April 30, 2006

Introducing Rosco D. Disco

Brainside Out: Rosco D. Disco Edition

Howdy, Dane here. I’d like to introduce ya’ll to Brainside Out, Rosco D. Disco Edition. If you are under the impression that nothing looks different ’round these parts, I would encourage you to take a quick jaunt over to the home page and jab at some things over there. Okay, feeling better after that? Cool.

Rosco D. Disco is my entry for the May 1st CSS Reboot. Not too long ago I mentioned to my friend Jake Ingman that I was considering a redesign of Brainside Out and he suggested that I sign up for the Reboot, in the interest of committing myself to a deadline and forcing me to “light a fire under it,” so to speak. Well, I suppose it worked. Rosco went from idea to launch in about a month, my preferred turnaround time for projects of this scope.

With Rosco, my idea was to relign the website to be less weblog and more portfolio, while still retaining the voice and attitude that Brainside Out has gained over the years. I really wanted to scale back the apparent size of the site, and before I pushed any pixels I spent a lot of time deciding what content was valuable enough to bring forward, and what I would allow to seep into the background.

The more I weighed these different aspects, and the more I pared down my list of interests and values, the more I realized that the weblog was no longer making the cut.

I’ve been keeping a weblog for more than five years. I’ve had a weblog since before we even called them weblogs, instead referring to them as online journals. In that time I went to college, worked at a summer camp, graduated from college, moved across the country to work at a windsurf shop, learned to kiteboard, worked as a snowboard instructor, worked at an internet start-up, went to Baja, guided wilderness trips, gained a nephew, and started my own web design business.

As I remark every February when the notable anniversary comes around, two/three/four/five years is a super-duper long time for someone with my short attention span to stick with anything. Brainside Out has certainly changed and evolved in that time. It began as Cromlech on the servers at the University of Minnesota Duluth, went through at least five different redesigns, enjoyed a brief stint with Greymatter when I went to work at summer camp, eventually found itself written in Movable Type on Pair under the name Dane’s Bored, underwent at least three opposing redesigns until it relocated to www.brainsideout.com, where it enjoyed three redesigns including Wounded Knee and Siskiwit.

And now Brainside Out, a lowly weblog since the spring of 2003, has coaelesced into a full-fledged web design company that is dedicated to helping its clients kick everyone else’s ass. While notably crass, I can’t think of a better way to summarize my passions. I started a website not because I wanted a weblog per se, but because more than anything, I wanted to kick ass at writing. I was attracted to the self-publishing capabilities of the web, which was still kinda in its infancy back in 2001. I didn’t care about an audience or a voice or anything of that sort at the time… all I wanted to do was write and pretend I was writing for an actual audience.

To that end, the weblog of Brainside Out has served its purpose. As likely evidenced by my updating schedule as of late, these days I’m burned out on the whole weblog thing. Brainside Out certainly didn’t start as a weblog, but it became a weblog as I realized that the manner in which I was updating the site could be facilitated by some nifty software written exactly for that purpose. I wasn’t a web designer in 2001, and I didn’t have a newsreader that was subscribed to the respective weblogs of at least thirty web designers.

I guess this is a long way of saying that I will no longer be updating this weblog. The archives will remain intact, however, so our entire history (geez, five years’ worth) will still be available to all ya’ll. Feel free to browse and search to your liking. Siskiwit, this here version of Brainside Out, will continue to exist beneath the veneer of Rosco.

Also, please note that my plans are to no longer update this weblog. While five years of history begins to weigh a man down, there’s a good chance that I’ll have nothing against starting new, fresh weblogs in the near future. I don’t know when, where, or even if this will happen, nor do I know under what guise. Perhaps six months down the road I’ll have splintered off into three weblogs; one for my love of the outdoors, one for my love of design, and one for my love of that random “dude, today i almost choked to death on parmasean cheese” stuff.

I don’t know how long this hiatus will last. Honestly, I’m excited about the prospect of existing more fully in meatspace, rather than doing everything I do in the interest of transferring it to electronic written form. I want to do more snowboarding and mountain biking and rock climbing and get into silkscreening and take more photographs, and I enjoy the idea of not feeling obligated to broadcast my every action to the world.

If I start writing online again, even somewhere else completely, ye shalt know. Watch this space. Watch Rosco. Just. Watch.

There has also been idle talk of transforming the last five years of Cromlech/Dane’s Bored/Brainside Out into a book. Like, a real book, with paper and ink and glue and everything. If something like this is to be done, however, it will take some time. If something like this is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Anywho, I would like to sincerely thank all of you for reading. Whether this is your first time here or if you’ve been following the site since day one, this whole deal has certainly been a great journey and a wonderful pleasure. I’m curious to see what the next five years have in store.

April 20, 2006

We be podcasting!

