It would be rubbish to stop a tradition after only two years, so following on from my posts in 2009 and 2010, here is a retrospective for 2010 and my plans for 2011. I’m changing the format this time, by dividing into “achieved”, “carried over”, “ditched” and “new”.
- Attend at least one web conference – I had an extremely busy year, so didn’t get to any of the generic web conferences, but couldn’t turn down the international Plone conference, as it was happening in my own city. Although it was specific to a particular open source web content management system, the talks contained enough generic web technology goodness to keep me geeked up to overflowing.
- Get further than “hello world” with Django – Having collaborated on a django project, i’ve got further than this now, and i’m also using it for some tools used for managing data and assets for Kudos/ Lightplanet
- Use and understand some technologies that i’ve been ignoring – I’m going to claim that as achieved, on the basis of the points above – i’ve learned plenty about Django, and python in general. This bullet point will always be carried over though, as there is always something new to learn.
- More on-site freelancing for agencies – It’s always tricky finding a balance with this – I did a fair amount of on-site work, but it often got tricky trying to balance my ongoing client work, with the requirement to be on-site somewhere. I’m still open to this, but the other project work needs to take priority, and as such i’ve started renting a desk in a shared office again.
- Keep Trading and survive the recession – No shortage of work again, so thanks to everyone who gave me work, but i’ll keep my fingers crossed and carry this one over again..
- Launch a web app – so close on this one, but the manic run up to xmas and self-enforced work-free xmas holidays stopped me releasing my pet project, working title: Eat Static CMS. The name, some may have guessed is a tribute to a 90’s techno outfit, but also refers to the fact that the app uses text files rather than a database. It’s a basic blogging engine with niche appeal, I will make it available as a beta ASAP this year, as soon as i’ve tidied it up.
- Relaunch Too Old To Skate – The site is still in limbo, and still reflects how little i’ve skated again, which once again I intend to change
- Attend at least one BarCamp – the Bathcamp BarCamp clashed with Plone conference this year, so I didn’t go, but want to get to more grass-roots events this year.
- Better Customer Service (By saying “No” sometimes) – I wanted to put this on the achieved list, but looking back I took on too much again towards the end of the year, and customer service suffered as a result, so once again i’ll try to find the balance in 2011
- Get to grips with Plone 3 skinning – Plone has moved on and so have I, but this doesn’t mean i’ve given up on Plone, but I don’t plan to do any Plone 3 work. Plone 4 skinning/ theming is still on my list, but that’s a whole new technology, and a technology that can be used independently of Plone.
- Put up a proper portfolio – I just can’t imagine having the time to do this – I think potential clients can find out whether I have the skills and experience they need by looking at this blog and my linked in profile. As i’m more of a programmer than a designer, a visual portfolio is less important to me. Maybe if I run out of work i’ll rethink this one?
- Fix on a PHP framework – until someone (me?) builds a PHP framework that is basically identical to Django, with it’s production-ready admin forms and API as standard, i’ll just use whatever seems right at the time, or no framework at all.
- Buy a new Bass Guitar and play the hell out of it – I horrified some of my older friends by selling my one remaining bass last year. I sold it as I had completely stopped playing, and having it hanging on the wall just seemed a waste. Most people i’ve befriended in the last 10 years don’t know I ever played. Playing bass in bands used to be an important part of my life – I’ve actually been playing bass for over 20 years and was once pretty good (if I say so myself!). I sense a mid-life crisis coming on in the next couple of years, so I need to get back in practice for when I inevitably decide to form another band!
- More “work from anywhere” adventures – I spent 6 weeks touring in Europe with my wife and son this summer, working from my laptop to earn money as I went. It was brilliant, so hopefully more of these adventures, the same or different in 2011
- More blogging! – including some personal blogging. I think i’ll need to divide this site into “babble” and “techobabble” – not everyone who reads this site looking for a CSS hack will want to read my self-indulgent drivel and not everyone who reads the site wanting to know how I really feel about the experimental bass playing style of jaco pastorious wants to read about the new python module i’ve started using, so i’ll provide the opportunity to follow from both a techie and non-techie viewpoint, although it will all still be one blog. Looking back through the archives of this blog, i’ve been doing this over the years anyway, going through phases of techie and non-techie content.
