What’s in Your Bag: Melanie Archer

Talentopoly member Melanie Archer was kind enough to share the contents of her bag with us on the site:

In the sturdy but cumbersome Brenthaven bag:

15″ MacBook Pro

Targus laptop lock

At least two screen cleaner wipes. I have the glossy screen which, for some reason, people love to poke with their fingertips.

A fine collection of startup NDAs I’ve signed over the years, then left, unconsulted, in my bag.

Windbreaker, since it can get freakin’ cold in San Francisco towards dusk.

My only power cord, if I remember it :)

Sounds like she’s prepared for anything! What does all this look like?

Share your mobile office in a bag over on the Talentopoly Questions area and you may be featured here also!

Choosing Colors for a Website

By Sarah McAleer

This blog post was inspired by Talentopoly Podcast Episode #35 – How Developers Can Learn to Design. Justin Belcher was a fabulous guest on the podcast. Having both a computer science and fine art background, he was able to answer questions as a developer and as a designer.

Early on in the podcast, Justin made a good point about when it comes to choosing colors that you need to work at it. He says,

“You have to train your eye to see why does this color seem to work with that. I think the best thing you can do is immerse yourself in harmonious colors…harmonious colors end up having similar temperatures and hues.”

Justin is right. Ultimately, if you want to make choosing colors less of a chore, you have to learn about color and you have to immerse yourself in color. The same goes for learning a programming language. The way you learn a new programming language is by learning what you can and cannot do in the language, the rules of the language, and you surround yourself with examples and people from which you can absorb an understanding and respect for the language.

For this blog post, I am going to use the process of making a choice to explain how to choose colors for a website. Sometimes what causes use to have “designer’s block” in our heads is that we focus on what we don’t know and not on what we do know. We know how to make choices. So let’s use the steps used to make a choice to decide what colors to choose for a website.

Step 1: Know Your Options:

Before we can make a choice, we have to know what our options are. In order, to know what are options are, we have to know a little bit about what we are dealing with. So first, learn the basics of color theory.

Color has it’s own rules and terminology. Being able to “speak” color will make you more confident when choosing colors for yourself and/or for your client.

Right off the bat, here is some color vocab.

Hue is the most basic of color terms and hue denotes an object’s color. When we say “blue,” “green” or “red,” we’re talking about hue.

Saturation is the intensity of a hue from grey. At maximum saturation a color would contain no grey at all. At minimum saturation, a color would contain mostly grey.

Shades are created when black is added to a hue, making it darker.

Tones are created when gray is added to a hue. Tones are generally duller or softer-looking than pure hues. Changing the saturation of a color creates a tone.

Value refers to how light or dark a color is (light having a high value).

The above definitions are from a three-part article series on the Smashing Magazine website titled Color Theory for Designers, posted on Talentopoly by Matt Croucher. The definition of saturation is from an article titled Simple and Practical Color Theory on Tutorial9.net.

Now about the color wheel. Sir Isaac Newton developed the first color wheel in 1666. Since then, the color wheel has taken many forms. Google the words “color wheel” in images and you’ll find hundreds of variations. A color wheel will usually be comprised of the three color types: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary colors are the three colors of red, blue and yellow. Secondary colors are orange, green and purple. Tertiary colors are made from using one primary color and one secondary color. Besides the primary colors, all colors are made by adding or subtracting other colors.


Image source: Tutorial9.net

Part 3 of the Smashing Magazine article shows how the color wheel is used to create color schemes. A Color scheme, colorway, color palette is an arrangement of harmonious colors. Below are a few of the color scheme types that are based on the color wheel:

Monochromatic color schemes are made up of different tones, shades and tints within a specific hue. These are the simplest color schemes to create, as they’re all taken from the same hue, making it harder to create a jarring or ugly scheme (though both are still possible).

Analogous schemes are created by using three colors that are next to each other on the 12-spoke color wheel.

Complementary schemes are created by combining colors from opposite sides of the color wheel.

Triadic schemes are made up of hues equally spaced around the 12-spoke color wheel. This is one of the more diverse color schemes.

Color scheme definitions source: Smashing Magazine

The other color schemes covered in the Smashing Magazine article are more complex and hurt my brain to think about, but you get the picture.

