Sunday, November 11, 2007

Logo Design vs. Artwork Cleanup

I've decided to change from a package rate to an hourly rate on logo design. A logo needs to get the job done, and a package with a set number of trial & errors is not the best deal for the client. I can still offer a flat-rate on logo design, if you really like it, but I was considering raising my price to $1000, and that punishes clients who know exactly what they want and those who communicate effectively, make quick decisions, and the times that I hit the nail on the head the first time.

I decided to stop punishing the easy logo design clients, and start rewarding them instead by charging hourly creative charges. My creative charge is $70/hour because being creative is as tough as being technical (this is the same rate for my technical skills clients). This charge is at an hour minimum, charged in 15 minute increments, rounded up. So an easy logo can cost $70, a tough case can go for several hundred dollars, and you get to choose how long you want to nitpick over details (and it's your logo -- you SHOULD nitpick over the details!!!). Designing business cards, flyers, post cards, etc. goes under this category.

So what about people who need something easier, less creative?

While it can be time consuming, some clients just need artwork cleanup rather than creatives. If you never received a clean copy of your logo design suitable for imprinted products, or scaling up, Eclectic Tech is charging less for artwork cleanup charges. In-trade (printers, promotional product consultants, screen printers, designers, etc.) the charge is $50/hour. For one-time-only clients, i.e. direct-to-consumer, I'm charging $60/hour. So please come to me if you need your logo or artwork cleaned up for a project. Most artwork doesn't take more than hour to clean up. Half-hour minimum, charged in 15 minute increments rounded up.

If you give me anything from a vague idealistic concept of what you're looking for through a rough sketch (back of a cocktail napkin or computer mock-up rough) of what you're looking for, it's a logo design charge. If you have finished artwork that just isn't up to snuff for the project at-hand, needs a text change, a color change, etc. then it's a "light design" charge and goes under artwork cleanup. If you already have a business card, and you want the exact same design with a change in a phone number or color, the charge is an artwork cleanup charge.

Prices may change in the future after this blog entry. Please check my website for current charges.

My first client for artwork-cleanup is Prisms Promotions -- I've done almost a dozen cleanup projects for them, and I've decided to advertise the service. See my portfolio page or testimonial page for more information on who is using this service.

[tags]creative,design,economy,identity,local business,logo,money,portfolo,prices,print design[/tags]

Friday, October 26, 2007

Who are you hiring on the web? Web traps and anonymity

I'm a website designer & programmer. I can work with anyone, anywhere in the world. I chose to be different and do most of my work in the local region. But like I said, that's different. Many of my colleagues think more is better, and try to price low and gain money on quantity rather than quality, both of their clients and of their services.

When searching for a service online, I don't care if you're looking for website hosting, website design, logo design, custom graphics, or an alarm company (the only item in this list that I'm not providing), you probably want -- or need -- to know where the person is.

So how do you figure it out?

I wanted to use a specific set of examples in this post. Top-of-the-search engine results with fantastic prices, and absolutely no phone number or address to be seen on their website. Sites that ended up being in other countries. Websites with blatant grammatical errors that obviously still rake in enough cash to get to the top of Google search results on pay-per-click hot topics that are highly competitive.

But they asked me nicely to remove their website address and information from my blog. So I'm removing it. Not exactly sure what offended them about the post, as they were only a live example and it was true that they were in a foreign country, but I'll remove it to keep the peace.

Some cliches exist for a reason. "You get what you pay for" is one of them. In a vast sea of choices and no education, people choose the products by lowest price. There's either too much information, or not enough, to educate the consumer into making informed choices.

There are real dangers in sending your money to a foreign corporation. They can be of the most stellar reputation, 100% honest, hard-working people, but you are still never afforded the same protections and conveniences you have working with someone in the same town or at least the same state. It is much less convenient to do business out-of-state, or out-of-the-country. If it's out-of-state you have the additional complications of figuring out which state/jurisdiction to interpret your contract in, and where you have to travel to in order to arbitrate disputes. In foreign matters, unless you have the type of money it takes to go to International court, you don't have legal protections no matter what the contract says.

If you are going to a local company, you can check their mailing address, their reputation, get a real referral from someone you know to someone you know you can trust. You can track their professional affiliations, check the Better Business Bureau to see if there are complaints against them. And more.

So how do you figure out who people really are? There is a database that stores their legal domain registration information. There is real consideration to abolishing this information on the web, but in the meantime the more of us who are using it for legitimate reasons (to check on the idenitity of a service before purchase) the better. This database is accessible at

If you enter into Whois you can see their registration record. Enter "theirdomainname" in the field for looking up domain registration data. Make sure the right suffix is selected (".com") and click GO!

Not all domains show legal registration information online. The domain owner can hide that information by paying their domain registrar a few extra bucks to make even that anonymous.... Then you need to get into some website gymnastics to figure out who these people are, and I am not sure it's worthwhile. If they're hiding, maybe they have something to hide. More often, though, people are banking on ignorance. This blog post is to help some people wake up and smell the scandal. The flip side of this idea: If you run a legitimate business, you should not be anonymous on the web, and prospective clients shouldn't need to resort to the "whois database" method above, just to figure out where you're located. I get a few junk mails and a junk fax or 3 for having my information up -- the worst is the domain-registration related spam, but that's a hazard of doing legit business on the web.

I suggest you look at people's Contact Us page and check that their information matches their WhoIs registration -- check their professional affiliations and their memberships in local chambers of commerce. Ask if there have been any complaints against them.

If you're in the local region, you could ask for a face-to-face with the person you're doing business with. The only way to see eye-to-eye on any project is to actually be able to look someone in the face.

Moral: You pay for what you get.

Good luck!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Organizing Contacts & Clients

Here's my low-tech tip for how to organize all those business cards you (should!) have been getting at all the networking events you have been going to (you HAVE been networking, right????!?). I have an address book in my computer, I have a Palm, I have considered whether or not to enter "ALL" business cards I collect into an electronic medium, but so far I've found an easier (for me) way to keep business cards at my fingertips.

It involves several 1.5 & 2 inch 3-ring binders, and Avery (or similar) business card sheets -- these sheets hold 10-up -- putting cards back-to-back to display on 2 sides makes it 20 cards per page... There also are tabbed business card sheets so you can use some of the sheets as dividers. I also get 100% post-consumer recycled college-ruled 3-ring binder paper, which I keep in clipboards on my desk, normal section dividers, and a set of A-Z section dividers I had laying around for years.

Here's how I set them up:

One binder (about 1.5 inch right now) is the "Business Cards" binder and that has a section for the Orange County Chamber, Sullivan County Chamber, Orange Networking Alliance, each BNI chapter I visited, Toastmasters, etc. When I meet someone at an event by a specific group, their card goes into that group's section. Later, when I'm trying to connect people together, all I have to do is remember which group I met someone at to find their card. Within sections, I'm not terribly picky about the order I put them in: most of those groups don't have enough people/cards in them to get too anal about how to organize the section.

I keep a 2" binder for warm/hot prospects, a 2" ring binder for current clients, and a 1.5" binder for clients "in support."

