Why I spent St Patricks Day learning Django

Why I spent St. Patrick’s Day Learning Django

I remember the good old days when St. Patrick’s Day was about corned beef & cabbage and lots of beer (black, not green – I used to Guinness on the 17th). So WHY did I spent this weekend learning a web development framework instead of joining my friends at the local pub?

The short answer is “for a job”.

My current job search

I’ve been working on my current job search for a few weeks now and have made some progress. Given the breadth of my skill sets (marketing, programming, media production, business management) I’ve been applying for a wide range of jobs. More specifically I have been applying to companies where I want to work for jobs they have open that fit in one of my skill sets. Previously I had been applying for jobs and the companies were an after thought. This time I have a bit more time to spend researching before applying because once I am hired, I do not have plans on leaving for a while.

One of the jobs I am currently interviewing for (which is why I am not disclosing the company for now) is a web developer position in the marketing department. Just in case my potential employer is reading my blog, I won’t share much beyond my enthusiasm for writing code and working with marketing folks. In reality, they know I want to work there or I wouldn’t have spent my weekend creating a website from scratch using a language (Python) and framework (Django) that are new to me. Python isn’t that new for me because I used to teach it to my advanced students in the “kids coding” classes as a volunteer at Selby Library. Django was new to me, but after the first hour or so of reading through the documentation I could tell I was going to enjoy this.

About Django

Here is the definition from the official Django Project website (Easier than paraphrasing and I am exceptionally tired this morning):

Django is a high-level Python Web framework that encourages rapid development and clean, pragmatic design. Built by experienced developers, it takes care of much of the hassle of Web development, so you can focus on writing your app without needing to reinvent the wheel. It’s free and open source.

https://www.djangoproject.com/

The Django Project website describes it as:

  • Ridiculously Fast
  • Fully Loaded
  • Reassuringly Secure
  • Exceedingly Scalable
  • Incredibly Versatile
Jazz Legend Django Reinhardt
Jazz Legend Django Reinhardt

While I have only been working in Django for about a week, I can see where many of these attributes are accurate. Once I learned the syntax it didn’t take more than a few minutes to install Django and create a basic skeleton website. From there it took me a couple hours to create the structure of my website, add content, test the code, and push it to a production server. To be honest the part that took the longest was setting up my development environment and production server settings – neither of which have anything to do with Django. All that being said I am entertained by Django being named after the jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (not the Tarantino film).

Django is new to me, so how long have I been coding?

While I am new to Django, I am not new to writing code or web development. I’ve been programming off and on since I was 6 and have been working on various website projects, mostly freelance, since 1997. Yup, I am an Internet OG. (Yes, I really said that. You’re welcome.)

Old school websites Yahoo!
How the web looked in the 90’s

While my 20-year stint in the furniture industry wasn’t tech-focused, I often used code to make my job functions more efficient. Everything from ActionScript to write shortcuts in Photoshop, VBA for editing macros in Excel, and SQL to make bulk updates to the database on our point of sale system. The past 5 years I have been taking a deeper dive on coding learning a lot more about CSS, PHP, and JavaScript, as well as learning languages I’ve never tried previously like Ruby and Python. I’ve especially enjoyed learning frameworks like Bootstrap and now Django.

What if I DON’T get the job? (*gasp*)

Well, that’s always a possibility, but I tend to not focus on “what if’s” or on failing. I am confident that I have a good shot at getting this job, but it’s not the only job I am applying for, but it has required the most work in the application process. While I like all of the jobs I am currently interviewing for, this one would be a step in a new direction so it has bit more excitement. Worst case scenario I’ve made some great new contacts and learned a brand new set of development tools. It might be old-fashioned, but I tend to believe that hard work is it’s own reward and effort is never wasted even if the ultimate goal is not achieved.

What if I DO get the job?

After Shelley and I are done doing the happy dance all around Sarasota I supposed I will need to reorganize my personal schedule to take an even stricter focus on web development, especially with Django. Either way, this project has changed my web development workflow for the better.

Time machine

Installing Ubuntu in VirtualBox in Windows 10 via Chrome Remote Desktop and FaceTime

If I am not careful I will time travel!

The job search is in full swing and one of the developer positions I applied for uses Django & Python. Right now I am working on a work sample to submit built on Django. While I have a bit of experience with Python from learning and teaching it to my “Kids Coding” classes from 2016, but Django is a new animal for me.