Interestingly enough, the article points out that, “Custom color schemes are the hardest to create. Instead of following the predefined color schemes discussed above, a custom scheme isn’t based on any formal rules.” So pulling colors from the sky and not taking in consideration the rules of color is actually the hardest way to create a color scheme.

Step 2: Organizing your options:

One of my first jobs as a production artist was for a fashion brand in the photo studio. Besides taking photos of clothing, I matched fabric samples to printed color chips. To assist me in matching colors, the designers would tell me that a color needed more saturation, or that it needed to have less blue, or a color needed to be brighter, less dull. The fashion designers with the knowledge of color theory were able to choose, adjust, and organize colors.

They organized colors into colorways made up of three groups. The main colors were in group one. The secondary colors that complemented the main colors were placed in group two. And the accent colors, used sparingly, fell into group three.

Another example of organizing color options is from a link shared by Jared Brown on Talentopoly “SOLARIZED: Precision colors for machines and people. Solarized is a color scheme created for terminals, text editors and GUI applications created by Ethan Schoonover and available for free online.

It is obvious that Ethan knows his color theory from how he describes his color scheme. He used the rules of color theory to help him create a harmonious color scheme:

He says, “I designed this colorscheme with both precise CIELAB lightness relationships and a refined set of hues based on fixed color wheel relationships” () – http://ethanschoonover.com/solarized

Ethan organized his colors in a way that was most helpful for the project, and in a way that could be understood by people interested in using his color scheme. Organizing your colors will make it easier for you to use your colors and it will also make it easier to communicate with your client about the colors you chose.

Ethan explains how different colors in his color scheme highlight text while other colors make text less noticeable and therefore intrusive.

Step 3: Creating your options

Knowing a little bit about color, you can create your options. This is the brainstorming part of the process. There is still no pressure to pick the final colors. As with any choice, you want to have a number of options in case one option doesn’t work out.

There are a number of tools online to help you create colorway options. My favorite is Adobe Kuler. Adobe Kuler let’s you create a color scheme from a color, using one color as the base color. When creating a colorway from a color, Kuler gives you the option to “Select a rule” which are color theory rules. When you hover over a rule, the definition of the color theory rule appears. For example, Kuler defines Triad as “Space(ing) your colors in a triangle around the color wheel for a contrasting theme.”

Unlike some tools that do everything for you, Adobe’s Kuler wants to educate its users on color terms and rules.

Kuler also lets you create a color scheme from an image by dragging circular nodes to areas of the image. Color schemer also has a color pick from an image feature. Colorschemer is software that has to be downloaded and costs $50 for the license once the trial version expires. The popular color community website, Colourlovers.com, also lets you create a color scheme from an image. Check this tool out at:http://www.colourlovers.com/photocopa

Other websites that offer tools to create color schemes are: Color Blender,Color Munki, Color Explorer, and Color Rotate.

Creating colors from inspiration is another viable way to create options. I typed in “colorway” on Pinterest.com and found DesignSeeds.com, a blog where each post is a new color scheme based on a photo.


image source: designseeds.com blog post

Using online tools may seem like the easy way out of learning about color, but these online tools use the color wheel and color theory to create color schemes. So knowing about color will help you get the most out of these online tools.

Step 4: Ask Questions of your options:

Once you know what your options are, then you can ask questions to narrow down your choices. A few questions might be “Why am I using this color for this object?” “What does this color mean to my audience?” “What do I want this color to tell my users?” Color psychology has already shown that humans interpret color in particular ways. Becoming familiar with how people look at color will help you to choose colors.

An article by AIGA called “COLOR CODE: WHAT COLOR IS “BRAVE”?” posted on Talentopoly by Abelardo Gonzalez, reminds us that a color can have different meanings for different audiences, especially if that audience is from a different country. For example, “In the West, people wear black for mourning, while in the East (China in particular), white is the color of mourning.”

This brings up another important question when choosing colors, “Who is your audience?”

