Technology && Music

Wow, it’s been such a long time since I posted on here. A lot has happened since then; I finished my 4th year at University of Oregon, moved home for the summer to Los Angeles and interned for the CTO at Screenpush and recently moved to Portland going to classes at the Turnbull Center in the PDXSX and I am an intern for CafeGive Social. Loving Portland so far, its so nice to have public transportation that is easily accessible, affordable and have a great mobile website that works on my Blackberry!

Okay, getting to the point of the blog post … I was in Eugene this weekend and yesterday I had a great deal of exposure to the prevalence of technology in music today. I went to see Pitch Perfect with Anna Kendrick, which is about an A capella group competing in the ICCA’s. If you’re a big fan of A capella, I love OTR and NBC’s Sing Off, then I highly suggest this movie. It was so fun! Beca, played by Kendrick, is an aspiring DJ who mashes up songs on her computer. This style of music is extremely interesting to me and I would argue that these DJs have to be extremely talented to make a good mix. It requires precision, practice, a well-rounded musical repertoire and a great ear for relationships between songs. Yes, also a good editing software is required, but it doesn’t do the work for you. I’m not talking about Girl Talk here, I saw one of his concerts a few years back and he literally just hit play and danced on the stage. If you’ve never heard Jaydiohead, I highly suggest it. I also went to see Beach House in concert last night and loved the opener Dustin Wong. He used his electric guitar, a ton of pedals and a looper machine to lay down a riff on top of another riff to create a song. It was truly incredible how great the songs were and that they were all accomplished by one man and a few machines.

My mom is constantly remarking about technology and its tendency to distance us from others. It is common to see a group of people at dinner all on their iPhones and her argument is that our time would be better spent interacting with each other rather than staring at a screen. I think that there are multiple instances when technology enhances daily activity and the interaction between technology and music is one of them. What an amazing combination of new and old to create great songs to listen to.

// Responsive Web vs. Mobile First

In web design, there are two over arching ideas on how to adapt websites for mobile devices. One belief is that websites should be designed for mobile first to accommodate the growing market. The other is that websites should be responsible to adapt to any screen size.

Mobile First:

  • Websites should be designed for mobile first.
  • This forces designers to strip down content to the essentials.
  • Growth = opportunity
  • Constraints = focus
  • Capabilities = innovation (HTML5, GPS, Swipe gestures)
  • By 2015, the majority of web browsing will be done on mobile.

Responsive Web:

  • Mobile isn’t just one phone or one screen size, but takes into account multiple interfaces and operating systems.
  • Use a grid and media queries to allow your website to adapt to whatever platform it is being viewed on.
  • Use percentages instead of fixed pixels for CSS markup.

Resources: Responsive Web Templates , Using Media Queries for Responsive Web & Responsive Web Design 

In my opinion, designing for mobile first is nonsensical. There’s not just one smartphone or one common screen size. Websites need to adapt to mobile phones, computer screen sizes and tablets. Designing a website within a gridded structure that can tuck columns and rearrange makes a great deal more sense that focusing a site design on the smallest size possible. A responsive website is my next challenge and iteration for my website.

// Users Not Customers

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of listening to Aaron Shapiro, the CEO of Huge, talk about his great book Users Not Customers. The book discusses the necessary transformation companies must make in terms of understanding their audience in the digital realm. This talk was done through Skype‘s screen share feature. As a quick sidenote, being able to converse with people across the country with a simple application is invaluable. Wow, just wow.

Aaron first defined the term postdigitals. These are people who were born after the internet came about and prefer to use digital as the primary mode of doing things. We need to be designing for these people, thus there is no such thing as “offline businesses”. If you want to be an offline business, first look at Borders, Blockbuster and Polaroid before making that decision.

Let’s make the distinction between users and customers. Customers is the mindset that people should interact with a brand with the only purpose being for transactions. Users are people who interact with a company’s digital footprint. Users can be partners, influencers, prospects, brand fans, employers, followers. To develop a company digitally, it is important to focus on users, customers will follow.

Now that we’ve gotten definitions out of the way, here are some of my takeaways:

  • People use applications to get things done in a simple manner so make applications easy for the users. If people don’t like your website or app, they will go elsewhere and forget about it completely.
  • Web statistics represent real people, not just numbers.
  • Every interaction people have with your company should be possible digitally. They want fast answers and the ability to talk to real people only if necessary. Example: Apple’s website support and genius bar.
  • Digital talent is a limited resource, so knowledge of digital platforms and coding languages is a huge asset.
  • Technology is disposable and designing for digital is an iterative process.
  • People choose where to buy online based on trust, convenience, prices and fun (TCPF). If you want users to buy products from you and not Amazon, make the experience more enjoyable than a search engine.
  • The key to product design is doing a few things really well. You don’t need all the bells and whistles if they don’t make sense.
  • Smaller companies can use internet services that already exist to establish a digital footprint.
  • Good design is about solving problems within a set of constraints.

