zuLIVE

zuLive is home to musings from the zuCrew, photos, and generally anything that interests us. Don’t expect anything too polished, this is where we let it all out.

My Takeaways from MoSo 2015

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Virtual Reality

Holodeck “Things like the holodeck in Star Trek, we’re going to see that in our lifetime.”​

This was one of the things that stuck with me after attending a few sessions at MoSo 2015. The quote came from Rob Bryanton from Talking Dog Studios, in his session “Virtual Reality Demonstration”. It was pretty interesting to see some of the gear used to capture life in 360 video: creating fully spherical high resolution/high frame rate 360 video, such as a helmet mounted with 6 Go Pro cameras arranged in a cube. Participants at Rob’s talk also had the opportunity to try out some VR headsets that provided options to interact with the videos: the Google Cardboard and Samsung’s Gear VR.

It is a little mind blowing to think about how a video can be more than a single view or window into

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MoSo 2015: Business on Top, Party in the Back

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MoSo Conference and Festival is just around the corner (June 18/19) and we hope everyone is ready for it, or at least fully understands the process. It’s quite the tale of two parties, and it can be difficult for people to get their heads around the concept. MoSo (it stands for MObile & SOcial, but really encompasses so much more) is a digital conference during the day and an indie music festival at night. You can either purchase a conference pass that automatically gets you into both the conference and the music festival, or buy a pass for the music portion only. There is some crossover during the event, and you will see some bands playing in venues scattered throughout the day, as well as some speaking events going into the early evening.

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Here’s a quick breakdown of 2015 must-sees:...

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Set Your Front-End Free with Headless Drupal

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A couple of weeks ago, I was able to jet down to Los Angeles with a few of my esteemed colleagues to soak up some sun, and more importantly, some beautiful Drupal knowledge. We went down with empty brains and high spirits, excited to take in everything Drupal that we could. One of the big topics this year was the concept of a ‘headless’ CMS, more specifically and obviously in this case, “Headless Drupal*”.

* Note: this idea of a headless system can apply to any CMS with the capability of making content accessible through a web-services API. I’ll be talking specifically about Drupal in this case.

So What Is It?

Drupal is a highly functional, customizable, modular, and community-driven CMS. It’s safe, secure, and has the ability to manage large volumes of content. Its

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DrupalCon 2015: A Drupal Beginner’s Perspective

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I recently had the opportunity to attend DrupalCon 2015 in Los Angeles along with two other web developers from zu. DrupalCon is a conference that brings together thousands of people from across the globe who use, develop, design, and support Drupal. Drupal is open source software developed and maintained by a community of over 1,000,000 users and developers. The main purpose of the conference is to unite in celebration to gain new skills, new friends, and advance the Drupal project.

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Highlights

The first day of the conference was dedicated to all-day workshops on specific topics. The one I chose to attend was “Behavior-Driven Development with Behat,” a workshop aimed to help web developers get started with the process of behavior-driven development (BDD) in PHP, using the Behat

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Traditional project management training applied to an agile development

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It was a couple years ago, that I first started to pay attention to my project management counterparts, sitting on the opposite side of the proverbial table. How did they become project managers? Why are they qualified to sit at this table? Why am I qualified to sit at this table? A bit of soul searching and a lot of conversations with my peers led me to pursue formal training in project management. I wanted to expand my toolkit, see more successes and have better control over my projects. I knew what I wanted, but figuring out the next step was a bit of a blind leap.​

Traditional Project Management vs Agile

Traditional project management, or “waterfall”, is still the standard for many industries. A lot of time goes into planning and gathering information before the project is executed.

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Developing Websites with Responsive Mobile-First in Mind

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With more than half of all website traffic in North America now originating from a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, the way people browse the Internet has evolved enormously in recent years. There’s also growth in the mobile-only user, who accesses the Web exclusively from a mobile device, illustrating the trend that tablets and phones are fast becoming the main personal computer for consumers everywhere. With these changing browsing habits, web designers, developers, and digital marketers absolutely must be able to accommodate mobile devices by offering an optimized user experience and responsive web design for the small screen.

Real World Developments

Recently, Google began indicating to users in their search results whether or not a site is mobile friendly. Then on

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Establishing Your Online Presence

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We were invited back once again to CTV Morning Live to discuss setting up your own personal or business website, and the benefits of transitioning into a more customized web design. Ryan speaks on the issues of device compatibility, ease of use, and suggests Facebook as an inexpensive way to get started.

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Why zu Does Code Reviews

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Cory JacobsenAt zu, we are always looking for ways to improve processes in our key three areas of service: digital strategy, digital design, and web development. An informal way that we keep our agile development teams informed of what other teams are doing is our bi-weekly learning lunches.

This past week, one of the teams talked about their process for code reviews and how it saves them time in the long run. Essentially, before code gets released to the wild, a developer’s peers will review it to make sure it is up to standard.