Prospect book: I set up the book with a few business card sheets, a plain piece of filler paper for an index, then the A-Z dividers. When a prospect calls, I grab a clipboard and start taking notes on the filler paper (or on 1-sided scrap, more on that later). Then it's time to file their information. If I have their business card, I slip it into the business card sheet in the front of the book. I write their name & business name, perhaps how they were referred to me, on the index in pencil, underline the letter in their name or business name that I'm filing them under, and file them in the binder in that section. Now when I need to touch base with that prospect, I can easily take the binder off the shelf, start dialing or emailing them just from their card, then turn to the divider section and have my hand-written notes at my fingertips.

If that person becomes a client, their information gets moved to my client book, and their name gets erased from the index in the prospect book. Their business card goes in the front of the client book, and I now use a complete divider section for the client. I still use an index in pencil for the front of the book, but these sections are numbered. I file notes on phone calls, timesheets, contracts, and other documentation in their section. Once the client's job is finished, they migrate to the In Support book.

All the books are labeled and sit in the hutch of my desk.

This works best for people who aren't trying to cold-call every business they've ever contacted -- and people who can remember where they met someone but not their name or business name, although some electronic systems allow you to track when and where you met someone. However, if you are going to cold-call everyone, I'd recommend adding small post-its to your collection. Why add people to an electronic database if they're not interested, and probably will never be interested, in your product? Keep a notepad nearby, a small post-it pad, make the initial call off the business card, and if they're not interested now, put the post-it on the card with the date you called and that they weren't interested. ... or a date they said to call back. You might only manage 10 business cards per sheet, but you could take some notes on paper, fold them up and stick them behind the card in question. Now you can try them again later, but don't have to spend much time on someone who is not making you money.

Another person I know writes the event & date on the cards when she brings them home. She's going to start using my binder system, rather than have the cards in piles, but I like the idea of putting a date on them. I'm not going to, but I like it :)

Even if I had a business card scanner, I would want to hold on to the business cards themselves. I find they give me important clues to who the person is -- the style of card often helps me remember who the person behind the card was. If I only had the information, I might not remember the person. Also it's easier to pass along a business card if you have it than if you scanned it. I have been known to bring the whole business card binder with me to speed networking events.

Now, there are some cards you should not have in this system. These are your preferred vendors, other members of your own referral group, cards from terrific places to bring a client for lunch or dinner, and the people you feel most comfortable referring to others. If you're in a larger organization you might include your colleagues in this category. For these types of cards, I have a small portable business card book, because I'm most likely to need these cards on-hand at any event. I can leave the big binder at the office and bring along my smaller binder.

When buying your supplies, shop local! Please find the nearest mom & pop stationery store and open a business account with them. I use Charles B. Merrill Office Products in Newburgh, NY -- they deliver the next day.

Another thing I do is keep a stack of half-used paper, usually Chamber flyers that were printed only on one side, folded in half. These make great notepaper that I grab when I get a phone call and start taking notes on. Until I know someone is going into a binder, why use the virgin paper? They still fit in the book with 2 holes from a 3-hole-punch. It's a great way to re-use before recycling. With a stick of re-stickable glue, I can quickly make any note into a post-it.

Phew. Good luck!! :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

And now a word from our sponsor -- Mother Earth

I don't mean the sponsor of Eclectic Tech -- I mean OUR sponsor. Every gerbil, human, fish, amoeba, building, dishwasher, diamond ring, space shuttle, barrel of oil -- ALL of us.

I'd like to make a multi-faceted argument, so I may explain an awe of the relationship between the planet we live on and our people, our companion animals, our vegetation, and our creations. I can look at it from theology, from philosophy, and from a pseudo-scientific standpoint.

Someone said that mankind owes its entire existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains. I don't know how many people really think about that statement. I want you to really think about that statement. We owe our existence, our persistence, and every one of our inventions to a layer of fertile soil and the fact that it rains water and not ammonia. Look at what other planets have for ice, and feel lucky.

On theology and as an Interfaith minister, I want to make a statement about humanity's neglect of our relationship with the Earth: We wave a book -- either a most holy book or the greatest work of fiction ever -- that we will gladly interpret as granting the God-given right to abuse the planet and its creatures, as if that's a good excuse for our neglect. I suggest that everyone reread that section. We were not appointed by any God to be the despoilers and abusers of the earth, but the caretakers, the tenders, the shepherds. Not to be above, but to be in love with every critter, and take loving care thereof (because one of the most inoffensive statements I've ever heard in trying to define "god" is that "god is love"). Those of us who don't have those books usually have a similar idea of our relationship with the earth and its creations. It's amazing how many religions incorporate not only gratitude to their powers-that-be, but to the earth and its children. And some go so far as to attribute spirit to all things, whether or not they are created by mankind. Above all, through the ages we have noticed and respected the fickle relationship between ourselves and our environment.

Oil, and thus gasoline and propane, plastics, and petroleum jelly, are taken from the veins of the earth like blood from a donor. We who would consider it unjustifiable to strap another human into a chair and bleed them day in and day out for years upon years without consent are doing this to our Earth. Our planet. By our, I mean every insect, every human, every fax machine, every toaster, every car, every tree.

The cluelessness astounds me. The neglect frightens me.

Somewhere in this terrifying rollercoaster of how we treat our planet, I wish someone had the ability to push the red button that makes the ride stop. But we don't. As individuals, we can't push that red button. But we can refuse to take that ride.

It's not enough to watch the rollercoaster of destruction. We have to run around the amusement park planting trees, picking up litter, playing less games, winning less "prizes" that we can't take into the afterlife anyway.

There is only one thing that will make a difference beyond this lifetime -- relationships. Whether you believe in absolute blackness after the flesh dies, whether you believe in Heaven, or reincarnation -- the lives you touch will live beyond your time, just as those who are gone have touched your life. And relationships can be relatively carbon neutral. If we spend our time building dreams for the bigger prize of love -- and here we are back at god again -- we can consume less, plant more, and maybe other people will decide it's more fun doing what we do than to embark on that terrifying ride that ruins our planet.

Everything has a spirit, because everything, and I mean everything we surround ourself with, is a part of us. We breathe the same air. We eat the same carbon. My molecules are yours. My energy is yours. My spirit is yours. WE are Mother Earth. Every lightbulb. Every stone. Every living, inanimate, and dead being on the planet. We are Mother Earth. Why are we killing ourselves?

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Offense of Humor

I run this one-woman minority-owned company called Eclectic Tech. Started out with the intention of doing whatever it takes to help people (with technology). Found that most people need help with websites, so that's my primary selling point and like any other company, I have to flaunt it.

I do my best to make sure I don't bleed my clients for every cent they have. Came up with a great way to picture it -- sudden inspiration in a restaurant in Warwick: "Free your website from the Bastille! Liberate your website from your oppressors!" all in a French-ish accent I like to flatter myself is pretty good. It was a hit. I love making people laugh.

