Technology, Current Affairs, Entertainment, and Lowbrow Humor

The Future of Web Development at 88mph

The future of web development lies, as much as the current state of affairs in software development now resides, in speed. Pure, unbridled, speed.    It occurs to me that, in submitting a bid for a contract, an agency or studio says as much with when they’ll complete their project as with what they will do and for what price.

    “Clients are perfectly happy to pay more, if it means they can see results more quickly.”
With that in mind, the age of rapid prototyping, style pre-processors, DRY code, and Node.js is upon us!

 Here are a few things I will be implementing to streamline my workflow and deliver results more quickly: 

1. Responsive frameworks
2. Style tiles
3. Sass .scss sheets
4. jQuery
5. Node.js for more rapid server side scripting
6. *Bonus* – Habitually use Git and IDE’s  to ensure everything is backed up, up to date, and accessible to helping hands.

What are your thoughts?

Is web development better left to a slow and steady process of iteration? Prefer Compass or Less? Have any cool tools you’d recommend such as Tower or Beanstalk? What have your experiences been with these tools?

The Mission

I love rhetoric in all forms, from action figures doing battle, to finely tuned cinematic features, to paper puppets wielded by small children; I have participated, observed, and enjoyed it all.

Everything tells a story. Every piece of rhetoric moves in sequence with the symphony of communicative acts around it. The intrinsic nature of even seemingly inanimate objects can be deciphered if you tune in to the correct wavelength. This is why we are moved by brave little toasters, comforted by plush animals, and fascinated by toy stories.

Logo design, copy-writing, voice-work, cinematography- all add to the texture and variety of the story itself.

Branding is the most important part of any good company because it reveals its heart, identity, vision, and future. Even before products are devised or refined, branding describes the why before engineering approaches the question of how.

To engineer brands is then to engineer entire companies and craft the trajectory of entire organizations.

Design involves the sort of intentional experience engineering that great art, products, companies, and campaigns share. To design is to answer the high calling of optimization through refinement and simplicity.

I have fostered my love of communication in a myriad of ways. I have competed in debate tournaments, performed in improv comedy troupes, published photography, short-stories, poems, and blogs. I have directed films, acted in plays, taught in classrooms and from pulpits, I’ve devised product-strategies, musical set-lists, and organizational frameworks.

I cannot think of a thing I enjoy doing more than creating, and telling a story. I enjoy this process regardless of the medium. Every moment is itself a canvass from which great art may be wrought.

Whether through pipe-cleaners, white-boards, sound-clips, scraps of paper, spoken words, written narratives, carefully executed visual montages, or simple goofy glances from across a room – my intended purpose is to function as a communicator and creator. 

Why the Internet isn’t a Marketing Silver Bullet

Pulling the curtain on the Holy Grail of Online Marketing

bullet bill
The numbers surrounding modern social networks have been tantalizing for marketers and brand evangelists: Millions of initiated users opting into participation with leading brands and service providers on a daily basis using a discreet and powerful interface, allowing competition across the globe.  Facebook has nearly a billion users, and the rabid growth of twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and others has signaled, to some, a new era in communications, strategy, and commerce.

A bleak storm front on the horizon

Recently, though, trepidation has resulted from signs of a dark lining to the silver cloud. Following the Facebook IPO mismanagement, information surfaced that over four percent of their user base are duplicates or spam bots, and some prominent bloggers have reported that as much as 90% of their PPC traffic has resulted from spam bots, leading to considerable trepidation and doubt.
Although Social Networks may have once seemed like the next frontier for savvy marketers, it now seems that the traditional approach has been undervalued. In order to successfully leverage social media, networks must be approached using tried and true tactics for interaction and connection. Here are a few things you must know to successfully adapt in this new realm.

Keep your Viral Expectations Celestial

Everyone has fantasies of their latest blog post, tweet, or corporate promo video going “viral” and reaching a billion eye balls, but in reality, engagement is a more slow and plodding process, requiring diligence and perseverance.
Consider social media researcher Dr. Karen Nelson-Field’s analysis of recently released data put together by Facebook’s “People Talking About You” Feature.
When user-initiated activities on the top 200 brand pages on FB were analyzed, including posts, phototagging, liking content on the page, shares, check-ins and new fan likes, engagement percentage compared to user base was proven to hover at around 1.3 percent, and much of this activity was the addition of new likes. Nelson-Field points out that these engagement statistics are sobering in light of Facebook’s supposed promise to ensure engagement as an advantage over other avenues.

