Holiday reflections

~ 09 January 2006 ~

I hope all of you had an enjoyable Christmas break. I’m pleased to report ours was much better than last year’s. No pens in eyes or anything like that.

Though I took hardly any time to do much other than family activities, I did take time to note a few things that came to mind during the break. Here they are in random order:

  • I would surmise Florida has the most custom license plates (PDF) of any state. We saw close to two dozen different plates during our 3-week stay.
  • It’s impossible to eat healthy on the road for 3 weeks straight.
  • How bizarre that the human body can adjust itself to a new time zone in a relatively short timeframe. Florida is 2 hours ahead of Utah, so the first day we were back home, the boys were up at 5am (7am Florida time), we ate lunch at 10am, and had dinner at 4pm. We’re slowing easing back to Mountain Time.
  • Skimboarding is apparently, once again, all the rage with the cool kids. They were all over the place at Siesta Key. It brought back memories of skimboarding in Northern California as a teen on a board I made in woodshop in 7th grade.
  • The Sago Mine tragedy was truly just that — a complete tragedy. Perhaps nearly as tragic were the scores of erroneous headlines in print. I wonder if news blogging added to the confusion or corrected the false reports sooner. (I was offline most of the trip.)
  • Thank you, Gmail Mobile.
  • Assuming USC was about to trample all over Texas with a 12-point lead, I turned off the Bowl Championship with about 10 minutes left in the game and missed one of the best comebacks in bowl championship history. I’m such a loser. I suppose the game recap via iTunes will have to do.
  • Losing 20/20 vision is no fun whatsoever. For years I’ve taken pride in my vision and hoped it would stay that way for years to come. Not so. Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed I can’t read distant signs as well as I used to. I suppose it’s part of aging, but I wonder if staring at a close computer screen for hours each day has sped up the process.
  • On a happier note, go @media 2006! I’ll be presenting on Mobile Web Design, and I’m honored to be included in such great company. This won’t be my first trip to Europe, but it will be my first to England.
  • A toddler will make virtually no sound at all if drowning in water above its head. Somehow two of my sons were underwater simultaneously while swimming in a pool at the start of our trip, and I was fortunate enough to be looking in the right direction when it happened. Otherwise I’m not sure I would have heard/seen it immediately. (They were both fine, just a little startled.)
  • Coldplay’s Fix You is my vote for best song of 2005. It’s become a bit commercial since, but I was immediately enamored by it the day of X & Y’s release.
  • An iPhoto printed album with photos from our family shoot at Sundance was by far the best gift we gave this Christmas.
  • Sprint’s coverage is markedly worse in the Tampa/Orlando/Sarasota areas compared to coverage here in Utah.
  • I’ve been describing myself as “New Media Designer” for some time now when people ask what I do for a living. I don’t know why, but there’s something about “Web Designer” that strikes a bad chord with me. Like it sounds lower-caste or something, even though I mean the same thing. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being haughty, and maybe “New Media” isn’t the best term either.
  • I thumbed through a few tech books over the break, and for some reason it made me wonder if the style of writing in which we’ve become accustomed to reading and authoring is doing more harm than good. Meaning, we tend to write very casually, without a lot of fancy adjectives and complex sentence structure. I wonder if this “dumbing down” for the sake of clarity and “get to the point” value is causing me to sacrifice long-term education for short-term skill enhancement. Make any sense? That’s why I never tire reading Khoi Vinh’s Subtraction. Not only do I enhance my skills, but Khoi writes with such eloquence that I can’t help but walk away educated too.
  • Yahoo! Go Mobile launched last week, while Kelly Goto offered her 2006 mobile predictions.
  • JSM started a new bi-weekly feature titled “Under The Loupe”, the first of which, White Space, is notably good.
  • This was the coolest card I saw this Christmas.
  • Guy Kawasaki started blogging.
  • Vermont Originals sports some sweet hand-crafted flap hats for those of us outside Florida.
  • The December/January 2006 Issue of Fortune Small Business has an interesting write-up on Umbria, a blog research firm in Boulder, Colorado. Long story short, after a spider crawls through some 20 million blogs in less than a minute, a linguistic algorithm analysis produces an “Umbria Buzz Report”, which tells clients how their products or services are being portrayed in the blogosphere. It even estimates audience age, gender, and such things as sarcasm based on the blogger’s writing style. With clients such as Sprint, SAP, and Electronic Arts, I wonder if I need to follow this company a bit more closely.
  • Newsvine beta invites began shipping. I’ve been using it for a little over a month now, and I’ve been quite impressed. I hope many of you have had or will have the chance to take a peek, as well.

