What Are Your Skills Worth?

That is the question, with all apologies to the balding bard from Stratford-on-Avon.

And there’s a website from some place near his old ‘hood that can answer the question.

ITJobsWatch is a UK site that gathers data on the tech job market and maps it to provide a moving picture of the value of tech skills, or at least the value of those skills in the UK. Man, I wish I could find a site that did the same thing for the U.S.

The site provides charts and graphs showing the evolving level of demand for almost 5000 tech skills, tracking average salary and freelancer rates. You can break down the results by region or specific location.

Setting aside cosmic questions of free will and the value of art, if you’re a UK parent you might want to start coaching your kid to dream of one day being a Senior SAP Programmer, and downplay notions of becoming a Flash animator. The SAP kid makes seven times what the Flasher does. They barely make more than a telemarketer, who, in turn, makes more than a Helpdesk operator. Ouch.

plish122-itjobswatchflash

plish122-itjobswatchtele

You can compare different skills, so you know if learning Flex might really pay off (it will), or you should throw out that old PageMaker manual (not yet—there’s only about three PM jobs left in the whole UK, but they pay really well).

There are tons of interesting data to look at. F’rinstance, the salaries for Quark and InDesign top out at nearly the exact same amount: £30k. But there’s a greater gap between the Quark haves and have nots, and the overall trend for Quark seems to be under the influence of gravity.

plish122-itjobswatchquark

A Blog About Nothing

Tonight was the 10th anniversary of the last episode of Seinfeld (and coincidentally, the last call for Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra). I always got a kick out seeing the Mac in the background of Seinfeld’s apartment, and how he silently “upgraded” each year to Apple’s latest and greatest. In the final season, Jerry even had one of those crazy 20th Anniversary Macs.

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Cookbook 2.0 Is Served

Time again to peek in on our cookbook project and see if it’s baked yet. You know they say you lose 10° every time you open the oven door. So does that mean if I opened it enough times, I could turn the oven into a freezer? Just wondering.

We left off last time with

  • decent-looking code, thanks to a bunch of Find/Replaces
  • inspiration from the design of Epicurious.com
  • the ability to harvest CSS code with the help of the Web Developer Add-on for Firefox

So what’s left is to put together a CSS file, point the HTML at it, and see what we get.

Continue reading

Family Cookbook 2.0, part 3

Has it been more than a week since we left off with the cookbook project? My how blog time flies. Let’s continue.

During the first two posts on this topic, we converted the old XPress file, and tagged the content in InDesign and exported it. Right now we have XML masquerading as HTML. Let’s open it in Dreamweaver.

First off, we’ll format the source code, so we can actually read it. We’re OK doing this because we aren’t taking this content back into InDesign. If we were, right now the robot from Lost in Space would be yelling, “Danger Will Robinson!” The problem is that Dreamweaver doesn’t give a hoot where it places the whitespace characters to format the code. They end up everywhere, including inside every element tag. So if we re-import this into InDesign we get…a huge mess.

Orginally, the title element of Richard’s Pancakes was very tidy with just one return in the right place.

clean XML in InDesign

Now, it has 4.

Nasty extra whitspace

Who left the bumbling Dr. Smith in charge of our content? Oh, the pain.

Happily, we’re on a one way street to the Web, where those whitespace characters won’t be as troublesome.

Start off by adding the some infrastructure at the top:

<!DOCTYPE HTML>
<html>

<head><link href=”cookbook.css” rel=”stylesheet” type=”text/css”>
</link> <title>Ethan’s Family Cookbook</title>
</head>

And wrap everything else in <body>

Then let’s get rid of the Story (capital S) elements, wrapped around the recipe cards, an artifact of those pesky inline frames. We’ll just Find/Replace with nothing, making sure to check “Case sensitive”, since we do have story, (lower case s) elements we want to keep: the chefs’ stories about their recipes.