Dane’s Presentation for COMP 5230 (53 minutes, 24.5mb mp3)

– Presented at COMP 5230 Web Design and Digital Culture (section two), University of Minnesota Duluth, April 18 2006

On Tuesday I had the opportunity and privilege to speak at the University of Minnesota Duluth regarding web design. Back in 2003 when I was a student at UMD, I took an upper-division course called Web Design and Digital Culture , taught by Craig Stroupe. Over the past few years Craig and I have kept in contact, and a few months ago he invited me to come and give a presentation for his COMP 5230 class, the very same web design course I took three years ago. I heartily accepted!

At its core, Web Design and Digital Culture is more a composition and writing course than it is a design course. Students use the web as a jumping-off point for pursuing some pretty advanced writing topics, and discussing the use of digital technology to solve problems, both creative and cultural. Many of the students are pursuing degrees in engineering, and for most of them this is the first time they have ever fired up Dreamweaver or tinkered in Photoshop. As a class final they are required to find a client and build a website for them, a uniquely difficult project that turns out to be quite an educational and diplomatic undertaking.

I actually gave two presentations, as Craig has two sections of COMP 5230 this semester. I recorded both of them, but I plan to only release the audio for the second presentation. The mp3 is just over 53 minutes long, and it weighs in at 24.5 MB. Download the mp3, have a listen, and enjoy!

In case you want to skip around a bit, here’s what we got goin’ on in particular sections:

  • 0’0″ – intro, history, “the long road home”
  • 9’30” – brainsideout.com and an intro to web standards
  • 13’00 – tuesdaysrobot.com and the importance of letting content choose the direction of your design
  • 17’25” – ivebeentoduluth.net and the use of paypal to handle online commerce
  • 20’05” – more talk about paypal, getting a merchant account, and setting up a shopping cart
  • 22’00” – development site for happy tails boarding kennel
  • 25’35” – development site for lost mountain clayworks, the importance of taking great care of your clients, and the modular standards-based approach to web design
  • 30’10” – development site for the may 1st reboot of brainside out
  • 34’15” – “what’s the best way to start building a website?”
  • 36’20” – the importance of sketching, and starting with pen and paper
  • 38’15” – “how do you design a website for a client who doesn’t know what they want?”
  • 41’00” – the importance of having thick skin, and taking criticism in stride
  • 41’20” – the importance of tinkering with things to teach yourself new stuff
  • 43’40” – how to get started as a merchant with paypal, blood plasma donation
  • 46’15” – “where should I put my navigation?” introducing greatnannies.com and the wounded knee edition of brainside out
  • 48’50” – introducing www.dreamhost.com, the best damn webhost ever
  • 51’40” – registering and working with domain names… dreamhost does that, too!
  • 53’05” – it’s over!

April 14, 2006

version 3.awesome

Tuesdays Robot

A couple of my friends here in Minneapolis play in Tuesdays Robot, a small country rock band with that perfect blend of Dylan, liquor and twang. Over the last couple months I’ve had the honor and privilege of redesigning their website, in anticipation of their new album which will be available within the next few weeks. Today we threw the switch on TuesdaysRobot.com Version 3.awesome and we’re as excited as a sack full of kittens!

The new site turned out great, and we’re all really stoked as a result. From the Movable Type backend for managing news, press and upcoming shows, to the moo.fx coolness on the Lyrics page, to the killer implementation of Jeroen Wijering’s Flash mp3 player, there’s some neat stuff going on. Not only that, fonts are scalable, the HTML and CSS code validates, and the DOM-based JavaScript is completely unobtrusive.

Why, we also think it looks pretty darn attractive to boot!

Of course, the real news here is not that Tuesdays Robot has a new website, nor that we built it for them, but that they’re throwing a huge CD release party at the 331 Club in Minneapolis on April 28th! Not only that, the Como Avenue Jug Band is also playing that night, so you’ll be sure to drink and rock your socks off until the wee hours. The show starts at 9:00 and it’s free, free, free!

April 2, 2006


Last night I filed paperwork. Tonight I did my taxes. That pretty much sums up my weekend, the dullness of which could only be surpassed by its blinding productivity. Seriously, I got stuff done this weekend.

I bought a filing cabinet and 30+ hanging file folders, and put to rest the stacks of records that I have allowed to accumulate over the last six months. I scrubbed down the interior of the Subaru, did laundry, swept and dusted my room, and put my snowboarding clothes into storage.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m ready for that season to end. Time now to fill the tires on the mountain bike and find some trouble. If it stays wet and rainy I might go out for a ride tomorrow evening, what with all the extra daylight and all, find some mud and get in a filthy mess.

Daylight Savings was squandered on a gloomy day that never made it out of twilight, a cold rain that didn’t let up even when every ounce of moisture had been wrung out of the sky. Spring in the midwest arrives not with the equinox, nor with the sighting of the first robin or tulip, but when the Red River floods western Minnesota and everyone pretends to be surprised that it happened. Again.