Well, I have yet to find a French person who is offended. I don't like doing the same schtick twice, but this is certainly my most popular self-aggrandizement. So it stuck -- now I run around saying "Liberate your website!" a Whooooooole lot. Usually with the French accent. Because people actively request it. Once I did it in a fake Transylvanian accent "Is your vebmaster sucking you dry??" Did any Transylvanians come out of the woodwork to take offense? There was a room full of about 60 or 70 local business people -- no one said anything, a few people laughed, most people smiled.

So, my client Paul Ellis created this Faaaaaabulous commercial for me, inspired by my own inspirations. He has 4 actors do this commercial -- 3 "Mexican revolutionaries" and a damsel in distress. Same basic schtick: freedom from your oppressive webmasters. It's on the radio. It's on my website. I love the commercial. It's a work of art. It's a whole minute-thirty long, you can't BUY an ad slot like that on the air!

After all my other "revolutionary" spontaneous ads, someone's taking offense at the commercial. Maybe more than one someone. Because maybe, just maybe, it's racially biased.

I don't know who you are, but there's no racial slurs in the commercial -- there's no vandals or "bad guys" in any of the voices and the webmaster's race or lifemate are not mentioned. The damsel cries "Help, Help" and the revolutionaries come to tell her about Eclectic Tech and how Eclectic Tech can free her from oppression. I'm not Mexican, so maybe I have no right to portray Mexicans in my advertising any more than I had a right to portray a French revolutionary, or a Transylvanian vampiress. But I grew up the daughter of an Argentinean immigrant. I'm Hispanic. My children are 1/2 Puerto Rican, and all Hispanic. When he described the commercial to me, and I read the script, I thought it was cool. When I heard it I thought it was brilliant.

All of this was probably not an issue until it came time for Paul Ellis to run for Chester Town Supervisor. After all, someone has to find some dirt to fling and get offended -- and men aren't marching after him with torches and pitchforks for the character named "Harry Paratestis" so I guess the next obvious target is my commercial. Gotta get dirt on this man who works himself to the bone, collaborating with everyone on every project, trying to make people laugh, no matter what their color, gender, or who they sleep with. So this man makes me an inspired, funny, and talented commercial, intended for play during a radio COMEDY, and somewhere in the middle of the high sidekick and the dead guy with the dirty name, people can't seem to locate their sense of humor anymore. It's with the missing sock, people!

No wonder commercials have to resort to CGI-animated bullfrogs and geckos. People have missed the point, but I'll let you in on it: The joke is NOT about the revolutionaries. The accents are trite clues that there's a bigger joke going on. The REAL joke is about web-masters who take advantage of their clients, creating websites no one can touch but them. These people charge either monthly fees or per-change charges for people to keep their websites up to date. And so far, even THEY aren't taking offense!! No matter what color they are, where their ancestors are from, what language they speak, who they sleep with, or what gender they are, the webmasters have not risen to defend themselves. I believe they have every right to their residual income, and I believe their clients have every right to get fed up with it and choose a different alternative, which I will happily offer them. And I'll use every historical reference to revolutions and oppression I want -- as long as it makes someone giggle -- to drive that point home. Robin Hood? Sure! Boston Tea Party? You betcha!! Moses & the Pharaoh? Now you're talking! "Let my website go!"

I don't get people. But here's one Hispanic woman who is saying WTF about this attitude. Do you want to talk about crimes against humanity: Paul Ellis made me laugh! Now there's a crime -- I might live a little longer because I laughed and released some endorphins. If you don't find it funny, why are you listening? At least I got a good hearty laugh out of the thought of anyone being offended!

[tags]activism, bias,clients,competition,freedom,humor,identity,inspiration,legal,life,news,organization,rant[/tags]

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Don't Litter in Cyberspace

There is an awful lot of clutter on the web. There ought to be a fine for littering in cyberspace. You've seen the kind of junk I'm talking about here and there: content that is there for the sole benefit of search engines, such as white keyword text on a white background, people who spam in blog comments, and even the harmless pages of nonsense that grows like weeds on each of our websites.

In June I tightened ship on my own website. I've implemented some new security on the blog software, notably reCAPTCHA, a captcha project by Carnegie Mellon University. Captchas use images containing distorted text that you have to re-type into a form field. The reCAPTCHA project uses portions of scanned/OCR'd books that failed to be recognized easily by computers to test users. Once the text is verified to be read by a human, it helps add books to electronic libraries. So using this method not only foils spammers, but helps with online literature projects.

I'm also working on editing down my website. I am guilty of using my ability to create web pages so easily as an opportunity to be too wordy. Some websites don't have enough information, and you leave disappointed that you couldn't find what you needed to know. Others are too wordy: "Welcome to (this website). We're so glad you came... have a seat. Would you like some tea while you're waiting for real content? The bathroom is down the hall." I'm guilty as charged, in a court of my own self-examination.

I altered the navigation on the site, so it should hopefully make more sense to someone at least passingly familiar with websites. I started out with really obscure labels for the links, now I'm back down to the basics. Practice what I preach: I'm always telling my clients what should be on their homepage, how their navigation should be labeled. I have finally followed my own advice.

As a new service, I'm helping clients with their website "talk" -- a website needs to be the executive summary of a longer proposition. The longer proposition can be there, behind the scenes, and you can bring on the content in layers that are carefully crafted to build detail into the subject. However, people don't need to be hit over the head with a heavy sales pitch, proposal, or autobiography from the get-go.

Tightening up the wording, reducing babble, using bullet lists for main points, taking advantage of proper linking, and proper keyword integration.

People don't have time to sit through a long reading: they came with something in mind, even if it was just to learn more about you, and then they're going to go on to the next thing in their life. I'm working on other ways to increase website traffic to my client's site other than the stinking, lying, cheating ways that some search engine optimization businesses have taken up. It's a definite art, and it's easier to do on content that you didn't write yourself, so for me it's slow going between projects, and for clients, hopefully it won't be as slow and inconsistent.

Some of my new philosophies about optimization of websites were covered in my second workshop at the QED Business Edge conference yesterday: "Who's your website for?" It went over well. More about it later.

Because I'm expanding my business into content development and website planning, I'm starting to subcontract some design work out so I can make room for adding new services to my business. To see what this looks like, see the Rhthym and Rhyme Childcare and Simply FlawlessFaces websites.

Entering the 4th Dimension -- uh year.

Can you believe I founded this LLC in 2004? On August 24th (or was it 25th?) it will be the anniversary of Eclectic Tech, LLC. Officially 3 years old, I'll be entering my 4th year of business. Oogie. I can see ghosts of business past already.

My next several weeks are going to be hectic. Post-mortem of yesterday's conference, all the business meetings normally held 3rd week of the month, all the meetings and business I put off so I could handle last-minute tasks and stress before the conference...and getting my kids back from Mother before packing them off to school again.

And I've said this before, but there's always time for you. I love helping people out.

Today I sent someone to ICANN to see if they could recover their domain name -- why would I take someone's money to scramble to replace their website at a new domain name when they might recover that name legitimately?

I have a few appointments to help my client Linda Borghi of Abundant Life Farm to network in the region and gain clientele. I'm training two clients. The normal networking events like the Orange Networking Alliance. And I'm trying to remember where I left off when I put my business on pause for a moment.

