I was checking the real-time analytics on one of our web sites and was pleased to see 41 visitors from the International Space Station Control Room. Keep up the good work Google…you usually screw with us by releasing real products on April 1!
I attended the Philly ETE event recently (actually a few months ago) and had the email that they had posted videos of many of the sessions on their site. Although we’ve been head down on 7 Regent Lane lately and it’s been quiet here, this is one of my favorites. Aaron “Tenderlove” Patterson presented as well but unfortunately they didn’t post that one. Enjoy.
Chariot Solutions announced the Chariot Scholars Program, designed to increase the diversity of the software development community through mentoring and training of women and minority engineers. See below for the full press release and thank you to Chariot for taking the lead in this important initiative.
Chariot Launches Scholars Program to Increase Diversity of Software Engineers
Scholarship Recipients to Receive Mentoring, Training, and Continuing Education
April 11, 2012 (Philadelphia, PA) – Chariot Solutions, a leading enterprise application and mobile development consulting firm, announced today that it has launched the Chariot Scholars Program. The program will aim to increase the diversity in the Philadelphia-area IT community by mentoring and training women and minority software developers. Scholarship recipients will receive one-on-one mentoring, skill evaluations, and a tailored two-week training program near the end of the term.
“As software engineers and developers, we at Chariot are concerned about the lack of women and minorities in our field,” said Ken Rimple, Director of Education at Chariot Solutions. “Our goal is to improve diversity among our peers, which is the reason behind the Chariot Scholar Program.”
Chariot will select three applicants from the applications submitted and match them with a Chariot member. The mentorship will be kept confidential with the scholars selected. The program is only open to minorities and women who have a background and aptitude in information technology and are over 18 years of age. These individual must live in the Delaware valley.
Scholarship winners will gain access to Chariot’s extensive education services team, which was started in 2008 and has provided continuing education to IT professionals throughout the country. Courses cover a wide-range of emerging technologies, including the Spring framework, Hbernate, Maven, Scala, and others.
“Though we can’t explain why there has always been such an imbalance of women and minorities in this industry, we are trying to take steps towards doing something about it,” said Mike Rappaport, CEO of Chariot Solutions. “Under this program we will provide proper training, mentorship and support to the scholarship winners to help them have long and successful careers in software development.”
Interested individuals can self-nominate, or be nominated by others, at chariotsolutions.com/scholar and all applications must be received by Tuesday May 15, 2012. The program is anticipated to start in mid-June 2012 in the Chariot offices in Fort Washington, PA.
Sorry it’s been so quiet here lately. We’ve been involved in launching a new venture, 7 Regent Lane, and are just digging out. I’m planning some more in-depth tutorial posts soon, but in the meantime enjoy this awesome filler content!
I’m a developer, not a designer. I’ve always aspired to improve my front end skills. I have very strong opinions on how things should look, how site navigation should work, etc. Sadly, I have absolutely no ability to code any UI except for an unstyled steaming pile of HTML. I started watching the DOCTYPE podcast, hosted by Nick Pettit and Jim Hoskins in an effort to get some insight into the mysterious world of design. I had just caught up on their back catalog when I noticed that the last episode was posted back in March of 2011. Hmmm.
Like any reasonable person, I simply assumed that Nick and Jim had been abducted by aliens and went on about my business. Then, in one of the numerous podcasts I listen to I found a clue to their whereabouts. Turns out the alien abduction thing wasn’t far off. They’re both being held captive at Carsonified, I’m sure being subjected to strange medical experiments, probing, etc.
More importantly, when not being researched they are contributing to Carsonified’s latest creation, Treehouse (teamtreehouse.com). This used to be know as Think Vitamin Membership, but they’ve apparently re-positioned it, pumped some more resources in it and got Jim and Nick on-board to produce instructional video content.
Basically, Treehouse is an online subscription service with some pretty high production quality content on web design, web development and iOS development. Having been deprived of my instructional video fix, I joined up and am now addicted. Like a video game, Treehouse awards you badges for successful completion of quizzes and code challenges. Being the completionist I am, I’m going through all of the content even if I know the subject well. In doing so I’m finding out that the things I know well, maybe I didn’t know as well as I thought I did. Even if you’re experienced in any of the tracks the offer, it’s worth going through them again.
Although new and a work in progress, the content and site is very polished. Some of the videos haven’t been changed to the new Treehouse branding, but who cares? I’m sure they’ll get to it. The code challenges work well and the quizzes are somewhat evil in that if you get one wrong, or go review the material, the quiz resets so you have to answer all the randomly selected questions again. I did encounter a bug. One of the initial code challenges was to add a simple <div> to the body of an HTML page. I did it correctly, but Treehouse didn’t agree. I then pasted the example code into the box and it still thought it was incorrect. Refreshing the page and starting again fixed the problem though.