Plodding through the Slow and Steady Race

These statistics point out a few things. First, its important to maintain realistic projections and estimates of branding efforts using social networks, just as its important to track and refine these tactics in an ongoing basis. It also points out that it is tremendously important to grow your user base patiently and through prompt, respectful, valuable interaction. You wouldn’t make many sales if you greeted customers and never followed up or cultured leads, and although the painful 1 percent per week follower count growth rate for top brands means playing the long game, and forgetting any illusions of social media being a silver bullet, it still means social networks can pose a real benefit to companies if they stick with them and remain consistent.

Play the Field

Most users vacillate between a few favorite brands in any particular category, so its important to expect and accept this behavior. In order to promote loyalty, this means improving product offerings, customer service procedures, and organic interaction via social networks. Most people aren’t interested in interacting with their favorite brands, and they don’t find it particularly settling that large companies would use these digital user bases to overhear and predict consumer behavior (its certainly Orwellian) – but ultimately, to market successfully, you must understand these anxieties and adapt to them.

1. Be Consistent – Decide what your central brand message is, and stick to it. Aim for posting at the same time, every other day, about stuff that matters.
2. Post Infrequently – Every other day. Don’t overwhelm people, and make them regret liking your page or following you in the first place.
3. Apply Strategy to Content – Track your analytics, watch for trends, and replicate your successes. Pictures are more engaging than plain text, and headline writing is key to engagement. Be sparse with words.
4. Engage – You’re using Facebook to boost sales, but that doesn’t mean you need to overtly sell things. Focus on engagement, conversation, and true interaction. Build the relationship, the sales will come.

Back it up with Face-to-Face Communication

Ed Keller and Brad Fay, co-authors of The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace, report that, while social networks certainly have their place in the product marketing life cycle, 90% of conversation takes place off-line.

Sure, people are increasingly engaging with one another, the world is becoming more social, but this activity isn’t reserved to online avenues. Take this information in stride, stategize, take your time, and work to engage authentically, regardless of the medium.

 

7 Chunks of Wisdom for the Week of July 31

Outstanding Articles From Around the Web

spartan warrior

“Education cost money, but then so does ignorance.” -
  Claus Moser

Stagnation brings only death. In order to continually grow, learn, branch out, and conquer challenges, we must continually seek out new information and sharpen new skills.

If I learned one thing in school, it was the methodology behind integrating new information. As time goes on, my education becomes less a set knowledge base, and more a dynamic skill-set backed by experience and adaptability. That being said, here you will find a compilation of worthy articles and news stories on the topic of self-improvement, marketing, branding, sales, and general well-being.

1. Keys to Better Communications with Clients –   Smashing Magazine
Smashing Magazine is an outstanding resource for web professionals offering design advice, code insight, and graphic inspiration. I love their publication, site, and eBooks.
This article details how to improve the ever-daunting task of communicating with clients.

Why it’s important: Bad communication damages relationships, and relationships are the core of business.
http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/07/16/keys-better-client-communication/

2. Command a Room Like a Man – Brett and Kate McKay for The Art of Manliness
Granted, the title sounds a bit misogynistic if applied to the general population, within context the article makes a ton of sense. The Art of Manliness specifically targets a Men’s Health audience with notions of gentility, urging men to be gentlemen instead of brutish thugs.

Why it’s important: Entering a room, and conducting yourself in a self-possessed, confident manner can have lasting impacts on your relationships, business deals, and job opportunities. You send a message in how you conduct and carry yourself, so ensure that message is one of strength, reliability, and grace.

http://artofmanliness.com/2009/07/28/command-a-room-like-a-man/

3. Leadership Lessons from Dwight D. Eisenhower – Same Authors as Above
This article is part of a series detailing lessons rendered by one of the most accomplished leaders in history, our 34th President and Five Star General Dwight D. Eisenhower. I particularly love his impetus of action, in desiring to make every man responsible for his command regret his reassignment.

