Remember that Wordless Wednesday?
Want to see more? I cordially invite you to visit my personal website.
Aside from one beastly page I made in Grade 9 computers class on *shudder* Microsoft Publisher, which never actually saw the light of the internet, this is my first website. Like, coded from scratch with HTML, CSS and a tad of jQuery website. Something I coded. Can you tell I’m proud of it?
Sure, it’s still got some kinks to work out. But I’ll get there.
You’ve already heard me go on and on about Ladies Learning Code, who gave me not only the basic skills to start a website, and go on to teach myself some more tricks, but the inspiration to actually go and make a site. Incredible women like Denise Jacobs and those I met through Girl Geeks Toronto at FITC also opened my eyes to the community of awesome coders (…who also happen to be women). Pretty cool.
What I realized through making my website was how easy it came together.
Ok, that’s a big lie. I toiled for ages over the site. Do you know how tricky it is to make a fixed header with rollover buttons that matches up perfectly with a header image? Well maybe you do…
What I mean is I was surprised, and relieved, by how much my design background came in to use. Ha! Art school proves its usefulness! Chatting with some of the mentors at the Ladies Learning Code mobile session, even experienced coders were saying how they find themselves seeking designers to work with because their own design skills aren’t up to snuff. In my opinion, it’s easier to learn code than it is to learn design. With enough practice, anyone can learn to code (my father, who happens to be a professor of computer science and robotics, begs to differ). Art, which tends to find itself at the bottom of the academic and professional food chain, is not something anyone can learn.
Side story: I was unbelievably bad at math in high school. I just wanted to do art. I wasn’t interested in math, so I never applied myself, so I did poorly, so I felt discouraged… Flash forward to a few years ago when I was contemplating doing an MBA. I, and all my friends, entertained the idea but were all intimidated by the math portion of the GMAT. I took a GMAT prep course, bought a practice book, and studied. I relearned math I had once been taught in high school but never took the initiative to learn. But with time, a goal, and a work ethic, I taught myself the math that had made me cry for most of the late 90s. And I aced that GMAT.
So, basically. If I can learn math, if I can code a website, then really I can do anything I put my mind too (my mother was right all along!). It takes initiative, and it takes work, but man is it rewarding. So whatever’s on your bucket list, whatever you want to do but for some reason don’t think you’re capable, work at it.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve taken on? And if not the biggest, what’s the one that made you the most proud?
On a beautiful sunny summer Saturday I found myself among almost 80 others up a downtown office tower for Ladies Learning Code. Ladies Learning Code (LLC) is an amazing initiative that makes learning code welcoming and accessible. And yes gentlemen, you are welcome. If you’re interested in coding but largely new to it, LLC is going to be the best entry point.
I had heard buzzings on twitter about how great LLC was, which is how I got to attend my first class on HTML and CSS a few weeks ago. It took me from zero to website over the course of a day, and I was sent home with a free domain name courtesy of Hover and tickets to FITC to keep the learning experience going.
Since that class I had toiled over my very own personal website (still under construction!), relishing in the process of building a site from scratch. Of course, being tech-savvy and all that, I knew I would eventually have to make my website mobile-friendly. Enter LLC’s Mobile Coding class.
The class was set up in pairs, which made the day a lot more fun. I learned a bunch from my partner Marni, who came to the class from a background in computer science and libraries. Turns out, well, coding for mobile isn’t all that tricky. You just create a unique style sheet for when your site is being viewed from a mobile device. Easy, you see? (Listen to me, prattling on like a programmer).
At the end of the class we all presented the progress we had made during the day. It was outstanding what we n00bs were able to accomplish in a matter of hours, having had no experience with mobile coding before! I was absolutely delighted/honoured/chuffed that Marni and my site made it in to the class’ Top 3. The three teams behind the top pages were put in a draw an Apple TV and two tickets to conference tickets (seriously, LLC has got the hookups). While my name was not pulled for the Apple TV (dommage!) I was again so happy to get a conference ticket!
I left the Mobile class with the knowledge to convert my website to mobile, a full belly, a ticket to a conference, and a mind full of inspiration on how to apply my skills in my work and personal life. Again I’d like to extend the biggest thanks to the organizers of LLC, and the people behind Xtreme Labs, who played a huge roll in the success of this mobile class.
Have you been to an LLC class? What’s holding you back? (And if it’s the name, with all due respect, get over yourself. There are men who come as learners, and men who come as mentors. You won’t feel uncomfortable or unwelcome).
