Category: personal

Transition

Hello, friends! It’s been so long, I thought it was about time I updated you on what I’ve been doing.

Solid ground

Do you remember that roller coaster ride I referred to when I joined OmniTI? Well, it just kept on going! And after a year of doing the transatlantic telecommute, I felt the need for solid ground. I left OmniTI in September.

I worked on some great projects while I was there, with big brands and alongside wonderfully talented people. I learned a lot, made some new friends, and had quite a bit of fun thrown in, too! Thank you to those who shared their knowledge and humour with me.

R and R

To recharge my batteries a bit, I decided to take a little time away from the Web and computer keyboards. I visited a few friends around the UK, spent a relaxing couple of days on Lundy Island, and got myself to Accessibility 2.0 and PHPNW ’09. I may have also made it to a gig or two along the way!

In the background, interesting discussions were afoot, and a fantastic opportunity presented itself. Which brings me to…

Analog

For the last couple of months, I’ve been setting up a new web design and development co-operative with some friends of mine: Alan, Andrei, Chris and Jon. In December, we launched Analog.

They say working with friends or family is a bad idea. The way I see it, I want many of the same things out of my working relationships as I do out of my friendships. I like to be around friends because they’re people I’m happy in the company of. I trust them, and respect their opinions. A healthy work relationship will have many of these same traits: fun, mutual respect, honesty and openness.

When we got together as a group in September, Chris summarised his work aspirations as, “Good people. Good work.” And that was it in a nutshell for me. I have huge respect for the people I work with at Analog. They were work colleagues, and even clients, before they became my friends. I know I can work with them, and build great things. If you don’t know them, let me introduce you quickly:

Alan Colville is a talented experience designer who worked with Jon Tan and I at Grow Collective. When he’s not inspiring me with his insights into user behaviours, he’s amazing me by running up mountains and biking down them!

I’ve known Andrei Zmievski for several years through the PHP community – he’s one of the core developers of PHP. He’s an incredibly clever chap, a gifted photographer, and I look forward to one day sampling the product of his home brewing!

I first got to know Chris Shiflett when I helped Jon with Chris’s blog redesign. He’s an accomplished web developer and an authority on PHP security and HTTP. When we’re not being web geeks, we’re exercising our perfectionist tendencies by being grammar nerds.

I’ve been working with Jon Tan for several years now, at Grow and OmniTI. He’s a fab designer, and passionate about his craft. Not only have we made a good team, we’ve also become good friends. With many a tale of travel and type, you’re never bored around Jon.

I usually write about accessibility on this blog. The analog.coop holding page has a few talking points I could cover, not least the improved semantics of HTML5, and the accessibility features of ARIA. I’ll write more about these soon. For now, I hope that one page shows that accessibility doesn’t have to come at the cost of beautiful design.

Thank you

It’s already been fun at Analog – stalking people, launching Easter eggs, and wrapping up Christmas presents, like #grid… I’m really looking forward to what this year has in store for us. Here’s a thank you to the wonderful people of the Web who helped us get Analog off the ground.

Thank you, Carolyn Wood for being absolutely stellar, and helping us put our vision into words for our web site. Incidentally, the holding page scores pretty well on readability tests, which makes me happy!

Ta very much, HTML5doctor.com, for being a great place to get practical help with HTML5. Special thanks to Bruce Lawson who’s a super chap for helping me out with one particular HTML5 peculiarity.

And thanks to everybody who helped us celebrate our launch, especially Jared Smith, for making my day with his kind comment. We’re so chuffed to have had such a warm welcome from all around the world. It made a great way to end the year, and carry us through into 2010.

We will remember them

In May last year, I took a trip to Dronten in Holland where my father took part in several remembrance services for those who gave their lives in the Second World War. The Dutch really celebrate their freedom, May 5th being their Liberation Day, which marks the day The Netherlands were freed from German occupation in 1945. It was quite emotional to be part of several ceremonies and festivals where people who fell, many nameless, were remembered and celebrated.

Unfortunately, we were unable to go to Holland again this year, but our friends sent us a link to a video of this year’s commemoration day in Dronten (4 May, 2009), which shows a fly past by one of the last two Lancaster bombers still flying.

So today – as we do on November 11th – I remember our heroes, and I’m proud to include my own father among them.

“We will remember them”

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

Related

  • We Will Remember Them – a UK site dedicated to servicemen and women who have gave their lives in defence of their nation.

