Lost in Translation

I have been sitting at this keyboard for about five minutes now.  I’ll type a sentence and then I’ll hold down the backspace button and erase it all.  I want to explain how learning design process, web law and XHTML & JavaScript coding have impacted my perception and use of Web sites, but I just can’t seem to find the right words.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am pretty comfortable with the English language.  The words just don’t seem to want to present themselves to me today.  It can be quite frustrating sometimes when you know what you want to say but you just don’t know how to say it.

German, Spanish, Italian Language BooksI dedicate a very recent six years of my life to a local non-profit organization that offered adult literacy classes.  The majority of the students in the program were English as a second language learners.  I worked annually with over 500 of these students.  Each one had an amazing story.  I can only imagine their frustration.  They had such a great message to share, but their obstacles were much greater than writer’s block.  They struggled to communicate their message because they only knew bits and pieces of the language and they knew even less of the way the language should all be put together.

I’ve traveled a little in the past fifteen years.  I’ve been to Mexico, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.  I might have a modest inclination of the communication challenges that these students go through.  However, I never had to immerse myself into the culture or language like they do.  Not until now anyway.

I want to tell a story.  I want it to be dynamic, exciting, captivating, educational, persuasive and virtual.  The problem is, I only know bits and pieces of the language I need to know to tell my story.

The necessary language for my story is XHTML, CSS and JavaScript.  Actually, the language is binary, but luckily, I do have some help in translation.  I have been studying the language of code and design for less than three months now.  However, I will have to apply what I know in less than 10 days and present a formatted portfolio site for my Web Fundamentals class.  At the literacy program, we always told our students that research suggested that it took seven years of instruction to really become fluent in a foreign language.  I guess in higher academia we learn in dog years.

My current struggle is with CSS.  I have been working on converting an iced version of my layout into a jello or liquid version.  I keep fiddling with the elements, attributes, and  properties in the code, but I just can’t seem to relay the right message to the browser and ultimately to my audience.   

What I want is for my main image to float on the right hand side of the browser.  I thought I wanted my position to be relative to the main wrapper but I have gotten better results with absolute positioning as a percentage of the container element.  I have adjusted margins, borders and padding, modified pixels and percentages, and played with backgrounds and z-indexes.  I just don’t seem to be getting the results I want.    

For most of the site, I will use anchor tags to hyperlink to additional pages, but for certain pages, I plan to use an image tag in the value attribute of an input element to call a function that on-mouse-over or on-click will return the desired content to a designated text area.    

I suspect that, if you haven’t studied coding, the previous three paragraphs might be a little hard to follow.  Welcome to my world!  That is my point exactly.

Billions of web messages get transferred from servers to clients utilizing different protocols and  browsers.  We take for granted, but these messages are constantly being encoded and decoded on multiple layers before they eventually reach their audience.  Encoding and decoding are present in every form of communication, but the complexity of these components of the communication model take on a dramatically new meaning when related to web development.

In the past three months, my use of the web has dropped dramatically.  Currently, by necessity, my utilization of the web is completely utilitarian.  I avoid social networking, gaming and other recreational uses of the web.  My site visit has dramatically reduced also.  I get to the site, get the desired information, and get out.

I still live on computers, but the majority of my time is now spent with word processing, spreadsheets, data base tools, and writing code.  Approximately 75% of my web time is dedicated to e-mail communications and another 15% to academic requirements (blogging, image searches, research, ect..).  The balance is spread out between bill paying, hobbies,  and a little social networking.  While I am on the web, however, I am typically thinking, in the back of my head, about the process and code that went into developing that site.

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About Jesse Alber

Jesse Alber attained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Speech Communications with an Athletic Coaching Endorsement from Hastings College in May, 1993. From 1994 - 2000, Alber served in leadership roles in human resources, retail, and production. Alber enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2000. He served as a Armored Cavalry Scout and Troop Training Manager with A 3/7 CAV 3d ID until 2004. Alber deployed to Bosnia in 2001 and Kwait / Iraq in 2003. Alber served in the Army Reserves from 2005 - 2008. From 2004 - 2010 Alber served as the Adult Education Coordinator for Central Community College and Executive Director for the Hastings Literacy Program. Alber returned to Hastings College in 2010 to study Computer Science and Web Design. He is currently emploed as a Programming and Web Development Intern with Servi-Tech Industries. Alber will complete his program of study in the summer of 2012.
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