Transcript: Content Management Systems

by Tim Wright

This is the transcript for The Dirt episode Content Management Systems

Steve: Geez look at the waves on that statement. You’re pissed. That
is an angry waveform.

Tim: Hello and welcome to episode 12 of The Dirt. I am your host Tim
Wright and I am here today with my co-host Mark Grambau. Mark,
I have that done here you are a jive turkey this week. Fair
response?

Mark: I cannot confirm nor deny that.

Tim: Okay, so Steve is apparently missing in action this week but we
have a…

Steve: What the hell I am right here.

Tim: Have you been sitting here the whole time?

Steve: The whole time literally.

Tim: Well Steve in my notes here it says you are in missing in action.

Steve: You said good morning to me.

Tim: I understand that but the notes say that you are missing in action
so… you have to leave.

Steve: So what you are saying is you only say what is written on the
notes?

Mark: Jive Turkey says move on.

Tim: Computers don’t make mistakes Steve – he is missing in action.
So this week we are going to talk about content management
systems. We just briefly got into the topic yesterday. We
thought it would be good to get on here and talk about it. We
have a few different types that we want to talk about. Some of
the dynamic pages I think you call it. It is not so much
database based ones but it’s — I guess it is.

Steve: That’s how I would identify them.

Tim: Well there’s, you know, there’s — well we are going to talk
about WordPress and Drupal a little more out there with API
development and I guess API’s would be a database but it’s an
abstracted database. It’s like way, way in the back. We also
talk about some statically generating pages for CMS’s and those
up and running services like Tumblr, Squarespace, that you know
click and go sort of things that I think most of us probably use
from time to time. And then if we have time we are going to
circle back to how these affect our jobs if these up and running
are any threat to our career paths or what we do just
irreplaceable in the world.

Mark: Get off my lawn Squarespace.

Steve: We didn’t mean that. We like you.

Mark: No, actually l-I like — I use Squarespace. Well we will get
to it. I am a former Squarespace customer but we will circle
back to that in approximately 22 minutes.

Steve: Remember Mark, he’s not allowed to deviate from the show notes
in any way.

Mark: Again robot.

Tim: Hey you are missing in action.

Mark: Quiet over there.

Steve: So you respond.

Tim: So most of my CMS experience circles around WordPress. I have
done a lot of client sites in WordPress and the first dirt soil
site is in WordPress and my personal one is in WordPress. I
really like it. I think it has a lot of power and potential but
you don’t necessarily have to us it and recent years – maybe
past two or three years, WordPress has been moving more towards
a content management system and away from a blogging platform.

Mark: Yeah.

Tim: Do you guys WordPress?

Mark: Yeah, I use WordPress but I represent the end of the spectrum
here when I use WordPress. I understood how to write HTML and I
sort of understood approximately what was happening with CSS but
it was a bit of a — you know a bit of a stretch and PHP was
just some alien language sent from the moon. And I still
managed to run WordPress sites a couple of years for myself and
for my girlfriend at the time, now fiance and it was an
experience. I wish I would have had the knowledge I have now
and the knowledge you have hidden away in your brain.

But for me, my experience with WordPress as a primarily coming from a
design standpoint, learning code was — I found it very powerful
but very frustrating and I found it very difficult when it comes
to time to upgrade something, change something, if a plugin was
upgraded, if there was a big upgrade to WordPress. I was always
terrified what was going to happen if I hit the upgrade button
on one of these things.

Tim: Well, they give you that message to make sure you back up your
database before you click this button thing and no one ever
does.

Steve: Yeah because part of the user experience, maybe that should
just be built in automatic database backups.

Mark: Yeah, I wonder if we can do that.

Steve: When you are about to embark upon a potentially horrifying and
destructive action.

Mark: They could build that as part of the default install — install
when you install on your server.

Tim: Yeah. I have to assume that they have the capability of doing
something like that. I mean they have file system access when
your uploading images, you know they can pretty much — they
edit permissions on files and it’s — they must be able to do
something with the database. I don’t know if they’ll be exported
and save it somewhere beforehand.

Mark: To be able to revert it.

Steve: I have a little bit of experience with WordPress. I have used
it a couple of times, made some light modifications. Though the
only reason I never got too deeply into it is because my
impression of it was always that it was massively overpowered
for my needs. Having seen some of the work Tim has been doing
with it this week, I’ve seen a lot of the good things about it.
The fact that it gives us the ability to specify multiple types
of content and still keep everything organized. That we can
have some of the non-technical people here in the office are
still able to use it and output the content the same way the
rest of us are. So that I see as a big advantage of it but the
few times I have tried to used it all I have wanted to do is
write and that has been difficult and weird considering it’s a
blogging platform.

Tim: It’s been difficult for you to blog with?

Steve: It’s been difficult for me to get to a point where I literally
if I want to write something all I have to do is sit down and
write something.

