Computers, People, and the Fact That I’m Selfish

I want, I want, I want. Almost all anxiety and anger and relationship problems I have can be traced to me wanting something.

I want people to like me. I want to be stronger, tanner, taller. I want to be better at sports, a better writer, or a more prolific speaker. I want more Twitter followers, more Facebook friends, more blog readers and retweets. I want the new Silverstein cd. Oh, and while I’m at it, I’d like the Silverstein t-shirt that’s tempted me for the past 2 years (and for only $15, why am I not wearing it?!). I want to buy my girlfriend a Lakers jersey or shirt before the season starts. I want new basketball shoes before intramurals start. I want to own season 7 of Scrubs, season 1 of Arrested Development, and seasons 1-10 of Friends on DVD. I want new jeans, I want new socks. I want new posters, music, some nice cigars, ties, etc. I want stuff.

I want stuff ALL THE TIME. The only problem with all this stuff is that it is either impossible to acquire or it requires me to give up something that I rarely possess – money. And that’s the problem – sure, I can clutter my life with all the latest gadgets, cds, shirts and movies – but a few weeks later, I’ll just start the cycle all over again. The trick, I think, is focusing in on those things that you truly love. For me, the two most prevalent things in my life (and those things that are most likely to affect my future) are computers and people.

Computers have been a passion of mine for a long time. Currently, they occupy not only a majority of my time in school, but also much of my free time (though “much of” might be a stretch seeing as I don’t get enough free time to justify “much of” anything). I love just about everything dealing with computers, and I have since high school. I am much, much more likely to get sidetracked working on computers than playing video games, watching television, or even surfing the internet.

Take today for example. I had lots of Calculus II homework to do, and since I wasn’t in class, I decided that my TI-83 might help to move things along a little quicker. After a little searching, I dusted it off, put fresh batteries in and turned it on. Instantly my eyes were drawn to a button towards the middle of the keyboard: PRGM. Oh, the memories. Promising myself I would only be sidetracked for a moment, I pressed it to see a list of all the programs I had written on this little machine in high school.

Believe it or not, that little button changed my life. I knew that day that I wanted to make a career out of this kind of work. From that day on, I programmed games and applications every day – during class, at lunch, in study halls, at home and every spare second I could find. I was called everything from a nerd to obsessed, but I didn’t care – I LOVED IT. And what’s more, it was free!

You see, computers appeal to me in a maniacal way that people don’t – I can manipulate them, create an idea and mold them into what I want them to do. I can put as little or as much time into them and receive a directly proportionate amount of joy from the results. I can have a problem (even something as simple as boredom) and make something to solve it. And what’s best, the selfish part of me can come out saying, “I built that. I made it, you didn’t, I rock.” It might not be the best, it might not help anyone else in the world, but it’s mine and I’m proud of it.

I feel as if the most rare and important things in life are those that require your time. Let’s face it, we are not all equal when it comes to money. You cannot base the meaning of something by looking at its cost. However, when people put their time into something, you know it means something to them. That’s why putting time into relationships is so important. In fact, if you get one thing out of this post, I hope it’s simply that you need to cut back on all the stuff you want and focus on somebody – anybody else.

People are very important in my life as well. I like having friends – I like knowing that I have someone to lean on in tough times, people to love, and people who love me. I consider a select number of my Twitter followers to be good friends – they make me laugh, they get me through the day, and I enjoy chatting with them online about everything from graffiti to Laker basketball to fantasy football. Aside from my faith, friendships are the most important things in my life.

You naturally spend time on the things that you love. Like to blog? Then bust your butt to be the best writer you can. Way, way too often I’m locked up in all the things going on that I start to neglect friendships and do things half-heartedly. A lot of times it just comes down to figuring out what and who is really important in my life – prioritizing things, making time for those that I love and activities that I love. By all means, do what you love and enjoy it – but make sure you aren’t neglecting friendships along the way.