The conference, on the other hand, went well. I'm so glad I didn't have to handle every detail. I thought, the night before the conference, "Oh, no, I need evaluation forms for my workshops!" and had to give that up -- no time. When I was there the next day, there were evaluation forms. I have to thank Susan (QED, LLC website coming in the future...) for handling details without needing me [I have a serious "If you want something done right..." complex!]. And Joe, her husband -- I would think we either took turns keeping Susan sane or took turns doing things that needed to "just be done". I like that synergy. People with focus getting things done. I could go quietly insane for a week and no one noticed :) Linda Borghi unknowingly helped keep me sane. It was better to focus on someone else's needs than the billion things I should have been doing, but would only have stressed about and never accomplished anyway. I had honest moments of peace in the tsunami of anxiety.

I apologize if I missed a phone call, missed returning a call, missed a hint that someone wanted me to do something, or somehow made a commitment that I didn't keep. What a month! I could list the accomplishments, such as the 92-page Business Edge website, but then you'd think I was bragging. :)

And I thank all the people who helped out at the conference. Thank you!!! I had a WONDERFUL time and didn't have to run around taking care of "stuff" all day. Joe & Susan & Frank Lowell and I think the other woman was Andrea at the registration made my day terrific by taking care of all the minutia.

[tags]clients,education,gratitude,life,local business,networkingn,new client,organization,personal,rant,time[/tags]

Saturday, July 7, 2007

More Greening: Live Earth

I volunteered at Live Earth in New York -- I stuck my hand out and pointed to the right recycling bin or composting bin for concert attendees, and stuck my hand in when they messed up, and fixed the problem. I spent about 5.5 hours stationed near concertgoers getting sore feet in the name of raising awareness.

I'm exhausted. More about saving the planet when I've got a moment. Take care of the Earth!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A Bun in the Oven: Trying something on for size

I have a client. Not a loud client all over my portfolio, a pretty quiet client. A good client. A repeat client. I worked with Kevin Burke of Lucid Marketing last year doing piecemeal projects while their systems administrator was out.

He's started a new company named Light Iris, with a focus of marketing to new mothers.

He had a notion one day that he should get a better perspective on being a new mother, and has been wearing a 35-pound pregnancy suit on his off-hours. Not to parade around town, but to get an idea of what it's like to have all that extra weight on.

He's doing this experiential experiment for a month. You can read about it at


Friday, March 30, 2007

The use and ABuse of AJAX

I'd like to tackle the theory of AJAXification for a moment, mainly because I was just in the middle of an AJAX-rendered hellish portion of an otherwise OK website.

AJAX is a buzzword and people who even know it are probably some of the few web programmers out there still able to compete over 6-digit salaried jobs.

The simple definition is that AJAX is a browser-side technology -- in other words it doesn't run on the webserver, it runs on your home or office computer -- that sends data and fetches data to and from a web server without the need to reload or load the webpage. Only the portion of the webpage that needs to be changed is changed, rather than the whole webpage. It can save time and looks better to the user because the pictures and background of the page don't need to reload. It can also be a waste of time, as shown in the example below.

With the proper use of AJAX, a web application can swiftly and seamlessly load information and change something on the webpage. Perhaps it can be used to anticipate the user's next move, load some data on the sly, and have it ready to slip in with some slick javascript maneuver when the user clicks. "Ha, ha! I knew you were going to click that!" This is especially cool when there are fewer choices for what the user might do. Not so great when there is a lot of data to pull from the webserver and not so great when there are too many choices to properly anticipate the user's next maneuver or when the data being pulled is directly dependent on the user's input.

The result of AJAX used correctly is a user experience that resembles a desktop application. Google (gmail at least) has it right, and I sure hope their programmers are getting the 6-digit income they deserve.

What annoys me is when AJAX is used to "be cool" -- not to enhance the user's experience.

The application that annoyed me today is the largest area newspapers' online calendar of events. Perhaps the application ran "slick" in testing with only 5 or 10 events listed. I'm sure it ran very nicely. Especially from their high-tech offices with terrific web service, or even with the servers at the same location.

There's a mini calendar which shows a bit into next month, and underneath it, starting with "today", is a huge detailed listing (date, time, name of event, location...) of the area's events for the next several days.

Each date on the calendar is a link that, when hovered, brings up a floating list of that day's events. If there were 3 events per day, this would be bright. There's more like 40. It takes as long to load the floating list as it would to reload the web page. You have to sit there hovering your mouse over the date for what seems like an eternity as it makes a call to the database to pull up and format the day's events. There's a nice swirly thing that shows up if you hover over the mini calendar. Without the swirly thing, if I went to the mini calendar to click, I wouldn't ever know that a "cool" list would eventually pop up. It pops up next to my mouse with a listing so long that when I then move my mouse down the list I eventually hit the bottom of the browser, and the whole AJAXified listing goes away. It doesn't scroll as I move down. That's real helpful.

Ok. Well, one could live with that -- instead of hovering and getting a hand-cramp, how about clicking on the date. As one would expect, the listing under the mini calendar changes to start with the date selected. However, this incites another AJAXified call to the database to fetch several days' events and replace the vast majority of the content on the webpage. Again, this data pull results in a long "load time" for the javascript (AJAX) to pull the data. It's nice that the sidebar dancing ads don't change, but exactly what time are you saving? Does this make you look "smarter" and "slicker"? the advertisers since you suddenly have nothing to do but stare at their glowing undulating ads.

But let's say I want to peruse today's events, and pull up the event details for items I'm interested in in another window, or in another tab, of my browser? Then when I'm done selecting a bunch, I can look through the event's details...

Because these aren't real webpage links, it ignores my attempt to open the link in another window. They're all "javascript links" and when I click them, the entire page goes away, even if I've attempted to open it in another window or tab. To get back to the mini calendar or listing, now I have to get the whole page by going "back" in the browser. That's not the way I want webpages to behave. At all. I'm a tab-oriented person. I let pages load in another tab and look at them when I'm good and ready.

All this time my laptop fan is going nuts, the load on my laptop was increasing, my laptop was getting hotter, and it was a waste to even be on the page. I have better things to waste my time with, like ranting about the abuse of AJAX!

This is just one example of a webpage that needs an AJAX Anonymous support group. Perhaps they never thought through what the user would do, how they would expect it to behave. They created a webpage Frankenstein monster based on what was "cool". It's not EASIER. It's not CHEAPER. It's their self-aggrandizement at stake. "Look, we have AJAX!" -- so what?

It doesn't help that I went for an interview with that company a year ago and they kept asking me if I knew AJAX and I kept saying "Not Yet." I still say not yet because I'm still not convinced that anything good would come of it. I've seen very very few things that would REALLY be enhanced by the use of AJAX. AJAX is not the killer tool to make a website cool. A website is either cool or not, regardless of the technology behind it. If doing something in AJAX would really make the experience better, go for it. Gmail is cool because it rather closely replicates the experience of a desktop email application. I hardly use it, but when I did, I was suitably impressed, then went back to my own email app. :)

An online shared calendar doesn't need to be AJAXified like this one was, though. I would have preferred to load each day's events in a separate tab, or view event details for selected dates in different tabs so I could keep flipping between them and comparing times and locations to see how many events I could attend.

