For all the indispensible digital producers, developers, architects and everyone else who make the web happen.

For the late nights and the early mornings.

For the team players and arse-kickers. For the creatives, for the techies, for the bring-it-all-togethers.

For the go-live, for the can-do.

For the heroes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Dual screen configuration that rocks

Last year, I decided to experiment at work with an 'alternative' monitor set-up.

I've stuck with it ever since, and when I start a new job next month, I'm hopeful that resources and desk space will allow me to do something similar.

It certainly provokes reactions from curious colleagues who haven't seen anything like it, but more importantly, I think I've found a set-up that optimises productivity.

I use two identical monitors. Both are fairly standard LCD screens. 22 inch, 1680 by 1050 resolution. Perfectly standard, everyday kit.

Two screens are better than one, obviously
But whereas most multi-screen set-ups are based around putting the screens side by side and attempting to effect 'one extra-big screen', I've never liked this approach, and always found the bezels a rather annoying that it's really not one screen.

Maybe it's alright for people who play racing simulator games, but it's not for me.

So, what I've done is this: On the right, I have a screen in 'normal', landscape orientation. This is my primary monitor, where most of my stuff is based.

And on the left, set slightly apart, I use a portrait orientation screen, onto which I extend the desktop of the main screen. This is, essentially, my 'viewing' screen - a vital counterpart to the 'work' screen - and it almost always contains a maximised browser window and nothing else.

How does this work in the real world? Well, a couple of examples:

1. I'm editing something in Dreamweaver on the main screen, and can see the results of my changes on the viewing screen. border: 10px solid red !important;... yep, looks like I'm in the right css file.

2. I'm composing an email about traffic sources to somebody important on the main screen, and in the viewing screen I have Google Analytics open to ensure that even if my email contains bullshit, it's proper Google bullshit.

I'm sure you get the idea. What surprises me though is just how well this set-up works. You might think that having the main bit on the right and extending it 'backwards' would feel strange, but it doesn't. It rocks, so it does, it fucking rocks!

Try it!

Sunday, July 1, 2012


So, what's the point of this blog?

Well, one day I hope that it will be a collaborative forum where the best digital people in the world come together to discus concepts and ideas and share practical tips and tricks. Whether it's CSS hacks or CRM strategy. Photoshop filters or promotional features.

That day isn't yet and I've no idea when it will be. I'm not going to be promoting Release Day Heroes at all right now (so, if you've found it, you've actually stumbled upon something a bit secret).

What I will be doing is occasionally posting stuff and building up a bit of a content base. And that will take as long as it takes. I have a day job (and when it ends on July 31, I'll be getting ready to start my next day job on August 1).

I'm also busy with my successful food and drink blog, Ben Viveur. But if you want to know more about what I do as a Digital Production Manager, then visit

If you're reading this several years in the future and have joined a vast band of Release Day Heroes, thanks for helping the vision come alive!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Would you hire yourself?

Would you hire yourself?

If you were your manager, recruiting for your job, and you showed up for interview today, would you get the job?

It’s easy to be blasé about these things and say: ‘Yes, of course, without a moment’s hesitation. I’m great at my job!’

But if we think about the question more deeply – and think about other people who do similar jobs to us, and who maybe sometimes do these jobs better than we do – can anybody honestly say that they are always 100% the best person for their job with absolutely no scope for improvement?

As people working in the web business, it’s a question worth asking ourselves occasionally, because it focuses the mind on areas where we could possibly do better.

None of us are perfect. There is always something more to learn.

But we don’t always learn.

It’s not just about being stuck in a rut and failing to build on the skills and knowledge that might have landed us the job two, five, maybe ten years ago. Sometimes when we’re a little too comfortable in our role, we choose to expand our knowledge in areas because they interest us personally, rather than because they would enable us to do our job better.

For example, I’ve managed staff who, for arguments sake, have been decent enough .NET developers, who have taken an interest in JQuery, which is all well and good as a broad range of knowledge makes you a rounded person. But when the JQuery learning, which was only of vague use to the projects they were actually involved with, came at the expense of keeping up to date with the latest version of .NET, this gradually took them further and further away from being the optimal person for the job they did.

(Yes, I might have changed the technologies to protect identities and feelings. I’m kind like that.)

So a very good way of assessing your own skills shortfall and gaps in knowledge is to put yourself in the position of the person hiring you.

Ask yourself the tough, probing questions you’d ask a candidate for your job.

Have ideas around usability best practice moved on since you read a book by Jakob Nielsen in 2001?

Do you really know how HTML5’s inbuilt form validation works in practice, or are you just vaguely aware that it exists?

Did you ever find out exactly what happens when Facebook shows updated statuses in real time, or is ‘something with AJAX, probably’ explanation enough?

You won’t get to be the best in the business without pushing yourself hard, and the first step is admitting what you don’t know, so you can begin learning it.