March 2012 Project Update

April 9, 2012

Blog Redesign Preview

For this month’s project, I set out to redesign this blog a bit. Well not a total redesign, but more of a facelift. I wasn’t able to get to everything that I wanted to update, but I came up with an overall updated design for the blog posts, side bar, and footer. I’ll have to revisit the design again when it comes to some of the other pages, such as my about and contact pages. I’ve also decided that I’ll move my work from my old flash site into something a bit more relevant and updated in the work section here.

Next will be finding time to actually implement the update. It might not come until May. It would be nice to have something a little less embarrassing to look at by the time the Eyeo festival rolls around. But for now, baby steps. This will end up being my side project to my side project, which I’ll talk about in the next post.

I’m so sick of looking at this current design. Maybe it’ll come sooner.

Related Post:
March 2012 Project – A Redesign

March 2012 Project – A Redesign

March 1, 2012

For March, I’m going to work on a project that is overdue and will benefit myself along with anyone interested enough to read this. I plan on redesigning this blog that you’re reading right now. Finally.

When I first did the design of this blog, I was doing mostly flash work and just relearned how to correctly build a website from scratch. And by that, I mean building a website without using tables to place page elements. I was also working my way through figuring out how wordpress works. I was happy when I was done, but I knew that there was a lot to fix and improve. I also didn’t know if I was going to be into this whole blogging thing so I didn’t even bother to fix anything. Fast-forward a few years and I’ve rededicated myself to blogging regularly and I have experience programming in so many more languages than actionscript and have done another site on the wordpress platform that I’m ready to correct my mistakes and set up a blogging environment that I can be proud of. I don’t do nearly as much design anymore though, so I hope to get some input from some of the excellent designers that I’ve met since the initial design to help elevate this whole thing.

The goal for this month is to just work on the design part of this overhaul. The development will come later and I’m sure will span more than 1 month.

What I plan on doing includes:

  • Making a list of what works and what I like
  • Making a list of what’s not working and what I really don’t like
  • Gathering inspiration to help in figuring out what I want this to be, now and in 2 years from now
  • Figuring out a way that this blog will fit in with the rest of my online presence. For instance, I have a portfolio site that desperately needs to be updated too. So how does that tie in with this blog?
  • Figuring out how to tie things in with any relevant social media outlets (showing twitter feed, tumblr posts, etc).
  • Designing the fuckin thing

Whenever I start projects like this, I get so pumped at the beginning, only to be pissed at myself months later for attempting it. But it’s always worth it in the end. So let’s get pissed!

2011 Work in Review

December 21, 2011

2011 was an interesting year for me professionally. It was my first one where I was employed for all 12 months by The Barbarian Group. There was minimal freelance work and the stuff that I did do was chosen very carefully. This year was devoted to learning a lot of new things. The reasons for that are:

  1. I am primarily a flash developer and there are fewer projects for me to work on
  2. There are so many other exciting things to also learn and I’d hate to pidgeonhole myself into only being able to work on one type of project
  3. Mobile has been exploding and I wanted a piece of it
  4. Learning is funsies. For real. I like to learn knew things and the more I learn, the more I want to learn and the better I get at the things I already know

Let me just explain real quick about the first point. I just want to put it out there that I still love flash. I think that it’s still a viable platform for many things, unfortunately it’s a matter of fact that there’s fewer and fewer projects that require it. That being said, I’m not bitter about it. There’s so many other things that can be done that it just doesn’t matter if you were a flash dev, unless you think it does. I’ve started learning so many other things that have built on my flash knowledge that I’m not really worried that it was a waste of the previous years that I spent using it.

Here’s a summary of the different kind of work I’ve done throughout 2011. Before I continue, I just want to acknowledge all of the awesome people that made a lot of these projects possible and helped me learn a lot of what I learned. TBG has some fine ass developers, designers, producers, strategies, UX people, etc, etc, etc.

At The Barbarian Group, the first few months of the year was spent concentrating on developing a flash app for Kashi, dubbed SevenWhole Grains on a Mission. It was a nice little project that had some fun after effects video transitions and incorporated swfaddress significantly. As a warning, the current version of the project might not work as well as it once did since the site was handed over to another company. It still looks pretty though.
Link: http://www.kashi.com/meet_us/seven_whole_grains
Blog post: http://barbariangroup.com/posts/7827-kashi_seven_whole_grains_on_a_mission

In the spring and early summer decided to take a crack at learning android development and  created my first android app, Gastrodamus. It was an internal project for TBG whose main purpose is to find the nearest food truck in your city based on a truck’s tweets. There is also an iPhone version that this based off of. It was a fun little project and I learned a ton. The Java syntax and ways of doing things helped a lot with some of the processing work I did later on in the year. I’ll admit that it’s not perfect, but I hope to go in and do an update in 2012.
Link: http://gastrodam.us
Blog post: http://barbariangroup.com/posts/8856-gastrodamus_for_android

