Slack is a major productivity drain

For the past few years I've been using RescueTime time management software.  It helps keep track of the different activities I've spent time on during the work week and stay focused on things that contribute to my productivity.  Another application that's become a big part of many workplaces is Slack. We use it for communication in my current team. A lot of times, it's really helpful. You can fire off a quick message and get a quick reply without really interrupting your main task. A lot of times you can ask a question, get valuable opinions from everyone concerned, and come up with a consensus that works for everybody, in a way that would've been impossible with traditional email and meetings.

Recently though I was shocked to see that Slack accounted for a full 7 hours of a recent work week. We've been doing a lot of planning and discussion for new feature work, and also working through some issues related to customer documentation, deployments, and things tha…

REST API Best Practices 5: Further Reading

Since I started writing on REST API Best Practices there have been some interesting new developments. Going forward we'll take a look at some of them, covering things like documenting APIs, how to define relationships between different resources, and various tools that - while not specifically REST-related - are useful for working with JSON as a data interchange format.

In the meantime, here's a list of articles that provide more information on a lot of the concepts that were outlined in the first four posts on REST API Best Practices. No doubt a lot more has been written about REST APIs in the last few years, but I think these resources are a pretty good window into some of the original sources that shaped the best practices used for REST API design today.

If you want to suggest other articles please feel free to comment below (note that comments are moderated and won't appear immediately).


More Node.JS Module Patterns

The post on Node.JS module patterns and the slideshow from the talk I did at OttawaJS keep getting a lot of mentions. Those are really simple examples, but in practice most modules have a bit more substance to them.

There are a couple of patterns that I've seen used in Express.JS apps a lot.  One simply exports a bunch of functions that are used as route handlers. Another passes an object to the module, and the module attaches things to it.  And the last one exports an Express router object that the main app can use to define more specific routes on a base URL.

Let's look at these with some simple examples.

Exporting route handler functions This is a fairly common pattern where the module simply exports a number of functions. In this case they're route handler functions that an Express app can use to handle the various routes it declares.


exports.getUser = function (req, res, next) { res.send('respond with a user'); }; exports.updateUser = function (req, …

Reacting to React

While I'm on the blog here, I figured I'd take a minute to write my thoughts on React / React Native.

Recently I've had occasion to play with React Native a bit. This post is not so much about first impressions, though, but about my perspective and some preconceptions about things like React in general.

I run a big JavaScript meetup group called OttawaJS. I get to see lots of interesting presentations on the latest and greatest technology, and sometimes give talks myself. Over the past few years I've seen an absolute deluge of new frameworks and libraries for web and mobile development, and like a lot of people in the tech community, have suffered from "new framework fatigue".  Perhaps this is one reason why, when React came around, I didn't get immediately excited about it. Beyond that, here are some general observations, personal biases, and preconceptions.

1. When Mark Zuckerberg famously said "HTML5 isn't ready", many people felt they ha…

Successful Software Projects

Successful software projects don't happen by accident. A recent post by Jeffrey Ventrella on Slow Programming resonates with developers who've been through enough projects to know the pros and cons of the old top-down design approaches versus the popular new "iterative development" and agile approaches.  The author wrote about his team's fast, iterative development process:

At the job, we were encouraged to work in the same codebase, as if it were a big cauldron of soup, and if we all just kept stirring it continuously and vigorously, a fully-formed thing of wonder would emerge. It did not.
The fallacy of fungible engineers - viewing engineers as resources that can be assigned interchangeably to various projects, is at the heart of the problem. Unleashing a bunch of developers on a project to "vigorously stir the cauldron" without a solid high-level design is clearly not a great idea. Iterative development may be a more realistic approach to …

Fluent 2014 Talk Summaries 3

"Speed, Performance and Human Perception"
In this performance-related talk, Ilya Grigorik explains that performance is not only a function of speed, but of meeting user expectations in a way that allows them to complete tasks effectively, with insightful examples.


My rating: 4/5. Provides useful insight on usability.

"Delivering the Goods"
Paul Irish discusses optimization in this keynote talk, describing the "critical path" and how requests impact page load times. Chrome developer tools are used to explain page load sequences and timing. Recommendations include: eliminate render-blocking JS; minimize render-blocking CSS; serve content in the original HTML response and use gzip compression. Google Page Speed Test is a tool to automatically recommend such optimizations.


My rating: 5/5. Beneficial recommendations for all developers of web-based software.

Fluent 2014 Talk Summaries, continued

"Reading, Writing, Arithmetic... and JavaScript?"
Pamela Fox, the person behind the JavaScript-based programming curriculum at Khan Academy, discusses how age affects a person's ability to learn programming and says that most 13 year olds are capable of learning basic programming skills that will help them explore other fields like art, history and language.  Visit Khan Academy for more information on their Computer Programming curriculum.

My rating: 3/5.  Introduces a great educational resource for young people. Plus, I've been a fan of Pamela's work ever since I read her articles on JavaScript widgets at Coursera.


"Virtual Machines, JavaScript and Assembler"
Popular podcaster Scott Hanselman delivers a humorous talk describing how the basic features of an operating system exist in both the cloud and the browser.

My rating: 3/5. Entertaining for programmers, though light on technical take-aways.


"The Humble Border-Radius"
In …