Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pittsburgh Dad and Childhood Memories

Times were simpler when we were kids, right?

The biggest thing to worry about was getting hollered at by Dad: Did you leave the door open? You're letting all the heat out! Did you shut the lights off? Are you paying the electric bill? Did you wash your dishes in the sink? They're not going to wash themselves!

Growing up in a Pittsburgh family during the 80s, I remember when my parents yelled, kids played outside, and the whole city watched the Steelers every season with chips and pop in hand. We all had the same frame of reference. There were limited channels, just a few Nintendo games, and no internet connections. The world was as big as your backyard and all the land was ruled by your father.

So when filmmakers Curt Wootton and Chris Preksta decided to upload YouTube videos based on their experiences growing up around Pittsburgh, people tuned in and saw a little bit of their own Pittsburgh childhoods. The first video, called "Meet Pittburgh Dad," was uploaded to YouTube on October 25, 2011. Director Chris Preksta used his iPhone to film Pittsburgh Dad (Curt Wootton) yelling in front of a screen door at unseen kids supposedly playing in the backyard pool. They expected to send the video to family and friends for laughs. By the end of the first day the video had over 1,000 views.

Since then they have made short clips about Slip N' Slides, Watching the Steelers, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Going to Church, and "The Good Living Room," while accumulating over 1 million views online. New episodes are now posted every Tuesday and Thursday. Find Pittsburgh Dad on Facebook, Twitter, and of course, YouTube.

How many times do I have to tell yinz to watch these videos? Geez Louise!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tech Industry Job Skills

On Wednesday, December 14, 2011, roughly seventy-five technology advocates gathered at the Left Field Meeting Space in Pittsburgh, PA to discuss the question: Should Web Designers Know Code? Five panelists assembled by Refresh Pittsburgh sat at the front of the room to lead the discussion. The panelists included professional web designers and developers working around the city at various companies including American Eagle Outfitters and Smith Brothers Agency.

The exchange started off with the understanding that businesses are rapidly changing and employees need to learn more skills to keep pace. They agreed that the job titles "web designer" and "web developer" no longer refer to separate skill sets. An audience poll revealed that most people both design and code. So what tech skills are necessary these days to work in web design and development? The answer seems to be a mastery of any programming language or piece of software you can think of: Java, Python, HTML, HTML5, Photoshop, and on and on...

But where do you go to learn these skills? Technical schools such as the Pittsburgh Technical Institute, where one of the panelists (Joshua Sager) is an instructor, can offer promising programs. Some of his current students told me at the event that he encouraged them to attend the discussion. Many panelists also encouraged audience members to "teach yourself" and "follow the right people on Twitter" to stay on top of trends. One interesting suggestion was to "press Ctrl+U" while using the Mozilla Firefox web browser and a window will pop up showing you how the website you are visiting was coded.

Since the future is being developed online and my coding skills are nonexistent, I have started to look into online tools to learn programming languages. Two promising online tools I have found are Codecademy and Khan Academy (videos under "Computer Science"). Both websites provide fun and interactive tutorials to learn fundamental coding skills. They are also both absolutely free.

What if you don't have professional design or coding skills and still want to work in the technology sector? Use social media to create. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Tumblr, etc. provide platforms for you to design and develop your own ideas. Your smartphone allows you to take pictures, make videos, and express yourself instantly to the world. Have something you want to sell? Amazon, eBay, and Etsy provide online storefronts with tons of potential customers browsing their websites daily. If you want to work for a technology company, put your resume on LinkedIn and talk to your connections about open positions in sales and marketing. Ask them for feedback on how to tailor your application and prepare for the interview. No doubt the world is changing, but we can change with it.

Let's get to work.