Today’s blog is presented as a page on Codeacademy

24 Sep

Today’s blog is presented as a page on Codeacademy

Practice makes perfect, right?

And speaking of Codeacademy, when will someone make their badges all open and portable via Mozilla Backpack? I can’t believe there’s a way to put your Foursquare badges in your backpack, but not your Codeacademy badges.


Challenge #6: I’m live!

20 Sep

Thanks to some help from Mr. Runeman and other classmates over at P2PU, is up and running. I’ve even written a little css code to make it look more interesting.

I’m faced with a strangely strong kind of writer’s block though. I want to learn more about how to make it look nice, but I have no idea what sort of content to fill it with. Which is extra silly, since I create web content of one form or another almost daily on social networks. I guess this is the problem with keeping my blog at WordPress. I’m also facing up to a certain about of design elitism — I’m used to using the looks of  a website as a little heuristic for the veracity and quality of the content. This leads to me feeling like a simple website such as mine is only fit for conspiracy theories and maybe a homemade candle business.

Ah well,  I’m sure I’ll get over this judgmental mindset soon enough. If nothing else, I’ve been meaning to learn how to make candles.

Challenge 5.5 & 6: My (Sub)Domain and Hosting

13 Sep

I’ve been stymied in my webcrafting lately. As I discussed in my last post, I registered my domain by upgrading a blog, which I found out means I don’t have FTP access to my domain. That meant I couldn’t in good faith, say I’d completed Challenge 6, since I WordPress had taken care of all that for me. After completing a challenge a day for almost a week, being stuck was frustrating. Learning about web publishing and HTML had been exciting, but I didn’t want to gamble this tidy and understandable blog on my sustained interest in building and maintaining my own website. I talked about this problem with my web-savvy friends, my disinterested friends and various houseplants, and eventually came up with this list of demands:

  • I wanted to keep as a blog, looking and acting as it always has
  • I wanted hosting I have FTP access to, so that there’s a piece of the web I where I can publish html and css files and whatnot
  • I wanted that sandbox of my very own webpage to connect to
  • I wanted to keep paying what I’m already paying and no more, i.e. not pay for hosting

At first these seemed like an irreconcilable collections of desires, but after many sleepless nights and fruitless Google searches, I came up with a solution.

Continue reading

Challenge #5: Your Domain

2 Sep

I had a leg up on today’s set of School of Webcraft challenges, since I’d already chosen and registered a domain name. I did so by upgrading my existing WordPress blog and blindly choosing one of their suggested webhosts. I started a blog as a portfolio, a way for potential professional connections to see a little more about me. As such, it made sense to just register my full name. As the description for Challenge 5.b says “this approach may not be the most exciting method, but it is very versatile and to the point.”

At the time I didn’t really understand the difference between, say, upgrading my blog to a custom domain and registering a domain directly through GoDaddy or the like. If pressed, I might have likened my choice to renting a room that’s already been decorated: someone’s already figured out how to make it nice, and for a small fee I can call it my own. I thought registering through GoDaddy would give me an empty warehouse space, and I’d have to learn how to build walls, and plumb it, and paint and whatnot before I could get on to the important business of inviting people over– i.e. using my website to market myself as a young professional.

I still don’t understand all the implications of using a WordPress upgrade as a means of planting my flag in a chunk of cyberspace. I think I’ve found a small clue in the WordPress Domain Upgrade “Important Notes” section: I don’t have FTP access to your files. Could that be part of the mystery? Can I finish the next set of challenges with only a custom-domain blog, or will I have to do something more complicated? Do I “have a domain name that can be used to further explore DNS?” I’ll answer those questions soon, I’m sure.

For now, all I have to do is understand DNS.

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Challenge #4: HTML Hunting in the World Around You

1 Sep

For my fourth School of Webcraft challenge, I looked for HTML-like things in a walk around the block. I came up with the idea for this video quickly, because I felt it conveyed what my thought patterns were like post-HTML-lesson, suddenly seeing things in terms of tags. My bi-weekly dessert quest, transformed!

It’s been a while since I’ve worked with video editing software at all, so I probably spent more time fiddling with that than I did learning the basic HTML tags. This is also the first thing I’ve shot in stop motion, which was easier to do than I expected, but also harder to do well, particularly on a public street where you don’t want to be the creep with a camera. Where’s my Google Glass already?

Under the cut are my explanations for my choice of tags/object pairs and some credits from the video.

