Shyfrog Media Relaunches on Drupal 8

I am happy to announce that I’ve relaunched the Shyfrog Media (http://www.shyfrog.net) site on #Drupal 8 with a new design.

The site has a renewed emphasis on web design and development, media production, branding, and publishing.

Other specialties include music, songwriting, studio & live sound engineering, promotion, and producing.

The site will continue to expand as I publish case studies, projects, blog entries, and music. Thanks for taking a look!

Are you a life-long learner? It’s never too late to start.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”
~Albert Einstein

Back in April of this year (2016) I wrote a piece about life-long learning called Rust Never Sleeps. Here’s an excerpt:

“In the age of information and ready access to seemingly infinite knowledge, it amazes me how many people are unable to get out of their mental comfort zones to expand and strengthen their knowledge, abilities, talents, and creativity. With so many options available, perhaps it’s just too much to filter through and still remain focused. Understandable, given the over-saturation of memes, cat videos, and other myriad distractions. However, getting into a mental exercise regimen is no different than getting into a physical one. We all make excuses for why we aren’t following through. Myself included.”

Well, I have no more excuses. This month, I’ve finished 24 courses on Lynda.com in UX/UI, Front-End Development, Drupal, and Audio Engineering tracks/courses and there’s no end in sight to the learning available.

Back in the late 90’s I spent a great deal of time absorbing everything I could about the internet. A lot of people thought it was just a flash in the pan, and that I was wasting my time. It didn’t take long for me to land a job though. 20 years later I’m still in the industry and learning more than ever before.

My background and experience in homeschooling, unschooling, alternative schooling, and online education may put me at an advantage. I’m steeped in the concepts of self-motivation, individual merit, and peerless achievement. This doesn’t mean I can’t work in teams or groups. I’ve played guitar in bands for almost 40 years and I know the value of collaboration and love the new sounds and styles that come from writing and performing music with others. It simply means that I also know how to go it alone and can get things done without having to rely on others. For example: I can write music, play all the instruments, record them individually, and produce a final product that sounds like a full band without ever relying on another musician. I took the time to learn how to do these things because I didn’t want to have to wait for someone else to finish their part.

We all have different learning styles and some of you may never get the hang of learning outside of a classroom. However, the online resources are getting better at accommodating a diverse audience by offering live video feeds, forums, chats, exercise files, interactive group sessions, and much more. Compared to what was available in the late 90’s, the offerings are myriad and overwhelming sometimes. I really like having that choice and competition ensuring that things will continue to improve.

So where to begin? There are a lot of options and my advice is to browse through them, try them all, and get a feel for what works for you. Here’s a repeat of links/resources from my previous blog about learning, plus a few more so you can get started learning today! Some of them are completely free, others have free classes and offer certificates for a fee, and others have monthly fees.

Khan Academy
Lynda.com
LinkedIn Learning
edX
MIT OpenCourseWare
Coursera
The Johns Hopkins University
UC Berkeley
Yale University
Aquent Gymnasium

The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Making “Old” New Since 1792


Back in October of 2015, I announced that “Old is New” and that we had migrated our old Drupal 6 site to Drupal 7. This was an interim launch and the real launch would come at a later date. Well, after a lot of design and usability meetings, the creation of custom branded fonts, streamlined ad delivery system, and so much more, I’m happy to announce it again!
The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Making “Old” New Since 1792

Dark Patterns (The Walking Dead)

Pigeonholed? Maybe...
Dress-for-Success, Day Planners, cold calls, hard sells, brick phones, power ties, feathered hair: some things should be left to rest in peace. Somehow, the worst of the worst has risen from the marketing grave and infected the natural, organic, and the living. Here’s a list of walking dead that should be taken out before they infect more of us: bait-and-switch, forced continuity, road blocks, disguised ads, and many, many more.

Honestly, who thinks that any of these manipulative, open-ended numbers games are a good idea? If you have to manipulate people into buying your product, and then manipulate your sales numbers in order to impress stakeholders and/or potential clients, then your product probably isn’t worth buying. Getting it to as many people as possible before the initial nostalgia wears off is a losing proposition in the long-run. If you’re an honest business selling an honest product, you really shouldn’t fall into any of these patterns. It could be deadly for your business.

Flashback (please don’t Flashdance) to my time in Los Angeles circa 1985. I was offered a job at every telephone sales company I walked into. I suppose this is the perk of having commercial voice-over experience and being a baritone. One of the last companies I worked for in that industry had a very cocky workforce that claimed they could sell copier toner to companies that didn’t even have copiers. And, they were right. They had the dark patterns down to an art: Have a spiel, dial quickly, talk quickly, have a series of rejection responses/misdirections/trick-questions, close, close, close! I remember one salesperson closing a $3000 sale of toner to a small pet store. Yeah, eventually the toner was returned because they had no copier. But hey, they could quantify their success rate by cherry-picking the stats (i.e. leaving out the returns). Dark patterns indeed.

While we’re talking about manipulative, open-ended numbers games, lets talk about the biggest zombie of all: Aggressive email marketing and lead capture. This idea that you can inundate your customers/prospects (people, as I like to call them) with emails that offer nothing more than repeated fluff and non-content in a bid to sell them something is no better than the cold call in the 80’s. Lets put that epidemic to rest sooner than later. If you want your email to be truly effective, it needs to be opt-in, personalized, have real content written by real people, targeted, tangible, and free of marketing speak, corporate jargon, and buzzwords. And lets face it, if your content is what people want, they’re going to find it and share it organically anyway.

