Black or White

The black or white fallacy is an easy trap to fall into. Automatically believing that if "one thing" is true it means the perceived opposite "other thing" must be false can work out pretty well if there's only two mutually exclusive options. But only having two options is not usually a realistic representation of reality.

I made this chart to express how I try to visualize things.

3 Things I Wish I Could Tell My College Self

1) Sarcasm is not argument.

Your ability to understand an idea well enough to re-state it sarcastically is the intellectual equivalent of training wheels on a tricycle. Friends that put up with you despite this misunderstanding will turn out to be real friends. If a professor ever relies on sarcasm to discredit an idea, their own ideas are probably weak.

2) You have no idea.

Changing your mind based on new information is a mark of progress, not weakness. The current perceived authority figures in your life are not the exclusive distributors of gospel truth. Approach people with a baseline of respect and approach their ideas with a baseline of skepticism. You're not in college to learn life's answer key. You're in college to learn good habits for a lifetime of future learning. Retain what proves itself to be useful, leave the rest behind. There's no reason to take on other people's thought baggage, you'll have plenty of your own soon enough. Whatever you're thinking right now... be prepared to change your mind about it.

3) Easy isn't easy.

Take any discipline. Anything. And research it. You'll find ever expanding layers complexity. You'll find people who have spent their lifetimes working out aspects of design, engineering, philosophy within that discipline that you don't even know exist. Everything in your life that's easy is only easy because someone else worked really hard to figured out concise ways to solve complex problems and then provide those solutions to you in a form you can comprehend. Understanding a concept is not the same thing as solving a problem. All else being equal, prefer advice from problem solvers over concept regurgitators. Their opinions do not have equal weight.

Permalink: http://danieljonce.com/blog/3-things-i-wish-i-could-tell-my-college-self

5 Things I Like About East Tennessee

Today's view from our dining room

Today's view from our dining room

With recent elections behind us, it's easy to feel discouraged being a rather liberal person living in a rather conservative state. However, it's also important to reinforce positives.

So I've compiled a short list of things I appreciate about TN.

This is a selfish exercise to practice a habit of appreciation, not a passive aggressive judgement on any fellow liberal-ish leaning fellow Tennessee residents who still feel the sting of local politics and are still in understandably bad mood.

1. The Weather is Wonderful

Especially the fall colors. Having four distinguishable seasons without enormous amount of snow to shovel every year is simply awesome. The huge snow forts I built as a kid growing up in New Jersey were fun, but long winters were... long. I'm quite happy for snow be a rare special event instead of a constant winter to-do list. Also, if you're ever watching one of the various Discovery channel shows that talk about future-world-destroying disaster scenarios while graphically representing it by a globe, you should note that neither the extreme examples of climate change floods or glaciers quite make it to east Tennessee.

2. Low property Taxes

We may not have curbside recycling in every part of our city limits (yet) but we also have incredibly low property taxes. We paid less than $700 in taxes last year for our home. That includes City and County property tax. Also, I noticed a less talked about constitutional amendment clarified another part of the Tennessee constitution this election season. It was the part about how there's no state income tax.

3. Friendly People

Fellow residents of this great state are generally friendly, courteous people. Sure, playing chess in the local park may get you taunted by a random good ol' boy driving down highway 27. But on more than one occasion, while driving, I've watched a line of complete strangers gracefully wait for the car in front of them to realize the light we're all stopped at is green. Not a single honk. I've also had people I've never met offer to let me check-out first in the grocery store.

4. Little to No Fashion Pressure

If you need to make a quick trip to the store and you've just gotten out of bed. Chances are you won't have to contend with judgemental looks from strangers at your bed-head. I've seen people visiting from other states mock rural residents for their appearance. I've worked retail and I know the range of smells and appearances that can frequent a store. But you know what? I'd much rather have the freedom to keep up with latest trends... or not... and feel equally "acceptable" in public. Especially since I still own clothes from the 90's.

5. Family and Friends

I met my wife in this state. My wonderful in-laws live in this state. I have made great, lasting friendships in this state. Tennessee isn't a monolithic entity that we must choose to either love or hate. It is filled with many different kinds of people from all walks of life and I've spent a significant portion of my life here now. And you know what? I really like it.

