Last week, JetBrains released RubyMine 6.0. The most significant feature is multi-project support; perfect for component-based Rails architectures. However, in this post, we’ll look at OS X keyboard shortcuts for some of the other new features.
Matt Van Horn, an engineer at New Relic, discusses the Cucumber toolset with a focus on the practices and principles of BDD in general as well some useful techniques for keeping tests maintainable.
This time around we’ll have a mix of Pivots and friends of Pivotal.
Wiley Kesnter: Websockets
Samantha John: How to do layout in iOS for folks used to HTML and CSS.
Jason Brennan: An alternative layout framework
Cameron Cundiff: Accessibility on an iPhone
Sam Coward: iBeacons
Wednesday: Golang Meetup: BDD testing in Go with Ginkgo (6:00 pm 5th floor)
I'm going to be giving a repeat of the talk I gave at a Google Developer Group meetup last month on BDD-style testing in Golang with Ginkgo and Gomega. There'll be pizza!
Few movements have permeated entrepreneur and startup circles like the Lean Startup. The methodology has expanded outside of startups, and even industry leaders such as Toyota have adopted this fundamental shift.
For those unfamiliar, the Lean Startup movement is about making better, faster business decisions. It is based upon the tenets of lean manufacturing and agile development. That’s why the Lean Startup Conference resonates with us; we’ve actually used some of these principles to build our business and create some of the world’s most interesting mobile solutions.
Over December 9-12 in San Francisco, the Lean Startup Conference will feature in-depth interviews with product leaders such as Automattic’s Matt Mullenweg (creator of WordPress), Andreessen Horowitz’s Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape), and LinkedIn’s co-founder Reid Hoffman. Naturally, the Lean Startup creator and author Eric Ries will be active in the conference as well. (Check out this clip from last year’s Lean Startup Conference with Andreessen and Ries!)
Our very own VP of Product, Drew McManus, will be participating in the Lean Startup Conference. His speech, “Integrating Development, Design and Product Management to Deliver Great Products,” will inform attendees how to successfully build cross-functional teams to continue innovating and testing ideas at a rapid pace. As Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser writes in his book, The Filter Bubble, being exposed to people and ideas unlike oneself is imperative to generating creative ideas. Drew will show you how to translate this theory from paper into practice.
To give you an even better idea of how some entrepreneurs are applying lean startup principles to their businesses, the Lean Startup Conference will be coordinating site visits to startups like Square, WeWork Soma, and the San Francisco Pivotal Labs location.
On Thursday, December 12th, Silicon Valley Rocks! is taking place: original and cover bands from companies such as Facebook, Pandora, and Apple will be performing. (Zuckerberg Media’s Randi Zuckerberg will be featured in one of the performances!) In contrast to the more business-centric networking events, this social is likely to be more laid back and organic.
Just before the Lean Startup Conference, Leancamp will be taking place in San Francisco on December 8th. Get a head start on understanding and applying lean methodology to your business by attending.
Technology entrepreneurs, mobile thought leaders, and all other types of fascinating individuals will congregate at The Lean Startup Conference. I’ll be sharing insights later for those cannot attend; if you are attending, connect with me and I’ll see you there! Have a safe trip.
Connect with Michael on LinkedIn.
Tech Gives Back '13
Tuesday: [Tech Talk] Matt Van Horn – Object Oriented BDD w/ Cucumber
A talk on using simple OO patterns to keep a maintainable Cucumber suite.
A few months ago at WWDC 2013, there was a brief mention on a single slide of something called “iBeacon” – no one had a clue what this was at the time. Since then, iBeacon has been the single, most blogged about, new feature of iOS 7.
So what on earth is iBeacon?! In a single sentence, iBeacon is simply API access to both the sending and transmitting of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals. Well, on the surface that doesn’t sound too interesting, so why is it creating so much buzz on the web?
Before I get into all the fun possibilities iBeacon presents, it’s important to understand the difference between BLE and Classic Bluetooth (you know, the one used to pair your headset with your phone). Classic Bluetooth was designed by Nokia in 1994 and enables devices to connect for long periods of time with consistent and hefty data transfer loads. BLE on the other hand, is extremely lightweight transient connections – read: no pairing requirements and minimal battery draw. As a Product Manager at Pivotal Labs, this is where I start to get really excited. Let me explain why…
Before iBeacon, we were essentially limited to WiFi, GPS and Classic Bluetooth as communication channels. WiFi is for great high bandwidth connections, but the hardware is expensive, power hungry and the signal strength is difficult to control for anything other than data transfer. GPS can’t be used for pushing data to devices and doesn’t triangulate position fast or accurate enough for anything other than traditional navigation. Classic Bluetooth’s requirements are truly limited to long term pairing. Cue: Bluetooth Low Energy! The introduction of BLE devices, which support transient connections, suddenly means apps can be designed to actually interact with their immediate environment.
