MVP: The Web Team Facilitator

Web teams for any organization’s own websites typically consist of a manager, visual designer, web developer, copy writer, photographer, and assistants. And missing from this list, is perhaps the most necessary role! Usually, one (or more) of the enumerated persons assumes its function: it is the product manager.

What product? yes, well, if you were building these sites for a client, you’d have one, right? Of course you would. But for internal websites, perhaps it is more intuitive to call this person the team facilitator. Same thing, really: that you are your own client does not remove the need for that position, although it may not need a full person staffing unit (FTE) allocation most weeks.

If your organization is enlightened enough to have a chief digital officer, perhaps that person could have the bandwidth to function as the web team facilitator. My experience however is that the CDO is far too busy holding girders together with brand identity, representation, management, engagement and interaction to act in that capacity.

What about the line manager? Usually s/he is multitasking already, devoting just a fractional slice to managing some or most of the web team personnel, and is too preoccupied holding other things together to have the flexibility and time to fill the gap.

From my experience, it is usually the designer or the developer who puts on the cat herder cape & shoes, who makes the launch happen. If this happens in your organization? honor and recognize it! You’re fortunate to have a soul with the empathy for the team, dedication to the mission, and passion for schedule to give delivery wings.


We have come to value individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

That is the first value statement of the Agile Manifesto. And it is the essential cornerstone for creating software together.

It is a concise statement that is easy to miss. It is an epic statement that can span all of human history from our fall to our salvation. Kings have stumbled, and empires have fallen, tripping over it.

To illustrate that I’m not being dramatic would take much more of a platform for communication than this blog. All that I can effectively convey in this medium, at this space and in this time, is that a software engineer with two decades of experience considers it the most important sentence of my career.

Keep Austin Weird

Keep Austin WeirdThe city of Austin is a stuff of legends. For a young man, its annual festivals, its club scene, and its diverse cuisine, build it a reputation, as the Texas-sized playground. A city of mirth, a city of mystery, & a place of music.

Of course people who live in its overcrowded neighborhoods, who rake leaves and pick up bottles and send kids to school don’t have the same perception of their city as in-state tourists. But since when has fantasy needed to have correlation with reality?

My first week as a resident of ATX, I know it is a city of tolls, traffic congestion, and road construction. With people of many hues, shades, and values. I found a place to buy bread, a place to fuel my car, and a place to work out. The regular things seem to have taken on the trouble of legend; just living is harder, more because I’ve moved than because of Austin.

There is the sense that this city is buckling beyond maximum occupancy, coping to contain its citizens. Each of the 70 people who relocate here per day add to the payload of penance that the people pay. Moving trucks are on every road; it’s common to see 2-3 per day, and with each sighting, locals sigh outwardly. But deep within, there is a rising groan. The city’s unofficial slogan, rising to replace “Keep Austin Weird,” is a bit more obvious: “Austin: don’t move here.”

But the hypocrisy is palpable; there are corporate brands on every street corner. It’s clear that the city’s elite did not share the value of keeping Austin weird.

It’s still possible to foster local loyalty and love one another by giving our business to families who will keep the profits in the city instead of sucking them offshore. This is what it means to keep Austin weird. Preferring mom & pop – and insisting on knowing the owners we deal with – is how we can preserve a cultural legacy. I don’t buy into the “don’t move here” t-shirt; that angst is just misguided.

Let’s welcome the newcomers with open arms, giving the “keep Austin weird” vision to them as the key to our city.

Homegrown Austin API community

austinapiAustin Homegrown API’s, a new and thriving developer community, meets again on Wed May 22 at uShip (the corner of 3rd & Brazos). Hope you can join us!

Here are my (all errors and some additions are mine!) notes from our last meeting, where Keith Casey @CaseySoftware Developer Evangelist at presented.

REST. wait what?

Soap is to home mortgage as Rest is to borrowing lunch.
Pretty URL’s are (often thought of but) not related to REST.

Recommended Reading

  • Restful Web Services (2007) by Richardson & Ruby
  • Building Hypermedia API’s with HTML5 and Node (2011) by Mike Amundsen

Richardson Maturity Model (Martin Fowler’s concept) LEVELS:

  • 0: Plain Old XML
  • 1: Resources (nouns, core ORM objects usually; few)
  • 2: Verbs (the HTTP verbs for create/read/update/delete/etc operations)
  • 3: Hypermedia Controls (HATEOAS Hypermedia as the engine of application state = choose yr own adventure book)
  • 4: The Glory of Rest (wtf)

Link Relations – e.g. Prev Next Up Down etc

Payload MIME type isn’t specified. Suggestions:

  • JSON Collections
  • JSON Path


Texas JavaScript 2013

Here are some notes from the #TXJS conference three days ago at Austin, Texas

When walking around, I made three observations about the attendees: 1. there were ALOT of them; hundreds and hundreds, 2. they brought Mountain Lion OS running laptops, 3. there were no windows laptops in attendance; not even one.

