• Best Music of 2015

    There was a ton of great music this year - almost too much for me to cover. Here are six of my personal favorite songs of the year (yeah, it’s a well known fact that I am a sucker for a female vocalist…and this list is proof).

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  • Enough with the Developer Surveys Already

    The developer survey seems to have become a mainstay of technical blogs lately. I don’t mean to pick on anyone in particular, but the problem is, almost every one does not pass the eye test. This isn’t surprising when you think about it though. There are several problems with these surveys that prevent them from really being representative of the community they want to represent.

    The main issue is that all of these surveys suffer from major selection bias. Even with thousands of responses, the results this likely represents a very small fraction of the overall community.

    Estimates from 2 years ago said there were 18.5 million software developers worldwide, including both professional and hobbyists. It’s fairly safe to assume that this number has grown. I could not find estimates on JavaScript developers specifically, however. But given it’s ubiquity and growth the past few years, I’d guess the number is significant.

    A small but substantial response is fine assuming it is representative. However, in most cases these are promoted through means that would only ever be seen by a specific type of developer - one who reads a certain blog, or follows specific individuals on Twitter or finds articles on sites like EchoJS, for example. Even then, it’s merely a subset of developers in these outlets who are willing to fill out a survey. While the overall reach of these avenues of promoting your survey might be large, keep in mind that the type of developer who you’ll reach is the type that keeps up with the latest trends, who wants to learn about new tools, who wants to stay on the cutting edge.

    This is not the typical developer.

    Making matters even wore is that I haven’t seen any of these surveys include any sort of demographic information. The opinions and habits of the cutting edge JavaScript developer might be useful if I had information about who exactly these people were or how some of this information might break down along various demographics. For instance, how long have they been a developer? How long in JavaScript? Are they employed? Full-time? Part-time? Self-employed? Hobbyist developer? If employed, how big is the company? How many developers at said company?

    This sort of information, especially when we break down answers along certain demographics. At the very least, it would help us gauge how representative the responses are to the community as a whole or help us determine what specific subset of that audience it is representative for. But we should not be fooled into assuming it is widely representative of the developer community.

    Look, if you want to run a survey that helps you determine who reads or is a potential reader of your site and what type of topics they are most interested in, this is a very useful tool. They can be fun too (and generate a lot of debate in the comments). But, please, let’s not go off presuming too much off the results of any one of these surveys I’ve seen so far.

  • Is the Native Mobile App Ecosystem Worth Saving?

    The native mobile app ecosystem is facing some major challenges. Some have even argued that it is in need of saving. Before we get there, though, let’s examine what the problems are.

    About 5 years ago, we were in the middle of a modern “gold rush” with companies eager to establish a presence in the app stores. The iOS App Store opened in 2008 and it had already reached its 10 billionth download by 2011. The Android Market (now called Google Play) reached its 10 billionth download in late 2011 as well, having launched in 2008 as well. It’s no wonder that companies felt they had to be there - even if little thought was sometimes given to what value their app actually offered. The presence was enough.

    Since that 10 billionth download, the app ecosystem continued to grow. This was driven in part by the fact that the mobile browser lagged far behind the ability of native apps. HTML5 was still seriously incomplete - the first working draft wasn’t even published until 2008. Adobe was pushing Flash for mobile, which would have brought the “app-like” capabilities of desktop Flash to the mobile browser, but…I don’t really need to revisit that, do I?

    By 2013, Apple’s App Store alone was raking in $10 billion in annual gross revenue. Yes, that’s billion with a b.

    Apps, it seemed, had won.

    So what’s changed?

    Please note that this article represents my personal opinion and not those of my employer, Progress Software / Telerik.

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  • Some Advanced Jekyll/Liquid Template Techniques

    Generally speaking, Liquid templates for Jekyll are pretty easy to create - Liquid is a powerful templating tool and offers a large number of helpers and formatters to get complex tasks done. However, recently I had the opportunity to build a site that required me to use some techniques I’d never needed before with Liquid and Jekyll.

    The home page had a number of repeating sections that listed the content for each category of content. If there was no content, the section shouldn’t show. More importantly, each section was essentially the same except for some category metadata and styling. Rather than repeat the same code for each section, I decided to use includes - but this required some creative workarounds to make the styling show.

    In this post, I’ll show some of the techniques I used. I am not entirely certain that these are necessarily “best practices,” but since there wasn’t a lot of information I could find around the web on this, I thought it might be worth sharing. (And if you have better ways of solving these problems, please share.)

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  • Get Started with Static Site Generators

    In the early days of the web, there was no such category as “static sites” - the web was made up of static resources. This was a maintainable solution when the web was simple. That didn’t last long.

    Static sites had enormous limitations that made them an impractical solution for most web sites - even the relatively simple ones.

    More recently, however, a combination of asynchronous content, third-party services and new tools, called static site generators, have made the old skool static site both feasible and cool again. Tools like Jekyll are used to run thousands of sites across the web (including this one…though it admittedly deserves more love).

    But what are static site genertors? Which one of the 400 or so of them should you consider using? What types of sites are they most suitable for?

    These are some of the questions I aim to answer in a free report on static site generators for O’Reilly Media. I know what you are thinking - “Awesome, just in time for the weekend!” You’re right! Did I mention it is free? Also, I should note that it is free.

    Hopefully this report will answer any questions you may have about static site generators and help you get started in choosing one.

    Static Site Generators - Modern Tools for Static Website Development

    Static Site Generators - Modern Tools for Static Website Development

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