August 2011

That’s Because USB Plugs Have Quantum Spin

by Joey deVilla on August 25, 2011

Plug in usb

This happens to me every now and again. I swear, it must be quantum spin.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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“Pragmatic Guide to Sass” is in Beta!

by Joey deVilla on August 24, 2011

Sass

Sass, which is said to be short for “Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets”, is a meta-language that extends CSS3 to do things that plain old CSS can’t do easily or at all, with goodies we’ve come to know and love from our programming languages: variables, nesting, mixins and inheritance. It compiles to well-formatted standard CSS, and you can even have Sass watch your Sass files so that it automatically updates your compiled CSS files as you update your Sass source.

Haml

Sass is the creation of Hampton Catlin, a “Shopifriend” and programmer who’s all about optimizing his programming tools. When he got fed up with building HTML templates for his Rails projects, he created the Haml markup language. Haml’s popular enough that it’s found its way into the most unlikely of places, such as the .NET world, where they’ve implemented it as NHaml. Just as Haml is Hampton’s optimization of HTML, Sass is his optimization of CSS.

Pragmatic guide to sass

It’s only fitting that Hampton is the co-author of the upcoming Pragmatic Bookshelf book Pragmatic Guide to Sass. Like Hampton, it gets straight to the point; it’s going to be about 100 pages long. He recently tweeted that “doing more than 100 pages just seemed like filler.” Given that I’m already behind in my tech reading, I’m glad that Hampton (and his co-author Michael) insist on keeping things concise.

Pragmatic Guide to Sass is currently in beta. You can get it in ebook format immediately (with downloadable updates as more of the book is finished, including the final, finished ebook) for US$13 or buy the ebook + paper book bundle, where you can get the ebook now and both the paperback edition and the final, finished ebook when the book is complete for US$30.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.

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Brian Alkerton holds up Matthew 'The Oatmeal' Inman's comic, 'Explosive poopies of joy'.

Brian Alkerton, stand-up comic, karaoke wizard and Shopify Guru — the Gurus are a team that help customers succeed with their online shops — is a travellin’ man this week. He was in Boston earlier, and now he’s in Seattle to attend the PAX conference. He’s also doing some remote work and today, he held “office hours” at the legendary Top Pot Doughnuts on 5th Avenue (a stone’s throw from Hotel Five), which is a great place to get some coffee and delicious toroidal baked goods; it’s also a pretty decent place to get some work done.

While there, Matthew Inman, the twisted comics artist behind The Oatmeal (and Shopify customer) dropped by to chat with Brian. He also gave Brian a wonderfully and disturbingly Oatmeal-esque comic with the caption “Shopify gives me explosive poopies of joy.”

Personally, I think it’s all the fiber — his comic is The Oatmeal, after all — but it’s nice to see that we have another scatologically satisfied customer.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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How We Use Git at Shopify

by Joey deVilla on August 24, 2011

Trunk and branches
Creative Commons photo by Paul Hart.

Over at the Shopify Technology Blog, John Duff explains the Git workflow we use at Shopify. Whether you’re a Git user wondering about how other people use it or looking to migrate from your oldie-von-moldie version control system that’s not expected to catch up to Git for years, you’ll find John’s writeup useful.

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Samuel L. Ipsum (or: When Lorem Ipsum Goes Badass)

by Joey deVilla on August 24, 2011

Samuel l ipsum

If you’re tired of using the standard “Lorem Ipsum” placeholder text in your projects, try Samuel L. Ipsum instead. It spits out any number of paragraphs of text featuring dialogue from Samuel L. Jackson’s movie characters. Note that I said “spits out” rather than generates: there’s no generation going on here; the underlying JavaScript is obfuscated code that randomly selects one or more Samuel L. Jackson lines from his movies, with repeats allowed. Still, if you’re looking for an amusing change of pace and need text for a mockup or prototype, you might find this handy.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.

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“No Escape”: A Portal Movie

by Joey deVilla on August 23, 2011

No Escape is a short film set in the world of Portal, and it’s seven very well-done minutes.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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Abby Fichtner on Pushing Agile to the Next Level

by Joey deVilla on August 23, 2011

Abby “HackerChick” Fichtner is a friend whom I met at the DefCon 8 conference back in 2000. We caught up in person a little more recently, when she joined Microsoft as a Developer Evangelist for Startups while I was a Developer Evangelist for web and mobile. She works out of the Boston area and while she’s a mobile worker, she does hold some office hours at Microsoft’s NERD (New England Research and Development) Center in Cambridge, the inaugural location of the BarCamp Tour.

Her focus is on helping startup become lean startups and lean startups thrive. According to Wikipedia, lean startups are born out of three trends, which Eric Ries (who coined and even trademarked the term) states are:

  1. The rise and use of free and open source software
  2. Application of agile software development methods
  3. Ferocious customer-centric rapid iteration, as exemplified by the Customer Development process

Lean startups embrace continuous deployment, where new code gets pushed to production daily, if not multiple times a day. From that approach come a number of follow-up approaches, including:

  • Testing in actual production environments instead of mock production environments
  • Getting user feedback from observing user behaviour in the production environment instead of soliciting opinions from users running demo versions
  • Saying “We don’t even know the problem”, in response to the agile statement of “We don’t know the solution”.

In the video above, Abby summarizes the lean startup approach in a quick — I even daresay lean — two minutes and thirty-seven seconds. If you’d like to see an expanded version of this topic, see her slideshow below, Lean Startup: How Development Looks Different When You’re Changing the World, a presentation she gave at Agile 2011:

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.

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