Silencing The Social Static

How long do you go during the day without checking a social network? It doesn’t matter which network. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram; all of them subconsciously train us to swallow information in small chunks. If the item in view is not interesting within that split second, you’re already swiping to the next one. We’ve become numb. Instagram filters bleed together; Tweets fly by unread or skimmed; Facebook posts are viewed and immediately forgotten. We put our devices down and 5 minutes later, we’re back to seeking instant gratification.

What is it worth?

What do we ultimately gain? Are we learning anything? Are our lives more enriched by this endless cycle? I say no and I may be in the minority. Don’t get me wrong, I have an appreciation for the aforementioned things and they have their place, but I feel like they’ve made us lazy.

I think this delivery method for information—when relied upon so heavily—is detrimental to our behavior and fosters bad habits. When your mind is trained to expect information in the compact blocks that services like Facebook and Twitter provide, we subconsciously expect that from everything else we read. We crave it and are constantly tapping notifications, but we gain nothing of real value. All we’ve done is temporarily quenched the desire; be it via 140 characters of dry humor or over-saturated photography of landscapes, pets and edible things. Reading a book or a longer piece of some form becomes a chore. Things like Buzzfeed lists thrive on this sort of behavior. We become drones.

Guilty as charged

My worst culprit by far is Facebook. I check it constantly. If you asked me why exactly I do so, I would have no solid answer for you. It eventually became muscle memory. Pickup device, swipe repeatedly; put device down; rinse and repeat. Suddenly, 30 minutes of the day is spent swiping past condensed bits of information ranging from the latest Android apps and technology, to animal videos (I love Wimp; don’t judge me). If we were all required to write an essay based on a 30 minute Facebook session, we would probably all fail it miserably.

From personal experience, I’ve found that long form reading becomes more difficult to focus on and books become near impossible. Recently, I’ve become more aware of it and actually took some drastic measures. When I say “drastic,” I mean in the first-world-problem sense that can be done from the comfort of my chair. I stepped back, looked at the social networks that I considered dead weight and dumped them entirely. That includes deleting my Instagram profile, shutting down my Twitter account (it has 12,000+ tweets and I couldn’t bring myself to delete it wholesale) and deleting my Foursquare account. I look at my phone less and I consciously slow down to appreciate the things I read and interact with in life. It’s liberating and has improved my focus.

Isn’t deleting your profiles a little extreme?

Sure, but it guarantees that I won’t look at them. I could simply ignore them but the act of deleting them just felt better.

Other ways to combat the static

I must admit that I have other personality attributes that don’t help my case. As a young boy, my attention span was abysmal in school. If it was a subject I wasn’t even remotely interested in, you can forget about it. I wasn’t going to absorb any of that information. As I’ve gotten older it’s become much more manageable but still poses a problem at times. I’ve found that since I’ve gotten into my field as a Web Developer I’ve had to also market myself through the aforementioned social vehicles. I engulfed myself in them and at one time had a genuine interest in reading tweets. Now, at the age of 33, I’m backing things up and re-evaluating what’s worth most.

Here are some things I do and use to try and either embrace the static or silence it:

Embracing it

  • Circa – What is Circa? Circa is an app that is dedicated to delivering important news in a way that is easily digestible and highly informative. Their journalists and writers divide stories up into segments that give you the gist of the issue at hand, and the option to delve further. They also provide a map of where the story takes place, list of sources, photography, etc. If you’re going to subject yourself to portable bits of information, why not make it something meaningful? Circa is my personal favorite in the list.
  • Yahoo Digest – Yahoo! News Digest is Yahoo!’s answer to Circa. It’s beautifully designed and adds a small amount of gamification to getting your dose of news. It divides stories up by topic and delivers something new on a daily basis, based on the interval you set. As you read each color-coded item, it marks it as completed.
  • Feedly – Most of you probably already know of this one and RSS is nothing new, but it’s proven to be a valuable tool for me. Funnel your desired info into categories and read it selectively.

