Beginning CSS (for free!)

Hopefully you've finished a couple of HTML tutorials on Codeacademy by now and you're on your way to becoming an HTML expert. Maybe you've already built a social media profile (HTML Basics II) or a clickable photo page (HTML Basics III). Now it's time to get into CSS. What is CSS? CSS stands for "Cascading Style Sheets," although knowing that probably won't help you much. The best way to understand CSS is to head over to CSS Zen Garden. As you can see, there are thousands of different themes for this website. Try clicking on a few. The only things that change are the layout, color, and style. All of the text and the basic format stay the same because the HTML hasn't changed. CSS is what determines most of how the page looks. If HTML is the skeleton, CSS is the skin.

CSS Zen Garden has a link to a great collection of CSS resources right here:

Although they only accept the best designs, getting your theme accepted to Zen Garden is something to work towards. First off though, we want to style our own website.

There are already several CSS courses on Codacademy. It's probably a good idea to start off with the three CSS courses in the Web Fundamentals Section.

After that, you can move on to this course:!/exercises/0

Wow, that was easy! You can already build a nice looking web page!

Build a Website in One Week with Codacademy

My mom asked me a very good question - "How long will it take to learn to code in Codeacademy?" Codeacademy started fall of 2011 with just a handful of lessons, and new lessons are being added weekly. Coding, like sailing, seems to be one of those things that you could spend your entire life learning. In fact, January of last year, codeacademy started a plan called "Code Year" where you could reasonably get through every single lesson in a year by making weekly progress (and still keep your friends and your full-time job). Fingers crossed that they'll do it again this January!

But how long will it take before you can build your first website using what you learn on Codeacademy? Even if you have zero experience you can build a site within one week.

By doing just 5 exercises a day you can get through "HTML Fundamentals" and "Build your First Web Page" in six days. In order to make the most out of Codeacademy, I recommend that you have a goal. For instance, wanting to build your own portfolio site could be a goal. Having a concrete goal will make Codeacademy more than a game - it will help you to connect what you're learning to the actual practice of building websites in the real world.

Draw a layout of the website that you want to build on paper or mock it up in Photoshop or Gimp if you want to be fancy. For the first version, just focus on creating the text that you want to display when you open the page with a browser (we'll get into "hosting" sites in a later lesson.) For instance, your first website's code could look something like this:


<h1> Monica Houston's Portfolio </h1>

<h2>Everything is better on a boat</h2>

<p>Hi, I'm Monica Houston and I live on a boat...yada yada yada</p>

<h3> follow or friend me here</h3>









Write your code into a text editing program like text-edit or notepad and save it as something like "index.html." Right click and open it with your browser. BAM! You've made your first real web page!

So how do you make it pretty? Codeacademy has an entire series of courses on CSS - the language that is used to style HTML. I'll go over resources for learning CSS in my next post, but for now I'll leave you with this useful video:

Learn HTML in 30 Minute

Seattle Startup Weekend - Women's Edition

I had the privilege of attending Seattle Startup Weekend’s first woman focused event this past weekend. I say priviledge because there was a waitlist of over 100 women who weren’t able to come, in addition to the ~70 who did. I like to think that I helped to contribute to this wait list, since I did my best to promote the event to any design, technical, or business minded women whom I know. Unfortunately, I don’t know many. Actually that should be in past tense, because now I can say that I know quite a few. I expected the weekend to have a different feel to it from the mostly male startup weekend that I attended in April. Startup Weekend Women’s Edition had a ratio of men to women that was roughly the inverse of an average Startup Weekend. So how different was it to attend a startup even that was 75% women? Honestly, there was no difference. There was still that tangible energy. The sense of complete and utter focus and the do or die mentality was electric. It was fun!

And why would it be different? It’s not like we spent the weekend talking about our uteri. We spent it pumping out code, crafting business models, and doing market research. My team and I stayed up until 4am Saturday night working on our project. The only differences I noticed were that there were more macbooks, the food served was veggies and wine (as opposed to beer and pizza) and the t-shirts actually fit.

While I had a blast at the mostly male startup weekend in May and made some great connections, I think that women’s edition of startup weekend had greater benefits for me. In any realm, from sports to business to technology, men are too quick to offer help and often end up overshadowing the women who meekly accept their help. Oftentimes it seems like men, especially older men, assume that they know more just because they’re men. And I think that many women have been conditioned to assume that they know less or aren’t as skillful, which makes them vulnerable to accepting a guy’s help. It was good to be an environment of mostly women, where no guy was going to pop over and suggest that I follow his lead or ask me to give him my code for him to "fix" it. I'll probably delve more into this topic in a later blog post.

I look forward to staying connected with all of the incredible women I met this weekend. Also, if you were a woman who attended Seattle Startup Weekend and we didn’t get a chance to connect, or if you’re a woman who would be interested in attending a startup weekend and wants to know more, feel free to comment or reach out. I’d love to get to know more startup women!

