Web Dev Week 1 AF

One week AF (After Firehose) and I’m still fully submerged in web development awesome sauce. I had thought that with the bittersweet ending of the Firehose Project that I would be unfocused and feel lost but instead of just saying goodbye and checking out, I doubled down on the community. I had figured that the week after the Firehose Project would be one of laziness and unproductiveness but I was wrong, it’s been crazy busy, focused, and active. The social aspect of the community really is starting to feel like it’s growing and that’s fantastic, I’m super excited to see where this all goes.

The beginning of the week started off with me wanting to make a small change in our community Jekyll environment but when I tried to pull and install Jekyll with our theme that we used on my Vagrant environment on my Windows box (up to this point I’ve only worked in Linux for our community Jekyll environment) I ran into nothing but trouble. If I was having issues with numerous years of experience in IT then I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for a student who doesn’t have the same experience as I do. I had talked to Ken (one of the founders) and ran my concerns past him about the complexity of our current setup, mainly troublesome issues with the the Grunt.js portion of the Jekyll theme we were using. From our discussion I wanted to see whether or not it would be feasible to overhaul the entire site and start back from scratch, well mostly scratch because I would reuse the parts that worked. So I ran with it.

What I had planned on being a 15 minute change turned into two days working through the site overhaul and putting in about 10-12 hours to getting things setup and looking very similar to what we had. I ran into a few problems, as one would in this sort of situation, and that’s mainly why it took so long, most of which were CSS issues, but eventually I made it through. In the process of this I had the idea of not finishing the site completely but leaving a dozen or so issues up to the students of the Firehose Project to be able to try and tackle them for themselves. By doing this I no longer become the sole developer of the new overhaul but it becomes a collaboration between the members of our community. I would rather relinquish control than maintain or do it all myself, that to me isn’t a good way to get people excited about a project to me. From day one I wanted students to get excited about the community site and participate whether it be something as simple as writing a blog post (I say easy but there is a slight learning curve to Jekyll and the markdown language) or make development changes.

After I created a pull request for the overhaul, we did a code review and merged it into our master branch. I spent the next hour or so setting up GitHub issues for things that needed to be addressed in the site, most of which were design or CSS issues, but by doing this my intention was to get students working on the site and contributing to an open source project. It started off slow and I didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of interest. It was starting to look a little bit bleak but then I was promptly proven wrong and all of a sudden there was a large influx of interest and a handful of pull requests for fixing the issues. What an amazing feeling and experience that was to see the excitement and enthusiasm to participate in the community, it made my time investment 1000 times more worth it. As a result of the enthusiasm and what seems to be some solid interest from the community I have some ideas for more open source contribution projects for our community and look forward very much to exploring ideas and coding with other students.

On top of working on the community Firehose site I’ve been working on my lightning talk. Of course like any enthusiastic early developer I bit off a bit more than I can chew with my topic on ActionCable. Here I thought I would be able to learn enough and that the alpha of ActionCable would be fleshed out enough that I could create some rocking chat app for the Firehose community, however, that’s NOT the case. There is a lot of new moving parts for myself that I hadn’t ran into up to this point and frankly the most difficult part is that ActionCable has such a very limited amount of support at this point and even refined code for that matter that it made researching and exploring extremely difficult. My intention was to create an awesome app with latest new hotness from the Rails community but frankly I’m just far too green to go at it alone. Instead what I can do is break down all the moving parts, explain why ActionCable is even important to us as developers, and why it is important to Rails as a community. Of course because it’s a lightning talk it won’t be a deep dive into ActionCable but more of a brief overview of it’s parts and possibilities. Either way it consumed hours of my time hacking away at ActionCable and trying to figure it out for myself, not an easy task for someone who hasn’t been at this for long relative to the experience that is behind developing the actual ActionCable addition to Rails.

This week was great and very active. I hadn’t thought I would still be this busy after the Firehose Project was over but I was wrong and I’m glad that I was. I’ve helped to build the foundations of a new section of our Firehose community, hacked away beyond my experience level with ActionCable, and I’ve also spent a good amount of time looking for web developer positions (there’s no flashiness to this so I won’t bore you with the details). The rest of this week will be marked with volunteering for a RailsBridge workshop for Women in Madison and then the Madison+ Ruby conference. I’m riding a high from the Firehose Project, the wonderful community interest and activity of our community pages and moving into a first time ever Ruby conference. It’s been a great week and I predict this next week is going to be even better. I thought it would be hard to no longer be a Firehose student but instead I doubled down in the community and have worked hard to be a positive and motivating alumni member of the Firehose Project. I’m super excited to see where all this is going to go.

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