Django is a framework built with Python and named after the legendary jazz Django Reinhardt. This is the type of web development that requires more than a text editor, browser, and FTP software. The code is written locally then pushed up to a development server for testing then pushed to production for public viewing.

While I am not a Mac OS kind of guy it is the BEST set up for this type of development, but I can’t justify buying a new Mac computer for this exercise. Linux is as good, if not better, for this type of work so I opted to install a copy of Ubuntu on my desktop computer. First I attempted it using the fairly new Windows Linux Subsystem and it worked okay, but not very seamless. The next best option was to install it into a virtual machine (essentially a computer inside a computer) so I chose Virtual Box by Oracle.

So it wasn’t complex enough to be running my Windows 10 desktop via Chrome Virtual Desktop to install Ubuntu Linux inside my new virtual machine, I had to FaceTime with my beautiful and talented wife Shelley so she could reboot the system and update a few BIOS settings to make it all work. After years of being together Shelley and I have never had a fight and if this scenario didn’t trigger one I don’t know what could.

I am now typing out this blog post while waiting for my installation to finish so I can get back to coding. Thanks for keeping me company!

Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Happy Birthday World Wide Web!

It is hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since Sir Tim Berners-Lee shared his vision on what became the web. I was a senior in high school and while I had heard of ARPANET and the Internet, since my dad was in the military, I had no idea that this new concept would shape my entire career.

My career wasn’t created yet

My generation (Gen Xers) were the earliest to be told we could be anything we set our mind too and were eagerly encouraged to go to college. I remember being asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” as early as 5th grade. By 8th grade I was being pushed to start thinking of a college major and career path. Like a lot of my peers I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. Part of that came from my parents influence for me to participate in a wide range of activities to be “well rounded”. Ultimately I graduated high school being confused, indecisive, and a jack of all trades. What I didn’t realize that what I really wanted to be when I grew up had not been invented until I was in college and wasn’t publicly available until after I graduated with my degree in Criminology. CRIMINOLOGY? Whenever I think about this brain trust level decision I made at 19 years old I immediately picture the jail scene from the end of Clerks II.

How I got started on the web

From 1995 to 1997 I found a renewed interest in programming that I hadn’t felt since I first learned BASIC in 1977. (Only 6 year old in school writing code…oh yeah.) I was studying Visual BASIC 6 and SQL when a friend sent me an email with a link to his personal web page. We spent HOURS talking about HTML and the idea that we could put up a web page and share our demented thoughts with the entire world.

Later that year while at the furniture market in San Francisco having a Scotch (that I couldn’t afford) with my boss I asked him for his best piece of business advice. I’ll never forget what he said. “You need more than business management skills these days. You need a specialty, a focus that you are best at in addition so when opportunities present themselves you can be the ‘advertising guy’ or the ‘location selection guy’. You are sharp with computers and seem to enjoy that the most. Since this Internet thing seems to be gaining traction, its a good time for to you learn everything you can about it now. It will be something we’ll need for the company in the future and it will help you focus your career.”

Within 3 years I learned the fundamentals of HTML, CSS, PERL, PHP, JavaScript, and MySQL. I created a few websites for myself, family, and friends. Over the next 10 years or so I learned a few CMS platforms like Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal and started my freelance business as a side hustle in 2003. From 2003 until 2013 I spent time diving into other skill sets like graphic design, motion graphics, and media production in addition to web design.

While I never focused 100% of my career on web design, it had a continuous presence in my life. The wide range of skills I developed over the past 25 years related to web design have helped further my career and opened the door to several incredible contacts with experts in fields from eCommerce, SEO, content marketing, and coding.

The good far outweighs the bad

As I was reading through a few articles this morning about the 30th anniversary of the web I was disappointed by the number of negative articles about this incredible technology. Everything from privacy concerns to the negative effects of social media. I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole about how we live in absolutely the most amazing times in history, but the web deserves better than this. There are downsides to every advancement in human history, but the positive effects of web technology outweigh the bad by a much larger difference than some of these articles express. New career categories have been created, social movements have been given a powerful voice, small businesses have been able to flourish, and entire nations have been able to organize to stand for their rights. I think that beats out Alexa eavesdropping and a bit of vaction FOMO on Facebook.

