She needed a basic website and branding to capitalize on her book tour. The timeline was short and the budget was tight. I passed the project off to Radicle.Vision and my wonderfully talented partner @fffalcon. Falcon took on the logo design based on Cathy’s prompt, which I think is one of my favorite prompts for a logo I’ve ever had:
“fat fierce and intelligent”
With that Falcon, Cathy, and I landed on this beauty:
From this logo mark and Falcon’s suggested color theme I set to work making Cathy some business cards.
These are some of the options I gave. With that done (in a record time I might add) Cathy had something to hand people she was meeting on her book tour and I set out to create a website.
I suggested Squarespace because of it’s ease of setup and maintenance. Cathy had written most of the content already and knew what she wanted, which always makes the process go smoothly. I was given free reign to make the website happen and am quite proud of the results.
I was able to modify the Pacific theme, add some pictures and arrange the content already provided to create a nice little one pager for oneilrisk.com
With a three week turn around this was a very smooth and joyful project. Mad respect to Cathy for being an awesome professional and as always Falcon for being a rock star.
My partner put me in touch with an old client of theirs. They needed help to add a page to their existing WordPress site and fix a few cosmetic issues. I agreed to help and dove in, expecting a simple process. The theme was using a baked in version of page builder which I quickly found was both out-of-date and totally not working.
I was to extract text and images from a PDF and apply them to a page in WordPress. I was able to extract the text as HTML (formatting it with some regular expressions) and gathered the source images from the client.
Once I attempted to add it to the page using Page Builder I found that the raw HTML input wouldn’t capture the input text. No wonder the client was having problems! I was able to hack the system by adding the text directly to the input element via the browser’s development console. An impossible task for someone with a only a working knowledge of browsers and web technology.
After shimming the content into the page and fixing some other esoteric theme related issues I was done. This simple act of adding a page to their website cost 300% more than it should. In fact it shouldn’t have taken an engineer to do such a basic operation.
The client had three options. Try to fix the site, recreate the site, or keep using this hobbled site. Because the site hadn’t been maintained the off-the-shelf theme, WordPress core, and many plugins (some integrated with the theme) were all out of date. Updating and fixing the site might introduce a host of new problems and might not even fix the site.
To keep the site as is and just deal with the wonky broken system would cost way more in the long run for the client. The whole point of using a CMS like WordPress is to make tasks like page creation simple enough for a client to manage on their own. The process of adding content to a page was so onerous that it would be faster to just build pages out of HTML!
So my recommendation was to recreate the site in Squarespace. The client accepted this and we began work.
I opted to use the ishimoto theme as a base to create the site. The original site was very clean and minimal so it was fairly simple to remake using only Squarespace’s theme and design tools, no code necessary.
By using gallery blocks and the intuitive content tools provided out-of-the-box by Squarespace I was able to quickly recreate all of the pages. Better yet the client was able to jump in and figure out how to use the system without much hassle. The cost was about twice as much as adding a single page to the old site!
On top of this we were able to leverage Squarespace’s e-commerce tools to begin setting up a system to sell prints directly off the site.
I love WordPress. It is a triumph of free open source software and a gift to the world. With a few plugins and a decent theme you can create a powerful website that does anything for a fraction of the price. It puts power into the hands of the user. However it requires some upkeep, there is a cost to maintaining WordPress. I would say that when compared to Squarespace’s monthly cost (~$12) it’s about even.
The power of Squarespace is that it just works, the server and updates are all handled by someone else and requires no intervention. When all you really want to do is display some text and media (and perhaps a store) it can be a very good option.
As a designer I feared that products like Squarespace would take away from my livelihood, but I find that my skills as a “power user” make it worth while for clients to hire me to do the initial setup and design pass. I can then hand it off to them without needing to provide a long term maintenance agreement. It’s easy for me to build and it’s easy for them to edit, a win-win in my book.
After creating The Karass Inn’s logo I set to work creating a website for them. They used checkfront.com to handle the booking side of things so I was left to simply create the presentation side.