Mark: Are you talking about writing a blog post in the editor, or you
talking about writing a code? Writing a custom database?

Steve: Yeah a little of both. There is so much that goes into it.
And get to talking about static blogging frameworks, which I’m a
fan of, but I’m a fan of them because I like to write code.

Tim: So there’s a thing with WordPress, when I was working at Boston
University there huge, huge WordPress. They have I think two
WordPress installs, maybe a little — maybe more than that now
but they are running I want to say 400 sites out of a single
install of WordPress using multisite.

Mark: Wow, that’s crazy.

Tim: Yeah, and it’s a huge architecture issue. And one of the best
WordPress guys I know works there. I think he’s actually moving
over to [Automatic] shortly. But he always used to say that —
you know don’t fight WordPress. I don’t know if it’s a
knowledge issue like if you are not familiar with WordPress –
it’s hard to know where to not fight it.

But the way we implemented some things recently on — on our new
habitat section, we were using short codes quite a bit well not
quite a bit but there are three or four new short codes that are
going in and it allows you to embed the equivalent of a function
in the editor and output of which it — or a list of posts or
something and then passed parameters through it. I think it’s
really helpful.

And it’s a way that we can kind of craft the experience and craft the
content around some of the dynamic stuff. And were-were
actually — I am excited to do this because we are actually
starting to use WordPress as a content management system so we
have different so we have different post-types now where we have
the team pages are individual profiles in there for like the
employee section and we are pulling from that into when we give
a talk you will put in the speaker name like you will put in
Steve Hickey is giving a talk on forget your framework soon and
the line for speaker you put him in there and it pulls all of
your bio information so we don’t have to hard code all of that
stuff into each post and then change it over and over again when
Steve grows a beard – needs a new picture. It’s a great way to
keep things flexible moving forward and not fighting WordPress,
using the plugin structure and the [theming] structure.

Steve: I was just going to have Mark draw my beard on my existing
photograph. I thought that would be easier.

Tim: Well we have the mustache.

Steve: By that, I mean easier for me.

Mark: And I can do that. As proven by our own . . . This is — this
is actually why I work at Fresh Tilled Soil, I am just — that’s
my title is UI designer and guy who draws on top of pictures to
make them funnier. It’s a living.

Tim: If you don’t have somebody that fulfills that role at your
company, you are doing something terribly wrong.

Mark: Yeah and that draw dinosaurs and whatnot.

Steve: We all draw dinosaurs.

Mark: So yeah, I think that knowing when to fight is a really nice
way of looking at it because you look at WordPress – it’s a very
powerful platform and I think the risk is too many people jump
in like myself like four, five years ago without the proper
knowledge, without the you know and then trying to fight it,
trying to figure out how to get through this thing and you are
working with a very powerful and sometimes very complex system.

If you are coming in more accomplished, more understanding, you have
set goals and you know how to use it like you say with the
functions and what not to make a really strong content
management system, it’s a really great way to go. I think the
risk is a lot of people jump in saying — you know, people get
the recommendation what should I build my blog on? What should
I build my site on? And someone says well use WordPress, it’s
the best thing. And I agree it may be the most powerful, but I
think it’s dangerous as a first time jump in for someone that is
less familiar. I think it may be more than they need. It might
be more complex than they need.

Tim: So when your theming WordPress there is the obvious front end to sign
theming portion of it but one — a big section that people miss
a lot is that in the theme, you customize the admin interface
also and that’s where you put in the custom content types. You
can do it with plug-ins also but you can do it through the
theming interface and where you get into trouble is — and I did
this on my own and I don’t know if I have a blog anymore.

I used to blog on okaytim.com. It was one of my when I was trying to
learn WordPress really heavily so I put up that site and started
blogging on it, started making customizations, trying to do
things the right way, but what I did was — I was like I wanted
to attach an image to each post and this was before feature
image was in WordPress so I just took one of the doc customer
fields that they have and just pasted a URL into it and that got
— ended up getting me in trouble because it’s not the way you
are supposed to add images to posts, and that’s just one of the
things where I didn’t know the proper way to do it.

I really didn’t know I was fighting WordPress but now looking back on
it I think okay, that probably wasn’t — and that’s if we have .
. . we are putting events into our new system and if we need
something like speaker name or a subtitle, we don’t just throw
it into a field that already exists and say oh we will just use
the excerpt field for the subtitle. That’s you know misusing of
the content. So what we do is we actually create a new field for
subtitle and speaker name and then we use that. So moving
forward if there is consistency across the content types and
we’re not crossing over — crossing the streams, if you will.

Steve: Good reference. Yeah, that’s probably some of the problems I
had in WordPress to begin with was that one of the things I was
trying to do was fight to implement something I didn’t really
understand in the shortest amount of time possible because that
was all I was allowed where I was working at the time.

