You can be an Apple user and not be in the Cult of Apple

Ron and I have been geeks for a long time, and I remember way back when we first were together, my aunt and uncle showing me their Apple computer.

Weird. Boxy thing. Rainbow logo. You could point and click and pictures and stuff and not type things in. Huh. That was cool.

Fast forward through the debacle of Windows versions and our Linux usage. We are super geeks after all, of course we forayed into Linux.

All that time I would look at Apple from the outside and think they were shiny and overpriced.

Meanwhile, I was realizing buying cheap goods multiple times because they wore out wasn’t working. Shoes, appliances, clothing, toys. Stuff.

While working at Copyblogger doesn’t mean Apple use is mandatory, I did get a Mac Air. Ron got a Macbook Pro. Recently I got an ipad.

We LOVE them. I mean, unabashedly LOVE. THEM.

Thought Steve Jobs was pretty smart. Didn’t like him much as a person. Not into the cult of Apple itself.

But we can and do appreciate good design. I cna also say the last two laptops we purchased before any Mac products did not last six months before things like missing keys and wonky behaviour. If anyone remembers me from WC NYC and my little netbook, that thing bricked at about a year. Nice doorstop.

Ron has some minor fine motor skills issues and on a Mac laptop, the usability is such that navigation is *easier* on a Mac than any other laptop he has ever used.

The ipad? Took my 2 and a half year old granddaughter minutes to use. We got her family their own for Christmas, and I heard the other day she saw her daddy (our son) do the five finger swipe maybe twice, and now rage-quits with a five finger swipe when she gets frustrated with an app. πŸ˜€ Oh snap! On the positive side, watching her read along to stories and do shape games is mind boggling. Can’t wait the see HER future.

I thought I would use the ipad as a second screen, but honestly I actually like using it as a single task device. Mostly leisure, and yes I do wind up troubleshooting help desk tickets on it as well. (“Why does ny site not look right on the ipad?” Oh here, lemme check..) And I habitually have multiple windows open on my Air.

So yes, we like them. We just bought a new Air for one of our daughters, upgrading her from a $500 two year old craptop. Three times the price yet I know it will last three times as long (or more) with far less issues.

How is liking well-made easy to use durable products a cult? I mean, we’re not out there oogling the next announcements because we’re not interested in getting the latest and greatest of everything all the time. We just wan Things That Work and Work Well.

We found them.

No shame in that.

Now working for CopyBlogger

In case you missed the news breaking on twitter, Ron and I are now officially both working full time for CopyBlogger Media, LLC. Ron, of course, will be programming away – working on cool features for various projects, and I will continue to help explain how to use those things. πŸ˜‰ Basically, the same thing we have been doing, except with a steady paycheque.

What does this mean for everything else? Not much, really. Most of our other projects, like WPeBooks, and our assortment of free plugins, will continue on as they have been. The only immediate change is what little outside client work we had been doing will go down to next to nothing.

Not only are we excited, but we are both really, really happy. It turns out in the couple years we’ve known Brian Gardner and the rest of the crew, we’ve become great friends and the fit is excellent. The transition towards working full time, in retrospect, may have seemed slow and gradual, but also practically inevitable. The working style within CopyBlogger also suits us quite nicely, and sometimes they insist we take time off (crazy!) !

Time off’s a good thing as well. πŸ˜‰ We think this will give us more time to work on our other project and also make better decisions about them.

The next year will be interesting indeed.

Why I need your URL

I do a lot of forum support. Actually, it’s the main part of my day. One of my most frequent responses is some variation of, “Can I get your URL so I can go look?”.

Most people just paste in their URL and we go on our merry way, solving problems together.

Sometimes it doesn’t go so well. Some people are confused. “You mean you want a backlink from my site?” No, I just want your url so I can click on it. Some people are shy. “Well it’s in development and doesn’t look very good.” I know, I expect this. You’re not asking me to critique your design, you’re asking me to help fix something that went wrong. Some people forget. “Well it’s linked in my username!” Yes, but the site being worked on is not always the one associated with a user profile, so I can’t assume.