Silencing it

  • Reading – This is pretty much a given but I’m talking about picking up an actual book. Not a Nook, Nexus 7 or Kindle. A real book. If you’re not one for reading long books or you find that you’re trying to regain your attention span to do so, like myself, poetry and short essays may be up your alley. I’m currently reading Kahlil Gibran‘s work and love it. Reading is also known to reduce stress.
  • Puzzles – You don’t have to be an old timer to take an interest in the crossword puzzles and brain teasers the newspaper offers. Get off your phone and start doing them (in pen if you’re daring).
  • App Audit – Take your phone out and scan through the list of social apps you have. Do you really need all of them? I do this every few months. Go through and audit the list of apps you have. Put them into mental categories. Absolute most important, only occasionally important and rarely used. Remove the ones you use the least. Not only will this reduce the potential number of notifications you receive (distractions!), it will free up space on your iPhone so you can finally install iOS 8.

Disrupting the disruptive

When you’ve been engulfed in social media for so long, it’s sometimes hard to break yourself from the habits that it creates. Our nation is constantly in front of a screen of some sort and engaging in superficial ways. Laptops, phones, tablets and now smartwatches. Oh yeah, and there’s Google Glass.

For me, this subject is a rabbit hole. I could go on to talk about how light from said screens resets Circadian Rhythm, disrupts sleep cycles, etc. but there are other blog posts that explain it far better than I can.

So go ahead. Get rid of some of those social profiles you don’t really need. You’ll feel liberated and you’ll give the NSA less to track you with.

Front End Design Conference 2012 Early Bird Registration

Dan DenneyEarly bird registration for Front End Design Conference 2012 has opened and the list of speakers looks awesome as always. From my personal experience (this will be my third consecutive year attending), it’s a great conference and it’s reasonably priced. If you’re a front end designer, developer or mobile developer, it’s definitely worth checking out; especially if you’re in the Tampa/St. Pete area.

Register today!

The Soft Launch

As you’ve already noticed, I’ve updated my website with a completely redesigned WordPress theme. With the help of Roots Theme and 1140 Grid as my frameworks, I’ve built a fully responsive experience that caters to PCs, tablets and mobile devices. I’ve still got some kinks to work out but I grew tired of my previous theme’s issues and as much as I like the Twentyeleven theme, I had enough of that as well.

If you happen across any browser issues, please leave a comment below and provide the following information:

  1. Operating system
  2. Web browser (please include version)
  3. What went wrong


CSSEdit Override Generator for Drupal Stylesheets

If you are familiar with Drupal and the way it outputs stylesheets, you’ll understand how this works. As a precaution to force web browsers to load a fresh version of the stylesheet(s) every time, Drupal appends each stylesheet link with a variable. This forces web browsers to think that it’s a new stylesheet every time, thus it never loads an older cached version. Here’s an example:

This is all well and good and can be extremely handy when heavily styling a Drupal template. It prevents you from having to force your browser cache to empty on every refresh.

The Problem

The problem I ran into is that stylesheet overrides in CSSEdit can not be appended with a wildcard. So in order to keep my overrides intact while styling on my local machine, I would have to add an override for each and every stylesheet URL including it’s random-generated variable.

What The Hell is an Override?

In CSSEdit a stylesheet override is a way for the user to apply their style changes to a live webpage on the fly. It speeds up stylesheet deployment and development rapidly and has become an absolute must have in my daily design tool set. With CSSEdit you can open your CSS file in one window, and open a separate Preview window. The Preview window is very open-ended: You can either set your local stylesheet to override a stylesheet on a live webpage, or you can make it override a stylesheet on a local file. The advantage to this is that every time you make a style change, the changes are reflected on the webpage you are previewing. There is no need to refresh or save your CSS file. The Preview window updates as you type new CSS declarations. I can’t even count how many hours this feature has saved me.

This is what an override looks like in a CSS file edited via CSSEdit:

/* @override */

This is a proprietary comment that will tell CSSEdit to override the stylesheets listed within the override comment.