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Challenge #3: Choose Your Weapon

29 Aug

For the third School of Webcraft challenge I was tasked with choosing a text editor. After a brief consultation with the remarkable tables in the Wikipedia article on the subject, I downloaded both Notepad++ and ConTEXT. After typing out a couple little html documents — from memory, thanks repetitive writing exercise! —  I ran both in Chrome.

hello world

I may have been a little preoccupied by cupcakes.

Below are the highlights of my observations about text editors. Keep in mind these are all provisional observations. If you’re more experienced with these programs, you might want to interject “well, that can all be changed in settings!” or “of course it does that, why wouldn’t it!” but I’m bringing the gift of ignorance here. I want to see how intuitive the programs are, how quickly I can figure out how to do stuff without looking it up.

  • ConTEXT highlights errors more intuitively
    • To my mind red = error, which seems true in ConTEXT
    • Notepad++ put “charset” in red, which I thought meant I’d done something wrong when i hadn’t
  • ConTEXT scrolled through my Items when I pressed backspace once
    • Going with the Harry Potter wand analogy, this is like sparks shooting out of my wand when I was trying to levitate a feather. I may someday want sparks, but having them happen unexpectedly is startling, and I don’t want to be startled
  • Notepad++ looks cleaner
  • Notepad++ made it clearer how to run my code in a browser
  • Notepad++ highlights tag pairs
  • Notepad++ lets you collapse text
    • This is a main advantage of Notepad++ according to Wikipedia. I can’t yet imagine personally having such a big chunk of code that I need to hide parts of it, but it does seem useful generally.

On the whole, i decided to stick with Notepad++, at least for now.

After reading through other students’ comments, I realized I wanted the option of a Live Preview. It’s been exciting to move beyond the What You See Is What You Get* kind of website creation that, say, WordPress usually provides me, but it was tedious to resave and reload my html document each time I wanted to see how I was changing things.  After a bit of quick searching, I found this Preview HTML plug-in that provides exactly that for Notepad++. It seems to work quite well.

All told, not bad for someone who started out thinking that “text editor” was synonymous with “word processor.” I rewarded myself with a delightful cupcake from Pushkin’s bakery. Mmm, learning is tasty.

Although it was vegan and gluten-free

Don’t worry, I did get my cupcake.

* All-knowing Wikipedia says the acronym WYSIWYG is pronounced whizzy-e-wig. Really?

Challenge #2: Writing HTML by Hand

28 Aug

HTML by hand

Per the second challenge in the P2PU School of Webcraft Webmaking 101 course, I spent about 15 minutes today copying some basic HTML by rote. I haven’t used repetitive writing as a mnemonic in a long time, and I was surprised at how effective it was. I’ve also been thinking about the efficacy of writing (although not necessarily writing any more) thanks to this blog post titled “How to Stop Reading and Start *Doing*” over at Barking Up The Wrong Tree. Spoiler alert: the answer is write more.

Astute observers may notice I went a little above and beyond in my HTML by Hand assignment. I printed the text to copy on my way out the door last night, so that I could do my writing without the temptation of the internet. I failed to notice that what was printed wasn’t exactly what was on the screen. Apparently Chrome (or perhaps the P2PU website?) takes the liberty of adding the destination of a hyperlinked piece of anchor text in parenthesis after the anchor text.* I can totally see this being a feature rather than a bug in most cases, since you lose a lot of information when you print a document that includes a lot of hyperlinks. On the other hand, I ended up copying out the addresses of link the lesson includes to give learners more information about certain web elements.

Having done a little HTML work before, this seemed fishy to me, since the links weren’t surrounded by the usual

<a hef> </a>

but I thought there might be some pedagogical end to justify the means, and so diligently copied all the very similar URLs over and over. I suppose the exercise and later realization did make me think about the loss of information that happens when moving from the web to hard copy. I think In my perfect world, hyperlinks would be added as footnotes or endnotes when a webpage was printed, but including them as parentheticals works pretty well too.

One last thought: i really enjoy the way indentation works to make code legible, and I wish I’d taken the time to use different colors for each tag.

*I’m still new to this terminology, please feel free to offer corrections or clarifying edits.

