To humanities graduates seeking employment

Lots of friends I had left behind in university ranks are now considering entering paid employment. Even though unemployment is low in Switzerland, getting a job is still difficult. Transitioning from a liberal arts education into the “workforce” is an especially long ordeal. So I worry…

The worst part is fear. Politicians and employer union representatives keep screaming that there are too many college educated people who they label as “unemployable”. It’s HR-speak for “useless”. It saddens me. It carries a lot of stigma. It takes a long time and a lot of effort to wash the label off. When counsellors at the unemployment office, friends or family say you have to work on your “employability”, what they mean is you have to weasel out of being useless. These levels of jargon and condescension are hard to stomach. No matter. They’re right on some level: you will have to change, gain experience, etc. However, you’re not as far behind as you might think. It’s a matter of attitude and learning to market your skills.

Young humanities graduates are squished between romantic ideals of our “calling” as defenders of the besieged humanities and the harsh realities of a world which seems in perpetual crisis. At my graduation ceremony, the dean of our faculty told us that starting a career would take 18 to 24 months of suffering. Right after that, an 80 year old alumnus said that it was our responsibility to “shine a light” upon the world and dispense humanistic lessons on scientists, engineers and bankers who seem to run things (poorly). If you’ve ever bought into the idea that your role would be to impose humanist values upon the uncaring, you better saddle up. It’s gonna be a hell of an attitude adjustment.

Such arrogance gives credence to the prejudice we face from employers — in fact. They don’t care about our values, what we learned about the human condition by analysing the Prose Edda, or the inconsistencies of chivalric discourse uncovered by Chaucer’s tongue-in-cheek humour. Calling knights hypocrites may get you somewhere among gender studies and feminist intellectuals, but in most workplaces it only makes people snigger at your inadequacies and question your competence. Nobody cares. The phone’s ringing — you better get to it.


If they don’t care about medieval literature, what do employers care about? They care about weird shit like getting things done on time and under budget. Since you took two years to submit that twelve page paper about “Hamlet”, you may not see yourself as an ideal candidate just yet. But don’t worry. You just have to adapt. Unlearn some old habits and learn some new ones. That’s really what this 18 month period is about. Wave goodbye to your humanities student self.

All young graduates are in the same boat. Or at least they need to face the same rushing river. Even people who got degrees which seemed more marketable when you started college need to adjust. It’s raining MBAs and they are more prone to grandiose expectations than humanities students.

Once you are sufficiently distraught and poor, you’ll have no scruples left. You’ll use our secret killer-rhetoric techniques to sell yourself. There are lots of experiences which come from growing in the humanities you can sell. For example, do you remember when you had to get the signature of two super-busy professors, run from one department to the next, talk to twelve administrative assistants and five teaching assistants just to register for an exam? And then had do it all over again to get the credit? Believe it or not, this kind of grit is marketable. Put that down on your resume: You know how to navigate horrible backwards bureaucratic systems and get results. That will come in handy because there are lots of bureaucratic systems in large organisations. And it’s only an example of all the things you manage very well already.

  • Revisit your past, every growth opportunities, every teachable moments and every task. Make a list.
  • Then, gather job postings that might interest you and analyse them as you would a literary text.
  • For each task description, prepare arguments with stories about how you already did a version of that.

Always speak to the fear. Looking for a job is scary. Hiring might even be scarier. The people across the table from you are scared out of their minds — always. Their hire may be a mistake and they will look bad if you under perform. It is very important that you raise no alarms in their minds. As humanities students, we always were taught to address complexity and unpack simplifications to expose flaws. Do that in private. In public, you’ll get farther by reassuring people.

I don’t expect any of this to sink in and make a difference on your first reading. There are a few resources that might help you, though, such as the classic podcast “Back To Work” — especially episode 7. Statistics do say that you’ll have a hard time no matter what you read off the internet. Make the best out of that time and learn as much as possible about yourself, work and how to get things done. Eventually, you will find a nice job and you too will know the joys of being baffled by office politics, bewildered by unclear hierarchies, perplexed by obscure expectations and inconvenienced by endless rambling meetings.

kermit waving arms

Have faith, dear reader. Have faith.


