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Spinlist & Song Share 

For the past month and a half during the radio silence on this blog I’ve been very busy. I’ve helped launched two products, taken two trips, and also started a of new hobby.

New Projects

Both Spinlist and it’s sub-project Song Share launched during the last three weeks. Spinlist is still in its early days and we’re only letting a few people on the service right now but you can still download the app and get in line for access. Spinlist is a simple (yet pretty complex under the hood) way to share your playlists with anybody no matter what music streaming service the person you’re sending uses—even if they don’t use one at all.

Song Share is a distillation of the song-matching technology that I built for Spinlist into a simple iMessage app. The idea is simple: share any song with anyone. The entire app works within iMessage and has been a fun way for me, personally, to send some of the terrible music that I listened to in years past to old friends. You can send someone a song and be sure they will be able to play on it on the receiving end.

Travel

I went to Bolonga, Italy for a week in September. My family stayed behind while I explored the city, ate wonderful food, and consumed better wine for less money than is possible in the US. Bolonga was a wonderful, vibrant city and was the perfect place to spend a week at to get some headspace. If truth be told, I think this cluttered mind prefers to the streets of Lucca (a city my family lived in a for a month right after my daughter was born) to the bustle of Bologna, but Bologna wins on the food-front, bar-none.

This past weekend I went to Louisville, KY with a couple of friends from college to drink and learn about bourbon. If you’ve ever been on a winery tour then you’ve been on one of these distillery tours. The same characters can be seen at both: people there for cheap booze, people there to prove to someone they are with how much the know about the beverage, and yuppies there to buy branded bar tools. This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy it but its always hard for me to get past the over-the-top marketing at these sort of places. Perhaps I’ve gotten more sensitive to marketing since we’ve gotten rid of our TV but the constant barrage of having a brand thrown into my face takes much away from the rest of the experience.

Hobbies

On the hobby front, I’ve reluctantly started playing Dungeons & Dragons with a few friends. While I don’t see myself completely diving into the culture of the game, I’ve very much enjoyed having an excuse to get together with some friends and goof around. I feel like I don’t have a lot of time to not be serious anymore but this is giving me an outlet for that. Being exposed to this subculture has given me some product/app ideas that I’ve started pursuing. However, after the US election these sort of silly ideas seem insignificant and I feel like I should be putting my extra energy toward things that are more important.

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The Camper Has a Floor 

The floor was finally put into the camper this weekend which means I’m very close to getting furniture build and put in there which gets me one step closer to working out of the camper. I’m pleased with the way it came out:

The front wall of the camper
This is the front wall of the camper which is where my desk will be. The windows face our garden so I’ll get a nice view of outside while I work.
The back wall of the camper
This is the back wall of the camper. There will be two benches over hear that will turning into a pull-out bed for if we ever need extra sleeping arrangements.

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Life, Camper, and Elixir 

Its been quiet around here and unfortunately all I can offer at this point is a simple update as to what has been going on in my life:

We’re still getting used to having a baby in the house again. I maybe written this before but I either forgot how difficult this part is or our son is a hard baby to deal with. Lots of sleepless nights and there is always the constant sound of a baby’s cry in the background of our house, particularly when I’m trying to get work done. I really need to get my camper office finished.

Speaking of the camper office, I should have the ceiling put up tomorrow. Installing the ceiling has been one of the most challenging parts because it has those wonderful curves on it. My father has helped me notch the thin pieces of plywood which allows them to bend along the curve. Once this plywood is up I’ll need to work on staining it… its never ending! I’ll be lucky if I’m working out of the camper by September. I think my goal by this point is to be in there by Thanksgiving.

Outside of some static websites that I maintain (like the one you are reading now) I’ve been developing almost exclusively in Elixir lately and let me tell you: its been a joy. I released another small Hex package called date_params that helps turn the values of a map into Elixir 1.3’s native date structs. Its really helpful in the context of receiving HTTP params in Phoenix.

Even though it has been quiet around here I have been writing. Lately I’ve been trying to write down as much as I remember about a trip I took to Tanzania in late 2014. I’ve enjoyed getting my thoughts down and funny how once I started thinking about my trip so many of the little details that I forgot of it started coming back to me. The writing is going very slow—I’m really an sub-par writer—but I’m happy with what I’ve got so far.

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From the Front Conference 

I’ll be in Bologna, Italy this September attending the The frontend guide to life, universe and everything. Over the last four years or—basically since I started Central Standard—I’ve focused mostly back-end development and have not really kept up with what is going on with front-end. Front-end development is, however, how I got by start and will always been near and dear to my heart. I’m excited to for an opportunity to learn and to be around other front-end developers. And, of course, I’m excited to be in Italy again.

I’ll be in town a few extra days after the conference so if you’re around and would like to say hello or meet up for a drink let me know because I would love to meet you.

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Aerfoirt: An Elixir Libary for Airport Data 

I’ve just released my first Elixir library: Aerfoirt. Aerfoirt—which means airports in Irish—is a very simple library to help you get basic information about world airports. In essence, it is a key-value store where you look up an airport by its IATA code and it gives you back useful information, such has timezone, GPS coords, and other location information.

This was my first time packaging something up for Hex, Elixir’s package manager as well as my first time releasing any Elixir code that I’ve written. Even though this a very niche library and not many people will end up using it, its intimidating putting code out there in a language I’m still pretty green at.

Installation and basic usage instructions can be found at the repo. If you end up using this within a project you’re working on, let me know! And, of course, bug reports and code tweaks are certainly welcome.

