“Vermont’s largest city has a new success to add to its list of socially conscious achievements: 100 percent of its electricity now comes from renewable sources such as wind, water and biomass.”

Via: ABC News

You Need to Write

Jeffrey Zeldman Avatar“I do think it’s true that designers need to write, and UX people need to write, and developers need to write. (…) I think that when you share your knowledge, there’s always people who learn from it. There’s always someone who’s going to learn from it. And I think that’s just a great way to advance your career, and -more importantly- give back, you know, and be part of the community.”

Jeffrey Zeldman on The Big Webshow, episode #53. 5by5

As often, I agree with Mr. Zeldman’s point here. It’s not always easy to find time, and even harder to find something interesting to say. This web site illustrates both issues nicely. But even more important than advancing your career or giving back to the community is the fact that writing makes you order your thoughts and really focus on your subject. Writing does many things, from introducing you to the community, to making you a better designer, to making you re-think the ‘truths’ that you live by. Writing is to a designer what going for a jog is to an athlete.

Since 1995 (!), Mr. Zeldman leads by example at Zeldman.com. Here’s a link to a blog post about this very subject: “One blog post is worth a thousand portfolio pieces”. And if you are just looking for an entertaining, well written story, check out “Cameron Diaz and Me”. There’s much more enjoyable reading to be found there, so click around, get inspired and then head over to your blog or pull out your journal and write something of your own.

Social Media

“During the NCAA basketball tournament I heard announcer Jim Nantz telling viewers to go to CBSsports.com for “tournament related social media.” A week later I noticed a category at Maria Shriver’s site for “social media.”

Strange thing is I’ve never heard a non-tech person use the phrase “social media.” Normal people mention being friends on Facebook or reading someone’s tweets on Twitter. They don’t say, “I want to get some social media.”

It’s a good reminder of how easy it is to get caught up in industry jargon and how we talk instead of how they (i.e. customers) actually think/talk. The phrase you use internally isn’t necessarily the one you should use with the outside world.”
{Matt via 37Signals}

The problem here is obvious, but as you can tell from the comments to the post, the solution is not as obvious.

Further Reading: Social Media – 37Signals

 

Content should be appropriate

There’s really only one central principle of good content: it should be appropriate for your business, for your users, and for its context. Appropriate in its method of delivery, in its style and structure, and above all in its substance. Content strategy is the practice of determining what each of those things means for your project—and how to get there from where you are now.
{Erin Kissane – A Checklist for Content Work}

Further Reading: http://www.alistapart.com/articles/a-checklist-for-content-work/

WordPress.com starts offering Premium Themes

As of today, two premium themes are available for use with WordPress.com.  I guess that’s good news for theme designers and the WordPress community as a whole.  I just wish they didn’t call them Premium.  That moniker insinuates that commercial or ‘paid’ themes are inherently better than free themes created under the GPL license.  Maybe ‘commercial themes’ would have been a better name?

“Along with this extraordinary growth we’ve been thrilled to watch a thriving marketplace of commercial themes drive innovation and quality in theme design while producing an amazing variety of theme choices for self-hosted WordPress sites.

Now we want to bring the same level of theme choices to the WordPress.com community—it’s time to give you a chance at not only more themes, but a chance to showcase your site with beautiful designs that will blow you away with their style and quality.” {Lance Willett – WordPress.com news}

*Update
Further Reading: Matt Mullenweg on WordPress.com Premium Themes

Marco Arment speculates on the future of the Macbook Pro

I’m predicting the next 15” to be, effectively, the halfway point between the current one and what you’d expect a 15” Air to be. {Marco Arment}

Which is exactly what I am hoping and waiting for! Come on Apple, be brave, ditch the optical drive and the glass display!

Further Reading: marco.org/3027446896

Book Review: Smashing WordPress

About a year ago, I was looking for a good book on using WordPress as a CMS.  Browsing the shelves of my local bookstore, I noticed that there are few books on WordPress that go beyond the basics.  Most of them simply explain how to use the admin interface and write blog posts.  If you are lucky, you might learn how to make a few minor tweaks to the theme you use.  As a developer, I was looking for something much more advanced.  “Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog” by Thord Daniel Hedengren looked like it could satisfy my needs.

“Smashing WordPress: Beyond the Blog was written with the web developer in mind, but anyone who has fiddled a little bit with XHTML, CSS, PHP, or WordPress, can benefit from this book.”
{Thord Daniel Hedengren – Smashing WordPress – Foreword}

As you can tell from this quote, Thord Daniel Hedengren assumes his audience knows basic HTML, CSS and PHP code.  If you don’t know anything about these coding languages, this book is not for you.  However, if you know the basics and are willing to learn, you can jump right in.  Each time Thord quotes a long section of code, he breaks it up piece by piece and explains what the code does and why it’s there.  While I really appreciate this approach, I have to admin that the ebook version I bought sometimes suffers from hard to read formatting for the blocks of code.*  smashing wordpress cover

The book is written with WordPress version 2.7 in mind.  Today, the most recent version is WordPress 3.0 and 3.1 is about to be released any day now.  These newer releases of WordPress have really focused on improving the functionality of WordPress as a CMS.  Since Smashing WordPress is all about using WordPress as a CMS some things have obviously changed since the time of writing.  This doesn’t mean that the book is outdated already. It does mean, however, that some of the solutions Thord proposes are no longer the best way to do things, but conceptually most content is still valid and valuable.

Thord Daniel Hedengren writes well.  The book is much easier to read than his name would suggest.  Smashing WordPress is divided into five major parts, each part consisting of several chapters.  This structure works well for the subject.  The content is vaguely structured in a chronological way.  It starts with the things you encounter first, the installation of WordPress and how to get started with a simple theme.  The next parts and chapters explain WordPress from a functional point of view. Thord explains how WordPress works and how you can make it work for you getting exactly the results you are looking for.  From running queries to writing plugins, you learn about it all.  While Thord touches on the subject a few times, this book does not really focus on styling the content.  After all, it’s not a book about CSS it’s about WordPress.  Towards the end, we get a list of interesting plugins to look into, some specific examples of different types of websites and some final tips that will help you get the most out of WordPress.  The way the content is structured makes it easy to read Smashing WordPress from cover to cover.  I’ve read many technical books that are just impossible to read this way.  Since it’s important that you can easily pick up the book and look for something, the table of content is also very important.  Luckily this book has a great table of content, it’s easy to find what you are looking for because the titles for the chapters are comprehensive and descriptive. I also like that you a good feeling for the content and the focus of the book by reading the table of content, which also is not always the case with technical books.

As you can tell, I like Smashing WordPress.  There might be a few things that could have been done differently, but overall I’m very pleased with this book.  I keep it around and refer to it often.  I will definitely check out Thord’s next book Smashing WordPress Themes and who knows maybe one day write a review for that book too.  Now it’s time for me to find something negative to write about.  I feel like I’ve been endorsing and praising too many products and services here lately.

* I bought the ebook version instead of the physical version because the advantages outweighed the disadvantages for me, but in an ideal world I would just own both versions.  I would love to see a license for the ebook included with the physical copy of the book.  I could buy both, but that means I’m paying twice for the same thing which is why I always feel like it’s bit of a rip off when I’m presented with those physical book + ebook bundles.  But that’s a different discussion.