Re-Thinking My Portfolio

Below is the assignment I gave. I’m going to give it a shot starting with my own portfolio and then looking for aspirational goals in a subsequent post.

Take a look around at portfolios other people are using. You’ll want to check out people in the field like Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom but you’ll also want to look outside sociology for inspiration. Cast a wide net. Find sites that are doing things you like. Take targeted screenshots and explain what you like. Link back to the sites. Keep thinking about the data being presented, the user interactions that get you to the data, and the visual elements that appeal to you.

Spend an hour or so looking around and getting ideas. If a particular search isn’t fruitful, try something else or jump ahead 5 or 10 pages in the search results. Don’t get bogged down.

Once you’ve got a good chunk of ideas, use them to create a post outlining what you’d like your portfolio to be. Some people call this wireframing. If you like to sketch, sketch out things on paper or whiteboards and photograph (I do this often) them. You can also use a variety of digital tools to do something similar.

Your portfolio is an interactive argument that provides a skeptic audience with a limited attention span that you’re the person who can do the work you want to do.

The goal here is to create a roadmap for the kind of portfolio you’d like to have.

What’s on page one? What are the major elements of the menu? How do you entice someone to click for more details? Think about things like this as you sketch out what you want the site to look like.

Step one here was to get decent screenshot of the whole screen rather than just the portion visible within the viewport. I used this full page screenshot Chrome plugin to do it. Probably the fact that I had to do this is indicative of a larger problem. Anything “below the fold” is far less likely to be seen so I need to rethink what I’m prioritizing.

screencapture-tomwoodward-us-1516158655098

The intent here was to give people a quick overview of my educational philosophy while also giving a glimpse of the fact that I have actions visible to back that up. I end up explaining things too much. The three columns at the bottom bring together blog posts, bookmarks, and tweets. It’s ok but I’m not sure it really captures what I want. Tweets tend to be fairly inconsequential on average. I’m also missing out on GitHub activity which is likely far more indicative of things I want to do than anything I’m going to have in a tweet. Github has a variety of interesting API options for data that I need to look into.

Blog posts also end up being fairly limited in what they show. It might be more interesting to display those categorically and emphasize total counts. This might be a nice place to really think through some data visualization options. What matters? How do I show it? How do I show long-term dedication to the topic? What do I need to do to automate this?

Maybe the bookmarks move towards something similar. What does the aggregate show? I think that’s far more indicative of what I want to argue than simply showing the most recent. If I’m using data to show I do this often and have committed then showing total numbers and tag totals will do that better.

screencapture-tomwoodward-us-photos-html-1516158917695
The photography page does a bit of data. It is grabbing my total number of photos and the start date of my account from the API but it doesn’t doing any visual work with it. I’m focusing again on most recent work rather than making the argument I should be making. I need to be more aware of a tendency to do this. Maybe it’s something that happens more often with syndication. If I’m trying to show I’m good at photography, it makes more sense to choose particular photos for a prime location and do something different to show ongoing practice. It may be that photography doesn’t really fit as a major part of my portfolio. It doesn’t if I’m being purely practical but I want to maintain that I both value and bring a diverse set of skills. I feel it’s an argument worth making.

screencapture-tomwoodward-us-presentations-html-1516158691585
The presentations page need serious work. I pretty much dislike all of it. I want to show scale and scope but the individual pieces are too big and navigation is not intuitive. The structure of the individual elements ends up failing for me as well. It leads to inconsistent data entry. I’m also inclined to move it from a Google Sheet to a custom WordPress post type. Once again, I’m showing most recent . . . which does have value here but I’m not showing how things add up. What’s the aggregate result of all this stuff? People aren’t going to browse through the items. I need to condense and display.

screencapture-tomwoodward-us-timeline-html-1516158940239
Now my timeline did seem kind of decent at the time but it’s neither a decent example of web design on my end nor is it really an engagement that’s likely to happen with many people. They aren’t going to page through each piece. I’m better off with a view that can be seen all at once- no interactions required.

screencapture-tomwoodward-us-resume-1516158950915
My resume was more recently reconsidered. It’s written with Skeleton CSS and was meant to move between the web and PDF/print pretty well. There’s no real data displayed and it’s not a living document. There is no automation. That needs to be remedied.

So if I were to encapsulate my portfolio goals in a few sentences . . .

  • show a commitment to and participation in interesting educational technology integration
  • show my technological skills
  • show dedication to public knowledge creation and sharing
  • show the length and focus of my work in a variety of areas

I want to do this through API integrations and with as little extra work as possible.

Comments on this post

  1. CogDog said on January 17, 2018 at 1:00 am

    I’ve had a to do item for years to update the folio. Maybe next year. I’ve moved more to a front facing “Calling Card” site https://cog.dog that directs to separate sites for photos and the out of date portfolio http://cogdog.info

    For no good reason I was looking at my GitHub profile and they seem to do a nice compact display of your activity (I never looked at the Contributions by year at the bottom) that’s auto generated by some curation (4 shown repos).

    Also, not related, thanks for the full screen Chrome snapshot extension, I seem to have to find one every 8 months, they eventually seem to break.

    • Tom Woodward said on January 27, 2018 at 11:16 pm

      Found your comment, feels like it got hung before being flagged as spam. Strange it flags it given I’ve got 66 of your comments here approved.

      GitHub will also break out your code by php, js etc. I think that might be kind of neat.

  2. D'Arcy Norman said on January 17, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    thanks for the nudge. I’d been meaning to tweak my site’s homepage to be more than just a reverse-chronological barfing of recent posts. progress!

    • Tom Woodward said on January 18, 2018 at 3:48 pm

      I hadn’t quite realized how often I was replacing important with newest in these structures. I need to think more.

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