Monthly Archives: August 2012

Designer vs Developers

Welcome to a Poor Economy

Many companies seeking web design experts seem to believe that they can get a wonderful package deal in one person. As most of us well know this is not as common as companies seem to believe. Yes, there are a small “l33t” handful of people who can do both jobs, however they are in fact a convergence of 2 unique and totally independent jobs.

One is a Web Designer, the creative force and inspiration that makes a site look aesthetically pleasing. The other is the Web Developer, the code engine and brains behind the functionality of a site’s structure. They are not in fact one in the same.

Not all Designers are made the same, as evidenced by recent attempts at job-seeking. Some are Print Designers, then there are the Trade Show Designers, with some Model Designers that create physical object like car models, masks, SFX, and more, mixed into the lot as well. There are also Fashion Designers, Interior Designers, Illustrative Designers/Layout Artists, and Web Designers. Each shares in a pool of skills, many of them are interchangeable between the types of Designers. However, they do not carry the same package of skills, understanding, knowledge of their specific industry nor that industries needs, changes, or history.

Developers are similar. Yes most of them are the penultimate of nerd-geek with machine code running in their veins, however there are also separate specialties. You have folks that still work with DOS, who work on databases, who code PHP, or use Ruby. We as people are not the machine corporate CEOs seem to think we are as a whole.

There is a fine line between a Web Developer who knows how to mock-up a basic design, and a Web Designer who knows how to code some basic functionality into their designs. Some know how to do a little of both. A few know Flash which is a whole other animal.

Yet, companies, seeking better profits and less overhead costs, try to lump these two into one category. Sometimes a company comes out on top and finds someone who has the skills and time to dedicate in the creation of a website, from scratch, that works, is secure, focused, and looks fantastic! Then they get a bit of a sticker shock, unless this individual doesn’t have a high cost of living, due to the reality that they are doing two different jobs!

Battle Royale

Speider Schneider wrote for the site One Extra Pixel, an article about why Designers and Developers shouldn’t fight. I agree. A Designer can learn a lot about how to make their designs both look good and be code-friendly. A Developer can learn a lot about the design process and why sometimes a design is forced to be code-un-friendly.

Yet, there are companies out there where the development teams are always complaining about the design teams, and vice versus. It is a regular enough complaint that jokes, and often scathing ones, abound. As close as the two types are, why are there such bad feelings between Developers and Designers?

A part of it has to do with how our brains are wired. You can see this, visually, in the design of some sites. The more tech-savvy a community, the less flashy their web sites. The more artsy a community the more colorful and animated their web sites.

Often a designer doesn’t think in the same way, nor do their thoughts flow in the same fluid motion as a developer. Both are creative people, but one thinks more linearly (sometimes narrowly) and the other thinks more organically (or chaotically) depending on one’s perspective. These two thought patterns, a very right vs left brain way of thinking, often collide.

 

A Light Ending Tunnel-vision

Not all hope is lost though. It takes a little bit of pulling one’s head out of the crack in one’s rear door, so to speak. Rather then playing the “better than thou” game, get to know a Developer or a Designer. Often while socializing one might find the “quirks” not so quirky.

Doing this can encourage understanding, and further self-education about a topic you might not have the time of day, in a normal day, to learn. When you can grok one another not only do the walls of communication fall, you become a more valuable asset to your company. You can forestall problems, and encourage shorter and more effective wait times between project versions.

Designers who can grok (I love this term) functionality and design for code limitations make the Developer’s life easier in the long run. Not to mention one could learn some more intermediate code in the process thus increasing one’s value as a company asset.

Developers who can grok the demands put on a Designer, or who learn the importance of object-placement when it comes to marketing gimmicks will find they don’t feel as cranky towards the Designers. Sometimes such a Developer might discover a new way to code something that makes both lives easier, and thus the company CEOs happy. Often a Developer that understands the design process might head off a code disaster by asking their compatriots to keep in mind certain specific limitations, prior to the problem arising later. Like the Designer, this makes the Developer more valuable to the company.

Event Report: FAUnited 5

 

 

FAUnited 5

FAUnited is a convention for the furry fandom based out of New Jersey. This is its 5th year running, and its most vibrant one yet. Though it is still a smaller convention, compared to events like GenCon, BaltiCon, ComicCon, and others, it is growing. With a newer, larger hotel to call home it has plenty of room to grow.

Interesting Points

There were a good number of panels this year. However, there weren’t as many as they may have otherwise hosted. Many of the panel rooms were empty during the full length of the convention. This isn’t as bad as it sounds though, if you look at it from the perspective of the attendee in regards to the size of the convention.

The panels were generally spaced out so that there were few overlaps, which is nice and allows attendees to catch what they want to catch. I’ve been to a few larger conventions where I had to pick and choose which panels I really wanted to see, and which ones I would begrudgingly miss out on attending. I believe this is because of attendance numbers and room occupancy limitations that create a need for more panels so everyone isn’t trying to squeeze into one room. Also with more people you have a larger demand for interaction, entertainment, and interesting things to do.

