Monthly Archives: February 2019

Peer Review – 2

I had the pleasure of peer reviewing Jill’s Book Blog, which you can find here. From the onset, this is an engaging site, as it explores accessible reading, an aspect of publishing that the majority of the population is somewhat unfamiliar. Jill’s Book Blog is completely transparent; the creator offers insights and perspectives on the development and design of a blog through an access aide. As Jill articulates here, there are certain challenges one faces when visually impaired, with design in particular being an understandable barrier. As I am not overly committed to reading books, especially during undergraduate where we do have a high quota of readings, I was, at first thought, somewhat uninterested in the content of this blog; however, in exploring the pages and being introduced to the works under review, an appreciation was established and is hopefully reflected in this review.  Here, I have divided my review by examining the content, design and overall impression.

I find book reviews challenging. To take a relatively long piece of writing and condense it into a concise and engaging review is difficult, so I feel that Jill’s Book Blog tackles an ambitious topic, especially for a weekly update. Likewise, in attempting to reach her goal of 96 books in 365 days, time is of the essence, and here, she does this well. I find the writing to be clear, effective and brief, and despite this, she negates jeopardizing the offering of a polished summary and well-written opinion about the book. There are some minor grammatical errors that are revealed through missing commas and dashes, as well as some repetition, but overall the posts are strong and any wordiness can be reflective of the vernacular a blog can sometimes evoke. I appreciate Jill’s sentiment that “I feel like I have become stuck in the formal, uninventive, dry essay/assignment writing and organizing we have to do in University, that I perhaps lost my creativity and imagination,” and understand how the concept of blogging for a course is refreshing. One post that I found highly entertaining was this interview with Batman.  Using a strong sense of humor, playful language and clear objective of interpreting a novel through Bruce Wayne’s understanding of crime, Jill effectively entices the reader to explore the content afforded throughout her blog. I would like to see this extended with more links to other reviews or related-sites.

I like the design of this blog; it is simple, clear, focused and easy to navigate. I can’t really relate to the challenges in creating and maintaining the design via an access aide, but I can certainly appreciate the effort that was made to vocalize the desired outcomes. I like the black border, which in most cases I do not, but here it reflects the pages of a book. I am also fond of the number of tags for each post, as for me, when creators attribute too many tags, the page starts to look cluttered. There are two things I would like to see considered for alteration. First, I think that Jill has two important tag-lines for her blog; “Adventures of Accessible Reading” and “96 Books in 365 Days;” however, the latter is difficult to locate, and for me, is one of the interesting aspects of the blog. I would prefer to see it alongside “Adventures of Accessible Reading.” Also, I am not entirely fond of the main image of the lagoon and book waterfall. I appreciate the creativity of the books being employed as an abundant fall, but the image is somewhat unclear and too low of quality. I am also less enthusiastic about the type of image; I feel that the natural wonder-like photo does not really reflect the types of books being reviewed. This is of course, personal preference, but for me, I would like to see something different.

Overall, I like this blog. I found it incredibly approachable and accessible (pardon the pun), and unlike some opinion-based blogs, I feel that I truly learned something, or became interested in learning more about accessible reading. In fact, I would value further links to other resources outside of just the book, not just about the book itself, but how accessible reading is made available. I don’t need to read more about accessibility on this blog, but resources that are vetted by someone with a visual impairment would be interesting. Likewise, more links in general would be intriguing; I would like to know who Jill agrees with, disagrees with or what other books the focal one could be related to. One could also link to where to find the book, which I like about this book blog found here.

Jill’s Book Blog is a well-developed and organized site that provides visitors with approachable and strong synopses of various books. With some minor edits and slight alterations to some design aspects, this blog is very appealing and worth revisiting – for 96 days.

PEER REVIEW No.2: Aylin Gis’ Blog

Examining the design of a fashion & lifestyle website.

This week, we will be taking a look at my lovely classmate’s blog, Aylin Gis. Named after the author herself, this website covers a variety of topics––from fashion trends, to product reviews, to lifestyle photography––all seamlessly unified under her personal identity and brand! My task will be to identify her stylistic choices and offer feedback as to whether these decisions either advance or detract from her content overall. For clarity, I have gathered my thoughts into three sections; atmosphere, imagery, authorial presence, and formatting.

A view of the homepage.


