Laid Off

In yet another repetition of one of the least pleasant work routines, I was laid off today. My company, which I no longer feel compelled to keep nameless, Colangelo, decided to really shake things up. They sliced through a major portion of their interactive team, and I was one of the casualties of war.

Next.

Actually, they were nice enough to give me a full day off tomorrow to finish up some of the other projects that need to get done. Like my homework for Visual Aesthetics.*lol*

So it will all work out well in the end.

I guess I’m back to “Hire me!” But I don’t feel sad. I’ll miss the crew I worked with, but I’m equally happy to move on. Now I can take those periodic freelance gigs and get more of a breadth of experience. I walk away from Colangelo with one massive accomplishment under my belt, too. I was Producer on developing and launching the Memorial Tribute pages for Paul Newman’s passing. We had to work against an open-ended deadline with utmost urgency, coming up with ways to ensure that the new site wouldn’t just launch within hours of Paul’s passing, that it would be able to handle the site visitors. And the site visitors were there aplenty. 1.3 million hits the first day. We had to work in utter secrecy, too, and against a budget that was practically non-existent.

Not too bad for the professional equivalent of waiting tables while finishing grad school.

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Wrapping up the ICM program

In the beginning of ICM there was Halavais’s 501 Intro course. He started off by asking us if we had any sort of quick explanation for what it is we were studying. Interactive Communications, of course, is a bit conceptually redundant, since in order for Communication to take place there has to be some kind of interaction. It’s been an elusive definition for what the program is imparting, and it remains elusive. There’s no real simple way to describe it.

My own takeaway

After 18 months of working through the ICM program, I have to say that last night I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment in what I had done. People trash the internet because it’s unregulated. There’s no guarantee of quality of information, which requires a level of discernment that people often don’t want to have to be concerned with. There are whole new patterns of interacting with the information presented on websites, too, which means that simply taking old media of communications and using them in a different space doesn’t work very well. Kind of like trying to reproduce a radio drama on television. The internet has more to offer than standard media is concerned, and the patterns of usage which have developed require differentiated strategies of authoring.

We often look at the internet purely from the point of view of money and cashing in on the new medium. We talk about professional advantages that come from learning to adapt traditional business models to the new social and cultural movements which the internet has enabled, and we focus on the commercial aspects of the web. That aspect is certainly important, and it will be central to paying off the graduate student loan debt, so it’s good that QU imparts that awareness to its students.

Content is king

Yet in the greater picture, ICM has prepared me to generate content. Without the content, there’s no cash flow from advertising. Without the content on the web, there’s no draw for the users to be there. Quinnipiac has prepared me to handle the generation of content. Not always directly, and not in terms of an aesthetic education which would be acquired at a design school. However, ICM teaches us the way in which concept, content, business, and strategy combine to create and maximize the communication potential of the internet. Whether it is for our own ideas, for our client’s ideas, or even whether our role is simply to execute the plans of others, ICM produces businesspeople who are ready to populate the web with quality information.

So, Professor Halavais, while I can’t define ICM for everyone, for me it rests in that last bit.

The ICM program taught me to combine strategy, technology, research and execution to maximize the communication possibilities of the internet.

Where I go from here is all up to me.

Thesis: Posted live

http://rushmore.wingfoot.org/

Enjoy.

Thesis: DONE.

Done.

Done done done.

Done done done done DONE done done.

*happydance*

Still working out the hosting arrangements. Until the site is actually posted live, here’s a sneak preview of each of the major sections and how the design turned out. Overall, I’m happy. I’m still tweaking the bibliography, but that’ll be done by tonight. At midnight tonight my work stops on my thesis and I turn my attention to finishing everything else that’s due this semester. I’m aiming to have the whole semester wrapped by Saturday and all projects turned in, even though two projects aren’t technically due until NEXT Saturday. We’ll see how that all goes.

