December 2011

A Clever Printer Prank

by Joey deVilla on December 29, 2011

canon voiceover

Click on the card above to see it at full size.

"To the clever bastard who left this in my store,” said someone I know who works at a computers-and-electronics shop and found these cards beside the Canon printers, “thanks for the laughs today."

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

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no godaddy

Full disclosure: I used to work as the Tech Evangelist for Tucows, a competitor of GoDaddy, creator of OpenSRS and Hover’s parent company.

There’ve been plenty of reasons not to use GoDaddy as your domain name registrar. From those cheesy “sex sells” ads to their constant upselling – domains aren’t really just their business; they’re just a loss leader they use to lure you in to sell you more expensive services – to happily letting people steal my friend Chris Coyier’s domain, they have long been the supreme douchenozzles of the domain industry.

Now there’s an even more important reason to ditch GoDaddy: they’re SOPA supporters. They’ve gone so far as to file a statement with the House of Representatives in support of SOPA. This isn’t just douchey; considering they’re a tech company whose livelihood relies on the internet, it’s just stupid. Do you want these douchey morons handling your domain names?

That’s why I support the idea put forth by a Reddit user named “selfprodigy”, who’s suggesting the creation of a “Move Your Domain Day”, which would happen on December 29th. On the day, you should move any domains you have registered with GoDaddy to some other registrar. I would suggest either Hover (use the coupon code “SOPA” for 10% off!)

hover logo

…or a domain name reseller who uses OpenSRS:

opensrs

Whoever you go with as your new registrar, make sure they’re not using GoDaddy as a supplier of their domain name registration services.

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The Shopify/Twilio Developer Contest Winners

by Joey deVilla on December 21, 2011

shopify twilio dev contest smallA couple of weeks ago, at the very end of November, Shopify and Twilio announced a contest in which we challenged developers to write an app that made use of both Shopify’s ecommerce API and Twilio’s phone API. We offered some interesting prizes as well as bragging rights, and a number of developers stepped forth with their creations.

Various members of the Shopify and Twilio teams reviewed the app submissions last week. On the Shopify side, it was me and my fellow members of Shopify’s Apps Team, Edward “Open Data, Skinny Jeans” Ocampo-Gooding and David “Rooty Tooty Point-and-Shooty” Underwood. Along with the fine folks at Twilio, we chose three apps that we thought were both creative and made good use of both our APIs.

And they are…

First Place: Buzzy

Before I begin, take a look at this video of a delivery guy "dropping off" the monitor that Craig "Craigslist" Newmark ordered:

Ouch. If only the delivery person had the access code, he could’ve opened the gate and not simply chucked the monitor over it.

sam wilson

Enter Buzzy, the app that acts like a “disposable automated doorman”. If you live in a building with one of those buzzer systems that rings your apartment’s phone and you’re expecting a delivery (hopefully from a Shopify-powered shop!), Buzzy can give the delivery person an access code to open the lobby door. Buzzy integrates with Shopify so that an access code is activated when a product is shipped and deactivated when the product is delivered.

Buzzy is the creation of Ottawa-based developer Sam Wilson, who dropped by the Shopify office earlier this week to pose for his victory photo (see left). We liked it because it was an excellent fusion of both Shopify (online shops, which necessitate delivery) and Twilio (phone apps) and solved a problem that many people have: the delivery guy not being able to get past that locked lobby door. It was clearly the most ambitious, clever and original of the app submitted to the contest, so there wan’t much debate over which submission would win first prize.

Here’s a video of Buzzy in action:

As the first prize winner, Scott got to take home an 11-inch MacBook Air and 27-inch Apple Cinema Display.

Second Place: CallBack

Nothing helps a shop do better business than customer feedback. That’s what CallBack is for: it lets shopowners create automated phone surveys. After an order is fulfilled, CallBack calls a customer on the phone and presents him/her with a quick survey.

The video below shows how CallBack works:

CallBack’s developers were Josh and Steve Conley. In addition to being a useful app, we also liked CallBack it was rare in one key area: while most apps used the Twilio API to turn the phone into an output-only device, CallBack uses the phone as both an input device (for customer answers to the survey) as well as an output device (for providing the survey instructions and questions).

As the winners of second prize, Josh and Steve will get a Lego Mindstorms swag bag featuring NXT 2.0, a bundle of touch, light and sound sensors, and a Bluetooth dongle.

Third Place: Helpline

Sometimes, you just need to talk to someone when looking for help in a store. We think the same thing happens in online shops – wouldn’t it be nice to get help from a real live human being?

Helpline does just that. It adds a “click-to-call” button to your shop’s product pages so that customers can talk to someone from your shop about specific products. As a shopowner, Helpline will let you know what product they’re currently looking at before they have the chance to tell you.