Now we’ll replace all the names of the tags that came from InDesign style names with valid HTML tags, plus class declarations for hooking into CSS.

To give credit where credit is due, this idea is straight out of chapter 9 of A Designer’s Guide to Adobe InDesign and XML by James Maivald.

So the opening tag <group> gets replaced with <p class=”group”> and the closing </group> becomes plain old </p> Lather, rinse and repeat for <story>, <title>, <chef>, <ingredients>, and <step> elements. I’m also going to lively up the <div> around the recipe card, by adding class=”card” to distinguish it from the other <div>s.

clean code

Validate to check our work. And we get Dreamweaver’s idea of praise for our hard work: “Complete.” Nice. This is a program tossing compliments like manhole covers. How about, “Adequate.” or “Nice job, for a human.”

We preview in the browser, and things look cool with the exception of the degree symbols. So we’ll go back and replace all those with an entity.

Next time, some CSS to finish this sucker off.

Family Cookbook 2.0

Now that all our Easter eggs have been consumed, let’s continue on with that XML theme with a little project to illustrate the joy and pain of bringing old content into the brave new world of cross-media publishing. The goal is to take the files from old print project, languishing on some dusty CD in the basement, and give them new life as spiffy Web content.

The content we’re going to work with is a cookbook. And yes, I did hear that collective groan from across cyberspace. If you’ve read anything about XML and publishing, you know that all XML demos are based on cookbooks. I think it’s a law or something. Actually, I really did want to update the cookbook and put it online, so I grabbed it for this demo.

I’ll break the demo up over a few posts since it’s too much to digest in one sitting. It hurt to write that one, but I couldn’t help myself.

The cookbook was a personal project. I made it when my son Ethan was a baby, to say thanks for all the help everyone gave my wife and I at the time. I was also inspired by the memory of a great-grandmother, Nana Mac, a legendary cook who never wrote down any of her recipes.

plish-nanamac.jpg

Now they’re all gone with her. I wished that my kids could be connected in a some way, to the great people who came before them. So I sent out a request to all family members to submit their favorite recipes and any interesting stories that went along with them. I got a nice response, 54 recipes from 28 people.

I transferred all the recipes from hand-written index cards, or copied and pasted from e-mails into a Quark layout. Like my fellow Southeastern MA native, Emeril Lagasse, I kicked it up several notches. I probably went overboard, with not one but two indices, a forward and a dedication, and of course drop shadows on every page “burned” with ShadowCaster. I figured out the imposition and printed 30 copies of the pages on my Epson Stylus Color 740i, which matched my Bondi Blue iMac. The Epson still cranks out pages today. Never fed it an OEM ink cart either. The inkjet gods must be smiling on me. I bound the books, using a cordless drill and hand-bent staples. Ouch! Talk about old world craftsmanship! Could have used one of these sweet book staplers. Then again, maybe I should’ve just gone to Kinko’s. But the whole point was to do it all myself on the cheap. The book came out quite nicely, if you forgive the slight shingle of the pages, and the fact that I didn’t laminate the covers, so they get a bit smudgy in the kitchen.

plish-cookbookcover.jpg

I undertook this project in the spring of 2000. Those were the days when the wooly mammoth known as Quark XPress 4, roamed the Earth and dominated the publishing world with a 90% market share. Yes, there was a new thing called InDesign, but I laughed at it. Version 1.0 would launch, sort of. Everything else I tried to do with it caused it to crash. I mocked it as Illustrator with multiple pages. When InDesign 2.0 came out I quickly changed my tune. But that’s a story for different day.

