Lange Studio Website Refresh

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 The theme was using a baked in version of page builder which I quickly found was both out-of-date and totally not working.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.lange-ig-pdf-page

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been maintained the off-the-shelf theme, WordPress core, and many plugins (some integrated with the theme) were all out of date.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.

Site Recreation

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.

Original Site
Original Site
Recreated site
Recreated site

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.

Conclusion

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.

Challenge: Publish Everyday of November

So it’s National Novel Writing Month and as is my way I am not writing a novel but instead committing to publish one blog post per day. This intention setting post is a meta level (and cheap) first post.

Another thing I’ve started to do is track my time, like I did when I was doing more paid work. I use a tool called slim timer to track time. So far it’s working pretty good.

This week I was out at Acorn community where I taught a few people about using Kanbans and then created these two one-pager documents about Gameshifting and Kanbans.

You can get the most up-to-date PDF version here
You can get the most up-to-date PDF version here
You can get the most up-to-date PDF version here
You can get the most up-to-date PDF version here

I’ll give these their own post soon.

The post Challenge: Publish Everyday of November appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.

Mapping my ALF Accountability: What I do and want to do

Last fall at ALF Weekend 2014 we participated in a game where we wrote out what we did, what we have “juice” for, what we want to be doing, and what action we are taking to get there. We wrote these down then went around the room and spoke them out to our peers, then everyone would suggest additions. It was a super powerful process an

It’s a year later and prompted by @abbyo post and @ryanshollenberger post I’ve decided to update my ALF Accountability information. If any ALFs out there want to do the same I’ll leave instructions at the bottom of this post.

The following is taken from the Mapping ALF Accountabilities Doc, updates are sub bulleted, additions are italic, while subtractions are strike throughNote: Some of these bullet points were added by me, others were added by my fellow ALFs, that should explain the change in tense.

What I do

  • Facilitate ALC in Everett
  • Consult with Everett board
  • Train other Everett ALFs (parents for now)
    • This didn’t ever happen, because there wasn’t a clear vision for the school we never could onboard more people and the parents didn’t have time/energy to become facilitators
  • Manage/Administer ALC web sites
    • This has been going well.
  • Administer Google Apps
    • Still doing this, over the summer we moved to a network account away from the NYC Google Apps account. Still need to get down clear procedures around this as well as:
    • Train new Google Apps admin
  • Consult on Tech Questions / IT Support for network
  • Do designy things
  • Get things done without being a busybody
    • My work/life balance has been really good recently, I do spend a whole lot of time on ALC stuff, but I just love working on it!
  • Bring experience of successes & failures from other social orgs and efforts
  • Bring balance of cynicism, sarcasm & hopefulness
  • Such a graceful fuck up!
  • Narrate destruction of wood this was tongue in cheek from the weekend in 2014
  • Help the group move to creative space even on challenging issues
  • Says yes when asked to play… with a seemingly infinite comfort-zone
    • Still saying yes!
  • Offer support to kids in other ALCs
    • Now that’s I’ve stepped out of a facilitation role I haven’t been doing this as much, but am still available!
  • Readily stepping into accountability
  • Bringing “medium as the message” to doing important work in the world
    • I blog to inspire others to create shareable value!
  • Makes us laugh, brings joy & lightness
  • Builder of internet infrastructure for reaching humanity
  • Watch and answer startup/membership emails
  • Be available to new ALC members for Office Hours
  • Create documentation to orient new ALFs and New Member ALCs
  • Support and encourage other ALFs to step into higher levels of responsibility and take ownership over roles in the network
  • Support other ALFs in their practice
  • Share ALC with people and create promotional propaganda
  • Consulting with public schools!
  • Continue to get better at the Ukulele!

