The Empty Vessel Makes the Greatest Sound

I did never know so full a voice issue from so empty a heart. But the saying is true: “The empty vessel makes the greatest sound.”

Shakespeare's Henry V, Act IV, Scene 4

A decade living in New York has conditioned me to have an instinctive skepticism of the loudest voice in the room. The loud people, the pushy people, the bullies, those who take up the most space, whether in the workplace or hooting on the sidewalks at night on the weekend – these are almost always also the people of least consequence, but its a fact that is tragically lost on most.

Robust AJAX UIs with jQuery-UJS and Server-Generated Javascript Responses

Robust AJAX UIs with jQuery-UJS and Server-Generated Javascript Responses

The jQuery-UJS (“Unobtrusive Javascript”) library has been around since 2010, making it quite old by the standards of frontend tooling, whose pace of evolution is swift. In many contexts, however, jQuery-UJS, along with complimentary Server-generated Javascript Responses (SJR) still surpass more modern frontend tooling and frameworks in metrics that should matter to anybody building a web app with dynamic UI requirements, even in 2016.

The most profound virtue of UJS is probably how palpably it minimizes your overall code surface area. AJAX bindings are made to the specification of certain data-attributes read off of elements in the DOM, which in practice oftentimes means a lot of boilerplate Javascript files you might otherwise have in your codebase you simply do not need. Furthermore, with UJS, most of the custom Javascript that you do execute to implement your rich user interactions is, by necessity, nicely compartmentalized in server-side templates oftentimes only 1-3 lines long, and very clearly named and situated.

A Production-Ready Rails 5 Email Workflow with Mailer Previews, Premailer and ActiveJob

A Production-Ready Rails 5 Email Workflow with Mailer Previews, Premailer and ActiveJob

Since the introduction of Mailer Previews and ActiveJob in Rails 4.1, the framework has truly set itself apart from others in the comprehensiveness and comfort of its workflow around emails. The framework’s creator, DHH, has espoused a perspective that mailers are views, and accordingly Rails now gives us an email workflow that is nearly identical to that around ordinary controllers and views.

I will walk through my complete email stack and workflow, which I have used very effectively across several production apps.

Managing Your Production Crontab with Whenever and Capistrano

Managing Your Production Crontab with Whenever and Capistrano

Though Cron has been around since the 1970s, it is often still a perfectly viable, incredibly robust way to run scheduled jobs for your web application – in particular if you deploy your app to a single dedicated server or VPS.

Whenever is a command line utility, written in Ruby, that lets you declare your Crontab entries using the very human-readable Ice Cube DSL, and that includes related utilities to actually write out to your Crontab based upon these human-friendly source files. The benefits for your project are twofold. First, you get to define your Crontab entries in a language that is natural to read rather than in the famously obscure and forgettable native syntax. Second, you get to keep your schedule definition within your project tree so that it becomes, in effect, integrated with your application rather than something managed separately with your infrastructure.

ZPhotostream: A simple photostream for the indie web

ZPhotostream: A simple photostream for the indie web

I have been away from New York much more this past year than I’m accustomed to and have been trying to encourage myself to take more photos, since it is not a habit I’ve cultivated at home. I thought it would help if I kept a photo log up here on my personal site and so I made ZPhotostream, a simple but featureful-enough photo log app that I could style to my liking and host myself.

Chilling Out
Image credit: Victor Cajiao

Chilling Out

Today was a Sunday and for the first time in probably 5 years I guiltlessly did nothing to advance any business initiative of mine. I worked on no personal projects. I did no client work. I walked down to Bleecker Street maybe 10 blocks south of my apartment and I went to Porto Rico, a hundred year old coffee importer I’ve been going to for a decade that has a little coffee bar in the back. I got a coffee, sat on a bench out front, drank my coffee and watched the streets.

Validation Contexts in ActiveRecord

Validation Contexts in ActiveRecord

Validation contexts are a little-appreciated but immensely practical feature of Ruby on Rails’ object-relational mapper, ActiveRecord. I cannot count the number of times I have seen hacks around a problem for which a validation context would have been a perfect fit simply because this feature lives a bit under the radar and isn’t in every Rails developer’s toolbox.

What is a validation context, precisely? It is a way to constrain a model validation to a particular usage context for a record. This is similar to what you might achieve with something like state_machine, but far more lightweight.

Berlin

Berlin

I’ve been in Berlin for the past month. I ended up here somewhat arbitrarily, on behalf of a client, but I can honestly say I have fallen in love with this city, perhaps more so than any city I have spent time in aside from New York, which has been my home for nearly ten years.

I wanted to do a post to reflect on the things that are unique and wonderful about this city for anybody who may be thinking about traveling to or working from here.