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James Rutherford

Web, design, Newcastle, games and fun!

In the battle of binary versus brainy, binary wins out.

The audio shone. Daft Punk hurl Vangelis against The Matrix to produce a stunning orchestral/electro soundtrack – quite different from their usual style. You can listen to it on Spotify.

Epic-scale blue and orange neon visuals were intense. There was some good use of 3D – I flinched twice, though an almost apologetic note appeared at the beginning of the film: ‘This film includes both 2D and 3D scenes. The 2D scenes are intentional’ – served to highlight the amount of 2D-only filming. The big visual hole was CGI Jeff Bridges, who spent a good proportion of his initial scenes with his back to the camera. Sometimes convincing, but more often hitting the uncanny bit of uncanny valley.

Narrative and dialogue were less than stellar- requiring quite a lot of buy-in from the viewer for both setting and ongoing plot. The movie also included some awkward set-piece choreography, such as Sam’s initial tool-up.

Overall, probably worth seeing at the cinema for the spectacle but you shouldn’t expect too much more – though fans of attractive girls squeaking around in rubber suits will not be disappointed.

I saw this at the Tyneside Cinema, which was a pleasant experience- their staff are all very friendly and seats comfortable (Electra screen). Their new fancy 3D glasses did cause me a bit of concern- they’re heavy enough to pinch your nose, causing some discomfort and leave a couple of tell-tale red marks by your departure!

In the spirit of Christmas as a time for reflection, I’ve been thinking about family, friends and the future – and 2010 certainly feels like it’s been a special year for me.

I’ve had opportunity to share time with a number of long-term friends – some from twenty-five years ago, others from secondary school, a couple from University and from my early years in Newcastle – and though these relationships have been distanced by space or time, they’ve returned as warm, lively and fulfilling as they’ve ever been.

I feel more established in a number of social circles too. Particularly within Newcastle’s wonderful open, vibrant techie core and with some brilliant videogame-loving chums who like to meet around the country for drinks, chat and play. And, of course, the old-guard am-dram and comedy folk whose company still lifts me.

And my new friends; during my travels at the beginning of the year, I met some humblingly welcoming people across the world in New Zealand and America – ones who I certainly hope to stay in touch with for social fun and intellectual discussion (perhaps both at the same time).

Certainly not forgetting my family, who have given – and continue to give – support, love, understanding and pleasure. And a special place for my sister, Emma, with her husband, Luke, brought my niece Charlotte into this world at the beginning of the year.

For those who have endured some of the most upsetting personal trauma- I hope you know how much I admire your strength.

I sometimes feel a social or emotional oddball because I find it hard to tell people in my life how much they mean to me. This… I am working on.

So, no matter whether you celebrate a religious Christmas, winterval, festivemas, a couple of days off work, or the high carb splendour of the Flying Spaghetti Monster- please take a moment to think of those you love, and recognise that they most probably think about you.

/slush

You will need to update the domain’s DNS settings for Google Apps to work properly.

Navigate to Google Apps – Standard Edition (currently here).

Click the ‘Get Started’ button.

You can purchase a domain through Google or use an existing one – the instructions below are for the latter case.

Tick ‘Administrator: I own or control this domain’ and enter the domain (e.g. ‘mydomain.com’) and click ‘Get Started’.

Enter your details- I recommend you enter an email address that is not on the domain you are applying (i.e. not ‘james@mydomain.com’ – you can sign up for a gmail address for free if required).

Set up your Administrator account (I suggest you use admin[@mydomain.com] for your administrative user).

You should receive a welcome email at this point, and will be given some information about Google’s domain verification process.

Click continue and sign in with the administrative user details you supplied them.

Verification – You need to prove to Google that you have ownership of (or at least, privileged access to) the domain. You can do this by altering the DNS settings, adding some code to the HTML of the website or uploading a special file to the webspace. If you have webspace already then the latter two are easy and I’d suggest the file upload option.

You need to upload the file the supply you with to the public HTML root of the FTP area (i.e. the folder that your homepage is in). If you are running a content management system that rewrites URLs then you may need to verify by another method (the verification file should be left where it is, and accessible).

You’re now registered and ready to follow Google’s Help Guide for linking your DNS records up for your email, etc.

Late last night here (4PM PST) Twitter held a press conference to make some announcements about their service.

They unveiled the new version of the user home page, which will be split into two panes – one for the timeline (which will now scroll automatically) and one to give extra contextual information on any selected tweet. A message about a video, for example, will be presented alongside the video itself.

