Late last year I ventured out to TEDx Newcastle, it was an amazing event organised by the guys at Codeworks, I’ve since joined their team.
They’re an amazing bunch and can nail content for events like nothing I’ve seen before. One of the talks was by Chris Stainthorpe of the B Group Creative Agency. Chris talked about privacy and the debate behind data being publicly available without people knowing it. I was intrigued by his talk, more so because of the feedback he was getting from the crowd. It seemed like shock-and-awe as they realised unless they changed their privacy settings that their info was widely available to the general public on the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn etc.
I was reminded about the debate this morning when checking the Technology area of news.bbc.co.uk and finding two articles relating to privacy issues with Google and Facebook. It brought me back to my opinion on privacy at the time of listening to Chris at TEDx Newcastle.
Surely in this day and age people are aware of identity fraud and ridiculous scams online. Putting that together with Facebook and other social networks, surely people must realise that whatever they write or publish is then quite clearly and obviously public knowledge. We’ve all heard stories of people saying the wrong thing on social networks and then being reprimanded at work because of it.
I personally think there is no privacy debate at all. If we put privacy in the control of the user then clearly tell them what is visible when they’re signing up, surely then it is down to them and not the social app which they’re using?
Why do we have to keep discussing what should and shouldn’t be allowed. What we can and what we cannot show? Give the power to the people and let them choose. Surely?
We don’t know how the Google algorithm works, yet we trust it to deliver results which are best for us!? Erm hang on a minute… Millions and millions of searches must go through the various international Google websites daily. Google presents us with websites in a specific order which they deem substantially correct for the keyword search that we enter. They also present us with paid results which advertisers pay Google to present the average Joe.
The internet is full of users who I would put in a ‘general’ category, you know, the majority of people who ‘use’ the internet to buy the odd thing, check out facebook far too much, read the news etc. This general category don’t particularly understand why things work the way they do, or why things look a certain way they just expect it to be ‘just like that’. They’re the category that believe Google are doing their best for them, that they’re delivering the results they want.
What if they’re not? Has anyone questioned it?
We trust Google to deliver results which are definitely what we’re looking for. This after all is one of the reasons that made it the biggest search engine in the world today. Do we really know that in those 10 links on the first page of results, the result you’re definitely looking for is there? How do you know that it’s not in fact on page 53?
It’s a strange question of course, but one that we’ve never queried as we expect them to be doing everything right. Surely Google wouldn’t be pulling the wool over our eyes, right? I’ll leave this open for discussion.
I thought I may as well give this URL ABC game a go since I’m feeling a bit under the weather. Started off by the extremely talented Tim Van Damme, and then followed up by Andy Clarke and Elliot Jay Stocks it’s a simple game: Go to the address bar in your favorite browser, and type one letter. Start with “a”, end with “z”.
I recently contributed an article to Fuel Your Creativity titled “Don’t stick with what you’ve been taught, you’re a creative so get creative!” I enjoyed writing the article and was honored by the comments left over at FyC.
Too many people look at other work and are again directly influenced by what they see. I say look at other mediums that are not directly linked to your own, look out for works of art that you could indeed work with for colour palettes. Look at beautiful brochures that could be linked to a new blog design, the world is your oyster.
Check out the post at Fuel Your Creativity and let me know your thoughts on the subject.
I recently had the chance to interview Prisca Schmarsow about work, teaching, web dev/design and everyday life. Thanks Prisca for taking part!
Full name and Age please
Prisca Schmarsow, 39
Favourite Biscuit and Drink?
Amaretti & Capuccino
Last book your read and last movie you saw?
Book:: “Designing for the Web” (Mark Boulton)
Where and when did it all start?
Well, I was one of those people …. I used to think I am not cut out for working with computers. I started with hand-drawn visuals, doing pub blackboards and drawings/illlustration for adverts and did not think I would get my head around being creative on a ‘machine’. Quite funny now to think of it….
Gently pushed by my partner – I eventually did venture into the digital arena by doing a graphic design course – and it all started there. Painter was, and in many ways still is, my favourite app at the time. Doing graphic design work – I was soon drawn to the internet and its design possibilities. Though I was by then quite happy to work digitally – I was still a bit of a techno-phobe, thinking my head would not be able to cope with the technical complexities. So when I did start with webdesign – I took the then easier road of flash design. It gave me complete control over my designs. I absolutely loved creating flash websites though I of course soon realised its drawbacks and its place within webdesign overall.
