1999-09-02 The Farm: thoughts (from the archives)

Part of a series of posts from my old website archives. Enjoy!

[thoughts] something to consider.
9.2.99

Wherever we may roam-

The workforce in technology has changed tremendously in the past decade. Change leaves its touch not only on the people in the workforce, but has also touched the structure of that workforce in ways that enable those people with the tools and skills to free themselves from the age-old “our team forever or bust” ideal. Here’s my argument.

The widespread use of technology in business has sped us up – we do things faster, we find it more profitable to run our businesses as orchestrated parts as opposed to running them as monolithic wholes. Business structures are no longer seen as a body with internal organs working with each other in a closed ecosystem. We see businesses increasingly as neighborhoods where we reach out, know our neighbors, and make best use of each other’s resources – we outsource more and use more temporary contract labor. Much of the quicker-moving businesses consist of people acting as free-agents who are able to look out for themselves and service whoever will pay them.We see business as a world of independent nation-states, each of them making deals and moving as directed by the organizing central core. To change directions, a business need only to change its component parts, to close deals with some and begin deals with others in reaction to need.

On a human scale, this is a very beneficial time for those who have the skills and can find the jobs. Those people are the ones who have the advanced skill sets, the knowledge of esoteric technologies, the things that are highly sought-after. These people have to be excellent salespeople. Their number-one product is themselves.

On the other end, it makes difficultly for those who cannot, or are not good enough, to promote their services. They may have the good skill sets, but in some way, they’re not good at landing the contracts.

There are also those who can sell themselves well, but may either lack the skills or their skills are in low demand. Where once HTML programmers were in high demand, those jobs are now handed out as entry-level positions as more people learn the language and as more technologies emerge to automatically generate HTML. The people who are good at selling themselves but lack what they need may opt to put their sales skills to better use in selling the skills of others. We now have a whole industry that specializes in placing contract labor into technology jobs.

For those who are new to the technology fields or still young in this realm of the free agent world are finding it more difficult to get a foothold and become established. As newer technologies emerge, it is those who grasp those technologies while they are still young who will jetison into positions of mastership and expertise. Those are the things to take aim for as well as keeping an eye on the current staple technologies as a foundation. Training and education take the free agents far, but attention must also be kept towards research and discovery, to grasp the new things and hold on as they develop.

As free agents in a growing, faster changing workforce, they begin to chip away at the long-held bastion of employment: the pension. As free agents, we rely more on our own independent retirement accounts and less on the standard of “twenty years and a gold watch.” In the past 20 years we’ve seen an immense growth in the usage of IRA’s which travel with us as we go from job to job; the constant threat of downsizing and the increasing insecurity of jobs demands it if we wish to ensure our preferred quality of life throughout our lives.

The existence of IRA’s is a strong indication of modern business’s direction towards the nation-state status. With our skill sets, our salesmanship, and our tools, we carry with us everything we need as if we were crossing the vast landscape from village to village in a journey of selling our wares.

The current of modern business puts a larger portion of the workforce into a place where we act as drops of rainwater that form into puddles, only to evaporate when needed and precipitate into other puddles. It’s the giving-away of corporate monogamy to the one-man shops of skilled craftsmen; it’s the idea of the new ways – we go where we’re needed, we fight and compete for places to be, we trade services with those who have the goods to trade. Industrial ideologies yield to technological methodologies.

We are the nomads.

1999-09-02 The Farm: page2 (from the archives)

Part of a series of posts from my old website archives. Enjoy!

[page 2] what’s important to me.
9.2.99

Growth – old becomes new

Welcome to the new design of The Farm. A simple update was past due, but I had decided that the old format, though cool, was getting tiresome.The old design was designed to take full advantage of the entire browser window and could therefore “self-heal,” but the self-healing format of it was restricting me on the complexity of the layout. I wanted to try-out some new ideas, go back to setting up a mostly self-healing design that would vertically resize while restricting the layout horizontally to 600 pixels. It was only in this way that I could exercise some new concepts I’ve been wanting to do.This design is another step into the direction I want to go with my site design. In case you noticed the swooping title logo (for those with the later browsers), I’ve been teaching myself a lot about dynamic HTML (DHTML). My future design, which is in the works, will rely heavily on DHTML’s abilities to move objects around in the window and to provide a single page to access the entire site through a persistent user interface.

The aim with all of this is to provide this interface in a way that will fully operate “cross-browser” in Netscape Navigator 4.0 and above as well as Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 and above, and also allow for graceful degrading in older browsers which don’t support DHTML features. This involves actually writing two seperate, but interchangeable, interfaces with similar basic functionality. But the real rub is the cross-browser bit.

All those years of being a Netscape evangelist, and now I’m wondering where their glamor has gone. Internet Explorer is so much more simple and powerful. Feh. Hopefully Netscape Navigator 5 will catch up and support a more powerful document object model.

On a good note, I am now employed. I work for [drugstore.com]. I start this friday night. My work hours, in theory, are from 7pm to 7am friday night, saturday night, and sunday night. My job title will be “packing,” which is a fancy way of saying “order verification.” I dread going to work, but it’ll be very good to work again. My sanity is saved from complete obliteration.

