Speaking at 360iDev, Come Join Us.

I’m happy to report some recent talk proposals were accepted and I’ll be speaking at 360iDev this August in Denver. I was already going to go to 360iDev regardless of the talks, I’ve heard great things from recent years, so this just makes the week that much more exciting.

360iDev Logo

My Talks:

Overcoming the Stress Surrounding Code Review, for the Betterment of Your Project and Career

Code Review is a practice where before a change is made to a code base, the code is first posted somewhere for peer review and critique. Code Review is an extremely productive way to catch problems before they are delivered to users as well as help individuals mature as programmers. In this talk we’ll explore Code Review by documenting the responsibilities of those involved, the person posting the code, the person (or people) reviewing the code, and then again back to the poster, as they react to the feedback given. In addition to the raw process of these stages we’ll also review the very human side of Code Review using real world stories, the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ll close with more general tips and tools that can help, as well as cover some of the how and why you might want to utilize these practices even in your own solo work. The best audience for this talk are people who are looking to improve their personal or team code processes. Those who attend will leave with very actionable strategies to execute productive code review on their own projects.

Starting, Growing and Running a Successful Developer Meetup

One of the most rewarding aspects of my career has been attending and then helping to run my local Apple developer meetup group. Meetup groups provide great learning opportunities but more importantly they provide great relationship opportunities for its members. In this talk I’ll share the story and lessons learned from running my local CocoaHeads chapter. After a quick review of the benefits and challenges of running a local developer group we’ll jump into actionable items for people starting, growing or running their own group. From defining success, to time expectations, marketing, sponsorship, planning content, tools and more. To close the session we’ll invite a few other group leaders from the audience to the front for a broad question and answer session about your specific issues and concerns. This talk is targeted at those who are running or would like to run a local developer meetup. It may also be helpful to those who attend a current group that needs guidance and/or focus.

If you are an iOS developer you should consider joining us. It’s going to be a great conference. Per CocoaHeads, use the coupon code “cocoacommunity” for 15% off all tickets.

Meet OwlDeck, a New Mac Presentation App for Programmers and Markdown Geeks.

Today I’m launching the teaser site for my new app, OwlDeck.

OwlDeck is a new macOS presentation tool for programmers and geeks who need to display code and love Markdown.

If you are interested in OwlDeck I’d love for you to signup to its newsletter and email me your thoughts.

If you are interested in some behinds the scene stuff you can checkout the project journal I’ve been keeping over at Rested Experience. I hope to share more now that things are going public and timelines are set.

Really excited to be working on products again. :)

Introducing Zorn Labs LLC

As I alluded to after loosing my job at the end of January, I knew I’d take the majority of February to recover from my neck surgery and then get serious about work in March. We’ll it’s almost the end of March so I figured I’d do an update.

First, welcome Zorn Labs LLC, my new company. It will house my future consulting and product work.

Second, I am still looking for work. My goal is to find something 10-30 hours a week, doing iOS or iOS mentoring. To help express my skill set and goals I’ll point you to the new company site. I would appreciate all friends and followers to help spread the word.

Outside of setting up the new business and website, much of March has been spent towards marketing and planning. I had many lunches and coffees with prospects and friends. I even had a few offers but they sadly weren’t the right fit for me at this time. When I haven’t been marketing I’ve been trying to jumpstart some new web skills, refreshing my HTML5/CSS3 knowledge, getting deeper into Hugo template design for the new Philly CocoaHead website, and experimenting with Elixir and Phoenix.

For those interested in my Mac app project, you can also check out my project journal blog at: http://restedexperience.com. I’ve been trying to update that a little more often with my recent progress.

So that’s my March update. Thanks for the interest! More to come in April! :)

Neck Surgery Recovery Update

My neck surgery on Friday was a success.

It was more complicated than expected (2.5 hours under instead of the planned 45-60 minutes). The cyst had grown much larger than anticipated and was interwoven between lots of muscle and attached itself all over, including my spine. It was removed, unruptured, and the muscles rebuilt to hopefully fill in the void without too much of an indentation.

I have a large line of stitches but the hope is it should heal without too much of a scar. I’ll see the doctor in two weeks for a checkup and have been taking it easy with a lot of bed rest. Overall, the pain has been pretty manageable, the area is mostly just tight feeling.

Cabin fever is totally setting in and I’m looking forward to getting out of the apartment later this week. Plan to do IndyHall one day and then Side Project Saturday with the CocoaHeads.

I know I owe a bunch of people lunch and or happy hour drinks. If you want to get together let me know.

Fever Dreams

While I had hopes of doing more productive things, I ended up spending the last few days in bed fighting off a pretty lousy sinus / chest cold.

