The entry below is classified as a LEGACY post, meaning that it was written (well) before the current version of Avalonstar was released. Although these posts have survived the numerous moves over years, there is no guarantee that they've survived the trip unscathed (especially the links).

Sidebar Creative: Year Two

You're probably going, "what in the hell is going on?"

Well, when you see the four of us update at the exact same time (especially Dan ;P), you know there's something coming. Sidebar Creative--the little dream that one Skype call turned into a reality turned one this past January. One year of a lot of talking, a lot of laughing, a lot of thinking and a lot of creating.

Working with Dan, Steve and Jon has not only been tremendously fun, but quite the learning experience as well. So have we proved that you could take four friends, have them work together in a pseudo-company and have that company work? Yeah, I think we did.

I guess it's time to start from the top.

  • Sidebar Creative, the 2nd -- You'll notice that our site is more than one page, oh and the budget slider is gone too. Just by taking that away, we're sort of pointing to the direction we have chosen to take. As Jon talks about in his "State of the Union", we didn't end up taking much design work. Each of our own companies, Revyver, Ordered List, Snook.ca and Webgraph were growing well on their own, since that was our income, that's where our focus was. We did eventually take on two projects, one of which has been something that has thrown Dan and myself completely outside our safe zone. But back to the site, Dan (who I refer to as "the polisher") took version one and realigned it into something a little more blue and a little more fitting. :)
  • My Mile Marker -- This one was all Steve last year, as he came up with an idea to try and track his mileage for a leased vehicle he owned. The rest is pretty much history. If you've never heard of it, it's simply a site that keeps track of your fill-ups, predicts how much you'll spend, and gives you a true MPG rating. As many of you know, this was our first foray into building a web application, but the process was very smooth. Jon threw in the wireframes, I designed the identity and the first version of the site, Steve coded it in Rails and Dan put on the finishing touches (later iterating on my design). Almost a year and 10,000 members later, we've done so much with it. Twitter updating, an awesome iPhone version and so much more up our sleeve. Oh before I forget, a collective thank you to Edward Scherf for creating those beautiful icons that adorn the front page.
  • Snitter -- If you're not using it, you should be. It's better than Twhirl, but that's a completely biased opinion. This one was all Jon, hence the name. Steve and Dan contributed themes to the application which later led to its placement as a Sidebar product. As for me, well... I think doing all the themes for WordPress sort of burnt me out. I've promised one, but I still have no idea what it's going to look like. ^_^;;
  • Overheard.it -- I still adore the name. Thank you Italy. And where would we be without Twitter? They call it a "barnacle application," but I haven't the slightest clue why. Anyway, Dan did the lovely design while Snook did the programming in CakePHP. If you want to try it out, just prefix a twitter with "OH:" but make sure you're actually overhearing something. o_O.
  • Sidebar Workshops -- We've been wanting to do more outside the realm of the web application and client work. We've all spoke at one time or another and thought that it would be great to hold little sessions where we can share our knowledge. With the workshops, we hope to come to areas which are not already represented by a major conference (that'd be quite unfair). We hope to get started in the fall with Ottawa and Washington D.C. (oddly, both national capitals) and we'll definitely add more as we go along. So check it out and if you'd like us to come to your town, throw us a line!

We have a bunch more that I'd love to talk about in detail, but I'm under a personal NDA. Now that we've gotten past the products,

It's time talk about the experience.

"Three-out-of-four," has been a running joke within the collective for a while now and it's something that's applied to so many aspects surrounding the four of us. For example:

  • Three white guys, one asian.
  • Three guys with spouses (or spouses-to-be), and one single guy.
  • Conversations usually happen with three people in the room, while one is missing the party (usually me). If I idle, the other three usually aren't there. T_T;
  • ... and the list goes on.

But as I said, it hasn't been all fun-and-games, there's been a lot of learning involved. The fact that each of us has our own respective forte proves to be a great resource for the other three who either want to learn or want to improve that part of themselves.

  • Jon's the Javascript and CakePHP expert.
  • Steve's the functional designer and Rails expert.
  • I make things pretty and I know Django.
  • Dan's the user experience expert and is having a hard time picking what framework to learn. :P

It's not every day that you get to work with people you can constantly learn from and whom you can constantly look up to.

  • If it wasn't for Steve and Jon, I would have never touched jQuery.
  • If it wasn't for Dan I wouldn't be a 55 in Call of Duty 4, I mean... he's sharpened my eye when it comes to details and has taught me to pay attention to things I wouldn't have ever noticed.
  • Steve, who was previously mentioned as our Rails expert, took the time today to sit down with Python and Django. Jon has also expressed interest in learning it.
  • I'll be attempting to build the application for ABX09 in Rails, when that time rolls around.

I can't say exactly how invaluable this experience has been for me. However, I can say that I've grown as a designer and as a developer because of those three. Now more than ever I would recommend people who would like to do the same to take the jump You learn so much from each other and only good things can come out of that.

Sure, we still have our little companies, but Sidebar is where the four of us really shine. As I said, we have a lot more in store in the coming months, so another year won't pass until you hear from all of us again. ;)

Avalonstar is the 22-year-old personal website of Bryan Veloso: content creator, retired professional user interface designer, and compass of purpose.
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