The other thing I tried with WordPress was — I just found the code
it generates to be really clunky and I didn’t know how to alter
that on my own. Tim made me aware of something recently – it’s
theme Elliott Jay Stocks called Starkers which sets you up with
a really simple baseline code structure for the site which I
think if I would have found that a couple of years ago I
probably would be on WordPress right now.

Tim: Yeah, it’s really nice because it really does clean out all of the
garbage you really don’t need.

Mark: Yup.

Tim: Yeah so I am a big WordPress fan, but I have also had a lot of
training on Drupal as well. When I was working at University of
Southern California – I feel like I am listing my resume like I
just I was at Boston University.

Mark: Very impressive resume.

Steve: Nobody was aware of it until you pointed it out but go on.

Tim: Okay so here all of the places that I have worked and made
better. So when I was working at USC, we were investigating
moving away from a certain blogging platform that it is more
static page based that we will get into but we were looking into
WordPress and Drupal and ExpressionEngine and all these
different systems. And we had explicit training on each of the
systems.

And I went to New Orleans for about a week to get-to get draining on
Drupal and it was a Do it With Drupal conference so it ended up
being like sixty-something hours of training. And when I came
back from this conference my boss was like so did you learn
everything about Drupal? And I’m like yeah I learned everything
about Drupal but what else I learned is we should never use it.

It’s similar to WordPress in that it generates pages and it’s super
easy to use. And some of the WordPress features like custom
content types are actually pretty native in Drupal and Drupal
had these like really super powerful features and WordPress said
those are awesome we are totally stealing that. So they are
syncing up a lot of the same things but the problems I had with
Drupal were the theming layer required PHP knowledge like
serious PHP knowledge. The theming in WordPress, you need to
know PHP but not really, you know you can kind of see like it’s
— your outputting the title – it’s no brackets, question mark,
PHP echo, the title.

Steve: Yeah, the actual code you see even if you don’t understand PHP
on its own is very descriptive of what it is trying to do.

Mark: Yeah it wasn’t even readable. I had the same issue with
Drupal. I started even earlier than I did WordPress so I was
even more confused but when I got to WordPress, I found wow, I
sort of understand this thing that I can’t understand. At
least, you know the PHP made a little more sense. Drupal, I was
just lost at sea. Again, I have no idea what the hell I was
doing but I was really lost at sea.

Steve: My only experience with Drupal is my wife’s company uses it and
she hates it. It’s pretty much all I need to know.

Tim: The learning curve is really steep. It takes — when I was at the
conference with the Drupal training someone in the crowd during
the keynote said you know why should we use Drupal over
WordPress, or which one is better? Or I think the question was
why do you use Drupal instead of WordPress? And the answer was
— there was this whole panel of people and they all had the
same answer well you know Drupal takes a long time to learn but
once you learn it you just kind of stick with because you have
invested so much time in it.

Mark: The same reason a lot of people are still using Flash, I think,
in a lot of cases.

Mark: While I have read a lot of arguments, a lot of people use PHP —
some coding languages, CMS’s what have you that you put in so
much time, so much effort and maybe it’s got some great powerful
thing but the main reason is you just don’t want to re-build the
world, or build your knowledge base.

Tim: And it really is a powerful CMS. I mean you can build full
applications in a day if you want. There was one session that I
sat in where a guy re-built StumbleUpon in Drupal in 24 hours.

Mark: Wow.

Tim: Just by pulling in — what do they call them modules instead of
plug-ins but they just — you just pull in a bunch of modules
and you build something. So I think Drupal is good for that
sort of stuff. If you don’t want to lift up the hood and you
just want to make something and kick it out the door, I think
it’s great. I don’t think developers are going to really like
it that much. As someone that likes to lift up the hood and do
some work, I didn’t care for the sentiment for, “Oh there is a
module for that,” or there is, “You don’t build that yourself
and there’s already something out there to do it and you just
use it.” Looking at the HTML output for it I was very unhappy.

Steve: Yeah Tim is the anti plugin, anti-module.

Tim: I like plug-ins if they accomplish the task that I am looking
for.

Steve: If he wrote them

Tim: I have no problem using somebody else’s plugin. I will attribute the
work but there are certain jQuery that I like a great deal. I
think jQuery UI if I want to do a drag and drop thing, or touch
swiping I’ll use that – just things I don’t want to build. But
regardless, yeah that is something I didn’t like about Drupal.
It was extremely heavy too. At USC, we needed to get special
servers that were super amped up to handle Drupal and there was
something with the error handling as well. When I was just
working on themes on Drupal just testing out the features and
just doing something, breaking in and trying to fix it. The
problem I had with Drupal was that when something broke I
couldn’t fix it. Something would break, and they – Drupal in
the admin interface would just say, “Drupal basically is
broken.” Just a message: you broke Drupal.

Mark: Shit got real.

