Diving Into HTML 2

Study Everything

This is what my window looks like at this point. 

It reminds me of when I was learning Japanese at cafes, surrounded by about 10 books, 3 notebooks, my laptop, and somewhere in their midst a nice, hot latte, half-drunk.

I like to learn things holistically. Which can be crippling in its overwhelming nature. But I do feel it is the best way – getting to the essence of the thing you’re trying to learn. The essence… understanding. Which gives you flexibility. Which is the mark of truly knowing something. Having mastery of something regardless of the context.

So here is what I’m doing with html, and what I’ve done.

I dove into the youtube tutorial last blog to get some work down.

I felt that it was like being taught some vocabulary in a language class – without learning about the grammar, or pronunciation, let alone getting to practice it. This is the problem I run into with so many ‘educational’ resources these days. And the cynical side of me says it’s because they want to keep the blinders on as long as possible so you’ll only go through their course to the very end (and have advertising time etc.). However there are always gems out there, you just have to search a bit. 

So I went right to the source. With Japanese, I got a real book and trudged through it. I tried to write top level poetry while at an amateur level so I’d have to stretch my abilities. So I’m doing the same here.

It was apparent that with just this html stuff there’s no way it’s even a fraction of how to make a real, modern website. I need to grasp all the other things that go into making these cool 2020 websites. Scanning the source code of our current site and various others, I got to see all the tools I’d need to learn about.

I dive into stuff like this that I have NO training to understand. And with the right attitude – this is nothing but a gold mine for learning. If this is the real thing, and I can learn to understand it, and mimic, and then recreate it, then I’ll have mastered it.

So since it seems like HTML is crazy basic text stuff only… the non-html things:

Google Tag Manager

I found pretty much this exact thing across several different sites. So time to find out what it is.

Found a really good article here.

There are three main parts to Google Tag Manager:

  • Tags: Snippets of Javascript or tracking pixels
  • Triggers: This tells GTM when or how to fire a tag
  • Variables: Additional information GTM may need for the tag and trigger to work

Which begs the question: what are tags?

Tags (metadata) – are words or phrases which describe the content of your site, regardless of format. The same tags can be added to text, articles, videos, products or photos. We recommend always using more than one tag for each item.

Well, so they describe it and… the important part: you can configure everything. This is data analytics. You could make a tag for Blog views. Then you can trigger it to only fire when the viewer reaches a certain point on just the blog page. Or something for ads. There’s lots of possibilities, and there’s lots of perks for using it.

But the short is: customizable site analytics.


My biggest question looking from the source code of a website to the website itself was “how the heck do you just… format things?” The code for summoning an image somewhere with text next to it seems easy enough. But I really wanted to figure out how you know, the site actually gets its shape.

A showerthought, but designing a site in just HTML can be thought of as typing up a site on Microsoft Word, then having a program that can do that type-up all at once.

So I was looking around at different site’s codes and googling things I didn’t understand. On our site, and then August’s site I found clues that pointed me to this.

I wanted to find out how to duplicate this Slideshow-style front picture:

So I checked for where it would be located in the source code:

Bingo. Then I’ll just google this thing:

Got it.

So what is bootstrap. I’ve heard about Java, and CSS – but apparently I’ve gotta know this thing too, for sure.

w3schools has been the best resouce I’ve found. Giving you info and letting you look at it however you want. For bootstrap, they have this.

Where we’re at:

I’m getting a hang of looking at code in general. The mental link between the mass of characters and symbols and the product that comes out of them. What I want to work on for next week is formatting using bootstrap so I can really give some shape and space to my site. It seems like the other things like Google Tag Manager, and HTML etc, putting images and sizing them and getting text on there.. that all seems okay. I’ve gotten through the <head> or in other words, the backend section of our new site, leaving a few parts blank or with blanks to be filled in. The body is next. So, to bootstrap next week!