Photo: Avro Lancaster – RIAT Fairford 2008 (Danny McL)

Joining OmniTI

Right, now that the cat’s out of the bag, I’m happy to announce here that I will be joining Jon at OmniTI to form part of their interface design team as an accessibility engineer!

Essentially, I’ll be doing the stuff I love: accessible interface design, consulting and training, and quality assurance (“pedant duties”). And I’ll be doing it from within the loving arms of one of the Web’s cleverest companies. To echo what I said the other day, working with the people at OmniTI over recent months has been great. Even though I’ve been working remotely, I’ve been surrounded by really clever folks, which means it’s always a learning experience, and always fun. Hopefully, some of them feel that they have been learning from me, too.

I’ve always sat somewhere between the back-end development geeks and the front-end creative types. In my new job, I will be concentrating on interface design, but I will be working closely with other teams to help ensure accessibility is built into the applications built by OmniTI. It’s perfect for me, and I’m really looking forward to it.

What a way to round off the year! I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of cool stuff in store for 2009. I hope you all have a great Christmas, and I’ll see you on the other side of New Year!

Grow Blooms

More often than not, there comes a time in a freelance Web designer’s career when you feel the need to branch out. The roles of a Web designer are diverse and it’s easy to feel that you need to be all things to all people. Perhaps you feel you’d like to develop as a specialist in a particular area, but you like your independence and want to remain your own boss.

All this pretty much describes me about six months ago. Over time, I had developed valuable relationships with others in the industry through networking. By incubating those relationships you can bring together a group of people who work well together. It was around this time that I was invited to join a co-operative. Joining would mean that I could specialise and remain independent, but be part of an already well-established brand that provides a full range of services. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I accepted.

Co-operative Growth

Grow Collective works to co-operative principles. There’s little point in me regurgitating the principles of co-operative business when the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) website describes them better than I could.

Having well and truly settled in at Grow, I find it an environment in which I can work well and in which I am encouraged by my peers to develop both personally and professionally.

At the moment, we’re attracting a large number of work prospects that are beyond our current capacity. As a result, we are inviting freelancers designers in the Bristol area into Grow Collective, especially those with a special interest in Web standards, user centred design, information architecture and accessibility.

In the invitation on the Grow website, Jon Tan further explains how Grow operates and what you can expect from working with us.

Assimilation

Alan Colville has recently received a warm welcome as Grow Collective’s latest addition. Alan is a user experience designer and usability consultant, bringing a wealth of experience to the co-op.

If you like the sound of the way we work, have a read through our invitation on the Grow website. If you think you’d like to become a member too, drop Jon Tan a line to introduce yourself.

Growing up…

So, I guess you’re all wondering where I’ve been of late? I mentioned in my last post about 2007 being a good year – well, it’s certainly started off well! November 5th has grown up!

As I have now been officially welcomed, I’m very pleased to announce that I’m working as interface and application developer for Grow Collective, a Web design co-operative based in Bristol. Thanks for the warm welcome guys!

I’m stoked to be working with Jon, Paul and Charlie. Ever since first bumping into Jon on Accessify Forum, I’ve admired Grow’s work, and now it’s my work too! Mwah, ha, ha!

Working with Grow on projects over the last few months has kept me busy, but I’ve found it inspiring and it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been particularly good because I’ve been able to concentrate on working in areas I am good at and enjoy. It’s great to feel recognised for a skill and to be given the opportunity to develop those areas of my work.

Germination

So, it’s been busy lately – and it’s still busy. There’s a blog redesign I’ve contributed to preparing for launch just launched, a stationery company’s redesign in the final stages, and a shiny new Web application on the way – we’ve got lots of exciting things to get cracking on with! And, with some of the load of self-employment lifted by my colleagues at Grow, I’m going to have more time to spend here – aren’t you lucky?!

Several discussions with my new work-buddies have brought light to some interesting ideas and technical tidbits that others may find useful. So, armed with a few ideas floating around on the breeze and a pocketful of draft blog posts, expect to see a bit more natter and a bit less… silence.

