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Monday, May 4, 2015

End of an era

I will cut to the point: This will be my last post on this blog.

I have heard so many stories the past 18 months of people who attempted to learn code but never succeeded. I am blessed to be able to have kept up with my journey and focused on whats ahead.

This blog original served as an outlet for me to share my trials and tribulations while trying to learn to program. I believe I have more than exceeded that goal and have been wanting to improve the quality of my content here for quite some time. I have also started a podcast recently, which has taken the place as my outlet for sharing my journey into programming.

My previous attempts into improving this blog has included providing detailed tips in my code discoveries. I previously attempted to host these post on a hand built blog in rails, but found the idea of building the boat while you are trying to race with it, near to impossible.

Despite that, I now have the skill to maintain a blog built in ruby, I am still not convince rails is the best choice for this, but I will find that out the hard way.

I have created a brand new Middleman blog at and have new plans to craft well thought out blog post of my new discoveries into code with syntax hi-lighted code samples. One of my biggest gripes with blogger is the lack of syntax hi-lighting and flexibilty.

These post will hopefully help me with my new short term goal of doing more speaking publicly and my blog will basically be rough drafts for those opportunities.

I would like to thank you for readership all this time and look forward to you reading about my future blog posts.

Happy Hacking

Monday, April 20, 2015

Miami Effect: Dev Recruiting

* This was a rought draft of a CFP I was planning to enter at a local Rails Conference. I never submitted it due to me moving to SF. 

In the 1980's Howard Schnellenberger knocked door to door in neighborhood homes in Miami-Dade county. Recruiting football players that nobody wanted. He took a chance on the local community and built a dynasty that dominated football in the NCAA.

Not only was the University of Miami unknown as a private college, their primary focus was trying to be part of the Ivy League of the south. Coach Schnellenberger knew he had no chance getting the top talent to not sign with Oklahoma, Texas, or even Florida and Florida State.

His thought was to grab the unwanted talent from the neighborhoods you would drive your Miami Porsche Convertible through. Most prospects had troubles that the top schools did not want to deal with and despite that Miami was able to build and grow a team from their very own community. The result was this simple change in recruitment turn the community into die Miami fans, because the boys from the neighborhood all played for the school, which increased ticket sales.

In addition to the increase in increasing fans, The team began to win. A new form of untapped talent was accessed and developed into a NCAA powerhouse. Another pro to this recruiting style, was the talent became virtually endless because the younger brothers and fans eventually grew up to play for Miami because of their loyalty to the neighborhood.

Miami went on to win 4 National NCAA Championships in only 8 years after being relatively unknown prior.

Why so much talk about Miami?

I read an amazing blog post from Ashley Nelson-Horenstein that gave a simple answer to the metaphor that you should check out. Everywhere you look you see post for Senior Developers, recruiters are bending over backwards to catch the big fish out there while completely ignoring the junior-mid level talent.

Their efforts are very understandable, Tech companies want to win championships and build products quickly. The opportunity to make money in tech is huge and there is a huge sense of urgency for companies to iterate and hire quickly, but what happens when a company drops everything to obtain these talented individuals?

Look at the Miami Heat; no longer a powerhouse they once were.

What if tech companies put more effort in recruiting and developing the potential talent eager to learn and hungry for growth in their career? I am sure in return they would receive the same loyalty from that same home grown talent, the way Miami received.    

There is an overwhelming thought that there is just not enough developers out there to do the work that needs to get done, but there is a whole opportunity to teach new people. The framework I work in, Rails has reached the stage of maturity where people can now be taught how to build a blog in 15mins or with enough experience, craft a MVP in a weekend.

I believe that there could be potential in the local community for more growth. If a focus is put in helping the self awareness of the under represented groups in tech to lead the charge in encouraging their communities to take the opportunity to learn such a coveted skill.

Rails has actual done a great job in leading the charge in closing the Gender gap with organizations like RailsBridge and RailsGirls. Making sure that the overall community is one that is inviting and accepting of people of all walks of life.

I began learning how to program in 2013 and decided as a way to keep myself accountable, I kept this blog of my efforts. I also re-emerged myself on twitter. Previously I was a twitter lurker, but I found it was a great tool to engage actual established developers.

As time went by and while I continued down my journey towards proficient programming, I started noticing people reaching out to me and asking me questions, like what do you think about this or how do you do this... sort of thing. I of course answered them and moved on. I eventually started noticing something similar between the majority of the people that reach out to me and it was they were a majority black males.

My hope is to reach other minorities in Rails and encourage them to share their story to encourage others, but also reach out to the community as a whole to let them know to encourage minorities who might not necessarily speak up due to impostor syndrome or other false limitations.

The Pitch
There is a great deal of work closing the gender gap, and it has been accepted into the community with open arms. I believe the community ready to talk about closing the cultural gap in tech now. As Black male I am encouraged to share my experiences to others, and hold myself to have the personal responsibility to be my own spokesperson.