The upside to working the weekend shift is that I have four whole days during the week to continue my search for more gainful, dependable employment. I continue to drop-off applications and resumes and dig around online for work either here in Texarkana or down in Austin. I may possibly pick up another part-time job for two or three days a week to make up for lost time. My bills are so pitifully behind, that sounds like a good option. I must only keep my eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel.

That light is independance in Austin.

[Write] me, call me, keep in touch. Except for the weekends, I’ll be around.

Godspeed.

1999-08-08 The Farm: current news (from the archives)

Part of a series of posts from my old website archives. Enjoy!

Ongoing Goings-On: current news
8.8.99

What is there to say? I start a new job tomorrow which may or may not pan out.

When I clock-in tomorrow morning, I will be one hour shy of being unemployed for a whole sixty days. It’ll feel good to work again.

Whether this new job works out in a favorable manner or not, I’m ready to get back into the flow of society. These past two months have done their part in disorienting me enough to where I’ll take anything that comes along.

Hence, this job.

My bills are seriously far behind, and the spectre of dealing with them looms over me, but I can catch up and take care of them soon enough. I have that much faith. Actually, the sobriety of taking care of business feels good. I’m starting to have a purpose again, and I’m pleased.

It’s all gonna work out by the time it’s over with. I believe that.

At least that’s what Manic of the dynamic-duo Manic-Depressive is telling me.

1999-08-08 The Farm: page2 (from the archives)

Part of a series of posts from my old website archives. Enjoy!

page 2: what’s on my mind
8.8.99

The heft of tomorrow

I have found a job. Good, good, good. I start tomorrow, Monday. It may be a good deal.

Heck, working is a good deal.

I found a job through Express Personnel and I’ll be working for a local “company” maintaining (i.e. designing) their website. From the description they gave me before I accepted the job, it sounded like an absolute gravy-job.

Boy, was I in for a suprise.

OK. Here’s the deal with the whole thing. This guy, a long-time mechanic and hot-rod junkie, has an idea. He wants to sell nothing but parts for Dodge trucks online. It’s a good idea. It’s a very good idea.

BUT, I’m not sure about how he’s going about it.

Currently, it’s nothing more than an idea and a few webpages in the works, none of them posted online. And it will be my job to take that idea and make him a full-blown completely working e-commerce website within the space of two or so months. Honestly, that scares me.

First off — my “specialty” (read: experience) is front-end coding: writing the code that is used inside the browser. I know nothing, nothing at all, about the back end. I have a clue, but I don’t know the first thing about setting up a server-side database, maintaining it, and writing applications that use that database. I don’t know the first thing about setting up a merchant account with credit-card agencies, I know nothing about credit-card validation services. I know very little about the legalities involved with e-commerce, and how to satisfy customer complaints and inquiries. That bothers me.

Now, granted, this whole thing could be a very good learning experience for me, but it’s large, much too large, for me to handle on my own. This company currently is too small as it is, and I seriously would like to know how to do all of this, how to make an e-commerce site from scratch, but I’d like to do it in the company of people who know. I’d like to be part of a team. This company exists of two people – my boss, and me. Not large enough.

I completely understand that it’s the start of something that may be beautiful, something that may be good. There’s no way I can really expect to be in league with several people who know the things that I want to learn. This is all starting with an idea; I can’t expect more out of that so soon.

But my trepidation is because of the uncertainty in this thing. It may be a fleeting idea, it may be a good idea that is poorly executed from the get-go, but just as well, it may germinate into something lasting. I don’t know, and that too bothers me.

Tomorrow, when I go in to work, I have no choice but to sit my boss down and explain to him the details of what he’s getting into. I don’t know how carefully he’s thought of this, nor if he has any idea of what it takes to run a successful e-commerce business complete with website, warehouse, shipping, and customer service. My job, at least for this week, will be to tell him about all these things. I feel that this is not my job; he hired me, and will be paying me, to write the website. But all things being told, when it’s all said and done, writing the actual website is the last thing on the agenda.

The absolute last.

I’m not sure how long this job will last. I’m not sure where it will go. I want to drop it and take another job elsewhere, but I’m also curious (and trepidatious) about how this will work out. Should it fall together well, and actually work, then I will have some serious experience under my belt that would travel well with me to wherever I should go in life. Should it fail, however, I’ve done little but waste my time, his time, and his money.

Last week, inside the span of a one-second spurious thought, I got inspired with another one of my world-famous W.A.I.’s (“Wild-Assed Idea” — not to be confused with WAIS, or “Wide-Area Information Service”). It was a small thought that flittered through my mind, but it stuck and stayed there. Here it is: pack up my necessities and just move to Austin for a few days. Go down there to scout around for jobs and housing. It sounds like a very good, if chancy, idea. To this day, all of my W.A.I.’s never worked out as expected, but they did give me new experiences and a chance to live by the seat of my pants. I like the idea of moving there, and moving there VERY soon.