And then there was “designing with web standards” by Jeffrey Zeldman, introducing me to webstandards and a better web 🙂 After finding Eric Meyer and his site – I went onto to learn handcoding and CSS from online resources — and here I am 🙂
Is there anyone in the industry you look up to?
There are many, too many to list really. I love the web for its online community spirit — I feel I owe my knowledge and understanding to all the helpful and lovely geeks out there. I could tell you lots of stories on how various people have helped me through various stages of learning webdesign – this would fill a book 😉
Suffice to say that Eric Meyer is my all time guru – I feel I owe him and Jeffrey Zeldman my current career. Had it not been for their writing, sharing of knowledge and inspiration on so many levels – I don’t think I’d be doing what I am doing now and loving it. And of course now there are many more inspiring people, too many to mention.
You teach web design, how did you get in to teaching?
Teaching is not something I ever envisaged myself doing, to be honest. I’d been working with graphic and flash design for about 2 years when the training place where I had done my first course had a vacancy for a graphic design and multimedia tutor. I would not have dreamed to apply but work was slow and my former tutor encouraged me to go for it. So I did – and to my surprise got the job despite my complete lack of experience. And though it was incredibly nerve-wracking initially – I loved it. Now I run the ‘design for the web‘ (as well as the ‘digital animation‘) course at TowerHamlets College and can teach what I consider good working practices to my students, hoping to send them into our industry with good skills – aware of what matters: good user-friendly design, web standards, accessibility and so on. And the ones who make it – make me proud 🙂
What does a general day consist of for you?
Always start with a cup of coffee 🙂 I usually work on several projects at the same time, splitting my day’s time between them. Depending on whether the academic year is in flow or whether I can focus entirely on design – I divide my time up between my 2 jobs, taking care of my clients as well as my students. I usually take care of formalities in the morning and do a lot of the creative work towards the end of the day or evening. Love the holidays from teaching for being able to keep my own hours so I can do some late sessions if the mood takes me.
As well as teaching you also have your eyedea.eu team, how is that going?
The eyedea team is currently undergoing a change – we’re working on our new site at the moment as we are shifting our focus now primarily onto webdesign. It all started as a freelance collective, combining multiple skills and working together as a team. Two heads are always better than one and we love collaborating on various projects and learning from each other.
As time went on we continued to work mainly on webdesign projects so we’ve decided to refocus. We’ve all still got our own areas and specialities, from photography over illustration to writing – but our main field remains the web. So I’m really enjoying designing our new site and looking forward getting it out there.
Where does your heart lie, with design or development?
Design all the way… I do enjoy the challenge of coding and certain aspects of front end development – but if I had to chose one over the other, nothing can beat design. I’m a big fan of the Bauhaus and its principles which are my motivation. Design is for people—has purpose—aims to be used and enjoyed though it might go unnoticed through its successfully designed and implemented functions.
Do you prefer teaching or full time design and development?
It’s the balance between the two that I like. Though teaching can be very hard work at times (mainly due to the bureaucratic mountain of paperwork it involves) it also keep you on your toes. I enjoy the challenges it brings and the learning environment, I remain a student myself.
And I do love design work, from start to finish – love the entire process and couldn’t do without it. And I do consider myself a designer who teaches and not the other way around so I suppose design would have to be my final choice.
What do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor to your success?
The open and sharing spirit of the web. Without the many many friendly and sharing people online I would not be doing or loving what I do. In my early days of flash design – I learnt everything from online resources. I had had 1 day of flash introduction and went from there. Learning from online tutorials, forums, even personal support from individuals. My first ever site went online with someone in the Netherlands holding my hand – taking me through every single step via online chat. Overwhelmed by the technical aspects – it would have taken me ages by myself so this was a major moment for me – and I could not believe how supportive the online community could be.
Fast forward to “designing with web standards” – had it not been for Jeffrey’s book – and then Eric’s site…. I would not be handcoding now, or even have a clue about good webdesign. And then there are people like … actually too many to mention, I’d only forget some vital names. Sites like ‘A List Apart’, blogs by inspiring designers as well as developers who explain in plain English complex techniques and so on keep me learning all the time. (This is why I don’t really agree with the term ‘self taught’. Though I did the learning by myself in a physical sense – I would not say I am self taught – but rather have been taught by so many lovely geeks online)
So the short answer simply is: the biggest contributing factor are is the open and sharing spirit online.
Are you a mac or PC user?