Aylin has chosen a refreshingly minimalistic, crisp look for her website. This is a strong decision that makes every subsequent visual element much more prominent, therefore presenting both opportunities and challenges. The overall impression is fairly light and airy thanks to the choices in typeface; thin sans serifs that are appropriately modern without being too trendy and an excellent initial decision for this blog. Because the text is always black on white, the only colour on the page comes from the images (more on those later) which certainly draws the eye towards the content, encouraging us to click. These are all important aspects to the overall look of the website that do function well to establish the perfect mood for us to enter into Aylin’s content.

However, I would love to see a bigger impact from Aylin’s homepage. Besides the title, there is no establishing focal point for readers to grab onto, and as we learned from Mauve Pagé’s guest lecture, this makes things a bit disorienting. So, a more dramatic and unifying element is necessary; both to more immediately convey a sense of uniqueness and to distinguish the homepage from subsequent pages.

Seeing as Aylin has a passion for photography, the natural solution to this focal point problem would be to introduce a website-wide area for banner imagery. If we take a look at Aylin’s theme, Kale, this can be easily accomplished by selecting some featured posts with strong imagery to be highlighted. Luckily, Aylin has a variety of photography posted already and this is the perfect opportunity to highlight past efforts and ensure that these posts don’t get lost. Assuming these are original images (it is unclear), I think this seascape, these barnyard outfits, and this flat-lay would be perfect stars.

In sum, it is clear that Aylin has the right mood in mind but she should consider making a stronger impression by introducing a focal point to convey a unique sense of place, which is lacking at present.


As mentioned earlier, Aylin is clearly well-tuned to the nuances of images, I suspect in a manner that is akin to Tara Chittenden’s explanation of “aesthetic socialisation” whereby bloggers utilize the right visual codes to convey their familiarity with culturally significant trends. In selecting the thumbnail imagery for her posts, Aylin expertly utilizes photo curation and filtration techniques to convey a desired impression to her viewers. It seems these images are fairly consistent in that they are distinctly feminine, approachable, and a tad romantic––all qualities that work well to enhance the written content. In sum, Aylin’s confident selection of both stock and personal pictures is an important foundation to her website’s success given that she has chosen an otherwise sparse layout.

On the whole, Aylin’s colourful thumbnails jump from the page, sparkling like enticing little jewels, all lined up in rows. This orderly appearance, whereby all the posts appear as the same size on the homepage, could be slightly better maintained by making sure all the thumbnails are always properly cropped and scaled to be the exact same size. This inconsistency unfortunately appears repeatedly on this blog. While that may seem a minor adjustment, it is an important consideration when using a minimalistic layout.

Which one is Aylin? After clicking into the posts, I am pretty sure
that is her on the bottom left (the others are stock imagery).

(via visuals to enhance brand)

These chosen images (above) seem to indicate that Aylin wants to integrate a sense of personhood into the visual vocabulary of the website. I feel the often personal perspective to Aylin’s content is not yet fully reflected in the visuals: There is perhaps a disconnect between the title of my classmate’s blog, Aylin Gis, and the fact that viewer’s don’t have a clear sense of who she is. (It is fine that Aylin seems to be a bit camera shy in her poses, but I find this puzzling because Aylin Gis has previously stated her affection for another fashion blogger, Aylin Koeing, whose coy positioning of face and body is the great uniting factor of that aspirational blog.)

After all, recognition brings familiarity and a sense of legitimacy that I think could be useful here; differentiating from stock imagery would also be key if Aylin is interested in partnering with brands or building up a fanbase. (Chittenden refers to this ideal position as “prosumer”––a hybrid of consumer and producer that acknowledges the monetization of blogs, whereby imagery is a key player in that success.) In brief, I would encourage Aylin to produce more original imagery of products, everyday life, and herself, whenever possible. In prior posts, when she has had the time, I better understood the future potential and look of Aylin’s blog.

There is one simple thing that can be done right away to enhance the personal aspect: I would encourage Aylin to make the About Me a more prominent visual element. She already has a brief About Me page, along with its charming picture, which could communicate a sense of orientation and permanency by being positioned into the right side of the blog (again possible according to the Kale theme demo). This would also add a sense of balance to the front page and is much more do-able than designing a logo.


The trouble with formatting is that it can be very tricky to achieve good-looking text using WordPress. However, by looking back to the beginning of the semester as compared to now, I can see that Aylin is doing a great deal of necessary experimenting to appropriately improve the legibility of her text.