Steve: It’s the difference between my first car and my current car.
If my first car broke, I could tell you what the noise meant. If
my current car breaks, I’m dead.

Tim: There is no indication of what happened. There’s no echoing
out PHP errors, or telling you what line or what theme or file
or anything this error came from. It’s just yeah something is
messed up.

Steve: It’s like the stoner sys admin going, “Yeah bro, this is just
cooked.”

Mark: Well, this in all the end just makes 2006 Mark feel a lot
better about himself.

Tim: Yeah it’s very difficult and I was a lot more into PHP at the time
than I am now. The most PHP I have done probably the past year
and half was in the past couple of weeks with the WordPress
stuff that we are doing, but I was much more of a developer at
the point, and I had a really hard time and the developer I was
working with on the projects also I had a really hard time. So
we ended up not using Drupal and they eventually settled on
WordPress.

While I was there we were also working on a different system of API
development and basically your content manager system is
basically a bunch of APIs that you string together and instead
of WordPress or Drupal or something else. You are using an API,
a service that has the content and it spits out in an API, then
you are using another service hosts the media, the images, or
the video, and then that spits out in an API whether that’s
using WordPress for your content or using something else – it
doesn’t matter. All it does is just spit out content and it
spits out in a consumable adjacent format.

Mark: And it becomes almost like an aggregator of your content
information?

Tim: Yeah all you’re doing is adding, aggregating all of these
different sources and that-that model you can post your images
on Flickr and post your videos on YouTube.

Mark: It’s like a Flavors.me. Are you familiar with Flavors?

Tim: Yeah, yeah it’s similar. It’s very similar. We were trying to
implement it an enormous scale and we actually did it to a
pretty good degree. We built out an event calendar, API system,
and then-then an image hosting service on campus. We were doing
it on that scale where everyone on campus uses this service to
put their images up and you can even build interface – an admin
interface to upload the images but the images go out to the
server from this centrally hosted area. And I thought that was
actually a really good — at the time, it was a really
revolutionary model.

Mark: Yeah, I think this model — well, this to me speaks of 2006,
2007. We are looking at Web 2.0 boom. The importance in all of
these different networks and everyone all of a sudden freaking
out because we haven’t had this before, we hadn’t had Flickr,
Twitter, [Gyco] at the time. You know, YouTube was just coming
up bought by Google, all of these services popping up and how do
I get all of my content into one place? And I think that was a
lot of that mindset at the time and I think it still has a lot
of valid use now especially for someone who doesn’t have maybe a
strong code background but they want to represent themselves in
one place especially if you are a multimedia artist, you know,
you are showing your image portfolio, your photography, your
showing your videos, your showing your music, your showing all
these blog content pulling it into one place and not having to
worry about one tool that you are going to have to monkey wrench
and make work for you just let the best of the Web do that and
pull it to one place.

Steve: Well that is what Myspace is for, isn’t it?

Tim: And then the room went silent [mid air].

Mark: Well this is something we can cover in another episode
actually. There are companies that have re-invented themselves
in an interesting way. Myspace is doing some interesting stuff
right now but I think that’s a whole other episode.

Tim: Well using the API model really detaches you from the dependency on a
specific database or database structure.

Mark: Right.

Tim: And we encountered that when we were recording from an old
version of the API to a new version of the API. The database
didn’t matter anymore. If we wanted to use MySQL or Oracle or
Access . . .Yeah, I’m getting looks with access but it doesn’t
matter what you use as long as the chase and output remains the
same you can switch out the technology on the back end and it
also lets you switch out the technology on the front end as well
because it completely detaches you — you know, you don’t have
arguments of we should use Ruby on Rails, we should use Django,
we should use Zend because it doesn’t matter, because in that
NBC model you are not using the database stuff anymore, you are
just consuming data and you can switch out whenever you want.

Mark: I think that is especially important in the age that we live in
with mergers, acquisitions, new companies shooting up, new
companies burning into the ground so quickly, you know if you
are going to throw all of your website into one company that
maybe won’t be around in six months – it’s a little terrifying
versus only my videos were hosted there, I can still get my
content and put it up somewhere else, plug it in, and who the
hell knows. I think that’s nice advantage of using a
distributive model.

Tim: That’s the direction — I mean were headed in that direction
already. The traction kind of slowed down, I am not sure why,
but I would really like to see us move further toward that API
base. Well I had an article that’s called API-based economy
which is about this – that I never published, probably still
sitting in draft form in my blog.

Steve: You mean in a dusty drawer somewhere.

Tim: Yeah, my blog…

Steve: Because that gives a much more poetic image.