 

 

Permalink: http://danieljonce.com/blog/5-things-i-like-about-east-tennessee

Squarespace 7 and Getty Images

TL;DR

My advice is: Use Squarespace and avoid Getty Images.

First, a word about notable interests and biases:

1) Copyright is important. In 2010 two friends and I created Wylio, a service that helps people find and attribute Creative Commons images uploaded to Flickr. It's a part-time project built to help people respect copyright when using free images on blogs and websites. It's not a significant source of income.

2) Squarespace is where Rachel's blog and this blog are currently hosted. I have found Squarespace to be a great platform for many situations and have recommended it to friends and family alike, who now use it.

3) Jonathan Klein, co-founder and CEO of Getty Images, is also on the board of directors for Squarespace and has an impressive resume that includes work for many good causes. I don't know him personally, but from what I've read, he seems like a good person.

Inspiration for this post

Squarespace recently revealed Squarespace 7. Along with sweeping user interface innovations, one of the flagship features of Squarespace 7 is the Getty Images integration.

This feature allows you to purchase licenses for Getty images through Squarespace to use on your website for $10 / picture.

A question came up in the Squarespace answer forums about using free images from Getty. That thread, coupled with our Getty images story below is the inspiration for this post.

Getty Images, a stock photo company owned in part by the Carlyle Group as of 2012, made news earlier this year when they announced the ability for bloggers and website owners to freely embed images from their library. This feature is for non-commercial use and there's also some other restrictions to be aware of, but overall not a bad deal.

However the less flattering news Getty has been making for years now concerns their use of what they call "settlement demand letters."

Our Getty Images Story

In 2012 my wife Rachel and I found ourselves on the wrong end of one of these Getty Images demand letters for a blog post Rachel wrote three years earlier, in 2009 (pre-Wylio for those keeping track) about Henry David Thoreau.

Getty claimed they owned the rights for the image of Thoreau she used to illustrate her post and demanded that we pay $700 to avoid further escalation of the issue. They included screenshots of her blog with the letter.

Classy.

Rachel found a public domain image through a Google image search and it was the same image used on Wikipedia.

At first I thought the letter was part of a phishing scheme and not from Getty at all. I was wrong. After ignoring the first letter we soon received another. Each letter included easy instructions telling us how to pay the "settlement fee" online. There were also instructions for how we could contact Getty Images about this matter if we felt that we were not at fault.

This prompted me to spend a few hours online trying to understand exactly what was going on.

After a stressful week or so with the choice of either dealing with an "escalation" from Getty or paying Getty $700 for an image that was in the public domain, I decided to follow the instructions in the demand letter to contact Getty.

I decided to do it by email, took the time to research the image in question, provide Getty with the facts about the image's origin and explained that we had done nothing wrong. Sent.

I soon received a reply from Getty. They considered the matter closed. Whew! That was an awful experience, what a relief.

But there's a big problem with this entire scenario. Getty sent us this letter without adequate due diligence. If I was able to figure out that this image was in fact not something Getty had rights to, shouldn't they have done that before sending the letter?

This is where the real issue comes into play. It appears to be a numbers game for Getty.

They send mass amounts of demand letters, some may be for actual copyright infringement of intellectual property they own rights to, others may not. This pushes the burden of proof onto the people who received the letters, prompting them to either do the leg work of proving their own innocence or pay a fee to avoid escalating the situation.

Either way it's a win-win for Getty's bottom line and a lose-lose for the recipient of the letter. Chances are that most people will either provide adequate proof they did nothing wrong or at some point they'll pay the fee to prevent further escalation, and the continuing demand letters.

In the first situation, the recipient of the letter has done Getty's due diligence for them, essentially working for free. In the second situation the recipient is a source of revenue.

If I remember it correctly, Getty reminds you in the demand letter that escalation may cause additional legal fees to be added on top of what they're already asking for.

These practices are scarcely distinguishable from extortion. It's wrong.

I'm not the only one who thinks something is amiss. According to the International Business Times, Getty recently sent one of their settlement demand letters to the Schneider Rothman IP Law Group and the Florida based law firm is now suing Getty over the matter.