My plan is to take a “vacation” of sorts and couch-surf with any one of my friends down there while I scout around for a simple joe-job and begin work. I could find a joe-job down there fairly easily, I believe. That would buy me some time while I look for better jobs in my chosen career. Taking joe-jobs is really the only viable option I have: currently, my application with www.monster.com has yeilded me zero results (my application has been looked at all of FOUR times), so I don’t expect much result from that any time soon. So, the joe-job idea is one that I will go with.

As a plus with moving down there, Austin Community College is offering webwriting courses in their Webmaster Certificate Program, which sounds pretty cool. The courses are comparitively inexpensive, and the idea of taking only what I need and testing out of what I already know for much cheaper really appeal to me. Most of my college education to date has been superfluous – the ideal of the Liberal Arts education is a very good thing, but now that I’ve had it, I want to get into specifics. This expenditure, though it may still be a good chunk of change, will be spent more efficiently. As a good result, I will have a certification, even though one really is not needed in order to commercially write websites. But, it will be a comforting thing to have; it will be a way of having someone important, someone bigger than me, vouch for me saying “Yes, he can do the job, and do it well.” I like that idea.

Just as well, I could stay here in Texarkana and scout for joe-jobs up here and attempt to rebuild myself, get caught-up on all my bills and debts, and then attempt to jetison off to Austin. I pretty-much have free rent and cheap food up here, and the pressure to stay afloat isn’t as harsh. That idea, even though it’ll have to be done here, still sounds like a good plan. I know of several joe-jobs that are more appealing than this webwriting assignment that I start tomorrow, and I may just go ahead and go with those. Burn a little time. I honestly do not like this webwriting task that’s been set before me: it’s too much, too soon. I have enough sense to know what I can do and what I can’t do. I’m usually given to delusion, but this time, it’s all realistic.

One step at a time. That’s all I can do.

1999-07-29 The Farm: projects (from the archives)

Part of a series of posts from my old website archives. Enjoy!

“idle hands are the tools of the devil.”
7.29.99

Friends, I regret to announce that the [Gutterhaunt] project is no more.

That’s right. One of the best and most forward-thinking bands Texarkana has ever seen has called it quits. Gutterhaunt is gone. I am equally sad to announce that the project has also come to an abrupt halt, and I will be doing no further work on it.

I will, however, leave it posted for a while in case you want to see the half-built vision that is now an empty shell.

For those of you who have watched the Gutterhaunt web project grow from nothing to what it is today, I want to thank you for keeping watch, offering suggestions, and helping me make it better by sending me your bug reports. Without people like you, I couldn’t have come as far as I have.

During the project, I learned a lot about designing sites for other people, about learning new web techniques and technology, and I learned a good deal about site structure, design, page flow, and “the user interface.” There were some nifty techniques I had looked into, things I had wanted to do but never had a need to do, this like pop-up windows, automated “write once” on-the-fly html creation, CSS layering, and other stuff of that nature. I’ve found ways to enhance the user’s site experience and have thus extended my “artist’s toolbox.”

For me, with web design, I find it fun to figure out how to put all these pieces together in such a way to where they all fit well and make for a very good site. I’ve come a long way, but I know better than to rest on my laurels. I still have a long way to go. I suppose all those times of doing the mind-puzzles in the back of Omni magazine are paying off.

I’m also working on my own future site and doing basic graphics for it. I want a good site with a strong, iconic theme spread throughout the whole site. It will be a personal site, obviously, one of self-promotion and externalized thoughts, but I also want it to be my “programmer’s playground” much akin to [www.superbad.com]. I like the idea of using my space to play around with oddball programming concepts.

This week, I’ve been playing around hard-and-heavy with dynamic HTML and designing code that is cross-browser compatible and degrades gracefully for older browsers. I’ve found a lot of resources related to Cascading Style Sheets, DHTML, advanced HTML, and using JavaScript to control all of those features.

As an example of what I’ve learned this week, I wrote some code that puts a “rubber ball” image in the browser window and sets it in motion so that it bounces around the window. I probably pulled out most of my hair with getting it to work in both Netscape4 and IE4+, but now, I believe, it’s working. As an aid in writing DHTML for cross-browser compatibility, I am currently using DHTMLLib, an external javascript library written by the people at [www.insideDHTML.com]. DHTMLLib allows the programmer to write Dynamic HTML for Internet Explorer 4.0 and above’s Document Object Model and effortlessly translate that code so it is compatible with Netscape Navigator 4.0 and above’s Document Object Model. For general stuff, it works pretty well and saves me time and code by automatically doing browser detection within the library so I don’t have to do it. When the page is browsed using Navigator, DHTMLLib will simulate IE’s DOM and interface the programmer’s code into the Navigator DOM. This saves a lot of effort. If you are interested, see their site for more details.

If your browser supports the features necessary to do so, you’ll find the link close to the bottom of this page that will start the ball. Click it and play around. Have some fun with it.

I know I have.

Keep your eyes opened: I’m coming up with some new ideas to try out, and I may just start tricking-out here on this site. Cheers!