Quality control

“There are two primary reasons to do code reviews,” Cory Jacobsen, Technical Lead, told me when I asked him about it after the learning lunch. “The first is for familiarity with the code. For example, ensuring that multiple individuals know the code so that

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Taking agile development to the cloud: zu’s switch to JIRA

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Physical boards

When we switched to agile to manage our web development and maintenance tasks a few years ago, we went with the traditional magnetic boards with index cards. Each team had a daily standup in the morning, with members congregating around their board for a few minutes. Typically, each team member would have a turn sharing anything of note on the tasks or stories they worked on the previous day, making sure to bring forward any questions or blockers that may be impeding progress or completion. The cards would make their way through the different status columns on the board, and upon completion would get taken off the board at the end of the sprint. Piles of cards from the completed sprints would get stored somewhere, usually never to be looked at again, but kept nevertheless, because you

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City of Saskatoon Preview Launch

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As the key milestone of a preview launch via new.Saskatoon.ca has now been achieved, we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the big picture. When zu was first selected by the City of Saskatoon to design their new civic website, we were brimming with excitement to be part of such a transformative project, and one that closely connects with us as citizens of our City. In addition to our personal connection with Saskatoon, one of the most appealing things about this project has been its open process.

We are proud of the approach we have taken in elevating this project because this is how world-class enterprises work.

Feedback from the residents of Saskatoon has been an integral part of this redesign project. Citizen engagement has determined how the site is organized, influenced

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Yomoji: Say It With Emojis

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In a few short weeks the world will be introduced to iOS 8, the mobile platform that Apple hopes will usher in the age of wearables. But for the web and mobile development community, iOS 8 has a different significance as Apple is introducing a new app development language: Swift. zu recently experimented with this mobile technology, developing an iOS application for the ‘yo’ crowd. With an Objective-C version now live, and a Swift version waiting for the launch of iOS 8, zu is proud to launch Yomoji, the app that lets you communicate with emojis.

To give you some insight into the app development process on Swift, here is a brief interview with the App’s lead mobile developer at zu, Marli Bells:

How did you like developing Yomoji on Swift?

Swift is a great language. It’s really

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DrupalCon Austin: Conference Roundup

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As part of zu’s strategic plan, Ryan and Tony believe in supporting the professional development of our employees, so a large investment is being made in training in our technologies of focus. I recently had the good fortune of attending DrupalCon 2014 in Austin, Texas, along with two other web developers from our team, as we continue to broaden our use of the Drupal framework. The Conference was a great opportunity for zu keep our ear to the ground with Drupal 8, learn more about what other organizations and agencies are doing with Drupal, and experience the Drupal community up close and personal. Here’s a summary of our conference experience and some takeaways web developers using Drupal, or evaluating Drupal as a framework for web development.

Symfony for Drupal 8

Taking advantage

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Zurgermania: June 12 at MoSo Conference & Festival, Saskatoon, SK

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Come by for a burger and some beats!
Put some beats on that burger!

After a long day of sessions and before a longer night of music, stop by Kinsmen Hall in Saskatoon. Not only will you be able to unwind for a bit, but there will be plenty of “refreshments” on hand and an amazing BBQ Burger Bar.

These burgers aren’t for the feint of heart. If you want choice, you got it. How about a burger bar with more toppings than you can shake your etch a sketch at? In addition to the regular toppings, try real bacon bits, banana pepper, funky sauces, maple syrup, pickled carrots, asparagus, avocado slices, red pepper slides, sprouts, hummus, sun dried tomatoes, buffalo sauce, aoli, marshmallows or potato chips. There will even be a few more surprise toppings. And what would a BBQ without some other action? We’ve got Corn Hole, Ping

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Ladies Learning Code in yxe

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​Web development can be an intimidating prospect. When Marli Bells, Web Developer at zu, and Brittany Melnyk, UofS Computer Sciences, first attended university, they had no interest in computer sciences. After taking an introductory class they fell in love with it and started down a path to becoming computer programmers. Now, Marli and Brittany are heading up efforts to bring that same experience to women throughout the Saskatoon community through their third Ladies Learning Code event.

Ladies Learning Code is a not-for-profit that works to empower everyone to feel comfortable learning beginner-level technical skills in a social, collaborative way. So far, Marli and Brittany have hosted events on HTML/CSS basics as well as mobile and responsive website design, and now the third event

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zu’s Approach to Agile Development: Team Retros

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zu transitioned into Agile development in 2010, and since then, our projects have increased in speed and efficiency. Our clients love that we can get more work done in the same amount of time.

Team Retros

One of the cornerstones of Agile is that we have weekly “retros” within each Agile development team. These retros are essentially a review of the week’s work where we talk about the positives, negatives, questions, and moving-forwards.

At zu, retros are a way to get out of the day-to-day workflow, where you have the opportunity to solve small tasks as a team. We use them to reflect on our workflow and to determine what’s working well and what’s not working. Retros give us a chance to test the decisions that we’ve made in the past against real world practices. From there, we can assess

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Improving Experience Through Stories

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A few weeks ago, Derek Leverington (MPATH Engagement) and I gave a talk at Innovation Place in Saskatoon about User Experience. The audience of over 60 people was broad so we kept the session high-level. Our goal was to use this talk as a catalyst to get companies to start thinking about their overall customer experiences, both offline and online. We touched upon the ‘power of stories’ as part of your brand experience, but we weren’t able to expand on this due to the limited time that we had. So here’s a bit more:

“The power of stories” is the concept that having deep knowledge surrounding about an experience, a company or an item makes everything about it a little bit better. It’s about sharing that thing that makes something unique. Think of a pair of hockey pucks. They look the same,

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