Mark: Honestly, I think one of the reasons the momentum is so down is
watch any movie trailer and see that last two seconds and it
does not say www.nameofmovie.com. It says facebook.com slash
name of movie. I think increasing dependency on social networks
especially like Facebook – a lot of companies are taking that as
their main en route to communicate with customers and therefore,
there is less focus on – you know, you don’t need to spend a lot
of time to make an amazing site, accumulating everything, if you
are just bringing everyone to Facebook where you can host
videos, photos, events, news, blog, and I don’t necessarily
think it’s a good thing but I think it does explain to a point
where we are going trend wise.

Tim: Well it’s one of those up and coming, not up and coming, up and
running services that we were going to talk about where you just
need something up and you just go to Facebook, you go to Page,
you go to Squarespace and throw up a site or something like
that. There also the static page-based content management
systems and the only one I really have any experience with is
called Moveable Type. It’s kind of — it’s not really used that
much anymore and it does actually have a database and it’s
written on Pearl, it’s technically open source, no one can
understand it.

What it does – it will pull from the database and spit out static
pages on the server. We like static pages generally because
they load faster, you don’t have to [clear your] database. I
thought it was actually really good, it just wasn’t popular and
it was really heavy and it was written in Pearls so you open
source community, those PHP base didn’t really get it.

Steve: Yeah, I have been using one lately called Jekyll. I have
actually been using this for about a year and if you use GitHub
at all you might be familiar with Jekyll. Jekyll is a static
blogging framework which is built on the liquid templating
system which is how Shopify works so if you ever Shopify, you
are probably already familiar with the code necessary to make
Jekyll run. The reason you might be familiar with it through
GitHub is because pages are capable of running Jekyll servers.

I started using it because it was just a really easy way to stop
repeating my code in the HTML pages. I wanted to change
something in the head of the document, I didn’t have to go
through every head in the page, I could just change it in one
place. And I was completely ignoring the blogging aspect of it.

Recently, I have been setting up my personal site for a blog and
actually discovering how much better Jekyll is than I thought it
was already. It does really simple things like a [Duwhile] loop
that spits out posts based on the post directory that you put
everything into. I really like that – it’s a great way to
maintain things and my favorite part of it is it just allows me
to write code. If I am going to write a blog post, they are
going to be images in there, there are going to be links in
there, video or something else. I want degree of art direction
that a lot of bloggers aren’t looking for but as a designer is
something important to me. I just want to write the code that I
know makes something do that I want to do rather than rely upon
a couple of fields and checkboxes to output it for me.

Mark: Where does Jekyll compile? Does that — do you upload static
pages or do you — do you edit something or is it like a
WordPress where you click save and then it goes through and
complies and spits out your pages?

Steve: Well there is two ways to do it. If you run a Jekyll server
instant on your local host it will compile to a directory called
site which is all static pages and so if you are running your
website on it after a FPT server for example, you would just
upload the content of the site folder to your FPT server and
everything would work the way you expect it to. If you are
running your service on GitHub pages, I believe GitHub pages
just runs Jekyll on the server and just spits out content but as
far as I know GitHub pages is the only runs Jekyll on its
server.

Tim: So you have to compile all the pages with every publisher?

Steve: With every save, every file

Tim: Okay.

Steve: It’s actually hideously quick.

Tim: Yeah, the mobile type was sort of like that – that you could make an
update to a post but if you wanted to actually make a global
change to something you had to re-publish the whole, the whole
system.

Steve: The most significant problem I have run into is it takes a
tenth of second longer to re-compile all of the files then it
does for livery load to refresh my browser when I am doing
development locally so then I still end up having to hit refresh
manually instead but it’s not a huge deal.

Tim: But I do like the static, the static page model. They are just
faster and frankly, I don’t care if there is a database behind
it or not. It just — as long is for blogging you want the page
itself and the ability to comment and as long as you can do that
and I think you did use Discuss.

Steve: Yeah, Discuss was actually the easiest part of the whole
process.

Tim: Is that all JavaScript based?

Steve: Yeah you just put a snippet of code in wherever you want the
comments to show up and you just configure your username for the
Discuss service and everything instantly works. It’s responsive
to already out of the box which is perfect. It’s great though.
If you write code and you want to blog, I highly recommend
Jekyll, you should look into it.

Tim: Yeah thanks. I have been looking to get away from WordPress.
I know I just spent like 15 minutes praising WordPress but also
with the positives comes a lot of negatives where you basically
have a target on your back when you’re running WordPress and my
site has been hacked. Right now I have a stock theme that I am
using, I think that is 2012 or something because my system has
got hacked for like the fourth time this year and I — and the
theme got just destroyed so I threw up a stock theme.

Steve: Well Jekyll provides service on their about page that allows
you to port all of your WordPress content over to Jekyll.

Tim: Interesting, interesting marketing.

Steve: Go do that tomorrow.

Tim: You would almost think that Jekyll would be show sponsor.

Steve: I love Jekyll.

Mark: Please contact us at The Dirt Show for sponsor opportunities.

