The Secret Code of the Web Designer

Design...The ultimate frontier crossed by the mind as it materializes abstract thoughts, desires and passions into the visual realm. Our entire daily existence bathes in design. From the shape of leaves on a tree to the ripples on the face of a water puddle, native designs are omnipresent in our surroundings. (Wo)Man-made designs are however a whole different ball game.
We idolize people who can convert thought into shape and stand in awe in front of their skill, and rightfully so. Just imagine Apple products without the design hype that comes with them or a slick Audi being reduced to a metal box and four wheels.
The Web is no different in this aspect. Things have come a long way from the very first hypertext markup lines ever written on a screen, . The Web has moved on from being a geekspace to become a commodity, and like any commodity it requires refining and packaging to better sell its contents.

It was out of this shift in paradigm that a new breed of intrepid warriors emerged: Wielding nothing but a 21" Macbook and a 5 button mouse, the valiant warrior broke through the multitude of lines of code that programmers had erected to keep the average Joe (and Jane) clueless and afraid from the wwworld behind the screen.
With great responsibility also came great show off. Over-interpreting every splash of color and setting the value for a day's work well beyond the entire budget of the project were a necessary evil intended to make the barbaric hordes of non-designers understand how big was the favor they were receiving by getting a web designer to accept their project.

But there is also order in the chaos; Much like the ancient Samurai, Web Designers live by a set of rules only known to them. The Code of the Web Designer is only passed from one generation to another in a secret ceremony shrouded by mystery, Pringles, scarves, Nutella and chants in old Elvish languages that consist mostly of rants on how web developers make their lives so miserable and really, really " just don't get it".

Behold the Secret Code of the Web Designer:

  1. The Web is what you see in the browser. There is no relation between a website's layout and its HTML code.
  2. Because of that,Web Designers do not feel the need to learn HTML, it's the developer's job
  3. Web Designers do not slice any of their designs, because they do not know HTML. What are the web developers doing anyway?
  4. Web Designers think that CSS stands for Cute, Sweet & Simple.
  5. Web Designers do not consult with web developers before suggesting page animations or interactive features. If they can imagine it, then the developer should be able to find a way to do it.
  6. Web Designers can only produce one viable, acceptable layout worth implementing per client.
  7. Any additional layout that the Web Designer is forced to create for that same client, will be as ugly, hideous and repelling as possible, in a way to make the original design seem like a Da Vinci masterpiece.
  8. Web Designers address design and functionality related bugs and mistakes with: "The developers did not execute it the way I asked them to"
  9. Web Designers charge based on the Sting Fiscal System. The Sting fiscal system is based on Sting's mega hit "Every Breath You Take". 
  10. Web Designers payment terms are usually 50% down payment upon commissioning the project and 50% before the client approves the final design.

However, luckily for us, not everybody lives by the code. The Ronins of the Web Designer tribes still offer consolation and hope, mostly by not having an attitude and then some more by simply learning the craft which they choose to be associated with and then doing it well. Alas much like the Ronins, these web designers never stay in one place for too long and often move on where they can do what they like away from all the hype.

Below is a recently discovered haiku describing the web designer...cherish it!

Web Designers splash
colors like having a rash
take a lot of cash

The Haiku of the Web Designer 


The 7 Odd Types of LinkedIn Contacts

Ever since the dot-com boom in the last century, people have sought out to enhance their business presence by using online mediums. It comes to no surprise to anyone, with the emergence of Social Media  as a defacto medium of human communication a few years ago, that the torch would be handed-on to this new age channel. LinkedIn came to be during this gold rush, immediately sweeping away the competition for an array of reasons that, unfortunately, I am not about to cover in this piece.
As popularity of this social channel grew, in came pouring the tutorials and lessons on how to best tailor your profile for maximum exposure by all the wannabe self-proclaimed gurus of the social web.This is not one of those.
Instead I propose to lead you with me on a discovery mission of the 7 odd types of people that usually will add you as a contact along with their modus operandi.

