Feeling the WordPress vibes

I did some in depth research between the books I have, “Web Designers guide to WordPress” and “Smashing WordPress”. The first one looks to be more of a basic beginners kind of book where Smashing is more geared towards the advanced developer that wants to know more about WordPress. So I’ve decided that rather than choose, I’ll ready both! I’ve gotten into the first one and I can now PHP!

Ok, so maybe I can’t talk php, but so far I’ve learned to insert a title and attach my spreadsheet using php. This is a pretty cool thing to me as I’ve never done it before and I’m excited about the possibilities of what I’ll learn in this book.

A bit of history with me and WordPress. I started out with a blog on wordpress.com and wrote random things like I am now. Years later, I was introduced to WordPress as a tool to build complete website from a teacher, now friend. Since then I’ve been excited to use it and modify it with my HTML/CSS knowledge. I would consider myself a power user so to speak. However, in order to maximize it’s potential I’ve always wanted to develop it from scratch. Therefore, my current journey includes being able to create WordPress themes from scratch!

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I got to do my first Pull Request today! It seemed confusing this entire time, but when I was walked through it I was like “That’s it?”. It was a pretty cool feeling. It feels like a part of the cool kids now with git.

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I want another hackathon! I was totally excited from my last 2 previous hackathons from Code Michigan 2013 and Startup Weekend Detroit 2013. Unfortunately I’m down a laptop so I wouldn’t be able to be of any use. Code Michigan 2014 is coming in October so I may have to scrap some stuff together and do some freelance gigs in order to get me a working laptop to compete!

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What I learned today:
What a Pull Request was and how to actually do it.

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Photoshop CC 2014 is awesome!

I was able to download the latest Photoshop CC 2014 edition at work today and got to try it out. I went on Adobe’s site and ate up everything they had to add and expand on for this edition. It. Is. Awesome! The main 3 things that I fell in love with are:

Linked Smart Object improvements:
The ability to package your smart objects! This means the source files can be saved into a folder near you!

Layer comps in Smart Objects:
When you have a smart object with layer comps in it, you can now rifle through the layer comps in the properties panel within your main document.

Enhancements to Photoshop Generator:
The ability to set default layer that can control all generated image assets. You can also direct a file where to go in a subfolder.

Here’s the full list: http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/using/whats-new.html#. It’s worth checking out.

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Becoming an expert at an adobe program seems easy when you think about it. What I actually mean is keeping up to date. Once you have a solid footing on Photoshop, just going through the “Whats New” pages of each release will help you keep up with the latest and greatest. Just check it out and play around with each feature for 15 or so minutes and move on to the next one. In theory this sounds like a good idea and I by no means am an expert at Photoshop, but I have been using it for 14 years and I think I can speak at a higher level than most people.

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I tuned in to watch a webinar on CI with Git presented by the good folks at Atlassian. They talked about Continuous Integration with Git and some tips on the flow of things. I’m not the best, but it was good to get some exposure to the product. I believe just having any sort of exposure, even if its just watching with no clue, is great for retention later on. Next time I try a few things out, that’ll be in the back of my head and it’ll be easier to understand.

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What I learned today:
Photoshop CC 2014′s new features. I went through all of them except the 3D stuff.

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Learning online

I love learning! Who doesn’t? If you’re a designer or developer and don’t love learning, then you’re a crappy designer/developer. That’s right, love to learn or continue wondering why you’re stuck at your job and going nowhere. That’s a pretty rash assumption, but sometimes people refuse to learn or think they’re too busy. You know who isn’t too busy? The people learning. You know who’s going to take your job after you don’t know how to do the newest thing? The guy learning.

I bring this up because I’m an avid learner of everything I can get my hands on. For the past few days it’s been WordPress and Git. I’ve just found some excellent courses on udemy.com, my favorite learning site. I’ve snagged some awesome deals on there before and snagged some more today!

https://www.udemy.com/business-development-strategy-startups/#/

https://www.udemy.com/learn-php-programming-from-scratch/#/

https://www.udemy.com/cold-emailing/#/

They should do good in helping me with the startup! I hate to use the word startup since its just me and a friend, but I guess that would be the technical term. I tend to not use buzz words or the latest trendy words. I figure the 2 courses would help, and the PHP is just there well, because it was dirt cheap for $10! A bunch of courses were on sale for $10 with the code SKILLS10.