I used the Make Theme with only slight modifications to the CSS. Mainly to create the pop-ut Book Now button. The site looks great on mobile too:
The address, phone, and email at the top work incredibly well on mobile. By using proper Uniform Resource Identifier schemes with the links available applications will launch when they are clicked. You’re probably already familiar with mailto: which almost all email links use, it looks like this:
So there’s been a bunch of mean people supporting terrorists by spreading xenophobic hate speech in the news recently. In response Common Roots Cafe in Minneapolis put up a sign in their window stating that “All are welcome here“.
A few weeks ago I went to the Platform Coop conference in NYC. It was an interesting cross section of several circles of friends. There was my coop chums, and my nerd friends, and my free libre open source people, and the intentional community folks. Everyone who is doing cool things was there.
What follows is a dump of links and information I randomly collected in my notebook. It’s not really linear and you can just jump around picking up links and little gems.
Is it Valuable to Them!?
Get your value proposition correct. Why should I join your coop, platform, group, etc. what’s in it for me? Nail this down early. Why is your thing valuable.
There was a lot of talk about how Airbnb and Uber are bad actors who exploit their providers (the drivers and homeowners) yet again and again people said how happy those same providers were with these exploitative platforms.
Personally I think that most people have been trained to roll over and accept abuse, especially if it’s not as bad as it could be. Most people don’t seem to care who steals their data or if they get a fair cut. At least they are getting a little scratch while some big guy fucks them.
College Educated people are taking blue collar jobs.
All these over educated millennials are taking jobs that others in their cast would scoff at. Taskrabbit and house cleaning services are making it okay to work jobs that only immigrants and high school dropouts would do.
Labor Displacement, or stealing jobs from immigrants. Which is kind of funny considering how freaked out everyone seemed to be about it being the other way around. Turns out cleaning someone’s home isn’t beneath a masters in art history… This, of course, means that tech savvy young people are pushing out the working poor (they just can’t get a break).
Start with the people you want to end up with.
This is a cool idea, when you start a project consider that the people you start with might very well be the people you end up with. So you might as well pick good people.
I think this also gets into diversity of groups. If you want a diverse group you can’t start with a homogeneous one, or you can but it will be more difficult to end up with something that isn’t just as homogeneous.
Society seems to think that Monopolies are okay, but we hate cartels.
The International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and Service Producers’ Cooperatives, or CICOPA, has been a sectoral organisation of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) since 1947. Its full members are representative organisations of producers’ cooperatives from different sectors: construction, industrial production, services of general interest, transport, intellectual services, artisanal activities, health, social care, etc. Its associated members are support organisations promoting cooperatives in those sectors.
This idea seems close to what Agile Learning Centers is becoming. A coop of small businesses (schools) that pool their resources to manage a central marketer who maintains branding, web, social media, etc. for the coops involved.
I’ve been binge watching Mark Brown’s Game Maker’s Toolkit series on YouTube. Mark is a game critic that has been creating these video reflections on games, typically on aspects of their mechanics. I’d like to discuss one of Mark’s videos called Super Mario 3D World’s 4 Step Level Design in which he looks at the super successful level design of Super Mario 3D World. Have a look:
The game introduces a dazzling amount information to the player. Looked at as a whole it might seem overwhelming yet, according to mark, it works really well. I’ve been seeing this idea of overwhelming game mechanics a lot lately. Some of us at ALC recently consulted with a school who wished to introduce self directed learning to their students. This is like going from a linear 2D scroller—where everything is spoon fed to you—to a massive open world game. In ALC we have a number of games (or tools) such as Kanban boards, Set-the-Week, and Gameshifting that support self directed learning. When put together all these games seem, to the uninitiated, as overwhelming and complex. Just look at the Kanban, with it’s infinite variations and ability to expand to fit almost any situation.
The teacher at this school was keen to introduce our tools to her students, but it was clear to the ALFs present that this would be too much too fast. I wanted to support her in doing this, but more level heads were able to “limit the work in process” and we ended up suggesting a super simple Kanban and Gameshifting board to start.
I think that we can look toward Super Mario for inspiration when trying to introduce our games.
The 4 Step Game Design
As outlined in Mark’s video Mario is using a “four step” design principle.