  1. The Hoarder:
    a.k.a the collector is someone who goes around on LinkedIn adding random people to his contacts or accepting every single contact request they receive. They never bother to introduce themselves or explain why they are adding you. A dead-giveaway is that they have always "indicated you are a friend". A more sophisticated breed of collectors call themselves LIONs (Background music: Katy Perry's Roar) which stands for LinkedIn Open Networker. Recognizable by the OpenLink icon, they justify in a million and one ways why they need to have 5000 contacts and how they are actually creating synergy from this.
  2. The Student: 
    The student usually seeks out managers, CEOs and HR people to connect to. Their profile is normally too empty (no shame in that) and they try way too hard to fill it in with tiny summer jobs, irrelevant random experiences and every single project they ever completed during their study years. I have no idea why, but I kept having images of baby seals while I was writing these last two sentences.
    Original Image Credits

  3. The Recruiter:
    These people exist on a different level of awareness. They are the modern day online equivalent of the early hunters who just happen to also be gatherers. They seek out the keywords they badly need to fill that vacant job. It doesn't matter if your profile had those keywords in a job you occupied over 8 years ago, they'll still roll the dice on you. Who knows, maybe you are up for it?
    Their hidden superpower resides in the fact that they can go through your list of contacts faster than a pyramid scheme would part a fool from his money.

    A classical recruiter approach aimed at
    rummaging through one's contacts

  4. The Bimbo (applies to female or males equally)
    I tried really hard to use a more imaginative wording, such as "Photogenically Centered Person", "Wardrobe Challenged Individual" but the truth of the matter remains that these upstanding members of society prefer to prance around in skimpy clothing on their LinkedIn profile throwing out of the windows any professional credibility their credentials might have. I am sorry, but unless you are setting up your account in order to find specific opportunities in that area of expertise, I won't give you the time of day when you add me on LinkedIn even if you work in a Telecom or Financial Company.

    Sorry to disappoint you boys and gals
    I know you were waiting for the pic
  5. The Fake Profile
    If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck (and thanks to Instagram  makes a face like a duck) it's probably a duck. Fake profiles are often easy to spot. Stock images used for profile pictures, filled with pre-canned catch phrases for describing some experiences and usually pushing identical updates to some other profiles out there. Here's a news flash for you, there is something called Google Image search, your stock photo is not gonna fly here nor will your "big clumsy model hands" (see picture)

    An example of Fake Profile using a model's picture
    off the internet (read upwards)
  6. The Offshore IT Sales Pitch Person
    These LinkedIn members usually share a, more or less identical, geographical area very rich in IT (or Telecom) talents and skills. It is enough to accept one person as a contact and you will receive dozens of identical people adding you and offering up their offshore services. Sure, I run a business that requires IT services, and there's nothing I would enjoy more than discovering new ways to reduce expenses but this is just plain ridiculous. The cost of the man-hours spent fending off these contact requests outweighs any savings than I might stand to do.
    One of many similar pitch emails.
    Approve one and you'll get flooded
  7. The Clueless
    This person has no idea how and why they are on LinkedIn. They think it's another Facebook. They might post inappropriate content. They lock-down their profile to the extreme or don't even bother completing it properly. They will add people for all the wrong reasons and for no reasons at all. They never reply to messages and often end up creating duplicate and triplicate accounts then adding you all over again (the concept of retrieve password is still alien to them).

I am sure you could perhaps find additional odd types, other sub-groups, or even totally disagree with the profiling I have done; but what remains certain, is that LinkedIn is here to stay and with it the vast universe of business connections. So set your own rules and policies on whom to connect to and whom to ignore, on what approaches you welcome and what makes you lose interest. Use all this to build quality relationships that put you in touch with people that complement and complete your business micro-cosmos and put in continuous expansion and harmony. Don't be a tool...use one, in this case LinkedIn!


Pay Up Or Shut Up

I challenge you all!

Yes, I dare you to produce a business owner or manager in Lebanon, that does not consistently complain about cash liquidity, bad paying customers, and the endless list of excuses that these customers are able to come up with to simply avoid settling their dues.

Not paying on time (or even at all) has become a national sport to the point where one may suggest it even deserves its own federation.

Think about it:
The Federation of Accounts Outstanding.
It has a ring to it, a "je ne sais quoi" of a financial version of "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" only more sordid. I am also even sure we would be entitled to follow on TV the never-ending politically motivated squabbles when they decide to elect their board *cough*FLB*cough*.

Although a handful of businesses still maintain a healthy reputation for settling their dues, a mix of a degrading economical situation, lack of swift actions by the judicial system, and a very individualistic non-team-playing pop culture has made this a trademark of today's Lebanese business scene.