Thus for our current project we have the dusty old Quark 4.04 file and a couple of pieces of art. Nowadays, I pretty much bleed Adobe Red (Pantone 485). I don’t own or know the versions of Quark XPress after 4.11. This is a problem for a few reasons, not the least of which is, if I upgrade all my machines to Leopard, I’ll be without Classic support, and thus without Quark. There is a workaround: have a partition running Tiger/Classic, but that’s like having to keep a second stereo in the living room to play your 8-track tape collection. Perhaps it’s time to upgrade. I must at least check out, if not actually buy XPress 7. I’m looking forward to it, but with the same feeling when you meet up with an old friend you haven’t seen in years: a mix of curiosity and unease. What’s changed? Will we still get along? Does he still remember the secret handshake (keyboard shortcut)? For now, we’ll attempt the Extreme Cookbook Makeover with InDesign CS3, Syncro Soft’s Oxygen, and Dreamweaver.

One last a stupid question: Why is it when I type “Dreamweaver”, I hear the song from ’70s? “Ooohh, dreeeeem weavahhh, I believe we can reach the morning liiight.” Maybe it was Wayne’s World that resurrected those dying neurons. But I am suspicious there’s also a K-Tel Records commercial playing endlessly in some dark corner of my mind. That would explain a lot. Hopefully my curse will not now become yours. OK, this blog is over 3000 words old, let’s finally do stuff.

CookBook Makeover

Step 1: The Conversion Drop Ye Olde XPresse File onto InDesign CS3. On my vintage G4, 40 seconds goes by before the Open progress bar appears. Tempting to go play on the Web, but in the interest of science I will ignore my ADD instincts and wait it out. For about a minute we get the “Converting Regular Spreads” message. Hmmm. What exactly is a “Regular” spread? Does this mean there are “Irregular” spreads? “Atypical” spreads? “Highly Unusual” spreads? I’d hate to have InDesign tell me it was converting “Unprecedented” spreads. Then again, that seems a little exciting. I have seen this dialog box a hundred times, without ever really comprehending it. Do I care enough to Google? Apparently so, and here’s the answer: “Regular” spreads are document pages, the ones that actually get printed in the book, as opposed to “Master” spreads which hold master pages. Hoping for something more interesting weren’t you? So was I, but we move on.

Next up, Warnings. “Shadow attribute not supported for characters.” OK, I don’t remember ever shadowing characters, but I’ll take your word for it, InDesign. Go on. “Missing Fonts.” No surprise here. Almost all the files I ever open were created at another time in another place, so this is my default state of existence. I was born missing fonts, man. I could load the entire Adobe Font Folio, add everything from Linotype, ITC, and ImageClub and somehow I’d still be missing FranklinGothicDemiCaramelMacciato.

What I really need is a preference like this:
plish-pinkenough.png

Alas there’s not, so we dismiss, and we’re in. Let’s take a look around.

plish-cookbookconvert.gif

All the recipes have the title and chef in inline text frames, like they did in the XPress file. To InDesign, that content is out of the flow of the story. So merging content is one hurdle to clear before we export the XML. Everything seems styled; that’s good. Thanks, Y2K self. Hmmm, the ingredients are in 2 columns. That might need to be cleaned up before I apply tags. There are a few scraps of whitespace trash lurking here and there, but I think we can make a go of it.

Since we’re starting with a converted XPress file, I am reminded of a neat InDesign feature which may be of some use to people. Normally if you choose InDesign > About InDesign… you get the lovely InDesign Purple (DIC 2618 or 40c100m) Credits window, with the version number. But if you add the Command key, you get an info-packed window called Adobe InDesign Component Information.

plish-idcomponent.gif

All the supertechy details of your document’s existence are laid bare, including whether or not it was converted from Quark XPress or PageMaker, all the versions of InDesign (including the build number) that touched the file, whether it is crash-recovered, opened with missing plug-ins, etc. It’s like doing a DNA test on your InDesign file. This info has helped me in the past with troubleshooting, in terms of hunting down what was causing a file to crash, and where in fact a file came from.

Note that like in the screen grab, Write Log File is grayed out until you save the document. If open this window with no document open, it still works, you just get the top of the dialog filled out with info about InDesign’s state for troubleshooting application problems instead of document problems.

OK, that’s all for now. Next time we’ll do text clean-up and tagging.