Last summer I was freelancing for the lovely Team Rubber, when I overheard one of the film making dept say “Now we just need a skateboarder to skate the halfpipe..”. I immediately volunteered myself for the role. “Can you skate a halfpipe?” he asked. “Um.. yep, how high?”, I replied. “13 foot”. “..err.. (mumble)… can I come along and watch though?”.
I tend to work on projects with a local working copy on my laptop of whatever it is i’m working on, so pre-empting the current meme of working away from the office, I offered to go along to the shoot, help out where I could, learn about the video shoot process and work the rest of the time from my laptop.
The video shoot was on an old air base in wiltshire. I arrived early in the morning and couldn’t figure out how to get on site, so I circled the perimeter trying out various back roads and possible routes in, occasionally encountering other car drivers, eyeing me up suspiciously as I loitered. I eventually spotted some of the crew arrive and unlock a gate, and sure enough most of the cars I had encountered earlier turned out to contain runners, directors and extras.
The ramp was already set up and I was dying to have a quick go on it, but then the heavens opened leaving the uncovered ramp to get soaked. I prayed that the weather would clear up, as the shoot would have to be postphoned or cancelled if the rain continued. Fortunately it cleared up soon after, and became a scorcher of a day so I went and swept the surface water off the ramp to help it dry out quicker.
I climbed onto one of the platforms just to see what it would be like to drop in, but being considerably higher (4.5ft higher specifically) than anything i’ve skated before, there was no chance of me giving it a go, at least dropping in from the top. I skated it from the bottom, pumping the transitions to gradually get higher and higher up the ramp, but looking back at the embarrassing video clip I persuaded someone to film on my camera, I can’t have gone any higher than halfway towards the top. Fortunately, the ramp owner, and UK vert legend Pete King arrived to provide the goods.
The plan was to use the skater as a reference for a CGI character, so the CGI guys set up a makeshift studio in one of the hangars and created a 3d model of the ramp. Pete was dressing in a rather fetching grey one-piece (“chroma key” suit) with white tape to use for CGI reference. As you can see from the photos, he didn’t disappoint with the skating – pulling some massive airs for the camera. These photos are not modified – he was consistently getting airs that high, and landing them most of the day, despite the blazing sun and being asked to repeat the sequence over and over.
As if hanging around on an air base watching a skateboarder dressed in a lycra suit wasn’t surreal enough, the actors, now dressed as american GI’s, were bought in to encourage and heckle Pete, sometimes while he was there, sometimes when he wasn’t.
Then the chopper arrived. Ever wonder why insurance companies have a problem with media types? Luckily i’m a software developer, so *cough* no chance of my car getting hit by helicopter-related flying debris on a film shoot..*cough*. I made myself handy by securing a nearby gazebo with breeze blocks before it (and the helicopter) took off again.
p.s. you can see the final video here.
I’m pleased to say i’ve achieved another of my 2009 goals, by launching the (unfinished) new version of one of my personal projects Too Old To Skate. The main site is now running php/codeigniter based sweetcron, which is used to pull content in from the original wordpress, flickr, delicious, twitter, vimeo and a friends blogger based site. I have plenty more planned for the site, but little to no time to do it, so I thought i’d upload the site unfinished in the meantime to allow myself to do incremental updates, rather than be embarrased by a holding page.
Amongst the plans are:-
- bring in the content (articles and photo galleries) from the now defunct plone(2) based DFR Skate zine – i’m thinking some sort of PHP/ codeigniter* front-end sucking in content (as XML/JSON or even plain HTML) from a Plone 3 site acting as a content server. Doing something like this with Plone has been on my mind for years! Maybe I should stick this in as a 2010 goal. Alternatively it may just end up as a skinned Plone 3 site on another subdomain – either would be good.
- Skin the blog to fit in with the main site.
