Time Sinks and Indie Thoughts

I’ve just noticed that it’s been over a week since my last post. In and of itself, that isn’t an issue. There are no schedules here; I have no binding commitments to theAdhocracy. Entire months or years could pass between posts and I wouldn’t bat an eyelid (though, I hope, I would feel a little sad). Instead, the lack of a post is noteworthy because I’ve actually been writing content consistently for the last four days, as well as a couple of days last week. That content isn’t still stuck in draft form, it’s all fully edited and ready to ship (so to speak). In my mind it’s actually finished, archived and filed away as a completed job well done. So the reality that no one else can see these posts genuinely struck me as a little odd. This scenario is not one I had really considered when I started my monthly media roundups, but I guess, in hindsight, it can’t really be avoided. One large post a month may have to substitute for more regular content – right now I don’t have a solution, except to make sure my posted content is more varied.

One clear way to increase the throughput to the visible side of theAdhocracy would be to utilise micropublishing, effectively pulling in any facebook posts, RSS likes, instagram/Flickr photos etc. and cataloguing them all here. But, oh no! Once again I’ve stumbled into the indie web without any preparation. I wrote about my headaches with the learning curve associated with the indie web before. What I didn’t realise then was that the very person I’d “called out” in that post had already created what I was asking for: a more simplified, step-by-step guide to getting started on the indie web. So that’s awesome (and, once again, thank you Jeremy Keith!). Now to just find some time to play around with the suggestions. Oh and get my back end in shape first. Plus, maybe tidy up how my current categories work. I mean I’m not stalling at all…

Micropubawhoozits! Am I right?!

I’d really love to get micropublishing up and running on theAdhocracy. I’ve recently started dabbling in Flickr and it would be great to upload here and automatically have my photo’s fired over there; I’d also definitely get way more out of Twitter if I felt like small “thoughts” thrown up here could just get flung out as a tweet. I love the core concept as well, keeping control of your content and protecting against potential future service outages or (god forbid) full on closures.

So every time I read about the an Indiewebcamp or someone like Jeremy Keith throws up another interesting insight into their own methodologies and progress, I get excited. I want to start trying stuff out, so I start Googling. I pretty much always end up back here, at the main site for Indiewebcamp itself. And then I hit a wall.

Reading through the wiki page regarding Micropub is equivalent to reading through the pilots manual for the Millenium Falcon. I understand that the ultimate end result of my grasping this knowledge can only lead to awesome future adventures, but honestly it may as well be written in Xhosa. I get a headache, I close the tab and I go do something else, defeated once again.

One day I will actually spend a weekend getting my head around this. Much like learning to fly the Falcon (I wish), this is something I will continue to get excited for and, ultimately, that excitement will result in learning actually happening. But I do feel my frustration is warranted, and I feel that’s a great shame. The idea of the indie web is, to use Jeremy Keith’s own words:

about having your own place on the web so that you have control over what you put out in the world.

It’s just a shame that understanding the how is quite so buried under a whole raft of new terminology, much of which is needlessly obfuscated in its naming (I mean, what exactly is an h-card? What does that actually mean?). Maybe, in the future, once I’ve bent my own understanding around all the h-names, microgizmos and selfdogtreats out there I’ll find the time to right down some plainer, simpler instructions for others in the same situation. Then again, maybe there is some internal logic and once it “clicks” I’ll never think twice about it again. Only time will tell.

The Anxiety Problem

Chances are that if, like me, you are interested in web design (or just design work in general) you probably already know about A List Apart, the amazing blog that has been a source of industry leading/changing ideas for well over a decade. If, somehow, you don’t then stop reading this and start reading that.

If you need a good “jumping in” point, then I cannot recommend the article Defeating Workplace Drama with Emotional Intelligence enough. I realise I’m a little late to this particular post, given that it’s over a month old, but ALA articles are definitely long form, so tend to build up in my feed reader between actual outings. Still, Brandon Gregory has hit the nail on the proverbial head in this instance. It may not be your standard A List Apart read (HTML, CSS or the ilk are barely mentioned… in fact I don’t think they are at all!) but I imagine the advice contained would benefit anyone, no matter what industry you work in. I’ll definitely be coming back to certain paragraphs for years to come.

Cube Food

Over fifty types of food including cabbage, fish and pineapple, cut into perfect cubes and aligned in a minimalist grid fashion
Abstractly delicious, no?

Created by design studio Lernert & Sander, I’m a big find of this recent “viral” piece of art-meets-food-porn. The concept is a simple one, executed perfectly and arranged with the precision required. Just a great little concept with stunning results, and I love that they have picked some very different parts of some of the chosen foods.

