The Firehose Project - Week 8

Week 8 is over and out. Another week checked off and another week of valuable learning experiences. This last week was both a technically rewarding week and a socially rewarding week with lots of good stuff peppered all around. I’ve learned how to build static pages outside of Rails by using a simple gem, experienced the value and joy of getting involved and attending a meetup, the frustrations of things breaking because of a specific gem was utilized, teamwork, and pair programming. It was a good week for learning and experiencing the web development culture.

I suppose I should start this off in the order in which everything occurred since everything sort of builds off of each other. This week was the jump off for our group project, a playable chess application. Chess, a strategy turn based game that I never took the time to learn, is a complex game with many nuances and strategies which makes making a playable chess game quite difficult, especially for first time developers.

I’ve known about the chess game app since before I started theFirehoseProject and everyone I had talked to about it said the same thing, it’s going to be difficult and to that I said bring it on. I’ve been excited for this one not only because it will be a challenge but because I get to work on a team, something that I rarely get to do anymore. Oh and I volunteered to be Project Manager so that adds a layer of complexity and a role that I have never performed. So far we kicked off this week with having group tasks that each of us had to complete, so far so good.

Desperately wanting to have the experience and the facetime with other developers I had made the decision a couple weeks earlier to attend a Ruby meetup in Chicago. Chicago being the city I would love to get back to and being the nearest metropolitan area with a strong Ruby community I jumped at the opportunity to get that experience. I’ve got to say I was really quite nervous leading up to the meetup, which is rare for me. I’ve never been to a developer meetup and I’ve never been to a meetup without peers or acquaintances and add the fact it is 300+ miles away from where I live resulted with me going into this with some nervous jitters but was really excited to start meeting new people in the area and just seeing what it was all about. It was great and a damn good experience.

The meetup was held at 1871, a startup incubator/coworking space/educational space and much more. I’ve been wanting to check this place out for awhile so given that the meetup was being hosted here I was really excited for that. The meetup was amazing and the topic of discussion was Jekyll, a static page generator for Ruby, and was hosted by a few really approachable and nice guys that are pretty active in the local Ruby community. The meetup consisted of 30-45 minutes of a talk and the rest was spent hacking on Jekyll and actively getting it to work. I wanted to make the most of this experience since I knew it would be at least a few weeks before I got back down there so I stuck around after everyone left and chatted with the meetup organizers, I wanted to get involved in some way, shape, or form so that I could keep one foot in the community even while I was back home. It was a success and I am happy to say that it was worth the time, travel, and money to attend.

Expanding on Jekyll a little bit from what I learned at the meetup, I’ve spent a few days playing with Jekyll and I think it’s really quite good. I was also very surprised to hear of how many people actually use it on a regular basis or for their organizations. Playing with Jekyll was a good experience because it showed me the power of a Ruby gem outside of Rails. Rails is a great framework for rapid prototyping web applications and even building out complex applications but there are certain things that it’s just a bit too heavy handed, like static web pages or mostly static web pages. That’s where Jekyll comes in and it was easy to use and you can get a blog or static site up and running very quickly with Jekyll. I’ve started to play with and even have a temporary blog being hosted on my GitHub profile. Jekyll is certainly a gem that I will be using in the future and has opened my eyes to other possibilities that may live outside of Rails.

Finally this week I got to experience pair programming with a peer. Myself and one of my teammates wanted to get some pair programming time in which was highly advised from our group project advisor. There’s always a slight technical hurdle with pair programming so when it works it works great and when it doesn’t, well you’re just then fighting with technology. This time it worked well, mostly well, we had a bit of a snafu right at the end but otherwise good. I can see why pair programming is so important, it really does give a level of confidence that your code is going to be better. Our coding session didn’t work out quite as well as I expected because we had some gem conflicts but my teammate later talked with his advisor and figured out what we needed to do. Two heads are better than one and two heads have more knowledge leveraging power than just one. The pair programming introduction was a good experience and am looking forward to doing it some more.

Week 8 was a good week, I was introduced to some new things and found out the excellent value that meetups hold. Being two thirds of the way through theFirehoseProject I am a bit sad that it will have to come to an end soon but very excited for what lays ahead, I’ve got a month to make the most of this experience and accomplish as much as possible. The next month will be a flurry of new knowledge and experience and I am looking forward to them. Each week I’m reminded that this has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and it makes the learning all the more enjoyable.

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