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Quitting Eligo 

I was tempted to use the word sunsetting as a joke but then thought better of it. I tried to change to the world through easier appointment scheduling </joke>. Jokes aside, I ceased development on Eligo. Why? I had a mostly feature complete alpha working but I was never using it myself. When I asked why this was, I realized that what I was trying to do was a problem solved by better communication. Throwing technology at the simple task of finding a time to meet with someone is impersonal and perhaps even a little rude.

I really don’t feel bad about the time I spent on Eligo. It allowed me to learn to use Elixir and the Phoenix Framework which set me up well for my current gig at Spinlist. This was the first time I deployed an app on FreeBSD. I got to try some new programming techniques, which can be a challenge to do on client projects, and I even got to experiment with different business methodologies add learn that they certainly weren’t for me.

There were only a handful of people (all of whom I was close to) experimenting with the service so there really isn’t much more to say and far as the shutdown goes. The servers will be off and the domain inaccessible as soon as I hit “destroy” on the Digital Ocean instances.

The next side project that I do is going to be less focused on being a business and more focused on solving a problem that I have. I want it to be fun and useful and I want it to be built ethically and correctly. It will focus on the things that I’m good at: simple clear UI—as opposed to being trendy—and snappy interfaces and response times. Ideally I’d like to do something involving one of my big passions: travel.

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Simplify the Web 

There has been a lot of discussion—often in the form a jokes and complaints—about how complicated it is to develop for the web these days. Package managers, Javascript transpilers, CSS preprocessors, and both JS and CSS frameworks are all problems that we have brought upon ourselves and not something imposed onto us by the web.

The array of complex options available to us reminds me a bit of when I first got into backend web programming in the early 2000s and the various API schemes that I was told I needed to learn out to use. The ones that come to mine are XML-RPC and the even more complicated (and supposedly better and more robust) SOAP. You could hardly think about talking to another server without the help of a library to navigate the nuances of the protocols. It was complicated mess of tag soup… but that was just the way things had to be, right?

Then REST came around, along with terms like Plain Ol’ XML. Simpler formats like YAML and JSON started being used. We started using the technology that we had in front of us—in this case HTTP verbs—appropriately and the way it was intended to be used. At first people said that it was too simple and that we’d never be able to create rich APIs with such a simple, limited toolkit. But we’ve been doing just that for ten years now and guess what…? Our APIs are simpler to interact with and simpler to maintain.

We need a similar thing to happen on the web. We need to look at the tools we have available to us, start using them properly, and take advantage of our toolkit is good at and stop trying to coerce into something that it is not. There are a lot of people talking about this (Jeremy Keith has been on this well before this was as big of a problem as it is) but we need more people doing. We need to show more people what the web is good at. I plan to part of that group, will you?

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Camper & Website Update 

My website’s relaunch happened a year ago on May 26th and I didn’t even realize it. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’ve, for the most part, kept with this thing. I’d love to start experimenting with Indie Web stuff and even get involved in the community there but I’m still wrapping my head around how a static website (mine is build with the fantastic Middleman) can participate.

The camper is coming together. I mean it this time, walls are going up and being painted. The flooring is here. I still need to build the furniture but it feels like I am so close to being able to work in there.

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A Day in the Life 

I’ve been very busy lately with work, family, and friends. I thought it might be nice see what I’ve been up to rather than just read about it. Its also a great deal easier for me show rather than tell right now and I’ve been meaning to start adding some pictures to my website for a while now. This is what my life looked like a week ago today on the 11th of May.

A bowl of nuts
Rather than laying in bed, wide awake, I got up early at 4am, with a bowl of nuts, and got to work.
A backyard garden
Before everyone else was awake I snuck out to the garden to check on the beans that I had planted. It seems that squirrels have eaten half of the sprouts.
Hops on the ground
The trellis I had up last year for the hops fell down over the winter. I haven’t had the time to put up anything to support the hops aghain so they are sprawling all over the garden.
A man, latte, and wine bottles
My father-in-law and I walked around the corner from our house to grab coffee and chat at Cherry Picker.
A glowing keyboard and a computer monitor display code
I spent most of the day down in my office in the basement working. A lot of my time was spent configuring servers which is not my favorite task.
A vintage camper with tools and building materials leaning against it
I went over a plan with my father-in-law to build a deck outside of my soon-to-be office.
Two men looking out the windshield of a truck traveling down a highway
My father is the one with a truck these days. He drove us to the hardware store to buy some wood and other materials for the deck.
White gas tanks along the side of a highway
A storm was coming in the on the horizon as we drove through the rural parts outside of Springfield.
Cedar wood inside of a hardware store
I hate going to these big hardware stores but we were able to get everything we needed to build a new deck in one stop.

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A Brief Camper Update 

Its been a bit quiet around here, having a new born in the house and all. But I don’t want to make silence a habit and in an effort to keep that from happening I thought I’d give an update on my office/camper project.

It too as suffered from my free time being compressed by a crying newborn. I have the inside insulated—finally the camper is a place where its better than when I got it—and I’m currently working on trimming the insulation down. This has been slow going as I’ve only been able to work on it in 30-minute segments. Its also messy work the requires putting on goggles and respirator, which always makes me wonder if I’m hacking a few days off of the end of my life.

I should be able to start putting up the interior walls within the next few weeks. I’ll still need to build the seat area, my desk, and some book shelves. Although I’m moving slowly on the project, I’m still having a blast. Its been a great away to blow off some steam after being screamed at in the face by six week old.

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