I will learn to code

When I was in highschool, I read Microserfs by Douglas Coupland, one of my all-time favourite authors. I used it in my big English project in either grade 12 or my OAC year. (Aside: remember when you thought you’d never forget the details of your highschool existence? Well, you totally do.) I don’t remember the whole point of the project, but I remember that one of the points I was trying to make was that Internet-speak (short forms, emoticons and LOLspeak) was going to dumb down communication and make us all terrible spellers. Keep in mind that this was circa 1996-1997.

Maybe I should have gotten into futurism as a career. At least I can still spell.

The description of Microserfs from Douglas Coupland’s website is this (emphasis mine):

Microserfs first appeared in short story form as the cover article for the January 1994 issue of Wired magazine and was subsequently expanded to full novel length. Set in the early 1990s, it captures the state of the technology industry before Windows 95, and predicts the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s.

The novel is presented in the form of diary entries maintained on a PowerBook by the narrator, Daniel. Because of this, as well as its formatting and usage of emoticons, this novel is similar to what emerged a decade later as the blog format.

When I was in highschool. I could have taken a basic intro to computer programming course. I think it covered Pascal and Fortran, but I’d have to confirm that with Sean who did take the course. I thought programming would be too hard so I didn’t take it. I took a word processing course instead (WordPerfect in DOS! Don’t miss that!). That course – along with my journalism class that wrote and designed the school newspaper and yearbook for that year – put me on a path to my eventual career in graphic design and document layout. But now I’m kicking myself for not taking the programming course too.

That last paragraph makes me feel like such a feminine cliché. Remind me to tell Flora not to underestimate herself when she is a teenager. I could blame the general slacker culture of the 1990s for my own hesitance, but ultimately, I know I was lazy. I could have done better in school and tried harder. I just didn’t want to.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for Codecademy, a site that teaches basic coding skills for the web, and in various programming languages. I’ve been working  through the Web Fundamentals track because my HTML skills are woefully out of date. I took my first HTML course on a Saturday afternoon in 1999 back in college. I learned the basics and ran with them. I created several shitty websites. Including the one that got me an interview for my first job as I had posted my resume on it. With my full mailing address. How naive was I?

Today I saw this video from Code.org. It’s less than ten minutes so you should watch it.

I’m not so sure of what I think about little kids learning to code (they get so much screen time as it is), but now I’m finally diving in. I’m desperate to create something I’m proud of. Learning to code adds another tool to my arsenal.

Learning to code is teaching me patience and perserverance. Those are skills I need away from the computer. Being able to create something is almost a bonus.

New design for hellomelissa.net

I did a little redecorating around here this weekend. (If you’re reading via an RSS reader, click over and have a peek.)

This redesign is actually a bit of a big deal. I actually purchased a theme and modified the CSS myself to make it look more like me. I learned the basics of CSS years ago, but my skills got rusty as websites got more automated. I’ve been taking lessons at Codecademy to catch up to how things are done today, and it’s coming back to me bit by bit.

(I designed the new logo and background too, but I usually do that so that’s not really news.)

For me, blogging is writing, design, and technical skills coming together to create something interesting and usable. Since I’m a hobbyist, anything I pay for comes out of my pocket. I don’t have the money to hire a pro to do it right the first time.

I’m doing this for love people. Like a sucker.

I’ve learned a lot about patience and have built my skill set by doing my own website for the last 13 years*.  To be clear: I’m not a pro developer at all. To say otherwise would insult so many talented craftspeople and I don’t want to do that. I’m a print designer by trade so I understand the importance of making content visually appealing. I’m always surprised at how much easier it is to create websites that look like real websites – not the Geocities-style stuff of the late 90s and early 2000s I produced. It’s honestly getting easier and easier in a lot of ways. It’s more complicated in other ways, but I love learning how to uncomplicate it.

I got this site completely redone in less than 24 hours. I did a lot of other things in those 24 hours too – I wasn’t completely glued to the computer. It’s the fastest revamp I’ve had in years, if ever. The future really is amazing.

* There was a period between 2007-2009 where I was on a web service that provided pre-made templates that didn’t allow for much deviation. Whenever a customization feature was introduced, I always tried it out. I discovered I liked having more control over the output.

A note from management: RSS feed address has changed

Do you read hellomelissa.net using a feedreader? I’ve recently changed the address of my RSS feed so you will need to resubscribe if you want to continue getting posts from me.

You can click on the RSS icon in my sidebar, or copy http://hellomelissa.net/feed/ into the subscribe field of your feed reader of choice.

You can still read this blog by coming directly to the site or by visiting links from either my personal Facebook feed (hi family and friends!) or the hellomelissa.net Facebook page. You can also subscribe to get an email every time this site updates using the subscribe option in the sidebar.