Here’s a quick screenshot of Helpline in action:

helpline screenshot

As the third prize winner, Helpline’s developer gets a Kindle Fire ebook reader.

In Closing…

twilio logoWe’d like to thank everyone who participated in the contest and submitted an app. Hopefully, it gave you a chance to check out the Shopify and Twilio APIs and perhaps think of new uses for them, either separately or together!

We’d also like to thank the folks at Twilio for inviting us to help out with their developer contest. At Shopify, we’re big fans of Twilio and see it as a natural fit for all sorts of mash-ups with Shopify.

Keep an eye on this blog: in the new year, we’ll be talking a lot of Shopify app development, and one of the topics will be Shopify/Twilio mashups. And keep an eye on Twilio’s contest page – they’ve often got some kind of competition going!

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.

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working with unix processes

jesse storimerShopify developers aren’t nine-to-fivers who stop programming when the clock reads 4:59 p.m.. They’re the sort of geek who eats, drinks and breathes code, and when they’re not working on Shopify, they’ve got some interesting tech projects on the side.

Jesse Storimer is one of Shopify’s developers, and he’s just self-published an ebook titled Working with Unix Processes: Become the Unix Guru that Every Team Needs.

Here’s his explanation of what the book’s about:

Become a Unix guru without any C programming

You’re a modern master of Ruby. Want to impress your coworkers and write the fastest, most efficient, stable code you ever have? Don’t reinvent the wheel. Reuse decades of research into battle-tested, highly optimized, and proven techniques available on any Unix system.

This book will teach you what you need to know so that you can write your own servers, debug your entire stack when things go awry, and understand how things are working under the hood.

The ebook sells for $27 and includes the ebook itself, case studies of real world projects, sample code for a Ruby web server and unlimited updates for life. Get it now at workingwithunixprocesses.com.

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.

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Salmagundi for December 20, 2011

by Joey deVilla on December 20, 2011

salmagundi 2Salmagundi? That’s the word for a seventeenth-century English dish made of an assortment of wildly varying ingredients. Typically, they include some cut-up hard-boiled egg, but then after that, anything goes: meat, seafood, fruits and veg, nuts and flowers and all manner of dressings and sauces. The term comes from the French “salmigondis”, which translates as “hodgepodge”.

In this case, I’m using “salmagundi” as a term for a mixed bag of new items that you might find interesting as a developer.

The End of the Web? Don’t Bet on It

George Colony, CEO of Forrester Research, said at the Le Web conference that the web is dying and that the “App Internet” – the internet as accessed via apps instead of through the browser – is taking over. Mark Suster disagrees and says that while Colony may be right, it’s only for the short term, citing these reasons:

  1. Workarounds. While native apps always have more capability in the beginning, HTML apps catch up thanks to workarounds like HTML5/CSS/JavaScript as well as frameworks like PhoneGap and Appcelerator.
  2. Browsers get better. We’re seeing it happen right now – even with Internet Explorer!
  3. Multiplatform development is expensive. And not only that, they’re moving targets.
  4. Phone app stores are now strangleholds. “The early allure of empty shelves in the App Store,” writes Suster, “is making way to the over-crowded shelve (currently tallied at more than 500,000 SKUs).”
  5. Data. With the app internet, you have to contend with data leakage and data management across devices, and that’s not easy.
  6. TCO. Maintenance costs on native apps are higher than for web apps.

Apress’ Ebook Sale

apress books

From now through December 25th, you save 40% off Apress ebooks if you use the discount code SNOW11 when you check out. This applies to all regular and Alpha ebooks in their shop!

“CoffeeScript is Not a Language Worth Learning”

reg braithwaite

When Reg Braithwaite speaks, a lot of geeks listen. And rightfully so; the guy’s constantly thinking deep thoughts about programming and what it means to program. I feel privileged that I can easily hang out with him reasonably often as we both live and work in Toronto.

There’s a lot of gnashing of teeth over his latest article, CoffeeScript is Not a Language Worth Learning. In it, he praises CoffeeScript but says that it’s more tool than language, and a great one at that.

The readers at Reddit and Hacker News, many of whom are a literal-minded bunch, have accused Reg of linkbaiting with his article’s title. Of course, if you know Reg, either personally or through his writing, you’ll know that he uses essays to think out loud and share gedankenexperiments. He also writes some interesting programming experiments for the same reason. My advice to those of you who are about to fire up your favorite text editor and do a point-by-point refutation of his essay: breathe deeply, and read it again.