What gives me Juice

  • A loving and supportive community
  • Interesting people
  • Earth-shattering ideas
  • ALC fits my theory of change
  • Motivate others to document/share stuff
  • When people use tools I built
    • Check out the awesome websites that are being created on the platform I created!
  • Sharing knowledge and learning from others
  • When I can receive emotional support
  • Seeing others working effectively / achieving their goals
  • Seeing people have realistic analysis of the world recognizing opportunities ahead
  • Getting to do things outside of normal skill sets

What I Want to be Doing

  • Support kids on other ALCs
    • It’s not that I don’t want to do this, but it’s less of a focus for me. I’d rather support ALFs who then support kids!
  • Introducing new schools, indoctrinating them
    • I’m starting to do this!
  • Recruiting facilitators, freeing prison teachers
    • Currently working on ALF membrane and ALF pipeline to achieve this goal!
  • Want to be developing entrepreneurial aspiration of people and students in the network
  • Connecting ALCs to other orgs, like intentional communities, homeschooling, counter cultural groups
  • Create docs around ALC methods that apply to other educational contexts
  • Evangelizing for ALCs
  • Create a worker-owner cooperative that provides Agile consulting services and employees ALFs

Next Actions

  • Practicing ALFness in Everett success!
  • Building Everett to build skills to do it again/more/consult success!
  • Abnormal travel post-Everett, ingratiatingly
  • Train another Everett ALF failure!
  • Motivate Everett parents to engage more actively failure!
  • Connect with indigenous groups & activists in Seattle area and share ALC failure!
  • Connect past friends/connections to ALC
    • Getting the ALF pipeline worked out brings me closer to this goal
  • Clearly define ALF integration workflow
  • Create by-laws for ALF consulting coop
  • Hire an intern to work on web development stuff
  • Uplift more ALFs into network roles
  • Support @sarataleff, @rochellehudson, @abram, and others in creating a vision for the ALC Network

Overall I see my role in this network to make it easy for people to accomplish what they want to do. Be that existing ALFs or people out in the world who want to create a better future for children. I feel that the more I define and document how we do things the easier it will be for people to engage with our network or create their own complementary networks.

It is through my work helping other people achieve their goals that I am fulfilled. Every time I see someone use a process or tool I’ve developed (or better, helped them develop) I am inspired to do more.

My time in this organization has been a great one, truly an upward spiral ?

Just like the last time we did this, if you see anything I’ve missed please comment below.


Write your own accountability post!

If you wish to participate please write a blog post with the tag:

alfaccountability

Answer the following questions:

  • What I do: (for the network and in your local ALC community)
  • Juice: What gives you juice (what about the community or your work powers you up?)
  • Want: What do you want to do (in an ideal world)
  • Action: What actions are you taking or will you take to do this

You can see everyone’s post on the network feed site (this is a thing!) under the alfaccountability tag:

http://feed.agilelearningcenters.org/tag/alfaccountability/

The post Mapping my ALF Accountability: What I do and want to do appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.

Short Week in New York

It’s blogging time at ALCNYC and I thought I’d write down a little reflection about what I’ve been up to.

CASA Consulting gig

The big news was settling my first (perhaps the first) ALC consulting gig. A few weeks ago I got in contact with Jamaal from Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (CASA) Middle School in the Bronx and spoke to him about CASA’s move toward self-directed education and our work at ALC. I then went to meet him and was thrilled by the work they were doing there!

Later @bear, @tomis@artbrock, and me wrote up a proposal to Enhance Self-Directed Learning at CASA Middle School. After a few edits and meetings we nailed it down and on Monday got confirmation! It’s very exciting and we will be starting our observation and planning within the month.

I hope this will set a foundation and give us a tool set to bring Agile Learning Tools into public schools.

Upgrading the Website

I went through the somewhat tedious process of upgrading our website to WordPress 4.3.1, you can read the release notes here. You can see all the stuff I did on the commit history of our website git repository.

Learning Spanish

I jumped back into Duolingo recently with the intention to do a 50 day streak, which means earning 20px per day for 50 days. I’m currently on day 14 and working on sizes and house hold object names.

Setting up ALF Weekend

I was inspired to pick up and run with the organizing of the upcoming ALF weekend. I wrote up a, possibly overly complicated system to work on stuff as a community remotely. I split up the weekend, which goes from Thursday to Monday into two four hour chunks each day which relate to a Trello board where people can put projects they wish to work on.

I’m really excited for the weekend and think it will be super productive.

—-

I also paid a parking ticket! (booooo)

 

 

The post Short Week in New York appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.

Drew and Bear do the Communities Conference

I had the lovely honor of stuffing myself in a car with @bear (and some Point A collaborators) and driving down to Central Virginia to attend the Twin Oaks Communities Conference.