Steve: The other thing we wanted to talk about. I am not even sure if
this really fits into static per se. It’s sort of a weird
category on its own – it’s something called Unify. Basically,
you just install this on any server running at least PHP 5, it’s
just a folder called Unify that you upload, then any element on
a site that you add a particular class name to can be edited by
anybody that has the admin login information for this.

Tim: I like this model because it doesn’t confuse people. Like
someone that is not familiar with a CMS or WordPress they don’t
understand how pages map in the admin interface to the live
site. So correct me if I’m wrong but you can go through the live
site and edit the page.

Steve: That’s how it works. If you have a client that isn’t doing
something like blogging or doesn’t need to add pages they just
have a small four or five page static website and they want to
be able to update their seasonal specials or fix a spelling
mistake or something, you don’t want them contacting you because
all of those little jobs chip into your time and they don’t want
to contact you because they have to pay probably a minimum fee
if your structured your contract awesomely every time they get
in touch. It’s better to install this for 25 bucks and never
have to worry about it again.

Tim: Yeah, I really like those small ones. I think it’s great and
if I had like — if I had a family member who had a small
website I would definitely use something like that.

Steve: Yeah, I have a family member who has a small website who I want
to install this for and yet she insists that I don’t so we will
see what happens over Christmas.

Tim: Well what are they on now?

Steve: It’s just a static site hosted with GoDaddy that I have to make
edits to every time it comes in and I just don’t have the heart
to charge maintenance fees to her.

Tim: It sounds like you could go in there add the classes and FYI
just tell her do it now.

Steve: I might do that.

Mark: Or just build it on another server and say here it looks
exactly the same, you can edit it tah-dah. It’s hard — we
can’t discount the importance for a developer or a user who
never wants to touch a line of code, the importance of
simplicity, the importance of access, the importance of
financial implications of all these things and the importance of
just make it work. We are content to fiddle and fiddle and
fiddle and if something breaks we are upset but we know with
fiddling and fiddling and giving up our Saturdays that we can
fix it.

Steve: Yeah and I think Unify would provide that for a lot of small
clients at the same time this particular person embedded an
image into a Word doc before she emailed it to me because she
didn’t know you could do otherwise. And when I tried to explain
how to just attach the file – the concept was not being made
clear.

Tim: I know and that’s… I feel bad when that happens like you just want
to call out I cannot believe how dumb you are.

Mark: But no, you want to know what it comes down to, it’s the same
things we are always telling ourselves developing any UI/UX –
it’s — you cannot fall into the trap of thinking that you are
the average user, you are the average use case, you are the
average knowledge set. There people out there way smarter than
us and there are people that are just as smart as us but this is
not the thing they choose to focus their life in.

I mean I am not smart.

Steve: We know.

Tim: Yes.

Mark: I mean I am a Rhodes Scholar and former president of – no. But . . .

Tim: The Glenn Beck fan club.

Mark: Yeah, of the Glenn Beck fan club, precisely. No. But in the
end, it’s easy for us to see as a lack of, “Oh why don’t they
just get this,” but it’s just not their knowledge base. They
could be a master herpetologist, I don’t know. They could be…

Steve: Herpetologist is somebody that studies lizards, right?

Mark: Yes.

Steve: For herpa, herpat…

Tim: I was thinking someone that studies herpes or something.

Steve: That’s why I explained it. I was afraid of that problem.

Mark: It’s actually lizard . . . it’s someone who studies lizard
herpes, keep up.

Tim: Wow, you can go to school of that?

Mark: All right, let’s keep it moving.

Tim: We wanted to talk about the up and running services. I use — yeah I
used Tumblr while I was writing my book every morning I would
just start to write it up and I would walk down to Dunkin’
Donuts and get my coffee and I would walk back and sit down for
maybe an hour, open up Tumblr, just started writing something
and I really like that, that up and running, I just need
something going for sites and I know that Tumblr has pretty good
theming and from what I’ve seen it is very flexible.

Mark: It is. They have come along way also in terms of their editor.
I also tried using Tumblr a couple of years ago and it was very
themable but they made it a little more difficult for you. They
have updated their editor and some ways the back end works with
theming and I think they made it much more user accessible.

Steve: Yeah I think the trick is finding a Starker theme for
WordPress. A really simple framework of code to get it started
with and modifying from there. It’s really easy once you have a
basic set up in there but I think the default code that they
give you looks really nasty and complex and it’s because they
have a ton of stuff in there.

Mark: Exactly, it’s just intimidating and Steve, you would recommend
it to me when I was voicing this very complaint to you that you
have a friend or someone you know that had written a nice
starter set of Tumblr code that I’d love to use the next time I
try to attack Tumblr.

Steve: Yeah, we can put it up in the show notes so we can put a link
to it. It’s hosted on a guest hub, jet hub, GitHub.

Mark: Let’s try it again: jet.

