Informal Education

Benefits of informal education

Informal EducationHaving just completed my Bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Design & Development I am very grateful for my formal education. Going to school and interacting with classmates and an instructor while going through course material is a very helpful experience. Despite this though, there are many benefits of teaching yourself and utilizing informal sources of education.

Informal education allows you to choose your field of study and pace of study without the financial responsibilities of formal education. It also has no age restrictions. I was able to learn website design on my own without any formal schooling and I know many capable people who accomplish technical tasks that they have never studied in school. If you do decide to pursue your passion and get a formal education your informal education can also help you in your courses and classes and give you a competitive advantage.

I would encourage anyone interested in a field to taker control of their education. The internet is a treasure trove of information on a wide variety of topics. The library, books and experienced professionals are also great resources for finding the information you are interested in. If you find school in general boring or certain subjects boring choosing what you study can make the experience more bearable and it may actually be more fun than expected.

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality Debate

Open InternetToday the Federal Communications Commission voted in favour of net neutrality rules which could have a major impact on how the internet works and how internet service providers handle internet traffic. This New York Times article explains what net neutrality is, how it works and what the proposed regulations mean. Currently all data transmitted across the internet is transmitted at the same speed regardless of which company or individual it is coming from. The idea being proposed is that companies can pay for faster internet speeds to transmit their data while those who do not enter into financial deals will be restricted to the regular speeds.

Opponents of these proposed rules believe that the internet should be open to everyone in the same way and that companies should not be able to buy preferential speeds. This would in effect give rich companies a significant advantage over start-ups and small businesses who cannot afford the to pay for the fast lane of internet connection to consumers.

Proponents of the proposed rules think that it is a commercially viable solution to the problem of bottlenecks large companies face in periods of high traffic. If these large companies can purchase faster internet connections their services can be improved and the final consumer’s experience can also be enhanced. The proposed rules also have clauses forbidding discrimination and promoting access to legal content. Infringements of these rules would have to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

As the owner of a company that relies heavily on the internet I believe in the importance of net neutrality where all data is treated equally. Imagine if large firms can offer internet based services via faster connections than smaller companies, how would these smaller companies be able to compete in an innovative way while restricted to “regular” speed connections? At SeizerStyle Designs we offer many websites that utilize databases and develop a lot of multimedia content.  If a competitor can provide these services faster it gives them a competitive advantage which is not based on the quality of the content but on the quality of the experience which was enhanced by preferential connections.

It is too soon to come to any conclusion on how the final net neutrality rules will be implemented and how it will ultimately affect the open internet. It is, however, time to raise concerns  about how regulation could affect the fairness and openness of internet access for consumers and businesses alike.


Nathan Vidal Business Card

Business cards with a difference

Nathan Vidal Business Card halfMy business card is one of those items I carry with me without giving it a second thought unless I need to use it. Although its importance can be overlooked, especially in a digital age, the business card does have it’s uses. I use it to share my contact information to potential clients and it is much more professional than scribbling down on a piece of paper. There is a problem with business cards though that often sees them tucked away and forgotten. They are just another piece of paper that takes up space in a wallet or drawer. With this in mind I decided to try something different for my most recent business card designs.

As a more creative approach I decided to create foldable  business cards that could contain related but distinct pieces of information while taking up half the space. This way I could promote both my business brand as well as my personal brand on the same business card. It could be argued that I could just reduce the size of the business cards and print on both sides but then this would defeat the second benefit of these types of cards – the ability to stand by itself on a flat surface.

Nathan Vidal Business Card

For more information on business card designs including these and foldable designs feel free to contact me at SeizerStyle Designs.

Mother's Day 2014

Happy Mother’s Day 2014

This is the time of year that most people take time out to remember and show appreciation to their mother. Some love the fact that there is a day dedicated to mothers while others think that mothers should be appreciated every day and a special day for mothers defeats this purpose. While I agree that mothers should be appreciated year round, having a day to pay them a little extra attention is an opportunity to go the extra mile and remind mothers that raising children is not a thankless job.

Thankful For Mom

With that said, I would like to wish every mother  Happy Mother’s Day. I personally appreciate all that my mother has done for me and my siblings and I have seen the sacrifices she has made and continues to make for us. If you are thankful for what your mother has done for you this is a great opportunity to let her know that.

