A Blog On: Ruby, Usability, Design, and Digital Culture

Tales from Rails: A Marketing Mind at a Programming Camp

I met my first Ruby guy back in 2008 working at a startup in Boston. Whenever he talked about “Ruby”, I had always imagined this scene in The Goonies. 


While it isn’t quite as colorful or tangible as holding a bag full of “save-the-day” rubies in your hand, Ruby, the programming language, has become almost as valuable as the stash from One-Eyed Willie’s Ship, Inferno.

Rails Girls is very similar to KidsCodeCamp in that both workshops are entirely free for the student, both are volunteer run, and sponsor supported - and most importantly, both believe in the power of passing on knowledge to better the world. 

The Hybrid Group was a proud sponsor of Rails Girls LA because of their belief in the movement. Monetary sponsorship aside, we wanted to see what it was like from the inside - to support this organization by learning in solidarity. (So they sent me!)

I come from a Marketing/Design background, so a lot of coding terminology is lost on me. I find myself frustrated during conversations with programmers and left to feel less than when asking, what may seem to them, a “ridiculous” question. For me, what I can see, touch, and communicate is the basis for how I operate. My job is, after all, about communicating. :)

That said, I found that I was surrounded by like-minded women (and men!) at Rails Girls LA.  

The task was simple:

Show up, eat some food, and hunker down for a solid day of learning… And that I did. 

In the first portion of the workshop, I sat with three amazing women from marketing, front-end design, and music supervision backgrounds. We were all there for the same reason: to be able to better communicate with programmers and learn to create applications ourselves so that we can bring new solutions to the market. 

I felt entirely overwhelmed for most of the day. We were being given a gluttonous amount of information and not enough time to digest. (I suddenly felt for my nephews and nieces currently in school. Where was recess?!) I learn by doing, and less so by looking at slides - so when the time came to split into groups and create an app, I was thrilled. 

I have always been one of those people who learns on the fly, and sometimes I am flying at warp speed. I quit music classes in school because they were too slow for me. I raced through high school in a year and a half because, well I had better things to do. So not much was different when I began going through the Rails Girls Tutorials. I sped past my partner and coach and was able to help them with errors I had already worked through. THIS was the way to learn, for me. I made a mistake, I learned. I taught what I learned about 10 minutes later. Commit to memory. 

Halfway through the day, Jessica Lynn Suttles, who ran Rails Girls LA (almost, if not entirely, on her own) provided us with a fabulous vegan lunch from Veggie Grill - so much healthy food that no one felt guilty for binge eating. Plus, strawberry lemonade. I wish she were the one in charge of designing school lunches across the country!

After lunch, we got back into our groups and proceeded to launch the apps we had just built. They were not incredibly technical apps, but you could see them, interact with them, and communicate with them - and so they were right up my alley. After I had finished uploading my app, I decided to wander around the classroom and discovered those that went above and beyond the standard directions and created something even bigger, more beautiful, and multi-functional. It was similar to walking through an art class of students drawing the same model, and relishing in their unique variations. The difference was that our renderings did more. This was our first taste of what it was like to write code - to put words into a box (terminal) and make something happen!

If Rails Girls were created to inspire women to learn more about coding - it will have succeeded. After the workshop, during massive consumption of cupcake time, I chatted with my original group of women to hear how each of us felt about our experience. The consensus was, “where do we go from here?” Sure, we learned that we could type code into terminal and deploy an app to heroku, but why, and how? The big concern was keeping the information fresh and continuing to learn. Would there be another Rails Girls LA? Is there a place where uber beginners can go to understand what we had just created? Luckily for me, I have already paid for classes at Udemy - so I will be following up Rails Girls LA with online courses. :)


I am happy to be a part of The Hybrid Group and truly admire their support of an organization that exists to get more women into the game! 


Happy Birthday, Uncle Bob Martin! We Made Gitnesse

You know Uncle Bob Martin, right? If you don’t, stop right now and check out what the author of Clean Code, and long-time software industry veteran, has to say about software development. In fact, even if you *DO* know him, it is always a good moment to read his words, and apply his advice.

Today, December 5, is his birthday, and not only did we give him a hug, but in honor of this man who has done so much for all of us as an industry, we’ve just released version 0.12.5 of Gitnesse.

Gitnesse is an open source acceptance testing tool heavily influenced by Uncle Bob’s seminal tool Fitnesse. It enables a project to store Cucumber feature stories in a git-based wiki such as Github, test them against your code, and then update the wiki with the latest test results.

