On Boring Stacks

A good friend sent me Jason Kester’s article Happiness is a Boring Stack a few weeks ago. The friend knows me well and knew the words of the piece would resonate strongly. The piece is worth a read. Its essential point is that while Hacker News,  Medium, or certain of your colleagues may give you the impression that you have woefully mis-stepped if you aren’t building your application atop the latest and greatest JavaScript framework and containerization solution, from a perspective of pragmatism and quality of life this is often not at all the case:

Practice

I recently read Chad Fowler’s The Passionate Programmer, a book broadly concerned with finding fulfillment through work in software development. The book had an unexpectedly strong impact on me. Many of Fowler’s key points aligned uncannily with recent experiences and observations of my own. One section that leapt out in particular to me concerned practice.

From Jekyll to WordPress

From Jekyll to WordPress

I’ve been lazily running this blog since 2013, though for long stretches I’d find time to post only every few months. Initially I published with a minimal blogging engine I’d written myself in Ruby on Rails. At some point I came across Tom Preston-Werner’s article Blog Like a Hacker in which outlines the many raisons d’être for his static site generator, Jekyll. The thrust of it all is that the tools we use for managing code, such as the Git version control system, are actually uncannily suited to prose writing as well. In fact adopting a programming-like workflow and tooling for your blog alleviates some very real pains that you’ll experience if you use a more ordinary CMS like WordPress.

A Review of PeerStreet

A Review of PeerStreet

Investing is not something I have historically written much about on this blog, but it is something that I have cared about, studied and practiced for the last several years. My investments are largely in boring, low-fee, broad-market index funds like VTI, VYM and XLK, but I have been experimenting with the Peer-to-Peer lending site PeerStreet for several months and wanted to write a review as I have now backed several loans through their platform. This experience has given me a good sense of PeerStreet’s features, upsides, downsides and how it could align with different investor profiles and goals.

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.