So where does this leave you with Squarespace and Getty Images?

Squarespace and Getty Images

Again I say beware.

First, know that there are some very real restrictions. According to the Squarespace terms regarding Getty images:

"Licensed Material may only be used in End User Works created via the Licensee Website, for display solely in digital form."

In other words you can only use Getty Images photos you buy through Squarespace on works created through Squarespace.

So what exactly happens if you ever decide to move your website away from Squarespace? I don't know. Maybe nothing. Or maybe in a year or two an old post you wrote will get flagged as as containing an infringing photo and you'll get a demand letter. If you do, perhaps you could argue a that post was created while you were on Squarespace. The problem is, you'll be the one who has to prove it.

According to the Squarespace 7 FAQ,  regarding the licensing:

Images purchased through Squarespace are licensed for use on your site at a web-friendly resolution. To obtain further licensing rights for an image, use the link in the interface to obtain those rights from Getty Images.

It sounds like any licensing outside of the $10 / image agreement between Getty and Squarespace is handled by Getty Images. If that's true, it'd be good to brush up on your understanding of Getty's licensing terms

Conclusion

So, should you use Getty images on your Squarespace site? That's up to you. I'm not planning to.

That said, if you decide to use images from Getty, I'd recommend that you remove all of them from your site if you ever migrate away from Squarespace.

Powerful Procrastination

Intro

I really should be working on that screenplay I told myself I'd finish by August 1st. But instead I'm writing this blog post. 

Before we go any further, there's 4 things you should know about me: 

I'm... 

  1. Interested in lots of things especially: tech, music, film, real-estate
  2. Energized by learning new things
  3. Not often bored
  4. Project oriented
  5. Not great at math

So keep that in mind as you read.

Overview

I procrastinate. I'm excellent at it. In fact, I'm so good at finding ways not do things, I'd say procrastination is one of my highly developed skills (along with walking and talking).

Yet somehow I still get things done.

This seemingly irreconcilable paradox is possible due to some brain trickery I've discovered. Simply put: I've decided not to let my highly developed procrastination skills go to waste.

For instance, since I'm project oriented, I'll use projects to procrastinate on other projects.

To give you a sense for what I mean by "project" here's an overview of what's on my mind right now:

  • Remodel of investment property
  • Updates for Rachel's Web site 
  • Complete re-write of Wylio
  • Writing a feature length screenplay
  • Learning Meteor.js
  • Contemplating a half dozen or so concepts for Web startups
  • Working on those songs I plan to make into an album someday
  • Design things for my Cafe Press site labelmegeek.com
  • Write on this Blog

Some of these projects are forefront in my mind, others have been moved to the back burner. I also have things like bookkeeping, daily exercise, eating, and typical around-the-house maintenance that occupy my time.

Conclusion

I've found that I can stay relatively productive by tricking the "procrastination" part of my brain (I think it's that big part that complains when I have to mow the lawn) into thinking it's procrastinating by working on one of my other projects instead of the project I "should" be working on.

This is what it looks like...

 

Regular Procrastination Brain

Challenge:

"Hey, you really should be working on that screenplay." 

Response:

"Oh, I better check to see what cool new cameras were released in the last four hours"

Powerful Procrastination Brain

Challenge: 

"Hey, you really should be working on that screenplay." 

Response: 

"Time to check on my blog, when was the last time I wrote one? Maybe I'll just start that real quick first."

 

There's probably a technical well-known-in-behavioral-science term like "productive task transference" for what i've just described. If so, I don't know it. That would require... research. If you'll note "researching behavioral science terms" is not on my project list. But now that I think about it, it does sound interesting... 

Anyway, I decided to call this little productivity technique Powerful Procrastination. "Decided" means: 15 minutes ago I thought to myself "I guess I'll title my blog post powerful procrastination."

While it's not ideal, I've found powerful procrastination is more productive than just surfing the Web or watching the third season of Walking Dead that recently appeared on Netflix (Besides... I already did that).

So that's it. Since I don't have much more to say on the subject... the end. 

