Category Archives: stack dog

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 :)

Asana to the Rescue!

I thought about writing a drawn-out, comparison-based post about my experiences with project management software, but this seems like a better idea:

asana_snag

That’s right. Stack Dog fully endorses (and chews on) Asana! This is NOT to be taken lightly, folks, because I am queen of “eh, I don’t need to make a list.” I really struggle to justify the use of time for to-do lists when I’m pretty good at prioritizing/executing without any sort of reminder. I’ve been told, “Oh, you just don’t have enough things to do,” which I find to be hysterical. My personal secret is an amazing guilt pattern; I can make anyone’s request seem as though an innocent puppy will be slaughtered mercilessly should I dare forget about doing it. Despite my stubborn tendency to adopt these tools, I listened to a fellow programming colleague and tried Asana.

Yay for simplicity with a smart twist! You can fire up Asana in minutes with a Google account and have a running project list shortly after that. The nice part, too, is you can quickly share your project with someone without them seeing all of your projects/tasks. That right there is what won me over; I can essentially move annoying, convoluted email threads out of my inbox and into an organized, constructive layout while allowing my clients to comment/add tasks as they please. You can even upload files/images as needed, which helps for drafting and designing processes. Again, it’s all rather simple and light, but intuitive with the purpose of crossing things off and collaborating to get things done.

Previously to Asana, I have worked with Basecamp, Zendesk, Jira, etc. and they all have their own wonderful traits. The only issue is they can quickly become a nightmare for people like me who just want to jot something down and show that it has been crossed out. Those platforms are so robust and extremely customizable, but you can lose hours to data entry about something that, frankly, you should just be working on right now. Yes, there is a great payoff in the form of amazing analytics and visuals for your projects, which can translate to an improved process in the future, buuuuuut it sometimes eclipses the project itself. Plus, some of the bigger software are simply lacking that intuitive flair and therefor cannot be quickly shared with a less-than-savvy client. Asana rocks the socks in that department. Seriously, try it out and share a project with your [insert technologically incapable family member here]; you’ll hear the pause as they start to ask a question because they realized they figured it out. It’s a lovely moment.

So, again, if you’re all “I-hate-lists-but-I-think-I-need-to-be-more-organized”, then go here now. You can come back and yell at me if you don’t see what I mean.

Happy coding!

 

My Partner Can’t Hang…

Oh, ya know…just staying up rather late because I’m fixated on a dynamic functionality for my [beloved] pet project when I noticed my REAL pet/partner-in-dev-crime can’t hang:

late_night_fail_1

Seriously?! How do dogs sleep this way?!

Perhaps I’ll need to get a human dev partner one of these days. Or crack the whip on the boy! Just kidding, just kidding; he’s too friggin’ adorable.

Can’t wait to release a glimpse of this project! Hint: a clue lies in my “about” blurb at Stack Dog Solutions …oh, and :P

K, so that’s probably a crappy hint, but I just need a bit more time to ‘get it right.’ This site is something I’ve envisioned for a long time and I hope I can pull off what I’ve had in my head.  So far I’ve pushed myself to new levels, created some fun features, and streamlined a lot of my everyday dev processes. Not too shabby. Worst case, I keep it in dev and continue to learn from it. Though, I can assure you that I’m trying hard to make sure I have at least a few friends or my parents (inadvertently the best site testers) taking it for a spin in the near future!

Time to put my head to rest for a bit. 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!

 

Time to Network

The site is live, analytics are churning, Facebook page is created, Twitter is ignored (for now; haters gonna hate), LinkedIn is updated, and my own, sweet mother is promoting me. Someone knows somebody who knows a guy who needs a website, right?!

If not, I’m slowly learning to get myself in people’s faces to help strengthen that weak tie and secure the project. I have a tendency to assume I’m being annoying the second I try to pitch anything so looks like I’ll need some salesmanship improvements. Fortunately, I’m highly motivated by visible finish lines. One in particular is Facebook’s ‘Like’ goals on Pages. Turns out I need to rack up at least 30 ‘Likes’ to get analytics/detailed info on Page activity. Thanks, Facebook, for giving me a reason to spam my friends with requests! I can do 30 and not feel like a schmooze. I think.