Diving Into HTML

The Computer Youth

I was fortunate enough to grow up on computers.

My Dad worked for some branch of Apple at some point, and was one of the original computer nerds, into programming and all that jazz. He would always be the ‘computer guy’ for all our friends whenever they had issues that needed fixing. He’d always grumble and rage about it, but, then again, that’s par for the course. He’d still do it and always help people out with whatever tech problems presented themselves.

He was an Apple guy to the point of making his license plate “MAC ONLY.”

I was playing the original Warcrafts, Command & Conquer, Power Pete, MDK on a mac computer before the iMac back before my memory really grew consistent.

By the time we had our mandatory typing class in 3rd grade I was busy showing off how I could already type without looking. I was so cool. Look at me showing off my privilege.

A fair number of my friends growing up, and more as I got older, were from a young age equally well versed in the computer world.

It’s such a strange thing to take for granted, considering it’s likely the most valuable skill one can have in the modern world.


The reality of our time is that if you have computer skills, you will have a job, and usually a well paying one.

For a long time, (being rebellious and all) this is what put me off of the whole idea of learning programming etc.

I wanted to go my own way, and go on the paths less traveled. And I’ve spent the better part of my life doing so. I’ve have learned the value of doing so, and intend to continue on my own path – making decisions, as much as possible, from a rational basis while never betraying the heart. This is how I like to think of it. I like to think we all know what a betrayal of the heart is. It’s the opposite, I suppose, of following your gut. When you know something is right, you have to do this thing, and you choose not to.

At any rate – I dove away from computers in every way I could. I transferred from the well-respected successful polytechnic university I originally enrolled at, and ended up at a more well-rounded, less academic city school. I’ve pursued music, community service, languages, the whole Japan thing, education, cycling, small business, coffee, photography, interviews, and freelance videography. Now I’m here. And it’s been a drawn out period of instability and uncertainty, and I’ve come to really face the skills I have and the ones I want to have to be able to really be an asset in society.

Working with stak has given me a chance to dive into many newer fields and see where I really am, and am not, useful. And it’s one of the most gratifying things perhaps – to feel useful.

Asking for something else to work on for the company, I was prompted with learning the html for our new website. So I’m going to dive in – there are so many resources for learning programming. It’s just another language after all.

How hard could it be? 

Finding a Structure

This is paramount to learning anything. Whatever the system is, if it works for you, it’s good. There is no perfect system for learning something, and some of the worst (what does that mean?) structures can be the best for some people. If using it helps you make progress, it’s correct. If it doesn’t, try something else. Find structures and stick with them no matter what.

For learning Japanese, I had several structures that I would stick to religiously. One, namely when I was learning Kanji, was Wanikani. Though it’s a paid service, it gave you words to ingrain into your memory at spaced intervals so it would remind you right before you forget each meaning. These kind of things are really important if you find one you are able to buy into.

One thing I did with Japanese was begin a project. That was, along with you know, being able to live basically as a Japanese person, to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from the beginning to end. When I was started it would be grueling; looking up practically every single kanji on the page, and if I worked really hard, finishing a page in a day. By the time I got halfway through, I was reading without looking up more than a word a page. The closer you get to the start of my battered copy of that book, the more covered in ink each page gets. Whereas the second half has practically no markings at all.

So what’s it going to be for HTML? Well, I’m lucky because I have the project. Turning our website design into usable HTML code. That’ll be my Harry Potter. As for my Wani Kani, my steady ‘vocabulary’ study…

I could watch videos telling me how to learn like this or this. Both great content but, there is a common trap of talking about learning instead of just learning. Supplements are only ever supplements. The true path of learning is not so clean-cut and predeterminable. It’s more about the time spent with that which you don’t yet understand.

Do Lots Of Work

This is one of my favorite quotes ever. Due to its lack of elegance and feeling of honest, and just the fact that it’s advice I don’t often hear:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

So. Let’s dive in.