- Other awesomeness – this is a non-commercial personal project and therefore my playground 😉
*Having now played with both codeigniter and cakephp, I think I prefer cake. However as sweetcron is codeigniter based it would be plain silly to be using cake on the same project.
I recently bought a new compact camera – a tiny casio elixim Z1050. Historically I have always been disappointed with the performance of compact digital cameras, mainly because of shutter lag. This one is much better, with only a tiny lag at 10 megapixels. Although one day i’d like to get a digital SLR, for now I just wanted a compact to carry with me to snap pictures I can use for web sites, and also to take a few skateboarding pictures. One feature that has proven to be excellent for the latter is the high-speed continuous mode with takes several shots a second at 2 megapixels, allowing me to grab a sequence (like below, or just take the best frame from several, to get the best action shot.)
Best frame – original pic is 2 megapixels – fine for snapshot prints and web stuff:-
I’ve recently revived my skateboarding blog after leaving it for over a year, I won’t repeat my reasons for doing so here, as it’s all on that site. It’s another wordpress blog – migrated from the old blogworks xml blog using RSS import. I created a wordpress theme based on the old site – not quite finished- and I haven’t copied the comments over yet – i’ll need to write something to do that manually unfortunately. I also have a load of static content, photos and video to move over too at some point.
A new term for my web buzzword vocabulary today: “splogger” – a term I just saw on scobelizer, apparently used for “someone who uses a system to automatically copy blog posts from other people”. I am doing something similar with the “skatevine” page on dfr skate zine, but I prefer the term “news aggregator”. I’m not profitting from this as I don’t currently carry advertising on DFR – my reasons for doing it were basically:-
- make the site more useful, a source of skateboard news for people who don’t use an RSS aggregator (or even know what one is)
- a platform to experiment with RSS aggregation tools in plone (currently using CMFSin, shortl^h^h^ eventually to be moved to feedfeeder)
- To provide links back to the sites it aggregates content from in a useful way.
I can see that some people might get annoyed if their content appears on other sites without their permission, especially if the site in question is passing the content off as their own and/or using it to drive ad-revenues. Site owners who carry advertising may also worry that people reading their content on other people sites aren’t going to see (and click on) their ads, but the flipside of this is that if they do link back to the original content, this will boost the pagerank of the original content, therefore making people more likely to see it and click on the ads – this wouldn’t happen if everyone used a personal news aggregator).
I can also see how it can be annoying if search engines rank the aggregated posts higher than the original posts (which was the point of Scobles post I think….), I guess if they got this sorted it wouldn’t be such an issue.
At the moment, my pet plone project DFR skate zine is still live, but because netsight have some devious plans for the server it is on, I am trying to upgrade it to the latest version of plone. The site is current running plone 2.1.1 (tip: if you can’t remember what version of plone your site is running, go into the ZMI and click on portal_migration – you’ll find lots of useful info there, including the plone version).
Initial attempts didn’t go well, but I haven’t given up yet. I’m now trying a different approach – creating a blank plone 2.5 site and trying to bring the content over bit by bit. Some of it imported just fine and other objects are throwing various key and attribute errors.
This blog post by Andreas Jung looks like it could be quite useful – my version jump is nowhere near as big as the version described here, but the technique looks interesting – particularly the script for cloning a tree of objects.
I have some fairly radical plans for the development of the DFR site, I was actually thinking of recreating the skin and content type products from scratch, because a) I want a single skin for public and admin view now and b) because the archetypes content types were patched together in a bit of an ad-hoc way, and now they seem a bit.. well… unclean, and basically I think I can do better now..
so… the masterplan at the moment is to extract the content into some format that I can get to the data easily (as I still find it very confusing trying to get to data “lost” in zodb, when the site is broken), then write a script to populate the new site from the data. Obviously xml fits the bill (along with files and folders for media content).
Marshall and XMLForest have been whispered to me on a need to know basis! If I can crack this i’ll be much more confident about maintaining plone sites long term, in the same way that I am confident with CMS’s that use a SQL database for storage.
for your viewing pleasure, a poor quality cameraphone video of me skateboarding at st george skatepark in Bristol yesterday.