What this AJAX stuff does to search engine optimization: Since search engines ignore javascript, all that data means nothing to them. Terrific on a private area of a website, horrible in a calendar application.

So, in conclusion, if you're looking for AJAX because you heard that AJAX is cool, ask to see some good and bad AJAX in action and talk to an expert to decide whether or not AJAX would enhance your users' experience given what you're doing on your website.

If you really do know AJAX, please stop people before they ruin their websites with it. You have a moral and ethical responsibility to guide people correctly in how they use their websites.

Please curb your AJAX. Good boy. Sit.

[tags]custom programming,education,ajax,information,programming,rant,fads,usability,web application programming,web applications,web standards,navigation,seo[/tags]

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

How Green can you get?

I've been working on the Orange Environment website, and one perk is that I'll have a table at the Earth Day event in Warwick on April 21st.

I'm a very conscientious person, so I have to scrutinize myself to justify being there. When people walk up to my table and ask me why a web designer is there at a booth on Earth Day -- what can I say to defend my "position"?

  • My office runs either on sunlight from a big bay window or compact fluorescent lights
  • I use 100% post-consumer paper
    • loosleaf for client notes
    • multi-use printer/copier paper for my laserjet

  • when I get mail or fliers that are only used on one side, I keep them by the phone for quick note jotting.
  • when a paper is used on both sides, I recycle it (sometimes shredded first)
  • I have a home office only
    • the same heat for my home is heat for my office (the office room adjoins the kitchen; it's a one-zone house, but at only 830 sqft it should be!)
    • I save on auto fuel & auto wear-n-tear

  • I drive a used but still energy-efficient car for business & personal use (1994 honda civic at up to 33mpg)
  • I turn the printer off when not in use
  • I work by sunlight whenever possible
  • I leave any extra computer equipment off whenever possible so only one computer is running the majority of the time
  • I use wash-n-wear clothes for the most part
    • the washer is a high-efficiency front-loader rated exceptionally for water efficiency
    • the dryer has a dampness sensor thus is self-regulating
    • I use a scent and dye free detergent
    • I don't use a fabric softener

  • I use refurbished toner cartridges
  • we have a duplex printer, and I print on both sides of the page for any multi-page documents
  • whenever possible I print 2-up duplex, for reference documentation, because I don't mind reading tiny print, but I do mind wasting paper
  • I save the plastic &/or cellophane windows of envelopes I receive for craft projects (they make great filling for homemade cat toys!)

There are still areas in which I'm a culprit, however. I could (always) do better. We occasionally use whiteboards in my office, and I'm not really believing the EAP certification regarding the inks. I want desperately to know if there's such a thing as soy laser toner cartridges, or any other alternatives that won't turn the laser printer into a hunk of waste. I could use dryer balls, and I'm considering that (if they make the dryer even a tad more efficient it's worth a 1 time expense). I could scold my roommate for leaving the bathroom light on. I printed up letterhead I could hardly afford, it came out lousy, now I have a ton of letterhead that shouldn't have been printed in the first place, and should have been on recycled stock -- live & learn. That letterhead is now the back of any one-page fliers I produce as handouts. :)

So I guess instead of feeling guilty, I could try to relax and realize that there are a bunch of things about me that cause me to stand out in a crowd of web design/programming professionals that could be considered when positioning myself in the "green" community as well: I've been an herbalist for about 15 years, I'm an Interfaith Minister, Reiki master, & Shaman. I guess having a booth isn't such a bad idea after all!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Horrors of Banking in the 21st Century

Bank acquisitions have become so commonplace around here that I'm not at all surprised to walk into my nice local upstate-only bank and find that some global giant is gobbling it up like yet another Pac-Man pellet. I look on with concern, watching them rip apart the interior of my local branches to change the branding so that we can know for 100% certain that our money is no longer helping a local institution.

They even tore out the ATM machine and replaced it with a Diebold monstrosity. It has all the bells and whistles, or should I say beeps. Every number in your password elicits a LOUD beep so everyone in the bank knows how many digits there are in your password. When the cash is coming out, it beeps loudly. Thanks for letting everyone in a 12-block radius know I now have cash in my pocket. Wheeeeee! I hope they're not rolling out these monsters in NYC proper, but they probably did. Now they're infiltrating upstate New York. As if it weren't bad enough that the bank is changing, the new regime has installed monster equipment from the same company many people suspect have rigged elections. I'm scared to death to put my credit cards and debit cards into it's gaping maw. The only thing I can say in its favor is that it has an exquisitely sensitive touch screen. Everything else -- and I mean everything -- disgusts me. Every. Shiny. Millimeter. And I'm a geek.

I had 2 accounts at this bank. One personal (free for life -- *cough*) and one business. The business account's days were numbered already -- I never have enough money in the bank to escape monthly fees -- the bank gave me my first year in business for free. I threw enough of a stink that I got my second year free. But any day now, the account is going to start costing me $12 a month. That's enough chicken to feed my family for 3 weeks!! Forget it -- I was SO out of there. I started shopping around for a new bank. One that respected that my miniscule business needs every penny it works so hard to earn.

The DDay was to be March 23. I needed that account closed before the official 100% turn-over to the other bank. I didn't want them to send me new checks with a new routing number. I didn't want their promises that things wouldn't change too much. I didn't want their new signage. I definitely didn't want the Diebold ATM.

I had an outstanding check floating around in the wild, so I called the payee, and I made arrangements to send a money order and I was to put a stop payment on the check in question. They wrote a note in my account not to cash the check. I went to put a stop payment order on the check. Note the check is only for about $40.

It would cost me $33 to put a stop payment order on the check. For crying out loud, that feeds my family chicken for over 2 months! :P That's a lot of rice & beans. I hope they sleep well at night! Who would put a $33 stop payment order on a $40 check??!?

So, given that it could cost me $40 if the check goes through after I get the money order -- or $73 if it goes through but there are insufficient funds (but wait, then another $33 on top of that if the fee for insufficient funds sends the balance into the negatives!) -- or $33 to put a stop payment on the check, I chose the best thing. I'm closing the account out. Right now. It's cheaper. They're absolutely INSANE. They've sold their soul to someone out there, and I'm just another cow to be milked for my money.

Good Bye. Good Riddance.

I want to tell you about my savior. She came into my Thursday morning referral group and mentioned Federal Credit Union and lightbulbs lit up and chorusses of angels began to sing. Nancy Finn of Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union said the magic words of lower fees, lower (or non-existant) minimum balances, non-profit bank-like institution. Magic. I promise.

I opened accounts in December, and started the confusion of having my money spread out in too many places, too many accounts to juggle, etc. I waited until after the 30 day probation period required at a new banking institution before moving all my money over. Now I'm doing all my banking at the Federal Credit Union, and only keeping the personal monster account open so that my ex has an easy place to deposit child support payments if needed.

When you open a business account at a for-profit bank, you pay probably $20 for 50 business checks. It doesn't last long. I paid $10 for a whole box of personal-sized business checks.

