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Week 12: Getting Serious about the Client Project

Next week is our last week before Thanksgiving break, and I want to make sure all of you are on track with your client projects before the holiday. Hence, I have rearranged a few of the checkpoint due dates for Unit #3, with the primary difference being that we will postpone our usability testing until after Thanksgiving.

At this point, your team should have worked with your client to finalize the domain name and web hosting for this project. If you have not completed these tasks, please take care of them as soon as possible. Once you have worked out the logistics for hosting your site, you can focus on transforming your wireframes into an actual site. This might mean finding a WordPress theme that you can modify or starting with one of the static templates or frameworks linked under the “Templates” section of the Resources page. Your homework for the weekend is to begin creating the homepage for your site. Here’s how we’ll build on that homework in class:

  • On Monday, we will review how to upload and modify files using FTP and I will demonstrate how to install a content management system on a new hosting account. Before you come to class, your team should know which CMS, template, or framework you plan to use for Unit #3. (Again, refer to the Resources page for ideas.) I will reserve at least half of the class for you to work with your teammates, but please make sure that you come to class ready to use that time productively. (In other words, you should be coordinating your individual efforts and making some decisions before Monday’s class.)
  • On Wednesday, we will be back in Tubes for the first half of class, so please read chapters 5 and 6 (pages 157–226) before you come to class and leave a comment on this post that addresses a specific passage you’d like to discuss in class. (Last week’s posts were great! One small suggestion: be sure to list the page number for the passage you’re quoting.) During the other half of class, I will meet briefly with each team to discuss your progress on the client project, so be ready to show me what your site looks like and ask any questions that might help you make progress on your site.

Before you leave for Thanksgiving break (no later than Friday, November 16), someone from your team should send me the URL for the first draft of your site. I recognize that the site might be messy and/or incomplete, but you should have something live on the web by the end of Week 12. I will review your site over the break, and when we come back, we’ll be ready to conduct some usability tests to improve the functionality and appearance of your site.

Posted in Weekly Updates
14 comments on “Week 12: Getting Serious about the Client Project
  1. Maddie says:

    “It went back to a June night 100 years ago…The building was among the nation’s largest long-distance telephone central offices…The key to [AT&T and Western Union's] separation lay beneath Church Street: an extensive run of clay conduits, filled with heavy-gauge copper wires that carried messages between the two systems-a sort of proto-internet that would one day serve as the real internet.” pages 172-173

    This quote reminded me of the videos we watched last thursday. It is interesting that new technology was able to develop in this spot because old technology laid the groundwork. A hub for information, via telephone, was able to transform more easily into the framework for the internet. Later, Blum brings up the paradox that the internet can eliminate distance only if the networks are in the same place, in this case the old Western Union building. If these buildings had not been put into place with the necessary connection between the two in the 1920′s, then they would not have become the internet hub that they are today.

  2. Brittany says:

    “’This point is the millisecond…this point is the microsecond…and this one is usually expressed as nanoseconds, or billionths of a second.’ I mulled at all the zeros on the screen for a moment. And when I looked up, everything was different. The cars rushing by outside on Highway 87 seemed filled with millions of computational processes per second—their radios, cell phones, watches, and GPSs buzzing inside of them. Everything around me looked alive in a new way… (162).”

    It is crazy to think that everything is powered and constantly functioning. Just as Blum explains when he looked up everything looked different, after reading this book everything around me seems different. I think of the internet, computers, cell phones, street lights, etc. differently. It seems so ‘simple’ because all of these technologies were just handed to us and everyone around us has them as well, but really the fact that we have any of these items is incredible. The fact that people lay tubes and chords underground for internet blows my mind, before reading this book I thought the internet was all above ground signals being sent back and forth. The videos we watched in class last week show just how far technology has come and just how much of it I was not alive for or conscious of.

  3. Kayla says:

    Tata planned to buck the trend by finding the places in the world with latent potential. Its strategy was to be the telecommunications network that finally linked the “global south,” the poorer–and less connected–regions of the world, especially African and South Asia.

    I find the amount of control the companies laying the fiber cabling have over who does and doesn’t have internet staggering. It’s also interesting that in the face of rising interest in the internet and falling prices, the company would choose to offer the same product at a much steeper price, not because it cost them more to provide the service there, as they’d already built infrastructure, but because they could.

