Rants & Raves

Musings on software, programming, design, and business.

On Saturday, April 25th, the Bootsoft Manila team celebrated Earth Day by adopting  and planting 30 Trees at La Mesa Ecopark and La Mesa Watershed Nature Reserve. The day started with an informational lecture about proper gardening and information about the importance of planting more trees.

After the lecture, we finally got our hands dirty! We learned how to make a soil composite (which we can use to garden at home),  and then filled the poly grow bag up with our mixture. We also learned proper planting and watering of plants.

After planting trees, we went on a tour of the Butterfly Haven where we  got to witness a complete life cycle of the butterflies. Of course, we also enjoyed seeing the  butterflies flying and playing with us as we walked through. We loved the scenic view of the garden and collection of different species of butterflies!

We finished our day by painting and designing our own eco-bag that we got to take home for everyday use instead of using a plastic bag (which is bad for the environment!).

Overall, we really enjoyed doing our part to help the environment. We are looking forward to using everything that we learned from this activity in everyday life.

On April 23rd, the Bootsoft New York team made it’s way to Bowlmor Lanes for the fourth year in a row.  As always, the team name and costumes were fantastic:

Bowldozers – Winner of most Team Spirit!

Ten Pin Mafia

Bowleros

Rick Levine bowled an impressive 185 and won the award for Highest Individual Score.

Dave Gould earned the Spare Change award for having the most spares in a single game

Thanks again to all who participated and made it another fantastic event. We can’t wait for next year!

Click here to view more photos from the event.

Bootsoft had another memorable potluck during lunch on March 26th. As always, people used the opportunity to show off their creative culinary skills. In order to keep things exciting, we mixed up the categories which yielded delicious results:

Healthiest Dish went to Daniel Engelman’s Crispy Tofu Cubes with a Tahini/Miso/Lemon dipping sauce


Unhealthiest Dish went to Sally Dankas for her Peanut Butter & Potato Chip Cookies

Boris Bondarenko won the prize for Most Creative Dish with his Roasted Bone Marrow & Parsley Salad

Best All-Around went to the newest Bootsoft team member, Brian Braunstein, for his Pulled Pork and Spicy Hard Cider Glaze (top)

Other delicious items pictured  above are Roasted Brussels Sprouts by David Bebawy, Deviled Eggs by Becky Frost,  and Riceballs by Seung-Yun Shin.

You can check out all the photos here.  Thanks to all for participating!

 

 

The face of front-end development is in a constant state of flux. Web applications are becoming increasingly front-end driven, and the concept of a single page web-app powered entirely by REST-ful web services is the new norm. While libraries like jQuery have dominated the landscape for many years, they no longer provide all of the necessary tools for today’s client-side development world. The result is a major push from the front-end community for more robust tools and frameworks that make up for these deficiencies, one of the most popular of these is AngularJS.  Where jQuery is a toolbelt, Angular is framing, plumbing, and electrical.

Angular isn’t the only solution. Backbone is another popular framework that creates separation in the MVC pattern. It is, in my opinion, the most “bare metal” javascript MVC available in the open-source world. Although it provides some syntactic sugar for wiring events to elements with the scope of a view, it does not offer “two-way” data binding in the way that Angular does.  That is, if you assign a model to a views configuration, the frameworks leaves the work of listening to the model to update the view when data is changed. Building dynamic web applications takes a lot of code, and developers are forced to work with low level tools for DOM manipulation. Starting any new project involves writing a lot of boilerplate code to listen for user input, and then linking all of these listeners to some functionality.

Angular addresses boilerplate bloat code with a more graceful document life-cycle, then allows you to access this functionality through additional HTML attributes/tags/class known as directives. All of the functionality you would have to add using Backbone is moved behind the scenes. The philosophy behind Angular is that web applications are living documents that should update in real time. Creating dynamic client-side applications should not be such a messy endeavor.

The big win with Angular is two-way data binding. In a traditional web app, when a page renders it takes data, merges it with a templating system and then displays that data to the user.  At that point the rendered page is essentially static. Developers have to manually wire events for clicks, hovers, keystrokes etc, that update a data model or collection of models based on those events. The page then has to re-render the page using the template and updated data model.

In Angular, the View and the Model are connected by two-way data binding. Changes that happen in the View immediately affect the Model, and changes in the Model instantaneously change the View. More importantly, Angular sets up all of this functionality under the hood, so coding can be as simple as change a few HTML attributes and calling the template without writing a single line of JavaScript.