Homepage Screenshot

Homepage Screenshot

Timeline preview

Timeline preview

Who's Who preview

Who

Native American focus essays

Red: Native American focus essays

Anglo-American essay section

White: Anglo-American essay section

Essays for the future

Blue: Essays for the future

Bibliography Section

Bibliography Section

Thesis: Only the homepage left.

All of the rest of the site and content has been completed for the thesis project, including the basic bibliography. Now I just need to bang out the design of the home page. It may seem counterintuitive to have the homepage be the last piece, but for my site design it’s more of a gateway/portal to the contents of the site than it serves as a real destination page itself.

The Bibliography, Too

The other piece that can stand some extra work is the bibliography section. It serves a basic purpose in that it’s got all of my sources, and they’re all hyperlinked too. All 98 of them. But I’d like to add functionality. As I go through and do the proofreading for each page, I’m going to make certain to not just link to the Bibliography page for each of the sources, but drop to the in-page anchor tag so you end up (more or less) looking at the source quoted.

The other change that I’d like to make to the Bibliography is to add a second section which contains thumbnails of the Images used from other sites, hyperlinking each of them to their home websites, and listing whether it is pulled from the Creative Commons (in which case it will be attributed and marked with the Creative Commons terms of use specific to each image), Public Domain, or as part of Fair Use.

The One Regret

My one real regret for the entire site is that I didn’t manage to do any of the Flash work. But in reality, the content that I’ve assembled is in itself a large achievement. While American History and the handling of Mount Rushmore itself hasn’t been exactly ‘core’ to the program, the creation of an HTML destination site with sufficient content to stand on its own is certainly demonstrative of Interactive Communications. It’s an odd field, really, since it focuses on the ‘how’ and not too much on the ‘what’. So in that way, the ‘what’ becomes the vehicle for evaluation of the ‘how’.

Yeah, makes my head hurt too.

Still, I’m not all that well versed in Flash, while I certainly am better versed in doing in-depth research and writing about it. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the journalism side of the equation.

Too late now. I’m just overjoyed that I’ve got the damned thing written and (save the homepage) done. And I’m happier still to find out that my Developing Content for Mobile Media final project isn’t due until December 12th, not December 6th. Which gives me one whole extra week to finish -that- up. AND clears the way for me to finish up everything else with less stress. Not completely stress-free, just less. And that I will certainly take.

Thesis: Timeline done!

I feel like shouting in Japanese like Hiro Nakamura from Heroes. Last night my Timeline, the behemoth of my thesis, was finished in terms of populating content and coding and testing on all three platforms… Firefox (which you code in, because it alone is standards compliant), Internet Explorer 7.0, and Safari.

The significance of completing my Timeline is that this piece, although only one “section” of my website, included 30+ sub-section pages each with a unique design and historical content which had to be researched, written, and condensed.

Next Steps

Today’s task, then, is to use the free afternoon (half day from work) and begin writing the short essays for the rest of the site. That and assemble the short list of portraits and biographical information for the “Who’s Who’ section of the site. Tomorrow morning in the wee hours while trekking to Washington, DC for the Holiday, will be my time to generate the design for it… basing it off of the Timeline graphics frame design, but with tweaks… to keep it consistent visually throughout the site.

I am rather done with the subject of Mount Rushmore, thanks. 🙂  But I would have gotten to the point of disgust and distate over any subject after working with it so long and so in-depth.

At the very least, my site will fill a niche in that there are websites out there which talk about the patriotic aspect of Rushmore, sites which talk about the historical aspects of Rushmore, and sites which talk about the controversy of Rushmore, but nothing that I’ve found which brings all three together into a single website.

One and a half weeks and counting… AND on schedule!

Thesis: Home stretch

The timeline is now coded in HTML/CSS. ActionScript was just a bit too far out of my grasp, so I made an executive decision, and I’m glad that I made it. I spent all day yesterday working on nothing but populating the content for the timeline and tracking each of the photographic assets being used for the bibliography pages. Oy… the bibliography pages.

