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This year has been one of significant change for me personally and professionally. Change is always good in my book, and being a web developer it’s convenient that I embrace it rather than resist it. The rate at which web technologies change, grow and trend is both exciting and daunting from a designer’s point of view. I’m no longer just a “designer” but an information architect, user experience designer, art director, front-end developer, visionary, user interface designer, search engine marketer and optimizer, mobile web designer, video editor (?), voice actress (?!)–the list could go on, but I think you catch my drift. Am I officially qualified to be all these things? Well I’m damn well trying to, folks. I devote almost my entire existence to keeping up on the latest CMS platforms, coding best practices, coding worst practices, design interface trends, mobile trends, usability heuristics, search engine marketing and optimization development, analytics, and after consuming all this information trying to sort through which is relevant for my clients and my practice. This is what I have to do as a small web development company. I have to be a mini all-in-one resource for my clients and still come up with compelling design concepts and marketing pitches to support the organizations who are also trying to keep up with these technologies but don’t have the budget or time. Oh–and I have to go out and get more clients too.

This may sound like I’m complaining, but I truly love and value what I do. I missed the first band wagon of “the web” in the ’90s, but I’ve self-educated and self-employed for better or worse and it’s exhilarating. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The following is a list of things I consider to be the most relevant and up-and-coming (meaning, like, tomorrow) web technologies:

Ok yeah it’s not totally here yet, but it will be. Front end development is getting deeper and more involved everyday and now there is a way to easily incorporate more dynamically generated elements and semantically effective code. The faceless DIV is like a Mr. Potato Head with no features. HTML5 requires Mr. Div to maybe put some eyes and ears on (no feet though).

Mobile Interface Design
Two years ago websites said “I don’t need a Mini Me.” Now there is a whole society of Mini Me’s running around with barely any clothes on and some are deformed. It’s no longer a question if you should have a mobile site but how soon can I afford one? Social media has changed the way we behave and what we expect from our media devices, and we want instant gratification. At least we don’t have to blame MTV for ruining our attention spans anymore.

Social Media
Doh! I said it. Web developers cringe when they hear this because everyone wants their own Facebook built for $100. Not going to happen. That said, it’s refreshing that there is an exciting web environment to validate the individual and connect people with each other in a sincere fashion. Engaging people to remember details, birthdays, anniversaries, or relationship statuses. Whether you’re Nicki Minaj or Joe Nobody your Facebook profile has the same capabilities as the next guy’s (for the most part).

JavaScript libraries
Write less. Do more. Enough said.

Search Engine Marketing & Optimization
An obvious and ongoing topic of interest. Google has gone from a “successful company” to an “information monstrosity that may control your life.” Run and hide! Just kidding. It’s pretty hard to hide from Google in my opinion. Soon they will have an app that records the number of splashes in your toilet and average how much crap is generated in your neighborhood and/or household. Sorry that is gross, but I was trying to think of the most personal type of app someone could develop. Another question is “what is going to be the next Google?” Will it be Facebook? I mean, there is no movie about Google. Oh I know! Maybe The Matrix Trilogy is a prequel to The Social Network. Perhaps the machines were escorting Neo to a computer lab someplace where he created Facebook.

Keep creating original content folks and we can maintain a clean, healthy web environment. Don’t make waste! Be sincere! Be an engaged and thoughtful contributor!

Web typefaces
Ok not EVERYONE cares about this, but it is neat that we aren’t always limited by idiotic web fonts. I hope Comic Sans does stay around so we designers can continue to laugh at it. Now we can use stuff like Cufon and TypeKit.

Am I missing something? I probably am. Please comment and join this conversation if you feel so inclined. A question at the Ann Arbor SPARK roundtable discussion was raised earlier this evening. “How do I become the venue in which to have conversations?” Answer: start the conversation.

One of the old voyageurs, Jacques L’esperance, settled near Grosse Pointe on the Detroit River and became prosperous—not because he was a fur trapper, not because he was a farmer, but because he raised horses. He became one of the most famous horse breeders on the Great Lakes, and he won nine of ten races he entered.

He won the famous winter races on which the horses would pull a sleigh for miles out onto the ice of Lake St. Clair. A wrong turn, a snowstorm, a moment’s lapse in judgment, and you might never see the shore again. But Jacques’ horses never missed a step, and he always came home safely.

Jacques L’esperance’s favorite horse was called Caribou, and he loved that horse like a mother loves her son. “Avance, Caribou,” the people on the shore heard him yell as he urged the horse across the frozen lake. “Caribou can jump a crack in the ice twenty feet wide,” he would tell the people in the old town of Grosse Pointe as he drank peach brandy late into the night. “Caribou can outrun the wind.”

“You shouldn’t talk about the horse that way,” someone said. “Le Lutin will hear you, and want the horse for himself.”

“That’s nonsense,” replied Jacques L’esperance. “Le Lutin is a story children tell. It doesn’t exist.”

So one night Jacques L’esperance went to the house of his friend Antoine, whose violin could make even the most unwilling feet chase flying time. After he danced until dawn, he went out to the stable to saddle Caribou, and found the horse covered with sweat and foam, her mane and tail hair tangled and filled with burrs. It was a breach of hospitality to let someone ride the horse of a guest, but Jacques said nothing and told himself he would bring a less valuable horse the next time.

