they’re a pain in the ass to deal with you won’t take them work if you can help it. It’s the way we are.

However, it’s only ever been a job for me, never a career. Programming just pays the bills. It’s a rare morning when I wake up thinking of code and functions instead of distant worlds, fictional lives, even blog posts like this one. Excellent eloquence and deftness of syntax are things I’m far more passionate about than any of the programmatic challenges I’ve faced before or will face in the future. And bringing an attitude like that into a workplace where everybody around me does wrestle with code in their sleep, puts their passion on the table and made it their purpose cheapens things for them and makes me feel false, like an outsider looking in. It’s a world I understand, can relate to and appreciate, but it isn’t my world. And I need to face the fact it never has been.

We only have a few short years in this life, and I’ve spent too many going down a blind alley chasing a dead end.

I became convinced, by good people with good intensions, that writing would never pay enough. That I couldn’t make a career of it, that I needed to pursue something else. And I believed it. Instead of sticking to my guns, I hung up my spurs and took up a shovel. I’ve tried to get the spurs back on a few times, but every time I do at least one person with whom I work on a daily basis on this or that job looks at me funny. Why the hell would you wear spurs into a coal mine? It makes no sense, it’s silly is what it is, take them off or find yourself another mine.

And I did. Mine after mine, job after job, one after another for this reason or that circumstance. It isn’t working. When things are this cyclical, this consistently fraught with failure, one can react to it by struggling to maintain the status quo as quickly as possible, or examine the circumstances of the various failures and find a way to end them. If I’m to have any hope of accomplishing in my lifetime what I’ve wanted to accomplish since I was seven years old, when I wrote my first short story in my gifted education class (it was crap, but it was my first), I can no longer in good conscience treat my desire and acumen for the written word as just another hobby. I need to make more time for it, and that means being proactive in my pursuit.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared by the idea. My lizard brain would rather I fall back into old patterns, maintain the status quo, lower my expectations. For once, I’m disinclined to listen to it. It might be the safer, more responsible thing to do, and I acknowledge the possibility of yet another failure exists, but I can’t shake the feeling that it is long, long past time for me to try something different.

Being where I am now has everything to do with myself. As much as I’ve been given advice from others, it was me that listened, me that bought into certain ideas, me that interpreted signs and portents. I don’t blame my failures on anybody but myself. It’s because of me I went down those blind alleys, and it falls to me to get myself out again.

It isn’t enough simply to be. A reason to be is essential. It’s what changes mere existence to really living. I’ve taken hard roads to get where I am, and I’ve stumbled along the way. I’ve crashed and burned, broken promises, engendered disappointment and shattered hearts. Every mistake has taught me something and I’ve had to find ways to keep moving forward in the bloody aftermath. I’ve come too far to quit now, and I honestly feel I’m closer to being where I truly want to be now than I ever have been before. Listening to the lizard brain, giving into the fear of the unknown and the cold comfort of the status quo, feels more like a step backward. And if I step backward, I can’t move forward.

In other words, as Sun-Tzu put it, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”

Yet another way:

Excellence isn’t about working extra hard to do what you’re told. It’s about taking the initiative to do work you decide is worth doing.

Smart guy, that Seth.

Programmatic Mission Statement

code

My career path has been, to say the least, an odd one. I knew that published fiction was a tough field to enter, and that attempting to make a living from it directly out of university would be difficult, if not impossible. That knowledge, coupled with a challenge issued by a flatmate, pushed me in the direction of honing my nascent skills with computers into usable and marketable skills.

Things didn’t go so well in that regard. I worked for a few years in customer service, specifically tech support for a company in the wilds of Pittsburgh. I managed to squeeze in some freelance web work here and there, but never really found the time to truly develop my programming skills. A renewed search for the expansion of my knowledge and marketability lead me to a course in King of Prussia for Microsoft certifications.

It turns out the network administration environment and I don’t get along. There’s a great deal of stress and immediacy, no margin for error and no room for creativity. I struggled with the job daily until I lost it. Finally, after months of searching, I found my first true programming job. I’ve moved from there to another position and it’s come time to define what I want out of this particular branch of my working life. The more I work with PHP, the more I develop object-oriented solutions in Flash, the more I realize I need to be specific about my idea of a good career if I want to be happy to hop in a car or on a train to head to the office.

Don’t get me wrong. I consider myself a writer first and foremost. It’s the creation of new worlds, putting interesting characters into those worlds and setting events in motion that affect those characters that gets me up in the morning and makes me feel alive. Programming, however, is something of an extension of that. To that end, here’s something I’d like to call a ‘programmatic mission statement.’

Courtesy Leslie Town Photography

The creative mind is like a thoroughbred horse – it requires a firm but flexible grip, one that does not allow the beast to run wild, but also one that permits some leeway, lest the creature rail against its control and fight to be free. Just the right balance of control and detachment puts new ideas on the path to greatness. You know what you want, but permitting your trajectory to follow its own course allows for growth, stays agile in the face of inevitable setbacks and lends a sense of adventure to the overall process.

They’ve called it “the information superhighway.” If you want to travel on it, you’ll need a good vehicle. ‘Good’ is a subjective term – maybe you want something you don’t have to worry about, or perhaps you’re looking for a high-precision machine stuffed with power and bursting with cool gizmos. Either way, you need someone who understands both the beating heart of an Internet vehicle and how the paint’s going to look to visitors after everything is said and done.

That’s where I come in.

I take the ideas that float around the subconscious mind and make them manifest. I find new ways to get things working. I get my hands dirty. It’s messy and magical all at once. I turn dreams into gold – one jot & scribble, one line of code at a time.

I think that makes things pretty clear. It’s a shame it took me the better part of a decade to finally put this notion together. I’ll still be pitching to the Escapist, working on stories and columns and chipping away at the latest iteration of my first novel. But in the meantime, I have bills to pay and mouths to feed and, unfortunately, I haven’t quite earned the writing stripes to leave the day job behind. Until I do, I’d still rather do something I enjoy than flip burgers or stand on a street corner.

© 2019 Blue Ink Alchemy

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