Wait – interact with their immediate environment? That’s right – and this is an extremely powerful concept for marketers, user experience designers and anyone who wants to leverage the power of context for a truly engaging app.
Now that I’ve kept everyone on the edge of their seat for long enough, how do we think that iBeacon will change the landscape? We’re already exploring iBeacon use within the retail and hospitality sectors, and our engineers have produced some compelling demos that hint at exciting possibilities.
Let’s talk about a specific use case: this morning while I was waiting in line for a coffee, I launched the app of one of my favourite clothiers to see what’s new for the upcoming winter lineup. I didn’t have time to read everything about the product while in line, but a couple of items caught my eye, so I added them to my wish list as a reminder to give them a closer look later. After work, I actually ended up going to the mall to pick something up at the Apple Store. Right as I entered the store, I checked my phone for what I thought was a text message, but it was actually a push notification from the same retailer I had been browsing earlier. It told me that one of items I added to my wish list (the cardigans always get me), was actually in stock and right next door! Well that was easy – definitely going in to check out the cardigan now. Talk about a powerful experience.
At Pivotal Labs, we’ve already built a demo showcasing this exact functionality. Let me tell you, the ability to combine a fine grain geofence with features like a unified in-app shopping cart or wish list truly allows companies to provide high-value experiences that yield conversions.
What else is possible? If you’re a marketer in retail or hospitality, the possibilities are endless. Some scenarios I’m interested in exploring with our team revolve around in-store navigation and enhanced customer service. With beacons placed around a store, apps could be used to guide customers to a specific product they’re looking for, highlight sale items in the aisle they’re in, or even offer any easy way to flag an associate.
We’ve all been in a big box store before where a personalized experience was unthinkable – nevermind trying to track down a rep. With iBeacon, businesses can launch an app, allow users to raise a virtual hand and provide customers with a positive and customized experience that’s sure to increase engagement and conversions.
iBeacon is an exciting example of how we can use native apps today to leverage the latest technology to improve consumers’ experiences and drive the bottom line.
Keep the conversation going by connecting with Mitch!
name parsing gem?
Anyone know of a gem that can take a full name and parse out the various components?
Don't use port 6000 for your rails server
Chrome considers port 6000 to be unsafe and will refuse to access it. Here is a full list of ports considered unsafe by Chrome:
Russell Smith of Rainforest discusses some of the lessons learned in building the human-powered QA testing service.
Thirty-something years ago, my father moved to the United States to be the first in his family to earn a graduate degree. Soon after, he married my mother in India and together they built a family outside Chicago. They did all this so my brother and I could have more and better choices. That’s why I care about immigration reform.
Earlier this week, I hacked at the Fwd.us hackathon to get our policy changed. Fwd brought DREAMers (undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children) and designers and developers from Silicon Valley together to build tools that can motivate change.
FWD, founded by CEOs of Facebook, Dropbox, and LinkedIn, hosted the two day hackathon with rounds of one-on-one product critiques from Drew Houstin (above), Mark Zuckerburg, Reid Hoffman, Jose Antonio Vargas, Andrew Mason and the mentors who hacked alongside the teams.
(0:55) Sitting with Todd Schulte, Fwd Executive Director, on ABC This Week.
Unfortunately, one very talented DREAMer, who has designed and coded at more than 40 hackathons couldn’t get to the Bay Area. Why? For all the reasons we need policy change. He built a robust and beautiful storytelling Rails app for people who want to tell stories and inspire change about their cause. His experience-focused stories always end with the same thing: what to do next, how to take action.
I was dropped into his project just before the hackathon began. He was flying; my goal was to support him wherever he needed. We did rounds of product and scenario critique and I supported him with visual design.
I set up a Google Hangout so the Fwd Founders and Mentors could critique his product. I set them up, took notes and synthesized the advice together. Despite the connection lag during his demo from New York, Mark Zuckerburg remembered how smooth the design and animations were as well as and powerful the stories could be.
Then, he won Best Design.
It was an honor to work with him and such talented people. Help make it easier for super smart coders and designers like my teammate to stay in the US by making a 1-minute call to your representative and telling them we need change.
Send email when a certain file changes in Git?
Our client wants to be notified when schema.rb changes, and it seems like GitHub's RSS feeds don't include the list of changed files. Is there a drop-in service that will do this?
The smallest PaaS?
Dokku claims to be the world's smallest PaaS and even takes a stab at Cloud Foundry. Has anyone tried it?
Lean Startup methodology and Agile development preach customer driven development and all it’s benefits.
I think real world examples are always a good testament to why they are right. The story below emphasizes not only the importance of reaching out to users, but more specifically THE users that will be you know, using what would be built.
Last week, I got a frantic email requesting a new feature in my product to help an additional team. I got more details about what they were asking for and arranged a call to discuss it.
The other team wanted to know if we could create a popup for their customers to accept a Master Service Agreement.