Chikungunya Resources

Chikungunya Resources

Chikungunya MosquitoThere has been a lot of talk  about the chikungunya virus which has recently been plaguing many Caribbean countries including Dominica. It is very unlikely that you can fall sick without someone asking if you are suffering from chikungunya nowadays. The disease, which is transmitted by the infamous black and white  aedes aegypti  mosquito already associated with dengue, is now an epidemic in the Caribbean region. Here are a few resources to help clear up confusion about what the disease is, how it is transmitted,the symptoms of the disease and how infection  it can be prevented or contained.

What is Chikungunya?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains what chikungunya is.

Chikungunya is an illness caused by a virus that spreads through mosquito bites. Symptoms of chikungunya include fever, headache, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, rash, and muscle or joint pain.  Symptoms usually last for a few days to a few weeks, but some people may feel tired for several weeks.

Symptoms of Chikungunya

The World Health Organization explains the symptoms of chikunguya.

Chikungunya is characterized by an abrupt onset of fever frequently accompanied by joint pain. Other common signs and symptoms include muscle pain, headache, nausea, fatigue and rash. The joint pain is often very debilitating, but usually lasts for a few days or may be prolonged to weeks.

Most patients recover fully, but in some cases joint pain may persist for several months, or even years. Occasional cases of eye, neurological and heart complications have been reported, as well as gastrointestinal complaints. Serious complications are not common, but in older people, the disease can contribute to the cause of death. Often symptoms in infected individuals are mild and the infection may go unrecognized, or be misdiagnosed in areas where dengue occurs.

Preventing Infection

To protect yourself from chikungunya you should avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, especially the aedes aegypti mosquito. This may be easier said than done but the same steps taken to prevent the breeding and spread of mosquitoes are necessary to control the spread of the chikungunya virus. Ensuring that there is no stagnant water in or around your environs which may be breeding grounds for mosquitoes is a first step. Using mosquito repellent, mosquito nets covering your body are all ways of preventing infection.


The World Health Organization explains that blood tests can be used to determine if someone showing symptoms of chikungunya actually have the disease.

Several methods can be used for diagnosis. Serological tests, such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), may confirm the presence of IgM and IgG anti-chikungunya antibodies. IgM antibody levels are highest three to five weeks after the onset of illness and persist for about two months. Samples collected during the first week after the onset of symptoms should be tested by both serological and virological methods (RT-PCR).

The virus may be isolated from the blood during the first few days of infection. Various reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT–PCR) methods are available but are of variable sensitivity. Some are suited to clinical diagnosis. RT–PCR products from clinical samples may also be used for genotyping of the virus, allowing comparisons with virus samples from various geographical sources.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that there is no cure for chikungunya. You are basically limited to treating symptoms while the disease goes its course.

There is currently no vaccine or medicine to prevent chikungunya. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing mosquito bites.


Brand You

Developing Your Brand

nathvibe logoEveryone has a brand, whether you  recognize it or not. Just as you have a personality that defines you and makes you unique, your brand is a representation of you. At SeizerStyle Designs I design graphics and websites to help visually represent  business and personal brands. nathvibe is my personal brand and was created to represent me and as an avenue for sharing my work and thoughts.

Why you need to develop your brand

When I was first asked to create a brand that represents me as part of a graphics design course I was apprehensive because I did not understand the purpose of such an exercise. I am who I am so why should I create a separate brand? Isn’t that redundant? It turns out, however, that a well developed brand  is a valuable tool to have in your arsenal. Here are some benefits a brand offers:

  • It is easier to market a brand than a person because a person is judged by attributes that may be irrelevant to the brand (relationship status, age, religious views, political views, etc)
  • A brand can outlive a single person and can be shared by a group of like-minded people
  • You can have multiple brands to represent different aspects of your life
  • Brands are disposable so unsuccessful and obsolete brands can be dropped or changed

The self searching required to decide what your brand will be, what it will represent and how it should be portrayed helps you to create purpose and direction for your personal or business endeavours. Your brand should have a vision, mission and core values which are aligned with the ultimate goals of the brand. These goals will be used to evaluate the success your brand and help you remain focused on what you want to achieve. Ultimately you are in control of your brand and a good brand creates value via its reputation. A reputation that can be separated from your personal life to provide some level of privacy. Do you already have a brand? Are you thinking of creating one? Comment and let me know or share your own personal branding tips.



5 Tips to keep motivated through slow times

Running MotivatedEveryone has down times and every business has slow periods. It can be very difficult to go through these rough times and maintain your zeal and passion. There are times when I am swamped with work and don’t know where to start. On the other hand, there are times when I wish I had more clients and that I could be more productive. I have compiled a list of things which help me to stay motivated and inspired even when things are slow and my mood is not the best.

