Today I did a guest lecture spot at the University of Ulster in Coleraine. The students were from two course: Interactive Media Arts and Media Studies and Production. I droned on for around an hour on the Digital Circle, entrepreneurship, funding, how they, as final year students, should seriously be considering their portfolio, the addition … Continue reading “#portfolio”

Today I did a guest lecture spot at the University of Ulster in Coleraine. The students were from two course: Interactive Media Arts and Media Studies and Production. I droned on for around an hour on the Digital Circle, entrepreneurship, funding, how they, as final year students, should seriously be considering their portfolio, the addition of extra-curricular work and even the presentation of tangents followed when pursuing curricular assignments.

I then asked this question on Twitter…

QOTD: how important is extra-curricular portfolio when hiring a recent graduate in design / media / software? #portfolio

Twitter replied…

johngirvin @cimota: significant; shows genuine interest and passion for the subject if they spend free time at it. #portfolio


johngirvin @cimota: ex-curricular activities = more experienced, better rounded candidate. #portfolio


TaraSimpson @cimota, @johngivin: John nailed it, but I’d go a tad further. I’d say *hugely* significant. Software especially is much more than a day job

I agree. When asked to take on placement students earlier in the academic year, I said that I’d be interested in placing any student who could show me a portfolio outside of their coursework assignments. It stands to reason – if you turn up to a job interview and other candidates can demonstrate a significant portfolio, then you may as well go home. In addition, the creation of portfolio might mean you retain the gem of an idea which could be developed commercially in the future.

While I may have charmed some of the students into somnambulism, some seemed interested in the material and were keen to learn about the moves in the industry, keen to note down sources of funding for their pet ideas and left considering how to get a step ahead – by starting now and not waiting until after graduation.

0 thoughts on “#portfolio”

  1. I don’t think anyone is ‘proud’ that their pages didn’t validate – but there are reasons for some of them not validating. It was possible to congratulate those who did without naming and shaming those who didn’t. It was a shitty thing to do and it’s pretty indefensible to pick on kids IMO.

    I’d rather neither of you bring it up again.

  2. Your use of language is very instructive. You see we didn’t “name and shame” anyone. We ran a script, for our own interest, to automatically track validation of 4th year student projects over time. The reason we did that was that we had legitimate concerns over the standards of teaching in local education.

    These concerns had been expressed, constructively, many times privately. Unfortunately these concerns were taken to be personal attacks and led to very unprofessional language from someone who really should have known better. Rather than discuss or deal with our concerns we were told where we should get off.

    When we created the page, our concerns were clearly ignored by trying to paint us in a negative light. Note that the fact that only 26% of 4th year student projects didn’t validate is never addressed.

    Saying we “picked on kids” is pejorative and untrue. We never thought it was an issue to use the names that were already there.. when it became the issue we changed it to use the code numbers. Still, the real issue was never addressed.

    Do you see a pattern here?

    If you want to be suckered by this diversionary trick, more fool you.

    Ho hum. I guess we might as well live with third-rate teaching standards in local education. Certainly doesn’t seem much point in trying to raise legitmate concerns if you can’t even be bothered to learn or discuss the facts.

  3. Look – I have no problems with you running a tool and declaring 26% of student portfolios non-compliant. No problem at all.

    I do have a problem with the fact I was able to individually identify these students (using their names). The fact that the real issue was never addressed was completely clouded over by the farce that was made of the ‘name and shame game’. It was poorly done, poorly handled and then boldly defended.

    I don’t care about the detail of who did what to whom first – that’s up to the individuals involved. I think the way it was handled via “that page” was “pejorative”, divisive and even punitive. “That page” was the contentious issue as far as I could see and turned your reasoned plea into an ad hominem attack on undergraduates.

    So, yes, I disapproved.

    It’s a vinegar/honey thing. An animal responds better to positive reinforcement. YMMV and it’s done now so move on.

  4. You can continue to twist it if you wish. it was NOT an attack on any undergraduate. That’s the point. If you don’t get it, it’s because you chose not to.

    The only “ad hominem attack” was in the intemperate language used by a local lecturer in private AND in public. The former is water off a ducks back. The latter is reprehensible, particularly when you do it on an blog post that doesn’t permit comments.

    So, what are YOU, or Digital Circle, doing to address our concerns? No wait, “it’s done now, so move on”. Really? Is that it? Nothing to see here. Move along. Let’s not rock the boat. Let’s just pretend everything is fine and rosy. Let’s not deal with the real issue, it clearly doesn’t matter. What’s the point.

  5. I’d originally typed that (the %) but was confused when you wrote earlier “Note that the fact that only 26% of 4th year student projects didn’t validate is never addressed.” – but yes, thanks for the clarification. A misfingering 🙂

    Note – I’m not attacking you, I’m attacking the actions. I’m not saying you’re a bad person – I’m saying that the action was careless and punished students unfairly.

    I don’t think it was right on a personal level. As you’ve made clear in the past, we can differentiate between personal and professional.