  4. Tony says:

    But undersea cables are invisible. They feel more like rivers than paths, containing a continuous flow of energy rather than the occasional passing conveyance. If the first step in visiting the Internet was to imagine it, then undersea cables always struck me as its most magical places. And only more so when I realized their paths were often ancient. With few exceptions, undersea cables land in or near classic port cities… – Pg. 194

    We talked last week about the undersea cables and how strange it seems that they lay forever unseen, emerging only in “classic port cities,” yet are the fundamental backbone of an international internet. I’ve also heard mentions in a few of my classes this year about the fact that so many major cities are on rivers near the coast, and heard people suggest that they don’t need to be(or shouldn’t be) there anymore. However, there were obviously historical reasons that the cities were settled there, and as long as they are major hubs for the newest technology (e.g., as long as the local internet hooks up to the rest of the world there) then these cities will continue to thrive.

  5. Ethan says:

    “What if the Internet couldn’t properly be understood as places, but was really better thought of as math made manifest; not hard, physical tubes, but ineffable, ethereal numbers?…If the Internet was made of light, then what was all this other stuff–filling buildings, even whole neighborhoods, the whole glittering expanse of the skyline at night?”
    -Tubes, p.163

  6. Jessica Pittman says:

    “Brocade’s machines, powerful though they may be, were the traffic-clogged cities on a journey across the net. A millionth of a second was painfully slow, if that’s possible to conceive. According to the laws of physics, an unimpeded bit should be able to cross the three-foot cube router in five-billionths of a second, or five nanoseconds.”

    pg 161

    As Blum points out, it is almost impossible for many users, including myself, to understand the speed of the internet. We now take the internet for granted, and in doing so, fail to think about how fast it is working “behind the scenes” Exactly how do you put five-billionths of a second or five nano seconds into perspective? I think Blum makes a good attempt in his analogies. However, imagining that “billions of logical decisions per second” are being carried out both invisibly and constantly, is so awing.

  7. Samantha says:

    “But visiting a cable landing station wasn’t as easy as getting inside the big urban hubs. The Docklands, Ashburn, and others had a constant stream of visitors. Security was tight, but there was a sense of them as inherently shared places, nearly public ones. But the cable landing stations were quietly hidden away, and they rarely received visitors.” (202)

    I really liked the earlier story about how easy it was for them to just walk into the building in Milwaukee, so when I got to this part I was a little surprised that it was more difficult to get into the cable landing station. He mentions that all the other places have a constant stream of visitors, but the station is rarely visited. I find the thought of these underwater cables incredibly fascinating, and to think that other people aren’t in awe of them just sort of surprises me.

  8. Rachel says:

    They looked like giant squid under the streetlights, with their gray bodies dangling black cables. Some holes are so stuffed with cables that the cover pops right up, like snakes coming out of a can. The manhole was hard up against the security perimeter around the New York Stock Exchange. Bankers hustled by us, headed home from work. A cop inside a bulletproof hut cast a knowing eye in our direction.

    I think this is just really fascinating. This really makes me understand how tangible the Internet is and how much of it we actually don’t understand. I would’ve never thought large amounts of Internet cables run through the manholes of cities.

  9. Kyle says:

    Page 198

    Pretty interesting how the cables connecting the world by sea need to be so carefully planned in terms of what paths they take. I guess I never thought about it. I wonder what kinds of resources are spent simply mapping the topography of the ocean floor just so they can lay some cable.

  10. David says:

    “By 1900, Porthcurno was the hub of a global telegraph network that linked India, North and South America, South Africa, and Australia. By 1918, 180 million words were passing through the valley annually” (204).

    Since the beginning of this book we have learned that Tubes are everywhere, but it didn’t really hit me until reading this section, that they have been around a long time. To think that in the late 1800s people were communicating over tubes is just hard to fathom. The most impressive aspect is to see how far we’ve come in 120 years; where will we be in 100 more?

  11. Juliane says:

    “As we stood there trapped for a long silent moment, waiting for the unseen computer to finish verifying our respective mass and identity, Silcock shot me a surprised look through the rounded glass. I had let out a burst of uncontrollable laughter, a loud snorting guffaw. I couldn’t help it: I was inside a tube!” Pg 186

    I couldn’t help but smile when I read this, because it’s so true. The idea of being in a computer, the internet, or a tube is amusing because so many years ago it would have been a distant thought. But here we are, often connecting ourselves to the tubes.

  12. Shelby Ward says:

    “the building isn’t so different from Ashburn or Palo Alto-other than the fact that it is in this space that AT&T connected long-distance phone calls for half a century.”

    I just find it so interesting how the exact same spaces that once held telegraph wires are now the same spaces that are connecting our internet to us. As we also learned in this chapter, the second “T” in AT&T stands for Telegraph. You don’t see that fact in many of their commercials. It’s this juxtaposition of how far we’ve come, and also how far we really haven’t come. What now is in the cables is light, instead of copper, but the systems themselves contain the same basic principles. Having said that,I’m not sure if it felt more like magic when I didn’t have any idea of how the internet was constructed, or now that I do and how immense a physical presence it actually has and I still am confused about how people figure these things out.

