Create Awesome

web design and development for people who think the Internet shouldn't suck

WordPress “About The Author” Without Plugins

While I love that WordPress has a huge developer community, a lot of plug-ins are overkill. WP does a great job of packaging CMS features into its core functions, meaning that a ton of awesome content is available, usually in a single line of code.

Let’s take the “about the author” boxes, popular on professional and non-anonymous blogs. A default install of WordPress 3.x already has a system for keeping track of user data (it’s under “Users” in the left-hand column on the Dashboard), and a function (get_the_author_meta) to call up that data at any point in any template. read more>>

Advice on Contacting Me by Phone: Don’t

I’m not sure to whom this post would be best addressed. Baby-boomers? Recruiters? Sales teams? All of the above?

Since you’re calling me, let’s assume you have a landline. When I was a kid my parents had a landline, and 95-99% of the calls that came in were obnoxious wastes of time. It got so bad that Congress had to pass legislation protecting people from the steady, inane barrage.

Though I’m sure your phone call is different, special, and important, it’s still an unknown number, and it’s still proposing an immediate, intrusive interaction between us. read more>>

Scratching “From Scratch”

From openings I’ve seen and interviews I’ve been to, there seems to be something of a fixation on coding things “from scratch”.

It’s as if hiring managers had stumbled across a WYSIWYG one day, realized that *gasp* applicants might not have written all the code in a website themselves, and issued a dictum that all future candidates for positions must be able to code things “from scratch”.

Ignoring the fact that WYSIWYGs seldom deliver decent (or even passable) results in real-world use, I think the line of questioning is ultimately self-defeating. read more>>

A Complete List of Code I Didn’t Write

I recently updated my official online presence, and rather than toss attribution about willy-nilly, I figured I’d make a blog post to acknowledge the few bits of code that I didn’t write from scratch.

Of course, “from scratch” can be a slippery term as far as websites go, so I drew the line at any code on, or that helps generate, the index page at CosmoCatalano.com that isn’t 1) a documented library function in a default installation of an established programming language, or 2) that I didn’t write from a blank file in a text editor.

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Death to the WYSIWYG

I understand the intentions behind it. It was meant to be an engine of liberation, empowering a proletariat of print editors and writers bred on—or at least not terrified of—word processing software to quickly and easily deploy their skills on the World Wide Web. It was meant to free designers and developers friendly with HTML to pursue other, more pressing and complicated tasks.

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“Who is the Jackass That Wrote This?”

I was performing some housekeeping work on Twixcuse last night, and I was reminded of a conversation I had with the great Jon Shea much earlier in my programming career:

Cosmo: I look back at my old code, and I’m just like, “Who is the jackass that wrote this?”
Jon: Uh—yeah. That never stops happening.

He was right.

Nobody Codes in Multiple Choice

I was recently referred to an online testing site to demonstrate my “skill” at PHP. I did well enough—any potential test-takers for the ProveIt.com PHP 5.3 test can find a good primmer here—but the test really highlighted something that I think a lot of people misunderstand about programming: it is, at its heart, a creative discipline.

No, seriously.

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Adding Order to ExpressionEngine’s Forum Subscribe Module

For developers building interactive, membership-focused sites on ExpressionEngine, the Forum Subscribe module is a great addition. It notifies users via email when discussions update, keeping the conversations frequent and involved. I’m currently working with a client to transition users from a Listserv to a forum, and Forum Subscribe makes the process super-smooth.

The module also has some nice front-end hooks to display a list of forums to a logged-in user, indicating their current subscription status on each. Unfortunately, there’s no way for site managers to alter the order for this list of forums, and worse, it doesn’t default to any particular order—not even random.

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JPGs, Compression, and Responsible Sharing

My former mayor, Tom Menino, is a fervent supporter of marriage equality. He recently wrote a letter slamming Chick-fil-A for effectively making opposition to marriage equality their corporate policy.

As this tends to be a touchy issue, the letter has “gone viral”, as the kiddies say—but this has come with a horrible dark side. BEHOLD:

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Awesome Website Redesign in Three Steps

Occasionally, someone solicits my advice for a website redesign, usually with something along the lines of “hey, Cosmo—what are some websites you like that we can imitate?”

There are good intentions here, and there’s a time and a place for this sort of casual borrowing of ideas, but generally this is a bad way to begin the redesign process.

So what should you do? Glad you asked:
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