Social Networking Gone Too Far

I have always considered Facebook as the primary social network.  You can manage photos like Flickr, you can post updates like Twitter, you can show off your cliched profile pictures like MySpace, you can sell things like eBay, and now with Facebook apps, you can add music to your page, embed RSS feeds and play games.

Since all these things are combined into one site, I (and most others, I believe) consider Facebook to be the more private network – for real friends only.  Sure, some people make it their job to collect friends, but for the most part, clicking “Friend Request” is an exciting action that is reserved for people you know – or at least people you have interacted with.

If someone likes the website, I’ll accept their request.  If I’ve emailed back and forth with the author of a favorite blog of mine, I might try and add him/her on Facebook.  Thanks to uSocial, however, all of this is changing.  Well, at least they want it to.

uSocial is a unique advertising service that sells Facebook friends and Twitter followers.  You heard me right.   For around $177, you can ensure yourself 1,000 new Facebook friends (the same prices apply to Facebook Fan Pages).  For $87, you can buy 1,000 Twitter followers.  Plans for both services can cost you as much as $11,000.  Why would anyone pay for friends?  Good question.

friends

Ideally, this service would appeal to businesses and professionals trying to market their services on these fast growing social networking sites.  However, until I see statistics on the amount of friends and followers who want to reach into their pocket and pay for your product because they are your online friend, I’m not buying it.  Why not simply pay for targeted advertising on Facebook?  It can be significantly cheaper, and it ensures that the friends and fans you get will be…well…friends and fans!

“So, how did we do this quarter, Jim?”

“Well sir, we have over 5,000 fans on Facebook!”

“Wonderful!  Now how does that income statement look?  Oh, and what’s this $650 charge?”

“Unimportant.”

To sum up, social networking has brought us around to the point that people are literally paying for friends.  Lovely.

DNC, RNC Website Review

As a rule, I do not discuss politics on this website.  I have several reasons for this, the most selfish being simply that when people hear me rant and rave about – well, anything really – they tend to not listen to anything else I have to say.  I hope that some of the information I post here might be helpful to someone, and I don’t want my own personal beliefs to jeopardize that.

However, I watched a video the other day that inspired me to do a comparison of the Democratic and Republican party websites.  While the video is certainly biased, it had very good points about the importance of imagery and media in today’s world – especially in regard to politics.  Let’s face it – it’s 2009.  Any popular party, organization, service or group should have a good website.  It’s amazing how often large organizations look over design and content structure when building their site.

And so, without further introduction, here is my (unbiased, I hope) review of the Democratic and Republican National Committee websites.

dncrnc

Above are screenshots of both the DNC and RNC websites.  Right off the bat, you will notice a few things.  The layouts themselves are actually very similar – suspiciously, even (note the 2-column portion beneath the left-aligned main image).  Both sites use very patriotic colors and graphics.  You will also notice that the “Contribute” button on the DNC site is bright red – immediately drawing your attention to donate money to the party.  While it’s not overwhelming, it certainly is one of the first things you notice.

The very next thing I saw was the header.  Both sites use left-aligned header text.  However, the RNC simply displays “GOP.com”, while the DNC reads “The Democratic Party”.  Now chances are if you’re going to the site, you know what the GOP is, and what it stands for.  The point of a site header, however, is to tell the reader where they are and what they are reading.

One of the biggest differences in the two sites is the emphasis on social media.  Both sites link to the main networks, though the delivery is completely different.  The DNC uses classy (but cool) image links and rollover color effects, while the RNC only lists the 3 main sites using very basic, somewhat fuzzy images and no rollover effects.

dnc_social

rnc_social

Another major difference is the background image.  The RNC website uses a very plain 2 colored background image, while the DNC site has a snazzy star background, which gives the impression that the stars are flying out of the site’s main content.