Time will tell, but hopefully these initial pushes will cause people to think Stack Dog when someone brings up a website project. Somewhat like how most NY-based friends think of me when they see a Steeler logo. Is it too late to change the name to Steel Dog? Meh. If not website, maybe people will know where to find pics of a cute dog :)

Oh well..I’ll stick to building the bare minimums while I stare at the latest analytics graphs. Dangerously addicting. Till next time, folks! (Oh, and sorry if I continue to push you to ‘Like’ things; this too shall pass [as soon as you comply]).

 

 

Holy Fuzzy PNGs, Batman!

I launched my site today despite a few known discrepancies/annoyances in my mind. My excitement got the best of me and I am trying hard to curb my perfectionist side for fear of never debuting my work. Now, I managed to look past some of the mobile jQuery misfires and the not-exactly-perfect alignments here and there, but one thing got me for sure — fuzzy graphics.

I’m by no means a full-time designer (if even worthy of the label at all), but I can recognize a great design or a sharp look when I see it. I thought my savvy “save for web & devices” option alongside my measly meta tag smoothings would save me from an abysmal image rendering. Nope. Each image sat there in need of a nice haircut. What gives?

Anti-aliasing.

Anti-aliasing, or spelled antialiasing, is basically a software technique used to prevent “jaggies” or stair-like edges on lines that should be smooth. Rough edges usually occur due to the image being too high of a resolution for the output device/monitor. So, anti-aliasing simply combats these jaggies by filling in the voids with grey or similar colors. Sounds awesome, right? Not until it happens when your device CAN handle the image as is.

I toyed around with the settings for a bit. Tried jpgs instead and other various extensions. I considered increasing the resolution settings, but I don’t want to overload my website with heavy images for the sake of this silly fuzziness. So, I scour the internet for some answers.

This article helped a bit and I don’t care if it’s old.

I tried option 2 and doubled my images in Photoshop before shrinking them back down with the ‘width’ attribute within the <img> tag. It seemed like the simplest solution without much increase in file sizes. Reload some pages and voila! Crispy images!

Now, I did notice that IE had to ruin the day and come to the party with jaggies, but I think I can live with that for now.

sidebyside

I’ll treat it as proper punishment for those who use that lovely, lovely browser. I’m content for now :)

Happy coding!

Stack Dog Solutions Goes Live!

Hooray! Stack Dog is live and well!

Not sure why I pushed today, but I did. Glad to have it out there for immediate critiques and bug-catching fun. I still need to tweak this blog a bit and double-check many mobile features. I know a few things are a tad buggy still, but the vast majority is the way I like it.

Anyways, feel free to write any comments or suggestions. Or simply refer your friends in need to the site! I’m up for some new projects :)

Mariusz says hi!

 coworker

Searching for clear understanding? Blog about it!

Finally! I’ve bitten the bullet and made a respectable (in my opinion) web presence for myself aside from my post-college, name-based websites in the past. Not only do I have a website to gladly hand off to potential clients, but I plan to build an issues archive for myself in the form of the site’s blog. Now, I am notoriously terrible at documentation and/or journal entries of any sorts. I rarely make lists; I don’t like diaries; and I like to move on to the next problem as fast as possible. Though, I’m starting to notice the times in which I encounter a problem that I’m quite sure I’ve tackled in the past. A little deja vu in a workday. Suddenly my “make the best of your time and push forward” side has a conflict of interests. Turns out it could be more efficient to mark down a learned lesson than to hope it looks familiar later down the road. Plus, like Oppenheimer said, the best way to learn is to teach it!

Or…at least tell about it in a blog. Perfect!

My-code-doesnt-work-I-have-no-idea-why-My-code-works-I-have-no-idea-whySo, I hope this is the first of many posts to come. I may kick and scream the first few, but I think it’ll turn into nice, brain exercises to help me better absorb any processes I overcome.

As much as I love to say, “I have NO idea how this code works but DON’T TOUCH IT!”, I think it’s best to start understanding each step with a little added effort in writing it all down. My younger developer self is cringing at my maturity and putting money on 10 or fewer posts.

Just another reason to keep at it :)

Happy coding!