Mac – though I think I was just lucky to learn on a mac. Saying that – I have to admit I am always in favour of gorgeous visuals which is why I’m happily sticking with Apple 🙂
Where do you see yourself in the future?
Hopefully continuing to try to make the web a better place alongside everyone else.
Will you be heading to anymore conferences in the near future?
Would love to – depending on time and money. At times some of the best conferences clash with my teaching — or are simply too pricey for a freelancer… But I do love the talks and the slides seem to be getting more creative now as well.
Q4. Did you enjoy working from home when it all started?
No, I found it pretty tough. It’s hard when you don’t have someone to bounce ideas off and ask for opinions. It’s also tough to stay disciplined. I think a mix of working at home and office works best.
Q5. Is there anyone in the industry who you look up to?
Jason Fried, Mark Zuckerberg, Evan Williams, Kathy Sierra… the list goes on.
Q6. What was a key factor in your professional growth and development?
My father and mother drilled into me that I could do whatever I put my mind to. This has given me the confidence to do a lot of what we’ve done.
Q7. Where does your heart lie, with web apps or conferences and why?
I love the web and technology, and I also love connecting people. Carsonified will always continue to build apps and sites, but our core revenue comes from events. I love seeing people’s faces light up at events when they’re encouraged, inspired or challenged. There’s such a buzz when everyone comes together.
Q8. Out of these 3, WordPress, Light CMS and Expression Engine, which do you like the most and why?
WordPress – hands down. Matt has done an amazing job with WordPress – it’s easy to use, completely open source, and very powerful. What more could you want?
Q9. Do you see Carsonified as work or just a way of life?
Definitely a way of life. It’s a part of me and even though we only work four days a week, I think almost constantly about new ideas and projects.
Q10. What was the biggest project you’ve worked on so far?
Both DropSend and FOWA London are huge projects. There obviously very different but both are challenging and rewarding.
Q11. Throughout your entire career to date, is there any particular problem you’ve ran in to more than once? Clients, Jobs, Work, Family?
The hardest part about running Carsonified is that there are really big ups and downs. When it’s rocking, it’s rockin. When it’s hard, it’s really hard. However, I love crafting a company where the team and our customers feel loved and cared for. That’s my ultimate goal.
Q12. What do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor to your success?
The fact that we try quite hard to treat other people like we want to be treated. We do our best to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and contacts.
Q13. Where do you get your inspiration from?
My wife, Gill and my son Jackson.
Q14. What are your 3 favourite apps?
Gmail, Things and Twitterific.
Q15. Do you think any company can do a 4 day working week?
You bet. It just takes a hell of a lot of determination and a specific decision to focus on quality of life instead of revenue.
Q16. How do you balance your time between family, carsonified, your apps, fowd, fowa etc??
It’s hard – we constantly balance everything. That’s something I find quite hard. However, I’m working harder at leaving work at work. I turn off email on my iPhone over the weekend and try to Tweet less.
Q17. Where do you see the future being?
For the company? We’ll be doing more events (probably smaller instead of big expos) and building more apps.
Q18. You’re a well known individual, do you class yourself as famous?
Nope 🙂 I might know a few people in our small web world, but I’m no where close to being famous.
Q19. Are you ready to head out to other parts of the UK to do other conferences, i.e. fowa or fowd?
You bet. We’re planning on taking FOWA to Dublin soon!
Q20. If you had one goal to reach (anything) within 3 years, what would it be?
Launching another web app, and taking FOWA and FOWD to more places. Also, a little more cash in the bank wouldn’t be bad 😉
Q21. If you had one piece of advice for anyone wanting to venture in to your industry, what would it be?
Be bold and humble. Anyone is contactable, so just keep trying and be respectful. Find a way to be helpful to someone before asking for their help.
p.s. Random question from myself, what core qualities do you look for when employing someone?
Friendliness and helpfulness
Ryan, good luck in your future and look forward to talking to you again soon. Would love to pop down to Carsonified HQ at some point.
After reading Adii’s post about ‘Marketing Substance’, it posed questions in my own mind. How do you judge your own marketing and how do you discover how well it is doing or has done. Building a personal or business brand from scratch is extensive and it takes time and patience. Adii said;
I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently trying to figure out how I can improve the marketing of my personal brand, this blog & my Twitter profile, because let’s face it – things like website traffic & Twitter followers are kind of a ego stroke / boost these days…
I, in recent months have been thinking the same thing. Adii has been blogging for a good few years now and branded himself as the first WordPress Rockstar of which he became known. The branding went a step further when Adii started calling himself Adii Rockstar and even received postal mail addressed to Adii Rockstar – I know, mad eh? But now he’d like to drop the WordPress tag associated with his name and become more known for his entrepreneurial skill and spirit, after all he has accomplished a lot with Woothemes and Radiiate.