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Branding is a lot harder when it’s for yourself. I’ve been on teams where we did branding for a company and it felt smooth and easy. Now that we’re doing it by ourselves, there seems to be a misstep. At least on my part. I went in thinking, pfft this would be easy! I’ve done it on teams lots of times! Nope. Wrong. Time to go back to the drawing board and rethink it for my future.

To make things fun and interesting, we plan on documenting the entire process and using it as a case study for our company. Who wouldn’t want to see the inner workings of a brand being built? Sketches of logos, layouts and anything else related to it. We’ll be throwing it all in there.

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What I learned today:
Cold emailing is a thing and it can help start things up! That’s not to say it should be the only plan, but the potential possibilities seem like good easy starts.

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Git is on the plate today

Today was a day to dive into version control and get a more in depth look into Git. Git has always been a mystery to me, however the other week the possibilities were revealed. A guy at work gave a quick overview of how to work with it and it seems like a pretty damn useful tool. Being a designer that can code, version control has never really been on the top of my thoughts. It’s second nature to developers and all the cool kids that can code and design are using it too. Why haven’t I tried it before?

Well first off, I primary code side projects on my own. There isn’t any need for version control since I have everything organized and I test before anything goes live. All my side projects are typically small too and I’ve micro managed every line of code and tested that I haven’t actually had the need. However, now that I’m working with multiple people, Git is just something that’s used.

Using my github account as a testing ground and Source Tree as my GUI, I was able to create branches and start about my business. A friend told me a good method to go by that instantly clicked and made the rest of the process a breeze. Pull, work, pull, commit, pull, push.

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Working out some details on my new thing coming out. Feels more real everyday when I put time to it. I’ve been slacking watching the first 4 movies of Harry Potter with my kids. They’ve been digging it so my schedule has been work, harry potter, this blog. I need to kick it into gear and show some serious dedication! Everybody has those off days, it happens to the best of us.

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What I learned today:
How to use Source Tree with github.

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WordPress and other meaningful stuff

During lunch I was able to blaze through 2 chapters of the WordPress book I’ve been reading. The stopping point was right before I am about to jump into coding. Now that I’m sitting here writing this blog post, the other WP book I have is the 4th edition of Smashing WordPress. It was just created so I may be jumping ship to that book shortly. Maybe I’ll just finish the one I’m reading now, then go to the Smashing WordPress one. Get it super simple friendly before diving into another book. I’d say I’m a power WP user, but I’m not 100% sure what that means! From what I hear, its the ability to navigate WP just fine and manipulate the styles of a theme. That’s currently what I can do now so hopefully learning just some of the smallest php will bridge that gap and give me that big AHA moment that I’m looking for in becoming a WP Developer.

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I love Mountain Dew! I was told today there is a new flavor at 7-11 called Solar Flare, so me being me, I had to go out and try it! I got to say, it tasted like a watered down version of the Mountain Dew Sangrita from Taco Bell. It was a bit of a let down, but it had to be tried! That being said, I had an idea this afternoon. What if there was a website that did pairings? Kind of like wine pairings, but Mountain Dew pairings? At first the idea of science and culinary experts were brought to my attention but then I figured, why? What would a bunch of food critics and snobs say about any sort of Mountain Dew? They’d probably say some fancy words like “food palette” or “taste decrees”. If anything, culinary experts should stay far away from my idea of Mountain Dew pairings! This is for the caffeine geeks! Who’s with me?!

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Ever feel you don’t have enough time in the day? I’m having that feeling right now. It’s past 11pm and I wish I could stay up and burn through this WordPress book but I know I’ll never get up early tomorrow morning to go back to the gym. It’s normal! At least I think it is. You can only do so much in a day before you get burned out or know you’ll wake up burned out and a mess the next day. That will only hurt you the next day and make you super unproductive.

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Tomorrow is Taco Tuesday at Rojo near my work. $1 taco’s that are of good quality. I’d recommend anybody in the area to come on down to get some or just shoot me a message and we can meet up! That’s right, I’ll hang out with anybody that’s down for some dollar taco’s.

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Note to self, take advantage of my WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin I have.

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What I learned today:
In Photoshop, you can ctrl+shift click any element on the page whenever you want then place the layer style on it. I’ve done it before within the layer panel, but never have I done it by just clicking the layers themselves inside the document. It helped me save loads of time when updating my layer comps!

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The WAMP is hidden!

Today almost felt unproductive in my design world until just an hour ago. I’ve been a fan of using XAMPP all the time and have had great success! However, the other day it just stopped working. My plan this weekend was to blast through a WordPress book at night but I had troubles setting up a local server.