Some people – thankfully only a handful – get irate. “WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME USELESS QUESTIONS??? I JUST WANT HELP!” (paraphrased to protect the guilty)

So in order to lessen those times, I thought I’d write this post in the hopes that some light bulbs may come on and we can all get back to the yellow brick road of problem solving happiness.

I ask for your URL to cut down on the amount of educated guessing and to cut down on the amount of back-and-forth questions I might need to ask otherwise. Maybe you’re having a hard time explaining the issue as a non-tech person. As a tech person, it’s actually *easier* for me to just go look and use tools I have at my disposal (like Firebug) or poke around the actual file structure or look at the rendered HTML of the page.

YES! i can do that! And once I’ve done that, I would very much love to show you how I did it so hopefully you can learn too. Here’s an example:

User: “I made some css changes to my site but they don’t show up.”

Choice 1: “Can you give the the URL to your site please?”

Choice 2: “Are you sure you edited the right file? Are you using a caching plugin? (some people say no and they actually ARE using one and forgot) Is your css syntax correct?”

Choice 2 can be done all at once or in tiny steps, pulling each piece of information out.

Choice 1? I visit the site. I see they are running a caching plugin and suggest they disable it or clear the cache. I use Firebug on the front of the site and can’t find the css they insisted they changed I view the source of the page, find the URL to the stylesheet and see they also made a typo, so the css change isn’t rendered anyway.

Choice 2 results in a thread 20-30 posts long that lasts from a full day to a week. The user gets frustrated because their issue isn’t solved in a timely manner. I get frustrated too.

Choice 1 usually results in a thread a few posts long – anywhere from 4 or 6 to maybe 10. We wind up the issue as resolved within the afternoon. We’re both happy.

Another reason why I ask for a URL is because I get asked a lot of css/design type questions. It is extremely difficult to troublshoot css paddings and margins from a screenshot alone. Even the best designer (of which I will freely admit I am not) will still have difficulty explaining exactly what element you need to find and exactly how many pixels of padding will fix that gap, just from looking at a screenshot. At best it would be an educated guess, even from the theme designer, who knows the code inside out, but does not know exactly what else you did to it.

So, with your URL, I can quickly visit your site, open up Firebug, find the *exact* element you are asking about. I look at the right pane and see it had padding-bottom (for example). I change that number and the gap you asked about goes away.

I go back and answer your question with, “Find #nav in your stylesheet and adjust the padding down by 5px.” See? Exact. Everyone is happy.

And it’s not just theme related – with multisite issues, I can just go look at your site and see exactly what you meant by a blank theme on sub sites, or with domain mapping I can run some diagnostics on your DNS records when I have your URL and see where it’s failing.

And because Ipstenu and I share a brain sometimes, I told her I was going to write this post, so she wrote about asking good questions.

But I will still ask you for your URL. πŸ˜‰

Going to Toronto

Or, as the locals say , “Taranna”. πŸ™‚

Ron and I have been to Toronto multiple times, so no sightseeing for us. This is good, because there are many friends to catch up with at WordCamp, as well as family in the area. Did you know Ron was actually born in Guelph Ontario? Well now you do.

We are actually really excited to come to Toronto and speak about the multisite / network feature of WordPress because we both feel WordPress itself can be a great opportunity for Canadians to shine at home, and not have to go abroad for success. WordPress is easy to learn, highly rewarding and could be the answer for a few Canadians to create their own jobs.

Saturday we will give a presentation on how we got involved with WordPress, ho we dove into the deep end of the pool with multisite and look and the kinds of things multisite can do for you.

Sunday, Ron & I will lead a workshop where we will instruct users how to set up multisite. We’ll go over the entire network admin area, as well as cover the more common plugins used. Of course, we will talk about domain mapping, wpebooks and answer tons of questions.