Best advice ever from dad

I’m going to close this post out with something my dad told me when I was 8 years old and really set on becoming a computer programmer. He told me “You don’t want to be one of dozens in a crowded office typing out code son. By the time you are ready to enter the workplace computers will be everywhere. Technology will become part of everything we do and won’t be limited to just a computer on your desk. Learn a skill, go into a specific field, and learn where technology will fit in there and become the expert.”

It still amazes me how insightful this advice was 10 years before the birth of the web. My dad was always on the cutting edge of technology, both at work and at home. He did miss one trick though when I told him I wanted to learn how to program games and he told me to not waste my time because “creating video games with NEVER be a business.” Hmmm…thanks dad? Of course I did go to college on his dime to get a degree in Criminology, so I guess we’re even.

Happy birthday WWW and thank you Sir Tim for your incredible contribution to the world! (Now please accept my FB friend request so I can post a bunch of GIFs on your page.)

Ringling College – Future Proof 2019

Ringling College: Professional Networking Workshop

Thank you for letting me present some professional networking techniques from my experience over the years! Hope to see some of you at a Toastmasters meeting in the future. Best wishes in your careers and continuing educations!

Ed Panas

Resources discussed in the workshop (non-affiliate links):

Speaking at Podfest 2019!

OMG! TWO WEEKS TO PODFEST!

Me at 5:30 a.m. today.

I had this realization early this morning when I was getting into my office. This time last year we were just recovering from the great time we had at PodFest18 and scrambling to get the podcast wheels turning for our next 6 episodes. One of my goals leaving the conference last year was to be a speaker this year, so I was STOKED when I got my notification that I would be on a panel this year. The session schedules just came out recently and I am excited to be sharing the stage with some very accomplished podcasters and podcast producers on the tech discussion panel – John Largent, William Howell, Carey Green, Danny Ozment.

I am very grateful to my good friends Chris Krimitsos and John Dennis for this opportunity and look forward to thoroughly enjoying my time in Orlando this year with my wife (and co-host) Shelley. Can’t wait to see my podcasting family at this conference!

If you love podcasting and have any interest in starting a podcast of your own this is THE EVENT to attend this year! PodFest 2019 – don’t miss out!

Finally done. (for now)

This weekend I put finishing touches on my new personal branding website. There will be tweaks and updates, but as my wife’s mom used to say “its good enough for who it’s for”.

What’s next?

This week I won’t have as much contract work in my schedule so I’ll be able to focus more on my job search. I’ve applied at a few places, but this week I’m going to be dedicating a few hours each day to it. When I’m not applying for jobs I’ll either be networking, doing online training courses, or hustling up more freelance gigs to keep the lights on a bit longer…and pay for my coffee bill.

As always if you know of anyone who is hiring or needs a website built please have them contact me at edforhire.com or contactedward.com

Thanks!

Because sometimes you need more than coffee to wake up.

Time is running out – Jocko Willink

I started following Jocko about a year or so ago when I heard him on a few podcasts (Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan’s, etc.). I became sold on his philosophy of “discipline = freedom” when I read his book “Extreme Ownership”. If you’re looking for something a bit more direct with less fluff than most self-help gurus provide I recommend following Jocko on Twitter and YouTube.

Link Building Mastery

How to Build Links in 2019

My first go at curated content.

Source: Search Engine Journal article “How to Build Links in 2019“.

So this is my first run at writing a blog post about something interesting I read on one of the several search marketing websites I read daily. Search Engine Journal is one of my favorites because of the sheer volume of articles they publish in a variety of topics.

This time of year they tend to have great suggestions on how to make the most of the new year. Some of the articles are about tactics / strategies and some of them are focused on Google trends in SEO or PPC. This article does a great job in covering a somewhat convoluted topic – LINK BUILDING.

This is a blockquote – I like these.

A link building strategy that is most relevant for 2019 is to identify problems that need solving then creating content that solves those problems. This can be the heart of a link building strategy.

Roger Montti, Search Engine Journal

I tend to like articles with numbered lists because it’s easier to sort though the ideas quickly. In this article they break link building down into 5 tips:

  1. Cultivate Natural Citations with Solution Pages
  2. Don’t Be a Virus – Be Useful
  3. Build Relationships with People Not Sites
  4. Link Begging
  5. Become the Site You Want a Link From

It ends with the key takeaway of Focus on People. Every presentation I’ve given clients about SEO and content marketing is built around the idea of building content for humans, not machines. While you can fake it for a while targeting the web crawlers your long term success won’t last as long as if you provide value for the human visitors.