While this isn’t game changing, it demonstrates that they’re keen to feed people a richer aspect on the information (going from ‘tell’ to ‘tell and show’), and to retain people on their site – most probably as a step towards monetisation by contextual advertising.

They claimed that currently, 70% of users access the service via their website – which surprised me given the prevalence and quality of handheld clients and power of their API. I’d expect Twitter to update their official client apps soon to mirror the functionality.

Staged roll-out of the new version of the service (#newtwitter) is happening already and will continue over the next couple of weeks. A preview in the promo video below:

They were also keen to emphasise that users did not have to post their own content to take part in Twitter- perhaps as a strike at convincing advertisers that engaged users are far more numerous than active posters, or perhaps they’re looking to directly increase their appeal to content creators and distributors.

Not mentioned in press conference, but likely relevant: They’ll be rolling out their own link shortening service over the coming months. This will give them a deeper hold on the peripheral information and the way people are using it (click-throughs, propagation, etc).

References:

Twitter’s overview page.

Another take on Twitter’s strategy from Usrlab.

A pretty low-grade, but functional associative array sorter in JavaScript:

// execution
var assocArray = new Array();
assocArray[ 'b' ] = 'item3';
assocArray[ 'c' ] = 'item1';
assocArray[ 'a' ] = 'item2';

array_dump_html( 'Pre-sort', assocArray );

assocArray = array_sort( assocArray );

array_dump_html( 'Post-sort', assocArray );

// ---
// Sort functions...
function array_sort( arrayIn ) {

	var arrayCouplets = new Array();
	for( key in arrayIn ) {

		arrayCouplets.push({

			key: key,
			value: arrayIn[ key ]
		});
	}

	arrayCouplets.sort( sort_couplets );

	var arrayOut = new Array();
	for( i in arrayCouplets) {

		arrayOut[ arrayCouplets[ i ][ 'key' ] ] = arrayCouplets[ i ][ 'value' ];
	}

	return arrayOut;
}

function sort_couplets( coupletA, coupletB ) {

	return coupletA[ 'value' ] > coupletB[ 'value' ];
}

// ---
// Fluff functions...
function array_dump_html( title, arrayIn ) {

	var output = '';
	for( key in arrayIn ) {

		output += 'key(' + key + ') value(' + arrayIn[ key ] + ')<br />';
	}

	document.write( '<div><h1>' + title + ':</h1>' + output + '</div>' );
}

Outputs:

Pre-sort:
key(b) value(item3)
key(c) value(item1)
key(a) value(item2)

Post-sort:
key(c) value(item1)
key(a) value(item2)
key(b) value(item3)

Copy and paste into an online editor to try it.

Can you improve it? Please comment!

Webdurance kicks off on in two days time here in Newcastle.

It’s a 24 hour ‘hack’ event. Six teams (of six people) will be locked in a room, and each will build/repair a website for a charity between noon on Thursday and noon on Friday.

In order to keep us going, I thought I’d put together a music playlist for our volunteers to dip into… and you can help keep us sane by adding your own tracks!

I’d like them all to be (at least, loosely) themed to the event.

Here are some examples of the type of thing I’m thinking of:

Love, Hope and Charity-

  • Thompson Twins – In the Name of Love
  • The Beatles – Help

Motivational tunes-

  • Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
  • Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now

Get a Move On tunes-

  • Europe – The Final Countdown

Tangential References-

  • Corey Hart – Sunglasses at Night
  • Noisettes – 24 Hours

So, please- if you have Spotify, check out the collaborative playlist: Webdurance – Soundtrack to a Web Hack and chuck in some tunes of your own for us to enjoy!

If you don’t have Spotify, then please leave a reply to this post with your suggestion, and I’ll try and find it. (Sadly, I can’t find the Countdown TV show clock music, otherwise we’d have that on repeat all night…).

References:

Webdurance, Webdurance (Ning), @webdurance

We’ve had a couple of last minute drop-outs, so if you know – or are – a designer, or website coder with a fun attitude and a willingness to do some altruistic good, then get in touch with the webdurance team!

Rob Lavender presented a spread of tools- some free, some commercial, that would be useful in a freelancer’s workflow.

Invoice Management

Bamboo Invoice – invoicing management tool built on CodeIgniter.