I used this, and I made this:

Which looks like this:

All in all, html is definitely a more satisfying way to start learning about programming than python or anything else I’ve tried before.

Onwards and upwards. Until next time.

Finding The Newest Tech

Scour The Web

I thought I’d have done this earlier,

having gotten into the tech and modern device field…

But where are the best places on the internet to go, if you want to know more about IoT devices?

What are the resources out there that aren’t just click bait, but guidance stones pointing you towards the most resourceful corners of the internet?

Having been involved in esports, cycling, photography and videography, language education and some other fields, I’ve spent the time perusing the internet etc. and finding all the nooks and crannies that I still haunt to this day. But when I think about tech, and especially the IoT world, my mind comes up with very little.

This entry, I’ll spend some serious time checking out the best places to go to get not just info, but quality info. So you can get pointed in the right direction. The natural flow of experience from those who walked before – it’s a lot faster than wandering around on your own sometimes.

The Places You’ll Go

A google search reveals everything you need.

The trouble is, as the years have gone by, advertising has taken over. Though as always the internet has managed to remain, to a degree, the land of the free, glance value ends up looking eerily similar to what happened in the TV broadcasting world. In reality, it is on so many levels, different. The internet maintains a high level of transparency regarding what is and isn’t advertising. It also gives users so many options within their grasp to get around advertising, and at the least, be aware of it.

I say this because a google search of something these days first reveals those links that have bought their position on the list, that have purchased their visibility. The task nowadays seems to be wading through these fields to find the flowers hidden among the weeds – the sites that have earned, not bought, their position. Of course it is not all black and white – I have found a lot of fantastic things through advertising on the internet, and also found a lot of non-advertising content that provides very little to the reader, but maintains popularity – clickbait and aggregates.

So let’s try a search: ‘iot tech device blog site’ 

First off, we get an ad for SAS. Interesting company, but giving us very little info related to what we searched, a company trying to get us to buy their products.

Next: Feedspot. A site that acts as a google for blogs only. A list of IoT blogs within a list of IoT blogs. Okay.

After that: iot-now.com. Interesting. Doesn’t immediately appear to be trying to sell me anything, and seems to be focused on exactly what I searched for.

Most important: they have different categories at the top all meant to point you in the right direction. This seems like exactly what we’re looking for. IoT News, Blogs, Events, Resources, Magazine, IoT Whitebook. Let’s walk through each one. On our third result! Thanks googs.

IoT Now

IoT News: Surprisingly, exactly what it should be. Simple to the point of looking cheap? News articles related to IoT. Changes in CEOs, shifts in the global economy, updates on OEM manufacturing, current events. Good stuff.

Blogs: More indepth looks at various topics. Our blog is better.

Events: This is cool. Even with the current covid situation they have events listed in upcoming order. This is cool even without an inkling of an expectation to go to one, just to see all the stuff out there. It’s not often you hear about conventions and events from the tech field, outside of the big ones.

Resources: This is just so good. Literally any kind of resource you could ask for all put together for you to easily look at. There’s no need for me to list all the types of resources they compiled. It’s great.

My only qualm is that the format itself doesn’t really look appealing to me – it looks kind of old fashioned, or cheap. But the fact that it’s all cohesive and comprehensive across all their pages is just great.

They also run a Magazine and this interesting thing called the IoT Whitebook. This seems to be a more business end focused version of the website. All the in-depth details you’d be interested in if you had a stake in the business. Interesting articles linked like this one on 0g.

I’m gonna spend some time exploring this site and getting to know the IoT world even more.

Knowledge is Power

What is power in the modern world?

Perhaps the ability to make informed decisions.

More people than ever (though not nearly enough) are in positions where they don’t really have to think about survival anymore. When that’s off the table, societal structures quickly take priority.

The more info you have over what’s right, what’s in, what’s good in this world across the different spheres (social, economic, entertainment, culture) the further you can go.