In the beginning, the text was very small with unappealing proportions and little spacing, but Aylin’s latest posts have enormously improved by increasing the type size. Her site is legible across devices as well. One small improvement that could be made is by increasing the spacing between text paragraphs and images. As you can see below, Aylin is careful to create wonderful spacing between images themselves (right) but her text could use some breathing room and a better proportion between line length and image width (left).

Overall, as demonstrated through our above discussion of her visual choices, Aylin clearly has a great aesthetic sensibility! I have every confidence that this will help her navigate future design decisions with clarity. With that said, there are a lot of easily-accessible customization options for her theme that have yet to be explored. My hope is that she will implement some of my suggestions, with the primary goal being a more impactful and considered representation of her content. Although there is certainly room for improvement, we can see that Aylin has already taken it upon herself to steadily improve the look of her digital space.

I look forward to seeing Aylin’s body of content grow by the end of the semester. Please have a look at her review of this website, which offered up some tremendously insightful suggestions. (Thank you, Aylin!)

Why Study Nightlife? An Answer in Conversation with Nietzsche on Music and Myth

At times, it feels arbitrary to study nightlife, or to even want to study nightlife. The primary function of nightlife often appears to be simple: to entertainment. However, At other times, it feels like I take the elements of nightlife, of the organised party, for granted. What could those elements be? Can studying the phenomenon of nightlife reveal humanity in a fresh perspective? I like to think so. With this in mind, it seems worth it to explore the question “why study nightlife?”

My automatic answer is that leisurely congregation is an important form of community brainstorming where prevelant qualities of a group become visible in personal contexts. It is the site where human desire, and desire’s associated behaviours, rise to the surface of our collective broth. Desire is a flexible, flowing phenomenon by which the whims and fears of a group are revealed. The club is a location that facilitates an exploration of these qualities, thus it is an important modern institution for any individual.

Philosophers have proposed theories that consult my question more articulately (albeit indirectly.) For Friedrich Nietzche, in The Birth of Tragedy, it is essential for music to be accompanied by tragic myth. According to him, these two elements identically simulate transcending individuality. They are both born from “the playful construction and demolition of the world of individuality as an outpouring of primal pleasure and delight” (the Dionysiac) as in the case of a child who builds a castle from rock and sand only to knock it down with the tide (783).

To facilitate this process are structures that form beauty (The Apolonian), for there is no sand castle without a basic idea of architecture and there is no rhythm without musical consistency.

When Nietzsche talks about music and tragedy, I imagine he pictured the orchestra and the theatre company. The Birth of Tragedy pivots on the theatrical legends of ancient Greece where the elements of tragedy are explicit.

Considering that theatre is nearly absent in the contemporary club, Nietzsche might find club culture to be particularly flimsy. He claims that the relationship between music and myth is so intimate “that the atrophy of the one would be connected to the degeneration and deprivation of the other” (783).

In search for a reason to study nightlife, I reject this deduction. As the image of nightlife has shifted from the theatre and the seated club and centred on our modern evolution of the saloon, humans have also shifted their mythological value. In the dance hall of today, these myths are rarely expressed intentionally and are open to speculation.

Myth is, after all, simply a narrative that one tells one’s self to inform behaviour, or as they say at Modern Mythology, myth “allows us to establish a place within history for ourselves.”

Many secular myths are prevalent in the club. Some that come to mind are myths of gender (and its degradation,) of masculinity and femininity, myths of sexuality, myths of authenticity, robust economic myths, myths of democracy and etc.

It is these myths that fascinate me and drive me towards nightlife. I don’t feel equipped to judge society’s Dionysiac capacity, but I believe that Nietzsche’s connection between music and myth is a useful perspective of nightlife. Myths like the ones suggested above add substance and social cues to late night socialisation and dance. Critiquing that substance enables us to discern whether it functions to improve social health or to damage it, thereby allowing us to adjust our patterns of socialisation. Studying the club presents intimate planes for growth.

Work Cited
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. “The Birth of Tragedy.” ed. Vincent Leitch. 2nd ed. Norton. 2010. Print.

Beauty in Blur

Sometimes, rules are meant to be broken. Contemporary photography no longer needs to be in focus to prove its excellence.
Rinko Kawauchi’s Untitled, from the series Murmuration (2010).