Treehouse starts at the absolute beginning for all topics, so if you’re a more experienced developer you might not find the initial stuff useful. If so, just take the quiz without watching the videos. Word on the street is that Facebook is looking at the Treehouse profiles and badge collections to identify potential recruits, so your Treehouse badges might turn into good resume bullet points at some point.
One thing that bothers me about Treehouse is that their mascot is a tree frog. Tree frogs creep me out. They never blink. What’s up with that?
I thought we’d give a nod to our friends in the other hemisphere this year. We’ll be thinking about you guys, lying on that beach, while we’re covered in sleet and ice rain. Bastards.
Just kidding. Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate we wish you a happy and safe start to 2012!
I was given a nice opportunity recently to have a look at a review copy of a new book on Google App Inventor that Pakt Publishing kindly provided. The book, Google App Inventor by Ralph Roberts, is deadly serious about teaching you just about everything there is to be known about Android development using Google App Inventor.
The book weighs in at 356 pages for the PDF version (ePub and print also available), so although it’s a beginner’s guide it takes you pretty far down the path.
Last year, I posted my take on the App Inventor beta. A lot has happened in a year with App Inventor, but first the book…
In The Beginning
The book starts out with the obligatory installation sections. However, the level of detail is excruciating, so there is absolutely no chance that you won’t be able to install the App Inventor applications on your computer. It’s also refreshing to see that all three of the major platforms are given equal footing (I admit that some of my own stuff may be a bit Mac/Linux centric).
Moving on, the basics of blocks and the available components are presented. There is definitely no glossing over subjects, so the introductory chapters will give the reader a firm grounding in what you can do with the App Inventor environment. It even has a “Not Ready for Prime Time” section to tell you what parts of App Inventor may not yet be fully baked.
In the Part Just After the Beginning but Not Quite the End
From there, the author divides the topics up by flavors of app, which I quite liked. Those are…
- Apps that Communicate
- Apps that Remember
- Apps that Surf the Web
- Apps that Know Where They Are
- and finally Games and Animation
If I had written this book there would also be an “Apps that Mysteriously Crash” section. Fortunately I didn’t.
In these chapters, the reader is guided through building apps that fall into these categories. For example, an “App that Surfs the Web” that is built is an eBay link app which shows how to use App Inventor to fetch and present web content. Although a specific example is presented in each of these chapters, they are great examples of the techniques to use in each specific problem domain.
The problem with books is that inevitably when you publish them, something changes. Packt and the author were not shy about tacking this late breaking information onto the book to ensure that it’s as complete as possible. There are also pointers to a load of resources for the aspiring App Inventor guru in the appendices.
But didn’t Google Kill App Inventor?
Nope. It’s true that under Larry Page’s new regime Google is cleaning house and ridding themselves of products which are not core to where they want to go (wherever that is). Yes, App Inventor is one of those, however Google did not shut App Inventor down. Instead they handed stewardship of App Inventor to the Center for Mobile Learning at the MIT Media Lab. That’s a good place for it. The center is brand, spanking new having been launched in August of 2011.
The book includes this late breaking tidbit in the “Final Last Minute Update” appendix (not to be confused with the earlier “Last Minute Update” appendix and presented the full text of the App Inventor news from Google, which I also received as an App Inventor developer. Here it is.
Dear App Inventor User,
As a result of the recent changes to Google Labs and App Inventor, effective immediately, the URL for App Inventor will change from appinventor.googlelabs.com to appinventorbeta.com. This URL change will not have an impact on your projects stored in App Inventor. All data that you see in your appinventor.googlelabs.com account, as well as documentation and e-mail forums, will be available at appinventorbeta.com.
As we announced on the App Inventor Announcement Forum, Google will end support for App Inventor and open source the code base at the end of this year. Additionally, in order to ensure the future success of App Inventor, Google has funded the establishment of a Center for Mobile Learning at the MIT Media Lab, where MIT will be actively engaged in studying and extending App Inventor. This transition will happen at the end of 2011. At that time, you will need to download your data from appinventorbeta.com in order to continue working with it in the open source instance of App Inventor. In the coming months, we will send
you detailed instructions on how to download your data. Please visit the App Inventor user forums to get future updates on App Inventor.
The App Inventor Team
I’m pretty sure App Inventor will find a good home at MIT.
