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Notes from An Event Apart Boston 2012 I had a great time at An Event Apart Boston, 2012. Ill post some photos soon. The conference avoided deep dives into code in favor of showing WHY you would do reactive design. As Eric Meyer said "My...

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Judging the CT Student Innovation Exposition (E-Commerce)... Want to know what the next 10 years will look like? Ask a high school student. Their creativity isnt limited by their knowledge of what we currently call technological limitations. They have a vision of...

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The Value of Feeling Appreciated as an Employee in... Whether you’re a new employee or the vice president of the company, everyone wants to feel valued, even appreciated, in the workplace. Not only does it improve morale and make the workplace a more pleasant...

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The difference between classic and motion tweens in... Here it is: If you're used to doing things "the cs3 way" then you can continue to do so with the classic tween tool. It works the same way as you remember, using key frames as normal, but you cannot...

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PHP: If (equal to AND not equal) - eliminate form spam... Just learned a great function of PHP thats already made my forms a lot better. A while back I wrote an article about eliminating form spam without captchas by using css to hide a text input box for bots...

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Notes from An Event Apart Boston 2012

Category : Around The Office, Confrence Notes, Featured, Teaching

I had a great time at An Event Apart Boston, 2012. Ill post some photos soon.
The conference avoided deep dives into code in favor of showing WHY you would do reactive design.

As Eric Meyer said “My goal in this presentation is to create a platform that you can jump off from – not show you an end point”

Day 1:
Jeffrey Zeldman – “Content First!” Notes
Witney Hess – “Whats your Problem” Notes
Jason Santa Maria – “Web Typography” Notes
Scott Berkun – “The 5 Most Dangerous Ideas” Notes
Karen McGrane – “Adapting Ourselves to Adaptive Content” Notes

Day 2:
Eric Meyer
“The Future Is Now” Notes
Scott Jehl
“Responsibility + Responsivity” Notes
Josh Clark
“Buttons are a Hack” Notes
Luke W “Mobile to the Future” Notes
Dan Cederholm “Handcrafted Patterns” Notes
Jared Spool “The Curious Properties of Intuitive Web Pages” Notes

Day 3:
Luke W “Designing Mobile Web Experiences”

Judging the CT Student Innovation Exposition (E-Commerce)

Category : Around The Office, Around West Hartford, Featured, Social

Want to know what the next 10 years will look like? Ask a high school student. Their creativity isnt limited by their knowledge of what we currently call technological limitations. They have a vision of how it should work in their world. Eventually, it will be their world.

Im glad to say that I’ll be a judge at the Connecticut Student Innovation Exposition, held this year on May 19th, 2012, at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. This convention is the culminating event for more than 1,200 middle and high school students engaged in cutting edge science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs.

Good luck! I cant wait to see the projects and ideas.

The Value of Feeling Appreciated as an Employee in Regards to being a Business Owner

Category : Around The Office, Featured

Whether you’re a new employee or the vice president of the company, everyone wants to feel valued, even appreciated, in the workplace. Not only does it improve morale and make the workplace a more pleasant to be, but it also raises productivity in a number of different ways.

Employees who feel appreciated are more likely to:

  • Show up on time or work late (for the good of the company)
  • Put in extra time outside of work (research & self improvement)
  • Be less stressed and thereby healthier missing fewer days due to illness
  • Make the best decisions possible in the company’s best interest
  • Overall improvement to productivity as employees will waste less time doing remedial tasks

Conversely, the inverse is almost always true: an employee that is talked down to, unappreciated, and used as parking for the company bus will almost always count the minutes on a clock until their freedom and do the absolute minimum to avoid getting fired.

Employers should remember to say “Thank You” and say it often. It’s so simple, and free, and yet so few employers understand the value of feeling valued.

Being a business owner and teacher I am constantly thanking my employees and students, for their work (which I didn’t have to do) and for trying their best. I am thankful and happy with the return on my investment.

The difference between classic and motion tweens in Flash CS4

Category : Featured, Flash, Technology

Here it is:

If you’re used to doing things “the cs3 way” then you can continue to do so with the classic tween tool. It works the same way as you remember, using key frames as normal, but you cannot use it like a new CS4 tween function or use 3d tweens.

DOWNSAVING:
If you use only classic tweens you will be able to down save your CS4 documents to CS3 without any problem. Using CS4 motion tweens will result in the whole of your tween turning into keyframes as if you had decompiled the swf. (Which might do the trick, or you might start to cry, depending on how you need to use it.)

CS4 Introduces The new Motion Tween. Why Adobe did not use the old name for the Old way and give the New name to the New function I dont know. CS4 Motion tweens operate totally differently than CS3 motion tweens.

