Category Archives: industry

Back[b]logged

backblogged

 

Woah. So…that whole “I’m going to keep posting, archiving, documenting my dev life” thing sort of, um, fizzled. BUT! I think I have good reasoning and, even better, some takeaways from my past year of pushing my comfort level and diving into the unknown.

I think it all started to ramp up when I decided to attend the GIANT Conference in Charleston, SC. I beefed up my site a bit more to adequately represent my beloved “Stack Dog” name and even tackled a few more client projects to stay fresh. I grabbed my UXing bff, Liz, and we headed off to Charleston for a week of inspiration.

Oh, if we only knew!

GIANT Conference got us so jazzed up to do great errrr, I mean, RAD things! Liz and I were so jacked up on the energy that we were contemplating ways to start our own conference in Rochester to mimic the awesomeness. That is until a pink “GDI” sticker was placed on me during a post-talks hangout session.

GDI? Huh?

Girl Develop It! A nonprofit organization devoted to providing affordable and judgement-free opportunities for women interesting in learning software engineering and web development! </canned statement> No, but really. An organization devoted to teaching fellow women how to get into (and stay in) code? A way to find more like-minded women to share ideas and make cool things here in Rochester? A chance to provide opportunities for others in my city just as they were provided for me? A means of inspiring the next generation by creating role models? ::inhales:: Of course I’m interested! Liz was on board as well, of course, and together we decided we were going to bring a chapter to Rochester. Ready? Word montage!

Submit chapter request to HQ > Interview with HQ > Get chapter packet > Form interest group > Research future audience/members > Hold first interest meeting > Research local venues > CHAPTER APPROVAL! > Plan and host EPIC launch party at RIT > Teach first classes > Meet the founders and 50+ other chapter leaders at GDI Leadership Summit > GET CRAZY INSPIRED > Ramp up more courses and chapter ideas > Media attention / features in the news > Speaking at local events > Start Code & Coffees at local cafes > Rochester Mini Maker Faire (met TONS of new teachers/volunteers/brilliant folks) > New venues for teaching > Slack channels full of experienced and welcoming chapter leaders > Meetings and agreements with local startup groups (as Stack Dog) > New GDI org website in the works > Learned Ruby on Rails with various libraries > Moved from ‘spectator’ to ‘project lead’ for GDI website > Continued freelance projects with Stack Dog > Continuously inspired by my growing network and motivated to learn more each day.

All of that happened within nine months. Aweeeee a career baby!

This by no means justifies my inability to commit to a blog, journal, or diary-type thing whatsoever. [Note: my very first post was a warning.] The majority of my life has been spent getting super excited about new notebooks only to fill the first few pages with good intentions until they faded to doodles. If even. Mainly pre-shredded gum wrappers.

So I have a short attention span. Shoot me. Hey, at least I’m finally finding the right opportunities for my personality; something that I can’t just “fix” and move on. Nope! Girl Develop It and startup projects require some serious patience, staying power, determination, and an open mind. I am convinced that the folks I’ve met this past year will directly shape my future in so many ways and I cannot wait to see what is in store for all of us along the way!

Here’s the takeaway (and my slight justification for not keeping up with this thing): you need to get out of your comfort zone, push your [assumed] limits, and soak up as much as you can! Why is my blog so neglected? I’ve been busy collaborating with brilliant folks, seeing new places, facing big opportunities, getting inspired, being humbled, and ultimately learning how to grow beyond my existing thresholds. Even better! I got to experience the moment when my impostor syndrome slammed into the scene of extremely smart people nodding their heads after words poured out of my face — the type of moment in which you realize that you can offer something original and you do have a voice. Yowza! Having spent the recent years assuming I was too young, too new, too inexperienced, too this or not enough that —  this was all so addicting! I’m finding my people and I’m learning how to do meaningful things with them. Yes, I could have tried to settle down in order to articulate my thoughts for the sake of a new post, buuuuut I was too drawn to the idea of throwing it all back up into the air again to see what else could happen. Is there a glitter-throwing emoji? That’d be perfect right now. It’s a “ride the wave” sort of feeling, but I’m in control of how big the wave will be. Now THAT’S empowerment and it all started with a simple “why the hell not?!” So stop reading this, find something you’ve been wanting to do, and just jump in! Don’t worry about whether or not your ready; trust that you’ll figure it out along the way. Create your own wave and ride it! You’ll amaze yourself when you realize how much more you can do. GO!

