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.

Here There Be Dragons

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One thing that drew me to becoming a web developer was that it was a world of unknowns. In 1996, I was 15 and the world wide web became a “thing” as it was popularized. I started playing around with Amaya one day, at my dad’s behest, and I found what you could do with it quite neat. I discovered a huge world of possibilities even though it was merely text and a couple of images at the time. I’d play around with web technologies on and off throughout the late 90’s, but never thought I’d spend my life with it.

Aside from web development, my only other job involved a finite set of possibilities (burgers, fries, and occasionally gravy). Being able to do something perfectly over and over again is a wonderful goal, but if I’m not learning something I lose interest quickly. After I discovered

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Simplicity and the Art of Boring Technologies

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Here at zu, web developers love their ability to make choices; which technologies to use, which tools to develop with, which methodologies to adopt, deployment and server architecture choices… the list goes on. But the commonality of all these choices, and ultimately decisions, usually resonates around the idea of simplicity. We always strive for simplicity in our decisions - that doesn’t mean easy, and it usually leads to boring.

First, I want to describe what simplicity really means when we talk about it from a technical point of view. The easiest way to describe it would be to describe the opposite, which is complex. When tackling problems here at the office, we never sit down and attempt to come up with the complex solution. That would be analogous to building a space shuttle when

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Reflections on Prairie Dev Con 2015

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Prairie Dev Con logoBack at the beginning of June, three of zu’s web developers and I had the opportunity to attend this year’s edition of Prairie Dev Con in Regina. Prairie Dev Con is one of the few tech conferences that makes a regular stop in Saskatchewan, drawing attendees and speakers from across the prairie provinces and beyond. In fact, our own Cory Jacobsen gave a session on “Simplicity: The Power of Boring Technologies”, which he’ll be addressing soon in an upcoming blog post. Like many conferences, Prairie Dev Con sessions range from very focused technical talks to presentations on the “soft” aspects of software development, such as professional growth, company culture, and team building. With four of us attending, we were able to cover a good range of topics over the two days of the conference.

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Prioritizing Web Performance

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Back in May, I had the opportunity to attend DrupalCon in Los Angeleswith a couple of my fellow web developers. Not only did we learn about all the new and exciting features coming in Drupal 8, but we also had a chance to mingle with great people from companies like Pantheon and Acquia. Oh, and we picked up some sweet swag in the process.

Create a performance budget

One of the key takeaways for me was the concept of a performance budget. A performance budget is a set of goals to be used as a framework, when making performance-related decisions, throughout the lifecycle of a project.

As an example, a performance budget may include the following goals:

  • SpeedIndex < 2000, (overall experience)
  • Page load time for 3G < 3s, (user retention)
  • Page load time for Cable < 2s, (user retention)
  • PageSpeed score 90, (best practices)
  • Time to Interact < 1s, (delivering the experience)

These

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Are You Building a Website or an Application?

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The other day, I had a spirited rant discussion with my friend who is a franchisee of a supply chain company. She was looking for business advice and had to decide between staying with the current system or developing one of her own. One of her advisors mentioned that the current website platform (a service that manages franchises and deliveries for customers) can easily be recreated for between $10-20K. I got worked up (as usual) and offered my two cents. Though this was a web-based system, it was far from a simple website. I was dumbfounded at how effortlessly this was passed off as a simple bump in the road.

The system provided a very customized service, and I could identify at least 13 significant features, which could be broken down into hundreds of user stories. One of these features

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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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