Humour me this: Have you ever wondered why those really, reaaally old photographs from the 18th century seem so creepy? When we see the stern faces from that era, it is natural to misinterpret their tense, expressionless demeanours as indicative of the times––often perceived as darker and more dismal. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth! People from back then were just as jovial as we are today, but these emotions simply had no place in photography at the time.

Peculiar as this may seem, it all makes sense when we consider the inadequate photographic technology they had at their disposal (namely, the Daguerrotype). People had to hold very still for their pricey portraits, which even required several long minutes to expose. A somber face was not only easier to capture but also followed the painterly tradition of the perfectly posed subject. Most importantly, with crisper detail came an enhanced likeness.  

As a result of the above attitude, the next century brought about photographic improvements which sought to improve on the medium’s capacity to best reflect reality. Keeping in mind that photographs were two-dimensional preservations of a moment, the logic that followed was that the best preservation of memory came with a sharper rendering.

Now that we have reached the twenty-first century, we have absolutely perfected the techniques of high-definition photography. With this mastery achieved, the time has come to question the long-held belief that photographs should always be in focus.

Here are outstanding contemporary photographers whose work subverts that outdated ideal:


Rinko Kawauchi’s Untitled, from the series ‘HANABI’, 2001.

Widely recognized as one of Japan’s foremost photographers, Kawauchi is known for her ambiguous and poetic style. Her selected photographs undeniably evoke feelings, often nostalgic ones, despite photographing fairly ordinary subjects. In the case of Kawauchi, blur perfectly compliments the luminous washes of colour that distinguish her photographs by highlighting the temporal nature of the moment. This artist’s practice is founded in her extraordinary ability to capture the world as if filtered through memory.


Ground #70 (1996), by Uta Barth.

Berlin-born Uta Barth seeks to puzzle her viewers into further contemplation. By focusing her camera on areas seemingly devoid of meaningful subject matter, this artist consistently seeks to call the viewer’s habits of looking into question: “How can I make you aware of your own activity of looking, instead of losing your attention to thoughts about what it is that you are looking at?” Barth expertly toys with traditional compositional rules and upsets standards of foreground/background relationships. For her, since photography (in its purest form) has always been an endeavour to collect light itself, and her mundane subject matter allows this conceptual premise to be highlighted over anything else.


Untitled, from the series New Now (2009), by Gaston Bertin.

Parsons graduate Gaston Bertin creates curious interactions between colours which, although reminiscent of pop art’s commercialized delights, still investigate a more contemplative relationship to the photographic medium. By abstracting some initial collages, his nonfigurative photographic creations do inevitably pull from both painting and sculpture as well. However, Bertin seeks to remove us from their materiality through effacing that recognizability, calling into question the fundamental ways we seek to identify reality through sight and its more tangible offspring, photographic prints. In his artist statement, he concludes that “[his] photographs do not transform reality into images, but transform images into reality.”


Lauren Nakadate’s #172, from the series Lucky Tiger, (2009).

This multi-disciplinary artist treats her printed self-portraits as documents less as extensions of self and more as material actors capable of acquiring their own histories; gathering fingerprint evidence of everyone who has (literally) laid their hands on them. Overall, Nakadate’s practice seeks to complicates the charged theme of women’s objectification. In this series, she invites a strangers from the internet (middle-aged men) to handle her coy self portraits (akin to soft pornography) so long as they agree to inking up their fingers beforehand. Through this consensual process, she materializes and complicates the sexually charged power dynamics at play in photographic representations of women’s bodies, thereby merging that discourse by locating it both within fine art and popular media.

Nakadate explores the same goal as all of the photographers above in that she seeks to draw our attention to the ambiguities of viewing through the use of two kinds of blur. Firstly, with the gentle, homemade aura of her camera’s soft focus as it skims the contours of her body. Secondly, in the disruptive fingerprints on the surface of the material photograph, which materialize and mimic the hasty and sometimes messy way that a viewer’s perception interacts with what is represented. While Nakadate’s process is not so much an overt example of the camera’s ability to blur, her premise still interestingly pin points the main conceptual pulse behind that act of “blurring a photograph”.

