• 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.

    Read More ⇒

  • 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.)

    Read More ⇒

  • 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

  • Which Free Code Editor Is Right For You?

    We live in a day and age as web developers where our biggest complaint seems to be a overabundance of free tools. In the case of code editors, there are a few prominent free ones: Atom, Brackets and, most recently, Visual Studio Code. Each editor has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Each is backed by a large corporation - GitHub for Atom, Adobe for Brackets and Microsoft for Visual Studio Code - so obviously they will be geared towards the target audience of each respective company.

    Nonetheless, they are all good editors. So which one should you choose?

    Well, it depends. You knew I was going to say that!

    In my latest article, Battle of the Free Code Editors, I go into the distinguishing features of each editor and what type of developer it is best suited for.

    Please, check out the article and feel free to share your thoughts.

    A Note on Sublime

    I was asked numerous times after writing this article, why did I not include Sublime? After all, Sublime is, for all intents and purposes, the market leader for lightweight code editors. The article compared free editors. However, Sublime is not free!

    Yes, you can try it for free and, as many responses noted, use it forever without paying if you are willing to live with dismissing the prompt to buy regularly. One person even noted to me that if the author didn’t want people to use it for free forever, they’d have a different license method.

    I’m sorry, that’s not how this works. The author clearly states:

    Sublime Text may be downloaded and evaluated for free, however a license must be purchased for continued use.

    As I said on Twitter…

  • Picking the Right Speakers for Conferences

    I have been involved in events for some years, ever since running Flex Camp Boston back in 2007 and as recently as handling many aspects of the planning, in particular the speaker lineup, for this year’s TelerikNEXT event. I’ve also served on conference committees for events like QCon New York and Fluent. In my personal experience, the hardest part of running events are getting the word out and choosing the right speakers. Arguably, choosing the right speakers can heavily impact your ability to get the word out - after all, your content is the biggest selling point of your event.

    Yesterday, Lea Verou posted an opinion piece saying that blind reviews for technical conferences is a broken model. You should read the full post.

    In summary, she believes that while the goal is to reduce bias and allow unknown speakers an opportunity, it ends up leading towards choosing “safe” topics. This is because the fear is that the more advanced or atypical topics, in the hands of the wrong speaker, could totally bomb (I’m paraphrasing - these are my words not hers).

    I agree with her, and while I laud the goals of making the speaker selection more egalitarian, there is simply not enough information in a typical abstract to know how successful a presentation will be as the text doesn’t indicate the speaker’s ability to communicate effectively in the format of a session (and requiring a prior session recording already starts making the process less open to fresh faces).

    Here’s the response I added to her post:

    I totally agree with this. When I ran a conference for 5 years, I was of the mind that who gave the talk was generally more important than what they were talking about. There are people whose talks I want to see regardless of what the topic is - they are engaging, thought provoking and I always come away learning something. Other people could pick the best topic and even have the best slide deck and bomb.

    I chose to have invite-only speakers list. That being said, I always set aside a certain amount of slots for speakers I’d never seen or who were new. The trouble with invite only events is the tendency to invite from within the same group every time.

    To me the best option is to have a committee that you trust and who represent a diverse set of experiences, backgrounds and views. Have this committee be conscious of efforts to be inclusive and make sure there is room for some fresh faces (even acknowledging that some of these will inevitably bomb).

    As you say, each method has its flaws and potential for bias, but even the blind review (as you point out) has bias, just of a different kind.

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