I discovered my biggest disappointment with the RNC website when I clicked on any of the only three navigation options.  Each one opened into a completely different design – new colors, a different header – new EVERYTHING!  In fact, the blog page simply looks like a WordPress theme gone terribly wrong.  Consistency between contained material is fundamental to web design.  Not just good web design – basic design.

rnc_content_pages

There are a few other small things that really bug me.  For instance, favicons.  I am a big believer that every website created should have some sort of favicon – no matter how basic (just look at the DNC’s).  More and more people are learning how to add shortcuts to make their web browsing more efficient, and favicons are used for Chrome application shortcuts, etc.  The point is, your site needs one.  And the RNC doesn’t have one.

In the same manor, the page title of the DNC site (“The Democratic Party”) is much shorter than the RNC (“GOP.com Republican National Committee”).  This means that in a normal tab, half of the RNC title is hidden.  Again, not a huge deal, but remember, it’s the details that take a site from decent to great (as our friend @squaredeye taught us).

I do like the rotating images and site articles on the main page of the RNC website (though sharper images and neater header text would be nice).  However, adding a margin of 10 or 15 pixels to the bottom would make the 2 button links below stand out a lot more and would present a far less cluttered site.

On a final review note, I’d like to say that using offensive language on any website should be done very carefully.  There are times when it is absolutely appropriate.  However, calling the Democratic Party blog “Kicking Ass” might not be the best idea.

It hurt me a little to write this post.  You see, I’m conservative.  The only reason I say this, of course, is because I just wrote a very negative review of the Republican National Committee’s websites.  I want to make it clear that this is solely based off of design.  Don’t believe me?  Take a gander.

Now, to be fair, the DNC website isn’t all that great either.  It has a lot of elements that could be better, though it is leaps and bounds greater than it’s counterpart.  I suppose my point in writing this post is simply to show how important it is to put time, energy, and (get ready) – money – into good design.  It can go a long way in making a great first impression, which (especially in this society) may be all you get.

The Unofficial Color Reference Pt. 1

If you’re into any type of web design, chances are you’re familiar with ColorZilla. For those that aren’t, this handy little Firefox add-on will allow you to take the color from anything you see on the web. This can come in handy when you’re trying to match colors of well-known sites, or simply see a neat color scheme and want to save it.

Either way, it’s sometimes good to have a list of popular color schemes. Sometimes using ColorZilla isn’t an option, or at least it would be tedious to find and record multiple colors. For this reason, I will be putting up a few color schemes from popular social media sites.

Part 1 includes 4 of the most popular sites. Most of these are sites that allow 3rd party relations (or at least offer some sort of API), which means designers are often looking for colors to match. Even if you don’t want to use exact matches, inputting a base color into one of the many online color-scheme generators can give a wide range of nice looking choices.

Below are the hex codes for the primary colors on these sites.

social_media_color_schemes

* Please note that these may not be the “official” colors of the respective sites. I have done my best to double and triple check all of these on their actual sites.

Speed Up WordPress Blogging with HTML

If you’re familiar with WordPress, chances are you know there are two options when writing posts – Visual and HTML. Using the Visual editor gives you more options for look and feel – alignment, colors, spell-check, etc. HTML is a very basic editor and only allows a few HTML shortcut buttons – bold, link, etc.

While using the Visual editor will allow you to use more of a WYSIWYG interface, learning a few HTML tags can save you quite a bit of time, allow you exact customization that Visual sometimes can’t offer, and speed up your input text.

Learning a few tags can make blogging quicker. For example, when you want to insert a link while in Visual editor, you must click a button, then wait for a Lightbox window to open up, giving you input text options for link address, name, etc. It also allows you to choose if your link opens in the same window or new tab/window. The problem comes when you have 10 links in one post. Opening the menu and filling out these options can take a long time. Why not instead, just learn to insert a link with HTML?

<a href="http://www.example.com" target="_blank">Example Link</a>

Example Link

Adding the target="_blank" forces the link to be opened in a new window. See how much quicker that is?

Here are a few more simple HTML tags for WordPress blogging:

Blockquote

<blockquote></blockquote>

So, since each of these HTML tags are already in blockquotes, this looks a bit odd. Hopefully you get the point.