Oh, you know what'd be cool? I should end this with a little square, or a fancy symbol you see in magazines that shows you you're at the end of an article.  I better surf the web to find the alt code for one.

So do you procrastinate? Do you have any tricks for working through your procrastination?   

 

Setting up Meteor.js on Nitrous.IO

Nitrous.IO (referral link - non-referral link) is a in-browser development environment built atop Amazon's AWS.

It gives you a linux shell in the browser, as well as a text editor and collaboration features.

I wanted to learn more about the service, so I decided to create an account and set up Meteor.js. Since i'm not a linux guru, it took me a bit of time. I'm writing this post for two reasons. One: to document what I did in case I want to reference it in the future, and two: the off chance my experience with the process can help someone else.

Note: I used MongoHQ as my database service.

Part 1

Getting the various SaaS accounts and database in order. Each of the below services make it easy to create accounts, so I won't go into detail.

1) Create Nitrous.IO account

2) Provision a Node.js box in Nitrous.IO

3) Create an account and database in MongoHQ (make note of the host, port, database username, database password after the DB is created)

Part 2

Install Meteor.js (as explained in Meteor's Quick Start guide)

In the Nitrous.IO browser console run the command:
curl https://install.meteor.com | /bin/sh 

After installation, Meteor will attempt "Writing a launcher script to /usr/local/bin/meteor for your convenience." but can't do it since you don't have sudo access in Nitrous.IO

No worries. Click "Show Hidden" to reveal the hidden files in your Nitrous box. One of these hidden files is your .bash_profile.

Now you can add these lines of code to your .bash_profile:

#add meteor to PATH
PATH=$PATH:~/.meteor
export PATH

Part 3

Configure environmental variables and connect Node.js to your MongoHQ database

After creating a database in MongoHQ, you'll get the info you need to fill in the below environmental variables.

Put this in your .bash_profile so it'll become part of your environment on startup. 

#DB info
export MONGOHQ_DEV_HOST=your.mongohq.host
export MONGOHQ_DEV_PORT=your-host-port
export MONGOHQ_DEV_DB=your-database-name
export MONGOHQ_DEV_USERNAME=your-database-username
export MONGOHQ_DEV_PASSWORD=your-database-password
export MONGOHQ_DEV_URI=mongodb://$MONGOHQ_DEV_USERNAME:$MONGOHQ_DEV_PASSWORD@$MONGOHQ_DEV_HOST:$MONGOHQ_DEV_PORT/$MONGOHQ_DEV_DB

After you have your environmental variables set up, you can tell Node.js what DB to use with MONGO_URL

Example: 

export MONGO_URL=mongodb://$MONGOHQ_DEV_USERNAME:$MONGOHQ_DEV_PASSWORD@$MONGOHQ_DEV_HOST:$MONGOHQ_DEV_PORT/$MONGOHQ_DEV_DB

Download an example bash_profile in plain text

To add these changes to the environment immediately (instead of restarting) run: 
source ~/.bash_profile

For more details also see the Nitrous.IO help page

Permalink: http://danieljonce.com/blog/meteor-on-nitrous-mongohq

Vulnerability - Brene Brown

It's a lot easier to just share these two video clips than it is to actually be vulnerable. Since I'm insecure about my own vulnerability, I'll just do that instead of revealing something about myself.

Permalink: http://danieljonce.com/blog/vulnerability-brene-brown

Pictures - May 9th, 2013

These are pictures I took around the yard and house this afternoon; just practicing my photography skillz.

Permalink: http://danieljonce.com/blog/2013-spring-pictures

Quadcopter, Trillion FPS camera, Screenplay Site

I recently bumped into some neat stuff on the interwebs. I say, stop thinking about tax day and start watching something awesome. (What? You weren't? My bad.)

1) The Phantom, $700, ready to fly, quadcopter from DJI Innovations for shooting video with GoPro cameras. Don't forget some sort of third party vibration mount to alleviate the "jello" effect. Also consider balancing the props, and perhaps some FPV goggles to round it out.