This quote by the very talented Ted Danson's character Dr John Becker from the comedy sitcom Becker illustrate our predicament in this country:" That's the problem with the world, everybody says "Everybody does it," so everybody does it!"

I am assuming that there are enough scientific studies to prove that if everybody did pay their dues, everyone would end up with more money to spare eventually. "Money begets money" as the proverb goes ( I will refrain from using the second half of the Lebanese version of the proverb goes)

Anyway, what better way to illustrate this other than by giving you examples of the ingenious payment-evasive skills of your average Lebanese business owner:

Location Based/ Absence Related Excuses:

  • The CEO/CFO/Accountant  is out of office/town/country/universe (sick, leave, divorce, marriage...etc)
  • Your account manager is on maternity leave; she was handling your papers
  • I am talking to you while roaming. I will sign the check once I am back in Lebanon.
  • I am back in Lebanon, but I did not go to the office yet.
  • I am not currently at my desk. Call me again tomorrow.

Misplacement Of Items
  • We cannot find your invoice, please send us a copy again.
  • We cannot find the checkbook (variant: The checkbook is finished, we need to get a new one)
  • We cannot find the signed check. We will have to issue a new one.

Administrative Delays
  • The management did not yet approve the payment (no reasons given)
  • The check is being prepared (I can never tell if they are actually designing & printing the check or if they have someone who writes r.e.a.a.a.a.a.a.l.l.y slow)
  • The check has been signed by one person, we are waiting for the second signature.
  • The check has been signed, but I am not authorized to hand it to you yet.
  • The check is in the safe. The manager has the combination and is not here today.
  • I am too busy right now, I cannot verify if the check has been made out (usually comes with multiple mouse click sounds associated with minesweeper or solitaire)
  • The check is issued by the main office outside Lebanon. We need to send them an email reminder for them to mail it in to us.
  • We just implemented a new policy that dictates that payment is done 45 days after the invoice. Yes, the policy was not in place when you invoiced us, but we have to implement it now.

The list can go on and on, with a multitude of variants on these all-too-blatant basic excuses, but at the center of the matter lies a much bigger malaise. We take everything for granted: Our parents, our children, our friends, our loved one(s) and eventually our business contacts. The way we do business reflects who we are as a society: self-centered, distrustful, short-sighted, ego-bloated and eventually tragicomical. 
Long live the Joie de Vivre!


The Eternal Return...A Tale Of Social Classes

When I set out to write this post, I tried to remember how I came to conceive this flowchart of social human interaction and I realized it I was perhaps in my late teens when this hit me for the first time.
The people in my inner circles have probably already heard me layout this theory with more details than what you can see below. Although a picture is worth a thousand words, I think there is the element of story telling that will remain missing here, but I am not going to become a video blogger for the sake of this one post.

I was never (and never will be) a professional in sociology, psychology or any of the human sciences. I am just an avid observer of Human Nature. I find that one can usually find more valuable insights by observing people rather than by engaging them. But that's just me perhaps...

The following diagram is a very rough representation of what my observations have revealed as to the futility of human pursuit of wealth and transition to upper social classes. Do not get me wrong, I am no Dalai Lama and I will certainly go for the proverbial kill if opportunity presented itself for me to transition to the more "decadent upper classes".

The post is not condemning people for being rich or poor. It's also not promoting one way of life over another. This is a statement of facts as seen from my narrow angle into the human society and the multitude of souls trying to make it out there. There are irregularities in the model and I have highlighted some of them (dashed lines). Other exceptions are simply in my opinion what confirms the rules of my observations (in the society I have observed at least)
Occasionally, we will see someone break out of a lower class due to a conjunction of talent (genetic predisposition) exceptional drive and opportune circumstances (randomness) in any random order. The rare possibility of similar factors to align once more is what keeps the door shut for the majority left behind.
The downward spiral is much more common yet so less interesting to document: alcohol, debauchery, overconfidence... you name it!
Large Size Version

Does life subscribe to what Nietzsche and Schopenhauer discussed in terms of Eternal Recurrence?
Is it all a comedy farce like Bill Murray's "Groundhog Day" character or a tragedy like Jean Cocteau's 1943 movie adaptation "L'Eternel Retour"?
Personally, I think this is all one big prank that life plays on us all: The Mother of All Trolls!