    The Validation Argument is going to continue – as was ably demonstrated by others, lots of major web sites don’t validate – and that’s not an excuse – but holding students to the same standard as you hold yourself, without their consent and without checking whether (for example) they were off on long term sick, wasn’t a great moment to be remembered.

    Web standards don’t rate highly in my books because
    a) I’m not a web developer.
    b) lots of web sites do not validate and are used by millions of people
    c) the great thing about standards is that you can pick and choose.

    I went through the ‘standards’ argument when dealing with IPSec VPN interoperability and found the whole standards thing to be a crock. Do your best and all that but getting hung up on it (and losing friends over it) isn’t worth it.

    As for the DC comment, perhaps you should take that up with the Steering Group directly?

  6. LOL. Very funny to attack me, then say “I’m not attacking you”.

    Fair enough, validation doesn’t rate highly for you. Why should it? But don’t then go on to pretend that you know what you are talking about. That’s just too surreal.

    As regards losing friends, well that’s something I’ll live with – if they’re that shallow they probably were just acquaintances, not friends. Actually, most of my friends do know what they are talking about AND are passionate about standards based design. So they’re not likely to be put out by my comments.

  7. Hang on, Darryl, rather than just threadcrap – when did I attack you?

    I never stated I knew anything about web standards, in fact I stated the obvious. I do know a lot about ‘standards’ and how they are effectively ‘guidelines’ rather than ‘rules’. Even the word ‘standard’ doesn’t mean that everything must comply, just that the very best will comply.

    Standard in terms of “denoting a flag raised on a pole as a rallying point, the authorized exemplar of a unit of measurement”

    So compliance is an exemplar, not a stick to beat with.

    It’s not worth getting angry over, frankly.

  8. If I could extrapolate out a bit here (as I am neither in the same country and only tangentially in the same realm) isn’t the point of standards that the _real_ world can (and will) ignore them, but if you are in academia (where a lot of them help get formed) shouldn’t they be *more* important? Shouldn’t those be what you teach? Imagine a physics course that never did quantum theory because the real world of the students doesn’t exhibit the selective behaviour it represents?

    Having spent quite a lot of time with various standards committees (dealing with Cambridge’s Computer Lab will do that to a buddy. But only the boring ones, ELF/DWARF and other low-level nonsense, no D&D jokes, please) they know they won’t be followed, but at least they know they will be *taught* in higher level education, so giving the principles.

    If you have over there in the colony lecturers who try to defend their teaching of sub-standard(s), then it is little wonder NI still believes the lie that their education system is the best in the UK. (The figures to this aren’t to hand, but the tipping point was about a decade ago IIRC, but it is still peddled as a truism in NI. Citation needed, I may be being selective in the interpretation of statistics, YMMV.)

    I have tried to be general, as I amn’t involved in any way, other than knowing some of the principle players. I thought it was a good idea, and it would have kicked me to fix what was wrong, and learn from it. I didn’t see it as a personal attack on students. Surely you stand by your work or not? But I don’t want to get into non-generalities.

    And *I* luvs you all 🙂

  9. Arguably it’s much more important to teach the non-standards than the standards in web design – to make sure you know how to make things render nicely on the 45 gazillion web browsers out there rather than trying to adhere to standards that bloat file sizes and enforce rigid programming. Evidently having standards compliant code won’t get you hired by the big players out there (unless it’s a company that espouses the double standard – but that’s another argument).

    I take your quantum theory example with a pinch of salt because the “real world” as the render/compiler of the rules is kinda strict.

    The problem with the web is that we have a proliferation of renderers (the web equivalent of compilers). In programming, your compiler will scream and shout if you don’t include the right headers, get your includes right and add a semicolon in every place it’s needed; on the web, it’s Darryl 🙂

    Again, the issue I have is solely in the way I could uniquely identify the individual students (with direct links to their noncompliant web sites). The general theme – of standards being taught and ‘examined’ in academia I am in full support of.

    As usual there’s been a stink and it’s down to the interpersonals and not the technology. All of this anger and emotion over web standards is silly.

    Now, everyone go and take your Interval.

  10. Still mulling over the conclusions from our ‘discussion’ last night. But I find it worrisome that the concerns we have as a company and as experienced practitioners never seems to be the issue. Equally troubling is the practice of sticking to one’s ignorance rather than seek to understand better where we are coming from.

    Most large web firms employ based on expertise in web standards. And you need to know the ‘rules’ to know when and why they should be broken (often to enable newer features that will likely become part of revised standards).

    The fact remains that NONE of the 4th year student sites do anything the warrants using newer standards. Most were making trivial mistakes that are easily fixed if it is pointed out to them what’s wrong and why it matters. They are obviously not getting that.

    But don’t worry too much. This is a very well trodden path. These articles are worth reading – probably a lot more eloquent than me getting stuck in:


    My bigger worry is that we are educating and training a generation of students who really do not get the foundations of web design because it isn’t considered important. And why so many?

  11. Hi Darryl,
    In case you missed it, yes, I think it’s important to teach the standards but again, the issue is clouded over by the WAY your exposé was presented.

