2018 Books of the Year

  • Data Visualization with Python and Javascript: Scrape, Clean, Explore & Transform Your Data by Kyran Dale
  • Web Scraping with Python: Collecting More Data from the Modern Web 2nd Edition by Ryan E. Mitchell
    2nd edition bigger and even better than the first and the first one was really freaking awesome!
  • LPIC-1 Linux Professional Institute Certification Study Guide: Exam 101-400 and Exam 102-400 by Christine Bresnahan
    How I wish I’d read this book before many other Linux books!
  • Interactive Data Visualization for the Web: An Introduction to Designing with D3
    2nd Edition by Scott Murray
    The more good D3 resources I find, the more mixed my feelings are about this book but it is so packed with awesome stuff I feel morally obligated to keep it on the list.
  • Data Driven Documents: D3.JS Tips and Tricks v4.x by Malcolm Maclean
    Perhaps the best part about this book is he wrote it as he learned so he is sure to keep the learning-person/student in mind as he explains things and offers insights (such as potential mistakes and confusing concepts).
  • Building Progressive Web Apps: Bringing the Power of Native to the Browser by Tal Ater
    I grabbed it at the library because the library is free so there would be no consequences if my low expectations were met. I recommend this book by itself and as a pre-requisite to Archibald’s course below. 
  • Data Journalism Handbook 2 (just released!) from the European Journalism Centre and Google News Initiative

Not Books But Amazing Resources I Was Elbow Deep In Throughout the Year

  • Any video, course, or documentation by Jake Archibald including but not limited to:
  • Udacity — not only did I earn a Mobile Web Specialist nanodegree I actually learned a ton! I won’t link to it, however, because they have autoplay media on the page and I can’t condone or support that.
  • FreeCodeCamp — resumed my coursework there after finishing the above nanodegree and it is better than ever! In particular …
    • Their Data Visualization content rocks my world — I’m not taking anything away from Murray‘s book but FCC certainly explains the foundations much more clearly and concisely so I recommend going through it first even if you don’t move on the projects phase.
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Breaking Stuff Is Good

In preparation for integrating what I’ve learned in the Grow With Google Challenge Mobile Web course into my rockin’ app, I did some spring cleaning. Getting rid of all the files with duplicate-ish names like handle_albums2, handle_albums3, handle_albums4, handle_albums_test, and so on.

I broke the app.

I’m sure I was saving those for a reason but I was also sure I was being a hoarder.

In my attempts to fix it, I realized there was a much more efficient way to organize everything that would fix some ongoing issues. So now I’m doing that.

Progress is good because I am so dying to start the Data Visualization part of the app which is, ultimately, it’s whole purpose. I’ve been dying to put stats up using the data I’ve gathered so far but it would be with graphs made in Excel and … that’s cheating … I want to use D3 … so … no wasting time with stats and trivia that could be spent improving and nurturing the app.

Meanwhile, I am on my biggest David Bowie kick since the 80s. My top five artists change their order and slots a lot but the top five generally stays the same. David Bowie is always there but it’s been a long time since he was the #1 top rotation in my music collection. He wasn’t even #1 when he died. I was too busy crying and did not want to be one of those “I love David Bowie!” people jumping on the bandwagon just because he just died. Yeah, I’m that pretentious prick. I know. I’m sorry.

Finally listening to Blackstar. The videos were so creepy they scared the crap out of me and I couldn’t listen to the title track or Lazarus. And since I couldn’t listen to those, I just didn’t listen to the rest of the album.

The Next Day, however, is easily in my top three Bowie albums. It’s been #1 on my Bowie list since it came out.

So-Called Newbie Mistakes (We Often Never Stop Making)

I’ll be fleshing this out over time … for right now, it’s just a bulleted list … or maybe a little better …

Typos

You’re not stupid, you didn’t do anything wrong, you just forgot a semicolon, or a parenths or a curly-brace or it’s case sensitive or … a large part of “debugging” is proof-reading … before you waste hours or days … check your “spelling.”