None of my accounts have a minimum balance, except the $5 minimum for my savings accounts -- which is more like a membership deposit. When you quit the credit union you get $5 back. Who would quit? :)

All my accounts, including joint accounts, are on one screen when I do online banking. They've created such a simple interface for banking online that I'm very impressed.

I feel like the cow that woke up from a dream to find out they were human -- was I a human dreaming I was a cow? Or am I a cow dreaming I'm human? Who cares as long as I'm not getting milked! heh

They're friendly, they're not out to get you. There are some fees if you do something stupid, just like at the for-profits, but the fees are lower, sometimes very significantly lower.

The best thing, though, is that they're local, non-profit, and they're going to stay that way. The big for-profits won't gobble them up. No Diebold machines. Please. *phew*

[tags]money,chamber,expenses,gratitude,information,inspiration,life,local business,networking,non-profit,organization,personal,prices,rant[/tags]

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Waist not, Want not (ode to Chocolate!)

My taste in chocolate went from white and milk in childhood to darker and darker chocolates. With the one exception of some stale 70% cocoa concoction my roommate gave me, I can go up to a 90% bar and be quite happy. I keep a bag of Ghiardelli double chocolate chips in the house to dip into for a quick fix, or for a rare batch of cookies or pancakes. Organic, free trade, Swiss, German, it doesn't make much of a difference to me -- just give me my chocolate, and no one gets hurt!

Except that those are made in a factory. The best chocolate to give, receive or eat is chocolates made with love.

Fran Greenfield (aka "Candy Fran") of Candy Designs by Fran is sought-after and well received in both Orange and Sullivan counties, and most definitely makes her chocolates with love. Hand-made, melted, dipped, coated, drizzled, packaged, and often hand-delivered, Candy Fran makes the most exquisite treats you could ever eat. People who have given her corporate gift baskets always come back to give them again and again. Last fall, all my top clients got a treat created by Fran and I got thank-you emails including one with the subject line of "MMmmmmm chocolate!"

One was undeliverable, and so I ate it (can I still deduct it from my taxes? I tried!!). Clients shouldn't move without informing their vendors *tsk*.

Fran's treats are available retail and wholesale, and she'll ship them to you or your clients. If you buy your candy from other online vendors, you might just be getting Fran's chocolates under a different name...I just hope for everyone's sake they still have a healthy dose of Vitamin-L (love), because if that's lost in translation you ought to order straight from the source.

"My name is Fran, and I'm a chocoholic...." (Fran Greenfield, Orange Networking Alliance, Feb 20, 2007)

A year ago, I joined the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, and I went to my first business networking blast last July. I didn't have the networking thing down yet, so I was sitting and crowd-watching, and saw this woman with an enormous basket of little bags. It was a "speed networking" event, and I wasn't in her row, so I didn't have the pleasure of being directly gifted with a sample. When the event was over, she announced that she had plenty left, and put them on a table on the side of the room. I still didn't "get it" and continued networking as much as I could stand to before fleeing. The event had started at 6:45am, so I beg both ignorance and exhaustion as my lame excuses.

In September there was going to be an Expo, and I considered sharing a booth at the Expo with another business. I had been taken under wing by Melanie Richards of Prism Promotions who showed me the ropes and gave me several really good lessons about networking in Orange County, NY. It was due to Melanie that I spoke to the Chamber about sharing a table, and Fran was recommended as a booth partner. I spoke to Fran about possibly sharing a booth with her, but as enticing as sharing a booth with the highly-sought-after Chocolate Lady was, I bowed out due to financial frustrations and a lack of preparation time. It was my first year in the Chamber, and I'm the type who learns (A LOT!) by watching. I volunteered to help at the event rather than take a booth. So I finally met Fran at the member dinner mixer after the event. She was bubbly, lively, friendly and forthcoming, if a little frazzled, but who isn't frazzled at the end of a long day at an expo?

I had been checking out local networking/referral groups, and because several people I had met and really liked at the Chamber were members of Business Exchange Network, I ended up joining that group. Fran is one of the members, and since I now get to see her almost every week, I'm a little more out-of-shape, a lot more chocolified, and I've gotten to know this wonderful woman much better than I would have otherwise. She is quirky, but bright and cheery, and I admire her. She's modest and exceptionally generous, and she actually has two jobs -- Candy Fran by night and child photographer by day. I can only imagine she gets the biggest and brightest smiles out of children, without needing to bribe them with chocolate, because she gets smiles out of adults without the chocolate as well, though I suppose the chocolate anticipation really helps.

If you're looking for a treat for a holiday, a gift to say Thank You to a client, something to bring for an extra "Ah" or "Oh" at a networking event, an unforgettable chocolate business card, or to put on a few pounds in absolute ecstasy, talk to Fran. If you don't believe me, come to some of the events where Fran often shares her treats by bringing samples. Or I'll send you a chocolate business card made by Fran, I have a few left...

This post is a whole lot of thank you for someone who touched my heart as well as my taste buds!

[tags]clients,Chamber,candy,creative,expenses,gratitude,holiday,humor,information,inspiration,life,local business,networking[/tags]

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Proportions of Busy-ness to Organization

There seems to be a natural law of the universe that dictates that the busier we are, the less organized we become. We're too busy to put something away. Too busy to take proper notes after a meeting or phone call. Both being busy and being disorganized lead to stress, and "stressing out" is very counter-productive -- I can't say whether it's correlation or causation, but remedying the disorganization can help sort out the busy-ness.

Just like a diabetic craves candy, sometimes we continue to crave things that are bad for us. Stress leads to a mindset that begets more stress. Stress can be addicting, because the brain chemicals that come with the pressure are addicting. Just like other addictions, however, it takes a toll on our ability to think, to plan, to be productive and to even live a longer and healthier life.

Conversely, the more organized we become, the more productive we can be. The less we need to stress. When you can easily review notes from a meeting, you can give yourself permission to "let go" and relax about it. When you know exactly what you need to do next (cf. Getting Things Done by David Allen), you can really concentrate on the one task-at-hand with all your mental ability.

I had a plan in place after last year's Tax Time to keep my books in order, and failed to make a good habit of following through on it. Thankfully I'm a pretty organized person, and don't have to stress too much to find all the paperwork I need. But now, work has picked up (finally!) and it's a bad time to have to take hours or days to do my accounting and tax paperwork. My lack of planning, poor foresight, and being somewhat disorganized are coming back to haunt me.

As a result I'm stressed, and my normally rather organized habits start falling apart at the seams. A few client notes haven't found their way into the books they need to be in. I have more hasty post-its laying around. I have to consciously review the last week to make sure I didn't miss anything important...

If you're finding that you are disorganized in direct proportion to your level of busy-ness, take a moment to step back and clear up the clutter -- it might take an hour or two, but the rewards are worthwhile, and you can get yourself back on track. It helps me to regroup, find some space on my desk, filter through the small side projects I started and abandoned part-way through.

If you are never organized in the first place, you are in danger of becoming disorganized to the point of putting yourself out of business. When you become busy, the resulting increase in disorganization may wreck your ability to focus. I've considered hiring a professional organizer on several occasions, to help me sort through the clutter. But I have meticulous systems in place, even if the system straggles a little when I have a stressful week, and there are people who need those services much more than I do.