Oh, and it's got a big brother, the Spreading Wings S800 equipped with a Z15 gimbal that shot this incredible footage ($7k price point with camera gimbal, no transmitter, no battery packs)

2) A trillion frames per second (not an overstatement) high speed (slow motion) camera that can analyze photon trajectories. Kinda brings the whole "high speed" definition to a new level. They use many controlled light pulses and scan one plane at a time in order to achieve it. To give an idea of the magnitude of this, the speaker, Ramesh Raskar, uses the example of watching a bullet fired from a gun at this framerate. He says watching that footage at this framerate would take a year.

3) Wordplayer.com Want to write a screenplay Hollywood would buy? Well, I just found this site you may like. (Or perhaps I re-found it. The site design looks really familiar to me). Terry Rossio says he'll show you how. Even if that's not what you're going for, it seems to be a great resource for those of us interested in writing screenplays. A couple friends and I are all working on screenplays right now, which is why it's especially interesting to me.

Speaking of High Speed photography, it may not be speed-of-light, but The Slow Mo Guys use a $100k Phantom v1610 to show some beautiful, bubble bursting shots.

Permalink: http://danieljonce.com/blog/quadcopters-trillion-fps-camera-screenplays

Understanding Exposure - Mini Review

For Christmas 2012 I received  "Understanding Exposure (3rd Edition)" by Bryan Peterson. I'm not a big reader, but this had lots of pictures, so I read the whole thing.

I've always enjoyed photography. Once when I was a youngster, I saved the UPCs from a few cereal boxes (Honey Nut Cheerios perhaps?) to get the advertised "free, 35mm camera!" Of course, I had to pay for shipping and it was hardly more than a plastic film holder with a pin-hole.​ Film not included.

Read More

Meteor: A Great Application Platform

I'm not really a programmer, but I play one on the internet.

As I delve deeper into learning Meteor (and in parallel, traversing a couple online JavaScript tutorials) I find that programming is something I understand a little bit better than I used to. I have few years experience with front-end technologies like HTML and CSS, but dealing with databases and "smart" stuff just hasn't been something that "clicked" with me. Since Meteor uses JavaScript all the way around (runs on Node.js server side) it's something that I'm picking up relatively quickly. But the ability to use JavaScript throughout isn't what's most impressive about Meteor. The most audacious is their mission:

Today, there's a chance to create this new way — to build a new platform for cloud applications that will become as ubiquitous as previous platforms such as Unix, HTTP, and the relational database.

(Did you read the whole thing? In the last paragraph, they use the word audacious too. It's warranted.)

In my humble opinion the Meteor team is well on their way to accomplishing their mission.

Meteor is built on the idea of "Smart Packages." It's not a complete replacement for the wonderfully useful frameworks out there such as jQuery, Handlebars, or Bootstrap. Instead, like my friend James says, "Meteor is kinda like the glue" that binds those useful resources together. It then intelligently handles data transfer between the user facing site and the servers. Once you get the hang of a few snippets of the magic Meteor brings to the table, you are free to use a framework you're already used to.  (Note: I said "data" transfer, not "entire rendered HTML transfer.") 

Based on nosing around their Google group and their documentation, it appears that part of the Meteor team's plan is to offer a full blown end-to-end development universe including a PaaS for cloud apps. I saw in at least one place the service was referred to as "Galaxy" (fitting, no?). That said, you're not locked in to using their service. But being able to simply type: "meteor deploy myapp.example.com" without needing to first configure any servers in order to test your latest idea live almost makes it not a choice. It's just so easy! (Let's see if I change my tune after they figure out and announce pricing).

Overall, I'm excited about Meteor and optimistic about them achieving their audacious goals. I really appreciate the direction the Meteor team is going and wish them well.

So, what do you think? Is Meteor a big deal? 

Reasons to Blog

In order to clarify for myself why I'm doing this, I thought I'd write down a few selfish reasons I've started this blog:

  1. I'd like to become a stronger writer and storyteller
  2. It's a hobby that can be done from just about anywhere
  3. It's nice to have a site to send people who want to learn more about me
  4. It's nice to have a log of what I've been thinking about
  5. I want to express and interact with interesting ideas

Is there anything you've started (or stopped) doing recently? Is there anything you want to start?