What happened to all of the Black and Hispanic computer scientists out there? Are our struggles, voices, and efforts now irrelevant, because we don't have the notoriety of a Steve Jobs, Zuck, or Larry and Sergey? Aren't each of us the best representations of how to not only survive, but thrive in a field where the odds are against us from the start?

Outcome: I am part of Steamrolers, which is a slack chat community open to all people interested talking about diversity and closing that gap in tech. 
I hope to also encourages to reach out to their community just as DeVaris Brown in the Tenderloin

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

JSON view chrome extension recommendation

If you are not building APIs right now, I highly recommend you dedicate some time to building one. With the popularity of JS frameworks and native mobile, having data that is accessible to multiple places; Now is the time to learn and become confident in building an API, not to mention it can be extremely fruitful to one's web developer career.

I just attended a meetup where the announcement of the {JSON:API} 1.0 was announced and that is my recommendation is to use that for output of an API, only because it is my only experience, but there are other choices.

If you have already been using JSON as API serializer, I highly recommend a plugin or extension that pretty prints it in the browser. For whatever reason, I never thought of downloading something for that, but a coworker recommended the JSONView chrome extension. The extension has made my time working with APIs very nice. I recommend installing this or a similar extension in your browser today.

*My current project is a Rails API, and I am considering building a new public facing API for a popular sports team.

Friday, April 10, 2015

JS frameworks in SF

These past few weeks have been extremely busy and challenging without a place to live but luckily I am now secure in a place and stable enough to writing blog post on the regular.

I have had the opportunity since arriving in the city of San Francisco to attend a number of meetups and training Sessions.

I have been partial to Ember for the reason that I felt like focusing on one framework first prior to branching out, the main reason I chose Ember is because I actually personally knew people who used Ember in projects and could ask them questions. Even with Angular being a larger community; I just did not have an opportunity to meet any of them prior to starting my first frontend project.

Ember has a very impressive community in SF, and I had the opportunity to attend my first EmberSF and was very impressed with the caliber of talent that attended the event. I am still very pro Ember but like the fact of peeking/using other frameworks at different times.

Ember is great for teams because of its structure, no matter what Ember project you can, similar to Rails, know where important components are located and understand the basic structure.  This reason is due to the "Ember Way" of doing things is generally the same across the board. A

Another nice thing about Ember is they had an early adoption of ES6, which actually has helped me in understanding other frameworks like React and even the differences between node and io.js. There is a lot cool things happening with ES6 and I had the opportunity to learn it through Ember even while being very new to Javascript development.

Some things I am finding challenging with Ember is finding the libraries that match the newest way of package management with ember-cli. I know there is a ton of libraries out there but just not a ton of documentation due to "newness" of everything. With that being said, I am excited at the opportunity contributing to the community in that way while I discover different better practices.

When I took the job at Bloc, I was made aware of the use of Angular in the project and began researching Angular right after I accepted the position. Probably due to my love for Ember, I did not find the excitement in learning Angular, as much I did with Ember. I however attended an all-day Intro-To-Angular workshop the second weekend I was in SF.

Now that I have gotten past the initial beginner phase with Angular, I have come to appreciate the stability of Angular and how has fast it is to get up and running in a project. Ember is big into separating the API from the concerns of the frontend framework, but Angular seems separate but still knowledgeable about everything.

In a conversation I had with neighbor while pairing at the event, Angular is still new to developing best practices in creating an app and it has been a struggle to newer devs to Angular. I believe things will be getting better when Angular 2.0 is rolled out and I have heard word that there will be a planned upgrade path for those on Angular 1.x, which is contrary to what was announce last year - which is good.

I do have to say it is nice knowing how to use a framework as popular as Angular and being able to contribute to the JS framework conversations. I also think it will take a lot to unseat Angular as the leader in the framework battler for the simple reason that chaos of how customizable Angular is probably one of its strengths. Ember has a lot of the conventional ideas of Rails and some of it own and it does not seem conducive for a non-ruby/ post-ruby dev to learn these conventions. If someone writes PHP or JAVA in a way and wants to apply Angular to a project, they can with their own special conventions.

I think the next year of Angular will be pretty interesting and I am appreciative that I know a bit of it and have gotten up to speed enough to be able to work with it on a day to day basis.


React is definitely a framework I have hardly any experience with but I did attend a react meetup last night and very impressive with what it can do. I do know some of the React creators were big Ember evangelist at one time and saw many similarities to Ember in the React 101 talk last night. I am definitely impressed with the speed of React and what it does on the View layer, but the idea of calling a "framework" doesn't seem right.

The React core team addresses the product as a "library",  which I will from now on. React actually should be thought of as a jQuery replacement tool. It does a lot of work to speed the rendering of your views and like the full-service frameworks react only needs your api, regardless of what language it is written in.

The other portion that makes React be considered a framework is Flux, a separate project that helps with data stores. When you receive an object from a JSON API (one of many options) the framework/library grabs the data and stores that object and attaches "observes" to watch for any changes to update. Flux is very similar to Ember-Data and js-data, actually js-data copies a lot of what Ember-Data does and Flux has a lot of similarities Ember-Data as well.

