Thursday, 24 May 2012

How To Make A Fence and How to Build A Website

I've been busy with two vital activities for any budding smallholder, building a fence and building a website. Both lead to aching fingers and eye strain, but you can only see one of them from space.

The Fence!
Everyone has their own way of starting something new. I usually visualise a perfect end result, utterly detatched from reality, then bustle in like a monkey on espresso, get it all wrong, break everything and have to do it all again.

That's not all bad. It turns my aversion to planning ahead in to a virtue. It works really well for virtual tasks like video editing or web site building. A 'second draft' is usually better anyway. But for physical, real world projects, having to take them apart and put them back together again is really messy.

So it was with building a fence. The wreckage in wasted wood, sucked teeth from onlookers and damage to myself was not good. Of course I could have asked someone to help. But then I wouldn't have got to learn how to do it, which was partly the point in the first place. My dad once swapped a car engine entirely on his own with a hand built block and tackle. So it's probably a family trait.

Building a website for a local theatre company,, was a good companion activity to the DIY. It seems to use different bits of the brain to cope with the sheer range of possibilities. 
Website for IronClad Theatre Company

My fence has a clear utility - it has to stop people (especially children) falling over a wall. It rapidly becomes clear that even a well planned website has several competing reasons to exist, so it's easy to feel you're always wrong! You also have to invent the context - a bit like having to create a whole new genre for a script you're writing. A fence seems to happily create its own context. 

And It's dangerously easy to keep tweaking a website. In 'Snowcrash' Neil Stephenson (coiner of the current use of the word 'avatar') suggests being digital actually rewires your brain. I'll build my own MRI next to test it out, but I certainly get more obsessed with computer projects than anything involving hammers and nails.

I started this post saying the best thing about doing something new was learning from your mistakes. So to finish, here's a quick summary of what I learnt from my building projects. Maybe it'll save me time and effort next time. Maybe.

Top Tips for Building A Fence:
  1. Always put the posts in first. Don't try and assemble it all on the ground first, you can't line anything up. So long as your posts are nice and deep it's easy to cut them to size and nail the railings on afterwards. 

  2. Get the right length nails. Big nails split the wood and poke out the other end like a pointy elbow through a worn jumper.

  3. Take time to avoid School boy errors. Easy ones include miscounting the number of posts (it's always one more than you think) and nailing things on the wrong way around.

  4. If you get carpal tunnel syndrome from all the sawing, nailing and digging, these exercises really help. 

And here are my top tips for building websites:
  1. Give it a clear utility - a prime reason to exist - even if you have to invent one.
  2. Don't rely on redirects. Build it on the same server as your domain name host. You can use redirects but google hates them. This is the equivalent of putting the posts in first.
  3. Sites aren't meant to be finished, they are always work in progress, that's the point!
  4. If you get carpal tunnel syndrome from all the mousing and typing, these exercises really help. 

Fence - mark I. 

1 comment:

  1. Top post - Geddit?
    Assemble it on the ground first? Are you MAD?!