Noting earth shattering about this first curated post. I typically share links to articles directly on my social media accounts, but I am considering curating content on core topics and expanding it with my own insights. This entire website is an experiment for me, so we will see how it goes.

Lots of pills with a thermometer

A taste of my own medicine

Work Harder header graphic

When it comes to web design I am the epitome of the landscaper who’s yard looks terrible because he’s too busy working to mow his own lawn.

While working on my website today started out great but by the afternoon I was down a rabbit hole chasing several typography & color scheme options. To break free of the web design squirrel I was chasing I decided to focus on the navigation and content. Content. The entire reason I wanted to have my own website was to have a place to create and aggregate CONTENT.

It’s not to show off my web design abilities – the design portion of web development is one of my weaker skill sets. Looking at what I did with our website for Selling Sarasota Podcastusing the site provided by Libsyn I realized I can just use a well-designed template for WordPress and configure it as a traditional blog with an About and a Contact page.

I am making the changes with the WordPress app on my phone while in bed. Partly to test the WP app but mostly because I’m too lazy to drag myself out of bed.

Why am I calling this post “a taste of my own medicine”? Because I’m also advising clients and colleagues to keep it simple and stay focused. I’ve done neither over the past week while working on the website.

Time to play with photos!

It’s been a bit of a crazy week so I didn’t get as far down the road with my website as I hoped, but I find a few gigs for some extra side cash. Today I created panel pages for my front page layout and experimented with a contact form, some photos, and responsive block layouts using Gutenberg in WordPress.

First, here are the “Before & After” shots of my progress today.

Feb 1st – BEFORE
Feb 1st – AFTER

What I worked on today:

  • Switched the home page from my blog listing to a static front page.
  • Using a child theme of ‘Shoreditch’ I created a panel page layout using sub-pages for each section.
  • Uploaded a few images and experimented with how to display them on the home page.
  • Added a contact form to the home page. It is the same exact form on the Contact page so I will experiment with Google Tag Manager on how to differentiate between where form submissions are sent from. A workaround would be to just have two forms, but then that’s not really the best design.
  • I embedded a list of recent blog posts into the blog section panel on the home page using a plugin “Widgets on Pages” which makes content placement a bit more flexible.
  • I embedded a YouTube video from my channel “Ed’s Got a Green Screen” using the built-in block in the editor. Seems to work pretty well. (Please feel free to stop by and SUBSCRIBE!)

What’s next?

  • More images.
  • More home page layout fun.
  • Experimenting with typography.
  • Finish navigation.
  • Add lots of content!
Edward Panas Resume

Some last minute progress.

When I got home tonight I was a bit frustrated with my lack of progress on my resume and my personal branding website and I resolved to get something done before calling it a night.

Here is my progress for tonight:

  1. I started with my resume. Since my resume, especially the “profile summary” part of it was my primary source of frustration and my biggest stumbling block to getting back on track I hit it head on and I am happy with the result. Might polish it up as I go, but this works for now.
  2. Next I made a short list of technical details I could easily set up on the website and quickly worked through them. Most of these do not alter the front end of the website, but are necessary pieces of the puzzle.
    • Google Analytics – set up property and added tracking code.
    • Google Search Console – set up property and verified it.
    • Contact 7 – a popular WP form plugin for my contact page.
    • Font Awesome – a plugin to make using Font Awesome glyphs. Good for social media icons, etc.
    • ReCaptcha – a Google service for form validation. It’s like the “type these characters” form verification, but without needed the extra field.
  3. Created a Contact page with Font Awesome and Contact 7 plugins. Too late to finish tonight, but it will end up being a very clean mobile first page with icon buttons for contacting me via social media, email, or phone with a very basic contact form at the bottom. I will point the domain “ContactEdward.com” at this page once the page is complete.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow I am going to get back after it and get most of the website done, especially the “Ed for Hire” portion. I would like to be in a position to start applying to multiple jobs a day starting Wednesday. We’ll see how much premium coffee I can get my hands on between now and then.