Catching Up on the Year

Wow, this year is rocketing by. I was thinking today it must have been a while since my last blog post. I just checked and it was 31/12/2017. So lets catchup on where I’m up to.

I spent the last six months elbows deep in Blackboard developing up a new theme for CSU’s deployment. A lot of that work exists as a GitHub repository and it was great to really try out GitHub and use it to it’s full potential. I’ve used the Issues and Projects features of GitHub extensively to manage and maintain the projects momentum. I also built a whole Style Guide (built with Fractal) – designing and coding the thing from scratch which has been migrated into the new theme in Blackboard.

That’s the good part of the project – the creative and challenging bit. The actual implementation into Blackboard has been a real headache for many reasons. For starters the code base for Bb is awful. Styles are all over the place and the HTML of Bb itself is atrocious. Because I’ve tried to to really take the theme that somewhat resembles modern web practices – responsive design, relative measurements and improvements to readability – it’s made this a challenge. I’ve got about 20 years of technical debt present in the application code and HTML that I’m trying to update with CSS. Add to that 10 years of technical debt when it comes to content and a lack of consistent tools and practices and I’ve reached the limit of whats possible with CSS.

There were a lot of teething problems with the roll out – communications aren’t great across the institution for these kinds of changes, there were unforeseen problems caused by the theme, and the change to a responsive design was a bit much for some very vocal staff. I bore a lot of the blowback because I was the one who’d made the changes. And that was a big part of the problem, this wasn’t a team effort – I was responsible for the whole thing. I’d done the design, code, documentation, training and communications for the whole thing.

This whole thing ate the first quarter of the year for me and also a lot of the hours that I had hoped to dedicate to other projects this year – because this was supposed to be my year of the Dog. I’m no longer a full-time employee of the university, having dropped back to 4 days a week with the aim of spending the other working day on Kelpie. I’ve managed to squeeze in some some work on it – building out a new website in Jekyll and taking my new found CSS wizardry to a new level and incorporate some CSS Grid into the site. I’ve also used my new found design system skills to work on one for Kelpie, experimenting with how and what to take from a lot of great examples out there. Visually Kelpie is looking sharp now, I’ve cleaned up the logo, colours and type concepts and really got into working with Sketch.

Over the Easter holidays I took some extra days off and managed to get a few other projects underway:

  • I finally got on top of my photos. I now have a consolidated RAW archive that’s backed up to the cloud and a jpg archive in Dropbox and in Flickr. This is a huge relief. I lost all my RAW files in the fire – having backed up across disks, but not sites and our awful internet speeds mean the cloud was out of the question. I was lucky that I had started to do a yearly archive in Dropbox so we didn’t loose everything, but it was a huge loss.
  • Yard Cleaned Up – We’ve been in the house coming up to a year now and there are still a few outstanding jobs to be done. I think we fell into a bit of a rut having finally arrived home, there was a collective sigh of satisfaction having survived that ordeal and we never really got back up. But now we’re on the move. We got a tree out the front removed and our beautiful shady tree out back was in need of a drastic trim. There was also all manner of building materials, bricks and old stuff that we needed to get rid of. So over the weekend we filled a skip bin of that detritus and sent it off on Tuesday morning.

There’s plenty more to come in 2018… and it feels a bit like the year has just started in many ways now that I can mark a few of these jobs done (or at least deferred).

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