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Mar 172011

The end of term is rapidly approaching, and it’s been gnawing away at the back of my mind that I haven’t updated my blog for a while. It’s not just my blog that’s been stagnating either; my last tweet was on January the 13th. Typically I’ve been thinking about this for several weeks rather than doing something about it.

What I’ve been thinking about are the reasons why I haven’t updated my blog. Partly I think it’s because I’m more inclined to introversion than extroversion. I’m not a natural blogger (if there is such a thing) because my instinct is to keep my thoughts to myself whereas blogging is all about sharing. Although that shouldn’t really apply to this blog, which isn’t about anything difficult or personal, the force of habit can sometimes exert a similar hold over a person as the force of gravity.

I’m also guilty of thinking that a blog post has to be ‘substantial,’ which of course it doesn’t. It has to be relevant and it has to be interesting, but that can easily be achieved in a couple of paragraphs (or 140 characters). Just because my thoughts on a particular subject don’t equate to the length of an essay doesn’t mean that they’re not worth committing to ones and zeroes. And let’s face it, the shorter the post the more likely it is to be read.

I would be less worried about this if I was short of ideas to blog about, but I’m not. Two or three times a week I read an article which I think would make a good starting point for a blog post, only to do nothing about it. Each one of these missed opportunities creates a small mote of self-recriminiation that worries away at me like a stone in a shoe (or like the LoveFilm DVD that’s been in my bag since Monday).

This is all very well, but this blog post has been a pointless exercise unless it’s followed up with another one, and then another one after that. It’s tempting to resolve to blog once or twice a week, but that’s probably not the best way of approaching this. After all, there may be a very boring week where nothing grabs my attention, and blogging for the sake of keeping a promise I wasn’t asked to make isn’t going to benefit anyone.

All I really need to do is make the most of the ideas that occur to me. They won’t all be worth blogging about, but each one will at least be worth thinking about, and the ideas which I think about more than once are probably worth writing about.

Five things I learnt in week seven

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Nov 172010
  1. What Ajax allows us to do. I had heard of Ajax before last week, and I could even remember what the acronym stood for (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) but I didn’t realise what it actually does: allow applications to ‘retrieve data from the server asynchronously in the background without interfering with the display and behavior of the existing page.’ (Wikipedia).
  2. There’s no point worrying about learning JavaScript from scratch. Frameworks like jQuery are there to do the heavy lifting for you, although understanding the basics of programming (functions, arrays, expressions, operators etc.) is a big help.
  3. Embrace the DOM. It’s as simple to target elements with a framework like jQuery as it is with CSS.
  4. jQuery functions toggle! Perhaps the single most useful thing I learnt last week.
  5. There’s no need to be afraid. I’ve always been a bit intimidated by JavaScript, mainly because it speaks as if it were a programming language. Now though I feel that learning a framework like jQuery shouldn’t be any more difficult than learning CSS. Time to stop being a scaredy-cat and start getting my hands dirty

Five things I learnt in week six

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Nov 102010

Five things I learnt in Week Six

  1. I’ve finally got the hang of semantic class names/IDs. Don’t use names which describe how an element is presented (.red, #nav-left). Instead use names which give the element meaning (.warning, #sub-nav).
  2. Always write a print style sheet. It shouldn’t take very long, and it adds an extra layer of functionality (and polish) to your website.
  3. Use uneven padding to to centre the separators when styling navigation. I’m not sure why this works, but it does.
  4. Don’t avoid selectors just because older browsers don’t understand them. Using an adjacent sibling selector is the best way to remove the border from the last item in a navigation list. All that will happen in older browsers is that the border won’t be removed and I can live with that.
  5. Always ask ‘What happens if..?’ The best way of making your designs bulletproof.

The top five things I learnt at university this week

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Oct 072010

My colleagues are interested in what I’m learning so I thought using my blog was a good way of keeping my thoughts organised. I definitely learnt more than five things yesterday, but these are the ones that really stuck…

  1. Specifying image sizes tells the browser how big the image is going to be and asks it to display the page accordingly. I did know this once but I haven’t been doing it recently. Time to start!
  2. UsingĀ  “/” in relative links tells the browser to go to the root to look for the document and using “../” tells the browser to go up one level and look for the document. I never fully understood the distinction before. Continue reading »