Reimagining the Publishing Industry's Project Development

Version control is important with any sufficiently complicate project. Once I started learning Git, I slowly realized how powerful it was. I had the "aha" moment for why repository hosts like GitHub and Bitbucket are so useful for software developers. The ability to clone, branch, fork, and otherwise work with complex projects is invaluable. Thanks Linus!

Not too long ago, I watched a TED talk where Clay Shirky discussed using version control for lawmaking and government. I really liked that concept. He talks about version control around 6 minutes into the video.

So I started thinking... what other areas could benefit from granular version control?

The most obvious one that came to mind (since I'm married to an author) was the publishing industry.

Imagine if publishers had a complete log of project changes, the ability to branch, rewind, fast-forward, and have departments, authors, agents submit pull requests for all project changes - everything from the initial proposal received from the author to all edits and variations of the manuscript. And why stop at just manuscript changes? Why not all changes associated with the project, across multiple departments including cover variations, type setting, and advertising creative. Sound too complicated? Consider the complexity of enormous projects like the Linux Kernel, spread across the world with thousands of contributors. It's kept manageable and efficient by version control.

If you work for a publishing company, you have a vested interest in "staying relevant." Your survival is at stake. Want a competitive edge? Want to stay nimble? In the age of social media, you'll need to continue to offer new authors more than industry connections. You'll need to be more efficient and more effective at project development than what authors could reasonably accomplish without you. I'd suggest that a great place to start would be to fundamentally shift how you view the importance of the littlest things; the incremental changes to each of your projects.

Why not incorporate the technologies that provide efficiency to some of the largest and most complex content publishing projects in existence: software applications? These are projects that can't afford a single typo without major consequences.

Imagine increasing the quality of communication between departments, agents, and authors while simultaneously speeding up the entire publishing chain, lowering the rate of errors and logging every important change ever made to any part of the project. That's the kind of shift in process we're talking about here.

If you're in publishing and want to learn more about the areas in software development I think could help your industry, here's a list of things to start considering:

So what do you think? Would version control be good for publishing?

4 Practical Steps for Building an Online Audience

[Trigger Warning: Web 2.0 Buzzword rage]

I'm convinced there's no magic to building an online audience. Success "on the internet," if you define success as gathering an audience or some measure of influence, relies on the same qualities that under-gird success in other interactive content driven contexts. Good people skills and valuable content are top of the heap. Those resources will help you build a reputation, which is what you need to "break through" or "be noticed."

Much has been written about the technical side of things. There are already plenty marketing buzzwords like SEO, social media, going viral etc. that quickly and vaguely translate very technical ideas into key-phrases suitable for use in boardrooms filled with non-technical executives. And while your "marketing strategies" may be good for getting more traffic, they should always be considered secondary to your content and personality which is fundamental to how you build your reputation and by extension your audience. In that vein, here are four steps I think are important to building an audience.

1) Don't be anonymous

When you're first starting out, the only people who will read what you write are your friends and family. They already know who you are, don't pretend to be someone you're not. Make sure to have your name somewhere easily accessible on your website. As your friends start sharing your content, your new audience has a name to put with it. This allows your growing audience to categorize you in their mind as "friend of a friend" instead of "that website" and they'll be able to more easily find and follow you on social media sites, twitter, Google+ etc. if they like what you have to say.

2) You're not smarter than your audience

Everyone thinks they're the smartest person in the room. I challenge you to be different. There's a good chance the people you're writing for are smarter than you. Don't fall into the trap of thinking you're writing for a giant mass of zombies that you need to trick into following you. Write what you think, write what you know, consider that everything you write will be read by someone who knows more than you do. Don't try to prove you're an expert, just offer what you have and let others decide if it's valuable to them. To some you'll be a guru, to others you won't.

3) Don't expect instant results

The internet speeds up information sharing, but this gives an illusion that everything is "instant" online. The reality is that, while a web presence can help you build an audience, it's not instant. Building a substantial audience can easily take years. Also, the "tricks" to building an audience are actually quite boring. Create valuable content, make sure it's accessible, repeat. If you try to take shortcuts, you'll end up just spinning your wheels and paying SEO Web 2.0 Acme Audience Builder Inc. a lot of money for traffic that does you no good.