As far as the West goes, a bunch of websites pretty much agree on the meanings of certain colors. In an article on ThinkBrillant.com, “The Science of Colors in Marketing and Web Design” posted on Talentopoly by me, the author states “While different cultures retain individualistic adherences to colors and schemes alike, in the western world color sentiment is usually depicted as follows:”

Kissmetrics, a web analytics company, has a chart that show how colors affect purchases. Under the heading “Consumer and Color” on the chart, Kissmetrics shows consumers interpretations of colors when shopping at a store.

View info graphic at: http://blog.kissmetrics.com/color-psychology

How a user interprets a color will influence how he/she feels and what action he/she takes next. “What do you want the user to do or think?” Choosing a colorway of soft, warm colors such as oranges and pinks, will give the feeling of lightness, fun, and excitement. Using darker accent colors, say a charcoal black for the buttons with white text for contrast, will make the buttons stand out and be easy to find.

Choosing colors for a website can feel like a daunting task. The importance of colors can be easily overlooked. But if you consider how much color influences how people perceive and how they use your website, then it becomes paramount that you choose colors wisely.

Knowing what your options are, organizing your options, creating options, and weighing your options will help you make an educated decision about the colors you choose for your website. Not only does learning about color help you choose colors, but maybe one day it will help you create your own colors without online tools. Professional designers “mix” their colors in Photoshop and Illustrator. In these programs, they can easily tweak the brightness, saturation, values, and add color, take away color, blend colors and more. When creating your own color, the choices are limitless. It is one thing to have the power to choose, it’s another thing to have the power to create.

Featured Desktop: Arlo Carreon

Arlo Carreon

In this week’s (and this inaugural featured desktop), web developer Arlo Carreon shares with us his workspace and work habits at BookIt.com, using Mint Linux with 2 monitors:

At home I got quite fond of my MacBook Pro for development and my setup is in an effort to mimic “must have” features like spaces and spotlight. My desktops are spread out into 4 separate workspaces/spaces. The order of the spaces goes from most used (1) to least used (4). My workflow allows me to use the mouse the least amount as possible. I am still working on other habits to further eliminate mouse usage, but for now this is what I got.

My only rule: Do not allow windows to be completely behind another window/application. Any window on a desktop must be visible at all times.

Desktop 1 – Programming



On desktop 1 I keep the basic essentials for web development IDE/editor and my browser. Nothing more and nothing less.

Desktop 2 – Communicaion


My company’s communication is heavily dependant on IRC and I always have gtalk open which gives me access to my other programmer buddies, so I have a desktop dedicated to email, IRC and messengers.

Desktop 3 – Others Apps in Use


This desktop holds the 3 other apps that I use daily, but not as often. MySQL workbench, Terminal and Pithos.

Desktop 4 – Misc

I use this space to open documents or one time applications. Then I make sure to close then as soon as I am done with them. This space is usually empty.

Synapse:


This application acts like spotlight on MAC OS X. I even have the shortcut keys mapped to ALT + SPACEBAR. This allows me to search the computer for any application or document within seconds. I never use the mouse to launch or open a document.

Navigation:
I have shortcut keys setup for quick switching between desktops. [Windows Key] + 1, [Windows Key] + 2, [Windows Key] + 3, etc. This allows me to go directly to the workspace I need, then I can quickly ALT + TAB to the application I need.

Every 2 weeks we’ll be featuring a member of the Talentopoly community, their desktop and how they work. If you would like to be featured here, consider sharing your workspace with the community here Be sure to include some details about how you work.

My Story About the Long(est) Way to Build a Job Board

I’ve waited a long time to write this blog post. Twelve years in fact. I’m not sure I could have taken a longer route to building this job board. Though it feels good to look back at all of the lessons I’ve learned.

The Origin Story

The story starts in 2000 when I purchased the domain name Talentopoly.com. The idea was to have a site where talented developers could find free and paid projects to work on. I was still in high school when I bought the domain name and began coding it. I used the project to teach myself PHP. Unfortunately the earliest snapshot of it in the Wayback Machine is in 2001. I had several false starts back then and continued to reinvent it when I got to college. I continued to work on it off and on. But by May of 2005, having gone nowhere it was put on the shelf and started collecting dust.

Getting Re-Inspired

In 2009 a friend emailed me a link to an Inc.com article about a guy named Markus Frind who created the massively successful site plentyoffish.com. It contained the following quote.

