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Weeks 9 and 10: Diving in to the Client Project

As I’ve watched you create (and sometimes scrap and re-create) your Print-to-Web projects, I’ve been impressed with how far you’ve come in just a few weeks of working with WordPres. Many of your draft sites looked excellent during our peer review session yesterday, and I can’t wait to see your completed sites next week!

As you put the finishing touches on your project, remember that the difference between a good site and a great site lies in the details. When you’re done marking up your content, make sure you spend enough time customizing the typography, the color scheme, and the images connected to your theme. Think about menus, hyperlinks, and sidebar widgets, and how you can use those elements to improve the functionality of your site.

I will be traveling for part of next week, so I’m taking this chance to share our plans for the coming two weeks. You’ll be completing some of this work while I’m gone, but if you have any questions, I will be available by email. Here’s a quick overview of the next two weeks:

  • On Monday (10/20), your Unit #2 project is due before you come to class. Please review the assignment details before you submit your project to make sure you’ve followed the specific instructions for creating your site and writing your memo. In class, we will discuss the details of Unit #3, the Client Project, and we will finalize our team assignments for that project. I have sent an email to the class listserv with descriptions of the potential projects for Unit #3; please review those descriptions and send me an email by Sunday night with your client and teammate preferences.
  • On Wednesday (10/22), I will be at conference, so we will not meet as a full class. In place of class (either during our class session or at another convenient time), you should meet with your Unit #3 team to begin drafting your memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Client Project. Ideally, your client will join you for this meeting.
  • On Monday (10/29), you will submit your team’s MOU for the Client Project, then we will talk about working with clients. Before you come to class, please read this series of articles:
  • On Wednesday (10/31), we will shift gears and begin discussing Tubes, by Andrew Blum. Please read pages 1–67 and leave a comment on this post that contains a passage from Tubes that you want to discuss in class on Wednesday. (Leave your comment no later than Tuesday night, and if it’s relevant, connect your comment to one of your classmate’s comments.)

Whew — that was a long update! If you have any questions about these plans, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We’ll also have a chance in class on Monday to make sure that everyone knows what’s going on for the next few weeks.

Posted in Weekly Updates
9 comments on “Weeks 9 and 10: Diving in to the Client Project
  1. Ethan says:

    “The preferred image of the Internet is instead a sort of nebulous electronic solar system, a cosmic “cloud.” I have a shelf filled with books about the Internet and they all have nearly the same picture on the cover: a blob of softly glowing lines of light, as mysterious as the Milky Way–or the human brain.”
    -Tubes, p.6

  2. Mary Kate says:

    “He blended the outlines of the continents with diagrams of the networks, “always layering something abstract on top of something that’s familiar, always looking to give it more meaning.” Other kinds of maps had long struggled with the same issues—like airline routes or subways. In both cases, the end points were more important than the paths themselves. They always had to balance the workings of the system internally with the external world it connected.”…”The geography of the Internet reflects the geography of the earth; it adheres to the borders of nations and the edges of continents.” (27-28)

  3. Samantha says:

    “In that case, the networks that compose the Internet could be imagined as existing in three overlapping realms: logically, meaning the magical and (for most of us) opaque way the electronic signals travel; physically, meaning the machines and wires those those signals run through; and geographically, meaning the places those signals reach. The logical realm inevitably requires quite a lot of specialized knowledge to get at; most of us leave that to the coders and engineers. But the second two realms–the physical and geographic–are fully a part of our familiar world. They are accessible to the senses. But they are mostly hidden from view. In fact, trying to see them disturbed the way I imagined the interstices of the physical and electronic worlds.” (20)

  4. David says:

    “What was a network anyway?…Once I got my nerve up to ask the question at all, the whole thing started to make sense. It turns out that the Internet has a kind of depth. Multiple networks run through the same wires, even though they are owned and operated by independent organizations–perhaps a university and a telephone carrier, say, or a telephone carrier contracted to a university. The networks carry networks” (Blum 19). I was not really sure what a network was. For me, it has always been used as one of those abstract, technical terms used to describe the Internet.

  5. Jessica Pittman says:

    “It meant I had to get over the old, and really misleading metaphor of the “information highway”. It wasn’t really that the network is a ‘highway’ busy with ‘cars’ carrying data. I had to acknowledge the extra layer of ownership in there:the network is more like the trucks on a highway than the highway itself. That allows for the likelihood that many individual networks–”autonomous systems,”in the internet parlance–run over the same wires, their information-laden electrons or photons jostling across the countryside, like packs of eighteen-wheelers on the highway.

  6. Brittany says:

    “It turns out that the internet has a kind of depth. Multiple networks run through the same wires, even though they are owned and operated by independent organizations–perhaps a university. The networks carry networks. One company might own the actual fiber-optic cables, while another operates the light signals pulsing over that fiber, and a third owns (or more likely rents) the bandwidth encoded in that light. China Telecom, for example, operates a robust North American network–not as a result of driving bulldozers across the continent, but by leasing strands of existing fiber, or even just wavelengths of light within a shared fiber.”

  7. Kayla Vanderlyn says:

    “Two Things surprised me about this. The first is that every IP address is by definition public kowledge; to be on the internet is to want to be found. The second is that the announcement of each route is based wholly on trust. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority gives out the prefixes, but anyone can put up a sign pointing the way. And sometimes that does go horribly wrong. In one well-known incedent in February 2008, the Pakistani government instructed all Pakistani Internet Providers to block YouTube, because of a video it deemed offensive. But an engineer at Pakistan Telecom, recieving the memo at his desk, misconfigured his router, and rather than removing the announced path to YouTube, he announced it himself — in effect declaring that he was YouTube. When two and a half minutes, the “hijacked” route was passed to routers across the Internet, leading anyone looking for YouTube to knock on Pakistan Telecom’s door. Needless to say, YouTube wasn’t there. For most of the world, YouTube wasn’t available at all for nearly two hours, at which point the mess was sorted out.” (Page 30)

  8. Tony says:

    “…I could begin to imagine the route my email to California had taken: it might have shot back the way I’d come, to New York, before heading cross-country, or it could have continued farther west to Ashburn, Virginia, where there was an especially significant network crossroads.” (26) I wonder where my emails from Blacksburg go if I send them across the country; or if I send them just across Blacksburg if they still hit some major hub somewhere.

  9. Juliane Preisser says:

    “In that case, the networks that compose the internet could be imagined as existing in three overlapping realms: logically, meaning the magical (and for most of us) opaque way the electronic signals travel; physically, meaning the machines and wires those signals run through; and geographically, meaning the places those signals reach.”

    “It is the sole documentary evidence of the ARPANET’s first successful transmission between sites – the moment of the internet’s first breath.”

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."