4) Reputation grows an audience

Reputation is the ground on which you spread your seeds of traffic to grow an audience. Even if you got an extra 1,000 visits to your site today, unless you've built a strong library of content and useful resources, you'd be back to normal stats in a day or so. You need a reputation, which comes from a history of sharing little pieces of yourself in this public space we call the internet. It's not just about traffic. Earning a reputation takes time.

So, to summarize: There's no magic, be prepared to get little to no traffic for at least a year, long term audience growth depends more on your reputation and your content than your technical ability. If this depresses you, revisit why you want to build an online audience in the first place. Decide if it's worth it. If you decide it is, then what are you waiting for? Do it.

What would you add to this list?

3 Sites for Learning how to Code

If you're like me, you like learning new things. I tend to learn something, then once I understand 80% of it or so, I get bored and move on to the next thing. I'm not sure it's a good habit, but it's something I've tended to do all of my life.

Right now I'm on a bit of a "learn to program" kick and here are some resources I've found extremely helpful.

Codecademy

I completed the Javascript track on Codecademy. The ability to write and execute code alongside the tutorial made hands-on learning nearly effortless (except for the learning part). They also have tracks for Python, Ruby, and you can learn markup and styling in their HTML and CSS tracks.

W3 Schools

Not only a great reference resource, W3 Schools has quizzes and tutorials. More than once I've gone to the site just to quickly check a snippet of HTML in their "Try it Yourself" editor.

Web Designer Wall

Nick La, of Web Designer Wall has his finger on the pulse of web design, and has some great resources, especially for learning about responsive design and design trends. I've found his articles such as Responsive Column Layouts enlightening and very well constructed. He doesn't post often, and when he does, it's worth the read.

***

There are tons of programming resources out there. Code.org has recently emerged, which has aggregated a few of the more notable ones and is home to this inspiring video:

Three Incredible Apps I take for Granted

This list is not exhaustive. I take just about all tech for granted about 3 months after it's released. I could list all of Google's apps/services here. Also, though two of the three listed here aren't just for iOS, but I'm mostly thinking about using the apps on an iPad as I write this.  What makes these apps incredible is not just their user friendly UI, but the service behind them. A well designed interface plus a well designed service equals an instant take-for-granted app.

1) Songza

Songza is what Pandora hopes to be someday. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed Pandora in its day, but it'll need a ground-up re-code, and whatever the corporate equivalent of soul searching is, before it'll compete with the usefulness of Songza. In addition to the context/daypart music concierge, one of the best parts of Songza is that little "HQ" button next to the volume control. Touching this is the 21st century version of sliding the "bass boost" switch on my late '90s CD player. It uses tech from Audyssey to re-shape the audio for specific headphone brand/model, presumably to make the audio sound more like the original producer's intent, compensating for specific headphones' idiosyncrasies.

2) Garageband

Garageband is just for iOS. This is the app that sold me on the iPad. In fact, if all the iPad  could do was Garageband, it would be worth the purchase price. If you have any interest in music creation and any musical ability at all, this app will both impress and depress you. I got a decent feel for the interface, the smart instruments, the multi-track recorder and the midi editor in about a half hour. It's amazingly easy to create songs and get ideas down. After using Garageband, you may ask yourself "why did I spend all that time learning an instrument and honing my music skilz?" Don't worry, it built character. Also, there are plenty of instruments not yet available in Garageband for iOS... like the accordion.

3) Nest

Last year, we had to replace our HVAC. I decided, that along with our new heat and air, I'd spend the $260 for the Nest thermostat. I haven't regretted it. The intelligent "learning your schedule" feature isn't as important to me as the simplicity of using the thermostat while simultaneously having all the bells and whistles, like remote accessibility. Is it bad that I somehow feel MORE comfortable when a new device in my house has the ability to connect to the internet and download updates? I'm also a fan of the monthly energy use reports it emails me and the little leaves I get, when I'm saving energy. At least, that's what it's telling me. Couple that with the ability to tell it I'm "away" or "home" from anywhere I have an internet connection and have it adjust the temperature in my house accordingly and it's the instant winner of the "I now take you for granted" app award.