All of the photographers above seek to draw our attention to the ambiguities of viewing through the use of blur. So, whether this is done to capture a sense of motion that implies an relatable sense of ephemerality, or to complicate conventions of a subject’s representation, such acts of blurring all effectively challenge their viewers. These blurs enable the photograph to demand a more considered contemplation, beyond aesthetics and composition; one that prompts deeper questions as to the purpose of photography. Each of these artists prove that a well-executed photograph is not necessarily a sharp one.

Whyte Lake

5.5 klicks

49°21’39” N, 123°15’32” W

Whyte Lake

Tucked away behind the sea-to-sky highway – just above Eagle Harbour – this popular West Vancouver trail is the perfect quick hike to get your outdoors fix. The winding path takes you through the old growth forest and up to a small lake, where in the summer some are brave enough to take a refreshing dip. Whyte Lake offers an easy hike immersed in nature’s tranquility, just 20 minutes outside of Downtown Vancouver. This local favourite is accessible and a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Escape the city

Whyte Lake offers an easy hike immersed in nature’s tranquility, just 30 minutes outside of Downtown Vancouver. This local favourite is easily accessible by car, and a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.


While the steady incline will make you break a sweat, the mossy rainforest canopy makes it hard for the sun to shine through. Make sure to bring a couple layers to stay warm, as you cool down quickly when standing still.

Round-trip: 2h
Elevation Gain: 178m
Highest Point: 295m
5.5 km – out and back

Open all-year round, this hike is fun rain or shine – or even snow! Although, be forewarned: if you choose to go up despite snowy and slushy conditions, be ready to slip at at least five times. And that’s not counting the times you’ll slip on the way back down. I would also be lying if I didn’t say it was part of the fun. The terrain is a mixture between roots and rocks, with a boardwalk surrounding the Whyte Lake to protect your feet from the marsh. The trail is clearly marked; however, once you’ve reached the top, the path becomes less obvious with the snow.

Stay on the trail – for your own safety, as well as for trail conservation.

These tall coniferous trees being to all look the same, especially once you loose sight of the trail. It is incredibly easy to get lost in a forest, and I wouldn’t underestimate the power that nature has against an unprepared day hiker. Even some of the most experienced hikers will recommend you don’t venture off in uncharted lands.

I was reminded of this when the trail I thought I was following was starting to get steeper and steeper. Turns out I was just following dog tracks and had veered way off course. Luckily, I was able to turn right around and retrace my steps.

Pros: Easy to get to, and short enough to fit into your morning or afternoon. If you’re a local, you’ll be sure to bump into somebody you know.

Cons: Very slippery with snow or rain. Can get pretty busy, so pick your day and time of day appropriately if you’re hoping to have the trail for yourself.

Have you completed this hike? Share your experience bellow!

Live Like Joao

Live Like Joao
Food, Places and Everything About My Life

*Above image taken from Live Like Joao’s Blog


Live like Joao offers a personable and candid approach to food blogging. When it comes to creating his new blog, Joao’s honesty is refreshing; while this may be a daunting new task, Joao invites his audience into his inner thoughts as he navigates the unfamiliar waters of WordPress. According to the screenshots from Amanda‘s first peer review, Joao has implemented a lot of her recommendations and suggestions. Already, Live Like Joao is starting to have synchronicity between the website’s appearance and the content. To properly unpack the different design elements in this blog, I will be focusing on two important design umbrellas: user experience (UX) and User Interface (UI).

User Experience

Travis Gertz’s 2015 Design Machines: How to survive in the digital Apocalypse explains the UX design as how the website works, as opposed to how it looks. A hyper-simplified breakdown of the UX design category would include layout, interaction, information architecture, wireframing, prototyping, research, and testing. At first glance, Live Like Joao seems to work pretty cohesively and sensibly. There are subtle cues throughout the blog that indicate where I should look or click. For example, both the BLOG and POSIEL tab on the top righthand menu have a little downwards arrow to indicate a drop-down menu. These exemplify what Victor Kaptelinin describes as affordances in his article The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction.

The search function right above the categories list is a really helpful tool, especially when looking for a certain page or post that I particularly enjoyed, but was unable to retrace my steps. Since this blog is fairly new, I wasn’t lost in the content and it was easy to find my way back; however, once there are more entries and if Joao chooses to continue this blog post-PUB101, I suspect that this search function will become a really handy tool.

