Saturday, March 30, 2013

Becoming a grown-up web developer!

I mentioned Geocities a few posts ago. That was like... 15+ years ago. My other terrible web development secret is that I've been using PHP for the last 6 years, until literally 2 months ago.

I had been forced to make something with the Python-based content management system Plone when I was an intern at Tesla Motors, but for my own stuff, I don't want to just manage content! It was briefly suggested I try Drupal, but again, blarg, a CMS. I don't know the exact reasons why Drupal seems terrible; it just does.

Recently, a bunch of things conspired together to get me to try and adopt a new method of making fancy-pants webpages:
  1. My mom has been learning Django for a while, so I was aware of it as a mother-approved (and now kid-tested) web framework. I'd even installed it and tried the (frustrating and awkward) tutorial.
  2. On twitter, I've been following the epic saga of @limedaring bypassing the need for a technical cofounder, learning Django and starting her own company. If she can teach herself Django, I can teach myself Django! 
  3. I went to Startup Weekend at the end of January, worked on the illness tracking app PoorMe, and got to watch my teammate Wei-ju develop a Django app from scratch. I was able to learn enough in a weekend that I could do slightly useful things to it (I did mostly front-end Google Maps javascript) and then later, dig in deeper and understand more in a specific context where I had specific goals I wanted to accomplish.
  4. I went to CSCW and saw Karissa McKelvey demoing the Twitter research platform Truthy. Rather than inquiring about Truthy itself, I asked something like, "how to make website pretty?" and got my answer: Bootstrap. She also mentioned she was a "one-woman show" for the website and the Truthy development and I thought/probably didn't said out loud, "me too! me too! how do I do as good a job as you?"
  5. At school, my labmate Eric confirmed that Bootstrap was the thing he used to make his web app look shiny, too.
So to all those people who inadvertently or purposefully influenced me, y'all are great. Thanks!

Anyway, the things I'm using now:
  1. Django
  2. Bootstrap (it's CSS that makes my website look like a *real* website!)
  3. Other fun javascript libraries like JQuery and some Bootstrap file uploader extension and KineticJS and D3...
  4. Heroku to host my shit until I get the right dependencies installed to run Django from school
  5. (And in the back end, I'm still using... a MySQL database and Python's Twisted networking library to write custom webservers...) 

There's a picture of the computer vision face playground website I'm working on. It's live, even! Though I can't guarantee that the backend won't crash and break (the meme quiz is currently broken) or that heroku won't suddenly decide it wants money from me. But you're welcome to try!

http://www.facefrontier.com/oppositefaces

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