Where am I?
This is the class website for English 4814: Writing for the Web, taught by Quinn Warnick at Virginia Tech in fall 2012.
Worthwhile Reading
The links below are the most recent additions to my collection of bookmarks that are relevant to this course. You can find a complete list of ENGL 4814 bookmarks on Pinboard.

  • CodePen
    Awesome browser-based tool for experimenting with HTML, CSS, and Javascript.
  • What Constitutes Good and Bad Web Design?
    NY Times: "Shoddy Web site design is a curse of modern life. The more dependent we have become on the Internet for information, the likelier we are to suffer from its design deficiencies. Bad design can be infuriating, inconvenient or damaging in any field. But it is especially frustrating in areas like this where many of us find the technology so inscrutable that we tend to blame ourselves for being baffled, because we feel unable to judge whether the design is at fault."
  • wireframe.cc
    Free, minimalist wireframing tool, with templates for desktop, tablet, and phone.
  • Yes, learn basic programming
    Derek Sivers thinks everyone should learn HTML, CSS, and Javascript: "If you heard someone say, 'I have this idea for a song. But I’m not musical, so I need to find someone who will write, perform, and record it for me.' - you’d probably advise them to just take some time to sit down with a guitar or piano and learn enough to turn their ideas into reality."
  • CSS Floats 101
    Another great article from Noah Stokes in A List Apart. This one focuses specifically on one of the trickiest parts of CSS for beginners to master: the float property.
  • CSS Positioning 101
    Noah Stokes's A List Apart article is a great starting point for getting better at CSS positioning. Complete with several examples.
  • Modular Scale
    Handy tool for improving typography on modern, responsive websites. (The linked articles on this page are important, too.)
  • Interactive Guide to Blog Typography
    Great tutorial for improving typography on any website, not just a blog.
  • The Basement
    Great photo essay by Cabel Sasser: "And eventually, you crawl behind a corner, and discover a bundle of conduit. Conduit for every major internet carrier you’ve ever heard of. Oh, right. You had almost forgotten. This building, this basement, is the major internet hub for the entire region."
  • Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek
    Beautiful interface for this NY Times article. Perfect integration of video, images, and text.
  • Service Learning Survey
    Students: If you worked with a client from the VT Engage program, please take a few minutes to provide the program with some feedback about your experience.
  • SPOT Survey - Fall 2012
    Students: If you haven't completed the SPOT evaluation for this course, please do so during class on Wednesday. I take this feedback very seriously, and I use it to revise my classes each semester, so please be specific about the aspects of the course (and my teaching) that you found successful and unsuccessful.
  • Standards, not Prescriptions
    Nathan C. Ford: "For standardization to truly continue making the web a more stable place, we do not need more anticipatory specifications, we need solutions. Lots of them. Dumb ones, fat ones, smart ones, skinny ones. Let us embrace them all then watch them fight it out in the field. When the strongest emerge, we can adopt them into our specs and wait for the next batch of victors."
  • Into the vault: the operation to rescue Manhattan's drowned internet
    Dante D'Orazio, writing for the Verge: "Hurricane Sandy's storm surge flooded Verizon's downtown office, rendering miles of copper wiring useless."
  • Responsive Design Testing
    Great little tool for seeing what your website looks like at a variety of screen resolutions.
  • Having a Mobile Strategy is Like Having a Laptop Strategy 20 Years Ago
    John Steinberg: "I do not want to download your app. I just want to read the content on the mobile web and possibly share it if I’m engaged. The constant knee-jerk interstitialing of full-screen app download messages every time I load sites is beyond frustrating. Many site owners seems convinced that this frustration, which no doubt dampens the velocity and volume of content sharing, will convert in loyal downloading app users."
  • Google Data Centers
    Photos, video, and history of Google's physical facilities. Obviously one-sided, but interesting nonetheless.
  • Google Throws Open Doors to Its Top-Secret Data Center
    Steven Levy, in Wired: "This is what makes Google Google: its physical network, its thousands of fiber miles, and those many thousands of servers that, in aggregate, add up to the mother of all clouds."
  • Guidelines, Tools and Resources For Web Wireframing
    A nice list of resources about wireframing.
  • Save For Later
    Fascinating report on a Mozilla UX project by Brian Groudan: "All browsers support two functions: searching and revisiting. My research questions whether constructs like bookmarks really are the right model to support revisiting. I worked closely with Mozilla user experience researchers and designers to rethink how Firefox can better offer 'save for later' in the browser."