While there are affordances that create direction throughout the blog, I still seemed to have encountered some problems with Joao’s BLOG section. Firstly, I noticed that there is a category for “Blog” and “Blog Post”. This seems counter-intuitive, as these categories seem synonymous. Kaptelinin underlines that “Good designs are intuitive“; hence, I would always recommend going through the website fully – as a sort of informal audit – and paying extra attention to what is intuitive to you. What comes up when you click certain links? Does it take you where you would expect it to? This brings me to my second suggestions: make sure that  the information is stored in the right place. For example, when I click the BLOG POST on the drop down menu, the only post that is available is the “Short Essay 1”.

User Interface

In contrast to the former, UI Design encompasses how the website looks as opposed to how it works. Gertz explains that typography, colour, forms, illustration, photography, and detail can all be found within this realm.

Caution: Do not read when hungry!

This blog does a wonderful job at capturing mouth-watering cuisine. From a UI design perspective, there is a great use of white space and visual contrast with images. Blog Post 1 does a good job of separating chunks of text and using different fonts, especially by bolding the Ingredients title. The other blog posts could benefit by following the great example from that first blog. For example, my eyes are yearning for more contrast in the text in the Blog Post 3. There is a beautiful photo of gorgeous cuts of meats – perhaps I should have waited until after dinner to write this review – followed by the restaurant’s information and a short review. To better accompany the bold image, I would make the text larger and create a small text box containing the restaurant’s pertinent information. Currently, the review is the smallest group of text on the image: all these small modifications would allow for the sections of the page to be more proportionate to each other, and allow the important information to stand out.

The beautiful rustic table of food that act as the blog’s cover page sets the tone for a visually-enticing food blog. Keeping this in mind, I would recommend continuing with this theme by adding more images throughout the blog: as we are unable to taste this food with our taste buds, we do so with our eyes. Therefore, it is important to describe or visually show these through images and videos, as is done in the first blog post. If at all possible, ensure that photos and videos are the same size or are complimentary to the overall page layout to allow for synchronicity and fluidity.

Overall, I enjoyed joining Joao on his adventures through WordPress and discovering exciting new restaurants around the Lower Mainland through his reviews. I look forward to seeing the progress and reading more content from Joao. The recipes, reviews, and personable tone leaves me  hungry for more!

Check out Live Like Joao here.

10X your programming job application effectiveness

man wearing white top using MacBook
Photo by Tim Gouw / Unsplash

This one's for you who have submitted so many job applications that you feel physically sick of looking at your own cover letter.

You keep telling yourself,

Submitting my resume to as many companies as I can will increase my chances of getting hired because it is simply a "numbers game."

Every day you try to convince yourself that this will only go on for a couple more weeks max, according to other people's experiences shared online.

But after a few months, instead of getting brag-worthy job offers, you get one (or all) of these:

  • crickets
  • recruiters ghosting you
  • embarrassing or straight up humiliating interviews
  • "we'll give you a call [and never do]"
  • "sorry, position already filled" and other excuses
  • more crickets

Your patience starts wearing thin.

You start questioning your choice to get into programming.

Worse, you start doubting yourself:

"Am I not good enough?"
"Am I just not cut out for this?"

You are inches away from ending up with a completely shattered self-confidence and self-worth.

Your strategy is not working

If the above sounds like you — and you are absolutely sick and tired of feeling like nobody wants you, then hopefully you recognize that your current job application strategy is not working and it's time for a change.

B-but I have already tried other things like personalizing my cover letter to the companies — that didn't work either!

In theory, personalizing your cover letter does sound like a winning strategy that helps you stand out among those who simply blanket-spam their resumes to job sites as if electricity costs nothing. So what is wrong there?

Let's be real for a second: if a company has an open position that is at all decent, you should expect at least 5 other applicants competing for it.

In this day and age, most company's information is readily available from a few clicks away.

Personalizing cover letters is hardly a job-seeking secret now.

While mentioning the company's product line and expressing your admiration for the company's contribution to the society does make you sound slightly less like a robotic asshole, it really doesn't demonstrate that you have put in any efforts.

Overall, it's not a great experience for you or the person on the receiving end.

Applying for programming jobs should be fun!

The programming field (and most tech jobs) is highly creative. A large part of it comprises of creative problem-solving. The process of figuring out the solution is usually fun and rewarding.

So what if applying for programming jobs is the same way?

The good news is, it absolutely is!

Imagine feeling excited when you apply for jobs!