This provides a useful template for introducing our tools, let’s focus on the Kanban, as it lends itself to this methodology.
One: The introduction
When Mario introduces a play mechanic it will typically do so in a safe environment with low stakes for failure. The player can then try and fail without risking a life while they feel out the mechanic.
The introduction to the Kanban can happen in two ways. First, it can be simplified into it’s most basic form, which I would describe as a two column board with these headers:
What I want to do today
What I’ve done today
I use the word want very deliberately here. It’s lower stake than will and makes failure a bit less sharp (changing a players perception of failure is for another level). The instructions are absolutely clear in these titles. Hand this Kanban and some sticky notes to someone and it’s instantly clear what they are going to do with it.
I’ve used a method like this when introducing ALC or our tools to people in the past.
By using a kanban to manage the presentation I am able to model the tool in a useful way. This, again, is a safe way to introduce people to it. They are participating with the tool, but not having to take care of it themselves.
Two: The development
As we move through our Mario level we are challenged by a slow development of that mechanic. More complexity is added as the player moves through the development.
With our Kanban it’s easy to see how to do this. We can just start adding columns. In the example of introducing Kanban to a school we might start with a two column and after a few weeks add a third column then a fourth.
The idea is to develop the tool over time with the player. Add new columns as the player realizes new needs.
Three: The twist
In Mario the twist is typically the addition of an unexpected challenge that makes the player have to interact with the mechanic in a different way.
With our Kanban the twist can come in the form adding elements that expand the functionality in unexpected ways. For instance adding rows (“swim lanes”) to group tasks.
The twist, I think, should be drastic and complex. It’s meant to show where such a tool can go. The twist opens up the players imagination to possibilities.
Four: The conclusion
Now we are done. In Mario the conclusion consists of one last use of the mechanic to show mastery by the player. Like a pat on the back for learning a new skill.
For our Kanban the conclusion can come from having our student walk away with their own modified Kanban. After seeing the “twist” they might well be inspired with a concrete way to improve their Kanban.
We expand the possibilities then conclude with an appropriate application of the flexibility.
Games as tools, tools as games
I think there is quite a lot to learn by thinking about our tools and practices in the context of games and game mechanics, especially video games. For the past 20+ years video games have been teaching people a wide variety of skills. Video games are coming to be the dominate storytelling medium in our society. Modeling our own pedagogy from the best that games have to offer gives us a powerful ally in expanding the reach of our ideas. I will certainly be looking more at game development and its practices to see how I can leverage it in my own practice.
I’ve updated the ALC Network Cheat Sheet and updated it to a more accurate title. The updates better describe some of the communication channels, add the new ALC WORKS! Trello board (formally the projects board) and bring in a whole new column that describes protocol in the network around what channels and infrastructure are used for what kind of activity. I am drawing from a number of sources such as @tomis’s Network Ecosystem Charter and the Virtual Culture Committee process which have not been widely agreed upon in the network. That means this document does NOT represent the consensus of the network, but my interpretation of it and how it might be soon. With that disclaimer out of the way, have a look (after the jump) and please leave your comments!
Back in the day when I had a desk and a wacom I started an illustration about the current food system. I intended for it to be a 10 panel piece which was “read” from bottom to top. Starting with the extraction of oil and leading up to the removal of food waste.
This is where we get the gasoline and slurry of petrol chemicals that allow us to perform large scale monocropping. When all these ingredients are put together you get, mostly, corn:
Which uses an incredible amount of water and other precious resources all while making heavy use of poisons:
The unfinished panels then go through the distribution (i.e. burning of more fossil fuel), and sale of food. Which creates an enormous amount of waste from the farm (who can’t sell ugly crops) all the way to our kitchen where much of our food rots, or develops unsightly blemishes and is thrown away.
The final frame then illustrates away, a mystical place where our trash (which consists in large part of organic food waste) is sent. The anaerobic breakdown of this organic matter creates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
The dream presentation of this work has the material costs on one side, the oil, water, space, and other resources spent creating commodity crops. The other side lists the corporations who participate in this act of ecocide.
Some day I hope to get back to this project or hand it off to someone else. If you are interested please contact me at email@example.com