Steve: There we go now we can speak.

Tim: We will clean that up in post.

Mark: No we won’t.

Tim: Probably not.

Mark: So Tumblr is really nice for that reason and of course, there’s
just a huge network around it. It also comes down to the kind of
content you want to do. Tumblr you are inviting viral content.
It’s built around the notion of just passing things around but
there are people — you know, I just use my Tumblr specifically
as blog versus an imagery blogging or whatnot service. It’s
nice.

Tim: It’s basically like Twitter but you can post and list [lots] of
text.

Steve: Pretty much.

Tim: You can re-tweet but they call it re-blogging.

Steve: If all you want to do is blog, it is actually a really good set
up. I worked at Thought Blot – that is what we used for blog,
was separate from the site but the links on the main website
would re-direct to it properly and all you could do from there
is blog. But like you said unlimited text, you can put images,
you can put video, any kind of content you want to put in there.
You can control the code very precisely. It doesn’t come with
all the heaviness that comes with WordPress, so if you don’t
want to do other stuff, all you want to do is write blogs posts,
and you don’t want to write code, Tumblr is a really good option
for you, or if you do want to write code, Tumblr is still a
really good option even if I prefer Jekyll.

Tim: I would like it if they had a version of Tumblr that I could take and
put on my own server.

Mark: A server installable.

Tim: Yeah. I don’t know if they do.

Steve: That would be interesting. I don’t think they do.

Mark: But that is really the only reason I didn’t use Tumblr for my
main blog.

Steve: Because you want to be able to control the content and…

Tim: I just want it installed on my server

Mark: You want installed on there.

I wonder if it has to do with their re-blogging tech how that is
running in the back and because everything is continuously
attributed. And actually coming back to our discussion last week
of intellectual property, the circles that I am in — all of my
illustrator and designer friends — their main ambivalence with
Tumblr although a lot of them do use it is that it epitomizes
some of the big issues of the Internet for intellectual
property. For sure, it’s easy to re-blog and keep the
attribution, but it’s really easy for something to get just get
totally far and away and without attribution you get beautiful
illustrations, paintings, artwork, music, getting out there and
the attribution gets cut out.

Steve: Yeah, I think because some of the particular aspect of Internet
culture that has latched on to Tumblr has this idea of it is on
the Internet it belongs to everybody.

Mark: Right.

Steve: Which is so false and [interesting].

Mark: It’s not an issue with Tumblr, it’s just the very matter in
which Tumblr is built upon, the technological and interpersonal
culture, espouse and epitomizes some of the great strengths and
great weaknesses of that.

Tim: Yes, so on the same note, Squarespace. I haven’t used Squarespace
but Mark you have.

Mark: Yeah, I have my personal portfolio site on Squarespace for
about a year. I got a nice coupon code. I was like okay sure,
go for it. Squarespace to me is a little more like a — saying
it’s like a WordPress is not the right idea. It’s less —
Tumblr is some of these quick feed kind of things and if you are
making a blog on Tumblr you are in the minority.

Squarespace is really about building a site and you can throw in a
blog, throw in a widget that pulls in your tweets, whatnot. It’s
very widget based, graphical easy way to build a site. You are
looking at your site and you hit a button it goes from viewing
mode to edit mode and you go into any field and you choose the
color and you customize that color. And of course, it’s very
powerful. You can get in and do all the custom code you want.
I thought it was pretty cool. It was not for me in the end but
I thought it was pretty neat.

Tim: Actually from what I have seen, I am always Squarespace is my
favorite of these. Like if someone came to me and said I don’t
have much money but I need a really nice website, I would say
use Squarespace.

Mark: Yup and if I look for another Squarespace competitor, fairly
similar but a little younger is one called – Virb – V-I-R-B.
Virb started more as a Myspace competitor. They were very
focused on bands and music and they have become more of this
general use, really well designed, easy to use general site
builder. And I haven’t used it myself but I looked at it for
awhile and that looks pretty neat. I like these. I think they
are a nice balance between ease and strength. You can be the
tech guy set it up really nicely for someone and be the non-
expert and be able to continuously edit.

Tim: So very quickly because we are running out of time, we wanted to talk
about the — kind of the elephant in the room when we talk about
these up and running services. Are they a threat to what we do?

Mark: They are not.

Tim: They are not. Mark says they are not. The only one I actually
looked at it and said wow that could actually be something was
Squarespace.

Steve: Well Squarespace is really nice but — and I think they do a
lot better of a job than other services of keeping it nice. It
is harder to modify things that would make something look awful.
We are not talking about Myspace or Geocities levels of
heinously unskilled modification here but these services have
been around for awhile now. I started worrying about them a
couple of years ago thinking if they did a good job we could be
out of work in two years. The quality of output I see people
doing independently has confirmed that I am not scared for my
job at all.

