API Support for World-Changing Datasets

We applaud the arrival of  “world-changing” data-manipulation technologies. But where do we see those technologies applied? In sales, maybe . . . but rarely in the changing of worlds.

Companies have APIs all over the place to access data at the snap of a finger. Meanwhile, researchers hoping to access public data—especially in the social sciences—are much more likely to find themselves downloading a slightly out-of-date Excel spreadsheet from a website that, on a nonzero number of occasions, has for some reason been unavailable when they visited it.

A lot of public datasets deserve APIs. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Database is one of them. So I made an API and a webclient. Here’s how I did it and what they’re for:

Continue reading “API Support for World-Changing Datasets”

Zero to Bit.ly (with analytics!) in 8 Hours

I had a limiting belief that went something like this:

A multi-functional app takes days to build, if not weeks, months, or years.

For many multi-functional apps, this is true. That said, it’s always useful to challenge one’s limiting beliefs about their craft.  What better way to do that than to code a multi-functional app in 24 hours or less?

The app creates links businesses might use to analyze where clicks to their website come from: it has  visit tracking for each link, geographic tracking for each visit, and a graph how many visits are coming from each link.

And yes, it’s real: you can make an account and use it, if you want to :). Check it out on Heroku, or see the code on Github.

Pictures below, plus an hour-by-hour breakdown:

Continue reading “Zero to Bit.ly (with analytics!) in 8 Hours”

It’s not magic.

Every time I tapped my phone’s weather app, I would think the same thing: “Wow. The background looks just like the sky outside my window. It’s magic. ” I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. As it turns out, a rudimentary version of the exact same feature only takes half an hour and a few changes to three files. Check out the code on Github and the app on Heroku. Continue reading “It’s not magic.”

Why Break the Rules of Front-End Development?

Programmers are smart…but not that smart. And, like any large group of people united by a body of knowledge, they fall into traps.

One trap in particular. Here’s how it goes:

1. Everybody has a common goal.

2. Somebody creates a way to reach the goal, and it catches on.

3. Over time, the masses conflate the means and the goal, and then they start aiming for the means instead of using the means to obtain the goal.

And then, in the name of following best practices, they write crummy code that would rather follow the rules than hit the goal 

Let’s look at an example: does this sound familiar?

“HTML defines the structure of your document, and CSS defines the look. If you mess that up, your code isn’t organized.”

This is the kind of thing people say—without caveat—and it is false.  Continue reading “Why Break the Rules of Front-End Development?”