My previous stand on App Inventor hasn’t changed. I think it’s a great platform for learning programming and getting into Android development. As a teaching tool, it illustrates flow control and other aspects of programming logic without the burden of having to choose and learn a specific language. I still prefer the ancient ways of typing in code, however for those willing to embrace the new and shiny, this book is probably the most thorough grounding in App Inventor available.
It looks like enough people are getting an understanding of the proposed SOPA legislation that I railed on in this post to raise questions. The folks at businessinsurance.org posted a great info-graphic on SOPA, so if you’re still unclear on why this is bad law this may be helpful.
I recently got a ping from Bobby Stark letting me know that he’d launched LYRICSnMUSIC, a sort of one-stop-shop for people searching for lyrics, music, artist and tour information, etc. Never wanting to pass by an opportunity to try and break something, I checked it out. The shot above was a search I did by words from a relatively obscure Donnie Iris song. How often do you have lyrics etched into your brain, but can’t for the life of you recall the artist or song title? Well, if you do give this site a shot and you’ll probably find what you’re looking for.
The site itself has a pretty streamlined, industrial looking design and is very functional and easy to figure out.
Since I’m addicted to the various blogs and podcasts where startup founders and entrepreneurs are interviewed, I thought I’d see if Bobby would be willing to bite and he agreed to answer a few questions on the genesis and future of LYRICSnMUSIC. So here’s our first ever web entrepreneur interview with Bobby (Bobby’s responses in a lovely blue color).
Interview with Bobby Stark – Founder of LYRICSnMUSIC
When did you launch the site?
We launched in open beta June 15th, 2011.
From idea to launch how long did it take to get the site up and running?
It took a little over 7 months.
What need did you see that LYRICSnMUSIC fulfills?
Since LYRICSnMUSIC has Song Lyrics, YouTube Videos, Images, Wikipedia entry, Tour Dates, iTunes/Amazon MP3 and even Guitar Tabs on one page, we eliminate the need of going to 3 or 4 different websites to find the info of a song/artist you like.
Did you get funding to build it or are you bootstrapping?
We are bootstrapping our project. Getting funding can be great but sometimes investors want to include things that don’t really make any sense. “Too many cooks spoil the soup.”
How long did it take you to build up the site?
The initial coding took a little over 5 months, but we are still improving the site. So it’s kind of an ongoing project.
Are the lyrics entirely community contributed?
It’s a combination of community and lyrics directly from the record companies.
If so was it tough building a large enough community to get critical mass of lyrics? I tried a few obscure songs and, sure enough, they were there.
Glad you found the song you where looking for. We have over 2 million song lyrics and that number literally grows everyday.
How is the site monetized? It looks like it may be a combination of affiliate links for music purchases and advertising. If that’s the case, where do you get the lion’s share of revenue?
The lion’s share of the revenue comes from banner advertising. The music purchase links are more of a convenience for visitors.
How have you been driving traffic to the site?
It’s a combination of social media, search engines and positive reviews from bloggers.
You make it clear that the lyrics are 100% legit and the artists are compensated. What kind of issues with licensing or IP did you encounter?
Getting legal lyrics can be a bit of a minefield. So we partnered with a lyric aggregator that takes care of all artist compensation and legal record keeping. It’s been a great partnership for us, because it allows us to focus on the user experience instead of dealing with lawyers.
How has the reception been since you launched?
It’s been great! We have had visitors from nearly every country on the planet and our traffic continues to grow.
What are your hopes for the future of LYRICSnMUSIC?
We have some BIG plans for the future, but we are still working on the on it, so I’d rather not say right now.
Now to the more techie questions…
I did a search for “the night winds stir the old ghosts” and the song I was thinking of was the first hit. Very impressive as it was a bit obscure. What do you use to power your search? Something like SOLR/Lucene?
It’s an algorithm that is continually being improved on. We should have an update in the next 30 days, so the search results should get even better.
What kind of datastore are you using?
Right now it’s Amazon S3.
What is the site built on (PHP, Django, Rails, .NET, etc)?
We use Ruby on Rails and really like the speed of how we can get new features online.
Did you build it yourself or outsource/offshore?
We have a team that we have been working with for 5 years.
Any thoughts on a mobile app to complement the web site?
Yes, that is one of the things we will be working on and hope to have it live in the next few months.
What do you host on? Dedicated servers, VPS, cloud services or all of the above?
Heroku cloud services.
Have you hit any scalability issues?
Not yet (knock on wood). Scalability is one of the things we love about cloud services. It’s really easy to add more resources when you start hitting your current limit.