The Solution

I discovered that Drupal’s method for appending stylesheet links is simple and only appends a single character from A-Z, a-z or 0-9. This is most helpful because if it generated a random set of characters every time, there would be no way for me to even attempt this. So in my spare time I developed a simple web form that will allow users to generate all of the overrides required to avoid the pitfall I encountered. It took me about an hour to create and has already proven itself useful. Behold!

Daryn’s fancy CSSEdit Override Creator for Drupal!

There you have it. Simple.

Expand A Container With jQuery and a URL hash

A while back I was trying to devise a way to make a section of a page expand or “reveal” without having to direct users to an individual page for each piece of information I was delivering. I was unable to find a definitive method for doing this in a simple way, so I consulted with my trusty sidekick jQuery. What I ended up with was a simple, elegant way of revealing portions of page content when the user went to a URL appended with the hash ID of the element to be revealed.

Before we get started

Before anything else, we need to hide the definition descriptions (dd) from the user. We can do this with one fell swoop. All that is required is some simple jQuery.


Grabbing the URL

This small string of code will traverse the current URL of the open page and find only the hash at the end. The hash is what matches to the ID of the container you want to reveal. We’re going to make a var out of it since we will be using it more than once:

var url = self.document.location.hash.substring(1);

Using the URL

Now that we’ve grabbed the URL’s hash, this is going to be what makes the whole thing function. Since the URL also represents the ID of the container we want to reveal, we’re going to map it to some jQuery effects–primarily slideDown and addClass. The advantage of this is that a little extra work and experimentation allows you to use various effects and DOM manipulations. I decided to keep it simple:

The slideDown effect — This will go to the immediate dd after its corresponding dt. Using a definition list proves most effective since a definition term is always accompanied by its definition description immediately after.

$('dt[id=' + url + ']').next('dd').slideDown('fast');

Now we add the class “active” (optional but has a cool effect and helps the end user).

$('dt[id=' + url + ']').addClass('active');

Now we’ve got the major functions out of the way. The next step is to make the dt elements clickable so that the end user can expand and collapse each corresponding dd as they see fit:

$('dt').click(function () {

The toggleClass will do exactly what it suggests. It will add and remove the specified class on the corresponding element when it is clicked or interacted with. This is one single effect, as opposed to doing something like removing the class on mouseout and adding it on mouseover. The .next() will apply the slideToggle effect to the dd immediately after the corresponding dt. Simple and effective. If you aren’t keen on using a definition list, you can always use div containers or whatever else.

Now we’re going to add some extra controls just because we can (and because it’s super easy). The first one will collapse all dd within the definition list. First, we need to have an href tag that has the class hideall. I used classes for these in case we want to have some controls at the top and bottom (good idea if you have a lot of content blocks that you want to apply this functionality to).

<a class="hideall" href="#">Collapse All</a>

And this is the jQuery function that makes it work.

$('.hideall').click(function () {

Now we have our expand control.

<a class="showall" href="#">Expand All</a>

And the function that makes it work.

$('.showall').click(function () {

Simple enough. These last two controls are completely optional but also helpful. If the end user expands a bunch of the expandable boxes and they don’t want to close them each individually, they can hit the “Collapse All” button and they’re all set. Here is what our finished javascript looks like.

	// get the URL hash
	var url = self.document.location.hash.substring(1);

	// hide all dd on initial page load

	// expand id via url hash
	$('dt[id=' + url + ']').next('dd').slideDown('fast');
	$('dt[id=' + url + ']').addClass('active');

	// make items expandable and collapsible on click
	$('dt').click(function () {

	// hide all
	$('.hideall').click(function () {

	// show all
	$('.showall').click(function () {

If you want to see this in action, check out my demo.

This method is really easy to manipulate and can be repurposed to do a lot of things. I’ve had this tool in my back pocket for quite a while and have been meaning to share it. I hope you find it useful and let me know what you come up with.

[download id=”1″]

Scratching The Surface of A Glass Ceiling

Fuck AT&T
I hate AT&T.

It seems like the phrase “bandwidth caps” is quickly becoming synonymous with internet service providers here in the United States. Once a term that we celebrated and often times saw as the buzz word for whether or not we bought a company’s services, “unlimited” is quickly being phased out in favor of limitation. While a good amount of users won’t be affected by the caps, there is a much larger impact than on the personal level alone.

