Answering your exit-card questions

For some reason, I got home, sat at my desk, and needed to hear “Big Yellow Taxi” (the Counting Crows version, not the original). I think maybe it was the nostalgia of talking about the “old” WWW (and the pre-web). Such a strange thought that we live in a world where many people don’t remember life before the web. I feel like Morpheus when he’s explaining the Matrix to Neo… once there was no Facebook, no Google, no Amazon.com, no iTunes. *shakes a cane at his screen* Imagine what you’ll see in your lives. Oh… the places you’ll go! πŸ™‚

I mentioned this at the end of class, but I don’t know if everyone was still in the room. You, as a group, did an EXCELLENT job with the presentations.Β  I was so pleased, and so impressed, with your work. I’m looking forward to reviewing your PowerPoints as I grade this weekend. Really nice job, all. You should be proud.

And now, your questions.

Let’s start with the big one (which came up more than once, and which I think the answer to is critical). Some of you asked if you should be worried because you don’t know anything (or only know a little bit) about coding.

Don’t worry. At all. Really. I know I keep mentioning that it might be a little overwhelming, but I’m mentioning that so that if you do feel overwhelmed, you know it is okay. The assignments are all built assuming you know little-if-anything about coding at this point. Many of them (like Module 2, or like me having you make a page for Module 1) are immersive moments and I know that for some of you that can be frustrating, but those are designed to give you a chance to look at or play with the technology without fearing what might happen. I know that sometimes I’m asking you to do stuff you barely know how to do. There’s a method to that madness, I promise. Trust me, in the end you’ll see that it made sense (and hopefully helped :)).

Don’t worry if sometimes things are a little confusing initially. I compare learning this sort of technology to playing video games (given my research, I would, right?): no one played Mario Brothers for the first time, without watching someone else, and knew to jump on the turtle’s head (I’ve seen so many people run right into the turtle, myself included). But you learn it fast by doing it. That’s sort of how this is meant to work.

At the same time, if it ever does feel like too much, just let me know and we can adjust. This class should be challenging, but not overwhelming or stress inducing. If it gets really stressful, something’s not going right and we’ll fix it.

Related to that, don’t let your term lists for Module 2 get too huge on you.I hesitate to be forceful about this (I know that can be frustrating as a student– I apologize), because if you wanted to do a list of like 30 terms, and it was what you felt would help you to learn, I’d have no problem with that. But at the same time, I don’t want you to feel as if you have to do that much definitional work. My hope is that everyone will contribute 3 or 4 good terms that when we pull them together will give you a great reference, but the whole idea of making you do this is to get you in the habit of looking stuff up. As I said in class, and I can’t stress this enough, a lot of the art of learning to code is looking at other people’s work and reverse engineering or flat-out “borrowing” pieces. And it’s never too early to get in the habit of doing some Google based research as you look at code.

Oh, and someone asked this after class, so if anyone else wondered: you will never, ever be asked in this class to work with just code. Any authoring we do as a class will be done with Dreamweaver (unless you chose to use a different, similar tool for some reason), and I won’t ever expect you to be able to do any sort of web work without references. There won’t be any sort of exam or quiz or killer assignment where you can’t use a WYSIWYG editor and any/all the references you feel you need. My goal is to teach you to create web content, and you’ll never be in a situation where you have to do that without tools and references. In fact, I want you to learn how to use those tools as a critical part of authoring/production.

There was also a split I see typically in post-project feedback: some people loved that there was plenty of freedom to choose websites and some people wished there had been more focus. I don’t think either of those approaches is more-or-less right (or that either desire is better or worse), so if you’re a person who would like more direction or more focus in the future, just talk to me and we can do that. I like it leave things as open as possible so that your work can do what you want it to do, but I know from my own learning experiences that sometimes I, too, need (or needed) someone to help me focus more. So we can do both, as is needed, with no problems. πŸ™‚

Someone asked how iWeb differs from other coding tools. I will say, outright, that I like iWeb as a tool. I think it’s really useful for people who want an easy entry point to web work. I will also say this: it’s not good for anyone who has the time and resources to learn to use something better. Here’s why: it generates HTML code and CSS, like anything else would, but it has some special tags and code tricks that don’t play well with other systems.

For example, my girlfriend made a site in iWeb and uploaded it to her AFS space. It looked really nice, and it worked really well. But then she tried to edit it by hand to fix a little thing, and it corrupted the whole site (so badly that IT had to delete her AFS folder and rebuild it). So I would caution you about using iWeb, or MS Frontpage, unless you plan to always update the site with that same software because of some of the software-specific tricks both of them use. In theory, though, what those two programs kick out should be identical to what something like Dreamweaver would.

If you’d like software for your own computer that is “like” Dreamweaver but won’t cost you money, check out NVU. It’s clearly not as good as Dreamweaver (it’s freeware– and it works really well, but it’s not quite on-par with DW), but it is free. And I’ve never had anyone experience compatibility issues with it. You can also download a free Dreamweaver demo from Adobe (the site is down right now, but I’ll add a link later) that works for a month.You can download Photoshop and InDesign for a month as well (I think you can get the whole massive 8 gig CS4 Design Premium demo, actually, if you want to try all those tools).

And that covers all the questions from the cards. I was telling some of you after class that when there aren’t a lot of questions it either means things are going really well or things are going so bad people don’t know where to start.

Judging by your work so far, I’m going to guess things are going really well for each of you. πŸ™‚

Let me know if you have other questions or concerns, and have a great weekend!

See you Monday!

-Phill

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