Why it’s important: Just as we must glean lessons from history in order to avoid their repetition, we must also tread where great men have pioneered in order to develop productive thought patterns, behaviors, and policies.

http://artofmanliness.com/2012/07/27/leadership-lessons-from-dwight-d-eisenhower-4-always-ready/

4. Five Questions that Will Help you Work Any Room – ALLISON GRAHAM Fast Company
I absolutely love Fast Company. They have a very tight, clean format, engaging content, and outstanding graphic and web designers. This piece by Allison Graham will instruct you to achieve common ground and make contacts anywhere, leading to fruitful discussions and relationships.

Why it’s important: Engaging in conversation is the only real way to make new friends, contacts, or spheres of influence and allows you to learn, grow, and impart real value through the way you make people feel.

http://www.fastcompany.com/1843752/hate-small-talk-these-5-questions-will-help-you-work-any-room

5. App Synergy: How to Write More Efficiently – LENNY LIANG  AppAdvice
Mobile devices are increasingly becoming viable alternatives to standard desktop work stations, and with their increased portability, extendability, and flexibility, it makes sense to leverage them for every industry and task.  If you’re going to use your mobile device to compose written work, you need to read this article.

Why it’s important: Apps are the prongs extending from the swiss-army knife that is the mobile device. It takes the right app to get the job done. The right methods can save time and effort while eliminating error.

http://appadvice.com/appnn/2012/07/app-synergy-how-to-write-more-efficiently

6. Why No One Will Watch Your Crappy Corporate Viral Video and How to Fix it – SCOTT STRATTEN Fast Company
Another gem from Fast Company. This is one of the most common requests and complains designer, marketing professionals, and videographers hear on a daily basis. “Viral” has become a well-taxed buzz word meant to remedy a number of ails, chiefly objective and reach. What people first must understand is that “viral” has a set definition, and in order for a piece of media to be considered “viral” – the strategy, practice, and outcomes must be handled in a prescribed manner.

Why it’s important: Organic traffic is the most valuable attribute of any successful internet marketing campaign. It is renewable, inexpensive, and can be leveraged upon far into the future. To maximize organic traffic requires quality content, skillful delivery, and strategic promotion.

http://www.fastcompany.com/1844017/why-no-one-will-watch-your-crappy-corporate-viral-video-and-how-to-fix-it

7. Get a Job: The Craigslist Experiment  – Eric K. Auld Lifehacker
This intriguing social experiment involves an artificial job post and the accompanying results and findings. I particularly like Eric’s circle graph stylings, and the results are important to be aware of for anyone utilizing CL for their job search.

Why it’s Important: In the words of Sun Tzu, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” While other job seekers aren’t necessarily your enemy, the terrain is certainly a huge factor in whether you will prevail. In this case, the terrain is the job market, and you must acquaint yourself with it.

http://lifehacker.com/5929987/

Rise of a Great Storyteller, End of a Great Story

Having now watched all three Christopher Nolan Batman Films in IMAX consecutively, I now feel a renewed appreciation for the tremendous talent the Nolan brothers possess, and I cannot wait to see what they do next.

dark knight rises
That being said, I feel very conflicted about the Dark Knight Rises itself. The film had very strong elements, and unlike some films, its ending is considerably stronger than its beginning. The actors all perform magnificently, all our worries about Anne Hathaway’s take on Salina Kyle have been alleviated, and the franchise we love has been gracefully put to rest.
However, the film does not compare well to its predecessors, something that would have been difficult if not impossible to accomplish in light of the astronomical expectations coming out of the masterfully done Dark Knight featuring one of the greatest performances in recent memory by the late Heath Ledger.

Overall, we will be satisfied with this conclusion, but here are 11 things that stung about the newly released Batman Film.

There are spoilers in this text.

Weak First Act

1. A Gotham We Do Not Know 

The narrative plops viewers down nearly a decade after the events of the previous film leaving us with an idealized and flat version of Gotham City – one that does not resonate with the audience due to its lack of similarity with the actual world. A major, once decaying city now completely free from crime? That’s a little far fetched. Further more, DKR does not strike the same realistic tone as the first films, venturing instead into presumption about what the future of both warfare, and our nation, will be.