Still Alive and Well

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written something here. Yesterday, I read something by Paul Ford and I went to bed early thinking: “I could have written”. Weird dreams featuring prolific over-achievers, writers and entertainers ensued. Therefore, guilt was inevitable in the morning.

But it prompted this post… so what could there be to complain about?

Since WordCamp Switzerland in Zürich (where I had written my last posts), I went to UX Lausanne. Great notions and ideas were thrust in our consciousness by kind and knowledgeable people there. So much so that live-blogging or even tweeting was almost impossible to pull off for me.

Bonny Colville-Hyde, whose UX Comics workshop was surprising and fun, did a great job of blogging her notes. The videos of the talks have also been released. I hope the organisers put the conference together again.

In the meantime, tickets were booked for Confab Europe in Barcelona. It’ll be my third and most probably last conference of the year. Can’t wait to be there and then.

Notes from Karin Christen — A Modern Take On Interactive Prototypes

These are notes taken with my tablet during the “A Modern Take On Interactive Prototypes” session at WordCamp Switzerland 2014 and I published them immediately after the talk. You can get a list of all my live-blogging posts of this WordCamp. Beware there may be mistakes, inaccuracies, and other imperfections in all these posts.

an Interaction Designer @wearerequired /

Interaction flow. Prototype iterations become better. Used for communication as well.

Her job is all about prototype in HTML/CSS for responsiveness and user testing .

Design in the browser early. HTML and CSS from lo to high fidelity. No static mockups.

Dynamic style guides.

Interactions should be designed in the browser which is the real canvas.

From lo to high fidelity. Take a front end framework such as Bootstrap. Wireframe. Add content. Add visual design. With iterations, getting to user testing. Refine the prototype until it becomes production-ready code. No waste of money nor code.

What matters are the skills. Some orgs focus on roles.

Teams. Focus on necessary skills. Front end. Back end. Target group expert.

Ricardoshops.CH redesign. Huge variety of product types. Prototype with real data and content types to see and play with variety. Dynamic content for the prototype and dynamic style guides.

It is a reference to communicate within the team and with the client.
Tight schedule made in time for Christmas.

No more PHP for prototyping.
Prototype generator and framework selector and dynamic content and auto dynamic style guide.

VUE.JS makes all this possible.

Update: Karin Christen released the slides.

Notes from Vitaly Friedman — Delightful UX: Little Details Matter

These are notes taken with my tablet during the “Delightful UX: Little Details Matter” session at WordCamp Switzerland 2014 and I published them immediately after the talk. You can get a list of all my live-blogging posts of this WordCamp. Beware there may be mistakes, inaccuracies, and other imperfections in all these posts.

Vitaly Friedman is editor-in-chief  and cofounder of SmashingMag. He loves beautiful content.

Artyping. Design with characters. Separators cones with type. Then pictures. Late nineteenth century.

Teletext. Invented by Phillips and the BBC. Pre internet. BBC people had to design Teletext screens.

Outline of cities and the ancestors of ASCII art. Then the internet happened.

TV guide (1953). With the advent of teletext, they created structured content and prepared for all the future channels.

Now teletext is available on the web and apps. It makes sense in terms of performance. Its text. Without the web, we would all be teletext designers.

Design a good URL. Make them into sentences. like Github. Clearleft.

Gov.UK wanted to get the answers citizens were looking for in the excerpt that Google provides.

Create the perfect and consistent Underline. Medium. Com spent  6 months researching this.

download attributes on links.
Data attributes for number of comments or length of the video.
Favicon with badges and other things.
Slide in and out panel for searching and filtering.
Default avatars with personality and niceness.

Mobile input UX is horrendous. Too many input fields.

Boingo redesign.
Dropdowns move towards sliders.
Placeholders moving from inside the field to the top.
Password fields .
Country selector.

On Yelp, you can use Emoji for search.

Branded Interactions.
RyanAir = Pain < value.
Delightful UX + value > pain.

Hipmunk. Takes preferences into account.

Stripe. Animations in interfaces makes you feel better.

Create stuff for FUN.

Notes from Stephanie Booth — Multilingual blogging

These are notes taken with my tablet during the “Caching small big things” session at WordCamp Switzerland 2014 and I published them immediately after the talk. You can get a list of all my live-blogging posts of this WordCamp. Beware there may be mistakes, inaccuracies, and other imperfections in all these posts.

