Contributing on Github: Sass to SCSS

I am a firm believer that if you want learn how to do something, you need to do something. In the past year I have been working mainly with the web as an UX designer. Lately there has been a move to design in browser. This has forced me to up my knowledge of how to code for the web.

If you want to learn how to do something, you need to do something

I have benefited a lot from the openness of web community. There is a lot of sharing of code snippets, how-to videos and frameworks to help make it easier to get started. In the past year I have learnt the following concepts: responsive web design, atomic design patterns, CSS3, HTML5, Sass and build tools like Gulp/Grunt. One project byTravis Neilson called DevTips Starter Kit was updated recently. It is a small project that was created to help get started with creating a website. He is a big fan of Sass over SCSS (it’s Sass not SASS). I am familiar with SCSS for preprocessing CSS. This exercise of reverse engineering Sass to SCSS will help me see the differences between both syntax. What I did:

  • Convert Sass to SCSS
  • Restructure the project to separate CSS and SCSS
  • Add variables for fonts
  • Extract colours used in project out to variables

You can check out the code here on Github https://github.com/lifeofmle/SCSS-DevTips-Starter-Kit

Shooting my first wedding video

My friends allowed me to capture their wedding day in Hawaii. I had no experience doing this but the bride and groom had faith in me.

A wedding is a special day for the couple. However the whole day can go by quickly for the bride and groom. Photos will capture the beauty of the day but not the motion. Below are some tips and pointers that I learnt during this process.

Getting help

I got offered help from friends for my task. How I was going to use this help was hard because I didn’t want to use a lot of people’s time because they were there to be part of the wedding not work at the wedding. I turned down most of the help in the end. I asked for the friends with GoPros to capture the day and I would collate it all after. I had one friend who is a photographer who really wanted to try filming, so I said sure why not.

Know your equipment

To be honest, I had no clue how to use my camera on the day of the shoot. Due to this lack of knowledge, I didn’t focus the shots in the morning. Luckily by the time the ceremony rolled around I got the camera focused but I forgot to adjust the lighting to adapt to the bright Hawaiian sun. This caused some of the video to be saturated. Although you can fix some of it in post-editing, try to capture the best video you can to make your life easier later.

The sound captured from cameras is not the best. There can be ambient noise and wind if it is outdoors. It is best to have a microphone and recorder on the day to capture sound. I borrowed a Yamaha Pocketrax C24 from my friend and got a lav microphone for input. For the ceremony if you only have one mic, you can hook it up to the groom as it should capture both the celebrant and the bride’s speaking.

Backup batteries are key because you won’t have time to recharge your batteries as the day moves on. I had to switch the batteries once on all of the cameras.

Get in position

As the videographer you need to be on your A-game on the day. Unlike a normal movie, shooting a wedding is tough because you only have one take. You can’t ask the bride and groom redo their first kiss or vows because you were not in position. It is best to be as ready as you can be and shoot what you can.

Shooting a wedding is tough because you only have one take

To prepare for the day I watched this video from Wedding Film School to understand how to get in the best position for the ceremony. I brought a tripod so that allowed me to take stationary video. I used the second camera while moving to get action shots. With my friend helping out as a camera I was fortunate to get three positions (left, right, back centre) for the ceremony. This paid off in editing to have the option of different angles during the ceremony.

Try to get the wedding run sheet from the bride and groom before the day. This will allow you to understand the timing and pace of the events during the day and where you will need to be.

Being in position doesn’t only mean focusing on the bride and groom. Try to get around the crowd and get candid footage of people enjoying the wedding.

Editing

Editing is where everything comes together. I had footage from the three cameras and four GoPro cameras. Altogether this equated to hours of video to go through. Condensing it all down to a trailer(3:11 mins) and full video (1 hour 48 mins) was a tricky task. How do you filter out key moments but keep enough to have the spirit of the day still there.

The sequencing for the wedding trailer should allow you to tell a story in a short period of time. The trailer is not a teaser for the full movie because not everyone will watch the full movie. The wedding trailer should capture the day, tell a story and be fun enough to share with friends and family.

I recommend going through the videos quickly before starting the editing. This will give you an idea of what kind of video you have. There will be some key moments or themes that stand out.

Music can make or break a trailer. One tip that was said to my wife and I when we had our wedding trailer video done was that the song shouldn’t be a mainstream song. Why? When the song is not well known people don’t have an existing association already in their mind. It becomes more personal this way. Choosing a song can be challenging. It requires some knowledge of the genre or you can use MusicBed to search for songs.

Once you have selected the song the rest comes easier because you are fitting the video to the song. When editing I like to edit by moving the unused video/audio to an invisible/muted track respectively in so that I can revert or change my edits as I go along. It is tempting to use cross dissolve as a video transistion but use it in moderation (if you are going to use it at all). Getting the perfect edit requires patience and timing to get that perfect slice.

Finished!

When it was all done, the video editing took me one night after work each day for a week plus a Saturday. There was also a moment when I deleted the video by accident. I have much respect to videographers who do same day edits.

In the end it was all worth it when I delivered the video to the happy married couple and they were thrilled with the result.

This originally posted on Medium.

Exploring inspiration

In spring of 2014, I had the opportunity to take some time off work and explore the city of London during the daytime.

I was working in Canary Wharf since 2008 but in all time I didn’t get a chance to see central London during the day. I took this opportunity to walk around and just see what London had to offer during the day.

The vibrant start up scene was something that I wanted to get involved with. I went to a co-working space at Campus London. I also got a chance to visit other tech co-working spaces like Central Working to work with a startup. Everyone had a strong hustle work ethic to them. Unlike the popular belief there wasn’t free coffee and beer flowing at these working spaces.