Between the medicines and the fever, I don’t think I had more than 90 consecutive minutes of sleep. The dreams were awful too. Not like vivid/scary but it was as if I’m trying to solve an algebra problem and the rules don’t make sense. Sometimes I had these really long dreams and then I’d wake up only to find I was asleep for an hour or so.

Nothing like being sick to help remind you to appreciate the importance of your health.

Anyways, I’m on the mend and taking some antibiotics to help make sure my system is clean for Friday’s neck surgery. I’m hopeful the recovery of that will be easier than this past weekend. I think it should be.

On Thursday we’ve got CocoaHeads! I’ll be there to MC but will probably take it easy at the bar afterwords for obvious reasons.

Finally, I want to take a quick moment to say thanks to everyone who reached out to me regarding my unemployment news from last week. I really appreciate the well wishes and leads. Getting that kind of response really helps put my stress at ease. Thanks so much.

“For the times they are a-changing”

I am no longer an employee of Big Nerd Ranch. The news came down on Monday. I can’t speak to any of the details but suffice to say I am disappointed. I really enjoyed working at BNR. My time there was productive, for my own personal growth as well as that of my students and clients. I wish them well, and continue to recommend them as a good source for iOS education.

So, what’s next for me?

On the immediate horizon, I’m a bit focused on my neck surgery, which is on Feb 10th. Its been scheduled since November. The goal is to remove a large cyst on the back of my neck. I will be put under for this surgery, so tomorrow I have to get a bunch of blood work and X-rays done.

For work, I open to ideas. Generally speaking I’m unlikely to make long term plans and would probably prefer to take on some smaller consulting work. I’d like to steep a bit on my long term options. If you have anyone who might be in need for an experienced iOS or Mac developer, let me know. Thanks for your help.

Dongle Emotions

After letting my bedroom / office get out of hand, I took some time today to clean up and get organized. I wrapped and grouped up my wires and even opened up some of the new USB3/Thunderbolt3 dongles I had ordered to go along with my new MacBook Pro order.

Now I don’t want to get into the current dongle drama surrounding the new MacBook Pro — but I do have a funny story.

A few years ago I worked as a self-employed contractor doing iOS work. I was at a meeting with a new prospective client. Overall the meeting went well and it looked like we’d be working together. At the end I was packing up all my gear and there was an accusation that I had taken their projector dongle. I was fairly certain I was in the right and this was a dongle from my laptop bag but did I really want to risk this multi-month contract for a $30 dongle? It was something out of a Seinfeld episode. Suffice to say, I left the dongle with the client that day to ease tensions.

Don’t mess with another man’s dongle.

These days I mark all my dongles (and I need a ton of them as a traveling instructor not knowing what a room will have) with “ZORN” to alleviate confusion.

A Few Dental Stories Amongst Subscribers

One of my guilty (and time consuming) pleasures is YouTube.

I watch a lot of YouTube. Mostly video game and movie stuff, lots of WoW channels (even though I’m not playing much right now), a few Let’s Players and of course all of the upcoming Pokemon Sun and Moon hype.

Well overtime, you really come to connect with these hosts, many of which have stories of historically working hard service jobs to now, finally being able to do something they love for a living. You root for these people. Sometimes a life event happens to them, and since they are already sharing so much they share that too.

Yesterday I watched a video from a wise cracking WoW player by the name of Asmongold. In it he shared his ongoing trouble with his teeth, his early inability to treat it, his shame of the problem, the trouble it’s caused and how he is on the path to get things fixed. It hit home for me as I’m in the same boat.

My Own Dental Story

When I was working for myself, I was making money but not tons of money. I had emergency medical insurance when I first started but no dental. In fact growing up we didn’t have enough money for dental so I didn’t see a dentist much past early high school. While my teeth were out of alignment there was no major debilitation. For a while, outside of some embarrassment from the alignment problems it wasn’t that a big deal.

One day while attending a Phillies game we went out for a pre-game dinner. That night was the first fallen domino for me. I bit down on something and cracked my back right molar. I did not see a dentist as I didn’t really have a lot of extra money and in all honesty at this point there was a bit of fear in me about doctor’s in general. I let the problem grow and over time other teeth started to break down.

Fast forward to this year. Once again I had another event, a newly cracked tooth and this time a very painful result. Unfortunately when the pain really started to kick in I was on the road. There wasn’t much I could do outside of Advil and trying to keep the tooth clean with salt water. On the one Thursday I was in so much pain I almost didn’t show up to teach my class. It was a wake up call. I did not want to let this problem which I had procrastinated about for so long interfere with my new teaching job.