Chasing Your Tail

You’ve exhausted every idea and solution. You’ve deleted everything and started from scratch multiple times. You always start with the same clean line of code you copied and pasted from … wait … what?

The Tutorial (or Documentation or Book or instructions) Is Wrong

It might not be you at all. This guy wrote a freaking book — it couldn’t possibly have mistakes in it! Right?

The worst part of being a newbie is you don’t know what you don’t know. You assume the resource that’s supposed to be teaching you is correct. There may be typos. The instructions may be wrong. The documentation may be out of date.

Some Ingredients Don’t Mix

The language you’re learning may have changed significantly. I started learning D3 using version 2 … maybe v3 … I picked it up again and changed my links — switching from local files to these fancy, new-fangled CDNs … and my code didn’t work at all anymore.

Most of the JavaScript you’ve learned is what we call ES5 then you find this great new tutorial teaching ES6 witchcraft … and they don’t mix. Your editor won’t even let you type it.

What are YOU doing wrong? Nothing. You just aren’t aware of … everything … yet. And you never will be. But the list of essential stuff you don’t know will continually get smaller.

Overthinking It

You know more than you think you do. Sometimes your instincts are correct. Sometimes it is just that easy.

Wanting to Be Great Before You’re Even Good

Is there a better way? Yes. Probably. Does your code need to be beautiful, awe-inspiring, and make seasoned hackers faint because they’re so overwhelmed with your talent? No.

If it works, it’s right. I know you want it to be elegant. I know you do.That’s a good thing and it will come with time. In martial arts, you want to learn technique and accuracy before you build speed. Code is the same thing. No white belt looks graceful. Nobody’s first poem is impressive. Not even mine.

Are there people who will make fun of you and be mean? Yes. They’re called assholes. Fuck those people. Don’t worry about what people will think when they look at your code. Grownups will know that you’re learning. Even if you’ve been doing it for years, grownups can teach you and mentor you without being dicks. Those people on StackOverflow who belittle and kick people while they’re down and having problems are called trolls for a reason — because they’re ugly and live under a bridge with their mom.

My 5-Month Plan

I will become legendary at my current, silly day job for my gregarious personality and indispensable contributions.

No matter how lazy or negative my co-workers, I will encourage them and offer to help make their work lives better so their workdays don’t suck as much as they obviously do.

I will give each task, no matter how mind-numbing, 100%. I will be present and leave a positive mark on everything I touch.

I will say hello to everyone and have at least three genuine conversations per day even though I hate small talk and I know everyone there hates me.

I will hunt with a flashlight and dig with a pick-axe until I find some way to expand my skillset and improve my current skills while at work. I refuse to waste one more day.

My 5-Year Plan

Jim Carrey once wrote himself a check for $20 million.

In five years, I will have helped at least 1 million people get their dream jobs.

I’m going to create the fastest-growing, most obviously effective training and coaching program in the world.

Those who work with me will be unable to imagine working anywhere else. We will have a culture unsurpassed by 99.99% of other organizations.

To Do:

  • Finish Grow With Google Scholarship Challenge course
  • Complete the Mobile Web nanodegree program with a GWG scholarship
  • Complete the Google News Data thing [update this] program
  • Complete that other Data News [update this] program

Just to show I can and because I can, create kickass eLearning using HTML5, JavaScript, and After Effects that surpasses anything and everything I ever made with Flash.

To Do in 2018:

  • Complete every After Effects course at Lynda.com
  • Launch Coding After 40 and Coding After 50

Google Scholarship

I’ve been revising my essay questions since I first submitted the application almost a month ago. Tomorrow is the deadline so this is my final draft. I really, really hate “tooting my own horn,” job interviews, etc. but I’m posting these here because I feel like they’re my new Mission and Vision statements.

What do you hope to accomplish through this program?