What other news did I miss while out?



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1   Paul D ~ 09 January 2006 at 09:59 AM

A couple of responses to some of your items:

- Staring at a fixed point in space all day can definitely result in worse vision. I suggest looking up the vision exercises designed by William Bates; they can improve nearly anyone’s vision.

- An iPhoto book was also the best gift I and my wife sent out this year. We made one from our photos in Japan, where we currently reside.

- Good communication and eloquent writing take practice, and I think this involves reading quality material (instead of just simply-stated technical articles) as well as practising more detailed prose when you write. I find that when I bury myself in a book by a talented author (say, J.R.R. Tolkien or Umberto Eco), my own penmanship improves.

2   Dave Simon ~ 09 January 2006 at 10:01 AM

Cameron -

Montana has over 100 “custom” license plates. Since their introduction in 2000, they have become very popular because the “default” plates were so plain.

I think it’s completely out of control, personally. Some of them are monstrosities. Some are unreadable.

The new design is better than the old plate and may end some of the custom plates.

The state of Montana requires that the general state plate be changed every 5 years. The design requirements are that it say “Montana” on it (duh!), have the cattle skull logo and say “Big Sky” on it. Pretty simple.

3   Jim Amos ~ 09 January 2006 at 10:06 AM

I’ve noticed my vision degrading lately, also, and probably for the very same reason. I have no idea, but do powerbooks meet whatever safety recomendations exist for screen brightness/radiation etc? I do spend an awful lot of time basking in it’s glow.

I also share your aversion to ‘web designer’ even though it is probably the most accurate description of what I do it has taken on all kinds of negative connotations of late.

Anyway, happy new year. Looking forward to lots more authentic boredom in 06

4   Jason Santa Maria ~ 09 January 2006 at 10:14 AM

I usually just say Graphic Designer. Sometimes I clarify and say I work primarily with websites. New Media Designer always makes me think of the schlubs who called themselves New Media Assassins a while back. Graphic Designer is still one of those time honored titles that invokes pride… at least for me :D

5   Drew ~ 09 January 2006 at 10:27 AM

I think the ‘conversational’ style I see in web books these days only helps designers, and creates an atmosphere of collaborative learning. It’s not easy taking a technical subject and making it approachable, but a lot of web authors are able to do just that. In my experience, the web design/development community prides itself on sharing knowledge — your site certainly fits that mold — and also on shrugging off the “I know so much” mentality. An approachable book and blog says, “yeah, this stuff is tricky, but look what you can do with it.” That’s hugely helpful and encouraging to designers/developers who are learning new techniques and technologies (and who isn’t), so I hope it keeps up. This style of writing is also a big reason why I read your blog.

Glad I’m not the only one suffering from post-20/20 syndrome resulting from long days in front of the computer. Nowadays my wife can read the highway exit signs long before I can. Sigh…

Thanks for pointing out Guy’s blog!

6   Clifton Labrum ~ 09 January 2006 at 10:30 AM

I, too, struggle with calling myself a “web designer.” It sounds, at least here in Utah, like “Hi, I’m in junior high and I draw web pages. Anyone can do my job, including chimps.”

I have come across a lot of companies that have this impression of web designers. When they receive your proposal and they see it’s going to cost more than 50 bucks, they roll their eyes and think you’re crazy. Then, they find their 15-year-old, pay their 50 bucks, and their site looks like this.

“New Media Designer” sounds nice, but grandma isn’t going to know what that is right off the bat. “Web designer” rings the bells of intuition a little easier.

By the way, Cameron, did you know that you can assign this textarea its own class in your stylesheet so its formatting matches the name, e-mail, & website fields? You may already know this.

7   Rick Curran ~ 09 January 2006 at 10:39 AM

Yep, I would agree, your eyesight takes a hit when working closeup to screens all day.