A little tangent, but this is pretty close to the argument for the whole Black Lives Matter movement. It’s not that black people cannot move ahead in society. It’s just so much harder because of the position they often start off in. Someone who is wealthy, comfortable, and knows stability in their lives has more time, which they can use as they see fit, not to mention influences and opportunities from their environment that push them forward.

So. As I heard recently in an interview with Hugh Jackman “It is never the wrong choice to educate yourself.” Go learn more.












































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What Makes A Website 2

As we’ve been working on our new website, it’s been a learning process in so many different areas.

Programming, marketing, design, photography, videography, writing, advertising, coordinating, being in charge of a team/project.. the list goes on.

Last time, I talked a lot about trends, what’s popular, what’s liked, and why it’s important to know, and why it’s not necessarily a bad thing to follow them.

This time, I’d like to talk about how different sites convey the process of —Buying Stuff—, that very important modern endeavor. As all other things, it is best not robbed of an artistic touch. In fact it’s the part of the website that conveys the most emotional connection between the consumer and designer, and thus, requires a delicate touch. So, let’s look at some examples, draw some conclusions on what’s happening, and form some opinions on what’s best.

Let’s take a big one first. Apple.

As is the standard, you’re hit with the latest products and a quick Learn More or Buy set of two options. As you scroll down there is an image to describe the product and a few words for what it is, and the page you’ll be brought to if you click it. This works in a way that it wouldn’t work for us because well, this is Apple.

  1. They have lots of different products
  2. They are already known
  3. The products they make are already understood
  4. A greater proportion of the visitors on their site are there to buy something

Onto the buy page. Let’s get an iPhone SE, since it’s the first thing advertised to us.

When you load in, you see the picture of the different colors on the left, and all the options and shop menus come sliding upwards on the right. We’re getting really nitty-gritty, but this little detail does a lot. It makes you feel like this is a modern website, one that is done professionally. Also, it brings the viewer on a short journey – the picture is the first thing they see, and the quick sliding up of the rest is the next thing the eye goes to. A lot more pleasant than having to decide for yourself where to look first, even though this seems like such a small, insignificant thing.

There is reliability in the simple, white minimalist style. In the simplicity of the options presented to you: Choose your finish (3 options). Choose your capacity (3 options). Choose your carrier (4 options, and a 5th for Sim-Free). It answers questions you’re likely to have “Will it be unlocked?” Then there is a simple Q&A for turning in the phone you already have. And then a payment option. Then the choice for applecare shows up. Offers for delivery or pick-up.

When you choose one option, it slides you down to the next one so you don’t have to take it all in at once.
This is actually a lot of different things to run through, but thanks to the simple style and smooth flow of the web design, it actually feels pretty simple. Also it feels unintrusive. Never does it ask you for anything, or ask you to sign up for anything, or give any details at all. This is something I feel is very important.

On the left there are assuring details: Fast, free, no-contact delivery. Free and Easy returns. Have questions? Contact an iPhone specialist.

The finishing screen will vary depending on what you choose, but you’ll likely be brought to a “Added to bag” page with the item you just selected and other things you might want to purchase laid out below.

Reviewing the bag brings up your total at the top, in big letters. Again, this is trustworthy somehow, to me. It’s not trying to hide any numbers or taxes or deals. Recommendations, other products, etc. are all listed below if you’re curious. And at the very bottom, a “Need more help? Chat now.” and a Questions About Buying FAQ expandable window. This is great.    

Anyways. Most important to me are these three things:

  1. A flow that is pleasant, and not overwhelming, to the eye.
  2. A noticeable absence of things being pushed onto the customer.
  3. Clean, minimalist style.

Now let’s try a smaller example. One that might be more uncomfortable to look at (and thus, hidden in a less obvious place of the internet).

I found this site (printypets) on an instagram ad recently and tried it out – got my girlfriend a present.