For many, NXNE is a a time for parties, concerts, and daytime workday drinking.
For some, NXNE is all about the i. The interactive. NXNEi, the conference dedicated to technology and music, was where I spent my week. No fancy parties for me. Well, not many.
Just wanted to share with you the highlights of my time at NXNEi.
I about lost my mind when I got to play with the Wacom Intuos Tablet 5. Tablets have come a long way. That thing is a blast, and could really help my illustration skills. Although for my needs, I do wonder if I could get a good enough app for the iPad and a stylus and be well enough off. Wouldn’t turn the Wacom down though. Not at all. You know. If you’re in the market
We Built This City on Rock and Roll
Making the Most of our Music City: How Toronto Can Move From Good to Great was my favourite panel, featuring moderator Nikki Rowling, Music Canada‘s Graham Henderson, Jeff Cohen (owner of The Horseshoe Tavern,among other venues) and City of Toronto Councillor Josh Colle.
This panel compared Toronto with Austin, TX, the self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World. What’s the deal, Toronto? We have the live music capacity, and we see crowds come out from within the city and neighbouring cities (and countries!) but live music in Toronto is still seen very much as an art, and not an industry. Cultural policy is of great interest to me, so it was heartening to hear Councillor Colle say how the city can develop infrastructure to foster live music as an industry. It was shown how in Austin after initial developments form within the live music industry, the local government developed infrastructure to support it, and then the live music industry took off exponentially. If we can replicate that in Toronto, which has a greater population and potential for funding, the positive impact (in mere tourism dollars alone) would be a lucrative one.
I deleted an email. Vic Teows, can I have your copy?
When the Internet Met Copyright: The Story of the Canadian Copyfight was a terrific presentation. Dr. Michael Geist was unbelievably knowledgeable and frankly a top notch speaker. He laid out the tricky medium between enforcing copyright and respecting privacy, with timely (and Canadian!) examples like that whole Vic Teows kerfuffle(slight understatement). He also highlighted how online users have recently helped impact policy – when Wikipedia makes a very public denouncement of your policy, people listen:
….or they are absolutely clueless. Kids, stay off Wikipedia for homework. Come on now.
The shining stars
But the real highlight of all of NXNEi was of course #charityfail, which was the panel on which I spoke. Honestly, being a speaker of NXNEi was great. Shout outs to
my fellow panelists Holly Knowlman and Laura Bradley, who are incredibly accomplished and inspiring individuals. I tip my hat to the two of you.
Feed the music nerds
The lack of food inspired a cupcake arms race:
Plenty of dudes and dudettes
I know I got down on FITC for being so heavy on men – as speakers and as attendants. NXNEi had refreshingly equal representation of women as speakers, panelists, performers, and attendants. And I’m not sure why. Yes, technology in general is still a closed off boys’ club rife with misogyny but I’m sure music has its fair share of inequality. Perhaps not as much? Anyway, the crowd and vibe was way different than FITC. Much more tweeting, more laid back, and everyone seemed to be nursing a hangover. Go figure.
Were you at NXNEi? What were your thoughts on the conference?
The year was 2005 and I was in one of Zavitz Hall‘s painting studios. The instructor was making his way through the room. We students stood in front of our easels, painting diligently. Everyone had earphones in, working to our own personal playlists.
On one of those days I overheard a comment from the instructor that stuck with me:
You only need another three hours on this painting. The trick is, you need the right three hours.
And if you’ve ever gone to art school, you know those words ring true. You could paint all day and night and still be no closer to your finished product. You end up overworking it, and have to scrape off paint and start an area all over again. You could count yourself lucky if you at least made some progress, rather than leaving the painting in a worse state than how you came to it. My friends had their own tricky assignments, but they knew if they put four hours’ worth of work in to it, they’d have four hours’ worth of a product on their hands. Like a marathon. Yes it’s hard, but each time you put one foot in front of the other, you get closer to the end. I saw no such guarantee in art. It’s more of a lindy-hop. There’s some shuffling forward, but a lot of backwards and sideways and spinning movement too.
But if you paint those right three hours, each stroke ends up being exactly what you wanted, with no mistakes, and the painting comes together without a struggle.
Since the epicness of Ladies Learning Code and FITC I’ve been working away at creating a personal website. I genuinely can’t wait to get home and bust out my Text Edit files and fiddle with HTML and CSS. But my coding sessions don’t always go well. I can tinker with one element of my website for hours and still not get it to work. Or if I get it to work, it breaks another part of the website.
