013 Conferencing

Today I’m flying to Texas for Squares Conference. Excited because it is full of workshops on stuff that I’ve taught myself (CSS, PHP, WordPress) and stuff I tried but haven’t taken advantage of (Sass, Version control).

Lately I have been trying to go to more conferences. As a web designer, there is no better cure for the impostor syndrome than to hear your developer/design heroes tell you that we all figure it out as we go. All of us. No exceptions.

A big part of running a business means learning about pricing, and scheduling, and planing, and–one of the most overused words of today–hustling. It gets frustrating. I’m a designer. I love designing. I’m not trying to retire at 40 and have a yacht. I’m trying to do this for as long as I can and with the same passion for a pro bono project than for a 100K one.

This past Friday I finally got to see a talk by James White at Generate Conference. The way he talked about his process was amazing. The kind of amazing that stays with you for a while. Same with listening to Draplin, to Jeffrey Zeldman, to Sarah Drasner, to Chris Coyier, to Sarah Parmenter, to Rachel Andrew, to Jen Simmons, the list goes on… people I admire. When they speak, they share their passion for what they do and are not just telling you what your ROI should be.

Last, If you go to a conference and happen to see me, feel free to say hi, I’ll be in the introverts section.

012 The Travel Bug

Quick Note #1: I’m back after a 3 week hiatus! Long story short: A wedding invitation to Thailand, led to a few days in Bangkok, Ao Nang, Singapore and Dubai!

Quick Note#2: I know, I know, there are a million posts out there about traveling and about how it changed lives, but bear with me here, I’m not telling you to leave everything behind and go.. yet.


Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
—Mark Twain

 

The quote above is one of my favorite quotes out there. It is also a bit unfair since traveling almost always involves money, money involves access, and access involves privilege. But I love the idea behind it. The idea of learning what’s out there, and by out there I don’t just mean going to your antipode. I mean reading, learning, realizing that the more we learn we are not only becoming more educated, we are becoming less ignorant.

Up to the age of 24 I had travelled to 2 countries. Then I went to South Africa on a sponsored trip by CUNY/CCNY and the awesome Zak Ivkovic. A few trips here and there as I started getting more money from my Room Service job and I caught the travel bug.

I caught it bad.

To the point where in the past 3 years, Bet and I have travelled for 180+ days, to almost 30 countries, and have gone all the way from a World Cup Game at Maracaná to a Champions League final in Berlin. From eating elk hot dogs in Helsinki to eating pizza in Napoli. From the castle at Sazlburg to the castle at Sintra.

(Here’s the part where I humblebrag).

The best part of the travel bug is how ignorant it makes me feel.

New York (voted by me as the best city in the world 17 years in a row) is awesome, but even living here where you are free of ignoring institutions telling people who to love, or what skin color shall rule them all, or at what time should the subway close, we end up getting caught in that bubble we create of the familiar, of the safe, of “the way things should be”.

My Dad (also voted by me as the best dad in the world 33 years in a row), just visited the Louvre last year. For the first time in his life. At 65. I have been there 3 times and he knew more about the layout, about the pieces, about the history than me. Wherever we went in our trip he knew a lot more without ever setting foot there. He grew up not affording to take a plane so he read, and he read, and he read. And that is the reason many people admire him.

So there.
Get out there! or don’t! But read, learn, catch that bug of the unknown.

011 Make it until you can’t fake it

I have been doing a lot of email HTML Newsletters lately.

1. Emails are complicated.

2. TL;DR: Mainly for security reasons, email clients preprocess emails in a way that does not support a lot of the same code you would use when building a website. So most of the nice, progressive, interactive stuff is stripped away, hence we are stuck making newsletters the way we built websites 10 years ago.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, email should never be bloated. But sometimes we want to try a different layout, something that doesn’t look like a spreadsheet, push things a little.

So what do we do? Same thing we did back then: We fake it.
No full support for background images? Slice one up into 8 and put them back together (jigsaw puzzles FTW!).
No padding support? Use a transparent image and change it in size.

I enjoy making these newsletters because the limitations keep reminding me of the most important thing about my profession: Make it. Make it. Just Make it.

Can’t figure out how something was built? Fake it. Reverse engineer it, Run over to Stack Overflow and copy paste it. JUST MAKE IT. Understand how something works, then you can make it leaner, more accessible. It might be you who ends up improving the code for everyone else, but for that you need to make it. Make it until you can’t fake it.

010 #OneDayIWill

Today is International Women’s Day so I wanted to take a second to recognize all of the women in my life.

But.. but.. “everyday should be Women’s Day” you say.