The conference (or con as the cool kids say) brought together a number of intentional communities from around the world. It takes place each year at Twin Oaks a nearly 50 year old egalitarian income sharing community. Both @bear and myself think that intentional communities are very important allies for ALC as they typically already have experience in creating and maintaining the kind of culture at the heart of ALC.

On Sunday we hosted a info sharing session in the “Open Spaces” portion of the conference, which was basically like our daily intention setting and offerings practice.

Our session had about 10 people attend. We structured the presentation around a big kanban board with the column headers what we could do, what we will do, what we are doing, and what we have done. As questions came up or new topics emerged we would add them to the board. I love using the kanban to organize these kinds of meetings because it allows me to organize the meeting in a dynamic way while also modeling the tool.

Community Conference Kanban
Community Conference Kanban

We also used a Game Shifting board to facilitate the meeting space (and model the tool).

It should be said that Bear and I didn’t really “plan” very much of this event, we just shot from the hip and it was awesome!

We covered:

  • Played a connective game
  • What is ALC?
  • Tool: Kanban
  • Daily structure
  • Weekly cycle
  • How do we use this stuff in RL (Real Life) – i.e. how Bear and I used the tools and practices in our daily lives.
  • ALC & Experiential learning
  • Tool: Set the week
  • Tool: Change up Meeting and Community Mastery Board
  • What is an ALF?
  • Tool: Game Shift

I started by explaining the Kanban, then we moved into a connective game where bear had everyone mill around the space, make eye contact, then start saying hello, then stop and share with a person what you intended to get out of the conference. We then moved into playing “yes lets” where people suggest something to do then everyone says “yes! lets!” and we all do it. Our group stretched, jumped like a kangaroo, stood still in silence, sung a song made up on the spot, touched our toes, and sighed.

After the games we dove into what ALC was and then went over the tools and how we use them in real life. The Game Shifting Board was use to manage how we all interacted fairly successfully. We lead a real life Change Up Meeting using issues with the dish line as an example.

I felt like all this information went over very well and that overall the presentation was great! Later in the event I even stumbled upon a Kanban that someone else had made:

download_20150907_233238

Always the sign of a great success. I got this feedback on Facebook today as well:

I made a kanban today to handle the tasks I needed to accomplish. and I’m hooked. I love it. I can totally see parenting using the whole system…and my children and I using the CMB to bring up with citing issues and providing solutions. I can’t wait to learn more. Please keep me in the loop for any trainings or visitation days. Thanks!!

 

 

The post Drew and Bear do the Communities Conference appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.

In the Flow, My Week in Reflection

Shout out to 40 house and Emmas house!
Shout out to 40 house and Emmas house!

What an amazing week! I’ve been in Asheville NC visiting the Endor ALC crew. I was housed by two amazing collective homes full of wonderful and amazing people who kept me well fed and in good company. I spent most of my time co-working with @liam and @rochellehudson which fueled one of my most productive weeks I’ve had in a long time. So, what did I do?

Refreshed ALC.org

I’ve updated the network website to a point where it clearly outlines what ALC is. Gratitudes to my fellow ALFs, especially @tomis, @nancy, @abbyo@artbrock for their contributions in content and design.

new ALC header
new ALC header

We’ve switched to the network theme which is a lot cleaner and clearer now. The front page covers much more about what ALC is and how to get involved.

I did a bit of work on designing visual elements for the page and getting it to a point of being pretty okay.

Some new icons I put together.
Some new icons I put together.

I’m very proud of the ALC directory which I created using Google Fusion Tables. This takes a spreadsheet and outputs it as a map. I did some custom design using a Google Map Style Wizard, it’s pretty fun, try it. Then I implemented some custom code to get it to display real nice on the welcome page:

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 3.02.35 PM

 

Each of those icons is generated automagically as new schools are added to the directory. Each icon is clickable and displays information from the directory.

I’m super excited to expand on this work. To tighten and expand on the design and layout. I now feel like I can send people to our website without worrying that they might not “get” what’s going on.

Foldy Release Party!

11824953_10153006435990978_1076280215557515554_n

endor-foldy-kanban-crop
What we could do | what we are going to do | what we are doing | what we have done

@liam and I printed out about 50 of my School, Yay! foldys for a Wednesday event at Fire Storm Books & Coffee. There was a great turn out and even with no planning we were able to pull of a successful info sharing session about ALC and Endor. I used a Kanban to manage the flow of the event.