The biggest changes that I see are:

  • Instead of using a motion tween to bridge two key frames – you create a “span” which is editable in totally new ways. You can click and drag the object at any point on the “span” and the movement is already created. This can be HIGHLY ANNOYING until you learn to use the Motion Editor (which will become your new best friend in CS4). You can click, drag, and scale the length of CS4 animations and it preserves the proportional length of segments. This is huge. [You can also select specific keynote (inner span keyframe) by ctrl clicking on PC this allow you to move it independently in the span.]
  • You can copy and paste motions onto new symbols. Snow flake animations [silly example] are a breeze as you can create one and then copy and paste the animation in the same way you can styles in photoshop.
  • If you do animation in flash the Bone Tool will simplify your work. Do some research into it if and you’ll be amazed.

I wasn’t sure where Flash was going. Before CS4 came out I thought Flash was dying. Flash has always been in sort of a strange place when it comes to its role in a website. Developers and clients alike wonder if its for eye candy or if you should use is as the technology to build your whole website on and Im not going to argue that here.

The fact is that a lot of the eyecandy can be replicated with JQuery, so why bother learning Flash? Cs4 has changed all that. Now the question is: where to Flash and After Effects meet?

If you still need more info, of if you are a visual learner. Check out this guys video on CS4 and 3d Tweens. I only wish it was on youtube or some other embeddable video site instead of a downloadable video.

PHP: If (equal to AND not equal) – eliminate form spam without using a captcha

Category : Featured, Great Tutorials, Slick Code, Technology

Just learned a great function of PHP thats already made my forms a lot better. A while back I wrote an article about eliminating form spam without captchas by using css to hide a text input box for bots to fill in. By giving the input box a legit sounding name like “email” the bots fall for the trap and the php handler discards their form entry results.

The only problem was that I still got blank entries every now and again from people using their back button, or search engine spiders. You could also trick the validation script by surfing with java turned off . And while I still dont know exactly which one of the above was the cause I have an ultimate solution.

The equal to and not equal to feature in PHP.

Instead of:

if ($test == "") {
mail($mailto, $mailsubj, $mailbody, $mailhead);
}

We use:

if ($test == "" && $email != "") {
mail($mailto, $mailsubj, $mailbody, $mailhead);
}

This little change not only checks to see that there is nothing in the hidden field but also checks to see that there IS something in the email field. As the email is required this is nothing new, but will dump all the blank entries I’ve been getting.

FYI:
&& = = and
!= = not equal to

Drop Downs, Fly Outs, and Accordion Site Navigation:

Category : Featured, General Web Info, Technology

This last week I was in a meeting discussing a client site. It was a typical business meeting that was going into overtime on a Friday afternoon, and then things turned for the worst… someone suggested “optimizing” the site’s navigation by adding in a few drop down menus. I almost willfully hung myself on my headset cord.

Whats wrong with a drop down?
One site I read said that drop downs are a sign that too many people were on a committee designing the site navigation and to save space someone suggested a drop down. I’m inclined to agree.
A good navigation, even if I uses a second tier nav bar are more user friendly then fly outs, drop downs, jump menus, or whatever other name you want to give them.

1. Fly Outs conceal the menu items under them, so if we use the “Don’t Make Me Think” model of design, this is inherently a problem as a user might have to mouse over every object to find what they we’re looking for.

2. The javascript might not work on every browser/OS combination. If someone has js disabled then there are issues of HTML depreciation and keeping that up to date as you maintain the fly out navigation.

3. If the navigation is built via linked .js files it may not be spidered, which won’t do your SEO team any favors.

And this is dismissing the most annoying part of fly out menus: that you never know where the hidden box is. Sometimes it’s exactly where you expect, and then other times you can never seem to trace the path you need to get to the third tier of fly out menus. I have good motor control and it’s a pain even for me on some poorly done sites, I can only imagine how… unusable… a fly out menu would be if you had arthritis or other similar disabilities.

The alternatives:“Don’t Make People Think”
They don’t like doing it. Make a simple navigation that makes sense to the people using your site. If you have a big site, it’s not killer to have a second navigation bar once you drill into content, or to have to click 4 or 5 times before you get to the exact page you want. In either case it would also be useful to have a search bar and site map, but that goes for every site.

I’m not saying that jump menus don’t have a place, and Im not trying to say that all accordion/fly out menus are bad either, but they have a time and a place. If your gunning for: the best SEO numbers you can get, or are dealing with clients outside of the 13-39 bracket, or have fewer than 3 decision makers designing the navigation, chances are you’re not using drop down, fly out, accordion type menus correctly.

Update: November 21st, 2007
I read an related article today. Thought I would post it here if someone needed further convincing on this matter. Their article is called The Downer of Dropdowns, and contains a bit more information as well as a few citations.

He also recommends two JavaScript based solutions at the end, which seem to fling themselves in the face of the article just written, but I guess if you have to use dropdowns, it’s the best you can do.

But Id refute his “fact” that you should never use flash for navigation, just be sure that it depreciates into html and use an intelligent deployment script. I use swfobject and have to say that it works great. I have only good things to say about the script except that it takes a while to build the flash version, then the html version – which no one will really see as flash auto updates.

That’s my post for today.
Happy Thanksgiving!