Becoming a crazy technology lady

27 Aug


I was recently nominated by a coworker to become our office’s crazy technology lady. It turns out there’s only so many times you can try to explain steampunk or your desk dalek, or nod understandingly when another office’s crazy technology guy mentions breadcrumbs, or expect other people to have seen “that one TED talk about gamification.” Eventually you’ve just painted yourself into a crazy corner. Luckily once you’re there, you get to wear cool glasses frames and everyone takes your word for it when you try to explain the ethos behind open source software.

I don’t feel like I deserve to join the ranks of crazy technology people. Sure, I read Boing Boing over my lunch break, but the last time I spent any time working with HTML was probably to make my Myspace profile even more of a crime against design. Despite my enthusiastic start, I haven’t gotten very far on CodeAcademy. The only reason I know anything about the Moodle platform I may be using at work is long dinner conversations with Karla, a close friend, teacher and early adopter.

But I do want to become a crazy technology lady. To me it’s simple: I value being a good citizen in meatspace, so I should value being a good citizen in the Metaverse. To me, that means learning as much as you can about what’s out there, contributing to it, and sharing the results.


This is my Cadette Girl Scout vest. Trust me, the Junior one was more impressive.

To that end, I want to learn more about how to better create meaningful web content. I discovered the Webmaking 101 course in the process of learning more about badges, with the goal of becoming a badge issuer for a program I staff called the Boards and Commissions Leadership Institute. I really enjoy earning badges of any kind: stars on a chore chart, badges on my Girl Scout vest, lesson badges on Duolingo. So of course I got sidetracked from badges in theory by figuring out how to earn a new kind of badge in practice, and here I am, writing a blog post to complete the first challenge. I’ve got my Badge Backpack on, and I’m ready for the next adventure.

Guest Post: Making Invisible Jobs Visible at the St. Paul Public Works open house

22 May
Editor’s note: When I heard that Saint Paul Public Works was having an opening house, I really wanted to go. Unfortunately, I was still in California at the time. Instead, I convinced my mom, Beth Beaty, to go and report back. She generously agreed to write about it for this blog, giving a nice citizen’s perspective on Public Works as a whole.

Beth Beaty lives, writes, and shovels snow in Saint Paul, MN. She also blogs at

“Really, Saint Paul? Define fun.”

That was my reaction when the City of Saint Paul’s Public Works Department invited me to “come join the fun!” at their open house via my Twitter feed. In fact, that question is exactly what I asked my daughter Veronica and my boyfriend Aaron when I sent them a copy of the tweet with my snarky commentary. Fun for all ages? How absurd. It was bound to be lame, right? Ooo, look at me . . . I’m such a loser I’m going to the Public Works Equipment Repair Garage for a good time.

Doesn't that sign just scream "fun"?

Doesn’t that sign just scream “fun”?

However, Veronica (a former Public Works employee) and Aaron (a current City Administrator) thought it sounded great. Some quirk of the fates gave me two policy geeks to love and cherish. I am not a policy geek. I have resigned myself to spend every major holiday meal for the rest of my life asking “What exactly is it you do again?” The only reason I follow the Saint Paul Public Works department is to get Snow Emergency updates.

(Note to non-Minnesotans: A snow emergency is not when you realize there is not enough snow to make the yard look nice for company, so you call the City to deliver some. A snow emergency is when those of us without off-street parking sit around in our pajamas waiting to find out if we need to pull on boots and coats, don mittens and scarves and make our way through snow up to our knees, shovel out our cars so we can move it to the other side of the street before the plows come through and then go to bed and catch some sleep before we need to wake up and to it again before leaving for work.)

So at their urging, and in the hopes I would learn more about their policy geek world, I set off to the open house. Besides, it was on my way home from work.

What wonders did Public Works unfold? Read on to find out!


Marriage equality in Minnesota

13 May

I’m so excited for my home state today. The Minnesota Senate passed a bill that will legalize same-sex marriage. I wish I could be there to celebrate with my family and friends.

I have to say, it was this picture below that made me the most proud and nostalgic. It isn’t often my neighborhood, tangible symbols of LGBTQ pride and city workers are all in the same photo.

City workers placing rainbow flags along St. Paul's Wabasha bridge

St. Paul dresses in gay pride colors | The Cities | Minnesota Public Radio News.

So thank you, Minnesota, for doing this. And for defeating the amendment back in November, when I was chewing my nails to the quick worrying I should have kept voting in Minnesota. We’re number 12!

For a great piece about how progress like this happens, I recommend the piece Marriage Equality and the Myth of Inevitability at Opine Season.