Inserting Images

<img src="http://rybomedia.com/marly.jpg" />

Unordered List

<ul>Item One</ul><ul>Item Two</ul>

    Item One
    Item Two

Ordered List

<ol>Item One</ol><ol>Item Two</ol>

    Item One
    Item Two

List Items

<li>Item One</li><li>Item Two</li>

  • Item One
  • Item Two
  • Heading 1

    <h1>Heading 1</h1>

    Heading 1

    Bold

    <b>This is bold text!</b>

    This is bold text!

    Italic

    <i>This is italicized text!</i>

    This is italicized text!

    Alignment

    <p align="center">Center Text</p>

    Center Text

    <p align="left">Left Text</p>

    Left Text

    <p align="right">Right Text</p>

    Right Text

    <p align="justify">lots of texts</p>

    Justified Text – You can’t really tell that it’s justified unless it extends to the edges of the post box. Hopefully me explaining this will have caused it to! Note – you will also have to have text that is multiple lines so that you can tell it’s all the same length.

    Now all of that is pretty straight forward. However, it can come in really handy if you’re getting frustrated wit the Visual editor. Like any GUI-type interface, it is often easier and more efficient to type in the “basic code”. It’s sometimes easier to wrap <p align="center"></p> around the exact text you want than to try and highlight, then select menu items – especially when working with images and other media.

    For some reason, typing in the HTML box is faster than the Visual box. I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve noticed this on several occasions. If you don’t need all the bells and whistles while you type, switch over to HTML for lighter blogging.

    And Now For the Name…

    If you haven’t noticed yet, RyboMedia officially has a new face, logo, mascot, icon – whatever you want to call him. If you’re new to the site, or just blind, it’s the rhino!

    rhino

    So, the hard work is done, thanks to William Woody (an excellent designer and videographer if you need one).  Now I need your help for the fun part – a name.  Something fun, easy to remember.  Got any ideas?  Post below, write on the Facebook page, @reply to rybo, or email me!

    Goodbye Firefox, Hello Google Chrome

    As a raving Firefox fan for years, I can’t believe I’m writing this post. My love for all Mozilla products has always been because they “just work”. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case for me.

    Over the past week, Firefox has been acting up – mainly sluggish page loads and running processes, even after the browser has been closed. Basically, this just means that I can’t run Firefox again until I end the process in Task Manager.

    Google Chrome has been my #2 browser for several months, so I decided to give it a try. Within a day of serious use, I’m sold. As I posted earlier, Google is planning an entire OS built on the Chrome idea – browser/desktop integration. Chrome makes a great start with my current favorite feature – application shortcuts.

    Take any website you visit, add an application shortcut, and you’ve now got a shortcut right on your desktop. Clicking this will open your page in a special Chrome page that’s set apart from normal browsing. This way, you can essentially add shortcuts to your favorite sites, saving a few steps if you just want to check your Gmail, Facebook or Twitter (or your Joupes account!).

    google chrome application shortcuts

    JavaScript effects and plugins (like LightBox) are faster in Chrome than any other browser I’ve used. Page surfing is smooth and fast-loading. Despite it’s limited customization, Chrome looks good and the lack of buttons works to its advantage by freeing up lots of real estate. Other little design features like the downloads section, highlighted entry text boxes and “Most Visited” (much like the Fast Dial plugin for Firefox) links are icing on the cake.

    google chrome downloads

    Well done, Google. You’ve won me over. I look forward to you doing the same thing when Google Chrome OS comes out.

    Potential Logos

    A good friend has been working with me to design a few logos for the site.  I say working with to mean, I tell him a general idea and he spits out awesome sketches.  Anyway, he’s completed a few (all very tentative) and we’d like you to look at them.  Let me know which ones you like – comment, email, or tweet your favs. Remember, these are just sketches – the final with be more detailed and clearer.