Imagine having confidence that your application will get the employer's attention.

Imagine getting a job offer not because your resume looks slightly better than other applicants', but because "you are exactly the perfect candidate we are looking for."

That's what happened to me.

After being ghosted by many recruiters, failing many interviews, and getting many "we'll get back to you [never]", I decided, "fuck it, I'm finding another way."

Well, over the years, I have found a few ways to get employers' attention and demonstrate my skills before I even get to talk with them.

One of my colleagues who interviewed me told me straight up:

Your submission was different than everybody else's, and you stood out immediately; hiring you was a no-brainer.

Naturally, I was flattered!

But this is all due to a few mindset changes I've had.

No secret mind-control tricks, and definitely no AI machine learning algorithms that figures out what buzzwords will impress interviewers the most (don't get any ideas)!

Sure, I approach job-seeking differently than most people I know, but in order to get your dream job, mindset changes will help you much more than tactics.

Here are the 3 main mindset changes I had undergone that helped me get interviews and job offers I wouldn't even dream of getting before.

1. Getting value right

Understanding value is the crucial first step.

Regardless of your skill level, whenever you provide value to someone, you will get value in return.

In our case, the value we get in return are usually in the form of pay cheques.

This is the so-called value exchange.

The problem job-seekers have, especially those new to the industry, is they lack the experience and confidence to justify to potential employers that they can provide enough value that warrants the amount of salary (monetary value) offered or more.

In other words, many junior and intern developers subconsciously think employers hire them out of pity, otherwise "which company in their right mind would hire a newbie straight out of college/coding bootcamp?". As such, most are not confident about their newly-acquired skills (perhaps this earlier post can help).

This is why a lot of times, simply demonstrating that you are passionate and willing to learn is not enough.

What you need to understand is:

You are there to trade your skillset with their money.

There is no reason to think about companies or interviewers as the high king.

You are simply equals doing a value exchange.

And of course, the same applies in reverse: be humble; don't be full of yourself simply because you possess abilities to provide value.

Once you understand this, the next step is to demonstrate that you are valuable.

2. Show, don't tell

You might have heard of the saying "show, don't tell."

It's a powerful way to quickly and directly get your point across to others.

In the case of applying for a programming job, you absolutely have the upper hand.

As I mentioned before, programming is one of the highly creative field. This is your opportunity to shine.

Instead of saying you are "a quick learner; team player; passionate about programming and design," you get to show all that in a demo project — how fun is that!

The best part is, your demo project can be scoped to a specific company you are applying for! How's that for personalization?

Imagine when the recruiter asks you "could you send me a few portfolio pieces?" and your response is

I'm glad you asked! I actually built a complete demo project that solves a problem I think your company would be facing at this stage.


What's better than a resume, a portfolio and a case study combined?

A portfolio piece that's built just for the company that acts as an extremely customized case study.

It doesn't even need to be a huge full-blown project. Just something to demonstrate your organization skills, technical proficiency, as well as adaptability all in one!

Once you realize the value you can provide, then demonstrate it with a company-specific demo project, the recruiter or hiring manager would have been so impressed by you that they would want to rush to the next steps of the interviewing process!

Why? Because no one else puts in this much effort. Many other applicants probably didn't even bother personalizing their cover letters.

So you must be all set, right?

Not so fast...

Turns out there could still be several other reasons a company would reject an applicant, namely the "fit" that everybody in the industry seems to be talking about.

3. What is "fit" anyway?

Way too often, candidates get rejected not because of their performance, but because of the so-called "fit", or lack thereof.

Many people think it's simply an excuse companies use to reject people because it's such a vague term.

In some cases, that might be true, but in many others "fit" can be a legitimate dealbreaker.

In fact, the interviewing process is not about trying to qualify yourself to be worthy enough to work for the company; it is instead about finding out whether you and the company are a good fit.

In my experience, "fit" can mean any number of the following:

Job requirement match. The company needs help in completing a project that requires in depth knowledge in a certain language or framework. This usually means the project has a tight deadline and that there is no time to train an individual to be ramp up to it. Therefore, companies usually hire an intermediate to senior level person who is easily adaptable or maybe even have done something similar before.

Many junior people get stuck on this: they think being a beginner means they are worthless to a company. Therefore, during interview, they feel like they are begging. They basically are relying on the interviewer’s generosity and sympathy (this is not a healthy mindset as explained above).