I’m currently an AT&T DSL user and have been fairly happy with the service. I recently upgraded from 3 to 6MB (6 wasn’t available for a while) and have seen a big difference in my download speeds. My friends and acquaintances know that I am by no means your average internet user. I’m constantly streaming, downloading or connected in one way or another. Whether it’s on Xbox LIVE, MLB TV or via wifi on my HTC G2, I’m connected. Metered internet service raises a red flag for me on multiple levels. If I were to begin with the personal level, I would say that it will indeed hinder my internet use considerably. I’ll have to throttle back my downloads and reconsider my streaming services. I’ve almost reached 150GB of transfer for a month that hasn’t even ended yet. What these large corporations don’t realize is that it has an adverse effect on the internet as a whole.

An aspect that I think most people overlook, myself included (until I read CrackerJoe’s Reddit post on the matter), is that web developers and programmers now have to re-think data delivery strategies for their web applications and media formats. If Hulu and Netflix want to stay afloat they’ll need to entertain the idea of having to optimize their data even further, or even redesign their websites to be more lightweight; in an effort to offset the load. Streaming websites such as Netflix, Hulu and Grooveshark transfer large amounts of data on a daily basis and have become hugely popular. It’s quickly becoming a slippery slope that only benefits the ISPs implementing caps. Don’t you worry though. I’m sure in the wake of negative backlash that such ludicrous limitations receive, these companies are conjuring up new names for the same old networks and services (U-Verse, LTE, 4G, 3G, etc.). A glossy new marketing campaign always does the trick, right?

A Dash of Conspiracy Theory

One would say that “conspiracy theory” is a bit of a stretch when labeling this but I’m at a loss for a better phrase. Broadband internet providers are conspiring to shut down streaming services (remember, we’re still on a theoretical level here). AT&T wouldn’t want Netflix to impose a threat on their beloved U-Verse now, would they? For those that are not familiar with U-Verse, it is a pay-TV service that AT&T provides via DSL. Essentially the same concept as Netflix and Hulu. Of course if you give into the beast that is AT&T and you have their U-Verse service, you get an extra 100GB per month of extra bandwidth (standard AT&T DSL users like myself will get a 150GB cap while U-Verse offers 250GB).

It’s obvious that caps are coming into play to protect company interests. Streaming services means more and more users are abandoning satellite and cable television, in favor of the leaner, more streamlined approach of entertainment delivery. So if companies like AT&T can hinder these providers while pushing their own streaming services, it’s a worthwhile business plan. What better way to stay alive than to eliminate the competition altogether? It’s been apparent for decades that corporations only care about one thing and that one thing is not the end user–it’s the bottom line.

Speak your mind by canceling your service in favor of one that does not impose bandwidth caps. If they see a large influx of service cancellations it’s possible they’ll change their tune. I’d love to hear the Google team’s thoughts on caps, especially with Google TV in the wild.


Today I learned why nobody is interfering with AT&T’s purchase of T-Mobile. Here’s an excerpt from the site included in the Reddit post:

News reports in December 2005 first revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been intercepting Americans’ phone calls and Internet communications. Those news reports, plus a USA Today story in May 2006 and the statements of several members of Congress, revealed that the NSA is also receiving wholesale copies of their telephone and other communications records. All of these surveillance activities are in violation of the privacy safeguards established by Congress and the U.S. Constitution.

Wow, I feel so much safer knowing that my once T-Mobile network will now be under surveillance by the NSA. So what are your recommendations? How’s Verizon? Sprint? There’s no way in hell I’m sticking with T-Mo…. AT&T.

Oh, I nearly forgot. To make things even better, T-Mobile 3G devices will have to be replaced over time. So basically that means the HTC G2 sitting on my desk is virtually worthless. That’s right. The phone I’ve had less than 6 months is essentially a paperweight. I can’t even sell it.

So here’s to monopolies and government surveillance. I hope you all rot.