I felt a lot less comfortable using this for these reasons:

  1. I found it on an instagram ad. All this means is someone paid money to be promoted and show up on people like me’s feeds.
  2. I never got to talk to a human through the entire process, even when I had sent them a special message upon ordering my product.
  3. They wanted me to sign up for stuff.
  4. They pushed extra LIMITED TIME OFFER deals on me throughout the entire process.
  5. I had no way of knowing whether this product I paid for was coming, in what condition, how it would be sent, and more importantly, how the artist would actually create the product (you give them a picture and they turn it into something for you). You have to pay extra for a ‘special consultation,’ which did not really interest me… given two choices, neither of which I liked.

However, what I received in the end was great and I’m thoroughly satisfied. It probably surpassed my expectations. So we can also talk briefly about what they do right (in terms of the website).


  1. They use a trusted base, one that customers are familiar with even if they don’t realize it – shopify.
  2. They use photos sent in by customers to advertise reliability, explain their product, and show positive reviews all simultaneously.
  3. They have a nice bar at the top explaining deals and current events (Covid)
  4. All the other standard things are there including what cards are usable, social media links, a social justice cause, and other products you can buy too.
  5. Almost none of the photos are professionally done, and it feels like a bunch of friends got a bunch of instagram photos together to make the website.
  6. There are just too many deals and small offers and begs for more attention and purchases. It makes me feel like this is a quick money grab rather than a long term business. 

Again, in summary;

  1. They practically spam you with discounts and offers (if you post us on your social media 5$ off!!). This makes me feel like they are untrustworthy – a money grab business, rather than something more reliable. This makes me not want to buy their stuff.
  2. They have a niche market and a good product – it would help if they could advertise it in other ways than people’s social media photos, though that requires investment (the lack of such feels, again, unreliable)
  3. They offer chat functions etc. which is great, but then failed to answer to a question upon purchase.

Again, of course they did a ton of things right, namely the product! So, no real complaints, just healthy criticism.


Conclusions & Thoughts

Fill your customer’s head with this notion: “BUY BUY BUY, MORE, MORE, NOW!”

Just kidding.

There is a balance to be struck between what you can do and what you should.

While yes, it’s good to have a lot of pictures – if you cannot find a healthy mix of professional photos and social media photos from customers, it might be better to slightly change the format.

On the other hand, if all you have are professional photos, it becomes harder for the customers to relate.

There is a wavering of trust on either side of that extreme – and it goes down to every detail in the website.

When you are a niche market product like printypets, you can know that and leave some things unfinished, and push for the short term gain option. But they also, I believe, have the option to push for a more refined, trustworthy, long-term establishment. And if they don’t, I feel like they are likely to lose to any competition that goes for a cleaner, more professional look.

It’s given me lots of thoughts for what we ought to do – in finding the balance between too little and too much promotion. Between looking professional and relatable. In conveying what our product does while also maintaining minimalism.

Most importantly, dealing with money and policies in as clear and simple a way as possible. Coming from a different country (from any western customer) is already going to be asking for their trust – so maintaining a feel, an image of something close to what they are used to is really vital.

I do feel though that we’re getting there – some balance of the clean, minimalist look of apple with the explanations and utility of a site like august.com. I’m hoping we can stay away from the trendy, pushy offers and discounts of sites like printypets, and also incorporate more aspects of flow and photography like Apple does.









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Showing Stak In Its Best Light 2

Before moving on to the rest of the photography for the new website,

I’ll share some of the (mis)adventures I’ve had the last two weeks.

The hope is that it will make my head more organized and streamlined for the next time I shoot, and also that you all might see some of the required precision and artfulness that even the most standard photography requires.

But then, the joy, as well.

I’m pretty proud of this shot.

So, how did I get here?

One thing I’ve learned throughout all artistic pursuits so far is this:

You don’t need 99% of the equipment that the “professionals” use.

In fact for learning, you’d be better off without it,

since you don’t have the skills to use it well in the first place,

and the best way to develop those skills is from raw practice.