People get too caught up on these hard requirements such as seniority, location, etc.

Team personality match. Are their team members playful? Are they all die-hard Star Wars fans? Or are they completely foreign to pop cultures? Personality match can sometimes play a big part in the hiring decision, too. But don’t worry if you are shy or introverted, just strive to be a generally good human being, you should be find on this point.

Be a team player, talk about how you help other team mates in previous projects or any work whatsoever and why. Talk about being humble, and how you handle advice from other members with grace (instead of treating advice as attacks on ego and self-esteem). Show that you understand the power of a team is greater than that of an individual. Show that even if you are introverted, you get along with most people because you are considerate. The keyword here is again "show." Use examples, and don’t just say "I’m very considerate."

Belief. "I believe in helping other succeed", "I believe software should be easy to use and at the same time functional." These are all beliefs you may have. When you have different beliefs than the company, it may turn out to be a big problem for you and the company later down the road. Whether your beliefs align with the company's is a matter of choice. You may decide that some of your beliefs are not as important as others. Whatever is the case, know that misaligned beliefs can cause major problems later on.

Try to extract as much information as you can from in-depth research about the company. Sometimes companies literally spell out their beliefs for you in their mission statements, while other times you need to read between the lines and see the big picture in order to find out.

To re-emphasize, finding the right fit is not the sole job of the hiring party. You yourself is also responsible in making sure the company is a good fit for you!

There you have it, the secret to 10x your job application effectiveness!

Hopefully this article can help you reduce the stress associated with job applications and start approaching it as a more fun and rewarding process.

Confidence comes from practice, not preparation

Recently I got into card tricks.

No, I don’t want to be a magician. And trust me this has everything to do with confidence.

I find that playing with cards help me focus. In a way, it’s like a fidget toy; like a fidget spinner, except it’s actually cool. 😉

It looks super cool as well! Check out this video on one-handed shuffle:

If you haven’t got any experience in card handling (or as they call it, card flourishes), this might seem difficult, intimating, or downright impossible!

At least that’s how I felt 2 days ago.

Hell, I have difficulties shuffling with both of my hands, let alone one!

Anyway, I decided to give it a go.

Unsurprisingly, I couldn't do it, not even once. I spent a good 20 minutes of watching tutorials and trying to do it until my hands were sore.

I felt overwhelmed, intimidated, and honestly a tiny bit inadequate.

Somehow the conclusion my brain drew from that was that I must be missing some key pieces of the puzzle; maybe the tutorials were teaching me the bad methods or methods not suitable for my hand size or shape.

Looking back I was delusional, a little bit, or like a lot.

So for the next hour, I searched for more tutorials and guides on one-handed shuffles. I thought watching more tutorials and finding out the perfect method is key to my success in becoming an impressive one-hand shuffler. But if I still didn’t succeed, soon enough I will lose all the confidence in achieving this and never try again in a long time.

More time passed by, I still couldn’t do it. I failed to find what key information or secret I missed that kept me from success.

It's super frustrating as you can see haha.

At this point, only 2 hours later, it was clear to me that there isn’t a silver bullet, and maybe I just needed to practice more. Of course, my confidence level was staying low, but I tried to not let it affect me as much.

So over the 3 hours after that realization, I'd just kept on doing the same motions over and over again while watching other unrelated videos or thinking about other things.

Each time I failed, I had to actively fight against the negative feelings inching to chip away at my self-confidence and self-worth.

5 hours later, this was my result:

Yay! I had done it! It's not perfect, but I was satisfied.

And it only took my one entire afternoon to learn this skill that's useless to me.

How anti-climatic...

Well, guess what, success is boring.

Success in life, no matter how big or small, usually involves doing or practicing something many times repetitively.

It's not like in the movies where 3 montages later I could go from a total newbie to a master of the trade.

And the lesson I learned from this is that success, and ultimately confidence and self-worth, come from practice.

It doesn't matter how much time I spent preparing, learning about the science behind card shuffling, watching tutorials on how other people do it, or visualizing what success looks like. If I didn't practice and persistently keep on practicing, I would not have achieve any result at all.

So the moral of the story is: learn the one-handed card shuffle, it's fun. Don't be intimidated by seemingly hard things and don't get yourself stuck in the preparation phase.

Just do it, and keep doing it.