But like painting, occasionally you get right three hours of coding in, and every keystroke gets you that much closer to your intended result.
And yes, fine, I suppose in all things, those wrong hours you spend, where you find yourself back where you started, or worse, with more of a mess on your hands than before, are needed. You need to screw up and understand what you don’t want in order to work out what it is you do want. It’s still frustrating as heck.
Oh, and another reason painting is like coding – turns out I’m fairly awesome at both (you can see how awesome I am at coding in a few weeks).
I was absolutely delighted to join Jackie Fox as a Digital Dignitary at this year’s Digital Leap. We live-tweeted the full-day conference (held in the beautiful Art Gallery of Ontario) and even though our thumbs were sore by the end of the day, we were truly thankful for the opportunity. So thank you Stephen Thomas!
Since there was so much content packed in to one day, I present to you some of my favourite tidbits in list form:
My Favourite Six Things I Learned at Digital Leap 2012
Meet your Aunt Mables
You’ve crafted a perfect email ask, and it’s sitting in someone’s mailbox. They log in, see it, but right beneath it is an email from their Aunt Mable asking for a donation to a cause she’s supporting. Whose email are they going to open? Whose cause are they going to support? Aunt Mable’s. Whose perfectly crafted email ask is likely going to go unopened and untouched? Yours. Peer-to-peer fundraising is such a powerful tool because of the greater level of trust individuals have within their own network rather than with your organization. So find your Aunt Mables, find your Team Captains, find your network influencers who will pitch your cause to their community on your behalf. Because since Aunt Mable’s emails are the ones getting opened and the ones pulling donations, the cause in question had better be yours.
Hat tips to Ted Hart
Write three paragraphs a week
For those with limited staff and time (comme moi) this was a terrific tactic. Set aside a regular hour a week to write three paragraphs about your cause or programming. But don’t send it to anyone yet. Do this for a few weeks. Afterwards look at what you’ve written. Still feel like sending it out? Perfect. Use that content bit by bit in blog posts or eblasts. Keep up with your regular weekly writing though, so when the week comes that you’re swamped, you’ll still have content stockpiled from past weeks and your level communication won’t suffer.
Hat tips to Randall Craig
Stop hating on Pinterest (What did I tell you?)
“But it’s just for chicks” I hear folks bemoan. And yet who holds the buying power? And who does lots of donating? If you have a product to sell or a campaign to run, your audience is waiting for you on Pinterest. Pinterest also gets clicks – it’s the #3 referral site, just behind Facebook and Twitter, and accounts for more referral clicks that Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined. Folks hang around on Pinterest longer too: the average Pinterest visit is 14 minutes, compared with product website pages where the visits are calculated in seconds. Also, Movember is on Pinterest, so let’s just drop the whole “Pinterest is just for chicks” thing.
Hat tips to Margarita Ibbott
Gearing up for an event or program? Share the process. Start the shoutouts to your speakers, your sponsors, your volunteers, and your venue in the days or weeks leading up to the event. Lifting the veil and letting your community in on the pre-game details humanizes the organization, and goes to show how truly thankful you are by sharing the spotlight with all those who are contributing. We’re all great at blowing our own horns at the event or during the fundraiser, but keep folks up to date afterwards with pictures showing them what you’ve done with their money.
Hat tips to Margarita Ibbott
Deny, Deny, Deny
Folks are talking about you. And it might not all be good. But it’s most definitely public. Turn negative feedback in to a customer service opportunity. Even repost the original negative review, and then publicize how you dealt with it. To err is human, and you want to humanize your organization. The way you react to an issue can garner even more attention, positive or negative, than the issue itself. Two good examples are the sleeping fare collector (huge negative reaction, follow-up extremely vague and private, added to customer service frustrations) VS say, the oft-references Red Cross tweet slip-up (appropriate apologies, handled with humour, ended up with more donations)
Hat tips to Derrick Feldman
Get your community involved in new ways
I loved the idea of calling on your Facebook users to submit pictures to use as the Timeline masthead image. A picture’s worth a thousand words, and Facebook has given you one heck of a lot of real estate to make a visual impact. So make use of it!
Hat tips to Derrick Feldman
There was a lot more than what I have gleaned here. I think what really set Digital Leap apart from some other conferences I have attended before was the fact that even though the case studies may have featured larger established charities, the tools are totally applicable to smaller staffs, smaller budgets, smaller shops. Which ultimately means the information is more useful, hurray!