So it makes sense that the panels are fewer and smaller with smaller attendance numbers.

Although the number of panels was smaller, the content of them made up for it in spades! There were a number of both art and writing basics, as well as one about foul language and how to cope with it in our lives. However, I believe the most popular one was “Will Dragoneer Blend”.

To understand what this is about first you have to know about BlendTec, and the Will it Blend? series of videos. These were filmed to allow people to see just how hardy their blenders are when put to the test for blending things that really should never be blended!

The “Will Dragoneer Blend” panel pit Dragoneer against various types of food that people would then bid on to have it put into the blender. In this case, these were combinations that should never happen. Like canned sardines and caramel desert sauce, or ghost chilli peppers with used espresso coffee grounds and half a bacon cheese burger.

The money (a little over 1k) raised for this form of self-torture was all donated to the NJSPCA. Sciggiles joined with Dragoneer to begin this horror and swapped off turns. Later several members of both the convention staff and audience took up cups for additional funds, while some folks (like my new favorite Cajun fur) chugged three separate cups of the ghost chili pepper concoction.

My Contribution

I hosted the “Hands and Feet” basics panel again this year, since it’s previous reception was so popular last year. Considering that “art 101″ type panels seem so well received, I opted to offer a second panel on the  basics of character design. These panels were very bottom-level basics, touching upon a few tips and tricks and a few important notes.

Both panels were filled with standing room only by the end of it with a lot of laughs (I am a goofball and tend to ham things up a lot), and a number of “light-bulb” moments. I could see the moment of realization in a number of eyes, and a few uttered “oh’s” and “I see’s” made my day. It always brings me such joy to see that look of wonder and realization.

To have the one or two folks from last year come up and return to the same panel, then approach me and say “look at what I did since last time” is so very invigorating, as well.

The best part of these panels? Thanks to the attendees I get a better feel as to what specifics people are looking for and can mold what I offer towards what they need. So, I also improve as a panelist. Thanks folks!

The Charity

This year, with the various charity donation options along with the wildly popular “Will Dragoneer Blend?”, FAUnited was able to raise quite a bit of money for the NJSPCA. When the officials were given the initial final totals (meaning that the con-goers were still donating even through the closing ceremonies), one officer broke down in tears of joy. By the end of the closing ceremonies, with what people were passing up to the stage through the help of a few kind fur-suiters, they went from just over the 7k mark to a full $8,076!

I even sketched up a quick rough Kodiak fursona for the vet to take with him. These officers and specialists put their lives and hearts on the line to protect those creatures that don’t have a voice of their own – and often no real “rights” as humans feel so entitled to have for themselves. It’s only right that we help them to do their job in any way we are able – be it through money donations, being their eyes and ears to abuse, volunteering our time or our homes to fosters animals left with out a family of their own, or in teaching our kids to treat animals with kindness and respect.

Wrap Up

Thank you goes out to the staff for making this a great con this year. Major kudos to those who participated in the drinking of the blended food stuffs along with Dragoneer! Brave souls, all of you!

NOTE:

As I get further updates on the technical side of things, I will update this article. I will add links to videos, photoblogs, and such as I find them.

Writing Web Site’s Copyright Notice

Writing Web Site Copyright Notice

Intro

You generally see these little monsters at the bottom of most websites, often in the footer of the document. Many times you’ll come across variations of these notices, and may wonder just what constitutes a “proper” copyright notice format. It’s a common enough question that has spawned articles over the years all over the internet, and yet there still seems to be a specific division in ideals on this little topic.

Truth be told unless you are a copyright lawyer, which I am not, copyright law is so mired in grey-space, assumptions, an half understood legal muck that it’s difficult to get anything specifically exact. Herein, I will offer a discourse about what I’ve learned, offer links for you to do your own further investigation, and touch upon the important points that everyone who posts or shares anything online needs to know.

This includes this little bit of non-legal-dog advice: Get a lawyer if you want it done right.


 

Differences

What I’ve dug up is rather intresting. Different countries have different ways of protecting their citizenry’s copyrights. Some might think this is a major “no-brainer”, yet it is an obvious oversight in the internet age. The internet community as a whole tend to converge socially, and the younger generations don’t understand that the laws they grew up with aren’t the same laws all over. The US has this issue even when traveling state to state. Imagine what some young adult or kid who knows nothing of the world might end up doing purely due to lack of education.

This article will not cover all the various countries that uphold the various international treaties which cover international copyrights. Rather, this particular article will cover US copyright laws and may touch upon other differences.

One day I may post an article that covers a wider range and broader coverage on this sticky topic.

 

About the Format

Proper U.S. copyright notices are very simple and straight forward. The copyright symbol followed by the word Copyright or it’s abbreviation, then followed by the first year the work was published along with the owner (singular owner, multiple owners, or company – whoever is the legal entity).

ex. © Copyright 1997 Jane Doe.


 

What is a Copyright Notice and Why it is Important?

