“A dear uncle told me once, when I was deep in despair at some injustice by some bureaucrat, scholastic or familial, ‘Chuck, they can kill you, but they’re not allowed to eat you.’ Exactly why this statement has since stood as the cornerpost of my determination to live my life as a life and not as an apology, only Ralph Waldo Emerson could have explained. And I hadn’t read much Emerson when I was eleven.”—Chuck Jones, Chuck Amuck
“WebFonts are important because language requires type, and access to one’s own language is about as profound a social justice issue as you can find. As the early Wittgenstein said, the limits of my language are the limits of my world. If you can’t type or read your language online, your world is not part of the World Wide Web. That needs fixing.”—Tom Morris, "Why WebFonts Matter" →
“As a young girl, I was an opinionated, asocial, extroverted, impossible egregious brat whose primary friends were books! The early lessons I learned, generally the hard way, in standing up for myself and my egocentricities, being proud of being ‘different,’ doing my own thing, gave me the strength of purpose to continue doing so later in life. You learn how not to conform, how to avoid labels. But it isn’t easy! It’s lonely until you realize that you have inner resources that those of the herd mentality cannot enjoy. That’s where the mind learns the freedom to think science-fictiony things.”—Anne McCaffrey
I recently gave a talk at Software Craftsmanship North America about diversity in technology and programming, specifically gender and specifically in the context of teaching diverse beginners as we do in Girl Develop It Columbus. A lot of follow-up topics and questions came out of it that I felt needed more discussion and clarification. So I will be posting on them over at Still Unlocking the Clubhouse.
“Overall, I think it’s a good time to have a girl in the 21st century because things are changing, with more opportunities for women. But girls are still the underdog, which means they’ll work harder, and everybody loves an underdog. The next Steve Jobs will totally be a chick, because girls are No. 2—and No. 2 always wins in America. Apple was a No. 2 company for years, and Apple embodies a lot of what have been defined as feminine traits: an emphasis on intuitive design, intellect, a strong sense of creativity, and that striving to always make the greatest version of something. Traditionally, men are more like Microsoft, where they’ll just make a fake version of what that chick made, then beat the shit out of her and try to intimidate everybody into using their product.”—Louis C.K. →
So, once upon a time, I used to be really artsy. I suppose I still am, in a manner of speaking, but I haven’t pursued formally creating art or practicing artistic technique in many, many years.
Little-known Jen fact: in high school, I was planning to go to art school and become an animated cartoonist. I also flirted with the idea of going into comics. I didn’t go to art school because I thought I didn’t have enough talent. Which was ridiculous, but life happens that way sometimes.
Anyway, I’m back to feeling creative and productive and, especially because I’m also focusing on a lot of technical work and learning, it seems to be a good time to balance it all by returning to my old, lost love.
Therefore. I’m making art again. Comic, cartoon, illustration art. I’m going to start posting sketches to keep myself honest. I’m also officially soliciting recommendations of good books, blogs, resources, etc. that you might know of to help me along the way. Should you know of any, please feel free to send them to me by Tumblr or Twitter reply.
Over the past year, I have rebooted my career and learned a lot more about the professional landscape in which I find myself. Most of what I’ve learned has been the result of connecting with smart, talented and communicative folks who do good work and who can effectively teach and lead others.
Unfortunately, the rest of what I’ve learned has been a process of being disillusioned with facades that don’t match what’s underneath and reputations built on talk more than action.
Even that, however, has been a good reminder to me to be open about my faults and weaknesses, and honest about my own path of learning. In short, I’ve learned the true value of authenticity.
Authenticity takes work in itself. It’s a lot easier to let people assume you know something you don’t, can do something you can’t, are something you aren’t. In some cases, human society and complexity being what it is, misunderstandings are accidental and unavoidable. But if you get away with it, chances are you aren’t really doing yourself any favors in the long run. You’ll just get caught in the trap of pursuing the fraud instead of facing the work to improve. There is the (true, I believe) maxim of, “Fake it until you make it.” Valuable, and useful, advice, but it also contains a trap. Some people get so good at the faking they forget to move on to the next step. In that case, you’ve handed over your self-worth entirely to the gamble of how well you can manipulate the good opinions of others and subsequently feed off of them. It’s not sustainable. Only solidly-based self-confidence is, and that simply isn’t possible without the courage to be authentic.