I just downloaded WAMP and ran it, but had no clue where it was! For some reason it was hidden. Where? I had no idea. I looked through programs, toolbars, quick launch bars and even that little thing at the bottom right that has the “remove device safely” icon, but nothing! So then the brain fart cloud lifted and I typed in the localhost along with the path in my browser and huzzah! I still have no clue where WAMP is, but the big facepalm let me get to where I wanted to go.

Nobodies perfect! People get stuck and I think a big problem with that is they don’t admit it in fear of seeming stupid. So they’ll just tool away at something and figure it out an hour later when they could of just asked and go the answer right away. Upside? you’ll remember it. Downside? Someone MAY think you’re an idiot. However, when someone asked you a question, did you consider them an idiot? If you’re a decent person, then you were more than happy to help answer a question. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, no matter how silly you think they are!

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What I learned today:
How to access anything on WAMP without having an icon available.

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I do exist!

As everybody knows, I was on an IT in the D podcast before. There was some issues with getting it out there the first few weeks afterwards and I pretty much just forgot it all together. However, when I tweeted out yesterday the guys at IT in the D replied with a link to the show I was on!

You can find the link here: https://soundcloud.com/itinthed/it-in-the-d-episode-24-code

I didn’t listen to myself yet, so I’m just going ahead and blasting it out there for all to hear. Do I sound awesome? Do I sound annoying? Did I do a good job?! Maybe, I’ll be listening to it shortly after this post.

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This morning I started up from what I was reading last night which was a book called “Web Designers guide to WordPress“. I went to start up my XAMPP but it wouldn’t start up the Apache or MySQL. Turns out, Skype is busy hogging the port! MySQL wouldn’t start up still, so I decided to just restart it, then poof. My computer goes down for the count and won’t turn on for another 2 hours. So I do some yard work and come back to it only to find out it wants to restore from a previous point. Long story short, it’s working and MySQL still isn’t. I think I’ll give WAMP a try.

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As a designer, we all love caffeine. I got to try the new Red Bull Summer edition today! It has a strong Pineapple taste, but for some strange reason feels empty and watery. Its hard to explain but the sides of my mouth taste Pineapple and the middle tastes like crisp clean fresh water. I don’t know if that’s the magic it was going for or it was just my taste buds this morning!

To note though, any form of Mountain Dew, Red Bull or Bawls in non-diet form is great. After checking out the site, I’m glad it has been redone! The previous sight was complete balls, with an L. It’s more Bawls now, with a W. If you want to buy my love, bribe me or just want to be my best buddy, then send over a case of any of those energy drinks! I’ll give you a high five and a nod of approval. If you’re lucky, I’ll go 80′s style and give a thumbs up as I turn around from walking away.

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Geek Gear. I got lootcrate today! I’d recommend this monthly box of goodies to your doorstep that is in all kind of geek fashion that all designers will love. This month was Villians and got some really neat things including a bowser magnet, a joki (joker/loki) t-shirt and deadpool socks.

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What’d I learn today. Stop buying books! Ok, maybe not stop all together but there comes a time where you just need to read books instead of collect them to read later. I have a stack 30 high just about that I always keep on reading and feels like it never ends.

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Another day, another inspiring podcast

You got me, I’m addicted to listening to podcasts. Not any podcasts though. I’m into the tech and industry one’s that have to do with design in general. One that I always have to catch is “IT in the D” which is a local podcast centered around local people. I was invited to talk on this show once before, however it was the only episode that got corrupted and wasn’t able to be saved. Too much bald awesomeness in one room? Possibly! The most recent episode I was listening today was about Assemble and Girl Develop It. Assemble is essentially a project to promote small business’s in Detroit. You can go to their Rocket Hub page to learn more about it and maybe even help fund it! It sounds like a great cause and it helped put that spark back into the small guy for me.

The whole reason me and a buddy are starting a small design start up is to help the little guy. We’re not focusing on the big guys or big companies that need work done, we want to help the small to mid-size business scene out. When someone makes a company, they either do it for the money or do it for the passion. I’d like to think that the companies that have the passion are those that make it while the money grubbers fade out at the first sign of trouble. Passion is what helps drive the company even further then it normally would of went. I’m inspired big time over this venture! While I don’t think I have much to contribute other than consulting, I do wish Assemble the best of luck!

I been thinking about speaking again sometime in the future. I spoke at 2 meetup groups as well as on a podcast and I feel like just blabbing on about design and what I know. If anybody out there is looking for a speaker that wants to talk about anything design, let me know! It can be visual design, how to use Photoshop very very well, what’s my process, etc.