I envision that Flux and React to become synonymous with each other in the future to make that "framework" everyone is looking for. I have plans to actually start a React project soon and even take a chance React-Native with that same project, but per the presenters comments there are a lot of things to left to be desired in React as they continue to iterate on this new product.

There is actually a lot to be desired in all the frameworks and in reality, I don't any framework will ever solve every known problem.  

As soon as I wrote about my experiences with Ember last summer I received a lot of feedback on why I did not choose Angular and I did not have a great answer other than fact that I didn't know any Angularist I could get feedback from. I understand there is a "Holy War" going on right now about which Javascript frameworks is the best, but that is dumb.

My recommendation is to pick one framework and learn it and don't be afraid to branch out to learn from other frameworks, because at the end of the day its all still Javascript.

P.S. I hear Meteor is by far one of the easiest to learn and though it was not mentioned here, I highly recommend reading up on that one too.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Are programming bootcamps worth the price?

The past week has been very busy and included two trips to move my stuff from Orlando to Tampa to prepare to eventually move to San Francisco. While picking up my uhaul the Uhaul employee noticed a shirt I was wearing which happened to have the logo for Extreme Networks, a vendor I worked with at Tech Data (in sales). I explained it was a networking company and he mentioned that he was looking into going back to school for networking engineering and asked me if it would be worth it.

The individual was probably around my age and I asked him why he wanted to do network engineering? He explain that it probably paid well and he was always interested in computers, and with my keen ear for hearing the customer and closing a sale I just had mention my story and how I got into software in less than 7 months. 

He was definitely intrigued and I told him about my new employer and how we teach interested individuals how to become a web/mobile developer.

This got me thinking while I drove across the state of Florida, this uhaul employee was going to go back to school for probably 15-30k in tuition for the hope in making more than what he was getting paid at Uhaul. I paid 5k for the opportunity to learn via Bloc and in person bootcamps for less the tuition and dedicated 4 years. 

While at IZEA I watched countless interviewees walk in for interviews out of college with Computer Science degrees but no real experience and no real portfolio to prove their ability develop code. 

In the United States it is preached that once you have a degree you will have a great job, but I worked at a job out of college for 24k a year because I couldn't get a job in finance.

So my question before I answer original question is, Is getting a college degree even worth it? I have Finance Degree from an accredited state school and have yet to use that piece of paper or even provided a copy of it to any of my employers. To be honest I haven't even removed it from the cardboard envelope it came 7 years ago (What a waste of $48, the cost to send it to me).

I now work at a job making more than twice as much as I my base pay in sales and a significant amount higher than my salary even with a highest received bonus'd month. When I share the amount I paid to learn via Bloc's mentorship program and discuss the cost of bootcamps with others, it is very common to hear that rebuttals to how expensive the cost is, but when you talk with the same population of people  about going back to school, there is not even a second thought about that cost. 

For some perspective: I am currently rooming with someone who made the decision to drop out of a very well known and expensive College in Nashville to pursue his dream with DevBootcampSF, which really sparked me to write this blog post. Instead of paying for 150k+  in tuition after graduation, he is now only what it would cost for one semester in College.

So are bootcamps worth it?

My response is obvious, it yes, but I truly believe if you are looking for an experience that you get when going back to school where you can just breeze by and get a job when its over, you might as well just go back to school. Bootcamps are definitely worth it, but you need to be driven and be willing to experiment with different tools, build a portfolio outside the curriculum, and be willing to attend meetups get involved in the community to eventual get that offer that truly makes it worth, but more on those details in a future post. 

Bootcamps, including Bloc, all have payment plans to help cover the cost up front. Some bootcamps even offer financial assistance for the exceptionally driven individuals.

Best of luck on your journey and your decision to learn to code. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Middleman Blog in store

I finally completed a Middleman Blog from start to sort of finish. Middleman is an easy to use framework for building static sites. I have been in the need of transferring this blog elsewhere but do not want to get stuck in the rut of building a ship while you use.

My fear was always getting too involved in the process of building the blog and never writing blog post. That is why I am happy to start hosting my podcast there at first. FYI, is my middleman site.

I was actually able to get it started rather quickly using the middleman and middleman-blog gems.

Once the blog was set up I had no problem creating my first post and setting the bootstrap (yes I did it) template. The challenge will be migrating the post from here to the new site, but I am holding off until I am confident I won't be working on the bike shed color rather than writing post.

- I will definitely be looking forward to add syntax highlighted code samples to the blog.

Thanks for reading and checking out the podcast. The plan is to have episodes out every Friday, so look for the next one this week.

In the meantime checkout Middleman and checkout fellow a Ruby Newbie, Colby's, impressive Middleman blog

I made a podcast

I made a podcast over the weekend, something I have wanted to do for awhile. The podcast itself will just be me, no interviews, chatting about my story into developing. I have completed about 16 months in learning myself and with a mentor, with 9 months of that working professionally.

I am now embarking on a new journey and felt as if a podcast would be a goo platform for that. I am still continuing to blog on my coding discoveries here, but will eventually move it over to my new site.

Please check it on at