We like to think of this as “round-trip solution engineering”. Unless you are using your acceptance tests as part of a feedback loop with your system’s customer, you are probably not really doing it right. Perhaps this indicates a “process smell”, when your are saying “I do not really see why to use Cucumber.” Just getting feature stories, and having them end up buried away in your code, is not a good way to increase visibility, and to improve the match between the solution you are building, and the solution the customer really needs.

This is exactly what Uncle Bob has been saying for years, and we’re just paying homage to the master by releasing a tool that takes a modern approach to these ideas. Take a look at Gitnesse, and help us make it better. The website is http://gitnesse.com, and all of the source code is of course on Github.

So please give Uncle Bob a hug for his birthday, and give your software project a great big hug too! 


RailsConf 2012

We just got back from RailsConf 2012 in Austin, Texas, and let us tell you that it was a blast! We first met up with our Hybrid Group Austin crew, who took us to our swanky rental immediately dubbed the “Hybrid House”. After taking in some amazing bbq and music at County Line BBQ, we began RailsConf with the first Alpha of KidsCodeCamp on Sunday, April 22. 

The KidsCodeCamp turned out to be a resounding success, with all spaces having sold out over 2 weeks earlier (photo gallerystyling). We reached stand-room capacity almost immediately! The kids were taught how to program using KidsRuby taught by Ron Evans. This was followed by a class on Scratch by a class of local high-school students led by teacher Jacob Stephens. After a tasty lunch, thanks to sponsors AT&T & Famigo, we continued with our next session, a class from local iOS hackers Andrew Adonoho and friends. Lastly, but not least, was an amazing master class in real world domain modeling from Rich Kilmer

The kids were each given a copy of both the Scratch and KidsRuby program on usb drives, which work without any internet connection and were allowed to be taken home for personal use. 

That night was the fast-paced Ignite RailsConf, and there were several great talks, including Amanda Wagener’s talk on iwanttolearnruby.com; “Why You Should Participate in Your Local User Group by Ryan Brunner and The Toronto Ruby Brigade. Our own @deadprogram gave a talk about KidsCodeCamp to close out the first half of the evening’s proceedings, which was really well received by the packed house.

Perhaps most impressive was the generous "big check" presented to the members of the KidsRuby development team who were present in Austin. We really appreciate the support of the community, and have lots more in store!

The next few days of the convention consisted of inspiring keynotes, followed by a diverse range of around 25 different workshops/lectures throughout the day. There were even separate classes for those that were completely new to Rails and/or development, with classes like Rails for Zombies by Gregg Pollack and Rails Flavored Ruby by Michael Hartl

We really miss our time in Austin and we can’t wait to make a trip back =)


Our First KidsCodeCamp Will Be At RailsConf 2012

We’re getting really excited about the upcoming RailsConf2012 in Austin, TX. Austin is a great city for music, BBQ, and oh yeah, technology. And not just because we have a couple of our people based there! We’re planning on renting a big house for our crew, because we are going to have quite a few of The Hybrid Group at the conference. Come say hi!

There are going to be some great additional activities going on involved with the conference. The most exciting to us is the very first KidsCodeCamp being organized by The Hybrid Group, with the special help of Damon Clinkscales of Austin on Rails. Ruby, Scratch, and lots more will be hacked by kids of all-ages in a series of fun, hands-on classes to be held throughout the day on Sunday, April 22, before the main conference will begin on Monday.

If you are going to be at RailsConf2012, please try to come out and help us, we need volunteers throughout the day. If you have kids, or friends with kids, we suggest that you signup right away, as we are filling up the available spaces very quickly.

To register a kid, or as a volunteer, please go to http://kidscodecamp-railsconf2012.eventbrite.com/ and we will see “y’all” in Texas!


LARubyConf 2012 Update

We were delighted to once again sponsor the Los Angeles Ruby Conference. With an amazing array of speakers, as well as the presence of so many remarkable attendees, we had a great time, as well as learned a lot.

The LA Ruby community has really grown, and we were so pleased to be a part of it. Check  out these notes from LARubyConf 2012 conference from our very own Omar Patel (@OmarSalimPatel), who is the latest member to join The Hybrid Group.

Thanks again to all the attendees, speakers, ad other sponsors for making it possible!


Back On The Blog Wagon

OK, it has been one crazy year! Sorry to have been so lax on updating the blog, but we’re back on the wagon again, friends!

From our launch of KidsRuby (http://kidsruby.com), to client projects with awesome clients such as Zaarly (http://zaarly.com) & CapLinked (http://caplinked.com), 2011 was the most amazing year for us yet.

Just wait to see what we’ve got in store for 2012!


RubyConf X In The Big Easy

Last week was the amazing 10th year of RubyConf aka “RubyConf X”, and The Hybrid Group was privileged to participate as a conference sponsor. Our own Daniel Fischer (@dfischer) and Ron Evans (@deadprogram) were in attendance, and @deadprogram was giving his talk “How To Jam In Code” for the first time ever in English. Go figure!

