Sometimes books can be confusing

I remembered why I stopped this very same WordPress book months ago when I had a free ebook version of it. In the 5th chapter, there’s no indication that they are telling you about what the theme will look like. They say to check out the static theme and then say how the theme should look like the page examples. Of course they don’t look the same as what I’m given in the static theme! So this time I cranked through it and then in the next chapter it shows that they were previously showing the finished theme. Confusing? They said check out the static theme which was the barebones. I don’t know if I’m more confused or you’re more confused reading it. It was confusion all around. However Chapter 6 is still awesome and goes back to where it should of been.

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I’ve been reading up a lot on branding and I’ve come to the conclusion its a beast. I know a lot of you just rolled your eyes and say “well Duh!”, but I just thought I’d point that out.

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I came across an article on LinkedIn about people waking up at 5am. See Full Article Here. It goes on to say that you don’t have to be up at 5am in order to make the most of your life. You just have to get up and do what you can at your level. My thoughts? Nobody is saying you have to wake up at 5am! However, the most successful people follow that mantra and are able to get a lot more done. Therefore, they are successful. Nobody is forcing you to wake up at 5am, nobody is forcing you to follow the path successful people did but if your ambition is to become that kind of great then wake up! I myself also think that if you put in that extra time at the end of the day, you could make it work. There is something about the peace of 5am though.

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What I learned today:
Keep on reading if things still seem confusing.

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I learned the WordPress Loop!

Today I went more into WordPress and right into the WordPress Loop! I got the basics down and at first everything collapsed on me. I have a tendency to micro-check everything and before I could end the loop I tested it, causing it to crash. After I closed it out, everything was happy and working again. I’ve been looking over it to get a better understanding and I think it’s coming along nicely. Since the loop is such a big part, I think having to go over it word by word in the book is the best way to keep it in memory. The next chapter is starting a Theme from scratch and all that is given is a bunch of mumbo jumo assets on a page un-styled. This will be fun!

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Usually designers spend a good majority of their weekend on side projects sometimes. Its them getting their stuff together to break out on their own or just get creative aside from their job. I can’t talk for all designers, but for me the weekends are typical slow during the day when it comes to your typical “productive” work. Instead, I spend the weekends playing with my kids and doing yard work. To me that’s a creative outlet. Playing games and watching movies and cartoons with my kids help relax my brain and keep it nice and refreshed. Playing with Lego’s is the big thing at my house right now and it doesn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. Just dumping them out in a big pile and just building random things helps keep the creative sparks flowing.

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What I learned today:

The WordPress Loop!

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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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