Mark: I think one of the really important things is that these are
just part of a larger cultural shift to democratizing technology
and democratizing media just because we have given everyone with
a Mac garage band, everyone in the world a camera to shoot video
on, the ability to make a website, doesn’t mean that no
videographers, professional audio recorders, professional
website builders are necessarily strapped.

Of course, it may cut down business for the very low entry level –
hey I’m a college student and I’m going to do this in my spare
time. But in the end, it broadens the base. It builds people’s
awareness of how these things work, it makes people excited and
anyone can go make a Geocities back in 1996 and that’s fine but
even then, there was also desire for — I recognize this okay
but I really want something great and I am going to go to a
professional, same in any industry.

Steve: Yeah, I think you said this is a threat to the low end of the
market and I agree with that. This is a threat to anyone who is
willing to compete with these services on price. I don’t know
anybody like that because it is really hard to compete with
free, really hard to compete with 25 dollars a month. Now what
these do is they allow you to get your content out there really
quickly and they get your voice out there really quickly and if
it turns out you have something that people want to hear, well,
I hope in a couple of years when your huge, you will call us and
we will build something for you.

Mark: And that’s how it often [inaudible 40:23] in the market. Yeah.

Steve: A lot of money, but it would be really nice.

Tim: Yeah, I think you guys are right on with the low end of the market.
Even at mid-grade maybe but if you want an application, I don’t
see many of these services building applications.

Mark: No.

Tim: Obviously, there are blogging applications but an online
catalog or something. A lot of the stuff especially that we do
here, I am not super concerned about it. But I think we would be
shortsighted to assume that over time these things aren’t going
to mature to at least a point where our jobs change.

Mark: Yeah, I would say I think if there is any threat if you want to
look at it from an alarm bells point of view, it’s not that our
business as contractors, as consultants would change. I think
it’s you might see more hiring of in-house people because if you
are realizing, “hey this technology is good enough, I don’t need
a giant team, I don’t need a contractor, I can just one talent
gifted developer to handle this whole thing, one designer to
handle this whole thing. I can just handle this one guy versus
external things.”

Steve: Yeah, I think they will push some people out of the market but
they are going to put a lot more of us up market, which is
frankly good for everybody.

Mark: And bring a lot of new people into the market. I think it’s
great. I think any democratist, democratization of media and
technology like this . . .

Tim: That’s a heck of word.

Mark: It’s important. I think it really defines where we . . .
[democratization]. It expands, it changes, but it doesn’t
always do it for the worst.

Tim: All right so yeah I think that was good. Anything else?

Steve: We got an event coming up.

Tim: Yes, we do. Paul — Paul’s event.

Mark: Yup, Paul Greenlea. Our outstanding — he’s a senior
developer, is that his fancy title here or…

Tim: He’s a senior so and so.

Mark: Senior so and so. He’s got this talk at Web Odyssey, Web
Odyssey 2013 at the Front End Developers meetup November 28th.

Tim: That’s down at Brightcove.

Mark: Yup and that’s going to be really exciting.

Tim: I’ve been seeing some of the demos he has been doing and we
talked about on the show last week a little bit but we actually
have the official November 28th Paul Greenlea talk and we are
bringing it up now because we are not going to have another show
until November 30th and we want to make sure we get it out there
and then people RSVP for it because it’s really cool. I have
been watching some of the demos and he’s creating this story for
the talk that is going to be super cool. I think we brought it
up last week the punch out where he is boxing in front of his
MacBook Pro and knocking down this critter.

Steve: Yesterday he was playing air piano.

Mark: So let’s not give away too much but it suffices to say Paul’s
got some really good technical chops and really great story to
tell along with it to make web technology really accessible and
fun way to look at them.

Steve: And we are also in the arrangement of having me talk at the
Front End Developers conference towards the end of January. We
will have a definite date once that is defined probably sometime
in December but probably I will be giving a talk on “Forgetting
Frameworks, Creating your own Grid Systems for Front End
Development” instead of relying on things like the 960 grid
system

Tim: Yeah, I am looking forward to that one too. Was that the dot
nettish article?

Steve: It will be.

Tim: Well sorry. Okay.

Mark: Spoiler alert.

Tim: So we have a lot of stuff coming up as usual. You can find more on
freshtilledsoil.com/habitat and we are off until November 30th.
We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Mark: And a happy birthday to me which is day before Paul’s talk so
don’t get too excited celebrating my birthday out there in TV
land.

Tim: Thanks for telling everyone your birthday is coming up.

Mark: That’s right, I’m excited. Hey this trumps everything.

Tim: Mark is turning 22.

Mark: Get me gifts. I’m turning 47.

Tim: So we thank you for listening and we will try to do better next
time.

About Fresh Tilled Soil

Fresh Tilled Soil is a Boston-based user interface and experience design firm focused on human centered digital design