Free Ebook: Best of Smashing Magazine

smashing magazine ebook

Smashing Magazine, a great resource for developers, designers and those mythical “desingineers” is turning 5 and celebrating by giving away a free ebook: Best of Smashing Magazine. It features what they feel to be the best articles they’ve published over the past half-decade. Here’s the table of contents:

  • “Thirty Usability Issues to Be Aware Of” — Vitaly Friedman
  • “Ten Principles of Effective Web Design” — Vitaly Friedman
  • “Clever JPEG Optimization Techniques” — Sergey Chikuyonok
  • “Typographic Design Patterns and Best Practices” — Smashing Editorial team
  • “Ten Useful Usability Findings and Guidelines” — Dmitry Fadeyev
  • “Setting Up Photoshop for Web and iPhone Development” — Marc Edwards
  • “The Ails of Typographic Anti-Aliasing” — Tom Giannattasio
  • “Mastering Photoshop: Noise, Textures and Gradients” — Marc Edwards
  • “Better User Experience With Storytelling” — Francisco Inchauste
  • “The Beauty of Typography, Writing Systems and Calligraphy” — Jessica Bordeau
  • “Web Designers, Don’t Do It Alone” — Paul Boag
  • “Making Your Mark on the Web Is Easier Than You Think” — Christian Heilmann
  • “Responsive Web Design: What It Is and How to Use It” — Kayla Knight
  • “I Want to Be a Web Designer When I Grow Up” — Michael Aleo
  • “Persuasion Triggers in Web Design” — David Travis
  • “What Font Should I Use?” — Dan Mayer
  • “The Design Matrix: A Powerful Tool for Guiding Client Input” — Bridget Fahrland
  • “Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed” — Helge Fredheim
  • “Dear Web Design Community, Where Have You Gone?” — Vitaly Friedman
  • “Make Your Content Make a Difference” — Colleen Jones
  • “Two Cats in a Sack: Designer-Developer Discord” — Cassie McDaniel
  • “Print Loves Web” — Mark Cossey

Want it? It comes in PDF, ePUB and Mobi formats and it’s free – download it directly here [55 MB .zip file] or get it from iTunes!

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.

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Up There with the Big Shots

by Joey deVilla on December 19, 2011

Watch this video, which features some of the brightest lights in programming (a couple of whom I’ve been privileged to meet), to the very end. You’ll see someone familiar:

That’s right, after some serious programming luminaries — Matz, Guido, Linus, DHH, Bill Joy, James Gosling, Sir Tim, Marc, Woz, Rasmus, The Gu, Sergey, Dries and finally Zuck — whose face and accordion do they close with at the 1:04 mark? This guy’s:

joey devilla accordion laptop scotch

I laughed when I saw Mark Zuckerberg’s photo fade out and mine fade in. “Zuck’s my opening act!” I exclaimed.

My photographer friend Adam P. W. Smith (my old business partner; together, we were datapanik software systems and we worked on some pretty interesting projects back in the late ‘90s) took the picture back in August when I was visiting him in Vancouver. I’d arrived a day early for the HackVAN hackathon and was sitting in his kitchen getting some work done when he decided to get a couple of shots. He poured me a glass of scotch, set it on my accordion, which I’d set down on the chair beside me, and staring taking pictures.

I’d like to thank New Relic, a software performance monitoring service based in San Francisco, for picking my face to represent the developers out there. I’m honoured!

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

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Deliberations

by Joey deVilla on December 16, 2011

decisions decisions

A little while back, we announced the Shopify Fund, a one million dollar pool of money set aside to stimulate the development of Shopify apps, applications that made use of the Shopify API to extend, enhance and automate Shopify shops. We asked developers to submit their app proposals and if their app was chosen, we’d give them somewhere in the neighborhood of five to ten thousand dollars to take a few weeks to work on their app idea full-time, complete it and put it into the Shopify App Store.

million dollar fundIn the end, we received 143 app proposals – many of which were submitted on the deadline date, November 30th — a considerable deal more than we’d expected. We’ve been spending the past couple of weeks deliberating over which apps should get funding in the Fund’s first round, in closed-room sessions not unlike the scene from 12 Angry Men shown above. We still have to have a few more discussions before we make our final choices, and we’ll announce which apps are getting funding in the new year.

If you didn’t get a chance to submit an app idea or if your app idea submission doesn’t get selected, don’t worry. This is just the first round, and we want to continue funding the development of apps through the coming months – both apps that you propose and apps that we have on our wishlist. The Fund will continue because:

  • We think it builds interest and excitement about the Shopify ecosystem. The number of responses we’ve received from the developers proposing apps seems to indicate this.
  • We want to make it possible for developers to have the time they need to build Shopify apps. By funding developers, we give them enough money so that they don’t have to take on any other clients and just work on an app full-time.
  • We want Shopify to be the ecommerce platform with the most capabilities. Shopify does a lot “out of the box”, and it does so much more when you extend it with apps. More apps means more capabilities and customizations, and we think that’s a good thing.

So keep an eye on this blog for announcements in the new year – not just about whose apps are being funded in the first round, but also for new chances for you to get funding to develop Shopify apps!

This article also appears in the Shopify Technology Blog.

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