“With all the free time on his hands, why doesn’t Frind just start a second company? He says he thinks about that sometimes and has even toyed with creating a free job- listings site but finds the idea stultifying.”

This was just what I needed to read to get the juices flowing again. I was deep in the throes of building my own consulting business, but over the Christmas break that year I buckled down and got serious.

Failing Again, But Faster This Time

I spent the next few months building out a site that let users search Indeed, SimplyHired and LinkUp at once in my spare time. Employers could submit jobs directly through the site. You could search for any type of job you wanted. I figured anyone and everyone could use the site. I did everything, the design, the programming, everything. Just as I always had.

Three months later I debuted the job site. I thought it was great. You could search for jobs by location, pay, type and more. It had a slick Kayak.com-like UI so you never needed to refresh the page. I even had a way for users to post their resumes for free.

But just like before the site didn’t get much traction. In fact, after six months of pushing the site on friends, in LinkedIn groups and elsewhere on the web I had roughly 130 resumes and was happy if the site got more than 20 visitors on a given day. It was a failure, again. I knew something needed to change and quickly.

It’s Not Pivoting When You Change Everything

One day, while running at the gym, I decided to think through what would happen if I went against my gut and made decisions that were the opposite of what I’d done with the site so far. What would that plan look like.

Here’s that plan.

  1. Constrain myself to spending no more than 2-3 weeks on build out (I would base this new site off the existing code base)
  2. Make the site invite-only and exclusive to developers, designers and IT pros
  3. Don’t even have a place for listing jobs (I’d revisit this later once I had a site that could support it)
  4. Give people an entirely different reason to come use the site (which I decided would be sharing and voting on links)
  5. Don’t wait to launch the site, just get it out there in some form
  6. Used advertisements to get the word out

I had nothing to lose so I followed the plan. I took the code base and rebuilt it into an invite-only community for sharing developer and design links. The jobs section of the site was deleted. I hired a designer I found on Dribbble. And I spent no more than three weeks doing this. The site was launched before the designer was even hired. The design was as basic as you’d imagine. But I bought some ads on various ad networks and began driving some traffic to it. After a few weeks of ads I had over 100 users! The ads were working. I realized that I shouldn’t have avoided ads for so many years. I wasn’t ever going to reach enough people without advertising.

Users have to request an invite or be invited by a member. The site launched towards the end of Oct ’10 and by mid-Dec I had over 100 requests to process. The site was quickly nearing 300 users. It was a great feeling. After years of failed attempts things were finally clicking.

Fast Forward: Launching the New Job Board

A year and a half later the site is chugging along. It has almost 2000 registered users and gets 500+ unique visitors daily. Talentopoly is a close-knit community with a loyal readership.

Now that I had built out a site that I felt could support a job board it was time to revisit the concept. This time though I spoke with the site’s community and my new business mentors about it before writing any code. The idea was to keep it really simple. I’d build out a basic job board. The real value from the job board wouldn’t come from anything in the code, but rather the principles behind it and my ability to do the business development for it.

I spent two Sat afternoons building out the code. It was three pages. A form for submitting and editing a job. An index page for listing them all and a page to show a specific job. I kept things simple. Back in 2010 I had built out a way for job posters to create accounts, create companies and attach their jobs to them and store job applications directly on the server. This time I shunned the idea of having posters create accounts. They’ll simply receive a tokenized URL by email for managing the listing. There’s no way to search at the moment, let alone by a specific company. And I simply have the job poster enter an email address or URL for collecting job applications.

This time around I wasn’t going to build anything else unless the business side of the job board was demanding it (i.e. paying customers). Not being able to obsess over the code was critical as it forced me to spend 99% of the time thinking about the business. I put together a slide deck and then started having meetings with prospective clients. The meetings went really well and I signed up a few initial launch partners. They paid upfront. It was thrilling. I felt like I was getting closer to following the right path this time around. I spent the rest of the time building partnerships with local meetups, bloggers, ad networks, press releases, SEO, etc. to drive traffic to the site.