Dave Rupert really started us thinking why we do what we do; his talk challenged us to love what we do and do what we love, letting the core values of our hearts dictate the values of the working environment and relationships. He challenged everyone to recommit to making the responsive web an accessible one including ARIA. See his and subscribe to the Shop Talk Show podcast at

You can guess what Nicole Sullivan’s talk was about from its title, presuming you’ve followed her recommendations for writing CSS in an object-oriented manner in the past: “OOCSS and Preprocessors in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” She full-on recommended that all web designers write stylesheets in SCSS in a way that preserves that OOCSS harmony, avoiding tempting possibilities that result in bloated compiled deliverable size.

The author of and seconded her advice for us to write Sassy CSS (SCSS), but he was less worried than Nicole about the performance hit of having a few extra kilobytes in the compiled, machine read browser deliverable.

You’ll just have to watch the video of Trek’s presentation when (if) it comes online; I could listen to him talk for days. Trek argued that web designers just doing Photoshop today should and are learning RWD so “slice & dice” web (psd→html+css) monkeys need to either acquire legit design education or specialize in JavaScript software engineering.

Frances Berriman, front-end development lead for @govuk, spoke about “Culture change for creating better user experiences.” Some elements of web design @phae advocated adoption include audience targeting, using analytics to improve UX, functional design, minimalism, and plain language <>

@jedschmidt & @izs & @polotek talked about server-side programming in Node.js

Charlie Robbins talked about the ethics and end-game of “All Open Source Everything,” championing the model of open sourcing much of the useful internal architecture of systems while retaining and monetizing key components which make the parts a product.

Drew Wilson gave us some golden nuggets of wisdom from his new book EXECUTE, which sounds WELL worth its meager price.

Phil suggested that not every website and/or client actually benefits from a CMS, particularly with a “WYSIWYG” rich text editor.

Agile Websites

Agile Software Development methodologyMany of the sermons from the Texas JavaScript 2013 symposium were about what we value, how we build, and where we’re going with this whole web thing. They caused me to dig down to the bedrock of how and why we do things. And when I go there, I revisit The Agile Manifesto.

What does it mean to build responsive, mobile first apps & websites in an Agile way? Well, as we’ve been doing it, and teaching others to do it, we’ve been uncovering better ways of developing sites & apps; through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working websites/apps over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

To learn more about how these values work out, in the way we approach product design, client relations, building deliverables, meeting milestones, et. al., read the principles of Agile, and let’s have a discussion.

Dialogue is a good way to unpack the meaning encoded in the language of the twelve principles, and I always love a good thread on Twitter, comments on my blog, or talking over some good coffee and/or beer. I’m persuaded we’ll learn more, and be enriched through conversation.

Responsive Web Design

rwdResponsive Web Design (RWD) is the paradigm for front-end web design in 2013. From a technical perspective, RWD is the combination of using fluid grid layout, flexible width images, and media queries. Philosophically, RWD is the coalescing of the philosophies of web accessibility, the semantic web, progressive enhancement, and graceful degradation.

The goal of RWD is to make web pages accessible to the broadest audience of users, which in 2013 is smartphones. We do this by focusing on the mobile experience first, and progressively enhancing for larger viewport widths.

In this video, Scott Reynolds of @thrise introduces responsive web design, and covers the 5W’s.

The JavaScript of WordPress

wpI’m surprised that web developers underestimate the significance of the JavaScript that WordPress incorporates into its standard distribution. Maybe we don’t understand the breadth of developer adoption that implies. There are sixty million WordPress sites in the world. Breathe. Let that sink in.

Adoption by WP places a demand on hosting & training resources worldwide, ensuring affordable availability and a healthy ecosystem surrounding those JavaScript libraries. They will get love. Lots of love.

WordPress 3.5 includes:

I propose that we give them some respect & attention.

Get Retina Ready, The Retro Way

retinaThe first step to becoming buzzword compliant is to remove the buzz and unpack what is real from the hype.

To be retina ready is to make the images on your website look good on devices which have a higher pixel density. That’s all.  How do you increase the pixel density of a 50×50 icon, say? Just save your original graphic as a 100px square and use CSS to cause the browser to resize it to 50px.

Could that cause the kilobytes of your images on your homepage to double, hurting your page performance? No, not double; although there will be an increase in weight if you persist in saving JPEG’s at the same level of quality. I’ve found, however, that increasing the pixel density allows me to double up the compression on JPEG, so the resulting image file sizes are actually smaller.

In the end, getting “retina ready” may have been a good thing, because it causes us to re-examine some old defaults that made sense five years ago. And, bonus: when your CSS fixes the image dimensions using percentages or em’s instead of pixels, wham your new, smaller, more beautiful images are responsive now.

That was easy.

$99 tablets mean web dominance

It’s confirmed, Acer is going to market their Iconia B1 tablet for under $100. This means that touch-based, Internet access is becoming more broadly available worldwide, as the exponential rate of paradigm shift away from the Desktop PC to mobile devices continues. Will Acer try to position their software marketplace against Apple’s or Microsoft’s or Google’s?

No, of course not. Acer is in the commodity/clone business. They’re just trying to make a small margin selling hardware that runs open standards applications built chiefly with web technology i.e. HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. Oh yeah, there will be some 6%-10% of apps built on the highly fragmented, tough to target Android OS, by the very large & successful software houses. But the overwhelming, lion’s share of app development for tablets will continue to be in the lingua franca of mobile: web tech.

It’s a great day to be a web developer.