Five things about me

Karl and Grant have tagged me for this meme and I haven’t had time to post anything yet this month, so here’s five things that people probably don’t know about me:

  1. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a postman. However, having taken things apart and not quite put them back together again (Mum’s radio), I ended up an electronic engineer. I have a Masters degree in Electronic Engineering with Music Technology.
  2. Recently, I’ve been learning British Sign Language.
  3. I grew up in a guest house in North Devon. It was strange to have so many strangers around all the time, but pretty cool too as I considered many of our regulars to be my extended family.
  4. Lately, I’ve been enjoying researching my family tree.
  5. I was a very fussy eater when I was young. I hated peas for years because a psychiatrist told Mum that she should force-feed me peas so that I’d at least try them. I’m a lot easier to feed now I’m older and I now like peas. I was also quite a tubby boy. Recently, since starting on a Slimming World diet at the end of May, I have lost over 3 stone. I feel much better for that!

There ya go! I’m not fussed about tagging others, but if any one of FairyJo, Vigo, Pix, Lorna or Zach want to take part, feel free to leave a comment with a link to yours…

Wheelspin

Things have been busy for me lately, which is never a bad thing. However, I’m feeling unfulfilled by what I have achieved – or not achieved!

Where have you been, dotjay? Why did you leave us?

I’ve been beavering away like Dexter on some epoch-making projects in my secret lab. OK, that’s a lie. The truth is that I’ve just been busy. Ain’t we all? But most people probably have something to show for their hard work. Recent weeks have just felt like one of those times when you look back and think, “what the heck have I done with the last few weeks?!”

“Proper” work has been quite busy. However, most of the stuff I’ve been doing has either been maintenance for long-term projects or subcontracted under a non-disclosure agreement. It has left me with a feeling that I’ve done a whole lot of work, but have little that embodies that work.

I’ve been up to London and back a few times over the last two months as well. And there have been quite a few things to do at home lately. So, this site just hasn’t had a look-in!

It all started when…

Attending @media in June did its usual thing in hyping me up with some ideas for projects and provided some new opportunities and challanges on the horizon.

Now, I’m in no way blaming the conference, as Patrick and his team organised another great one this year. The social events were great and the sessions were good. There were plenty of friendly, like-minded people to meet and loads of familiar faces to catch up with… a haven for concocting plans and fertilising ideas.

But I felt much the same way after last year’s @media as well. The trouble is, I come home and begin to catch up with work after a couple of days good drinking networking at conference and find myself in a wheelspin – a “burnout”. I’m eager to get into some new projects and try out some new ideas, but I fail to realise that I’ve got the brake firmly on.

Perhaps “burnout” is a good word for how I feel at the moment. Maybe the problem for me right now is mental exhaustion, but part of me thinks that just can’t be right. I mean, if I’ve been working so hard and exhausted myself, why don’t I have much to show for it?

Besides “proper” work, there are so many pet projects I want to work on (or get started on, even), but it’s just not happening. While wanting to do one or more side projects, you still have to make a living. Can there be a balance? Am I balancing it well enough? Feel free to give me any pointers you may have in that respect. Judging by the lack of updates here (despite quite a bit of recent experimentation that might be worth reporting) and lack of activity elsewhere, I’ve not been doing much else but work. Is that healthy?

Work and home

I work from home, which has been hectic lately too. After moving home last year, all the little things that come with that have needed doing; finding homes for things, getting rid of stuff that we no longer need, the little bits of DIY, the garden (not that we have much of one), visits from friends and family, and so on.

Usually, work and home don’t mix. I think I’ve managed quite well over recent weeks, sticking to deadlines despite distractions. Continuing to successfully juggle work and free time has become the issue now I think. While some people really need to separate work and home stuff in order to get things done, I’ve always found that I can be productive on both accounts if I’m organised about it. That’s where things have fallen apart – organisation.

Getting some traction

It hasn’t helped that I’ve pretty much abandoned my flipbook since we moved home. I still list tasks in it every now and then, but I no longer get the “I’ll take that on-board but deal with it later” filing mentality or the daily prioritisation of the things I have to do, both of which the flipbook provided.

So, I’m going to start using my flipbook again. I haven’t really gotten on with the other productivity tools I’ve tried. I’ll often fail to open Sunbird for days or weeks. Open Workbench seems like overkill. Basecamp, as wonderful as it might be, doesn’t fit in my pocket like my flipbook. So, that’s step one – get organised again.

I think I also need to set myself some goals, or give myself a new challenge. I’ve been considering something for some time now – a slight shift from Web Design. I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that yet though – I still need to make a living. So, setting realistic goals it is for the meantime.

First and foremost, I think I need to focus on getting more on top of work. I feel quite comfortable with it at the moment, but being complacent can sneak up behind you and bite you on the arse. So, I want to get ahead of the game.

