Speaking at AWDG

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awdgIn a couple of weeks, I’m going to do something I didn’t think I’d ever do: I’m speaking about CSS Preprocessors at an Atlanta Web Design Group meetup.

Over the past few years, I’ve visited Atlanta a few times a year and live-tweeted AWDG talks. This time, I’ll be on the other side of the crowd. I doubt I’ll ever get used to speaking in front of people, but this is a topic I’m passionate about and I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned with others.

For those attending the talk, my goal is to show you that getting started with a CSS Preprocessor like LESS or Sass/SCSS is easier than you think, and will require you to change very little in your current workflow(s). I resisted making the switch because I thought it was difficult, but I’ve since gone from experimenting with it on single projects to having all of my coworkers using it.

Don’t be evil.*

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Google announced that they’re buying Nest yesterday, and with it came a flood of jokes about how we’ll need to have a Google+ account in order to change our temperatures from now on.

Google isn’t buying Nest just for their Thermostat or Protect. They bought it for the next wave of products that Nest has in development.

Google is slowly, inevitably invading the home and it wouldn’t bother me so much if their primary purpose wasn’t to advertise to us. Imagine a Google Fiber-connected house, with Google-powered TV, Internet and phone service. Every TV has a Chromecast. Your phone is running their Android OS. In your garage is parked one of their self-driving cars. They’ll know all of your travel patterns. They’ll know what nights you work or stay out late. They’ll know what nights you typically have food delivered in. They’ll know that you like keeping your house a few degrees cooler on average. They’ll know what kinds of beers you like, and how often you bring home groceries because of when you scan in items into your Android-powered fridge. And that information will be used against you. And every time you see an ad popup that seems scarily accurate to your current wants and needs you won’t care, because your life will have been made more convenient.

Featured image via @bkieffer

Wasted Time

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Not all time wasted is wasted time. (Or, at least that’s what I keep telling myself.)

I have to remind myself often that time spent learning instead of earning could yield greater benefits down the road. But it’s hard to justify spending the time on playing when you’re trying to meet a deadline or behind schedule on something. That’s why I’d like to propose that you “waste time” — at least a little bit — on each new project you take on. Commit to incorporating at least one new technology in each project that comes across your desk. Before you know it, you’ll be incorporating more advanced stuff into your workflow.

“Time you enjoyed wasting is not wasted time.” — T.S. Elliot

Not using a CSS Preprocessor? Start off by using LESS or Sass/SCSS on your next project. Then, on your next project, incorporate a mixin library like Less Hat, Bourbon or Compass. Can’t figure out how to do something? Spend some time learning the skills you need through sites like Code School or Codecademy. Or browse sites like CSS TricksCodePen, and 24Ways for chunks of inspiration. Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in continually doing things the way you currently are: that’s the easiest way to get left behind.

Whatever you do, don’t get stuck in doing things the way you’ve always done them. Don’t be afraid to waste the time to learn something new with each new project or task you tackle. Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. That wasted time isn’t really wasted when you’re improving yourself.

Push Yourself

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Level UpYou can be better than you think you can be.

You can do more than you think you can do.

Stop overthinking. Start doing.

Push yourself. Reach the next level.

And when you get there? Realize that you’ve only just begun.

Pancake

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Up until a year ago, I was a long-time subscriber to a hosted time-tracking and invoicing app: Harvest. (Harvest is still *really* awesome, btw.) I also had a Basecamp account. When I freelanced full-time, it made sense to pay that bill every month. But when I, I couldn’t justify the monthly expense any longer. (Admittedly, paying $32/month for a couple of services you use often, that help you get paid and help you manage projects better isn’t bad. But I had been looking for alternatives for quite some time.)

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

pancake_stackIn 2010, Michael Wales told me about Pancake and I leapt at the opportunity to buy a license. I installed it on my server, played around for it a bit and then went back to using Harvest + Basecamp. (I’m a creature of habit.) I knew I’d eventually make the leap, and now I’m really glad that I did.

So what is Pancake? Pancake handles online invoicing, project management, time tracking, proposals, file delivery and more. It’s a one-time purchase for minor updates and major updates tend to have upgrade pricing.

You can install Pancake on your own server (or use the Pancake Instant service and let them do it for you). And then just use it. It auto-updates.

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I bring Pancake up because I’m excited to announce that I’ve been working with them to improve and refine the UI of the v4 admin. Coming in v4 is a new admin design and lots of new features. It’s an exciting opportunity to be able to help improve a product you use quite often.

I’d love it if you’d check it out. Try the demo. There’s even a 45-day money back guarantee.)

Year in Review: RefreshAugusta

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2013 was a big year for RefreshAugusta. Our meetup group grew to 111 members. We grew to 773 followers on Twitter. We held a total of 9 meetups in 2013: Two lunches, one workshop, and six educational/informative evening events. We even made a one-day web conference happen here in Augusta!

  • FebruaryOutsmart Yourself: Failure, Consciousness, and the Magnetic Middle with J Cornelius
  • MarchDesign Double-Header with UnmatchedStyle with Gene Crawford and Giovanni DiFeterici
  • AprilHere-say & Conjecture with Alex Wier & Daniel Stewart (Wier/Stewart)
  • MayWeb Afternoon Augusta!
  • JuneBuilding Animations with CSS3 with Josh Netherton
  • AugustUser Research Workshop with Jenn Downs
  • SeptemberBig Picture UX with Nick Finck
  • OctoberPreprocess all the Things! with Chris Harrison (me, duh!)

We had some really smart people come to Augusta to speak about their passion and share it with the Augusta web community. And we’re just a small part of what’s happening here in Augusta. Hack Augusta, ALUG, the CSRA Makers, Dev Club and more are doing great things in our area.

A big reason all of this was possible is TheClubhou.se. They’ve served as our meeting space and a technology hub, and I know it’ll play an even bigger role in our future.