But the next morning, he found Caribou exhausted once again, covered with sweat and foam, her mane and tail hair tangled and filled with burrs. This time Jacques resolved to lock the barn, but the next morning it was the same story over again. He tried to stay up to listen but fell asleep, and the next morning he found Caribou had been ridden once more. He put a circle of ashes all the way around the barn the next night, but at the next daybreak he found the ashes undisturbed, with no footprints, and Caribou frightened and exhausted, covered with sweat and foam, her mane and tail hair tangled and filled with burrs.

He told the people in Grosse Pointe what had happened. “C’est Le Lutin qui la soigne,” a storyteller said. “Brand the horse with a cross and hang a medal of a saint around its neck. Do not go out without a pail of holy water. It will make the Lutin afraid.”

“There is no Lutin,” said Jacques L’esperance. “Le Lutin is a story mothers tell their children to make them quiet before they sleep. This is some enemy of mine who is jealous of my success.”

So one bright moonlit night Jacques L’esperance determined to find out who this enemy was. He stationed himself at the edge of his plot of land, where he could command a good view of his barn without being seen himself. Armed with a rifle, he waited for his foe. Not a sound disturbed the night air except for the low murmur of lake against beach, the lone cry of a shorebird, or the howl of a coyote. The natural world seemed to sleep.

Suddenly he heard an alarming sound—the sound of a horse, but it was like the sound of a human scream. Keeping his eyes on the barn doors, he saw them noiselessly open and Caribou, trembling like a leaf, burst through. On her back was a creature that resembled a giant ape, with horns on its head, wild bristles of black hair, restless eyes of fire, and a twisted leer on its face. It held a whip, made from a branch of thorns. Jacques L’esperance was no coward, but he felt his courage oozing out at his knees, cold chills chasing each other down his back, and great beads of sweat on his forehead. The monster clutched with one hand at Caribou’s mane, and with the other it urged her on with its giant claws. Riding without saddle or bridle, the fiend lashed the horse, catching the hair of her mane and tail with the whip or thorns.

Jacques L’esperance knew that his rifle was powerless against such a creature. Caribou, powerless too against the demon atop her, bore down on him with murder in her panicked eyes. But in a bright inspiration Jacques remembered the holy water, and he knew it was old way that the voyageurs would exorcise a demon. Dodging the mad horse and its dark rider, he ran to the hallway of the farmhouse and seized the font of holy water, one of which was always at hand for every habitant, you know, chère. He threw the water as hard as he could.

A demonic scream tore the air. The horse snorted, reared, and despite the best efforts of the demon, plunged into the chilly waters of Lake St. Clair. Jacques L’esperance rushed into the water in pursuit, but only circles marked the spot where the frightened animal and its fiendish rider had disappeared. Firing his rifle to awaken his neighbors, who rushed to find out what was the matter, Jacques L’esperance told his tale.

His disordered appearance, the absence of the horse, the broken fragments of the holy water font, and a branch of thorns dropped by the demon all confirmed his story. After that, Jacques L’esperance branded all his horses with a cross, and hung medals of the saints around their necks. And to this day the people of Grosse Pointe keep this custom. And whenever in the early morning they go to the barn and find a favorite horse reeking with sweat and foam, and with its mane all tangled as if by the claws of a beast, they shake their heads and say that Le Lutin has come again.

I had a crush on Beck in the ’90s [see current playlist]. I wanted a mature cute artsy boy to wonder what I was up to all the time. I think my first serious boyfriend’s hair resembled his hair–and him in general come to think of it. He was a tall, thin guy with shaggy dirty blonde hair. We used to think it was cool to be art/goth outcasts of high-school society. I was a vegetarian. I was really into Salvador Dali. I thought I was special.

What’s different now?
Not much. Kidding! Well, sort of. There is an element of 1994-1999 in lots of stuff I do and think; however, there are different sources of inspiration, motivation and (god willing) awareness.

You can be affected by things you know (known outcomes, risks involved, etc.) or things you don’t know (meaning of life, etc.). At some point you come to the realization there are things you have to do whether you like them or not. And there are rules. Damnit! When does this happen though? When we learn to walk? When we learn to say “no”? When we dislike something? When we own something? Don’t look at me because I have no effing clue. I’m just saying at some point we have this realization we have to do stuff to accomplish or prevent certain other outcomes from happening and it’s not always pretty. Which outcomes to accomplish and/or prevent? Guess it depends how you think.

As we acquire more knowledge we become opinionated, opportunistic, and sometimes insincere. These things are what they are. Whatever. My point is it might be a welcome change to be propelled more often not by what you do know and what you think you can make others aware of; but perhaps you can open yourself up to be projected onto, accept/learn things, and therefore become a prism not a mirror. Whoa! Far out. Maybe you think you already think like this. Then go out and do it, (wo/)man!

I’m not trying to dis the “known” either. The Known is rad and essential to life as we know it. Things just wouldn’t be the same without it. The concept of new only exists because of the concept of old and vice versa. A lot of favorable outcomes have arisen from new+old:

I used to have a job I didn’t particularly see myself having forever, and I couldn’t get out of bed enthusiastically to save my life. The alarm clock was my enemy, and I snoozed as much as humanly possible. Now, however, I usually go to bed around 2AM and have been getting out of bed at 7:30AM (after the initial waking up at 6:30 by a small puppy). I have no alarm set ever unless I have to be someplace at a specific time. Why is this? Call it fear, paranoia, adventure or whatever, but I call it “being excited about shit in general.” Stop trying to construct wave machines and learn to surf on actual waves. It’s much easier and way more fun.

I’ll stop being your life cheerleader now. I have better things to do anyway.

“I often take a work to the edge of its collapse, and that’s a very beautiful balance.”
Andy Goldsworthy