Isn’t it neat that there are so many ways to get great content from many sites automatically? I love the efficiency of the web.

Some backstory. Like many other bloggers, I previously used Feedburner to manage my RSS feed. Service has been shaky and rumors of its demise have been rampant. (See these posts by Schmutzie and Cecily for more context.) I’ve opted to stay with WordPress’ built-in RSS feed rather than move to a paid service for now. If I decide I want more data about my feed (everyone loves stats right?), I may move it again, but for now, this is where it’s staying.

Obligatory Anniversary Post

April 1 2011 is the 11th anniversary of my first public blog post. I’m not linking it, but you’re welcome to dig through my archives and find it.

I posted much more frequently back then, but many of those posts were only a couple of sentences long. Some were only tweet-length. Many things probably shouldn’t have been posted, but the site certainly makes for an interesting time capsule of my 20s, and now my 30s. (I was 21 when I started blogging. I turn 33 in August, if you were wondering.)

My blog has seen me through a lot of major milestones:

  • My first major job (I’d been working there for nearly a year by the time I’d started but I was still pretty green, especially when you see some of the things I was willing to say. Nothing truly trashy, but I was sure open to admitting that I was writing instead of working. I was meeting my deadlines and targets, but I still want to pat my 21-22 year-old self on the head and say “shut up Melissa!”
  • My move into Toronto (I really don’t miss that Oshawa > Toronto work commute)
  • Getting engaged, buying a house and getting married within 13 months.
  • Pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood
  • And all the little milestones in-between that don’t make all the sappy banking or life insurance commercials but are still important

Just for kicks, here are some links to how my site has looked over the years using the Wayback Machine (which is pretty neat in itself). Dates indicate when the site was crawled.

I learned a lot about web design during the early days of my site. I used to hand code the layout and Blogger took care of the rest. Then I started using Blogger’s built-in themes with some customization. When I moved to Vox.com, I relied on pre-built themes which were super-easy to change. I do that now with WordPress as well. I love that I can concentrate less on the structure and more on the content.

I enjoy blogging because I like having a place I can write and say what I want. This place can be a journal, a soapbox, a place for general information, or whatever I want. I have complete creative control. And that feeling is awesome. Reading, and eventually meeting great people due to blogging is such an amazing bonus. I blog for me first, but I’ve learned from so many people over the years and I am grateful for each and every one of you.

If you’re a blogger, did you expect to get hooked? What sucked you in?

Driven to Distraction

Flora and I had the following conversation this morning while she ate her breakfast:

<Sean’s Blackberry vibrates on the table>

Flora: “That’s Daddy’s Blueberry.” (We’ve told her it’s a Blackberry, but we giggle every time she says Blueberry so it’s starting to stick.)

Me: “I know. It’s noisy isn’t it?”

Flora: “I don’t like it.”

Me: “I don’t either. I don’t think Daddy likes it sometimes, but it helps him get his work done.”

Flora: “Where’s my Blueberry?”

Me: “You don’t have one. You don’t need it. What do you use to get your work done?”

Flora: “Umm…my toys.”

Me: “That’s exactly what you need to get your work done.”

At that moment, I think Flora didn’t like the Blackberry because of the noise. But later that morning, when Sean was scanning his messages before we left for work and daycare, Flora was trying to get his attention and he took a beat too long to answer her. To be clear, he did answer her properly and not in a distracted way, but he finished what he was doing first before he responded. She didn’t protest the Blackberry or its usage then, but watching that exchange and our earlier conversation got me thinking.

I don’t think Sean did anything wrong. In fact I think he taught Flora something. He taught her that people like to finish one task before they move to another. Then, once he was finished, he could concentrate on her question fully, rather than give her a quick answer that would allow him to return to his original task, distracted by the interruption. As we all know, neither task is usually done well when that happens. At two and a half, Flora may be a little young to understand that concept, but it’s never too early to start teaching her good manners.

I believe that although we use technology around our daughter, I don’t think Sean and I are any more distracted as parents than anyone else. Housework, cooking, reading or any other task/event that forces me not to concentrate on my child with laser-like focus is just as distracting as checking email on a Blackberry or reading tweets on an iPhone (or anything else you can do on a typical smartphone). As long as we can extract ourselves from any of those tasks when life calls for it (whether is to answer someone’s question, or to stop someone from colouring on the walls), I think we’ll all be just fine.

I also think this is where the Golden Rule comes into play. As a family, we all need to treat each other as we would like to be treated. Even our littlest ones that aren’t always at their most civilized. If Sean and I expect Flora to listen to us, she has every right to expect that out of us as well. If sometimes, one of us needs a moment to finish a thought, stir the sauce, hug the dolly or hit send on an email, that’s okay with me, as long as we can then focus on the interaction at hand.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by Melissa Price-Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.
%d bloggers like this: