Creative Communications

29 October, 2008

A Methodology for Approaching New Frameworks

Filed under: Insights,Using Experience,Work Adaptations — Tags: , , — Sean Canton @ 12:49 pm

How many frameworks have I wrapped my head around, Symfony, Ruby on Rails, Joomla, Drupal, WordPress, and now, I’ve been tasked with porting a classified ad module from phpBB2 to phpBB3. In approaching a foreign framework and trying to understand it’s workings as a whole I almost gave up several times. Looking at it from the outside in, I find it overwhelming to try to understand how it all ties together from a big picture point of view.
That’s just my uninformed approach, because I feel like I have to understand all I can before jumping into the pool. This isn’t the right approach, and my hope is that by committing this to bytes, I’ll change it next time around and save myself some time. Maybe save you some time too.
The right approach is systematic, and involves a step-by-step understanding of how a single element is rendered on a page and interacted with.

1) After installation and basic configuration find the index file and it’s associated code, language files and templates.
2) Work your way backwards from a specific element in the body of the document. Title tags are part of the header and are often a level removed from the index template.
3) Find the template variables in the code, and where that information is pulled from.
4) Learning a new framework is akin to learning a new programming language, in that it’s not the function that matters. Loops, conditionals, and variables are the same idea no matter where you are. It’s the language you use to access these ideas. So pay attention to:

  • How template variables are set
  • How database calls are made
  • How are session variables handled

Basically, everything that has to do with the movement of information is worth paying attention to because the whole point of using a framework is because those pathways are already created for you to use.

5) Learn about custom functions. I find it’s useful to keep a untampered copy of a framework available locally to search through for functions.

6) Identify your global classes. Finally, we’re back to the bigger picture. Global classes are the super-objects used to pass information around and reference it easily within the code. For me at least, I had to see the classes ‘in action’ before I could begin to fully understand what their purpose was.

This might be phpbb3 specific, but that’s where my head is right now. I think the basic ideas could apply to other frameworks however.

That’s it, now I have to get back to porting.

20 October, 2008

Facing Frustration While Job Hunting

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sean Canton @ 5:27 pm

I wanted to write a post that wasn’t complaining about the current economic woes that myself and many other people find themselves in at this time. I mean, what the heck, I’m not being foreclosed upon, I have a $25 balance on my credit card. And for the next month at least, I can pay rent.

So that’s the first step, acknowledge what is going well. There are a few things working for you in your situation, they often get overshadowed by all the negativity that keeps hitting the fan and getting everywhere.

Craigslist, monster, jobdango, indeed are all my friends, and I visit them often enough to keep a constant stream of work applications going out. It’s thankless work, I’m lucky to get an acknowledgment of the receipt of my materials, and once or twice, I was actually rejected! I try to forget about jobs I’ve applied to, it just makes things easier.

Second step, keep up the momentum, the biggest enemy at this point is stasis. This kind of stillness only allows depression inside. Don’t stop, don’t even begin feeling sorry for yourself, keep working on things. Set non work-related goals and accomplish little things.

Writing about all this stuff actually helps. I think it helps me more then it does you. Just voicing these fears and concerns, even to an audience of zero, helps the mind sort it all out. Bringing the intangible to reality offers a small measure of control.

Third, find some sort of expression for the frustration, notice I didn’t say ‘release’. Release is too often associated with self-destructive urges and non-productive actions. Expression is functional, release just puts the energy into the ether with no regard for where it lands or what effects it has. There’s a reason we’re feeling frustrated, lets focus on that.

10 October, 2008

Three years out of College, Making Less Money

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sean Canton @ 12:00 pm

True story, in 1999, under Bill Clinton, I was working and making more money then I ever have since. Every job I had gotten up to that point was given to me as a result of my modest awesomeness. Apple stock barely peaked $10 a share, and life was good.
Fast forward to 2008. I have no job, a piddling income from various freelance gigs cobbled together, and even after two college degrees and 8 years of professional experience (worked through college), my high income level is still from the last decade.
It’s not that I’m exceptional at my chosen profession and I am entitled to more as a result of my god-given talent. Indeed, I’m more of a generalist, I’d rather be able to do many things then do one well. I get bored easily, you see, and tend to distraction.
Now you can write this all off as ‘it’s the economy stupid!’. I agree, but disagree at the same time. Things were this way BEFORE the current economic woes.
I’m sure you’re aware that Apple is coming out with a sub-$1000 notebook. Which for most internetzians, seems to be thrilling beyond belief. While the idea is appealing, I can’t believe anyone would spend that much money, in these times, on something that wasn’t a necessity, or even worse, put it on credit.
I’m just tired of being poor, and I would like to materially participate in this high-tech world once in a while.

Anyway, I’ve polished up my freelance business site: if anyone want to take a look and give me feedback, that would be great.

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