I want my creative groove and mojo back. My field, Instructional Design, used to be the coolest job in the universe. When Flash died, so did my field. With Flash, you were limited only by your imagination. Now, it’s all quasi-neo-powerpoint apps. I need to be stimulated and challenged again.  Programming does that for me. I am, once again, only limited by my imagination. I’d like to do it for a living rather than a hobby.

At work, I redesigned our LMS and automated what little I could access.  I’ve loved making stuff that does stuff – I miss it. I’ve also always loved teaching even moreso – ID was only a means to that end until it became the end.

I’ve volunteered with Coding Dojo, Hour of Code, Code for America and Mil-OSS. I’ll continue giving back, living something I learned from Kahn Academy: “Learn. Create. Teach. Repeat.”

Why do you deserve a scholarship?

This isn’t a hobby or “maybe it will work out” for me. This is what I desperately want and have been pursuing on my own for 17 months spending every spare moment with books, tutorials, meetups, and a healthy combo of Lynda, StackExchange and Reddit. Just added Udemy’s Web Dev Bootcamp course (update: added three more during their Black Friday sale) to my existing studies and side-projects/work to optimistically prepare for this.

The scholarship will not be wasted on me. I am super-low risk. I promise to be the poster-boy of why you give scholarships. You’ll be proud to say I was a recipient.

Also, I could use a little help. I am 48-years-old so I need skills and creds that far exceed people (at least) half my age for any job. This would really, really help. I am a father of three with a student wife (as in she’s finishing college, not like she’s in Wife School) as well so a scholarship would rock our financial world.

If Google and Amazon pick Detroit as their home and this was a springboard to get a job with either (Google would be my first choice, of course), my wife could be convinced to move back home. To Detroit, that is. And I want to go back home. The NY Times just called Detroit “a haven for visionaries and creatives.” Please help me go back where I belong – among visionaries and creatives – even if it means staying in icky Tampa. #MoveTheWorld

Everything Wrong (and Right) with eLearning in 2017

The night before last, my wife and I were talking about the radical difference in available opportunities between, say, 1990 (when I got out of the Air Force) and now.

In 1990, laptops and computers were expensive. Even if you had a laptop, there was no WiFi. Even if there were WiFi, what would you connect to? College — even community college (tuition plus books) — was expensive. Classes and majors for “non-traditional” students who worked during the day were non-existent. The only place you could access a computer if you couldn’t afford one of your own was the library (free but crappy hours unless you lived in Ann Arbor, MI) or you could rent one any time 24/7 at Kinko’s. But, again, what were you going to do with that computer to learn?

Everything Right with the State of eLearning in 2017

In the last several years:

  • laptops have plummeted in price
    • Free WiFi is everywhere
      •  YouTube tutorials (free) by experts ranging from grade-schoolers to experienced adults
      • Khan Academy
      • Codecademy
      • FreeCodeCamp
      • StackExchange
      • Reddit
      • Udacity
      • Udemy
      • EdX
      • Countless personal sites (free and paid)
      • Countless org/corp sites (free and paid)
      • Freaking Meetups!
      • and so on …
  • The public library
    • Overdrive

Education now is like porn — why would you ever pay for it when there’s so much quality product out there for free?

I wish these opportunities had existed from 1990-2000. My life would be very different.

Sadly, for many — myself included — another, extremely ironic, difference is we had all the time in the world back then to study … but no way to study*. Now, there’s so little precious time what with full-time job, wife, and children. Some people have multiple jobs.

*And, like I said, nothing really to study. And most of what I’m studying now didn’t even exist (or barely existed) in 2000. I didn’t know what to do with what I did have access to.

But, thanks to everything listed above, we can at least make every precious moment count.

Everything Wrong with eLearning in 2017

The idea for this post started off pretty negative but I changed it to begin with a positive (above). It was actually born as “everything wrong with Instructional Design in 2017” and inspired by …

All the culprits responsible for crimes against humanity (Powerpoint, Articulate, and iSpring) in one place. Well, Captivate isn’t there … like the Joker, it seems to be off somewhere else … watching the world burn. On my list of evil organizations, Articulate is above ISIS and the Nazis.