In Adii’s instance he has ran a successful blog for approximately 3 years, holds a growing list of over 3000 twitter followers and runs two companies. Breaking that down in to segments you realise that those three things retain a certain type of reader/customer/fan;
His personal blog – Long term reader base reading his entrepreneurial posts about business and life.
His Twitter feed – Links from Woothemes, Communicating with customers and blog readers.
Woothemes / Radiiate – Customers wanting to know about Woothemes as Radiiate is now on the back burner.
Woothemes has it’s own twitter feed as a ‘business’, after all there are 3partnerswithin Woothemes so why would just one person be accountable for 3000 followers? A question to be asked is, if one person from the business used their own personal twitter account for Woothemes, would they have 6000 followers (average) and therefore have a stronger brand?
I think in coming months when we hopefully see a good Twitter Statistical Tracker that we can definitely pin down exactly what “types” of followers we have. You never know that out of 3000 followers you may only have 50 who take notice of what you’re saying.
Twitter in my opinion is definitely not the best thing to base your brand strength on. I commented on Adii’s ‘Marketing Substance’ post saying just that and how personally I’d judge the strength of my brand on my own blog and the comments within along with the amount of articles which have been spread by the community. Surely the dialogue with your readers within your blog shows an amount of respect as those individuals have taken time out of their day to discuss opinions with you in detail.
I honestly do not believe in judging your brand “worth” on the amount of twitter followers, do you honestly think that Gary Vaynerchuck would have over 640’000 followers if it wasn’t for his personal blog or winelibrarytv.com? Do you think Kevin Rose would have over 900’000 followers if it wasn’t for Digg.com?
Leaving Twitter to one side
Success and respect breeds notoriety and notoriety brings brand recognition/growth. One person might have to build an empire before people realise they are there. It is one thing building your brand in one county never mind a country, so pushing for world domination is going to take longer again.
Brands can be marketed by positioning yourself as a professional expert in a field, by spreading the word far and wide and by not letting anything stop you. You most certainly have to be thick skinned as you will pick up haters along the way, but listen to them, learn from them as they still have an opinion and in the long run be true to yourself, your skill and your ability. From this you will grow, people will find out who you are and why you’re there and respect you for it.
Today Woothemes released a brand new theme called Feature Pitch and Obox released a full preview of their Arcade Theme which will be available on the 7th July.
I’ve been thinking about the WordPress Theme market for a while now, and whilst not getting directly involved I do communicate with Adii from WooThemes and David from Obox when I can. Online businesses and business models have always intrigued me which is one of the biggest reasons we at carrotmedia have started the eCommerce experiment. Overall the WordPress Theme market is a lively one and with more and more “theme businesses” jumping on the bandwagon it has the likelihood of becoming over-saturated.
I believe it will become saturated in different ways;
There will be the companies who want to make a quick buck, the fly by night individuals who will hang around until they’ve made some money.
The companies that have been there from the start who continue to provide fantastic support and constant theme releases.
The smaller theme companies dedicated to provide new and unique themes for a niche market.
Looking at the bigger picture of the Theme business, from my perspective I would expect a successful business to be able to create themes which the users want and need which can be customised aesthetically and functionally to the users requirements as long as the basics are there. Technically that’s where the mass sales would come from. It amused me somewhat to see a commenter on Adii’s post about “Feature Pitch” dissing the design and how it should have been made one of the free wordpress themes because he didn’t like the design, the guy led a pretty scathing attack without providing constructive criticism which is about as much use as a pocket in a sock.
Surely there wasn’t need for such an attack and the person just misunderstood the whole point of a theme?
On the other hand, Obox’s Arcade Theme is highly detailed and graphical but will not be to everyone’s liking. Even though the guys over at Obox have an incredible eye for all the little things in design and they’re sure to fill a niche market but this will also restrict sales?
What would you do?
So my question to you as a user is, what would you like from a Theme company. Expand this discussion past WordPress and think about it across any platform. Would you like the niche designs or good service and more themes?
From a business point of view which would you like to operate? Niche or mass markets?