Seattle Startup Weekend - Friday Night

Friday night. Or is it Saturday morning ? I’m headed home on the bus now since they closed up 92 Lenora Street to keep people from sleeping over. Upon arriving at the venue, a derelict building that had been repainted and is still being refinished in an open, loft style, I was greeted by the event coordinators and handed a name tag on a red lanyard. I soon realized that red lanyards were for designers, blue lanyards for developers, yellow lanyards for business people, and green lanyards for event coordinators. White lanyards were for mentors and speakers.

One of our speakers was tetris grand master Kevin Z Birrell (@kevinddr). He spoke on the power of determination and how it had helped him to improve to the level of TGM, or tetris grand master. I'm pretty sure that that's the level of tetris where the pieces are invisible and you have to guess where they're going to land. Afterwards we did an icebreaker where we had to pitch a company based on two key words that were given to us. Our team's were pitchfork and dental floss, so we came up with "Tridental, the world's first social flossing." A flosser attaches to your iphone and tracks each time you floss your teeth and sends a message to your friends, your mom, and your dentist to let them know that you've flossed. Someone please invent this in real life!

After the ice breaker I wandered around the floor, awkwardly extending my hand to anyone I made eye contact with and introducing myself. « Hi, I’m Monica, » I would say to anyone who would listen. I had thought up a brief pitch – an idea that I had been thinking of for a while and had revisited while on the bus on the way there.  People seemed to like my idea, so when it was time I went ahead and pitched it. At least thirty people were pitching – probably a quarter of the crowd. Everyone was given 60 seconds to tell the crowd their vision. Someone pushed me in the right direction and I found myself on the podium holding a microphone in my hand. I started into my pitch, introducing myself to the crowd and giving an off-the-cuff intro. Suddenly, I ran out of words. I stared around awkwardly, opening and closing my mouth like a fish as my mind churned. The more I thought about what I was supposed to say, the less I knew what I was going to say, until I realized that I didn’t even know what I was doing anymore. My mind was blank. Suddenly I remembered « So we really need app developers ! » I managed to shout before the timer buzzed. I handed the microphone back to the coordinator and he smiled at me. I jumped off the stage and slunk to the back. Someone came up to me and congratulated me on my "good pitch." I realized that what had seemed like several minutes of awkwardness had only lasted a couple of seconds in reality.

I watched the rest of the pitches. Some of them were brilliant. A team of therapists was pitching kinect games for autistic children. « SeaBNB » aimed to use the berths on board empty boats as hotel rooms.

After the pitches were over, the name of each pitch was written on a sheet of paper and taped to the wall. We each had been given three sticky notes, and these counted as our three votes. Whichever three ideas you liked best you stuck a sticky note to. I hung out in line for the one bathroom as people cast their votes. When I got back, I was surprised to see the results. My pitch had a thick coating of sticky notes. It had been chosen as one of the final groups!

Now it was time to assemble a crew. A whole host of electrical engineering students who happen to be awesome app devs gathered around our team. Two designers agreed that they were in. Several business people also joined us and began talking business plans and monetization. The final headcount was thirteen, but one of the coordinators came over and told us that we needed to thin out a bit, since that size group tended to be unwieldy and there were some groups that needed more people. We ended up with nine people and I volunteered myself to be the coordinator and liaison between developers, designers, and business people. Work started around 10pm and the hours passed quickly as we tried to come up with a viable plan of action.

At midnight they kicked us out so we headed to Belltown Billiards to get our groove on. Work hard, play hard.

I'll be back at 92 Lenora Avenue at 9am. Til then, I'll be trying to get some Z's.

Startup Weekend Starts Up!

I was so excited for bike-to-work day this morning that I forgot to bring my laptop to work and barely made it to Startup Weekend. It takes me an hour to bike home, and another forty minutes to bike into Seattle. Guess how much time I had given myself to get from work to an event that starts at 5pm ? None. Zilch. Somehow I tend to bypass the mundane parts of existence, like eating, sleeping, and commute. I needed my laptop though, so I left work as early as I decently could and caught the bus using the most useful app I’ve downloaded so far,  "One Bus Away" that accurately tells you the time of the next bus that is close to you. I’d love to personally shake the hand of the inventor of this app. Unfortunately, it couldn’t entirely save me from my absent mind. I watched the sun glinting off of Lake Washington as I surfed my new phone and tried to come up with an idea to pitch. I got off the bus and started to walk home to where my laptop was waiting. Suddenly I had a feeling of emptiness. My bike ! My bike was still on the bus ! The bus had pulled away and was gathering speed as it hurtled down 25th Ave. There was only one thing to do. I sprinted. I sprinted hard. Somehow I found myself reaching up and rapping on the driver’s window. The stunned driver stopped the bus (there had been a change of drivers halfway through the route, so she didn’t know that the bike on the front was mine). She just stared at me, incomprehensive for a second.

"My bike !"  I shouted. "My bike!" That’s when she understood. Rush hour traffic was gathering behind us and there was no place for the bus to pull over, so she motioned for me to take it off quickly. I managed to get my bike off in record time, and I even had time to pick up my laptop from the apartment and catch the bus downtown, where I somehow found my way to Startup Weekend. That’s where I am now and that’s where I will be for the next 54 hours. Expect periodic updates.