Many people require a professional to help them set up a system in the first place: If you live in my area, I would highly recommend calling Cindy Croll of Croll Organizing (she's not a client; that's not my website :) [ed (post-September 2007) Actually, now it IS a website I have created, re-using the design of her old website!]) -- she's a highly perceptive person who tailors her organizing services to suit her clients, then leaves the client with a system in place. She specializes in small businesses and home offices, and travels throughout the Orange County area, and I believe she even goes into Rockland, and maybe even NYC. I'll see if I can get her to comment on this post so people can follow up with her. I see from her website she's giving a workshop soon!

Keeping organized takes work and dedication, but has many rewards. I could sail through tax time if I had kept to my system of entering receipts and invoices weekly. Instead, I have a pile of work to do, several open projects, and I have to take an entire weekend to enter receipts and fix my accounting system so I can do my taxes. The resulting stress is hampering my ability to concentrate on anything at all.

Good luck!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Easy-to-Edit website Demo Movie available!

Liberate Your Website (part 1)

I've come to realize that people aren't "getting it" when I tell them that my websites are "easy to edit" so I've created a movie (6 minutes 10 seconds) to demo it.

It isn't one of those build-your-website applications you always see on the web -- those force you to do all the dirty work and BOY can you break the website, create some hideous Frankenstein-monster website contraption that frightens away clients.

No, that's not at all what this is.

You can't really break the website when you use this application. Maybe you can make some poor content design choices, such as making all your content text bold, or italic, so that you have no means left with which to emphasize a word. Maybe you can type in all caps, make everything on the page a headline, etc. But you aren't playing with the design, only the content, of your website, and changing styles and colors is not an accident.

So, take a look at the demo and see how this is a simple CONTENT management system, and don't frighten your clients away anymore! In the demo movie -- which is only 6 minutes! -- I play with several real live websites, so you can see how easy it is to edit your own content. In 6 minutes I could hardly explain to a web designer what I want them to change on a website; I'd rather do it through the Easy-to-Edit system. That's why all my websites are using this system: in spite of being a web designer, I want to have a quick and easy way to add and edit website content on my sites.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

How Design is not Art

Design in many fields is a process of creating something functional within an aesthetic guideline.

Art, on the other hand, is the path of taking a creative means to an aesthetic and evocative end.

Both certainly use aesthetics as heavy influences in their end goal, but on a practical level the two are quite different.

A design should be objectively judged against its function. A piece of art should be subjectively judged against one's aesthetic values. In a proper design course in school, one is given hard criteria against which your project is defined for a grade. In a proper art class, you are graded mainly on effort and applied techniques, not on the subjective judgement of the aesthetics of the finished works.

Better put perhaps is to give an example: A beautiful fountain is designed, a classical sculpture is art. If the fountain does not allow water to flow, the fountain ceases to be a fountain. All parameters in creating the fountain must take into account that the end goal is that the fountain shall allow water to flow and all aesthetic considerations must account for the end function of the fountain. A sculpture has no such boundaries, and the only end use is aesthetics alone. Note I have to set aside mechanical and functional sculptures -- these are design not art ;)

You can have an artist create a logo, but it may not, in the end, function as a logo. It may be a very beautiful illustration, but if it does not meet the functional parameters of a logo, it will be an illustration -- a work of art -- and not something identifying a corporate brand.

It is a generally accepted thought that art can be liked or disliked, but is not WRONG. It may be considered skilled, unskilled, "pretty" or "ugly," but it is not judged against a defined set of functional criteria. I don't hold my designs against the criteria of "art". My designs can be wrong, if their form does not facilitate their function. If their form does not facilitate their function, they're unfinished, or need to be re-thought-out.

If you purchase a finished painting, it is bad form to request correction or changes. The art is "done". Design should not be fully purchased until it is done. And for it to be done it must fulfill its functional parameters.

When you purchase a web design or a logo design from Eclectic Tech, you're not purchasing art -- I'm an occasionally inspired artist, but I'm not an exceptionally skilled or talented artist. You're purchasing a design, and I have inspiration, talent and skill in design -- in seeing the functional parameters and applying inspiration towards aesthetics while always testing the overall function against the parameters required.


Monday, February 5, 2007

New Service: Project Planning

It seems that many customers who come to me have not planned their website or print project. My normal flat-fee prices don't include this time-intensive service. I would really have to get into the company in question, to almost become a temporary staff member, to plan out their website for them from soup-to-nuts.

I'm now offering project planning services, both for website design, content and feature planning, and for print design campaigns and marketing strategies. My usual services require design briefs, copy (content), assets (photos, logos, multimedia, and all other materials) and a list of features provided up-front. I will provide only cursory project planning assistance, guidance, or advice during project intake. I will not write for you, research for you, draw up diagrams, etc.

What my project planning services will provide will depend on each company's needs and budget. Prices will start at $100 for something relatively simple like site diagramming and navigation planning, and from there the sky's the limit; you tell me your budget, and I'll come up with a list of what services your budget allows for, or you give me a list of the services you're looking for, and I'll come up with a price. Or we can do hourly rates, I'll come on-site, and I'll become a member of the project team.

Services may include:

  • Serving in the capacity of a knowledgable aide in the process of project planning

  • Company profiling

  • Supplying principles or relevant persons with questionnaires for the project

  • Corporate history review

  • Mission statement assistance

  • Research into your competitors marketing materials or website

  • Market research for design related to your specific industry

  • Review of your current marketing strategy, advertising, materials, website, etc.

  • Business marketing development

  • Content planning

  • Feature planning

  • Step-by-step planning of a website or printing campaign

  • Website navigation and hierarchy planning

  • Guiding your representatives through the creation of an RFP or design brief

  • Suggestions for assets or copy to be included in the project

  • Composition of a creative brief on your behalf

  • Storyboards, mockups, thumbnails, or sketches

  • Composition of custom color schemes for the project

  • Stock photography, font, or clip art research

  • Copy editing, and review or copy writing

  • Acquiring permissions or releases for included materials

  • Supplying lists of materials to submit to Eclectic Tech or other contractors

If you choose to use another vendor to complete the project outlined, I can offer:
  • Overseeing project progress and resolution, quality control, communication with vendors

  • Vendor research (printers, programmers, designers, etc.)

  • Supply vendors with materials for the project

These services don't alleviate the principles of your organization from their responsibilities in project planning: I will need to interview them, acquire lists of materials, names to get releases for photography, a company history, supply of old marketing materials, and more. What this does is add another member to your web design team who is knowledgeable, insightful, and entirely dedicated to the one project, which allows your principles to concentrate on other projects with the assurance that if something is needed from them, it will be brought to their attention.

[tags]planning,education,information,news,print design,time,web applications, web standards,writing[/tags]

Friday, February 2, 2007

Why I always carry a pen

Today I ran to the bank to sign some official papers. I had my pen-in-hand and I was ready to sign when the bank officer offered me a pen, and my business associate said "She's always prepared."