The best thing I ever did was fork out cash for a really good pin-sharp LCD monitor, it makes a huge difference. It’s easy not to notice when your old CRT starts to go fuzzy.

Having a window to look out of is a great thing too, focus on something far away, get up and go for a walk helps too. This is also helpful to avoid losing ‘20/20’ stomach if you know what I mean!

I’m always wondering, “Am I a web designer or web developer?” Maybe I’m a ‘New Media Developer’?


8   Dave ~ 09 January 2006 at 10:45 AM

Sounds like you’ve been having a pretty good time.
I must agree, the title “New Media Designer” does sit better up in the old grey matter, makes me feel better about what I do aswell :)

9   Chris Griffin ~ 09 January 2006 at 11:33 AM

Yes, Florida has alot of custom plates and I think most of them came out within the last 5-10 years. They have one for every university, professional sports team and a ton of organizations. As a kid I only remember the plain green & orange plates and the challenger shuttle plates.

I feel so old at 22 years.

Oregon on the other hand, where I recently moved, I’ve only seen 4.

I usually tell people I’m a “Web Developer” even though it has a slightly different definition as a “Web Designer” which is what I really am. But, I code XHTML/CSS so I can techinically use it.

Some people associate Web Developer with programming server side code, but I refer to that as a “Web Programmer” or “Web Applications Developer”. If you take a look at Blue Flavor’s Job Listing. They differentiate between Web Designer & Web Developer and I think they define both professions correctly.

There’s something about developer that sounds more professional. I think maybe it has something to do with other professions using that word also (IE Land Developer). Web Designer sounds bad for some reason. I can’t put my finger on it.

I like Coldplay’s song “Talk” better than “Fix You” though “Fix You” would come in at a close second.

10   Dane ~ 09 January 2006 at 11:41 AM

I typically refer to myself as a web designer, but every time I do so my gut churns, if even just a little. I always feel like the title is insufficient and I need to add something else, an addendum of sorts, to justify it as an honest profession.

I’ve frequently tinkered with the term “New Media,” hell I even named my college degree after it, but I don’t particularly like it. When you say it, “new media,” it sounds like you just got a shot of novocain in your face and are slurring your words.

I have never referred to myself as a graphic designer, as I figure it denotes far more visual literacy chops than I arguably have. The title also suggests that you understand the pen tool in Illustrator.

I suppose I prefer web developer, as it suggests the mastery of a legitimate craft better than the available alternatives.

11   Jeff ~ 09 January 2006 at 12:18 PM

I almost drowned at age 4 when I walked into a river that was just slightly above my head. I too was silent. Glad my mother was right next to me (and glad you were watching your kids).

I tailor my job title to my audience. I call myself a Web designer when I want to immediately be understood by the multitudes of non-Web people I speak with each year (and not have to answer “What does THAT mean?”). I most often use this title at family functions or cocktail parties.

At conferences I can be a little bit more explicit (and demanding in my expectations of the people I’m speaking with). And sometimes if the stars align I will use my actual job title.

Re computer eyestrain, I think the rule is to rest your eyes for about 5-10 minutes per half hour. Yes, that much. When your eyes start to change due to age, it’s important to get the proper glasses. If you don’t you risk straining your eyes even more. I know all of us Web designers (or whatever we call ourselves) think we’re infallible.

Studies have shown XHTML 1.1 has been known to cause extra eyestrain (that’s why I stick with 1.0 transitional). ;-)

12   jacob harvey ~ 09 January 2006 at 12:53 PM

- I know what you mean about locale adjustments. I went to Colorado a few years ago and after doing some hiking and frisbee I already started to feel the effects of an elevated red-blood cell count. When I came home I had a good “high” for a little while when playing sports.

- In an interesting twist I brought my parents to get Lasik surgery a couple weeks ago. They’re doing great. Hopefully you won’t need that anytime soon. :)

13   Gidget ~ 09 January 2006 at 03:30 PM

Wow - I live on Siesta Key! What a small world - hope you a fantastic time.

14   Kim Siever ~ 09 January 2006 at 04:27 PM

I don’t mind “web developer” or “web designer” too much. It’s certainly better than “webmaster”.

