• Week 371

    11 February 2020

    I'm writing these notes awfully late, so let's rattle through them:

    • shipped all the final changes to the client on Hallin. They seem pleased, so hoping to wrap this next week.
    • kicked off a second phase of work on Willsneck. This was primarily focused on front-end design changes: new markup and CSS, and content updates. There was still some more unusual code to implement, though. Some of the content on the site is extracted from JSON files using Hugo's ability to use JSON data in templates. These JSON files are derived from online sources, and needed to be regularly updated. How to do that with a static site? It turns out it's now quite straiightforward. We're already deploying the site using Github Actions on every push to master. Actions also supports cronlike functionality, with scheduled actions. I wrote some scripts to download and process the relevant JSON files, and then wrote some Actions workflows that, once a day, would run the script, commit the results back to master, and deploy the site. Really happy with this: I'm sure you can also do similar with CI, but Github Actions are really lightweight and straightforward out of the box. Might use this pattern again in future.
    • met up with Gabi from Hyper Island, who have moved their London office into Makerversity - just around the corner from me. We debrief on the module I'd worked on, and caught up more generally.
    • did a bit more writing on Ninebarrow. Slowly moving forward; still painful.
    • finally, booked all my accomodation for Loop this year. Really looking forward to this again: a neat combination of being personally interesting and enjoyable, and a good source of inspiration and thinking-time for my work-brain. Can't wait.
  • Week 370

    2 February 2020

    Back to code, mainly, in week 370.

    I fixed up all the major issues the client had requested fixing on Hallin - two fairly chunky bugs I needed to take apart a little to fix, and two minor tweaks. With those resolved, the client's tech lead gave my branch a thorough code review. They were very happy with the way I'd dived into their codebase, and most of the feedback came down to notes on minor formatting issues, and on code that was perhaps not so legible at first look. A few quick commits took care of some inconsistent formatting. More important was a second pass on the code that wasn't so clear. That meant simplifying conditionals, reducing fragility of a few parts, and tidying things that hadn't seemed overcomplex when I was writing them.. I also extracted some highly specific code into something more general - but not too general - that would set a good precedent for any future refactoring of related tasks. As ever, the integration/feature tests acted as an excellent safety net, and I wrapped up the code review in an afternoon.

    There was some brief discussion around a pacey second phase of Willsneck that will kick off in week 371. This time around, we have a firmer deadline, but also are much firmer in what needs delivering in that timeframe, so I sat down with the designer to go over what changes needed to be done, and wrote up a thorough document to cover my estimates and highlight anything I thought was a risk. I shall dive into that code on Monday.

    I spent some time on Wednesday continuing to work on the writing project that is Ninebarrow. I am making progress - not hugely quickly, but progress nonetheless. It is already proving more challenging than I expected, partly because I cannot quite write as fast as my brain can go, and so I begin to start doubting or questioning what I'm doing whilst in the process of doing it. Shutting down that critical voice long enough to work is going to be something I'll have to practice!

    I launched the Futurelearn courses that were previously known as Longridge, and wrote them up here. I'm pleased that they're now out in the world. Next week, I'll check in on how the learners are getting on in their discussion and comments threads.

    And finally, I payed my tax bill. Thank god that's done.

  • Week 369

    27 January 2020

    Another largely admin-focused week, for now.

    I completed everything to do with taxation at the end of the tax year. My bookkeeping was largely up-to-date, so that just involved going over it all, a quick check-in with my accountant, a few final reports, and then getting everything sent to HMRC.

    I did some final tweaks to material for the Longridge courses, which launch on Futurelearn on Monday 27th. They'll get their own project page and announcement on this site in Week 370.

    I finally wrote my yearnotes for 2019. Useful to reflect everything I got up to, and perhaps how I might want the shape of work to change this year.

    I got some feedback from the client on Hallin, so triaged those issues ready to return to writing code next week.

    I started writing on Ninebarrow. Not for long enough, but enough to break the ground, and leave a few dangling threads that I'd like to return to - usually the easiest way to get me to want to Keep Writing.

    I ripped out Adobe Fonts from this site. I'd been using Typekit since way back when. Adobe absorbed it and, for a while, provided it cheaply. However: when my free year of “Adobe XD” (which includes their fonts) expires, the pricing will go up to £120 a year, which is just too much for the odd typeface around the internet. I was reminded of this by a friend getting a ‘surprise’ credit card charge. My renewal turned out to be due in April, so I used the time to remove this dependency.

    So I ripped out all reference to Typekit from my live sites, and, where necessary, found alternatives on Google Fonts (where the open-source faces are decent enough for my needs). On this site, that meant moving to a more traditional sans as a face for headlines and display, and adjusting alignment a little across the site. I am happy with the slight refresh. But: if you noticed the design change, this is why.

    End-of-year admin out of the way, next week should see a return to more head-down productivity, and perhaps more writing.

    Finally, worth noting a little about how I use weeknotes here. Weeknotes on this site are, for me, a diary of work and things I'm doing in a professional capacity. I have a personal blog as well, and I continue to write and link there; subscribing to its RSS feed will keep you up-to-date. I like to (try to) separate work from non-work, although it's not always 100% straightforward. When I write here, though, it's equally to log what I was up to for myself, and share the way I work - and how I think about work - publicly. So if they seem dry, that's a little deliberate - but they're certainly not the sum total of myself.

  • Week 368

    20 January 2020

    A quiet week, as I was working until Sunday night last week teaching.

    It's an admin-oriented time of the year. I finished up all my book-keeping for the previous year to ship to my accountant. This was largely up-to-date thanks to regular FreeAgenting, but there were still a few bits and bobs to catch up on. I also sent a few invoices, and paid a few bills related to the studio fit-out in the autumn.

    I spent a day or so presenting a demo of the state of Hallin to the direct client. We worked out what would be necessary to do before we shipped a beta to staging. I finished up that code, wrote some appropriate end-user documentation, and shipped that off to them for testing.

    Over on my personal site, I wrote up the Spark AR filter I made one afternoon last week. It's not so much a technical write-up as it is an exploration of environments for making software toys:

    It’s a while since I’ve worked on a platform that’s wanted to be fun. I’ve made my own fun with software, making tools to make art or sounds, for instance. But in 2020, so much of the software I use wants me to not have fun.

    […]

    Twitter is now very hard to make jokes on. The word ‘bot’ has come to stand for not ‘fun software toy’ but ‘bad actor from a foreign state’. The API is increasingly more restricted as a result. I’m required to regularly log in to prove an account is real. My accounts aren’t real: they’re toys, automatons, playing on the internet.

    I get why these restrictions are in place. I don’t like bad actors spreading misinformation, lies, and propaganda. But I’m still allowed to be sad the the cost of that is making toys and art on the platform.

    You can read more (and see the filter in action) in Fun With Software, over at infovore.org.

    Finally, a longer-term personal project that I'm calling Ninebarrow began to take shape - or, at least, take a little more solid form. No huge developments here just yet; there's little more than thinking on it, so far, but I'm writing it down for the sake of tracking the progress of that project, if it happens, over time. Here is where it began.