Aside from the "Time is my one finite commodity" email signature, my comments in my blog about time, and the sermon I gave at Toastmasters about time, I always carry a pen. Having my pen in my hand and ready was the efficiency borne of my awareness of time and not wanting to waste it for anyone. Why I had a pen with me is another story, aside from knowing I was going to the bank specifically to sign something.

I started writing poems and stories when I was 11 years old. While my muse has been blissfully quiet lately, I spent about 15 years under the constant demands of Erato, the harsh mistress of writing. Poems came to me at all times of the day, and on some occasions woke me from deep slumbers to make me press pen to paper in the darkest hours of the night. If my hand cramped and my eyes teared, it was nothing next to the torment of the poems, lyrics, inspirations, that came to me when I had nothing to record them with. Slave to this strict mistress, I obediently began to carry something -- anything -- with which I could write. She had no patience for ink blots, pens that skipped, cluttered paper, or any other excuses. When she demanded, I would write.

While under her thrall I learned to choose better pens, to choose better notebooks, to keep these instruments handy. I have a book and pen next to my bed, so that if something should take hold of me in those chilling wee hours, I wouldn't have to shiver at my desk.

One of my inspirations literally came to me in those dark hours -- lyrics for a song (perhaps her cohort Euterpe had decided to borrow me?) -- and I sat in my kitchen singing, humming, laboring and pouring out a piece inspired by the tale of Beauty and the Beast and neo-pagan symbolisms. Thankfully I haven't tried recording the song :)

Regardless, you'll notice that whenever I'm without a pen I get a haunted look of fear on my face, and perhaps I seem distracted. That's me praying earnestly to the Lady that she not strike me with inspiration at that moment.


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Speak Out sale - add a blog

I've changed my prices on everything except my hourly rates, as promised.

Now I've gone and put a sale on blog additions to the Easy-to-Edit website package.

Whatever it is that you have to speak about, I've got the software to help you say it!

Watch the sale page each month for specials. Most specials apply to the Easy-to-Edit package, so get the base package before the price goes up hire -- all my prices will slowly be escalating for the next several months, and proposal expiration dates will be strictly adhered to.

[tags]blog,open source,easy-to-edit,prices,programming,sale,web applications,writing[/tags]

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Geek Your Resume

Why didn't I put this in my blog? I have no idea.

I wrote an awesome article for geeks (and anyone) on the steps & styles needed to build a proper resume. Back in May of '06. I guess I was explaining the process to someone and went whole-hog and created an article on my website for it, and I forgot to mention it in my blog for all of Technocrati to see.

With so much competition, your resume is the first thing people are going to see. You want to stand at least head, if not head & shoulders, above your fellow jobseekers. I spent time as a tech recruiter, and I say that probably 50% or more of the geeky job-seeking force needs a serious Resume 101 class. Since you're not likely to stop playing World of Warcraft long enough to take a class, but still need a job to pay the monthly fees (not to mention electricity and ISP), I'm going to give you a little boot camp (or a boot somewhere else) so you can get up-to-date.

I've included Word and Open Office resume templates with my Geek Your Resume article. With style sheets. I expect you all to get off your collective buttocks and look for work. Now.

Good luck out there, soldiers! Make me proud!

[tags]resume,job hunting, employment,humor,information,employee,essay,how to,geek,programming,tutorial,rant,competition[/tags]

Thursday, January 25, 2007

E.T. Client & Portfolio update

Preamble: I have decided I don't like Gallery2 as my portfolio application. I'm going to be working on moving back to PmWiki for my portfolio in the future -- so my latest work is not in my portfolio.

I re-created the Business Exchange Network's website in December, 2006. The old site may still be available. This is a template rather than custom design, however I custom programmed several features for the site, then donated the instructions on how to do it for other sites back at the application project site. This site incorporates a calendar, member business directory, and each member has a profile page that acts as a mini-website for them. Since a few people in the group don't have websites, this gives them a real place on the web to call home until they decide whether they want a website.

I helped out at KwicTax, LLC - programming a form on the site, adding required fields, and generally making the form and subsequent information revealed after filling out the form behave properly.

An ongoing client is up to her usual beautiful designs - Apryl of Silverflux Design has been outsourcing programming and general geekery and software installations to Eclectic Tech. This week we finished working on the Serendipity bead store website in Canada. My handiwork is the calendar and newsletter subscription integration.

In-progress Sites

Almost completed: Beth Ward of Jaidens Jewels has requested a website redesign and shopping cart. This work is in progress and if you'd like to see it before it's finished, feel free to email me.

Almost completed: Chris Zino of Zino Technical Services in Bayville, NY has requested a website design and wiki application -- he's absolutely thrilled to be using a wiki and is already creating pages on the site, and I haven't even gotten around to training him yet! :) At the time of the writing, we're still hashing out the logo for his business, and once the logo is decided we may well be changing the colors on the site, but the site is up, works, he's in business, and his contact info is there if anyone needs home audio installations, networking installation or repair, computer service, or a dozen other techie services on Long Island (Nassau & Suffolk Counties), he's your guy!

New Client: I'm under contract for the redesign and reworking of Orange Environment's website. I've started working, but there's nothing to show yet. Orange Environment is a non-profit that has been working to save the open spaces of Orange County, NY for 25 years. This is their 25th Anniversary website overhaul, and this year they'll be holding an Earth Day celebration on April 21st. Location(s) TBA. If you see my company name at the bottom of the site, then I've made progress enough to go live on my work. Until then, if you want to see the development site-in-progress, feel free to email me.

New Client: My newest client is Middletown Community Health Center (MCHC) who has requested a modernization and more features for their website. Again, if my company name is not at the bottom of the page, you're looking at their old site. Ask me for a URL for their development site-in-progress. As of the time of writing, I haven't gotten that far yet :) but work should begin shortly.

[tags]clients,activism,design,e-commerce,environment,green,holistic,identity,logo,metasite,new client,new site,non-profit,portfolio,programming[/tags]

Don't say I didn't warn you

Attention to all customers:

June of last year I raised my hourly fees. This year, I'm going to change my package prices. I've priced some exceptionally attractive packages, but I'm losing time and money on the deals.

I'm going to phase in new prices incrementally over the next several months.

Starting February 1st, I'm going to raise all the package prices on the website and any new work proposals that go out will be at the new prices -- and that raise in prices will be about 10% per month until approximately November. Proposals always go out with an acceptance clause ("prices are good if you respond within X days"), and starting February 1st, work proposal acceptance clauses will be strictly adhered to. If you call the next month, after your offer has expired, the price will go up.

I will extend a courtesy for proposals that expired in January: Any proposal that expires in January can be locked in at the old rate if you sign a project agreement and submit a deposit before February 15th. Proposals that expired before January need to be re-estimated. Deadlines will also need to be changed, and it will be reflected in your work proposal.

Any customers whose proposals expired before January should request a new proposal for their work. It will give my new proposal system a good test and keep me busy.

Money Saving Tips:

  1. If your proposal or project agreement expired before January, request a new proposal or agreement and accept by February 15th or the expiration date, whichever is later.

  2. If your proposal or project agreement expires in January, sign a project agreement by February 15th.

  3. If you miss the boat, you'll pay more.