Support for Visual Learners: Solving the “Monkey” Problem

English: Saimiri sciureus. Français : Saimiri ...
What’s that monkey? Wait, not that kind of monkey. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When my brother and I are talking and one of us can’t think of the correct term for something, we almost always use the generic substitute monkey. As in, “Can you hand me that monkey?” or “I can’t get this monkey to look right on the screen.”

I have no idea how we came up with the term monkey, but it works … for us. It doesn’t work so well when I am talking with anyone else and don’t know the name for something. And I think this is the problem a lot of beginners have when working with new technology, whether they are trying to program, or set up new hardware, or work with an interface like WordPress for the first time. (This is part of why I’m fascinated by projects like Google Goggles!)

I have been helping out a bit recently in the support forums, and I notice this terminology problem pop up quite a bit. I often look at a request for help, spend most of the time trying to understand what the person is talking about, and (once I understand the problem) can send them straight to an existing support page that explains the solution clearly and in detail.

Sometimes, this happens because a new user hasn’t bothered to look through the existing support documentation. (It’s hard to get upset with them—how often do I read the user manual for new toys?) But often it’s because the beginner user didn’t know how to formulate the question. They were looking for a solution for that “monkey” causing them trouble. Continue reading “Support for Visual Learners: Solving the “Monkey” Problem”

How to Use Firebug to Modify CSS

I am a huge fan of the Firebug add-on for Firefox. Even though I use Chrome for a lot of my day-to-day web browsing, I always keep Firefox open when I am fiddling with websites. I especially like to use Firebug to figure out how a website’s CSS is structured and find where to make changes to the code. I can try out potential changes to the code—and see immediate feedback—without having to commit to them right away.

Identify the Element

The first step in using Firebug to make a style change is to identify which piece of code is controlling the element you want to edit. For example, I have decided that I want to change the “Follow me on Twitter” link on one of my websites. It’s a little boring. Continue reading “How to Use Firebug to Modify CSS”