With my launch partners in place and a plan for getting traffic I was ready to launch the site. Last Friday at roughly 3pm EST I launched it. I launched a job board with actual paid jobs on it. I had money in the bank and customers from day one. I had a plan and I was executing on it. I’ve been so focused on the next steps in the plan that I hadn’t stopped to let the reality of it all sink in until I sat down to write this post.

What’s Next

Well I wouldn’t be a very good businessman if I didn’t suggest you go check out the job board and sign up for the jobs/gigs newsletter!

I encourage you to follow along on the blog or via RSS as I continue my journey to build out the job board. In my next post I’ll go into what we, the community, identified as problems with existing job sites/boards and how we’re trying to solve those issues.

Talentopoly Podcasts Schedule

The Talentopoly Podcasts are back on a regular schedule. There were quite a few vacations and awesome conferences that made it difficult to continue the normal schedule, but starting with the next podcast, the podcast will be back to it’s normal bi-weekly schedule on Wednesdays, discussing the best and latest programming, design, and IT related discussions on Talentopoly.

This weeks episode will be on Thursday. We will be discussing “Managing Yourself as a Freelancer.” Be sure to subscribe, or check the Podcasts on Thursday for the newest Podcast!

Town Hall Chats Are Back

After taking a couple months off the bi-weekly town hall chats are back. They’re a great way to suggest a feature and have your voice heard. The chats are an hour long and many of the features on the site, in fact most, came directly from a town hall chat.

There are a lot exciting features being worked on. Come to a town hall chat to hear about them.

A New Time

In order to accomodate more of our users we will now have two chat times each month.

  • First chat of the month at 12pm EDT (same great time we used to meet)
  • Second chat of the month at 3pm EDT

Tip: Schedule these as recurring events in your calendar. You can also download or email the ICS (calendar event) file directly from http://talentopoly.com/chats

Next Scheduled Chat

June 13th @ 12pm EDT

You can always find the complete schedule at http://talentopoly.com/chats

New Feature: Posts That You May Like

When searching for something on Talentopoly, or viewing new posts, your journey usually ends at the post you are viewing. If you wanted to see related content, you would have to search the site, or Google for more information.

Talentopoly has a lot of links to articles though, and it would be easier for you if we showed those links under the post you are viewing. So, now, there is a new feature, “You may also like.” If you look at a post, and are interested in more links about it, they will show up right under it:

Be careful though! This can be addicting: there is no end to the information!

Introducing the Podcast Network

The old podcast page didn’t fit well with the rest of Talentopoly. It was orange and it was a separate site. This weekend, however, a lot of work was done to integrate the podcast page with the rest of the site. Now podcasts are a part of Talentopoly, and they play a bigger role.

But, one more thing.  With this change, we have added something else. When you click the Podcasts tab, you now will see two available podcasts: Talentopoly and now Dev1.tv.

 

Dev1.tv is an excellent podcast for developers starting out, and we are excited to have them as part of the Talentopoly Network.

Redesigning the New and Popular Post Lists

Staying current by sharing great programming, design and IT links is the focus of the site. But it wasn’t easy to scan the lists of new and popular posts.

Each post took up a sizable chunk of the screen and included unnecessary information like how many views the post had. The new design is stripped down to fit more posts on the screen.

Check it out

Take it for a spin – http://talentopoly.com

Big thanks to Arlo and other Talentopoly members who submitted mock ups and suggestions to push for this redesign.

Recurring payments contest winner

Congratulations to Tyrel Souza, for posting the winning comment on recurring payment services. Tyrel is using Stripe to handle monthly billing on a client’s service. He enjoys using Stripe because of it’s good documentation, and web hooks that handle events easily. His comment is below:

I use Stripe.com for recurring payments. After a few days of reading the API I was able to create a system (that launched on Monday!) that will bill users every month. My favorite part about stripe is the ease that their webhooks work with any system. I have tried Paypal’s IPN, but I always get frustrated with it. Stripe has about 7 items ping your webhook when you create and subscribe a customer, so you can act upon many events. Their system sends a failed webhook response out one hour for three hours if it fails, plenty of time to fix a problem during the day. Stripes documentation is a lot cleaner than Paypal’s also.

Tyrel will be receiving a $25 iTunes gift card.
Thanks to everyone that participated!