Web Developers, You’re Not Alone

Web developers who plan to work alone, or are already doing so have a lot of obstacles to overcome.  One of which is being isolated and having no like-minded professionals to turn to for advice and feedback.   I know this one all too well and have been working alone  for the past 5+ years on various projects.  My current project, FantasySP, has been extremely challenging and rewarding at the same time.  Reinventing how people manage their fantasy sports teams can be quite a challenge.

Smashing magazine wrote a great article detailing why you should not be working alone.  However, some of us have no choice but to work alone. It could be that you are doing a solo project that no one believes in, or you simply do not have enough funding to get anyone else on board.  Fear not, this article will show you where to go to get some helpful feedback.

  1. Stack Overflow
    This is my personal favorite for websites to turn to when you are stuck in a bind.  As a developer on your own you will eventually run into programming problems that you need to get some outside advice on.  Whether it be a MySQL scalability issue or how to parse JSON in PHP.  You are free to post about whatever problem you are having, even newbie questions are often given great responses.  Questions are mostly geared towards programing, but can occasionally touch on server configuration or just plain old HTML questions.

    Best part about the site?  The community is friendly, extremely knowledgeable, and eager to help.  I’ve asked questions on that site that directly and indirectly led to answers.  I can’t say enough good things about this site and suggest anyone who is involved in coding to sign up and participate.   You’ll feel compelled to help others and try to be the first one to get selected as “Best Answer” to rack up points.

  2. Forrst
    Forrst is a site that can be used for networking with like-minded individuals and provide a spot to ask a wide range of questions that usually don’t pop up on Stack Overflow.  This site isn’t specifically limited to questions.  You have the option to post code snippets, screenshots of projects, to gain feedback.  You can even post useful links that you think can be beneficial to others.  Your posts can be private or made public, it’s completely up to you.

    If you are looking for feedback on a blog layout, design mockups, or coding then Forrst can be a great spot to check out.  I do not have much experience here, but from what I’ve seen thus far the community seems helpful and eager to help.  Getting started on Forrst you may feel a bit isolated, since it has a social aspect to it.  The site requires you to apply for it, but after waiting a week or so then you will recieve your invite code in your mail.  However, if you are helpful and engaged in the site then you should gain quite a few followers and get the feedback your looking for.

  3. Dribbble
    Dribbble’s sole focus is to post your designs and try to gain feedback from it’s userbase.  The site is invite only and is fairly difficult to become a member of without getting lucky or knowing someone already on the site.  I am not a member of Dribbble, but a designer friend is and told me the site is less about feedback and more about showing off your awesomeness.  Egos abound.

    So should Dribbble be on this list of helpful sites?  Yes and no. It’s still a great spot to post your designs and get feedback, but if you aren’t up to par then expect to hear about it.  That isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you are a pro, but amateurs beware.

  4. Web Hosting Talk
    Here we have a throwback site that you probably heard of.  Unlike the other sites mention, this is a forum and is geared towards web hosting questions.  Being a developer on your own means making web hosting decisions as well, so this site is a must to learn which places to avoid.

    It may not look the best, but the forum is loaded with people who have lots of experience with multiple web hosts and it even has employees from dozens of hosting companies.  Ask your questions about domain registrars, VPS’s, cPanel, or Plesk and you’ll get lots of great feedback

  5. Webmasterworld

    Another blast from the past, webmasterworld is the place to go for questions related to your server and SEO.  This is a fantastic place to go to learn about harmful webbots that should be blocked and the latest rumors/news about search engines.  Users on this site are anonymous, and for good reason.

    This site is about  asking questions that you probably wouldn’t ask elsewhere.  For example, if you plan to partake in questionable practices such as cloaking content for Googlebot.  The community is helpful and there is a large mix of newbies and experts on the topic of SEO.

    This list is far from perfect and I have a feeling I’ve missed quite a few useful sites.  Be sure and leave comments to other helpful websites to go to for feedback.

Tips + Guide to Switch from Outlook to Gmail

We want our email, and we want it fast.  The goal of this guide is to replace outlook as your primary mail collector with Gmail.  I just took the plunge and it’s been such a huge improvement that I want you to benefit as well.  We want Gmail to open as if it’s an application, save it’s position on your screen, and notify you of new emails just as Outlook does.

I am going to assume that you already have a gmail account created.  The first thing you should do is forward any email accounts that to your gmail account that you can.  Some people forward all their emails to gmail, while others want to keep a few business email accounts in tact to send email to and from.  It’s completely up to you, but keep in mind that Gmail limits you to fetch email from 5 accounts.

To add email accounts to fetch mail from, go to “Settings ->Accounts and Import -> Check mail using POP3”, then simply follow their guide.

Add POP Accounts

When you do this, you’ll notice that it needs to fetch ALL of your emails.  If you are ditching outlook, you are going to want your full archive of emails.  It took Gmail roughly a day to download and archive 10,000 of my emails, so be patient while it works.  It’s important to note that Gmail is currently limited to POP implementation only.  But don’t let the lack of IMAP support deter you from using it because they do allow you to keep a copy on the server (just incase you want to use IMAP or check mail elsewhere).

Each new account that you import is assigned a label.  If you have an email account called “[email protected]”, then it’s default label will be “[email protected]”.  Next to each label you’ll see a gray box, clicking this lets you change the label color so it stands out when viewing all emails. (Inbox).

Label customization

Next up, head over to the “Settings -> Labs” option and select any of the additional features that you think will be usefull.  For example, I selected the option to play Google Voicemails right from my inbox.

We also need to enable new mail notifications.  If you checked the option to always use HTTPS when using gmail, then you’ll also need this fix.

Now, probably the most important part is to make sure that Gmail runs as fast as possible on your machine.  To do that, you should install Google Chrome.  It is by far the fastest browser when it comes to rendering pages and dealing with javascript.  If you do not use Chrome with Gmail, then you are not using it to it’s full potential.  Chrome also gives us the option to create a shortcut to Gmail as an application, which means it remembers where the application opens.  Anyone with a dual monitor setup can appreciate this.

To create a desktop shortcut, go to “Settings -> Offline -> Other options”.  Click on create a desktop shortcut.  Or you can simply click on the paper icon in the URL bar while on gmail’s page and select create application shortcuts.

That’s all there is to it.  Now enjoy super fast email without having to worry about constant slowdown by Outlook and random crashes.