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?
Node.js in real life…check it out.
I got this in an email the other day. Since the demise and assimilation of Palm by HP, I’d largely forgotten WebOS. However, this triggered a few thoughts (I have fewer than you would think).
I followed the yellow brick road to the HP WebOS developer center. I have to say, a couple of things impressed me.
The WebOS Product Lineup
Remember when it was just the Palm Pre? Well, it’s not much bigger now but doesn’t look bad.
Now that I’m lugging an HTC Thunderbolt or iPhone around, I really miss smaller phones. Charging the battery every four hours is also a big downer on that damn Thunderbolt.
The Veer is just my size. I check email, Twitter and Yammer frequently. Sometimes I text, but I rarely watch a ton of media so the big screen on these larger smart-phones is just a nuisance. But I digress. HP has a small, medium and tablet form factor. If they’re serious I’d be surprised if an iPhone-esque form factor weren’t also in the works.
The Development Suite
Another Smartphone Platform, Seriously?
Does WebOS matter anymore? To be clear, we see this as a race for third place in the smart-phone market (sorry RIM/Blackberry…the PlayBook won’t save you).
Personally, after Windows Phone 7‘s recent missteps (phone bricking, lolly-gagging over updates, etc.) I’d put my money on WebOS. iOS and Android will continue to dominate for the foreseeable future. WebOS may get traction depending on how skillfully HP markets it and to what degree they provide compelling devices. It’ll be a tough road for them.
From a developer’s standpoint, this proliferation of smart-phone platforms is maddening. Each has its own tech stack for developers to deal with. That fragmentation is driving developers to embrace frameworks such as PhoneGap, which WebOS has wholeheartedly adopted. In other words if you’re producing iOS and Android apps with PhoneGap, supporting WebOS devices isn’t much of a stretch. Supporting Windows Phone 7 is a completely different story at the moment. Even iOS, which ordinarily has to be programmed in the unholy spawn of Smalltalk and C (Objective-C), is supported by these frameworks less some of the stranger native controls (I’m looking at you UIPickerView).
I don’t know about the rest of you, but here’s our evil plan:
- Stay focused on iOS (I have to take horse tranquilizers to cope with Objective-C) and Android.
- Keep an eye on the market acceptance of the new devices HP is introducing.
The availability of Angry Birds.
Update 8/24/2011 – Following a fascinating earthquake that started in Virginia, shook Philly (even I felt it napping in my office) and heading west, HP announces that they are ceasing operations of the WebOS business unit. That means one of two things:
1. Yep, it’s dead.
2. HP has other sinister plans in a software-only realm.
Either way, if you’re a WebOS developer I urge you to use those skills and pump them into another platform. Things are going to get ugly.