Make Me Pulse

Screengrab of Make Me Pulse's 2016 Microsite with text reading "Make Me ..." followed by empty box and surrounded by geometric shapes

Occasionally, Stumbleupon delivers something totally unexpected and awesome. It’s why I still get the service’s weekly emails years after ever actively using the… app? Extension? Whatever, today it brought me Make Me Pulse, a fantastic design studio (well, at least a fantastic website for a design studio, though a brief review of their work means I’m relatively confident giving them the thumbs up as well) with some very clever interactivity on their site. I’d recommend checking out their homepage purely for the geometric, virtual “drum skin” you can play with, but tucked away in a semi-hidden corner is a very fun, quirky and captivating little ‘happy new year’ microsite. Definitely worth a check out.

Lightroom Resource List

Humurous graph outlining relative skill level of photographer compared to self worth
I’m definitely still in the first quartile…

My new PC is up and running and starting to be “just right” (we’ll get to further details later, I promise), so one of the big “new” things I’ve got for the new year is a subscription to Adobe CC – specifically the “Photographer” plan. I have previously mentioned worries regarding this plan; the insecurities of relying so much on software that you never truly own, but only “rent” for a given period. Ultimately though, I caved. Adobe still produces the best image editing software in the world, as far as I’m concerned, and although it’s been many years since I last truly used Lightroom I remain impressed by its suite of features.

That said, referring to myself as “rusty” is probably so overly-polite it’s borderline fictional when it comes to using both Lightroom and Photoshop. Not only have I taken a several-year absence, I haven’t had an “up-to-date” version of either program since CS3, so there are a lot of new features and “enhanced” (read: totally different) navigation options. As a result, I’m regarding myself as a total beginner and slowly compiling an Adobe 101. I’m also continuing my war against the easily forgotten, losable “bookmark”, so I figured I would just keep a rolling list going on here. With that said, here’s some links to tips/advice I’ve found useful so far:

7 Steps to Getting Organised in Lightroom ~ Layers Magazine
Understanding the Histogram (Basics) ~ Lynda.com
JPEG Export Comparisons ~ Jeffrey Friedl
Virtual Copies ~ Laura Shoe
Focus Stacking ~ Phlearn
Noise Reduction ~ Daniel Laan (seriously awesome and includes other, non-LR tools for comparison)
Custom Metadata for Importing Photos ~ Digital Photography School
Local Adjustment Brush Settings ~ MCPactions
Colour Balancing Tips ~ Adobe Tutorials
Lightroom -> Photoshop -> Lightroom ~ Adobe Tutorials
10 Ways to Speed Up Lightroom ~ Lightroom Zen

And of course Adobe’s own tutorials page, which is really very impressive in both scope and detail: Official Lightroom Details (especially combined with their Coffee Break Tips series)

I’ve decided to add a couple of links for straight up photography as well:

Depth of Field Quick Guide ~ Aperture Tours
Composition Study ~ compositionstudy.com
UK Image Copyright Laws ~ gov.uk
Photo metadata/IPTC explained ~ IPTC
Astrophotography Tutorials & Tips ~ sympathink

Gouty-Stem Trees For All

19th Century pencil illustration of an Australian Baobab tree, titled Gouty-Stem Tree

Ah, the good old “Gouty-Stem Tree” of Australia! Actually, I honestly had no idea that Baobab’s had reached the Great Land of Oz; I have (mistakenly) always assumed they were endemic to Africa, but apparently not. But, apologies tree-lovers, this is not a post about these wondrous, bulbous monsters of the savannah but rather how I came to learn about them in the first place and, importantly, why I can share the above image without any worries of reprisal.

The “Gouty-Stem Tree” (the image, not the plant) is an illustration taken from John Stoke’s book “Discoveries in Australia; with an account of the coasts and rivers explored and surveyed during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, in the years 1837-43“*. Not a book I’ve ever read (or actually seen), sadly, but one of hundreds that have been archived and “digitised” by the British Library to help preserve and catalogue their huge collection, which is all available to the public. Better still, this particular image, alongside hundreds of similar engravings, etchings, drawings, maps etc., has been released as part of a side project of copyright free pictures (due to the age of the books), all made accessible and shareable via Flickr. You can check out the full, ever expanding collection over here (its definitely worth it).

A friend pointed this out to me, largely for use in world-building, writing and LARPing exercises (more her forte, sadly) but personally I can also see a very valuable resource for designers, with some fantastic wildlife imagery that I’m itching to incorporate into some future projects. Happy hunting!

* I have no idea if this refers to the H.M.S. Beagle, of Darwinian fame.