Yes, it should. It hasn’t been, and we’ve done a very shitty job through out the years.

Almost equal does not equal equal

Today is as good day as any to remember:

– That grandma grew up not being allowed to vote.
– That Mom grew up being trained on how to be a good housewife.
– That today, many women doing the same exact work I do are likely to earn around 80 cents per dollar.
– That right now, somewhere in twitter, there is a man refuting an accomplishment by a woman. Best case scenario it has “only a touch” of sarcasm. Worst case it is someone hiding under anonymity throwing insults and threats.

I used to think I should just ignore the misogynist, the sexist, and the racist of the world. The seemingly harmless stereotypes and people with answers like “actually, all lives matter” or “God created Adam and Eve”.

I don’t think that anymore, it is not fair to hide under any privileges I get. In this case just for being a man.

So Happy International Women’s Day!
To that badass partner I get to call my wife.
To all of the women in my big Mexicovenezuecuadorisalvadoperuvipuertorican family.
To all of my colleagues and friends.
And to all of the women out there.

Everyday SHOULD be Women’s Day.
It is not.
Let’s make it.

Title credit to Google’s awesome doodle campaign

009 A tiny milestone is delayed

Last week I wrote about an upcoming case study I’m working on. I (sort of) cheated and since updated the post to read next week instead of this weekend.

This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to balance as a freelancer. Stay accountable while setting real expectations. My current plan is to put as much time as I can from any extra hours I get to my portfolio. But I also got a couple of awesome new project going that are taking a lot of my time so that leaves me with little to no extra time.

So it comes down to either:
a) Set a date when I’m 100% sure I’ll keep my word.
b) Don’t set a date dude, just put it out there when it’s done.
c) Set your date, it at least puts some pressure to deliver even if late.

I’m leaning towards C for now, just give myself more leeway.
At the end of the day actions > words.

008 A tiny milestone

Next week will mark a small milestone in my professional career.

I’ve scheduled my first case study. The very first one since I started getting paid to do this around 8 years ago (56 in web years).

I’ve posted some content in past versions of portfolio or quickly put together a list when trying to send a proposal but haven’t really showed any work I do to anyone.

Either:
a) I’m not ready to say it’s complete (learning to let it go is one of those things you only get with experience.. and Idina Menzel).
b) My website is never ready.
c) As it happened with my funky flash websites; the work just “expired”.

What’s kept most of the work coming have been word-of-mouth referrals that have led to similar projects and brand new I-dont-know-what-I-got-into ones. It is amazing how much weight personal recommendations carry. If you have been my client in the past. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

One of my main goals for case studies is to start describing my process. Not really about how I added the golden ratio to everything and made it look pretty; but mostly about mistakes and thought processes and lessons learned.

About how I achieved (or didn’t) the most important design question: Did I solve my clients’ problem

007 One Thousand Four Hundred and Forty

A few days ago I decided to do a little experiment
(It was more of an exercise, but you know.. science!)

The Question:

How much time do I waste in a day?

The Background Research:

Basic stuff here:
We all have different resources, cultures, issues and advantages. But there is one thing we all have in common: one thousand four hundred and forty minutes in a day. No one gets to cheat (Slow motion videos don’t count).

The Hypothesis:

The brain is wired to go on auto mode, that’s how habits work, they save us a lot of energy. So we tend to fill time with whatever is most accessible at that moment.

The Experiment.

1. Downloaded Jay Rendon’s awesome Great Day Mac App.
You add a project and the time it will take you to complete. Hit the play button whenever you start working. Hit the stop button when you stop.

2. Scheduled a list of things I was going to accomplish the next day. Calculated the time it would take me for a total of 10 hours of just work.

So if I started at 10:00am:


10 hrs work + 1hr lunch + 1.5 (3 x 30min) breaks = Watching Colbert at 11:35pm sharp.


Data and Conclusion.

February 11: Start working at 10-ish.. play some Nate Ruess.. back to work.. wondering if I should add another jump around pic to my instagram.. back to work.. change playlist.. lunch.. back to work.. wait, Madrid plays Saturday, research time!.. back to work.. music off.. break.. back to work.. oh you silly Kanye and your tweets.. back to work.. break.. back to work.. does uploading wait time count as working?.. Second coffee yay or nay.. break.. back to work.. 145 whatsapp messages? I must check… back to work… Yay! Colbert time!

GreatDay_Screenshot0211

1. The hours on the screenshot don’t add up because I did overtime on some projects but still didn’t hit my time goals on other projects.

2. It is hard to work on exact numbers. Servers can be a bit temperamental. Also hard to cut off working when you’ve automated something and want to see it through.