Two way binding is a huge timesaver, and also helps the developer think more in terms of the state of the app – which leads to a more consistent experience for the user.  Angular is massively robust and contains many other tools that allow for rapid development.  Dependency injection, custom directives, services, factories, and host of other nuts and bolts place Angular squarely in contention for the go-to JS framework.  I should also note that Angular is a product of our friends at Google, and so we may have a relatively high level of confidence in it’s progression and ongoing maintenance.


I first met Becky in April of last year when she was interviewing for a Quality & Business Analyst position. From the moment we spoke, I knew she was going to be a tremendous asset to Bootsoft. Becky’s solid QA background, strong communication skills and cool as a cucumber demeanor made her a perfect fit for Bootsoft (I was also unabashedly giddy that she had dabbled in Hyperbolic Geometry and Abstract Algebra). Unfortunately, Becky was living in Madison at the time and we would have to wait nearly three months for her to join our team. As expected, she was worth the wait.

Becky hit the ground running and started to contribute immediately. Rather than read all the training materials we have built over the years, she migrated everything to our internal wiki. After that, she went after our auto-test development materials and started critically evaluating our processes looking for inconsistencies with a serious eye for detail. Once she got our existing materials in order, she worked with other Quality Assurance resources in New York, namely Smadar Mavor and Kate Diago, to draft a methodology for creating Agile Use Cases. In summary, she quickly tackled unglamorous tasks that were overdue and badly needed and for that she gets a big fat gold star.

Becky did not stop there; instead she put on a Product Owner cap and collaborated on several Agile projects. In this capacity, her attention to detail was instrumental. She drove story development, corralled clients, managed priorities, and extracted and translated requirements. She has worked on an educational product for a start up, a financial research oriented mobile iPad app, and a SalesForce VIOP integration where her QA and technical skills have certainly been challenged, but she continues to shine.

As noted above, Becky is nailing it and has done so from day one. She has been a tremendous help to me, and I cannot wait to see what else she can do as her career evolves at Bootsoft.

Agile is everywhere. In the 13 years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the term has slowly become a common part of the tech vernacular – and that’s a good thing. For years, the majority of us in the development community have pretended that if we just sat still long enough, thought hard enough, made swank models, had a lot of meetings to collect requirements, and incorporated feedback from peer reviews on our designs and specifications that we would create the best product possible. I have a lot of swank diagrams, data models, and technical specifications that I’m pretty proud of, but when the rubber meets the road, ‘stuff happens’ and there is always the regret that we did not have more time for development or find that super key thing that was missed.

Collectively speaking, we have always made up for those mishaps with a lot of coffee, all nighters, a few stressed out PMs and a lot of refactoring. Riding down the waterfall in the best constructed barrel has certainly served us well, but I have always felt like something was fundamentally wrong. Agile taught me that I was not crazy for thinking there was a better way, or that our efforts were misplaced.

Agile Process

Helping lead the way in the Agilification of Bootsoft has been one of the more rewarding professional experiences I have had. There is a greater sense of ownership across the board and quite frankly it just makes sense. Working with clients to shape a product from start to finish is very satisfying. When involved in these type of projects, most team members feel like they have a say in the direction of the product as it develops. They’re not just handed a massive tech spec and told “Go.” At the same time clients can see, touch, and feel the product as it goes through development, which obviously helps build our mutual understand and confidence along the way.

That’s not to say Agile is always the right choice. Tackling an Agile project requires a close-knit team of highly motivated individuals. It requires discipline; albeit a more creative kind of discipline, but discipline none the less. It requires more training. The Agile methodology has only recently hit universities and most of us have waterfalling ingrained in our DNA. Unraveling traditional methods and educating clients and colleagues is no small task.

You’ve also got to take the time upfront to reap the rewards. People are resistant to to long retrospectives, planning, and estimation sessions because most of us are simply so scared from a seemingly relentless line of unproductive meetings. We all have a tendency to  fall back on old habits and comfortable ways of working. You need a few ah-ha moments to keep the shift in style and tactics in place. It is not as easy as enacting a new policy and insisting everyone follow. It requires coaching and determination. I guess this is why they invented the scrum master – to keep everyone honest about the process and priorities.

Despite this, I am a convert. There is a better way, and Agile is it. Agile will lead you to a better product faster. In other words – you can believe the hype.

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), struck the Visayas region of the Philippines. It was the strongest storm ever recorded (category 5),  and as a result it destroyed many homes and historical facilities, tore families apart and claimed many lives. In the wake of the storm, the International community came together to extended their donations, relief and rescue mission to all affected areas.