I asked them why they needed it?
They PM on the team said that their current paper document was taking forever to get through the customers’ legal/procurement processes and that a click-through popup would solve the issue.
I asked if the customers would be allowed to accept a legal document online or if the legal/procurement teams would still need to review it. The PM didn’t know but said he would reach out to find out.
Later that day the PM emailed a group of sales/account managers who work directly with customers to find out if an online legal doc would be sufficient. They quickly replied that the non-paper option would actually cause more problems and not be helpful at all.
Development time saved. Lesson learned. #goaskTHEuser
As a follow-up to my initial blog post on the most important design elements in children’s apps, I wanted to highlight some of the apps that best meet these criteria. To recap, the article’s main point was that the best children’s apps are platform-agnostic and employ embellished cues (implicit user instructions), simple actions, and clear feedback (to indicate that children have accurately performed an action).
Ollie the Cat
iOS rating: 4.5
Google Play rating: 3
Ollie the Cat is an application designed to teach preschoolers how to count. The app is illustrated by the internationally acclaimed Tim Warnes.
All the icons feature cues that help children discover the next action step they can take. Icons either sway/shake from side to side, or perform an animation to indicate which areas of the screen can be tapped.
The main action used within this application, is the tap, which is very easy and intuitive for children to perform. However, my only reservation with Ollie the Cat’s design is the animated arrow (stretch and squish) that children have to swipe in order to get to the next screen.
This can be misleading because the stretch and squish animation usually leads a child to think that this button needs to be tapped. Secondly, swiping is not as intuitive as tapping, especially for preschoolers, and it should always feature a tutorial visually illustrating to children how to perform the action (e.g., an animation showing a hand swiping the screen).
This app also provides very clear types of feedback for children. Each of the icons reacts to every tap: generally, it features visual (animation) and audible (sound) feedback that demonstrates to the child that he/she has performed an action.
In the following example, after the child taps on the frog to count it, it sways from side to side, Ollie narrates the number (if the ‘Read to Me’ option was selected), and it disappears while making a popping sound. This visually and audibly illustrates to the child that he/she has performed the action correctly.
Aside from this minor flaw, Ollie the Cat proves that good design for children’s apps can go across platforms.
Numbers, Addition and Subtraction by i Learn With
iOS Rating: 3.5
Google Play Rating: 4.5
Tribal Nova has created a series of English and Spanish learning apps. Numbers, Addition and Subtraction is a game designed to teach math to kids in preschool and kindergarten.
Numbers, Addition and Subtraction effectively features cues for children, such as glowing and animated buttons to illustrate touch. On the homepage of the application, the three menu options glow in timed intervals to implicitly indicate to the children that these three elements of the screen are interactive.
The only action within the app is the ‘Tap’; the most common and intuitive action for children. Being an app for younger children, it uses the easiest action to understand and perform, without needing an explicit demonstration, but rather a simple cue such as an outer glow.
Clear types of feedback for children have also been implemented well within Numbers, Addition and Subtraction. For example, let’s examine the ‘Count’ section of the application; when the child counts correctly, the chipmunk in the game performs a celebratory gesture such as a hop or a dance, and a checkmark appears across the pot in the bottom-left corner of the screen.
When the child selects the incorrect number, the chipmunks perform a fun self-deprecating animation, such as biting the wooden plank or hitting themselves in the head with the plank.
This a great example of easy, fun, and encouraging feedback for children that combines audible (sound) and visual (animations) feedback to correct and incorrect actions.
If high ratings are any indication, parents clearly agree that the app is a hit on both platforms.
Google Play: 4.8
Gummies Playground is a collection of teacher-approved, curriculum-based, educational games designed for preschoolers.
This application also effectively employs very clear cues for children such as stretching/squishing buttons (increasing and decreasing in size) or swaying/shaking icons. Here are a couple of examples of how these cues were used:
Similar to Numbers, Addition and Subtraction, Gummies Playground is extremely simple to navigate. The only action used within app is the ‘Tap’. There is no use of complicated actions such as swiping or dragging and dropping.
Gummies Playground also utilizes audible and visual feedback to a child’s tap or selection. In the ‘Matching’ section , when the child selects the incorrect answer, the audible feedback is a voiceover explaining what the selected icon is and the visual feedback is an enlargement of the icon. When the child selects the correct answer, the audible feedback is encouraging phrases such as ‘Well Done!’ or ‘Good Job!’, and the visual feedback is an animation of stars around the selected object.
Ollie the Cat, Numbers, Addition and Subtraction, and Gummies Playground are all indications that children’s apps can incorporate the same important design elements across platforms. They adhere to the principles of embellished cues, simple actions, and clear feedback, that are engaging and appealing to children. These examples allow for a better understanding of the elements of well designed children’s apps, and through them we can gain insight into the future of children’s apps.
Connect with Sally on LinkedIn.