2. A Batman We Do Not Recognize

Eight years is too long for Batman to disappear from the city he vows to protect. Even if he were recognized as a vigilante, that wouldn’t drastically alter his mission or identity being that he was, in essence, always a vigilante.
In making that amount of time go by, he ages, decays, and loses ability, which erodes our confidence in Batman, making him the underdog. It also forces him to resurface in a world so dissimilar from our own that it’s jarring – suddenly technology is far beyond our own, and Gotham is a pristine utopia populated by soft-minded idealists. It’s not a Gotham we recognize, and Batman is not the same hero we’ve come to love in the previous films.
Compound this with the fact that the film essentially becomes about Levitt’s character midway through, and we’re left adrift.

3. A World Gone Soft

The police are absolutely inept at the beginning of Dark Knight Rises, and they really don’t get much better throughout the film. Rather than setting out to do real police work, they balk at every whiff of danger despite Gotham being supposedly tranquil and tame. Their tactics are idiotic, their plans contrived, and their characters marred by cowardice and ignorance.
Here the time table plays against the story tellers in that it paints the picture of an apathetic, stratified society separated from reality and violence by enough space and time that people have become fat, soft, lazy, and spoiled – but how did that happen in 8 years? It’s not as though these people grew up in a “better age” – they grew up in Gotham during the height of Falconi’s crime syndicate, and the Joker killings – they wouldn’t be skeptical so much as vigilant. It doesn’t equate, and it really sort of makes you root for Bane.

Problems along the Way

4. Tell Me Don’t Show Me

DKR is unbelievably heavy on exposition. From the opening frame, to the final sequence, the film is less action playing out on screen, or subtle meaning filled vignettes, than outright explanation by characters of their own emotions, motivations, and back stories. This breaks the first and most important role of film making: Show me, don’t tell me.
Not only does it not play well in a gigantic film like Batman, it’s boring, alienates you from the action and intrigue, and fails to illicit the same story. That said, it feels like the script was a FANTASTIC initial draft, but really needed to be polished down and turned into something visceral and imaginative, rather than a long line of people taking turns delivering protracted monologues about “how it used to be” and “this is what happened to me” and “this is what is happening right now, and why, and what I’m trying to accomplish.”
These are things we, as the audience, should be trusted to ascertain from the action and events on screen. Instead, we’re bombarded with them, and it leaves the film feeling a LOT like a certain Shymalan film to have come out recently – another narrative ripped from pulp origins and given the “tell me a story” treatment. Air Bender. I know, I just compared a Nolan film to Air Bender. But that’s how strongly I feel movies should be seen and felt, not heard like a lecture or table reading.

5. The Scale Is Too Large

In trying to top the Dark Knight, Nolan fights a losing battle to cobble together elements of many different Batman stories. Rather than focusing on one consistent narrative that works, he tries to make everything tie together with the last film, and it fails miserably.
There are a few moments of authentic suspense and shock that I appreciated, but overall, trying to force the hostile 5 month long take over of an entire City on American soil into a three-hour film leaves it feeling overwhelmingly top heavy. The set up takes only a split-second in comparison with the overall arc, so you’re essentially thrust into a peace-time Gotham you don’t recognize, then just as quickly thrust into a martial law wasteland.

6. Too Simple, Too Powerful, Too Efficient

Several aspects of Gotham’s plunge into depravity make little sense. Bane was able to take over a US City using very basic methodology, but the Joker, one of the most brilliant criminal conspirators of all time, could only manage to torment it for a few weeks with random cop killings? Gordon and his rag tag team of Commando Police Officers figure how to track the bomb and block the signal – but the US Gov’t doesn’t try ANYTHING? It also calls into question what universe exactly Nolan is playing in – being that he’s also producing Man of Steel, thus making this criticism fair game: Where was Superman? This is a world-class catastrophe. Even if we pretend Batman is an isolated vigilante, acting in his own isolated Universe, there is no WAY the Government would allow the hostile take over of an American City. They could have just as easily ordered an air-strike on Bane’s location via Satellite, dropped a signal blocker onto the bomb-truck, removed it from the city, and sent in the Marines – as stood by and instead focused their forces on making sure JGL’s lost boys don’t have a snowball’s chance of getting out alive.
It really made no sense. It painted an illogical and skewed vision of the future, and of America itself, where millions of innocent lives are forfeited to fear and tyranny on American Soil. Ask yourself, what would happen is a few hundred mercenaries, aided by a few thousand discontented criminals and underclassmen, tried to overthrow Chicago and institute martial law? The swiftest kick in the butt the world has ever seen. Simply because Wayne doesn’t share their technology with the military after a certain point, we’re left to believe they don’t have other contractors? They don’t have sufficient technology to hit Gotham with an EMT Blast and move in to restore order before Bane has time to adjust his hockey mask?