Having more than one language on a webpage isn’t dirty.
Multilingualism is more common than we might think.
She gave a talk about this in 2007 at ETH Zurich.

Internet is the best space cruncher. Distance isn’t the barrier. Language becomes the barrier that separate people. In terms of content, linguistics borders are more important than political borders.

Three strategies are possible to bridge these

1. Translating everything — very hard and
bilingualism != translator

Example. Creation of and the pain of translation of “to hell with bad browser”.

She started with Blogger which makes things easy. Translation takes away from the spontaneous nature of blogging.

2. Splitting blogs. A blog for each language.

Difficult because bilinguals tend to use the majority language such as support forums. Bilingual brain drain.

3. Mixing it up.
Resistance is big. Because monolinguals would be hurt. Because it is bad for SEO.

There are no monolinguals and SEO isn’t that important. Write and stop worrying about SEO.

Mixing languages is easy for the blogger and the reader.

However skimming is hard in a language that you don’t fully master. Basic Bilingual plugin. Prefacing French posts with an English summary. Claude Vedovini who is a more competent coder rewrote the plugin a few months ago.

Mixing topics is a strategic decisions.
Would people move on and would you loose audience when they see that its in another language. This doesn’t really matter.

Examples shown by Stephanie.
Swiss Cats Blog — translated
Swiss Vibes — mixed uses Basic Bilingual


Update 9/5: Stephanie’s prezi presentation

Notes from short presentations in Room 1 #wcch

These are notes taken with my tablet during the short talks session downstairs at WordCamp Switzerland 2014 and I published them immediately after the talks. You can get a list of all my live-blogging posts of this WordCamp. Beware there may be mistakes, inaccuracies, and other imperfections in all these posts.

Loris Grillet — Selling your projects and building the perfect client relationship.

Horrendous complaints about clients.

Present the work well. Create Emotional bond between client and the project.
Carousel scene from Mad Men. Selling a world view, show the process, take the time to tell a story.

Explain. Don’t be afraid to show just one option,
Steve jobs about Paul Rand and the NEXT logo.

Jenny Beaumont — Case study: Custom digital downloads, an extension for WooCommerce.

Client needed to sell PDF that are customisable. Customers can personalise paper products for weddings. Flash wasn’t an option.

Review of competition.

Working with SVG. Job bigger than she imagined. With @Rarst, she created the plugin for WooCommerce.

Front-end is pretty simple. Interactive and immediate.

Output is a classic downloadable of Woo.

Patricia Brun Torre — WordPress hyperlocal community

Finding your community is an issue. She misses a place where she can share with her neighbours. The official commune website can’t offer interactivity.

Plans on Building a Buddypress community to ask her neighbours what they need. Once she has a Versoix version, she can replicate the site in other towns.

She wants to pass down her children’s clothes to her neighbours and finds place to do it.


Getting local classified as as well.

Plans on provide the services to other locales.

She loves to work alone. Doesn’t want to get involved with the local government. Website of the people for the people.

Notes from Andrey (@rarst) Savchenko — Caching small big things

These are notes taken with my tablet during the “Caching small big things” session at WordCamp Switzerland 2014 and I published them immediately after the talk. You can get a list of all my live-blogging posts of this WordCamp. Beware there may be mistakes, inaccuracies, and other imperfections in all these posts.

Andrey is a techie from Kiev. Very technical talk.

He cares a lot about performance. Caching important for web dev.

People see caching as binary: on or off. Yet its not always full page.

Apdex shows distribution of perf between users. Caching makes or breaks the category of satisfied users.

What is each visit’s potential worth?

Can’t deliver great perf to everyone on a simple scheme with full page caching. Three approaches:

  • HTTP cache,
  • Edge Side Includes,
  • Fragment caching.

Transients API is a great API for fragment caching. Using the API directly, you have to tinker and dev on your own.

TLC TRANSIENTS. wraps transients APi.

Fragment cache (@Rarst plugin). It doesn’t do much. It takes interfacing with WordPress. Needs devs.

What’s SLOW on our sites? Photo of slide upcoming.

Gallery fragment handler hijacks the gallery short code.
Sidebar. Widget fragment handlers.
Menu fragment handler.