In my experience, this aspect of the problem of authenticity is far more prevalent than the problem of those who deliberately seek to deceive. Self-deception is much harder to recognize and eradicate. It also has much deeper and wider-reaching repercussions for those who trust and believe in those who substitute authenticity for a fiction they have convinced themselves, and everyone else, is true.
I have a long way to go before I’m anywhere near the skill level I want to, or think I should, be. I’ve learned to be transparent and unashamed about that. I’ve also learned that, despite that, I have other skills, not the least of which is my open willingness to learn more and a positive attitude for doing so. Those I’m learning from have complimented me on that, which in turns builds my confidence for reaching out farther.
I’m not perfect. I’m not even terribly accomplished. But I’m authentic, in all the good and bad that entails, and I’m willing to work. And I think that puts me on a better track than I would be if I had an unearned expert reputation.
“We are a generation of makers. A generation of creators. Maybe we don’t have the global idealism of the hippies. Our idealism is more individual: that every person should be able to live their own life, working on what they choose, creating what they choose. If you want to build a company to change the world, go for it. If you want to be an independent knife maker, what is stopping you?”—Justin Kan, "Generation Make" →
“And that’s the reason why right now is exactly the time for web developers to be thinking about semantics. The specification is still being put together and our collective voice matters. If we want to have well-considered semantic elements in the language, we need to take the time to consider the effects of every new element that could potentially be used to structure our content.”—Jeremy Keith, "Pursuing semantic value" →
“Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older. That’s the truth of it. They honor their credit cards, they find parking spaces, they marry, they have the nerve to have children, but they don’t grow up. Not really. They get older. But to grow up costs the earth, the earth. It means you take responsibility for the time you take up, for the space you occupy. It’s serious business. And you find out what it costs us to love and to lose, to dare and to fail. And maybe even more, to succeed. What it costs, in truth. Not superficial costs—anybody can have that—I mean in truth. That’s what I write. What it really is like. I’m just telling a very simple story.”—Maya Angelou in The Paris Review
“Some of the most talented and prolific people I know have dozens of interests and hobbies. When I ask them about this, the response is usually something like ‘I love to learn.’ I think the new discoveries and joys of learning are the crux of this beginner thing I’ve been thinking about. Sure, when you’ve mastered something it’s valuable, but then part of your journey is over — you’ve arrived, and the trick is to find something you’ll always have a sense of wonder about. I think this is why scientists and artists, who are usually experts, love what they do: there is always something new ahead. It’s possible to be an expert but still retain the mind of a beginner.”—Phillip Torrone, "Zen and the Art of Making" →
When I first encountered Sass, I was befuddled by it. Why would I bother to learn an entire new syntax of a language I already knew, especially when it insisted on throwing seemingly overly-complicated programming concepts into the mix? But, after smart designers I trusted urged me to consider it, and as I delved deeper into programming myself, I began to take it on. Now, especially with the addition of Compass, I wouldn’t be caught dead with plain CSS anymore.
Which is why when I hear designers expressing sentiments similar to those at the start of Andy Clarke’s article on LESS, I both sympathize with them and want to shake them. You really have to give it a shot. I know no CSS coders who made an honest effort to work with a preprocessor who weren’t won over, and even though I’m sure some exists somewhere, at least they tried it and hopefully can articulate why they don’t prefer it instead of relying on a reactionary, “I’m a DESIGNER, I don’t use the command line” repsonse.
Of course, this dovetails with my insistence that designers are better off learning to use developer tools, but that is a discussion for another time. Perhaps several.
Footnote: over the weekend I first made use of this HTML5 Boilerplate Compass extension. Suitable for jump-starting HTML5 Boilerplate-based Rails apps or straight-up HTML sites, both with fully integrated Compass support. Nice.
Over the past year, I’ve been shifting my career focus, which has also accordingly shifted many of my extra-cirricular projects, interests and study topics. This in turn has changed how I want to express my work and identity online. So - Operation Identity Change is upon us.
I went through the details of this last week on another Tumblr, which brings us to the crux of the matter. Soon, I will be switching the name of this Tumblr from deliberatepixel to jenmyers. You won’t have to follow a new blog, but you’ll see a new name and new avatar, so don’t panic. All is well. The content will be more or less the same, except it will contain more coding, design and work stuff. Maybe more otters. We’ll see.