Photo: MSU Writing Center crew from way back

MSU Writing Center crew from 1996
MSU Writing Center crew from 1996

Chey showed me this picture a day or so ago. I think Jill Pennington (shown in the photo, middle row, second from the right) lent it to her. It was weird to see—it is from a completely different time of life. A good time, but very, very far removed from now. It even pre-dates Chey.

I’d try to name all the people, but I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember all the names. Some I see are Mark Hara, Brad Kik, David Mosher, Sharon Thomas, Jill Johnson (now Pennington), Julie Bevins, Aimee Brazil, Laura Julier…and many others who I remember, but whose names escape me. It has been so long.

So, anyone from the MSU Writing Center who remember the names?

Incidentally, this photo was taken in a small enclosed garden inside of Bessey Hall on MSU’s campus. I’m guessing that it was taken in Spring of 1996. Give or take a year.


Teaching DW MX 2004 L2

Today I taught Dreamweaver MX 2004-Level 2.

It was the second time I’ve done the course, and I don’t feel like it went as well as the first time I did it. The feedback from the students was fine. No major complaints, though I had a suggestion to go through some of the examples more slowly.

There were a couple people in the course that are taking over or need to manage fairly substantial web sites. It makes me realize that these people are walking out of these courses facing really severe demands, and there is only so much we can communicate in a 7 hour course. But there is so much that should be said, beyond the scope of the class.

Good luck to them, I guess. Hopefully they left the course today having learned something that will pay off for them with their projects.

User experience, web, technology

Dreamweaver MX 2004: Less than great for dynamic web applications

So, I’m supposed to teach a course in Dreamweaver Dynamic Web Applications and one in Dreamweaver/PHP Web Development. In preparation, I’m working on a little project that should help with some internal LCTTP record keeping as well as give me practice using DW to build web apps.

Here’s the trouble: Web applications generally require some custom coding, and with a properly designed database, the SQL queries can prove challenging for DW to handle.

Dreamweaver works by setting up a database connection file, and then you can create what DW calls Recordsets that are based on the database connection. Each Recordset includes the query itself and the code used to retrieve the information. The Recordset then becomes a data resource that can be used to bind specific values to specific elements on a web page.

The trouble is, when you go in to the code to tweak the recordset, DW loses the Recordset. It just disappears from DW’s panel of Application Bindings. This is frustrating.

For a specific example, I was putting together a basic user login screen. I set up the Recordset fine, but I needed to apply an md5 function to a password value that was used in the query. Adding that one line of code to the Recordset causes DW to lose the recordset–which means I then cannot use it for any other data bindings.

My challenge is this: How do I decide to teach this course? Do I discourage people from using DW’s recordsets? That would negate a lot of potential value of using Dreamweaver. Certainly not all value, but it makes much of the GUI pointless. In what other ways is DW a helpful tool for creating dynamic sites? Of course, that is an easily answerable question, but I just need to get my thoughts in order.


Web Site Visibility class

Today I taught a course in Web Site Visibility. It was fun. It is really the first course I’ve been able to teach that I was actually able to draw heavily on my experience with the web.

It was a small course, and I realized after talking with the participants that the name of the course is misleading. Some people seemed to think the course was more concerned with web site accessibility (how to make web sites work for people with disabilities). Others thought it would have more details on visual design (the visibility part of the title).

The course was concerned with ways of getting your prospective site visitors to turn into actual site visitors. So, it covered topics like invisible sites (the dark web), how search spiders work, design and content considerations, site promotion, differences between search engines and directories, and some techniques on assessing how well you are doing with managing your site’s visibility.

So, what’s a better name for the course?

  • Web Site Promotion
  • Web Site Marketing
  • Advertising Your Web Site
  • Introduction to Search Engine Optimization
  • Making Easy-to-Find Web Sites

Other ideas?


Commuting! Oh ye bane of my time! Oh ye cursed destroyer of my schedule!

So, I’ve found that I’m gone during the workday for eleven and a half hours, when I take the bus back and forth. I leave at 6:25 AM and get back home at 6:00 PM. When taking the bus, the total commute time for the day is about two and a half hours. When I drive, it is about an hour.

All of a sudden, I really appreciate having had a home office. If I figure one hour and forty five minutes average commute time per day (some days taking the bus, some days driving), then that makes eight hours and forty five minutes per week of commuting. If I multipy that by 50 weeks of working a year, that is 437 hours and 30 minutes a year. So, over the last three years of working at home, I’ve saved 1,300 hours by not having to commute.

That’s a lot of time. And gas.

So. I have a job for which I need to commute, and so am faced with the prospect of spending lots and lots of time between here and there over the coming years.

Telecommuting would be an option, except that my job is to train people in person. So, for the most part, telecommuting is not an option.

Another option is to get a car that I could use for commuting. That would cut out the more time-consuming option of taking the bus.

Another option is moving closer to work, so that I can walk or so that the commute is considerably shorter (fifteen minutes would be nice). Walking has a benefit that commuting in a bus or car just doesn’t have, for me anyway. At least with walking I get some exercise, and it isn’t as costly as driving.



What a change

I’m at the end of my first week at this new job. Other than basic logistics (parking, orientation, setting up voicemail, etc.), my time has been spent mostly in classes and preparing to teach classes.

So far, I’ve sat in on Access Database Design, Fundamentals of Web Development, and I’m in the middle of a full day class on PowerPoint 2003. I have two goals: First, to learn from the teaching style of the instructors, and, second, to get a sense of what these courses cover, as I’ll probably be teaching them eventually.

Speaking of teaching, I have my first class on Monday: Excel 2003 – Level 1. I’ve spent about a day and a half looking over the material and visualizing how the class will go.

One really big difference is that my day is much more consistent. My job, as I understand it, is to teach technology courses. So, managing a business, working with clients, prospecting for new work, and actually managing projects and doing the design, development, and consulting work are all no longer things I do.

I hope that after I get more class-time, I’ll feel comfortable shifting my focus away from prepping for classes and be able to focus some on developing new courses or refining existing ones. At least something to add some variety to the work. Who knows what else could be done? Well, my coworkers most likely – my concerns are so short-term right now I can barely see past the next couple weeks.


A job offer!

MSU LCTTP called today with an official job offer, which I gladly accepted. I’ll be a full-time instructor in a technology training program at Michigan State University.

I start next Monday, June 6th. I’ll have about a week to get situated and learn from the other instructors, then I teach my first course on the 13th. The course is Excel 2003, Level 1. I hope–and it sounds like the plan is–that I start teaching more web development-related courses soon.

I’m looking forward to this new role, and am thankful that God has made it happen and our family seems to be entering a time of more stability.


Oh, good news on the job search

I got some hopeful news from MSU LCTTP on Friday. I’ll know for sure probably in about a week, but it sounds likely they’ll make a solid job offer.


More job apps

Well, today I applied to three more companies:


Presentation plan and class handout

LCTTP handout for a short usability workshop. Click to view larger.
LCTTP handout for a short usability workshop. Click to view larger.

Here’s the quick plan I came up with last night for the presentation I gave today at LCTTP. It’s might come off as jumbled as I wrote it in the middle of the night, but I thought I’d post it for archival sake.
LCTTP interview lesson plan [PDF]

Likewise, here’s the handout that I used to provide the context of where we do user testing.
LCTTP interview handout [PDF]