I’ve managed to half-finish a few blog posts over the last couple of months, but almost nothing has been published. I’m hoping to change that. Everyone needs an outlet, and I think it can be really helpful and motivating to get a regular dialogue going. I’m going to try to post things without being my usual perfectionist self and see how that goes.

On @media 2006

Being as I’ve mentioned @media, I may as well tag this on the end as I never did write a post-@media post this year. Suffice to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. If I met you for the first time, it was a pleasure. If I already knew you, it was a pleasure again.

Now, who wanted copies of this photo?

Ten Years

Today would be ten years away.
I didn’t expect it so soon.
I didn’t think on how I’d look back.
Didn’t know I had to say goodbye.
You are strong, but your body was frail.
You needed to rest.
I know it’s for the best,
But I would miss you.

That day is now ten years today.
It seems to have gone by so fast,
And yet so many things have passed by.
I think back with a tear and a sigh.
Freezeframe the past in my memory
Wipe away the tear
And I feel you are near,
But I still miss you.

For you, Mum.
By you I am saved.
For you I am brave.
And I know you are proud.

Four…!

Four jobs I’ve had in my life

  • Web Developer/Web Designer/Webmaster
  • Sound Engineer
  • Hospital Porter
  • Electronic Engineer (work experience building power supplies)

Four movies I can watch over and over

  • Back to the Future
  • The Incredibles
  • Wayne’s World
  • Bladerunner

Four places I have lived

  • Barnstaple, Devon
  • Next door in Barnstaple, Devon
  • Just around the corner in Barnstaple, Devon
  • the lovely and historic city of York

Four TV shows I love to watch

This is tough, as we don’t watch any TV anymore.

  • CSI
  • Simpsons
  • Red Dwarf
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Four places I have been on vacation

Most recent first…

  • California, USA
  • Arizona, USA
  • Germany
  • Tenerife

Four websites I visit daily

  • Accessify Forum (shirking but lurking)
  • Flickr
  • Google
  • del.icio.us

Four of my favorite foods

  • Cheese of various varieties, including the cake kind
  • Toad in the Hole
  • Apples ‘n’ cheese
  • Banana Chips

Four places I would rather be right now

  • In bed
  • Back in time
  • Watching a gig
  • Playing a gig

Four bloggers I’m tagging

  • Pete, damn…
  • Zach, damn…
  • Derek, damn…
  • Kate, damn…

Home Sweet Home

After one week spent travelling the country, moving everything we own down to my hometown of Barnstaple in Devon, then a week of DIY, surviving on beer and pub-grub, and then a week of surviving on birthday cake alone, the powers that be have allowed me my Internet connection back. We finally got reconnected Tuesday lunchtime after a three-week wait, so now I’m starting to catch up with all my e-mails, projects, etc.

Unfortunately, the unexpected issues of moving home and the unreasonable wait for a proper Internet connection has meant things I wanted to get done have not been done. As a result, not only am I behind on work projects, I’ve not been able to do any of my personal projects, including this month’s reboot. The annoying thing is that I couldn’t even get online at the start of this month to post an apology. Anyway, a new design is in the works, and I’m liking how it’s looking so far, but as the workload is hefty right now, it looks like the live redesign may still be the best way forward for me, making changes as and when I find the time.

Of course, the thought has also crossed my mind to close down dotjay, or at least give it a good rest, but then I remembered what I said when I started the site. I never intended to write regularly, and I never really defined what I would write about. I wish I could find more time to write about Web design and development, and accessibility especially, but in recent months it’s been more important for me to just knuckle down and get on with the work. Maybe in a couple of months things will be different. For now, it’s back to knuckling down, but at least I have a new office to wear in with a much bigger desk to work at.

My new office

It’s nice being back home in Devon. Jo seems to be having some issues adjusting, which is not surprising, but I think she likes it down here. Things could have run smoother with the move, but such is the way with these things. Not only did we have the usual too much stuff to move, but (not so) Enterprise van hire let us down by failing to have any details of the reservation I made two weeks in advance. I was so very not impressed when I went to their office to pick up the van, our entire life waiting to be bundled into the back of it. Incidentally, I must say an enormous thanks to my mate Sam, who managed to arrange a massive van for us that same afternoon.

Anyway, I have plenty to be getting on with for now, but I got a new camera for my birthday, so keep an eye on my Flickr photostream over the coming weeks!