I am not sure I have ever tweeted so much in a day. But turns out I do an alright job:
@indeedemma Enjoying your live tweets today. Well done with those fast fingers!
— Yaz Maziar (@yazmaziar) May 3, 2012
@indeedemma you are a fantastic tweeter.
— Aarti Sethi (@AARTIculate) May 3, 2012
(So hey, if you’re looking for someone to live tweet your awesome event, drop me a line!)
Were you at Digital Leap? What were your favourite things? Got any tips for maximizing social media for your cause?
It was my first time at a tech conference. I’m used to academic conferences. Social media conferences. Nonprofit conferences. And I dig conferences, man. But this one was a new and strange world.
Wifi: Not advertised anywhere but you had to go to the reg desk to ask for a one-day, single-person wifi password each day. Why make it hard on users?
Food: While there was a steady stream of coffee, tea, water, and in one of the rooms, beer, there was no food. It’s a pricy conference so I was surprised there wasn’t a bite to be had! Especially since alcohol was offered.
But I’ll give FITC the benefit of the doubt on both cases and assume/hope it was something to do with the venue.
I’m used to a lot of handshaking and business-card-swapping and live-tweeting. But I felt bad whenever I pulled out twitter since everyone else was so glued to the presentation, absorbing all the information they could but not actively sharing it. Then again, I soon realized however it is hard to tweet about code. It just is.
The dudes. I hung out mostly with women, people I had got to know through twitter and Ladies Learning Code. But man. The two panels? All white men. The keynote? All white men. The moderators? White men. And yes. Tech in Toronto is primarily a white man’s world. Or maybe it’s just pricy-tech-conferences are a white man’s world. In any case, thank you, sincerely, Ladies Learning Code for the tickets.
So sheesh, why aren’t there more women in code? Oh I don’t know, maybe it’s the gendering of professions to which we’re exposed at a young age, maybe it’s because women coders get called “hogrammers,” maybe being an outlier makes one uncomfortable… This is a large kettle of fish about which I am not sufficiently versed to provide an answer. But regardless, thanks Ladies Learning Code for creating a positive environment and encouraging women to code.
The practical sessions: I’m a new coder. So new I don’t even feel comfortable calling myself a coder. But Matthew Potter‘s DIV talk and Denise Jacobs‘ CSS presentation lit a fire in my belly to go out there are code like heck.
Malvin the Bear became our unofficial meeting spot between sessions. You jump on this bear and depending on how forcefully you land you get treated to a colourful projection and a friendly Grrr. People got pretty in to it.
Adobe Keynote: Have you seen Proto? As it was put “I’ve just been replaced by a program.” You draw stuff, it turns in to code. It got the most oohs and ahhs of the whole conference.
Denise Jacobs: The only woman I saw give a talk (two, actually). She is incredible. Her presentation skills are just amazing. She is relatable. I wish I had been able to talk to her one-on-one. Even when her material delved too deep for me she made me feel like I could get it. That some day, not too far from now, I would get it. Great talk on inspiration too. Rock on.
Aaron Draplin: The man. The package. The design. I drank the Kool-Aid and have been singing his praises ever since his Tall Tales and 20-Point Plan to Wreck Your Life. After his presentations (the slides for which had to be the best branded and organized anywhere, ever) I was ready to take on the freaking WORLD, man. Crushed I didn’t get to rub shoulders with him later on. I’ve been taking his talking points to heart.
Get it on vinyl, you say?
He made me look at Futura Gothic in a way I never had before. See how hot pink and lime green work together. Appreciate the honesty of a retro-nostalgic design aesthetic. He’s a cross between The Dude and Michael Moore in looks, but a creature unlike any other in energy and talent. He loves you too. I mean, look what he made us, Canada!
So there we go. I’m not sure what I was supposed to get out of the conference. I didn’t know what to expect. But I know that as a direct result of FITC I was able to successfully play with my first bit of jQuery (for a bomb-diggity animation I can’t wait to show you in a few weeks), I’m driven to be a more accomplished coder, and design the eff out of this world.
So, all in all, great times FITC!
Since all the cool kids are posting where they’ll be and when at FITC Toronto, I thought I’d follow suit. I got my tickets through Ladies Learning Code, a session of tech workshops geared towards women (men are absolutely welcome too!). I can’t say enough good things about Ladies Learning Code (follow them at @llcodedotcom). I went to their HTML/CSS workshop and went from zero to website in the course of a day. Currently spending most of my nights coding my very own site. Stay tuned for that. Gonna be huge.