15   Kris Hull ~ 09 January 2006 at 07:06 PM

In social settings I call myself an “artist.” I have a little bit of a bone to pick with the perception that graphic design is not an artform. When questioned I will specify that I am a “graphic artist.” I almost never say “web designer” because I get cheezed off when people reply something like “OH, so you work on computers!”

16   Scott ~ 09 January 2006 at 08:32 PM

Wow, cool to see someone mentioning little old Vermont, my beloved home. Actually, I pretty much hate it in the winter, but this year hasn’t been to harsh. The company that I currently work for handles Vermont Originals’ e-commerce. Maybe I’ll have a peek at whether or not your post causes their sales to spike. ;-)

17   Rick ~ 09 January 2006 at 09:23 PM

“White Shadows” was the best song on the Coldplay record in my opinion ;D

18   Aden ~ 10 January 2006 at 12:53 PM

“Glosoli,” by Sigur Ros, a song so tense and pounding, so fragile and strange, that the crescendo when it comes is a blissful explosion of noise and vapour, light and sweet release. The sound of feet marching in the snow and the seraphic strings beneath them is entrancing, hypnotic, and above all singularly beautiful.

It’s from their album “Takk,” and it is the best example from a masterpiece—“Saeglopur,” “Hoppipolla,” and “Milano” are also exquisite.

As to “new media designer,” I think it might be a little off-putting to the mainstream. But since your target audience is probably those with at least a rudimentary knowledge of the web, I can’t really think of any better title.

19   Jana ~ 10 January 2006 at 01:04 PM

Re: vision… Yes, the computer monitor is to blame for your worsening distance vision. But ha! — just wait till you hit 40; then the distance vision goes, too! 8)

Re: writing styles… Food for thought, Cameron. Must say I thoroughly enjoy your style, though.

Re: what to call your profession… I wrestle w/ that, too; same reasons. But I also have trouble w/ the word “designer,” because good web design goes way beyond the visual — touching on and/or veering into IA, usability, copy editing, and so on.

20   hUgH rOpeR ~ 10 January 2006 at 02:49 PM

What else did you miss?

Kodak & Intel’s new logo, Fontgate and Continuous Partial Attention.

21   Charlie Stout ~ 10 January 2006 at 02:51 PM

Blogging contributing to the misinformation surrounding the Sago Mine? Most West Virginians haven’t even heard of MySpace, let alone blogging. Seriously, I had to leave the state just to find work online.

22   Dave Simon ~ 10 January 2006 at 04:33 PM

I’ve always wished there was an easy one-word name for what we do. And “webmaster” sucks from the standpoint of gender (there are plenty of designers who would then be “webmistresses.”)

But there’s banker, professor, receptionist, baker, cook, waitress, mathmatician, magician, etc. etc.

“Designer” is too general. So how about other ideas?

“Mediatician” “Internetician” “Netician” LOL

23   Jason Liske ~ 11 January 2006 at 01:50 AM

“New media designer”, not bad - I use “internet consultant”. But I agree “web designer” is lame.

Do you work in separate office or at home? We just had kids and I can’t seem to focus, I need another space for work!

24   Birgit ~ 11 January 2006 at 04:53 AM

Yeah, like, when you tell people you are a “Webdesigner”, there’s always a bad taste about it. Probably because the term has been used by people too long who call themselves webdesigners and have no greater skills than to click and paste together a piece og HTML in Frontpage or so.
Happy new year!

25   Steve ~ 13 January 2006 at 05:07 AM

You’ve hit the nail on the head (as we say in the UK!) .. whenever I say I’m a ‘web designer’ the answer is nearly always ‘my brother/sister.mate/friend does that as well’ or the other stock answer is: ‘I’ve got a CD with thousands of free templates on it, do you want a copy?’ !!

Looking forward to more of your authentic wisdom and also looking forward to hearing you and possibly meeting you at @media this year!


26   Sharaf ~ 19 January 2006 at 03:28 PM

How about Web Producer? Is that better then Webmaster?

You are producing a web site or new media, so Web Producer could work.

Yes, I don’t like ‘Webmaster’ title or “Web Designer.”


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