The reality is that most of them would also agree, they don’t need to use the best equipment.

But if they use it they can achieve this one effect, this one detail they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

The only qualifier for making this judgment is to have done the grind,

to have put in the hours, and to have made so many sub-par products for so many reasons.

One of my favorite quotes: “sucking is the first step to becoming good at something.”

Last time you saw me dive into it.

Here’s what I remember learning off the top of my head:

  • Wide lenses are probably not the thing you want to use.
  • Be perfectionist because you can be. (with street photos etc, there is no time for that).
  • Lighting and shadows are everything and the slightest tweak with the lamp your holding can make all the difference.
  • White balance is something I actually have to really consider.
  • Being consistent (shooting manual) for a multi-photo shoot is really helpful later.
  • Manually editing everything is worth it, don’t just use luts etc. for product shoots.
  • Investing in photoshop was worth it. I don’t want to admit it after 3 years of silently protesting their subscription system and using Luminar instead, but… it’s worth it.
  • Though across all photography, it’s really good to have a checklist. i.e. Dust on the sensor? Dust on the screen? In focus? Stabilized? White balance okay? Check all these things because setting up another product shot for a re-shoot is such a pain (though to be honest editing out mistakes is much easier in this field than in video etc.).
  • The more you understand light, the more you can use it to your advantage without feeling like you have to create it or manipulate it so much.

This went unedited.

Here is my refining it, and trying out some new things like product videos.


I figured this time I’d try mixing in natural light from the window with artificial light to get rid of the shadows.

You can see how the light angled this way almost completely erases the shadows from the bottom. However you can also see the problem a lot of beginner photographers run into.

Obviously, there’s shadows on the other side now.

Just by looking at the shadows of the object you can tell what lights are being used and where.

But more crucial is the difference in light tones.

Just look at the difference in the level of whiteness between the two pictures.

I figured I’d utilize that big piece of cardboard I found the other day, and use the white as a shield to hopefully reflect the natural light back in and block the shadows. But because of the tripod it was a bit too far away to have enough effect. So I went in.

Also note the classic penny under the round device to keep it from rolling.

I added in the lamp again the reduce the shadows, but bounced it off of the shield.

Overall the effect wasn’t bad, and it came out okay.

But it didn’t come out anywhere near perfect.

As always, setting reins supreme in product photography.

Stop motion video

In lieue of any explanation,

I’m just going to say this is the kind of thing you’re going to have to do

if you want to do product photography at home.

My idea was to make a stop-motion video, and then gif, of the 3 cans moving towards each other, the devices popping out, and clicking together to form stak. 

This was all well and good, but this was biting off a lot.
I needed 6, six, ろく, 六 coins to put under each of these for each individual shot.

In hindsight with this, I want to really solidify my idea before going ahead with the shot.

Because honestly, it is time consuming, and at stak, we care about time.

One more bonus shot for something I was really proud of.

We wanted to get individual device pictures for the site

so we could use them as transitions between the different sections on the front page.

The base would be at the bottom, ideally facing up, to form the bottom of the device.

The problem there is that I had to find a way to balance the device on its light socket end.

I scoured the house and FINALLY found a frosting cap that was

-nearly- the perfect size to fit between the edge of the stak Base and the table.

It took me actually 45 minutes of concentrated balancing.

Then I got it.

You can actually just barely see the bottom left edge of the cap there,

along with the edge of the penny on the right one that kept it from rolling away.

Upon noticing this (and the slightly darker inner circle of the picture born of my reverse vignette attempt)

I hopped back into photoshop and tried to fix the issues. How’s it look?

And then I see that the ring is still pretty visible. Stupid thing.

Much more natural looking.

All I can say is the results are worth it, and it’s surprisingly satisfying.

Turning these into .png files (so there’s no background) was a whole other adventure.

Anyways. Thanks for following along. See you next week!