Bootsoft’s Manila office also wanted to do their part in the relief efforts and did not think twice about setting aside the employee Christmas party to host a gift giving party to the children of Tacloban, and providing a Noche Buena to the families that were taking refuge at Hospicio de San Jose.

Bootsoft Manila Team who had a great time hosting a party and wishing them a better tomorrow after the tragedy.

Nothing compares to the fun and fulfillment seeing them enjoying and smiling like nothing happened.

Food for their Christmas Eve Celebration

The smile on the kids faces were priceless!

Overall, the event was in the true Christmas spirit of giving back. The team enjoyed seeing smiles on the faces of children you would normally see on TV crying and asking for help. In fact, the event was so popular with the team that it’s highly likely there will be future events where Manila Gives Back!

Early last year, Bootsoft introduced the Bootsoft Learns Together program (BLT). The big goal being to continue to grow and learn new and interesting things. One cool thing about the program is that the topic is not limited in scope to what we do here at Bootsoft — or maybe it is, since we’ve been known to dabble in everything from music, to puzzling, to art, and of course software! Another cool benefit is that Bootsoft donates BLT hours for all employees, so you can actually do this while at work!

The development group decided that we would learn Scala. A small group of us signed up for a functional programming course via the popular learning site, Coursera and chugged on for several weeks. The class itself was comprised of lectures, quizzes, and homework. The lectures were about 5 to 15 minutes long per session, with an embedded quiz. Homework assignments were due weekly and got fairly involved, especially towards the end. All in all, it was a great learning experience. The group got together once a week to talk about the class and share ideas on the material itself, including applying our new-found knowledge to future project work.

Riding our Scala-high, we immediately got together to talk about our next learning adventure. That talk resulted in us deciding to attend and iOS class. The class we signed up for was an ongoing series offered by Stanford University. These were real full classroom lectures that were recorded and published. The format was therefore very different than what we were used to from the Scala class. In fact, most of us agreed that we were bored with the delivery of the material (mostly due to the length of each lecture). As a result, we decided to try using the class material as reference to aid in building some real iOS projects in-house. This effort resulted in three projects, two of which were dropped. The final of the three is still on-going and will be released to the public later this year.

We learned from the iOS class that it was next to impossible to keep up with Apple’s lightening pace of iOS version releases without sacrificing real project work and deadlines. We also learned that it was much easier to stick with the class to the end if the format was more suited to a heavy multi-tasking environment. That is, bite-sized chunks over long drawn-out sessions.

Generally, though we got something started and now it is once again in full effect, as a couple of team members have picked up Mongo DB for developers, another online course that is formatted very much like the Scala course and shows great promise for usage in future projects at Bootsoft.

On Thursday, January 16th, employees, clients and guests gathered at Pioneers Bar for Bootsoft’s Annual (post) Holiday Party.

This year’s party included lots of dancing to soul music courtesy of DJ Guyanna Ross:

A photoboooth:

And over-sized Jenga:

The 3rd Annual Bootie Awards were also handed out during the event. Below is a list of the winners:

Rick and Jay gave a heartwarming speech
Bootsoft’s MVP – Kristina Vogel-An
Most Dedicated Puzzler – David Bebawy
Karaoke King & Queen – Jay Erickson & Kate Baldwin
Most Stylish – Olivier Auber
Early Bird – Sally Dankas
Night Owl – Jill Hennelly
Most Impressive Dance Moves – Martin Constantine
Best Sense of Humor – Mark Udit
Most Likely To Brighten Your Day – Dave Gould & Tyler Joseph
Most Fit and/or Athletic – Kate Parker

Overall, it was a fanastic time. Cheers to all who helped make the evening great!

Visit us on Facebook to view all the photos from the night!

On a regular basis, Bootsoft developers face complex and mind boggling software development challenges. The kind of problems that were solved in high school by the Mathletes because they were too bold and too dangerous for the classroom. Sometimes a single developer can find the solution right away. Sometimes it takes a whole team. Sometimes the team get stumped. Befuddled. Fatigued. When that happens, we bring in Mark. Mark is our clincher. Our relief pitcher. The Resolver.

What makes Mark such an ideal clincher? Experience, for one. Mark has been with Bootsoft for over a decade and has worked on multiple projects across multiple technology stacks and with multiple clients. Second, consistency. A project manager’s dream. I can even tell you what Mark is going to have for lunch tomorrow. Third, his cool and calm demeanor. It is exactly what is needed in an emergency situation and is the trait of a true leader.

In addition to Mark’s keen ability to hone directly in on the problem at hand, he is also a talented software architect and tech lead who is able to see the big picture.

Congrats Mark, you nailed it!