A copyright notice is a bit of text indicating that something is protected by copyright law, indicating that this “thing” is owned by someone. There is a specific format the is used, but it is optional. Yes, you read that right. It is optional because of the Berne Convention Implementation Act in 1988 which made it optional for all works created after March 1st 1988. However, before you go off gallivanting around without adding a copyright notice to your sites, online, art, etc, give me a chance to clarify a few points.

  1. It is still a law that is in effect. The Berne Convention Implementation Act did not repeal the law, it only modified it.
  2. Older works prior to March 1st 1988 are still effected by this law (whose penalty is pretty harsh – read on for more about this tidbit).
  3. A lot of people, especially your common everyday internet user, have some really wild ideas about what constitutes ”Fair Use”. Knowing your rights is vital to protecting your copyright!
  4. There is an old saying that is pretty standard – if your don’t fight for your copyrights you can lose them. If you remain blasé about your rights, the way a lot of internet users also are (about your rights), it could very well damage any potential future income from your works or worse (yes you could get sued for using your own works).

A little History

In 1978 the United States enacted a provision of the Copyright Act (title 17, U. S.Code), which took effect January 1, 1978. This required people to add a notice as part of their claim. If they didn’t have this notice on their works (get this) they could lose all rights to their works if it was ever published or produced without it attached. The law back then specifically stated that if a work was published with the authors permission, sans the notice, they lost it then and there. It was free for anyone else to take and use at their whim.

Think about how many Disney™ movies you’ve seen that were created before 1988 that had their notice displayed pretty obviously? How about those old cartoons shows in the early 80′s? Books published in the 70′s? Don’t forget those old LPs and 8-tracks, if you dig them out I bet you that you will find somewhere on them a copyright notice. If you look at them closely you’ll find something interesting - aside from the owner name and date of publication they are all the same.

 

What is a Publication?

Okay, this is where legal defintions start to get hairy and require a lawyer versed in copyright law to help folks out (no, seriously don’t just get “Joe Schmo the Lawyer” to help you out – there are lawyers out there that specialized in this field because it’s so hairy and grey-areas abound). You see, certain forms of printing or producing reproductions is NOT covered by copyright law and totally allowed! However, other ones are covered. Even the clarification posed to the reader in Circular 3 from the US Copyright Office can be a bit confusing.

So what do I use? A simple and easy maxim. If it’s not yours, don’t touch it! It’s what I tell my son all the time. However, in this case it’s more like “don’t use it” rather then “don’t touch it”. But I think you get the idea.

Generally speaking, be smart about things. If it’s something you really like and want to use, look for a “Fair Use”, copyright, or usage policy. If you can’t find one, find the contact information and just ask who you need to ask permission from and what form they require to get this permission. Also, get it in writing! If it’s with a big company you may be required to sign a contract. I would personally get any communication about such a thing printed out and saved some where safe, especially if this is for business purposes of any sort. Don’t risk a lawsuit, it’s not worth the thousands to million of dollars in fees and fines.

 

Who Owns What?

This is a beautifully sticky topic. Again, if you are ever in a situation where money is involved, consult a copyright lawyer.

For example, let’s say I’ve been commissioned to draw someone’s character. I own the rights to the final artwork. I could re-print it as reproductions and sell them legally. I could make larger or smaller versions of it, or combine it with other pieces of my own artwork to make collages. I could take the original image and create similar or modified versions of that image. It’s mine to do with as I like. The character is a form of Intellectual Property (another legal term) that cannot be covered under copyright unless it was a published character in a book (like Alice, or Sherlock Holmes).

Another example is fan art. Anne McCaffery at one point sold her rights to a game company to produce a video game based in her creation’s world. During the time up to and before the game was released, the company verbosely and aggressively went after the various clubs, art groups, gallery sites, and more where fan art and fan fiction were found. Such places either had to go under lock and key (password protected membership sites only) or the images and fiction were removed. Anne McCaffery did not have an issue with her fans, and really has always been supportive of her fan-base. The company, having the money invested into this, wanted to protect that investment.

Another example is from White Wolf, the gaming company, that produces many kinds of roleplaying games. They have updated, edited, and even sued a major motion picture studios over their rights. They are, in my current understanding, one of the more aggressive companies to protect their copyrights. Remember when I said, it’s not worth the millions of dollars that a lawsuit could entail? Underworld. ‘Nuff said.

Marvel and D.C. comic mega-companies both struggle with the copyright ownership of their major characters. This again is another warning. Messy contracts, grey-areas in copyright law, and assumptions can land people (and companies) in hot water.

 


So What about those Other Copyright Notices?

Some folks don’t often think about this and may just copy and paste from some other site. This is a bad habit to get into, especially for designers and developers, due to the fact that a copyright notice is what is called “legal jargon“. It has a specific way in which it needs to be written for it to have any true weight.

Also consider that the internet is a world wide network of websites hosted in different countries. Remember what I said before about how laws differ? No matter how close some countries laws may be to our own, they aren’t exactly the same. This is why copyright lawyers get paid the big money.

 

Resources:

Disclaimer:

The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only. The information as provided by Hope Bryant is not official legal advice. She is not a lawyer and makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.