From thought-provoking keynotes, to the hallway conversations, RubyConf is the singularly most important gathering of Rubyists there is. Check out @deadprogram’s blog post “10 Cool Things From RubyConf X” for more details.

We also had a great time talking up our lean project management tool Kanban Pad at the conference. Many people had already seen it, and we got lots of useful feedback. Thank you to everyone who spent some time talking to us about it.

RubyConf was a great chance for us to give back to the community that has been a big part of our success, and we were very glad to be a part of it. See you all next year!


Kanbanpad Now With Organizations

As part of our commitment to Lean Development, we use Kanban to organize our project teams and keep clients informed. We created Kanbanpad at the Hybridgroup because we needed something that was simpler and more effective then any of the available tools, and we use it ourselves on a daily basis. Because of this, we realize what we need vs. what we don’t need. We felt like we really needed a way to organize all of our projects in a top-down view. So, drum-roll, we just released the organizations implementation of Kanbanpad. It’s really simple. Here’s a list of new features:

Simply put, it’s a lot easier to manage a lot of kanbanpads at once now. We were having issues with having to remember private URL’s here and there, and now we have an easy way to see what we belong to, and what we’re working on.

So what are you waiting for? It’s free, so you might as well just go play with it now if you haven’t already.


Ruby On The Road With The Hybrid Group

We’ve been very busy on the road, as the Hybrid Group is trying to support the Ruby on Rails community across the country, and continent! We are doing this by helping sponsor Ruby and Ruby on Rails conferences. We want to share back directly with the community from which we have drawn so much. Contributing to open source is one way we love to interact with the Ruby community, but there’s also a need to interact with the Ruby community in the physical world. We love to see your faces, meet you, and have a good geeky time.

In September we sponsored and attended the fabulous Golden Gate Ruby Conference (GoGaRuCo) in San Francisco. A brilliant cast of speakers and attendees made it big hit, and was a great place to kick-off our road show for 2010. Great job @gogaruco organizers and staff!

This last week now in October, we just got back from the very cool Mountain.rb conference in Boulder, CO. Organized by long term Ruby friend Marty Haught, he really put in a lot of work to create a unique and awesome experience. First of all, amazing old cool theatre. Second, bar in the theatre. Third, a tremendous selection of cool speakers and attendees. This was a great formula, and we were very pleased to be able to help sponsor and attend such a great community experience.

Next up, we head south of the US border to Colima, Mexico, where we are one of the sponsors of MagmaRails, looking to be Mexico’s biggest Ruby on Rails conference yet. Both @dfischer and @deadprogram will be there, make sure to say ‘Hola’. Also make sure you catch “How To Jam in Code (En Español)” at @deadprogram’s presentation. We’re delighted to support Ruby and open source in México and are looking forward very much to our arrival next week. ¡@magmarails, nos vemos pronto!

Our last appearance in 2010 will be at RubyConf in New Orleans. Yes, we are a sponsor of the big one, and are very pleased to both support the Ruby community and the great City of New Orleans at the same time. Great thinking @rubyconf organizers! We are also humbled that our own @deadprogram will be speaking (in English this time) on “How To Jam In Code”. With the vast number of proposals submitted, we are very honored to have been included. It is going to be an amazing conference, and experience for everyone, and we look forward to seeing you there!

The Hybrid Group has really been on on the move the year, and we mean that literally! See you on the road…


Ticketmaster - Take Command Of Your Project(s)

As a Ruby on Rails consulting company that is usually jumping in on existing projects, we notice one consistent theme: every client seems like they are using a different project management or ticket tracking system.

This can be a real killer of productivity, having to manage several different systems at the same time. And most of them are doing very similar things: managing projects, tickets, and comments. Assigning tickets to people, and seeing which ones what been worked on (or not) are the typical management tasks. “Which ticket do I need to work on next” is the most typical developer task.

There are other things one might want to do with your various ticketing system, if only you had an easy way to do so. This was the problem we needed to solve, that inspired us to create Ticketmaster, a universal API to ticketing and project management systems. Ticketmaster is written in Ruby, and is an open source project to simplify the process of integration with one or more project management or ticketing systems.

By using a “provider”-based plugin system, it is not difficult to interface with different back-end systems. So far we have created providers for Pivotal Tracker, Basecamp, Github Issue Tracking, and Lighthouse. We are working on other providers, and we welcome your collaboration.

Please check it out at http://ticketrb.com for more details and the github repo. Use it, and please report any problems you have or suggestions on how we can improve it!

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