Projects Fail


Some projects fail.

In my experience, this can be a hard one to accept. Librarians are by and large passionate people, and they bring this passion in to work. They have great ideas for projects, and pour all their hopes into these projects, and the projects come to life.

But projects are not immortal, nor should they be.

This has happened at every library where I have worked, but most recently, with my portfolio. My portfolio started in a burst of enthusiasm and ended in a sad fizzle. Web projects are a fair bit of work, especially when one is not a web developer by training. Simple tasks take a lot longer, and the process of trial and error involves a lot of error. I will give myself a star for trying. But I should have admitted earlier that the portfolio had ballooned into something I was not committed to completing, and just put it down.

I would like to step aside to mention that had this been a work project, it would have unfolded a lot differently. For instance, I would have identified a target audience and criteria for success before starting the project. A deadline would have kept me moving, and coworkers would have been on hand to identify issues when I got stuck.

But sitting here by myself, I dreamed up the portfolio as a “why not” sort of project. Not a good plan for success. Add to that volunteer commitments that I am very excited about, the portfolio became like that unmarked takeout box in the back of the office fridge, lurking and decaying and giving the entire office an odd odor. Defining the point where a project hits failure is hard: sometimes a little more time is all that’s needed. But this portfolio had plenty of time to get off the ground, and it didn’t. That is not success.

Every project I have seen–successful and unsuccessful–needs to have an end. We have to decide whether that leftover-takeout project is worth keeping any longer. Unlike the takeout, which must be disposed of, never to be seen again, projects can be set aside to hibernate. Maybe the time wasn’t right. Maybe the audience wasn’t there–yet. I sort of hope this will happen with my portfolio. If not, I am glad I didn’t leave it there to fester.

Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time


Happy Wednesday! On this rather dreary day in Phoenix, I am poking away at my portfolio and wondering why it isn’t done. Half of the answer is that I have become unmotivated, distracted by other ongoing projects. The other half is that it has become significantly more involved than I originally anticipated.

Portico at the Jefferson Memorial

The Jefferson Memorial–From here it looks like the portico curves on forever

I believe the hangup is in the pictures. At first, this was a personal issue. I had to find little pictures to use for my icons, and so I delved into the endless pit that is Flickr. My perfectionism flares up slightly when choosing images, but I was sure that once I just picked one, I could get on with things.

Not quite: first I had to ensure that all my images had a generic CC-BY 2.0 license. I.e., the license that allows derivative works. Because step two was transforming rectangular photos into little buttons. I am using PicMonkey for this, because it has the tools I need and is relatively user-friendly. I could be using GIMP, but if I don’t need all the power and precision of full-on photo editing software, no sense in firing up the full-on photo editing software.

Add some time spent cropping and labeling, and the buttons are ready. But wait! How to attribute their original creators? Not in the alt tag, because that is suppressed, and even if it wasn’t I want the attribution present regardless of where my visitor’s mouse is hovering. Some authors have questioned the validity of Creative Commons licenses in the scholarly publishing sphere, but in the Flickersphere it has been wonderful. Yes, some of the details of each license are a bit hazy, but photographers have the choice to go with traditional copyright or open it up. They can also choose how much sharing they want to happen. Rather than my choice as a user being “OK usage” or “certain doom,” creators and users are now part of a conversation about appropriate usage.

First and foremost, appropriate usage needs appropriate citation. I was initially convinced that captions containing attribution information would solve my problem. Unfortunately, default captions are gray and do not come with as much padding as I would like. *pause to imagine little cartoon warriors, one labeled content and the other labeled appearance, dueling one another* Which means I now need to dig into the CSS.

In the end I will be quite pleased with getting the job done right, but currently I am a tad irked at myself for thinking that this amalgam of content, layout, and copyright was going to be the easy-peasy work of an afternoon. Ah well. It’s another thing to add to my portfolio.