6. A Stunted Bat

Batman falls 12 stories onto a taxi, crushing it, gets right back up and fights more crime – but a thirty-foot drop at the end of Dark Knight leaves him semi-paralyzed? That does not equate.
This is another downfall of setting the film so far into the future, beyond just muddying Batman’s motivation and nature, it erodes his body. There’s no need for that, other than that they were trying to incorporate elements of the Dark Knight Returns story-line. It’s not as though he’s a 50 year old Bruce Wayne, returning for one last hurrah, but that’s what we’re expected to believe.
By giving him chronic pain, then breaking his back, then requiring the use of cybernetic assistance – they remove Batman entirely from what makes him great. By the end of the film, he is promising to kill Bane – another colossal oversight in light of the principled Bat we’ve come to know and love in the first two films. If Joker couldn’t get Batman to compromise by murdering his closest friends and loved ones, why does he so easily cave to Bane’s madness? It makes him look physically, spiritually, and mentally weak. Very Un-Batman indeed.

7. Batman Does Not Win

Batman should be the one to prevail over evil. Not Catwoman. She is not a hero, she is morally vague at best, and ultimately, BATMAN wins. Batman wins, he always wins, he prevails – unaided, when it counts. It makes no sense for Catwoman to bail him out.
The manner in which Bane is defeated also… makes little sense. It’s just so abrupt, anti-climactic. The character has been built up as invincible, the very embodiment of evil the entire movie – but suddenly a thirty second Cotillard exposition totally reverses that notion and paints him as a dejected puppy dog. That reveal was exciting, but it was not satisfying in how it transpired. Again, there’s a need to show instead of tell.
Again, the fact that Batman isn’t even in 2/3 of this film – is a major negative.

8. Loose Ends

The fast-paced tying of loose-ends was definitely exciting and fun, but it was a little too fast, and hard to soak in.
His real name was “Robin”? Really? Couldn’t have made that more clever? And he’s supposed to take on the cowl with zero training or mentoring? Alfred REALLY just saw the last person he loved in the world, and didn’t even say hello? They are family, Bruce is essentially his son, no way does he ride off into the Sunset Cafe.
Batman ends up with Catwoman? Sure, that’s one of those golden pre-occupations in comics, but that’s why the dynamic works. She will NEVER stop stealing. Ever. It’s who she is. He will NEVER stop fighting crime. Ever. Same. Therefore, they will always have a tepid, tumultuous set of interactions. Batman throws her in jail, knowing she will break out, he does not settle down and live off her thievery – which we’re left to believe in light of the fact that he resets his identity and ends up with zero money.

9. Cheesy Fan-Boy Pandering

The off-hand remarks alluding to sacred lore are off-putting and lack purpose or sincerity. Oh, look for a Croc down there *chuckle*. Nah, it wasn’t cute, it was distracting.

10. Far Too Many Cut Aways

We remember the first two films. We do not need to cut away, thus removing all subtlety and making every association explicit for the audience. Again, it’s another thing that removes you from the already dialogue heavy film, and leaves you feeling like Nolan is holding your hand.

11. Political Message?

Going into the film, I thought Rush Limbaugh was an absolute idiot. Having seen it, I think Rush Limbaugh is an absolute idiot. But there is some merit to the notion that Nolan noticeably attempted to make political assertions through this film.
The prison metaphor, the promise of false hope – it sort of rings like a knock against supporters of both parties, the dark nature of political overthrow as a catalyst for vengeful reckoning, animosity between classes, martial law police states, the absolutely idiotic portrayal of American forces in the film – it all paints a very cynical and not-at-all constructive view on contemporary America.