I strongly encourage you to read Aaron’s book, it is extremely helpful in understanding how companies can succeed rather than plummet in the digital revolution.

// New tech knowledge

This term, I’ve expanded my horizons in the tech world. I learned new computer programs and coding languages. Additionally, I learned concepts on web design and app development.

Through my CIS 111 course and Code Year, I have jumped into the worlds of Javascript and Jquery. An example of this knowledge can be seen on my website.

I learned how to animate in both Photoshop and After Effects. To see an kinetic type project I did in After Effects, go here.

In my Technology Production course, I was enlightened on the importance of User Stories when creating a mobile website or mobile application. As _____(user), I want ______ because ______.

A few guest lecturers including Erik Westra and Aaron Shapiro emphasized that designing for digital is an iterative process. I studied Amazon’s evolution since their launch in 1995.

I look forward to learning more geeky tech things next term and applying these skills in my future endeavors.

// Future of Movies: Digital Streaming

The world is converting to digital. Yes, I know this isn’t new news but some people still haven’t grasped it. For example, Borders filing for bankruptcy because they refused to conform to the e-book revolution. The majority of shopping is done on the internet, mostly on Amazon. People no longer buy music or movies, they stream them. Books are read on screens rather than from physical copies.

What does this mean for the movie enthusiasts out there, like me? Our options are Redbox, Blockbuster express, Netflix, Amazon and Itunes. The amount of movies at my fingertips has greatly diminished. If I want to watch a movie that isn’t streaming on these sites, I have to plan in advance and be paying for Netflix DVDs to get the movie I want, that is if they have it. You can no longer drive over to your local Blockbuster to find what you want.

The majority of television and movies that I watch is all on my laptop via Netflix instant. But I am constantly feeling trapped by the limited selection. TV shows are usually not a problem, however, I often run into the problem where the movie I want to watch is only available on DVD. Where do I go at a moments notice to pick up this movie? The answer isn’t easy, which is disappointing.

For these reasons, I’m not a fan of the digital streaming domination that is happening in movie entertainment. I would love a wide variety of movies from all eras to choose from, not just new releases.

// Pinterest && others like it

Pinterest.com is a invite-only pin board where users can “pin” things they like. It is essentially a virtual bulletin board for subjects like clothing, diy ideas, posters and food. Users spend hours and hours pinning and looking at others pins. Pinterest’s user interface is straight-forward and easy to use. Each pin has a small photograph, description and belongs to one of the users board. This website has been extremely successful since its launch, with a total of 10 million viewers. It is a social media tool for daily inspirational things.

There are a handful of other websites like Pinterest including Ffffound, The Fancy, We Heart It, and Fab. All of these websites invite users to add a bookmarket to their browser that allows them to post anything on the internet to the website. Ffffound is a older tool, geared towards Tumblr users. Both The Fancy and Fab have an e-commerce feel as they both post prices and offer users a purchase option. We Heart It is every similar to Pinterest.

So why is Pinterest so successful?

“User experience, a clean retro visual design, content curation, social collaboration and subscription: those are the things that Pinterest is leveraging to gain a lot of traction and buzz.”

“This flexibility is part of Pinterest’s draw. Expressing passion for a hobby is just as easy as browsing for your next purchase. But what’s even more addictive about the site — a collection of collections — is that it’s just as much about the users as it is what they’ve posted.”

“Pinterest, which also has a Pinterest iPhone app, differs from other sites that support alternative ways to finding content online other than simply surfing the Web largely because it’s so visually focused.”

“Pinterest isn’t the first or only site of its kind, but it’s far and away the hottest, due, in part, to its clever design and relative ease of use. Its popularity may also be due to the fact that Pinterest isn’t even publicly available. Anyone can search for pins and people, but to add your own pins to the site, you need to either request an invite from the Pinterest folks, or beg a friend who’s already using the site to let you in.”

What are you doing sitting there, get pinning!

// Codecademy

Codecademy is a free online one year class in coding. Every week this year, there will be a new course posted for users to complete. In addition, each aspiring coder is sent a reminder email that a course is available. The courses are informative, easy to use and really help you understand coding language. When a user gets lost on an exercise, there is a very useful online forum fueled by the community of coders that use the site. After completing lessons, courses or challenges, a user earns badges that can be pubclized via Facebook or Twitter. I have been working on the courses each week like a diligent student and anxiously awaiting the next email. This website offers an amazing resource and it’s free! I am taking a computer science course this term that also teaches Javascript and I have learned more and faster using Codecademy.

In this digital age, proficiency with computers is becoming extremely important. I believe that knowing computer languages like Codecademy teaches will prove to have great benefits in the job market. Rather than just designing the graphics of websites, mobile websites and mobile applications, I would love to be able to code them as well. I can’t wait to see what Codecademy has to offer for the rest of the year!

All the badges I've earned so far.