    There are areas of technology that you don’t know about. There areas of technology that I don’t know about. These areas may overlap in some areas but not in others – and that’s a good thing, believe me. I’m not passionate about web design and standards the way you are – I have passion for other things (networks (electronic and social), electrophoresis, writing games). The fact I’m not passionate about these things is not a slight on these things nor should it be supplied as a veiled insult about my “ignorance”.

    You also have to consider that web standards are a very small part of the IMD course – which also covers 2D design and animation, interactive multimedia, games programming, databases and the ‘design’ side of web design. You live and breathe this stuff – some students may not feel passionately about it. That’s just a fact of life. They may have other passions – Flash, Video, Photoshop, Carlsberg…

    Apart from that – if you feel there is a serious lacking in the education system, the right way to approach it is through the body set up to deal with the industry needs, Skillset. Please feel free to contact the DC representative on the Skillset panel, Russell Moore, if you want Digital Circle to champion that cause. I believe it to be one that several members of the steering group could get passionately behind. (Now, if you’ve already tried this route don’t lose your rag, tell me about it and I’ll gladly raise it as an issue and see what can be done about it).

    The REAL issue is in the web browser vendors. As long as they correctly render non-standard code, people will not care about how non-compliant their code is.

    Seems obvious.

  12. Don’t be paranoid. I meant ignorance in its true sense, not as a “veiled insult”.

    The WAY is almost irrelevant. Here are the facts. We created something for our own interest – we had concerns and needed empirical evidence to back our position. We created a script that polled the student site and reported the result. It was never intended to be publicised, though it was on the public web. The use of the names was just a means to identify who was doing what. In any case, the names were as supplied. Fortunately or not, word spread, the link spread, the obfuscation began, the comments came it. To portray all this as some sort of conspiracy, whilst fun to behold, is nonsense. And to continually refer to it as such, instead of dealing the issue is disappointing.

    We have offered several times to do a lecture or workshop or two on web standards and why they matter, but that was never taken up. Clearly the concerns we have, our ability to collect data to back it, our willingness to engage and our clear passion to back it up, is not enough.

    Skillset is a sideshow I think. I suspect that they will have the same off-hand approach to our concerns. I am not aware of them having taken any steps in this regard, nor do I expect them to without pressure from the web industry, which seems unlikely since most who are tasked with representing the industry clearly do not think it is an issue.

    I’ll have a chat with Russell anyway, or whoever is elected to represent education on Digital Circle.

    Your last paragraph is oddly at odds with the approach you have taken above. Yes there is a REAL problem with browser vendors. But the follow on point you miss is that that reinforces why standards based design (which is really about quality not standards for standard sake) is so important. Just think how much time and energy could be save for more creative endeavours if we didn’t have to retrofit every website for non-compliant browsers!

    I keep saying “don’t take the bait” but just can’t resist. 🙂

  13. You put it on the internet. Not your intranet. And without any sort of password? And you’re surprised that people found it?

    How about WE put together a lecture on web standards then? I’m sure we can find a venue, invite any and all web designers to attend and then have a debate afterwards.? I’m 100% sure the DC would be behind it so let’s co-brand something with Banjax/DC and get people to come to it? As I said, it’s not my passion but if Banjax have the passion and the will then I can help make it happen. As long as we don’t hold it in the Green Room.

    I can’t comment about the efficacy of Skillset. But they are the path to doing things like this.

    My last paragraph about the browser vendors isn’t at odds. I’ve been frustrated in the past with IE’s inability to render code (or even images) that every other browser manages to.

  14. Not surprised, but you implied we promoted it which is NOT correct.

    Some sort or web event around quality (or standards if you wish) would be good. I’ll have a think how best to do it. It’s not a million miles off what we talked about many months ago..

    It is at odds. To ensure consistent quality, design for standards and then fix for incompatibilities. Building for a particular browser alone makes no sense. Building for a browser and then fixing for other browser also makes no sense. You see my point now?

  15. Well, putting up a page like that on a pubic server is either intentional or naive 🙂 I know you’re not naive 🙂 I assumed that because you TWEETED it, that it was intentional.



    Re; fixing for incompatibilities vs fixing for browser
    To be honest, this is almost semantics.

    A Web Standards event, an evening maybe? Or a full day? Or do we talk to Mr McMillan and ask to tie it into one of his BUILD precursors?

  16. “It is a simple and easily demonstrated fact that poorly crafted websites and applications, while they may be aesthetically pleasing and function well under certain narrowly defined contexts, crumble in all manner of horrible ways when confronted with the broad context of different accessing technologies and differing human preferences and practices.

    Too many fail to grasp the relevant point: it is not “eyes” that access websites and online applications; it is unpredictable human beings of varying abilities, technologies of varying platforms, and important indexing engines that access these things. So websites and online applications must be conceived and built in accordance with what works best in this broad context – and in accordance with the idea that it’s not okay to build things that easily break due to low quality construction.”


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