I was talking to a friend on Skype today about a logo he did. His first logo actually from design school. It actually wasn’t that bad! I’ve seen some disasters in my time when it came to beginner classes too! But then I was about to go on and on about my logo design process. I stopped myself before I went on a full hour rant, but it got me to think about the process of how I did logo design.

I start out by having a sit down conversation with the client and ask them some questions. What does the company do? What is unique about them? What do they excel at? What kind of emotion would they like to set and show their customers? Those are just a small sample of questions that really get the client thinking.

What did I learn today?

Well I learned that when you use layer comps in Photoshop, setting it so that the layer style’s stay is a bad thing in the long run. I went to change the colors on a 18 comp document and realized I had to do it for every comp! Note to self, make sure you have the visual unchecked for layer comps.

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Do you use your free assets?

I always wondered whether or not people that download mountains of free assets actually use them all. I have countless Terabytes in my design library spread out over a number of hard drives and flash drives. I really don’t think I’ve used half of them though! I have that bad habit of downloading when I see free and organizing it for later use, but never get around to it. I’ll have to make a mini goal to dive into my design library just to see what goodies I have!

Today was one of those downer days in design. I know I got a lot done, but due to tooth aches and allergies my day was pretty much crushed and in a haze. I did manage to match up some killer icons to some alerts I’ve been working on at work that I think are great! I spent the rest of the day looking for some free ways of converting SWF files to MP4 files. I never seem to have success in finding that and feel like I failed. It’s that inevitable feeling one gets when they search for something and it turns out what they want is not fully what they need. Maybe it’s a premium only service or maybe it just wasn’t the way you needed something to work.

Either way, we all have been down that road and there’s 3 things we can do.

1.) Give up
2.) Keep Searching
3.) Make something yourself.

In this case, I’m not making a converter since its far beyond the scope of my knowledge. That and I really don’t have a strong enough need for a SWF to MP4 converter to make one from scratch.

What’d I learn today? I learned that you DO feel more confident in your abilities and your sense of design when you keep track of your life. I’m only a few days into this and what I was hoping would happen is happening. I’m getting that extra boost of self credibility! I’ve always had that, but it feels like it’s being more cemented now.

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Freelance and Believing in yourself

If you’re a designer or developer of any type, then you know how to make that freelance magic. I’m currently in the works of starting something big with a buddy of mine who I shall not name. We’re going through a lot of the process of how things are started for a business and seem to be doing pretty well. Just getting together with someone and talking back and forth on the underbelly of freelance work opens up doors to what I didn’t think was possible in the past. Its nothing groundbreaking, but I’m always interested in knowing the process of how other people work. What we’re doing may not be perfect, but this is the perfect testing ground time to work out the kinks.

I’ve had many side projects and worked with dozens of clients in the past on a multitude of projects, but something about what I’m doing right now feels big. It feels right. I wish I could go more into detail, but for now I’ll just sprinkle in the here and there’s.

New things I’ve learned today. I feel like I should write something about what I learned today, after all whats the point of keeping up to date if you don’t learn something everyday? Today its something small, so small and simple. Talk about what you’re doing. The whole point of me starting up this blog is to get myself thinking more about what I do everyday as a designer and to get talking. However today seemed like an explosion of actually telling people about this idea of blogging about my inner design life. It seemed more real the more I talked about it. The ideas are flowing now on potential possibilities.

I sat at work today remembering what my wife told me a while back. “You should work at Google, you’re pretty good at what you do”, to which I replied “Pffft, Google? I’m not good enough for them”. Now that I was rethinking that, it wasn’t about Google, it was that sense of self confidence. Why not Google? What if I did want to work at Google? Then right after I had that thought, I listened to “Shop Talk”. Shop Talk is a podcast from Chris Coyier who runs /css-tricks.com/. The conversation was about Rob Dodson who talked a lot about Google Polymer development. Google actually invited him to be part of their team from what they’ve seen! Right after that podcast I wanted to tweet Chris and saw that his twitter profile picture is him wearing a shirt that says “Believe in Yourself”.

I’m not saying I’ll actually get the opportunity to work at Google because I blog about the insides of my design life, but the potential to make an impact on the world of design could be just as big. The main idea is that I realized I need to start believing in myself. It’s a big takeaway I think everybody needs in life.

You can find the podcast here:
124: WITH ROB DODSON

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