Throughout the year, I worked on a website for my mom. It’s a wordpress site that was designed and developed by myself in addition to designing her logo. I’ll admit, I haven’t done interface or logo design in a long time, so it was a bit intimidating. It was fun, but not where I want to spend most of my time. Same thing goes for developing front-end and wordpress sites. Actually, the html/css stuff was fine, it’s more just the overall process of building a wordpress site that’s not my cup o’ tea. But I’m glad I was able to help my mom out with her new business.
Link: http://www.ihealthcoach.net/

Early summer included some work for an episode of The GE Show that The Barbarian Group put together throughout the past 2 years. I was psyched to be included in the making of one of these, since they always turn out so awesome. I got to work on a flash-based map and online what-your-parents-shagged-to poster that went with it. This was a nice little piece that included the challenge of dealing with a lot of data without the use of a database what would also load quickly. Hard coded massive arrays was the answer.
Link: http:www.ge.com/thegeshow/visions-of-health/#ch3
Blog post: http://barbariangroup.com/posts/9085-the_ge_show_episode_7_visions_of_health

In late summer right before fashion week in New York, a few weeks were spent working on a fun installation for the Hudson Hotel. It was a flash based installation that was projected on 12 adjacent walls whose content was driven via a tumblr blog.
Blog post: http://barbariangroup.com/posts/9075-fashion_week_at_the_hudson_hotel

During some of my downtime, I helped put together a fun little game based on our IT department at TBG. It was only about a week or two worth of dev time and was put together without any sort of framework. It was old-school style of flash programming.
Link: http://itherogame.com/

In the more recent months I’ve spent a good amount of time working on processing sketches and learning some fundamental creative coding techniques. This is where I plan on spending a lot of my time next year. I put together tumblr blog where I post a lot of stills from my sketches along with any other drawings or anything else I come up with there, not strictly processing stuff.
Link: http://thegrego.tumblr.com/

In my processing learning, I also came up with an idea to learn how spider webs were made. I did a processing version, but then realized that to do what I really wanted to do (which is still in my head and on my todo list), I’d need to do a version in javascript. So I spent some time learning and playing with some javascript canvas tutorials and examples so that I can get a version of my webs online.
Link: http://www.gregkepler.com/work/js/spiderwebs/
Blog post: http://www.thegrego.com/2011/12/06/charlies-web/

Also, in my processing journey, I felt the need to explore some of my genealogy and put together the first of what will hopefully be a series of genealogy-based projects. As I learn to deal with a large amount of data and some beter visualization techniques, I have some high hopes that this will be a really cool, really expansive project in the future.
link: http://gregkepler.com/processing/family_lifespan/
blog post: http://www.thegrego.com/2011/09/25/kepler-family-life-spans/

I also spent some time learning arduino and integrating it into processing. I hope to have some progress on the project that I’m working on in the next month or two.

Stay tuned for my hopes and goals for 2012.

WordPress Stylin'

January 11, 2010

This post is for those of you that are intimidated by the idea of styling your first WordPress Blog (if there are any). I’m here to say that I’ve survived and this is the outcome.

During college the whole web development thing frustrated me and scared me enough that I vowed that I wouldn’t touch it again. And since I LOVE flash development so much, I figured that it didn’t really matter. The whole cross browser/ cross platform thing pissed me off and flash allowed me to make something and have it look AND behave the same way every time (almost). Over the past year and a half as I’ve gone more into a development centric career, I decided to give it another go and realized that it’s not so scary. After all, I’ve done a lot of things with actionscript that were way harder to code than a simple CSS/HTML site.

After warming up on some small projects and working my way through a CSS book, I got going with WordPress. There were definitely things that really confused me, but I feel like I learned a lot. The following are some of he snags I ran into that will hopefully come in handy for someone else.

Lessons Learned

There’s a difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org
Wordpress.com will allow you to have a blog that’s hosted through wordpress.com, but has limited support for styling and using plugins, but it’s free. WordPress.org is free too, but you have to have your own web space and access to a MySQL database so that you can install wordpress on your server and upload your custom theme as well as have a place to store all of your content.

Running XAMPP and installing wordpress locally is key
I’ve had XAMPP on my computer for a long time knowing that I should, but never quite understood it’s usefulness, until now. Since WordPress is run in a PHP environment, every page is a PHP file, which you can only view if it’s online or running in some other server-side environment, enter XAMPP. I’m sure that now that I understand XAMPP, I’ll be using it on many more projects in the future.

Plugins can save the day
I’m usually not a big fan of using “cheat codes” (except for using Game Genie back in the day, they let you do some awesome stuff), but when it comes to having something that will help you get your site up and running when you have limited time to do so, they will save you a ton of time. Again, you can’t upload plugins to your wordpress site, but you can upload them when wordpress is installed on your server. I’ve actually come to embrace plugins and pre-built libraries in general. As long as you have an understanding of how the wheel was made, why reinvent it?

There are a ton of much smarter people out there that can help you out with your wordpress questions. Hell, there are people out there that specialize in building wordpress themes. When I got stuck, there were a lot of resources that helped me get through. Here are a few that might help:

Before I end, I wanted to thank for Tristan Bagwandin for helping me get started with this site and provided me with some good links and answered some of my stupid questions.