3. Would love to see how many times I hit the pause/play button.

4. Against my own advice. Went for the 2 coffees.

The Results


In total I wasted 2 hours and 9 minutes


but..

The best takeaway from this exercise is not finding out how much time I wasted, is finding out why and how I’m wasting it. It is more about making a plan that will make you accountable.

In this case I was already conditioned to work a bit harder because I knew I would write about it, but I tend to spend hours on Netflix, on youtube, on.. whatever is showing on TV. On “research”, on “multitasking”, on “unwinding”, on “catching up”. Just filling time with what many times is just noise.

And filling vs planning might just be the main difference between being good, or being great.

006 My Backup Plan

It is generally a good idea to have a backup plan.

• All my computer files are up to date.
• All my websites have scheduled backups (Database crashes are no fun).
• My wife and I make all kinds of plans; from where we’ll meet up if lost while traveling to where we’ll meet up in the likelihood of a Walking Dead apocalypse (It involves finding Daryl ASAP).

When it comes to a professional backup plan though…

I’ve come to find that I don’t have one.

I used to.

“What if the freelance thing doesn’t work out”.
“What if I find out I suck”.
“What if I go back to getting steady easy money at college job”.
“What if I fail at X”.

Then I got a healthy dose of experience—that pesky word we tend to think we can skip but always need more of—and a mindset adjustment that has helped me grow a ton over the last 2 years; I realized a backup plan is not always compatible with experience because you just can’t unlearn stuff. (Not the same as wishing you hadn’t watched another Adam Sandler movie).

I do have a plan. A structure of what I want to learn and what I want to accomplish. But I’m learning so much everyday and making something new every week, that I cannot know for sure where I’m going to be in 3 months.

What I know is that right now I’m working on projects I want to work on and I’m having a ton of fun. There are a few tools I need to learn, new technologies & updates coming out (CSS Grids FTW!) that I’m sure I will continue to adjust the way I work, learn, read, and make things.

<OK Google: Insert Journey vs Destination quote>

005 The Craig Ferguson Rule

There is a wonderful thing we get to have when we have an internet connection:
An audience.

There is a horrible thing we get to have when we have an internet connection:
An audience.

There are instances where standing up for what’s right is our responsibility.
Sexism, racism, misogyny are not OK. It doesn’t matter if you are a huuuuuuuge presidential candidate or hiding behind a cartoon avatar.

For the other instances. The ones where we get into silly, troll-ish, arguments. The ones where we must let everyone know on facebook how we feel about certain gossip. The ones where we are so sure every one is dying to know our opinion, and it is not mansplaining because we say so. For those, I have a simple rule I have been using for years, courtesy of the great Craig Ferguson:

ANYTIME you feel like saying (or writing) anything online, follow these three simple steps:

1 Does this need to be said?

*If answer is yes, proceed to the next step. If answer is no, probably not a good idea.

2 Does this need to be said by me?

*If answer is yes, proceed to the next step. If answer is no, probably not a good idea.

3 Does this need to be said by me now?

*If answer is yes, proceed to post. If answer is no, probably not a good idea.

It doesn’t matter if you have an audience of 1, 10, 50, 1000, or 1 million.
Follow these three steps and I can guarantee it will be a better day for everyone, and, in the words of Craig, a great day for America.

004 Bonjour!

Remember that post last week about overcommitment?

Started making a list of the things I’ve yet to complete and started arranging them by length, category (personal or professional), and whether they are worth completing or discarding.

One item on that list I’ve had for the longest is: Learn French.

<inner voice>
Why French dude! Italian is easier for you! It is similar to Spanish but with a lot more hand movement!.. Or Portuguese! Or go for something non-romance like Japanese or Mandarin!
</inner voice>

It all started back when I was working at a french chocolatier a few years back (Learning key words was part of my job, but following a conversation was always tough), and continued once we visited France. One of those things you feel like you can do if you apply yourself but can never get past the greetings section.

So!

I’m giving myself 8 months to learn it.

That’s about 32 weeks, so post #36 will be an update and if possible should be partially in French.

This is a personal project so I need to find ways to do it on my free time. So far I’ve got some options:
Subway rides, Can get a solid 2 hours a week if I mix in some podcast lessons between RadioLab, This American Life, The Big Web Show, and Shoptalk Show.
Unwinding, Probably less social thing, less checking on how Real Madrid is doing, and maybe sneak in a lesson between the time I stop working at night and Colbert.

Ok, so now that it is out there, there is NO WAY I can not complete it.

<inner voice>
Oh yes there are. Many
</inner voice>

A bientot!