    Thanks!

    rhino1

    rhino2

    platy1

    platy2

    platy3

    With Great Popularity Comes Great Laziness

    For months now, I’ve been noticing a trend in a few of the blogs I follow.  Namely, many of the ones that get popular…start to suck.  I like to think that I am semi-picky about the blogs I follow in Google Reader – after all, I don’t want just any ol’ garbage cluttering up my news.  The problem comes when I go down my list of subscribed blogs and start using the “Mark All as Read” button too much.  That tells me something.

    Now listen, I’m a young, very inexperienced blogger.  My blog’s just not that popular.  Sure, I’ve had the site for about 2 years now, but that doesn’t really mean anything – time hasn’t exactly equaled success.  For the most part, I’m fine with it – I have a lot of fun with it regardless of the user base.  In those times I get a little disheartened, the string of failures and eventually successes of President Abraham Lincoln keeps me going.

    But I digress.  The point is, I do this because I love it.  I like the internet, technology, web, programming, cool logo’s and good design.  I like to write about it.  I like to make it look (somewhat) good.  I like to learn everyday by messing up and restarting.  Most importantly, I like to share knowledge and good information with people.  Isn’t that the whole point of a blog?

    The fact of the matter is that a lot of bloggers get successful and their quality not only starts to diminish, it gets forgotten in Twitter follower numbers, FeedBurner stats, etc.  Great weekly content, electronic reviews, and tech tips gets replaced by bi-monthly video game screenshots, detailed analysis of recent grocery store trips, and poorly asked, open-ended questions for followers to answer.  Purge your reader of this crap!

    And I’m sick of it.  As bloggers, our charge should be to enrich the content on the web.  Make it better, pass along information, and form a community with those likeminded.  Don’t have time to post as much as you did before?  That’s fine!  Take your time – write, revise, and pick apart your work so that when you do post, it will be good quality content.

    You should be proud of every post on your blog.  Form a personality – be funny, be quirky, be grouchy.  Make the blog your own – but keep up the quality.  Always post as if you’re trying to win over readers (because you are) – not as if you have them trapped.

    Joupes Beta Release!

    For the past few months, a good friend (and past guest blogger) and I have been working on something called “Joupes”.  We have reached a fairly stable and working version, and we think it’s time to release it for testing.  Now, I have played this release over and over in my head, each fantasy involving a large room filled with web and social media experts, a sexy shirt microphone, bottles of the finest water, and a large screen projector to display the project.

    Alas, that’s not going to happen – yet.  For the time being, I’ll have to settle for this blog.  So, without further ado, we are pleased to announce the beta release of Joupes.  Applause welcome.

    joupes

    Fantastic – another brightly colored logo, a weird name, and no explanation at all. Here goes.

    What are Joupes?

    Basically, Joupes are goals.  You can have short term goals or you can have long term goals – but they are all Joupes.  Joupes.com brings both long term and short term tasks to a simple, one page site – organizing by type and date due.

    Ok, awesome – but why do I care?

    The fact of the matter is, you might not care.  But you should.  Studies show that people who have written life goals are up to 10 times more successful financially than those that don’t.  We’ve taken this idea of written goals and applied it to short term tasks (or “to-do’s”) as well.  Hopefully, the combination of seeing your life goals staring you in the face, as well as being able to check off daily tasks, will help you be more productive.

    I’m busy, I can’t log into a website everyday to manage to-do’s!

    This is where Joupes gets neat.  With SMS (text-messaging) reminders, your tasks come to you!  That’s right – when you add a task to your Joupes list, you can set reminders to receive text messages before a task is due!

    Hopefully that answers a few questions about the nature of Joupes.  Throughout the next few weeks, we will be sending out beta invitations to select individuals for testing.  If you’d like to be considered for an invite, sign up here.  Obviously, as it’s in beta mode, we’ve got lots of works to do.  We have so many different ideas and added features from the site, it can get a little difficult to keep the simplicity.  There is surely more to come, and I hope you’ll stick around to see it.