Category Archives: Projects

Rape Crisis Hackathon

Naga IT Services
Filed under: Industry, Projects, Workshops

Some Front-end developers coding

Last Saturday, a handful of people from the Cape Town Front-end Developer meetup group got together to hack on the WordPress-based site for local NGO Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust. We ran into some pretty major stumbling blocks, and we didn’t get nearly as much done as we hoped. We did learn a lot, though, and we’re hoping do another hackathon soon to really get some improvements to the site done.

What went well

We set up a git repository and hosted it on GitHub. This let us take advantage of the team workflow features like Pull Requests that are really helpful when a group of people are working on different feature of the same code base.

A list of the GitHub issues

After some fiddling with sticky notes and felt tip pens, in true developer style, we started using GitHub issues to track the things we wanted to do. This worked well, and let us pick up tasks that fit our mix of skills.

The format of the hackathon felt right: one day, lots of coffee, pizza for lunch, and a mix of developers. We’ll probably repeat that format for the next one.

What didn’t go so well

We didn’t do any preparation work before the hackathon. Our goal, broadly speaking, was to take the site’s existing Theme and make improvements and adjustments to it to bring it more inline with the Mobile First Responsive principles that we strive for in our code. When we started digging into the code of the current WordPress Theme, Headway, it started to become clear that that would be difficult to do, especially in the one day that we had.

Nope packages installing

Headway is designed to be used by people who don’t want to see the code: it offers a drag and drop, visual editor, approach to building the site. Being developers, that was the opposite of what we wanted!

After a lot of discussion, we decided that the best course of action would be to build a new Theme from scratch, including a solid workflow using the JavaScript task runner Grunt, and a Front-end Style Guide. We decided this was out of scope for the day, but that it would make a great project for the next one. We decided to see what we could do to the existing Theme during the rest of the day.

What we’d do differently next time

We spent a fair amount of time figuring out what we wanted to do, and how we were going to do it. Our biggest failure was that we spent a large amount of time poking at the Theme confirming that we couldn’t do what we wanted to.

We could have avoided this time sink by having a few of us doing a bit of prep work in advance. We’ll try and do this for the next one: it would make sense for us to set up an issue list and tasks to be done before the workshop so that we could concentrate on the doing rather than just the planning.

Quantified Self

Naga IT Services
Filed under: Process, Productivity, Projects

I like numbers. Maths was always one of my favourite subjects, and I went on to do Maths with Maths (and more Maths) at university. Part of the appeal is measurement, because it can lead to insights and optimisation. Things like Nicholas Felton’s amazing annual reports fascinate me. This led me towards Quantified Self, and it sounded like something interesting, and like something I wanted to do.

For quite a long time I used Daytum. It’s pretty easy to enter data, and its output options are simple and appealing. The entering of the data was a little too time-intensive, though. To get the most value out of it, you need to track a lot of things, which means investing a lot of time.

So I dropped Daytum and used Moves for a while, but found it a bit limited. I took the (monetary) plunge and acquired a FitBit (The One, since it seemed the smallest and least dorky). In the end, it was much like Daytum, though. It track some things easily, but most of the data was fairly long-form manual entry, and it gets dull after a while.

Reporter

When Mr Felton released Reporter the other day, I decided to give the whole QS thing another go. The thing that interested me the most was Reporter’s approach to gathering data: short, randomly timed bursts, with simple answers. Logging every single thing that happens might give you some deep insights, but it’s a pain to do.

I’m also finding that I don’t mind being interrupted by it. I’ve turned off just about all notifications on my phone, except for personal, just for me, ones like Twitter Direct Messages. I found myself spending too long playing with my phone, and wanted to remove some of the temptations to pick it up. Reporter somehow goes under my radar for, though.

I’m intrigued to see if I stick with this, and what extra little questions I’ll add myself. I’m not quite sure what I want to track, but I suspect a pattern will emerge after using the app for a while: blank spots that I want to fill, or things I’m recording that I actually don’t care about.

An exciting start to the year

Naga IT Services
Filed under: Projects

The past few months have been a little busy, but also very exciting. The general theme seems to have been change.