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Walking around London I got to visit markets and food stalls that I wouldn’t have been able to go to working Canary Wharf. I got a chance to slow down a bit, visit a few museums and find new inspirations. Below was a photo I took at the Paul Smith exhibit at the Design Museum, “every day is a new beginning”. For me my new beginning was changing careers from being a full time UI developer to UX designer. One day I will write about that process.

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How can improv comedy help with your daily work?

A few years ago when I was working at a software consulting company and we were sent to improv comedy classes. If you had reservations about public speaking this was one way to get over it with comedy. To push the group, we even had a date to perform in central London. Teamwork is a necessity to achieve success with improv comedy because it is done as a group. The form of improv comedy that we did was the Harold. This is a long form of improv comedy that involve three teams who perform in 3 phases or beats.  But does improv help you with your daily work in a professional environment?

Clover leaf pattern

The clover leaf pattern is a group game in the Harold of coming up with 3 topics and then as a group you generate different ideas about the topics. You go around the group and say different words in related to the topic. The group will go on different tangents and arcs about the topic. The goal is trying to tie it back to the original topic before moving onto the next topic.

This is useful in work when brainstorming ideas. It is very easy to get side tracked but having a focus and the ability to bring ideas back to the central point is useful.

“Yes and”

To succeed in improv, the secret is that you don’t deny someone else’s reality. This was something hard to do at the start. Someone could say “look at the purple elephant next to me”, instead of “umm no” we were instructed to start with saying “yes and”. This was effective because using “yes and” we could incorporate someone else’s story into our own storyline. “Yes there is a purple elephant and I have a flying car”, the possibility for this story about an elephant just expanded.

How many times in a meeting do you get pushback or disagreements? Do you stop these comments head on? Using the “yes and” technique, you give yourself the ability to emphasise with their point of view. This could give you an opportunity to reframe your argument with this person in mind. You are now being collaborative rather than combative.

Finale

In the harold, you start of with 3 different stories in the first beat and hopefully by the third beat, all of these stories sync up. This works by the teams picking up cues and themes that happen in the first and second beats. In the third beat, all of the teams come together with their separate stories and join on the common themes. This happens only if you pay attention to the other teams acting.

Listening to others is a necessary skill to succeed professionally. How do you adapt your state based on others? Can you help them out with their story? Sometimes meetings can go off the rails when tangents happen but like the clover leaf pattern game, can you find the common themes to bring everyone back together?

This blog article was something that I thought about writing about 3 years ago when I first got introduced to improv. Since then I found that the techniques used in improv helped me deal with tricky situations in consultant when someone throws you a curve ball in their comments or questions. So if you are looking for a team building exercise that requires a bit of fun and creativity, improv comedy is a winner.

Cut the carbs when giving feedback

One of the skills that new managers/leader need to know is giving feedback. One popular technique of giving feedback is the Sandwich model. The sandwich model works like this, a positive feedback, constructive feedback and finishing with a positive feedback. This technique is used in Toastmaster speaking program as a way for evaluators to frame critique of a speak. This is popular technique because delivering constructive feedback can be considered to be challenging. It is challenging because delivering constructive feedback can feel like you are criticising someone’s work. I believe it is only bad if you criticise without giving any guidance on how they can improve.

Over time managing teams, I have grown to dislike the sandwich model. Sugar coating feedback with the positive feedback weakens the constructive feedback that you want that person to improve. I used to hesitate giving negative feedback. Why? I was scared of hurting that person’s feeling. It is can be a negative experience if you are just putting them down. It is all about framing the conversation. Constructive feedback is not about stating the area for improvement but also the first step in how to improve in that area.

  • What is going wrong?
  • Where did you expect that person to be?
  • Do they have any self awareness of the same problem?
  • Where do you want them to be?
  • Where do they want to be?
  • What is the roadmap to the next level?
  • What are the steps for small improvements?
  • What is the next checkpoint/goal?

Our time is limited. We work 9 to 5 (or sometimes more), in fact we probably spend more time at work than at home. We should make the time at work count. Be effective and be helpful. Praise people for the good work that they do often and make the time for improvements count.

Can technology prevent our always on culture by being always on?

Last year I flew on a plane over Christmas and finally got to watch the movie Her. I took notes about the movie relating to technology being immersive into our lives

  • Immersive games – Real time feedback when talking to characters
  • Empathy systems – What is it to be human, Writing for others
  • Adapting to change – Contextual images

What I thought was interesting was the the email filter when the OS said “hey this looks urgent”.  By being always on and processing, it can filter the noise in our daily alerts and notification and only alert us when immediate action is necessary.

Can technology prevent our always on culture by being always on?

A scarier question is do we need human interaction?  Can we avoid human interaction because we can emulate and simulate human interaction? How to you build profiles/personas to capture emotion? Is it that simple? Can you program real love?

It’s not my problem

Going through some of my draft posts, I noticed that this was not posted yet. This was a thought I had two years ago which I think it is still true.

You limit yourself when you say it’s not my problem

In my career, I noticed that some people do their job but only their job. It is fair to say that you shouldn’t take on more than you can do then you are just asking for trouble. However if the work you are doing is related and it is not much more effort to help someone else out by doing a bit extra, what is stopping you?

Managers have told me this that these individuals are selfish or not team players. I guess it boils down to whether is that the person can’t or won’t go the extra mile. “No, this is not part of my remit” is a weak excuse (I cringe every time I hear that line). If you can’t do it then at least try to help the person find the path towards the solution.