I mentioned in a previous entry that I wander in bookstores to refocus my thoughts when I’m stuck or overwhelmed. To me, it seems like the obvious solution, but I’m learning that most people don’t use bookstores in that way. They actually go there to buy things, or something else equally useless. These people are missing out on an incredible tool. A bookstore is a room full of books. The more books, the better. Books are collections of writing that someone with money decided to publish. That usually (but certainly not always) means that there is some credible information in each book. These collections of credible information are organized on bookshelves with other collections of different credible information on similar subjects. It sounds like an ordinary thing, but the implications for a creative person are tremendous. All you need to do when you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed is walk into a bookstore and wander. Walk by all the shelves. Browse. Poke at different books. Eventually you’ll find yourself compelled to a certain area. Pull up a stool and camp out there for a bit. After flipping through a handful of books on this shelf, you’ll start to form the answers you’ve been looking for, even if you never formed the questions. If you simply open your mind to the possibility of discovery, the collective wisdom of a hundred thousand writers — living or dead — will pour into your awareness in subtle spurts, and you’ll leave with a place to go. Well, at least it works for me.
Eek! They’re everywhere! I was just updating a link on a site, and accidentally typed “http://” twice. Guess what happened when I clicked the link? It took me to Microsoft.com!!Try it:http://http://www.sarahdopp.comHow on earth did Microsoft win control of that typo? I know they’re out for world domination, but they could be a little bit more covert about it.
Nick asked some great questions in a comment to my last entry. Since I know more people are looking for these answers, I’ll post my response here. Sarah,I noticed that the Chinese site looks nice and clean like yours. Is that one CSS too?If I was getting ready to work on some old html site but wanted to move it up into xhtml or better, css, do I need to review the html first or just begin learning how to convert it?By the way, should I never list an email on a webpage? When is it safe?Nick Hi Nick,Actually, you’re the third person to ask me about learning XHTML this month. XHTML is definitely the way to go, but most tutorials on the web assume you already know HTML (because most of XHTML is HTML. It just has more rules). I wrote an XHTML tutorial for beginners over the summer, but haven’t put it on the web yet (thanks for reminding me that I should). I’ll email it to you if you’d like. Otherwise, yeah, you probably need to start with HTML.CSS resources, on the other hand, are plentiful. Have you been to CSS Zen Garden yet? It’s mostly a just-for-fun site, showing off how extremely versatile CSS can be. But you can also copy their techniques and incorporate them into your work.Most sites (like this one and newsinchinese.com) use a combo of CSS and XHTML or HTML. Some people use CSS for the layout of the site (like making columns), and some people just use it for the visual style (fonts, colors, etc). Either way, it needs to sit in an XHTML or HTML framework.If you’re writing the code from scratch, I’d recommend using XHTML for your layout because CSS layout can be quirky on some browsers. But if you’ve found a template that someone’s spent some time making stable with some intense CSS, go for it. Either way, you should definitely use CSS for your fonts and colors.So basically, you have to learn a bit of everything: HTML, XHTML, and CSS. But they build on each other, and it makes a lot more sense once you get rolling. Start with tutorials and you’ll build up an understanding quickly.Your other question: Should I never list an email on a webpage? When is it safe?Here’s the thing. If the webpage is indexed by Google, you can pretty much guarantee that at some point, that email address will get picked up by some robot email collector and put you on a spam list (or a hundred). A lot of people now obscure their email addresses by putting them in a different format, for example: sarah [at] sarahdopp [dot] com. But that’s a pain for readers to have to translate into a real email address, so it’s a catch-22. I’ve also seen people present their email addresses in graphics. They’re displayed correctly, but a reader can’t copy-paste them. If making it easy on people is your priority and you can suck up some spam, just list the email address. If you’d like to stay on the spam-free side of life and your audience is fairly tech-savvy, go with cryptic. But either way, you should offer an email address on your website. People need to email you!Good luck! And let me know how else I can help.Sarah
Whether you’ve studied Chinese or not, check out this site:http://www.newsinchinese.comMouse over any character and it gives you the immediate English translation as well as the pronunciation. You can basically read the whole thing in English if you let your eye follow your mouse. But what’s really neat is that it gives you an idea about how characters form words and words form sentences… which, to Westerners, starts off as a complete mystery.
I just took inventory, and it’s confirmed. I am a Web Community Junkie. What follows is a list of all the crazy community websites I’m a member of, as well as my gripes and raves about each.
- Livejournal (personal blogs) – Excellent security settings and filters for talking to a specific audience.