Well, the good news is that I’m a third of the way done with the timeline in terms of years… I did 1858 through 1908, and a couple of years beyond that. The other good news is that between 1908 and 1958 is really the remaining 80% of the content… there’s only three nodes on the timeline left in the period from 1958 to 2008. So while I say I’m only a third of the way done, it’s more like halfway.

Of course, getting it halfway done yesterday took longer than I thought… 14 hours of straight thesis work. It was actually lovely, because even though it’s logging lots of hours, I’m gaining a sense of completion as I go forward with it. Each year on the timeline integrates historical research and asset research, as well as good scholarship by taking meticulous care to attribute each source properly and in multiple locations on the page. This way, when it comes time to generate the bibliography for the images, all of my sources are already in MLA style and ready to be married on the page with thumbnail images.

Bibliographic Concerns

There’s always concerns about keeping details straight for proper attributions in the bibliography. My project complicates the matters even more because I am relying on historical photographs and resources, as well as modern photographic assets. I am pulling from many sources in the Creative Commons. This is an excellent exercise for me, because it has shown me just what a rich collection of source media exists in the commons space already. especially for academic/non-commercial purposes.

Yet, when you do something like that, especially if you’re taking several different photographs or digital works and combining them into something new, you have to track each component artwork’s level of Creative Commons license. Although not all of them require Attribution, I give Attribution to all of the component artworks because it’s easier than trying to recall which one belongs where. Although not all of them require Non-Commercial, my enterprise is Non-Commercial, so it gets listed. And although not all of them require Share-Alike, all materials will be posted for Share Alike use. However, there are a couple of (thorny) assets which ALSO carry ‘no derivatives’, and I have to be careful not to alter those images or incorporate them into anything else at all.

On -top- of that, I’m pulling resources from several public sources, like the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the National Parks Service, and the National Archaeological Association. And then there are a select few items which represent about 5-10% maximum of the site, which are simply sited from other sources under Fair Use (de minimis, educational, and non-commercial clauses).

Slows things down

So while I certainly could have designed and written the entire Timeline yesterday, I would have been fairly lost when it came time to do the bibliography because of the vast range of sources. Thus, responsible scholarship is slowing down the content generation process significantly now, but with the added value that once a segment of the thesis is done… it’s done. The bibliography and notes is on Google Docs and saved to my hard drive for double backup. And Zotero saves time and research… without Zotero I would still be struggling.

But hey… I’m getting there. Slowly and surely.

Schedule Update

Tonight I will be staying after work and hopefully finishing the timeline. Being realistic, I think I’ll put a good dent in the remainder tonight, and have to do the last bits of the content writing for the timeline on Tuesday.

Wednesday is a half day from work, and I will use that afternoon to save out all of the individual HTML pages for the timeline to fully work, marrying code and content. Also on Wednesday evening I will take the timeline design panel and repurpose it for use with the Who’s Who portrait gallery. Much of that research is lifted out of the timeline, so it’s just giving users a choice of how they wish to interact with the site.

Thursday is Thanksgiving and I’ll be heading down to Washington DC with friends, leaving at the obscene hour of 3am for arrival at breakfast time. I will be napping in the car, but I will also use that time to code the Who’s Who page. Since it picks up the structure from the Timeline page (albeit with far fewer rollover images) it should be simple enough to handle via laptop from the backseat of the car.

Friday will be a day off for travel and recovery.

Then Saturday will be completely dedicated to populating the content of the Who’s Who page (biographies and portraits), followed by beginning to write the 24 mini-articles for the “Red”, “White”, and “Blue” sections of the website on through Sunday. This brings us to go-week, the Final Countdown, leaving only the Home Page to be written and designed, and the Bibliography page.

Monday will be all about the Homepage. Tuesday and Wednesday will be all about the Bibliography page. Thursday sees final QA testing (making sure it all works on IE 7.0… already works on Firefox because we start coding with the standards compliant browser first and work outwards) and final proofreading check. Friday is when I write the paper describing the entire Capstone project experience, and Saturday it will be both uploaded as well as handed in on CD.

And then Sunday… will that Sunday even exist?