Conclusion. Never just “on” caching.
1. Implement
2. Monitor
3. Profit.


Notes from Sara Rosso (@rosso) — Recent Trends in Enterprise WordPress Content

These are notes taken with my tablet during the “Recent Trends in Enterprise WordPress Content” session at WordCamp Switzerland 2014 and I published them immediately after the talk. You can get a list of all my live-blogging posts of this WordCamp. Beware there may be mistakes, inaccuracies, and other imperfections in all these posts.

Sara Rosso. Content trends on word press
Long form
#longread is trending upwards website
Long half life online. Shared long after publication.

Quartz. 500-800 words articles have less shares. Than breaking news or long form analysis have more.

Buzzfeed goes long form with BuzzReads

Newsletters are handy for content discovery.

Quartz’ daily brief. 70000 subscribers. >40% open rates. Hand crafted newsletters. Editions by geographic area.

USA Today. HBR.

wall street journal’s 10 points.

Micro sites and corporate.
Facebook newsroom. Google ventures. Alberta zmotor association.
Banks are coming to WordPress.

Bata runs on word press.
Coca Cola France runs on WordPress.

Social Media. Content has to be ready to be shared.

NewYorkPost’s Twitter Card.
TED conf blog on Facebook.

Having a picture ups engagement.
LinkedIn brings more and more traffic

Multi Source content.
Snowfall. Impact

Washington Post’s supergrid.

Walking Dead app powered by WordPress.


Charts and datajournalism. interactive content on Wp VIP.

Comments. Disabled on major publications. Andrew Sullivan’s TheDish.

Quartz have annotations. Attached to paragraphs instead of the whole post.

NYT. reader perspectives curated by editors.

TechCrunch. Facebook comments make things more quiet and better.

Questions. VIP news and the showcase to get more examples. METRO UK.
SEE her WordCamp Europe presentation.

Notes from Pascal Birchler — Lessons learned working on WordPress magazine

These are notes taken with my tablet during the “Lessons learned working on WordPress” session at WordCamp Switzerland 2014 and I published them immediately after the talk. You can get a list of all my live-blogging posts of this WordCamp. Beware there may be mistakes, inaccuracies, and other imperfections in all these posts.

How it started in 2008. German WordPress community was growing and talked about a magazine, so he started it.

Lesson #1. Don’t talk about it. Do it.

Didn’t know how to get attention.

Fake 2.6.4 sec update. He blogged about it and got discovered.

Lesson #2 Make a name for yourself

Stats dropped again.

Lesson#3: Continuity is key.

He got contributors.

He got an apprenticeship as a web dev.
Blogging became boring, so he changed the formula to a PDF magazine download.

Lesson #4: Be a step ahead.

WP magazine made a great success. But InDesign is hard. And he got an offer to buy his magazine

He wished to change from PDF to HTML5. Pupig seemed a good solution. He got a liscense key for free. He writes in Wp and then packages it with the service and makes it downloadable. WP Magazine 2.0. 10000 downloads / 3 issues published.

Drawbacks. Content creation is expensive. Android version of Pugpig was never up to standards. People didn’t like having to register on the site.

Lesson #5: Listen to your audience

Still not quite happy with his project. He plans  on launching SpinePress and make some money.

Plans on paying writers going forward. He doesn’t regret not selling it. PDF doesn’t allow social sharing and fine analytics. Sharing was better with the app.

Visit the periodic table of plugins.

WordCamp Switzerland in Zürich: Live blog

The music in the night club downstairs had just died down. People were getting ready to go home after a festive Friday night. Roaming the streets waiting for the bakery to open. Waiting at the station for the first morning train. I, however, was just starting my day.

I had woken up at 4am. The train for the first leg of my trip left at 5:10. I am headed to the WordCamp Switzerland in Zürich, a conference about WordPress scheduled to start at 9. At the time of this writing, I still have half an hour of train and a little tram ride to get there.

Tweets have already started going back and forth. @purzlbaum put together a list of attendees and the hashtag is #wcch.

7:30ish. Arau is grey. I hope it clears and warms up.

9:00 Opening remarks. Meetups around the country. Zurich. Bern and Geneva.

Live-blog style notes takes during the conference


Round-ups and photo galleries


I’ll update this post when I can.