- Facebook (school-based communities) – Very good for finding people. Not useful for much else, though.
- Friendster (general networking and blogs) – Also, really just good for finding people.
- My Space (mini-websites) – Overloaded with ads and a very in-your-face design. But good for staying in touch with friends and pulling new people together. Many options.
- Tribe (discussions and classifieds) – Excellent if you live in a city. Not quite so useful if you don’t. I think they need a more thorough system of email notifications so you can subscribe to specific discussion threads… but otherwise they’re very cool.
- The Writ (writing workshop/publication) – Very cool for getting feedback on writing and for getting published. Needs forums and email notifications, but those are coming soon (I swear!).
- OK Cupid (quizzes and people-meeting) – Similar to My Space in flashiness, but the best free source for late-night mind-numbing personal tests around. Also pretty cool for connecting with people, but very singles-focused.
Are there any big ones that I’m missing here? I need to solidify my status as Web Community Junkie by joining (and analyzing) every one possible.
Actually, I can already tell you what crazy thing I’ve done since the breakup. I bought a Treo. Did I need a new phone? Yes. My old one dropped dead. Did I have a compelling reason to buy a PDA? Yes. I want to use Chinese Dictionary software for looking up characters, and I’ve been lacking a central system of organization. Will it be worth the extra $15/mo to have unlimited web access and be able to take and send pictures with this gadget? That’s to be determined. But I bet it will help me blog better and more often. I have 30 days to bring this bank-account-reduction back to the Sprint store. I can at least have some fun with it in the meantime.
How do you reemerge from a cocoon you had no intention of being sucked into? There are no apologies to be made. No excuses to drum up. Just a mild embarassment that you’ve allowed yourself to be immersed in life for a little while. So what happened? Why did I disappear from the web? Well, my boyfriend and I broke up. “Broke up” is a horrible term for this situation because it carries a trite junior high school connotation. But if I were to say, “the intense relationship that has carried me for two years and that I believed would last forever has fallen to pieces in the palm of my hand,” you’d call me dramatic. So let’s just leave it as a breakup. I’ve been inundated with heavy conversations for the past month, I haven’t slept more than a few hours for the past few days, and quite frankly I’m a little concerned about getting through the semester. So lets change the tone to something lighter. The Top Ten Things I’ve Done After a Breakup (in random order)
- Shaved my head.
- Changed schools.
- Went skydiving.
- Dyed my bangs fire engine red.
- Seduced a gay man.
- Went into therapy.
- Started a magazine.
- Changed jobs.
- Flew to China.
- Tried to drive to the Grand Canyon from NH to “get some air.”
Stay tuned for what will happen after this one. In the meantime, how about I get back to my old self and fill your RSS readers with useful web tips and crazy San Francisco anecdotes? Can you handle that?
After a small website-fix gig in downtown SF, I donned my free black T-shirt and showed up to the Craiglist Foundation Nonprofit Bootcamp for a volunteer shift. The place was hoppin’. So much energized networking in one place — I could have stuffed a mattress with all the business cards floating around!My assignment was to oversee a couple of sessions in one of the conference rooms. Basically, I stood at the doors, handed out surveys, did a head count, and the collected surveys at the end. Aside from being on my feet for seven hours in Birkenstocks, it was a lot of fun. It’s inspiring to see hundreds of nonprofit leaders in a room, sharing ideas and feeding off each others’ positive energy. The last session I oversaw featured none other than Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist.org. The visionary who started the stone rolling. The celebrity behind the site. Needless to say, the session was packed. The topic was interesting, too — how to build community online (and offline). It started the wheels turning in my head again about The Writ.Some Interesting Craig Lore…
- For an April Fool’s joke one year, the Craigslist team announced that Craig doesn’t exist. Many believed it.
- Craig’s official title is “Customer Service Representative.” He prefers to not be taken seriously.
- Despite the fact that he’s helped millions of people find jobs, housing, new office furniture, and sex partners, Craig is the shy, understated, computer-geek type. He doesn’t command the stage with the charisma you’d expect from a world-dominating force. But that’s probably for the best.
- While Craig was in the press room at the conference, one of his many doting assistants asked what they could do for him before he went on stage in 7 minutes. He said, “I’d like a lobster.” She got all flustered and started to go get one before he let on that he was joking.
- Craig is short. He’s been known to find shorter people to stand next to when being filmed or photographed.
All the more reason to love the man. Thanks for saving the human race from itself, Craig!
I’m hibernating for a week. I’ll be back soon.