Now, back to my FITC schedule:
Monday April 23
10:00-11:30 HTML 5: Life in the Trenches
11:45-12:45 Design Renegade
Lunch with Geek Girls Toronto
1:50-2:50 The Adobe Keynote
Wednesday April 25
10:00-11:30 How to be a Super CSS Detective
11:45-1:15 Storyworlds in Abstract Experiences
2:15-3:15 The Secrets of Creation
3:30-4:30 On Demand Inspiration
4:45-5:45 The Whiskey Hour
Are you going to be at FITCTO? Going to any of the same sessions?
Clare McDowall brought up the brilliant point of micro-philanthropy (Disclaimer: she works at Small Change Fund, which I talk about later). If you’re not familiar with it, think KickStarter for a good cause. The geniuses behind micro-philanthropy worked out that enough small donations add up to bigger donations, and bigger donations can make a bigger impact.
Take Kiva, for instance. Empower people around with world with a $25 loan. Their site lists projects looking for financing. You pick one, and send $25 their way so they can fund their project. As the project takes off, you get paid back. How’s that for cash-strapped philanthropy? You get your money back, or you can decide to re-invest it in another project. Especially useful for donors concerned about their money being filtered through administration before getting to the intended recipient, 100% of what Kiva receives go directly towards funding loans.
Closer to home is Small Change Fund. Projects are from all across Canada, ranging from physical infrastructure and community harvesting to environment conservation and education. You choose the amount to donate, and your money is pooled with that of donors from across the country to make these projects a reality.
The great thing about micro-philanthropy is that they are really looking for those small donations. A lot of them ensure all the money donation goes straight to the cause, and keep donors informed on how the project is doing. And there are micro-philanthropy organizations cropping up all over the place, for any cause you can think of.
I’m going to close with a video from DonorsChoose.org, the brain-child of teachers frustrated with the lack of supplies made available to their students and a wonderful example of successful crowd-sourced fundraising. Also because it has famous people in it.
Have you ever given to a micro-philanthropic cause?
There are a lot of reasons to hate on the QR code.
They’re ugly. They’re hard to design around.
For some reason, in the city of Toronto, the vast majority of them that I’ve seen are located on our public transit system.
Underground. Where there is no internet.
And even when they’re scanned, they so often just direct the user to the company’s home page. If it is more work for me to get in to my QR scanner app and scan your QR code than it would be for me to type http://www.yourcompanyname.com, you are doing it wrong.
And why would I even want to go in to the trouble of arriving at your home page if I have to pinch and swipe and drag to zoom in to be able to read your content? Be a pal. Send your users to mobile-optimized content.
And no Flash.
QR codes are even cropping up in e-newsletters and as Facebook and twitter avatars. No. I’m not going to get my smartphone out and scan a screen. I’m looking at you, VEVO:
QR codes are meant to bring users from print media to online content. If I’m already online, just use a hyperlink. It does the trick.
Now even though many QR codes are awkward to scan and take me somewhere I’m not keen on going, I don’t hate them.
I have seen a few (very few) examples where I saw real potential in QR codes being awesome.
One (sigh, yes I saw it on the subway) was to promote an upcoming book. Scan the QR code for the first chapter. Brilliant! It’s not just going to take me to a homepage. It’s going to give me free content. A teaser. It’s subscribing to the wonderful idea that you give something for free to entice purchases. And text is something I can consume on the go, perfectly suited to my little screen. Pretty forward thinking.
I saw one on the back of a wine bottle and got excited. Ok, it actually took me straight to their non-mobile-optimized homepage. But what I hoped it would bring me to was a recipe to make and pair with the wine. Or a recipe that uses the wine. Mobile-optimized, of course. I mean could you see Food & Drink and the LCBO/VQA getting in on that?
The brilliant folks over at Small Change Fund have QR codes on their business cards, which take you to a YouTube video explaining the organization and its mandate.
What I don’t see enough of (and am frankly surprised) are big, simple posters with a clear QR code that directs users to an awesome, mobile-optimized, secure donation page (to be fair, mobile donations in Canada are lagging far behind our European buddies).
Now, part of the intrigue of the QR code I believe is its novelty. And if augmented reality is taking off as fast as it seems to be, QR codes will likely be left by the wayside. But until then, QR codes are a free way to get users and customers to your online content.
Just please. Make the content worth the scan.
And before you incorporate QR codes in to anything, scan this:
Jokes! Click here instead. Much easier.