1. Focus on your goals

Nothing can motivate you to put your best foot forward today than the promise of a better tomorrow. Keep your goals in mind when things look down and remember that sacrifices today may pay dividends in the future. Align your actions to your goals and the tasks that you perform may seem a bit more bearable since you have an idea of the benefits they can accomplish.

2.  Use Time Management Aids

Time management is often touted during busy times when we are overwhelmed but can also help in slow times as well. The stress of not knowing what to do or what to prioritize can be combated with simple time management tools. I regularly use ToDoist as a task manager to schedule tasks and remind me of what I need to get done. I can schedule recurring tasks and get reminders on my phone. You can also use a simple calendar and task list from Google Calendar or Outlook. These tools can help you to plan in advance for slow periods and get those tasks you are normally to busy to perform accomplished.

3. Diversify your efforts

Monotony is a main cause of boredom because we get tired of doing the same thing over and over again.  This problem is amplified when things are slow and there are not many obvious alternatives. This may be a perfect opportunity to try something different or try doing ordinary tasks in a different way. This may not come naturally so you may have to do some research and some learning before you can master new techniques and skills. Ultimately you may find a more efficient way of doing an everyday task or at least learn different approaches to solving a problem.

4. Find Productive Distractions

We all need to get away sometimes and taking a break can be relaxing as well as a surprisingly inspirational experience. If you have ever had a great idea in the shower, through a dream or while taking a walk you can relate. The key to this tip though is that the distraction must be productive. Reading a book may offer inspiration or relax you as would taking a walk. Gossiping at the water cooler would not really be productive. Talking to someone about a task at hand may over some new insight though.

5. Help someone else

Helping someone else may not directly help your problem at hand but the benefits of your altruism may indirectly affect your mood and open you up to reciprocal assistance. This does not mean that you should help others with the hope of getting something in return though. Just helping someone else allows you to accomplish a task regardless of how minuscule it may seem. The more tasks you accomplish the more confident and fulfilled you become allowing you to tackle your own problems with more enthusiasm. Not to mention, you may just make someone else’s day that much better.

What are your own tips for staying motivated in slow times? Let me know in the comments.

Featured Flash to HTML5

nathvibe brand featured on SeizerStyle Designs “Design of the week”

This website, the nathvibe logo, and my business cards have been featured as the Design of the week for May 12 – 18 2013 on SeizerStyle Designs blog today. I chose to feature this brand on there because it is an example of a brand conceptualized, designed and materialized into a mature product. It shows how a loo can be incorporated in different forms for a complete branding experience. I hope to work on a lot of other branding projects in the future and these too will probably be featured on the SeizerStyle Designs blog.

Brand nathvibe

Featured nathvibe brand

Migrating from Flash to HTML5 video

HTML5 Multimedia PerformanceI spent the better part of the last few days migrating some multimedia learning aids from Flash to HTML5 video. Flash was suitable a few years ago when HTML5 was not widely supported by mainstream modern browsers but it now seems unnecessary for simple video playback.

Preparing for conversion

Since I had never actually used HTML 5 video before i had to do a little research. This led me to W3Schools. There I learned about the 3 supported formats of web video: MP4, Ogg & WebM. Each format’s support varies based on browser type. Since the source files that I had used to create the multimedia learning aids were not in any of these formats I had to do some conversion. To ensure cross browser compatibility I also realized that I would have to use more than one format so I chose MP4 and Ogg.

Converting Videos

Miro Video Converter screenshotTo convert the original videos I needed a transcoder capable of saving in MP4 and Ogg. This led me to Handbrake which I had used before to create MP4 files. Handbrake, however, did not transcode to Ogg so I continued to search until I found Miro Video Converter (be sure to opt out of installing additional toolbars during installation if you only want the video converter). Using these 2 tools I was able to convert all my video files to both MP4 and Ogg files.

Editing the code

Editing the HTML code using the <video> tag was very straight forward and produced much less code than the previous Flash embedded approach. I included both the MP4 and Ogg files as the source files for the video and  included a courtesy message for browsers that do not support HTML 5 video. Since the multimedia learning aids are being used in an environment where the hardware and software is standardized and all browsers support HTML 5 I did not include a fallback to the Flash versions of the videos. I tested the videos using Safari and Firefox on Mac and they played properly in both browsers.


HTML 5 code is simpler to understand and creates smaller webpages than those used to embed Flash into websites. Videos have to be converted to a suitable format or multiple suitable formats for maximum compatibility across browsers. This leads to more video files that take up more storage space on the server but also results in a standards compliant website that does not need plugins to display content.