There was some great questions from our audience and super awesome input from @liam, @rochellehudson, and Keli (a new ALF from Asheville).

The foldy was also a great success!

foldy-grid2

Organizing and Orienting ALFs

I spent a lot of time working on some internal pages for alf.agilelearningcenters.org and our supporting systems to better organize our communication and collaboration within the network.

The Newbie page

I created a page for newbie ALFs (and forgetful ALFs like me). A quick aside: newbie is a term for someone who is new and thus inexperienced, it’s a term of endearment, unlike n00b which describes a person who acts dumb. The newbie page covers all of our internal tools and links to our support documents and other such things.

Im really proud of the icons I made for this!
Im really proud of the icons I made for this!

The Baked ALF checklist

Along with the help of @nancy and other “bakers” I started to develop what I hope to be one of many internal checklists for doing network jobs. This one focuses on what to do once a person has had their peer review, submitted their documents, and been “baked” (a title we are using to indicate a particular status of an ALF).

My page goes through each step and even has pictures to make some tasks more clear.
My page goes through each step and even has pictures to make some tasks more clear.

Added Helpful documentation

I spent a lot of time writing up helpful documentation about how to use some of our internal organizing tools. One that I’m really proud of is the ALF Community Mastery Trello Board that we use to create ALF cultural norms. This board covers how we handles meetings, what meetings there are, what software we use, and the protocol we follow for doing everything from sending emails to adding new people to the network. It’s an interactive tool that makes our community agreements and structure not only visible to all members but changeable (through our monthly change-up meetings) for all members! It’s something that deserves it’s own blog post. You can read about a real ALC example on the Everett page.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 3.42.42 PM

Created “easy links”

Using a redirection plugin I’ve created a number of links to important documents and services that we use. So rather than sending around long links like:

https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/calendar/dW5oYW5nb3OMFGsOlooongtYWlsLmNvbQ.q74bd9dlknc8qvuib1efk0

I can redirect an easy link:

agilelearningcenters.org/group-chat

to point to the long link. Which is also very helpful if the link has to change! If we find that the hangout link stops working all i’ve got to do is edit the redirect and no one will have to be told about the change, it will just work!

Playing with Slack

We’ve started using this cool service called Slack, which is a group chat room on steroids. It’s really cool! What’s more cool is that is has a bunch of service integrations that can do all sorts of things like listen to a website’s RSS feed or display changes to a Trello card. I spend some time setting up a number of these tools along with @tomis.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 3.59.31 PM

The Great List Migration

Part of the work I did over ALF summer was to migrate from the NYC Google Apps for Education account to the ALC Network Apps for Education account. One of the big items of that migration was to switch over the email list serves that we use to communicate. I wrote up an email about what was going on and what people could expect

Upgraded ALC Everett

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about what happened at ALC Everett but I left the website in a kind of limbo. Anyone who was visiting the site wouldn’t exactly know that the school had become inactive or that I had written a comprehensive debrief on the whole thing, including a bunch of documentation around tools and practices. So I spend some time making the site look nice, adding a bunch of links to the debrief and the tool box as well as explanations of what the current status was and a way to contact folks at ALC incase they were from the area and wanted to learn more.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 4.08.33 PM

ALC Domain Mapping

This didn’t exactly happen this week, but I wanted to share. @artbrock and I managed to finally get some backend features working that allow schools (or anyone with an ALC site) to map the site to their personal domain name. This means that our school sites can use their own domain while still being part of the network!

So now sites like alcoahu.agilelearningcenters.org will show up as alcoahu.org! So cool.


This has been such an energizing week or productivity! I really feel like I’ve been in a great flow and hope to continue it into the rest of the month.

 

Oakland and Omni Commons

So I’ve traveled to Oakland and am staying in a Berkeley Coop called Lothlorian, which is a beautiful mess of 60 UC Berkeley students all living together in a cooperative style.

I’ve been spending quite a lot of time at this community space called the Omni Commons, which I’m sure I’ll write much more about in the coming weeks. Until then I just wanted to share that I’ve added our Change Up Meeting structure to the Omni Commons’ Wiki. Please give it a look and let me know if I can make it better in any ways. I hope to practice the game with the community a little bit before I leave so they might consider adopting it.