Commercial / hosted options:

CannyBill

FreshBooks

LessAccounting

iComptroller

Productivity

Rob introduced an organisational methodology called Getting Things Done (GTD) which aims to externalise the processes that some keep in the mind to make them more efficient. Tasks are pushed into a cycle: Collect / Process / Organize / Review / Do.

iGTD – Mac / free

Things – Mac / commercial

Tracks

Gtdify

Evernote – scrapbook / organiser

Remember the Milk – to do list

ActiveInbox – a Gmail plug-in to organise in a GTD way

43 folders – tips for life/career management

Project Management / Collaboration

Basecamp

Collabtive

Other 37 signals tools

Google Apps – business email / docs / sites / calendar / wave

Source Control

ProjectLocker – SVN / GIT hosting

Unfuddle – SVN / GIT hosting

Dreamhost - SVN is available inclusive with the hosting

Other Resources

Lifehacker – Productivity tips

1DayLater – Time Tracking software

opensourceCMS – sandboxed open source software for you to try out before you install.

Top 20 project management tools article.

Less Everything – assorted tools

Klok – time management tool (audience suggestion)

Resources

@robertlavender, Lavender Web Design

Rob’s slides:

Laura offered tips for putting together a solid CV for a recruiter from her experience running Altitude Recruitment (@altitudetweet).

Objectives

Be clear about what you want to achieve. Select your potential clients and target them with a personal application; talk about how your work and skills would enhance their service.

Only approach a few at a time, so that you can keep track of the responses.

Structure

Organise your CV chronologically. If you’re CV is skill based then it looks like you have something to hide.

Two pages is best, but this isn’t fixed. As long as it’s all relevant, it’ll be fine.

Include a Work/Experience section. This should list:

  • Your employer’s name, your position, some detail about the work they do.
  • Your responsibilities, e.g. planning, analysis, design, implementation, testing.
  • The architecture; systems and software.
  • Whether the projects were completed on time and to budget.
  • Any staff you managed (if relevant).
  • New techniques, procedures and practices you brought.
  • How you reduced time and money/increased revenue.
  • Any achievements that benefitted your employer.

You should include acronyms where appropriate. Some recruiters search CVs with keywords.

Your Portfolio section:

  • Sould include a link to a professional-looking portfolio site.
    • if you can’t build your own, take a look at: Behance Network, Coroflot, Carbonmade, WordPress).
    • or enlist the help of another freelancer to build it!
    • Keep your site professional- any personal stuff will be read and may give a bad impression.
    • Keep it up to date.
    • Give some cursory thought to SEO- work may come your way via your online portfoilio.
  • Ensure you have client approval for anything you present (don’t fall foul of an NDA).
  • Give information about how you work- timesheets, billing arrangement, etc. to give people a rounded view of your service.
  • Six Revisions has some good information.

Include a references and testimonials section. You should request content for this from your satisfied clients- it’s invaluable on your CV.

General Tips

No point including a personal statement on a CV for a recruiter. Possibly on a CV for a full-time job, if you have something ground-breaking to convey!

It isn’t worth including a personal photograph. These tend to be binned.

Don’t forget your name/address/email/telephone number… (Sounds obvious, but apparently isn’t!)

Working with a Recruiter

Be open about who you’ve approached already and ask who your details will be passed on to.

Feel welcome to ask advice on your presentation / cv / interview technique.

Expect to negotiate your fee.

Make sure you invoice and send your timesheets in good time. In return, the recruiter will look after payments and do chasing if required.

References

@lauramaddison

Laura’s slides:

We returned to Newcastle University’s Culture Lab for June’s event, which had a ‘freelancing’ theme.

The talks explored how to shape a CV, tools to help freelance workflow and possible methods for passive, secondary income.

Paul Easton, on Journalists

Before the scheduled speakers, Paul Easton gave a short talk to encourage freelancers to engage with offline media journalists.

Journalists are always on the lookout for good stories, particularly if you can provide a radical opinion, local or topical item. If you can offer exclusivity, then they’ll be even keener!

If you’re writing a press release, keep it punchy and don’t swamp it in adjectives- that’ll be easier for a journalist to use.

You should try to supply a good, relevant and high-quality photograph – these can carry a story and seriously increase your article size.

Most journalists are very approachable, so don’t feel intimidated.

When questioned, Paul suggested steering clear of advertorial- it’s often very obvious and a lack of authenticity won’t do you any favours.

General Admin

Paul mentioned that offices were available at Hoults Yard. He gave an example outlay of £300/month.

Those interested in a Ruby User Group should get in contact with Lee Irving (@magpieuk)

Other Talks

Detailed write-ups of the other talks will appear here over the next couple of days.

Further References

Phil Sherry has published a clear and concise report.

I’ve just updated this site from WordPress 2.9.2 to the brand new stable release of WordPress 3.0.

The upgrade process was very simple, and everything appears to have gone smoothly… brilliant!