Overview

This Website

May - September 2020

Background

A list was long overdue

"Assembling a list of works" is a thing I should have been doing since a long time. Not doing it made me feel guilty in a similar way as not "learning to write code", which deserves its own article and obviously meanwhile I do write code.

But why is it so important and so charged with guilty feelings?
When introducing to people, it is common to be asked 'So, what do you do?', and this is not only a convention but for many people it seems to be inevitable knowing, they can't live without. And since I was decreasingly able to answer it throughout the years, the question became more and more horrible as well in party-like situations as in professional ones. It seems like I can either live alone on a hill and grow roses or learn to answer the dreaded 'So, what do you do?'

But why is it so hard?

Most people are proud of their works and it is expected to identify with past works. For instance: authors are expected to take pride in their books and to promote books they wrote in the past. But this is not how it works for me. I do very different things and I very much enjoy starting new things, and that is not how most people live and there is a lack of role models for 'doing so many things' in our nowadays western culture.

It wasn't always like that, nobody complained about Leonardo DaVinci doing many different things, and so one term for this special human operating system is 'Renaissance person', other terms are Polymath, Scanner and Multipotentialite. So yes, there are terms and self-help-literature, which is better than nothing, but the existence of people who do many unconnected things is still not well enough established in our culture that mentioning one of the terms above would be a satisfying answer for most peoples ‘So, what do you do?’.

One way out of this would be having a party-answer, similarly to some people with complicated or foreign names having a ’Starbugs name’. But my life isn't a party-answer and I don’t want to encourage people to treat me, or anybody else, as such. Complexity is beautiful. I would like the people around me to acknowledge my complexity as they live along with me and benefit from the many things I know about practically or theoretically.

Another problem with settling for a party-answer is that I didn’t run into a party-answer that includes having a fast growth trajectory as a main point. I love exploring new territory and as soon as I've figured out a thing well enough I'll likely drop it and do a new shiny thing, and the 'drop it' is quite thorough, chances are that I'm so done with it that I'm annoyed with people still believing I'm the same person as when I was on the last project.

And what can be won!

Apart from displaying a portfolio of myself, this website is about representation. While being proud on the internet as a hardcore prototyper, I hope to find likeminded people, and I hope to encourage young hardcore prototypers to be proud of themselves too.

For me, publishing, for instance on Github or Youtube, is most of the time a way to get rid of a topic, it isn’t an application to be an expert in it and build a career. Hopefully, on this website, it will be clear that I’m not aiming for a career in any of the fields specifically, but I’m aiming for early stages of things.

The Way into the Website

I was postponing writing a list of works for years and obviously the longer I waited the more burdensome the task became. How could I make it lightweight?

Non-lightweight but rewarding approaches were found in Barbara Shers 'Refuse to Choose', who preaches showing off all the things in one way or another. I wrote 'Scanner Daybook' entries for a couple of projects and found it very rewarding, and I was looking for more public ways to show all the random but significant things I'm doing.

The next idea was making a youtube video every few months, and as I was collecting projects from the first quarter of 2020, I realized, that that won't work either, because it can't be made incrementally (on youtube it is impossible uploading a new version of a video under the same URL), and collecting a complete quarter of a year seemed a too high hurdle.

And then I published things on websites in spring 2020 and it became obvious to make the portfolio as a webpage. A webpage could be done incrementally, it is practical for multimedia, links, text search and accessibility, and it has enjoyable aspects to it too like learning CSS.

Design

I'm not a 2d visual person. When starting to work on this website, I was reading a web-design book and I didn't have the feeling to become more competent the more I read. But then it turned into my first website with an actual visual design incrementally, which was playful and enjoyable.

Since it was outdoors and without Covid-19 infection risk, I spent much time during stay-home-order on the roof top. And so it happened that I wrote the basic structure of this website with the sky as a background, and then the sky made it into the design.

Due to CSS learning, I was motivated to write a dark design as well, which was even further away from my intuitive experiences since I don't use dark mode. I'm still not entirely happy with it, especially with the polaroids on the front page. Anyway, yay for a first dark mode design.

Tech: mostly CSS learnings

Besides showcasing my works, this website is a learning project. For the first time I did somewhat structured accessibility audits and changed code for better screenreader-usability. For instance the form to choose aspects on the front page was a list at first, and wave told me that I needed a fieldset with a legend, and I happily complied.
It is the first website where I thoroughly worked with flexbox and I'm somewhat comfortable with it now.
It is also the first website where I thoroughly worked with progressive enhancement, which was a very good experience and it is a technique to stay in my repertoire.
Negative margin is sometimes seen as a dirty trick but on this website it is doing a great job for the sky gradient on the bottom of the dark mode version of the website. (The previous attempt to code the horizon into the background failed because it made the end of longer texts unreadable since background gradient can only be described in percentage and not in em or pixels.)

One thing that remained unsuccessful so far was making a font with my own handwriting for the polaroids. Apparently 'handwriting' fonts are an advanced subject and I'll try to learn making a font that looks like fluorescent tubes instead in order to learn font-making first, and use it for the dark mode.
Other plans for the future are: making a more sophisticated roofs-and-antenna-design for the footer and writing the filtering on the front page, which is done with jQuery now (because that is what I'm reasonably good at), in vanilla JavaScript, because jQuery is an unreasonably big ship for showing and hiding a few things, also it will give me a good reason to learn more JavaScript.

Learnings / Outcomes

Achieving an even remotely complete list of works will still be a lot of work but at least I have started. I started with the Bar Chart Video and the Cotton Mask entry, which were low hanging fruits, the Productivity text was already much harder to write, but more rewarding too. The further I go back in the past the more demanding remembering and finding back information about projects will become. I hope this will teach me to document things when they are still fresh. On the other hand I also noticed that the writing itself is enjoyable, and it being demanding, like for the productivity text, can be rewarding in itself.

A source of annoyance is creating open graph content. I want that my articles can be shared on social media, but oh my, is creating open graph content not my thing! At least I know now, I will never do that professionally.

More feedback / interaction could be nice, maybe I should share my stuff more on social media. But I'm not used to such self-promotion and it would also mean that I would have to take open graph content more seriously, oh no! :D

Although far away from perfect, I very much enjoyed working on the visual design. Polaroids don't really work in the dark mode, I'm planning on changing them to movie posters, let's see how that goes. I also very much like the 'roofs and antennas' footer, check both light and dark mode for full enjoyment.

Text last updated: September 21st 2020