The future is about Transparency, honesty, autonomy, choice, open-source, and responsiveness. Be wary of businesses that approaching your potential purely in terms of bottom-line and ROI. Do some due diligence before taking the bait. On the other hand, be mindful of businesses, groups, and individuals who put people first and who understand the organic and dynamic nature of doing business online. Give them your business. Foster healthy partnerships for long-term success. Remember, the market is made up of living, breathing people. Stop the marketing zombie apocalypse.

Rust Never Sleeps: On Becoming a Polymath

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Robert A. Heinlein

In the age of information and ready access to seemingly infinite knowledge, it amazes me how many people are unable to get out of their mental comfort zones to expand and strengthen their knowledge, abilities, talents, and creativity. With so many options available, perhaps it’s just too much to filter through and still remain focused. Understandable, given the over-saturation of memes, cat videos, and other myriad distractions. However, getting into a mental exercise regimen is no different than getting into a physical one. We all make excuses for why we aren’t following through. Myself included.

So where does one begin? We could start with the obvious offerings: Wikipedia, Google, etc. These are great research tools, but you still have to filter through a lot of fluff and unreliable, sometimes uncurated data while taking everything with a grain of salt.

Then there are the pay-for-training sites: Lynda.com, Udemy, Treehouse, etc. I used Lynda.com long before its acquisition by LinkedIn. I still use it and find it to be relevant to my career path. These are great resources, especially if your company is paying for it. Take advantage of that kind of opportunity when it’s available. And if it’s not provided by your employer, consider a small investment to hone your skills.

The biggest disruptor (wheee, a buzzword!), and one that I fully support and embrace, is the opencourseware, or Open Education movement which has been available online since 2001. And I’m not talking about a seminar or weekend intensive class on the latest industry fads. This is undergraduate and graduate level academia. I am talking about world-class, top-notch, Ivy league education…entire curricula…for FREE (I use the term lightly as nothing is actually ever “Free”). Some of them are now offering credit, at a very reasonable fee, for their online offerings as well! One of my favorite sites, edX offers courses from several accredited Universities world wide. You can choose from options for free learning, certified learning, and credit toward a degree.


Opportunity is abundant and practically everywhere these days (unless you spend too much time on Tumblr). You just have to recognize it for what it is: work. It requires focus, dedication, and effort. Homeschoolers (like myself) have recognized this opportunity for a long time. The learning can begin as early in an individual’s path as needed. A favorite among the homeschooling/unschooling community, Khan Academy, has K-12 and college curricula, standardized test prep, and evolving college admissions advice.

These are just a few of the offerings available. Take some time to reflect on the path and practice you want to pursue and then get out there and work toward it. It’s a brave new world. 😉

Here are a few more resources to explore:
Coursera
The Johns Hopkins University
UC Berkeley
Yale University
Aquent Gymnasium

Why is Google confused about The Almanac?


Almanac, Farmers Almanac, Farmer’s Almanac, Farmers’ Almanac, Old Farmer’s Almanac
One might think it would be easy to tell the difference, but it seems that Google and Bing can’t.

Despite the presence of detailed schema and information, Google still mixes things up. Perhaps this has something to do with Freebase being read-only and Wikidata not being ready for prime-time…

Yes, there are a lot of Almanacs. But only one has been continuously published since 1792. Originally called the Farmer’s Almanac (note the location of the apostrophe), “Old” was added to the title to distinguish it from competing titles. The Old Farmer’s Almanac was also the first Farmer’s Almanac to be online and continues to have a strong presence in all of the major social media spheres. Far from being irrelevant in this brave new world, the Old Farmer’s Almanac is likened to the original portable device containing “information about all manner of things—health advice, weather predictions, jokes, recipes, charts detailing the times of sunrises and sunsets, and other ‘new, useful, and entertaining’ tidbits, as the cover promised“. While the information in the Almanac remains static at the time of publication, contrasting against a constantly shifting world of information and technology, there remains an element of folksy, ephemeral mysticism and back-to-basics levity that people are attracted to. Think of it as “retro” or “making old new again”.

The Almanac has diversified far beyond its annual publication to include Calendars, Cookbooks, Almanacs for Kids, Digital Magazines, Mobile Apps, and much more. The Almanac is also the only Farmers Almanac to offer voyeurs a look at their headquarters and garden via 2 webcams (one has been up and running since February of 2003).

The easiest way to tell if you have the original Farmer’s Almanac is by the cover. It has featured the “four seasons” drawing on the cover since 1851. It is also easily identified by the iconic yellow background, bright red double border, and portraits of Benjamin Franklin and founder, Robert B. Thomas.

For more on the Almanac, visit any of the following:

Branding is Simple


Yes, those colors are from the ancient “web safe” palette. They are still some of my favorites and those are the colors for one of the brands I work with. I’ve been thinking a lot about branding lately, especially with a diverse and large offering of products and channels.

I’ve put together a very small list of the good and the bad. Good, for me, is simple and easy to understand; a brand that doesn’t make you think too much about what it is, speaks for itself with no need for any marketing noise. The bad is…the opposite of that.

We’ll start with the bad first:
* Facebook (Too many logos, channels, and options. Too confusing.)

And here’s the good:
* Twitter (It doesn’t get much simpler than this. My favorite.)
* Firefox
* Skype
* Pinterest
* Instagram
* Google

Of course, this is just my opinion for what it’s worth.