The Hypentrepreneur

For the past 3 to 5 years, all I hear has revolved around the buzz on how great it is to be an entrepreneur. Local and international publications have been blowing the horn of entrepreneurship loud enough to bring down the walls of Jericho.

Inside the mind of the Hypentrepreneur
Inside the mind of the Hypentrepreneur

The amount of buzz words related to this has grown so out of proportion that it induces immediate unpleasant physical side-effects when I hear any of them.

Here, try it yourself, repeat these words out-loud until you become lightheaded or nauseous:

Incubator, accelerator, seeding, investor, angel ,crowd-funding, gamification, freemium, IPO, Private Beta, Gen-Z...

not enough? Add some tech-jargon:

Framework, Bootstrap, CSS3, HTML5, jQuery, bootloader, jailbreak..

The Lebanese market has been taken by storm by what I lovingly refer to as Entrepreneurship Mongers who take the art of portraying a rosy picture of what this life offers to new limits. This however is not entirely by their own merit but quite possibly made easier by the following notorious native Lebanese character traits:

  1. Individualism: We are not, have never been, and never will be team players. The few successful collaborations by groups of Lebanese are just the exception that proves the rule. There's always a catch when something is happening too smoothly within a team or a business. The pumped-up form of the one-man-show would be the one-family-show. I won't even address how bad we function as a society.
  2. Easy Money: A common local proverb, used to portray how profit-oriented a person is, roughly translates to: "He would sell his own father"; Pay attention: not "betray"...literally "sell". Why? Because we are always seeking the proverbial quick-buck, the shortcut to making as much money right here, right now regardless of ethics or moral values.
  3. Over-inflated Ego : Not to be confused with point (1), this only complements it by means of attitude, show-off, fancy titles or use of pompous words. It also involves not returning calls or emails and posing with local celebrities even if you begged them to take a picture with you.
With the exponential rise in popularity of digital media and all the "shabang" that goes with it, it was only a matter of time before almost everybody you meet ended up wearing thick plastic-framed glasses, the tech equivalent of "bling", and calling themselves Geeks.

So, like Chef Antoine and Teta Latife would say in their cooking shows, let me repeat the ingredients:
Equal measures of ego, individualism and thirst for profit, well mixed with easily impressed young minds, bolstered by greed of sponsors/investors/Skimmers-on-the-side. Well stirred in an incubator or an accelerator and served chilled with a side dish of arrogance,

The perfect recipe for everybody's latest and trendiest cocktail: The Hypentrepreneur.

Some qualities of the Hypentrepreneur:
  • The Hypentrepreneur knows best!
  • The Hypentrepreneur does not need a job before going entrepreneurial, it's in their blood because they are...yes you guessed it...Lebanese.
  • The Hypentrepreneur only pretends to work at other companies because they are smarter than everybody there combined.
  • The Hypentrepreneur begs for freelance gigs as long as he or she needs the extra cash and drops the project half way through when funding comes through. (Or after they buy those Beats headphone they wanted so bad)
  • The Hypentrepreneur sucks up to the owners of the incubators or shared workspace facilities. It's not called sucking up, it's networking.
  • The Hypentrepreneur follows the rules of Doing Business in Lebanon but never admits it.
  • The Hypentrepreneur is always short on money but lives at home with the parents where breakfast is served in bed by a foreign domestic worker in the morning and where mom lays out nicely their outfit for hanging out at many of the overpriced night clubbing venues in the evening.

The Hypentrepreneur is like the thin crust of dirt that covers a beautiful piece of silverware and that needs that special cleaning liquid to be rubbed off. Once out of the way, you can admire the beautiful true craftsmanship done by many people for whom I have the utmost respect. To those people I reserve the right to be called entrepreneurs and to them I say carry on like I have repeatedly expressed in private conversations.

What our young tribal, confused society needs is more discipline, more streamlining (see I can use buzzwords too). By portraying to people (youngsters mostly) that having a regular paying job, a career of some sorts, in places where rules and systems are well set, we are simply setting ourselves up for a bigger disappointment.
Entrepreneurship is cool, when it works, for that tiny percentile! For everybody else, things won't come that easy and it will involve taking the long road to success and learning along the way to respect experience, value opinions, assume responsibility, accept consequences and emerge much more polished than that raw material you were when you thought your were an Entrepreneur.
So, for a change and for whatever my advice is worth: Get a life...Get a Job!