In summary, if the first two films were a 9 and 10 respectively – this film is an 8. It ends extremely well, and once it clears the set-up and gets into the swing of the action, it manages to redeem its weak early stages, but overall, it sadly prevents the series from being considered among the top trilogies of all time and instead relegates Nolan’s Batman franchise to “better than Raimi’s take on Spider-Man.”

Wreck-It Ralph: Why I’m more excited about an obscure Video Game Movie than the new Batman Flick

Wreck it Ralph is an animated film starring Johnny C. Reilly as a classic 8-bit video game villain who tires of his role as an antagonist and sets out for redemption.
wreck-it ralph poster
Check it out here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1772341/fullcredits#cast

As a child of the late-80’s and 90’s, I find this premise fascinating because it illustrates the profound cultural impact video games have had in the previous three decades. Modern cinema has unfortunately been transformed into a limitless release of reboots, rehashes, re-imaginings, and reshoots to the point that originality has gone out the window.

It’s hard to illicit the same level or type of excitement with a new take on an old story, or a familiar character, than it is to feel entertained and cathartically transported by a well-done and unique narrative. Wreck-It Ralph has that advantage over the vast majority of cinematic offerings out today, but there’s also something else that makes this story valuable.

Wreck-It Ralph uses video games as a vehicle to ask questions about the nature and direction of entertainment, mainly, when did video games go beyond good clean fun? When did they become self-important, self-aware, self-perpetuating drains on creativity and talent – capable of transforming entire generations into zombie hunting, alien smashing mercenaries? Do we want more for our children than to immerse themselves in imaginary conflicts and arise as artificial heroes?

It goes beyond tainting childhood though. Where do we draw the line? Sure, there are studies that loosely correlate game play with an increase in problem solving, but we also see an entire generation of twenty-somethings hopelessly stuck in a habitual rut, doing the same things as their adolescent selves, toiling away in front of glowing screens for 15-20 hours each week attempting to reach imaginary “achievements.”

We’re now seeing the beginning of a trend that can hopefully restore some of the innocence and fun to game play. The Nintendo Wii was, for a time, the most successful platform on the market, and Angry Birds, a simplistic cartoon style physics based game, raked in millions of dollars and itself is rumored to be receiving the cinematic treatment.

Games like Mario Brothers, Sonic, and TMNT weren’t great because of their graphics or  realism, they were great because they were so unlike every day life. More importantly, they were fun to play in bursts, and did not require lengthy investments of time, energy, and money.

Already, the gaming industry has begun to reconsider its multi-player platform, as it does not provide them sustainable revenue. My suggestion for how to fix it is to focus instead of simple, fun, nostalgic games with clever stories, charismatic characters, and thoughtful game play options to appeal to a wider segment of game players.

Back to Wreck-It Ralph, I really like the way this is taking elements of a familiar cultural movement and turning into something entirely unique. Most of us are tired of seeing new versions of the same things come out every few years, and we’re definitely exhausted by the proposal of lame iterations of our favorite franchises as proven by the proposed Michael “let’s put aliens in everything” Bay’s Teenage Alien Turtles reboot, or George Lucas’s incessant rehashing and bastardization of his beloved Star Wars franchise.

It’s come to a point where reboots have sucked us dry, and video games taking themselves too seriously have lost our attention. It was all very novel for a time, but at this point, we’ve seen it all before, done it all – it’s time for something new.

Wreck-It Ralph comes out in November, and I’m incredibly excited to see where this “Reboot” style animated film takes us.
Think Video Games are doing more good than harm? Let me know in the comments.

Targeted Ads: Friend or Foe?

Amazing

amazon targeted ad fail

That’s just incredible. How did they manage to assemble a list of ALL my favorite films? The only one they missed is “Mona Lisa Smile.”

Targeted ads are a double-edged sword. In theory, only relevant ads interrupt your browsing, viewing, or listening experience – but in practice, the ads are instead based on who the internet thinks you are.

And in my case, that guy sucks.


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