Awesome new job

At the start of January, I joined Flow Interactive as Lead Front-end Developer. It’s a fantastic place to work: I’m surrounded by smart people doing interesting things all day, and it’s giving me the chance to learn a lot. I’m not just doing Front-end dev, either: I’m getting involved with the Usability Test and Product Discovery work that we do too. All of the testing was very interesting, but one of the big discoveries was that people don’t know what the hamburger nav menu icon thing means. Just because we’ve started putting it everywhere, doesn’t mean that people get it.

Cape Town Front-end Developers

It was all change for our January meetup. Our regular venue wasn’t available, so we ran around trying to find another one that had the right set up for us. We went to 6 Spin Street, and it worked out quite well. I’ll be happy to get back to our regular venue in February, though.

We also changed the format. Instead of one speaker for the whole session, we had three lightning talks. Our three speakers were great, but after chatting with them and the attendees, we’re thinking of doing just one or two speakers an evening, so that they have a bit more time to get into their topic.

There was a bit of a mix up with the dates. With the changing venue, we also had to change dates, and I neglected to update the details on our meetup group. Luckily, Shaun spotted it a day or two before, and I sent out a panicked announcement to all the attendees. The mixup, which was my fault, made me realise that I’m involved as an organiser in a few too many meetup events. I’m going to start dialling down my involvement with some of them. CTFEDs I’m going to keep: I helped start it, and it’s all about my day job.

RailsBridge Cape Town

The weekend just gone saw another RailsBridge Cape Town workshop: the third one that I’ve been involved with. This also had a couple of big changes. Most of the organisation (food, venue) was taken care of since it was part of the upcoming rubyfuza, but there was still the wrangling of teachers and students to be done, and the updating of the documentation to bring it up to date with the parent organisation overseas.

Another thing that was a bit of a change was the entrance criteria. Our tagline is “Free Ruby on Rails workshops for women and their friends,” but this was relaxed a bit for this workshop, promoting diversity in a more general way. I’m a bit conflicted about this. We didn’t groom the attendee list at all, but we ended up with about a 50/50 split of male and female attendees, which is great.

The workshop went well and, as usual, we’ve got lots of great ideas for how to make the next session even better. We’re taking a break for a week or two before diving back in and getting ready for our April event.

Photography

Naga IT Services
Filed under: Process, Projects

camera

I enjoyed Craig Mod’s “Goodbye, Cameras,” but his follow up “Photography, Hello” really got my brain cells jingling. I really enjoy taking photos (me on Flickr, me on Instagram). I know I’m not creating art, but I like to think that some of them come out okay.

I shot film for a few years: everything from full-on SLRs down to flea market finds that just about worked. At the moment, I have a digital SLR that I occasionally use, and the camera on my phone (an iPhone 5). Of the two, I prefer shooting with my SLR. Craig’s articles got me thinking about why, and about how much the tools I use change the process and the end result.

Phone vs SLR

I find that I’m taking quite a few pictures on my phone these days, but that’s partly to do with opportunity. When I was working from home, I would have time to go out on photo missions during the day. Now that I have regular working hours in an office, it’s only every few weekends that I manage to get together with my photo geek buddies and haul out my SLR; I always have my phone on me, though.

Posting more photos from my phone hasn’t been the result of the rise in the quality of the lenses. I don’t mind rough edges: I like lens flares, film shots with light leaks, and so on. It’s much more about being connected and therefore having greatly reduced friction of sharing and publishing.

With the phone I find myself having lower standards about what’s good enough, and I think that’s partly because it’s so easy to share. My SLR is not networked, so the process of sharing pictures is slower and more deliberate. I’m forced into having time and space to review the pictures I’ve taken before publishing them: I review them later, hopefully more objectively and with a harsher eye. I usually only post a handful of pictures from each photo outing even though I usually take a double-digit number of pictures.

Tools changing the process

Using the SLR feels physically different. Taking photos is more paced, structured, and considered. Using a different tool changes the process quite dramatically, and I think it changes the kinds of pictures I take as a result. Of course, I can do silly selfie snaps on either, but I’m much more likely to do so with my phone. A wide shot of the mountain can be taken on either, but I’m more likely to take one when I’m carrying around my SLR. Perhaps this says more about me than it does about the tools, but it’s made me look at what tools I use to build sites, and how they might be influencing how and what I do.