Oh, and happy coding :)

The Neverending Text Edi-Tour

I hope you read that title and immediately started singing like I did. No? Oooookay…

Eh hem…I was unexpectedly persuaded into trying a new text editor, Sublime Text 2, despite having downloaded the newly-released and highly-anticipated Coda 2 this year. While Sublime was downloading, I began to recap the “text edi-tour” that I inadvertently traveled throughout my career and debated whether or not an ideal editor actually exists for me. Yes, there are so many out there that can fit any particular niche, but I can’t help but notice that many editors are extremely gimmicky or bloated. “Look! This one fills in your pages with lines from Nicolas Cage movies!”, “Awesome!! This one visually renders any move or change you make!”, “OMG this one plays the entire Rocky theme song every time your function fires without an error!”

I realize that some folks love the extra bells and whistles, but I see them as a distraction from actually, ya know, writing code. Perhaps I’m just a creature of habit; why stop using the tool that lets me get right to the point? Why give that up to endure the learning curve in a new software that potentially sucks? Well, today I found out why it pays off to keep an open mind with editors.

I was going “oooOooo” within fifteen minutes of using Sublime Text 2. Despite using the spanking new Coda 2, I was still doing happy dances due to the subtle features and streamlined feel of Sublime. You mean I can add any sort of open-sourced package to my editor by using a shortcut and a quick download?! I can find designed themes that soothe my screen-squinting headaches!? You mean it writes big chunks of code in place of a simple word trigger?! Okay, I’m even going to get granular here and mention how happy I was to see that it would simply open a file on a single click, but would tab the file for further use if double-clicked. SO good! No more ongoing tabs of files that I barely edited.

Before I get ahead of myself, I will stay fair and mention the excessive number of questionable [hilarious] packages available to us. One in particular caught my eye and perfectly fits in with the “super unproductive” scenarios I listed: Hipster Ipsum

Yup! You read that right. “Hipster w/ a shot of Latin.” Ah yes. Just what the dev world needs. But I have to say that sometimes a grueling project full of boring content and repetitive functions could take a shot of this kind of nonsense. Dare I say I might use Hipster Ipsum someday? Eh, doubtful.

So from a pen and paper to Notepad, Dreamweaver, jEdit, BBEdit, TextWrangler, Vim, vi, Eclipse, Coda, and now Sublime — have I found my ideal text editor? I’m thinking yes! Seriously, I encourage any developer to try it out. I was very skeptical, but Sublime is truly a simplified yet super powerful means of streamlining your workflow. We may never reach the end of the edi-tour, but at least keep an open mind and help yourself find a decent resting spot along the way :)

Happy coding!

 

 

 

Breaking Development Conference in Nashville – MY PEOPLE.

Day 2 of the Breaking Development conference is officially over (okay, I’m technically into day 3).  My brain is mush; I can’t form a cohesive thought due to excitement; and I’ve been kicking myself to decompress my head by jotting down more notes. Yet, my note-taking process throughout the conference fails to drown out the newfound realization of how AMAZING it is to be in a room full of motivated, passionate people. All of whom like what I like! It’s almost like a twisted joke; I meet all these amazing, wonderful folks and they leave 48 hours later. Womp womp.

But it’s okay! I am more thankful to have been given the chance to be pick so many brains, ask so many questions, and witness so many moments of contagious excitement due to the shared passion for this stuff. It truly is that cliche moment when you think “this is where I belong” while feeling completely comfortable in a room full of strangers. Plus, these strangers were cool enough to leave their devices for a mind-numbing, separation-anxiety-forming 35 minutes to snap pics like this: BXKbgzcCcAA4Len

</mushy stuff>

The presentation lineup, though a tad overwhelming in a good way, had such a nice flow despite the rather wide variety of topics. I know the common theme was responsive design and making mobile web suck less, but I really enjoyed the dev moments brought forth by Dave Olsen and Daniel Ryan. Even getting a short glimpse of the world behind Etsy (Lacy Rhoades) was exciting for me. I know that’s mainly due to my own stance in the web production spectrum, but the placement of the presenters mimicked the usual back and forth process between front and back-end development/design.