When I got home I looked through my employee dental coverage and made arrangements to see a dentist. It took even more time to really start to feel better. The first session was a general consultation, a full mouth set of x-rays to see where I stood. Unsurprisingly, I needed a lot of work. At least a few root canals and at least one extraction/implant (that first cracked molar from years ago, which by this point was ruined). On the second trip we did the first root canal and while the time in the dentist chair was not pleasant it (and a set of antibiotics to help with the infection) did come to quell my pain and I was really happy.

Since then I’ve had a second root canal, build up of the two teeth, and a surgery of the gum to prepare for one of crowns that needs more room. Today, I’m kind of in an awkward state where I have one temporary crown and one tooth “open” to let the gum surgery heal. I have to eat on one side of my mouth (which takes a ton of mental energy btw) and I can’t brush the top left set of teeth (only rinse with a prescription liquid). I’m set to do the two crown molds in another week from now. After that, they’ll take about two weeks to come back in the mail and finally have them installed.

It’s a long process, of which I’m really only just beginning — and yeah, very expensive. I am happy though to be finally on the road to improvement.

Why post this? For one, I’d like to share the story with Asmongold just to say, I’m with ya man — keep up the recovery.

For anyone else who might be in a similar situation, I’ll say this, do try to get your teeth cleaned and/or fixed as soon as possible. It really sucks that it’s so expensive but it’s something that time will only make worse. I do wish I had reached out to my family about the problem and been more proactive about it in the past. I’m sure I would have gotten some support from them to make it happen sooner. If you have people to lean on, don’t be stubborn like me, let them help you. Good luck and feel better soon.

Closing Thoughts on Big Nerd Ranch’s Front End Web Class

I posted a few thoughts while I was attending the Front End Web class last week and I figured I’d put a cap on it with some final thoughts.

Disclaimer: If you happen to find this post and don’t know, I do in fact work for Big Nerd Ranch, so yes I’m partial but these are still my honest opinions.

Who is this class for?

Like other BNR books and classes, there is an expectation of some experience. You don’t need to be an expert by any means for this class but you should be comfortable with the basics of web design, hosting and how the web works. If you are looking for these beginner skills I’d recommend Code School and/or Code Academy.

With the basics taken care of, this class provides an accelerated but thorough tour of modern web development and the toolchains that you need to know. The class is great for people like myself, who have a history of web development but have been out of the game for a few years or mostly focused on the backend systems. Others who would find value include those who are looking to jumpstart a new web skill set for a new job or project.

Having a full week to escape the distractions of work and personal obligations really enables you to focus on the class at hand. Combine this with guided lectures and an experienced instructor to answer questions and discuss patterns, really elevates the value to “priceless”.

The Syllabus

The table of contents titles don’t really do justice to the details of each chapter. In total we build four separate projects:

  • The first had us work with HTML5, CSS and JavaScript to do a moderately complex layout of a slideshow like page that included animations, responsive layout and modern markup techniques.
  • The second project was a Coffee Order system the helped us use HTML5 forms, Bootstrap styles, and JavaScript to communicate with a backend via AJAX.
  • The third project was a chat app, that utilized web sockets. For this app we not only built the front end but the backend too, in Node.js.
  • The fourth and final project was an EmberJS app that would have us catalog monster sightings. Ember is a big framework but I think the book does a fair introduction. We got to work with a relationship of models, and executed all the big features.

I thought the chapter and project progression went really well. There are some who might prefer to end with Angular or React instead of Ember but the good thing to know is the early class concepts give you a great JavaScript foundation to build on so you’ll be empowered to experiment with all of those projects and more over time.

That is a core value of Big Nerd Ranch classes that I really agree with. They teach you from the bottom up so you can understand how things work and not just how to assemble/configure things.

The Extras

There is lots of open lab time at night. You are encouraged to bring a side project to work on. While I did make some progress on my own project, an Ember Wiki project (I have some basic models and forms working, all backed up my a Firebase persistence layer), I did have to dedicate some lab time to the book itself to make sure I kept up.

In the afternoons we’d have time for a walk around the resort and on some of the days we even arranged for a shuttle van to take us to some of the exhibits, like the Birds of Prey and the Butterfly Center. Considering how focused we are during the class, these excursions are very welcome and a great way to clear your head and get a second wind.

Final Thoughts

If you want to learn a new technology, in this case Front End Web Development, and in particular if there is a time-sensitive nature to your needs it’s hard to imagine a better environment than a Big Nerd Ranch class. The ticket price does include lodging and food for the week so keep that in mind when shopping around or putting together a formal company request. If you have any questions, feel free to contact training support. They’ll be happy to help you out.