Code aside, some presentations transcended the whole realm of web dev all together e.g. Aaron Gustafson’s “Designing with Empathy.” His presentation rightfully leaned towards the web experience, but I couldn’t help but appreciate the Golden Rule references and spiritual/Buddhist mindsets as reminders to just be a decent person to one another. Yes, we are worried about pleasing our clients, but can’t we just treat everyone with that same respect? Always? We may build a significantly better product just by giving two shits about the person for whom it is intended. CRAZY thought, I know, but it just might work. Okay okay, I’ll admit to laughing my ass off at the classic, client stereotypes wonderfully depicted by Phil Hawksworth and Matt Griffin, but it’s only necessary at a conference like this. We have to be able to vent for sanity, right? Plus, it’s the harsh but necessary reminders that perhaps we’re not doing a good enough job of communicating with our clients. We get caught up in the functionality when only we understand what’s going on in that department. I know I definitely benefitted from hearing some of the suggestions and tactics for client interactions. Gotta get outside the cave sometime.

In between those were the more hands-on presentations by Brad Frost and Stephen Hay. Brad enlightened us with his latest testing/production tools while Stephen bravely demo’d (gotta give the guy credit) the wonders of CSS Flexbox with proper warnings of its pending browser support. From there, it was back to the creation process with Ben Callahan pushing the prototyping tools and hints alongside Jason Grigsby’s “mobile first” perspective. We eventually hit that point where “hey, that website MAY need a purpose,” which is exactly when Steph Hay hit the stage. Her presentation stood out a lot for me as I think the content creation process if one of my weaker points within my own processes. Yet, if done correctly, content can (and should) be the scaffolding for the entire project. I look forward to absorbing more in her workshop tomorrow (today; ugh I should sleep) and hopefully I’ll be a good girl and write it down, too. Likewise for James Williamson’s “Working with Icon Fonts.” I felt as though I was running into a completely new wall that wasn’t even on my radar. Here I am thinking of my png trials and discoveries while making stack-dog.com and yet I never even considered the SVG renderings discussed in his presentation. Once again, my workshop choice is made due to my complete ignorance regarding the topic haha so I’ll be seeing him tomorrow, too.

The last two, Luke Wroblewski and Josh Clark, were presentations that made you sit back in awe. Luke had a rather epic tendency to keep pushing the possibility. We’d see a concept we know and love, but he’d push it to the next step right in front of us. Constantly asking the “why” to each function and design. I think this is the kind of presentation I need to print out by desk because I’m such a creature of habit. So rarely do I sit back and question my crazy user antics when a short, 30 second video of myself using wonky websites would make me facepalm. We need to keep questioning why we create things the way we do and if they’re truly targeting the end goal or needs. From there, Josh Clark shoved our brains beyond any point of return with his glimpse into the future. He highlighted the concept of using sensors and having random objects push data to us without any interaction. I never thought I’d learn about the fact that cows can now text farmers when they are in heat. Or that I can monitor a heart valve by transmitting the signals through my finger. Crazy, crazy shit that is here right now! All of it is a huge reminder that we have a lot of amazing technologies, but we are losing the imagination to play with them in whatever manner possible. Just start tinkering and testing; push the limits of what we think is possible by simply trying. By the end of his talk, I was ready to run outta the room and just DO something. He’d likely produce a great propaganda film; I’m glad he uses his powers for good.

So yes. The presentations rocked. I know this for fact because my small dinner group continued to talk about it all for hours afterwards. Definitely a wildfire tendency going on in our heads. I joked with the speakers by saying that I’ve officially peaked at this conference and that perhaps no other conference will burn my brain quite like this. I hope that’s not the case, as I’ll definitely look forward to attending more. Either way, I’m thrilled to have been a part of it all and can now take this souvenir of rejuvenation, new ideas, and a beefed up friend list home with me. Till next year!

Happy coding!