Science Backs Up Bixly!

Last modified: August 26, 2016 | Posted in Management

I love this article that just came out on Slashdot entitled:

Happy Software Developers Solve Problems Better

Checkout the article on Slashdot.

There were 42 participants, so I can’t claim this is an end-all, especially considering the bias towards novel results and studies that can’t be reproduced in academia. But! I didn’t need a study in the first place to tell you that happy developers are better developers.

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We have a few things in place to keep our developers happy. For one, our managers are programmers. They don’t push unrealistic agendas on the developers since they know what it takes to get it done. On top of that we don’t put up with politics. Any murmurs of “he said she said” get zapped to a crisp right where they stand. If you have a problem you talk about it with that person, or the management decides the problem maker needs to be dealt with, or you just drop it.

Let’s see, there’s more: (more…)

Pitching Django To Your Manager

Last modified: August 26, 2016 | Posted in Management

Luckily we run into people that have already made the decision to use Django even before calling in, but you might not be in that boat. How do you convince management to use Django in this case? Here are some strong points you can add to your case:

1. Django is purposefully kept simple

You will see many frameworks on the web that experience major feature creep. Django avoids most of that by way of their app architecture. If a community member or yourself wants to share something with the Django community, it’s done as a package, which keeps the core clean and optimized.

2. Thousands of Django packages are available

Generally if you come across a development task that you suspect has been done thousands of times before, there will be an app for it. Like using OAuth, managing uploaded media, interfacing with popular image libraries and more. Don’t fall under the impression that your application is easy to build because software is generally never easy. It can be made easier though if you pick the right platform.

3. It’s built on Python, and Google believes in Python

Python is one of the major languages used when Google is building…Google. It’s a well documented fact, but I also have first-hand experience, since they commissioned us for a Python application at one point. (more…)

LOOK MA, NO PHOTOSHOP!

Last modified: August 26, 2016 | Posted in Management

For most of my graphic design career, Adobe’s wonderful line of design software has made it possible for me to create anything I want for a variety of purposes. From print to web graphics, Photoshop and Illustrator have always been my go-to applications whenever I wanted to make something that was guaranteed to look great across any medium.

It might surprise you to know then that I’ve begun to use a humble text editor for most of my recent design work. “Wait, what…?” you might protest. Why on earth would I ditch these other powerful programs for writing lines code instead?

Let me back up a little. During my time here at Bixly, whenever I’ve created graphics for websites it usually involves making carefully hand-crafted images that are then sliced up and given to the developer to implement into his/her code. Afterwards, there are occasions when something needs to be tweaked or shifted and the developer will usually come back to me with some changes that need to happen that only I can fix. You can imagine how that would get tedious and time-consuming for both the developer and myself.

I already had a healthy knowledge of the HTML and CSS coding languages and how they work together, so looking into how to style and design things using the same things was relatively easy. I studied up on how to use CSS3 to design user interface elements and started putting it to practice. (more…)

SIDE PROJECTS ARE IMPORTANT

Last modified: August 26, 2016 | Posted in Management
It’s very easy to crash after a long day at work…very easy. You’ve put your all into your job for a good eight hours or so, maybe you’ll do some chores when you get home. But otherwise a meal and a good TV show are your beck-and-call in the evening, when putting up your feet sounds pretty much like the greatest thing in the world.I’ve done just that, and often. Even more, it’s especially easy to do when I feel like the accomplishments of the day grew my skills in the ways I wanted them to, leaving more a more justifiable opening for any other activity to fill my evenings and weekends. Why would I work on any other projects when I’ve done the thing I enjoy most for the majority of the day?

For me, the reason I’m starting to value side projects more is simple — my skills have a ceiling. I’m only as good a graphic designer as the amount of time I truly put into getting better. Even though making the web look a little better is what I do for a living, my talents are still limited by the side projects I’m not pursuing — the things I’m not trying my hand at, the things that would surely stretch me even further as an artist.

Having worked on an extracurricular project or two over the past few weeks, I can confidently say that the experience has been far more rewarding that I anticipated. By practicing my craft on non-work-related things, I’ve not only seen improvements in my skills on things I enjoy designing but also on Bixly projects. My understanding and output of HTML/CSS has increased as well, which has led to better comprehension and implementation of that knowledge on both home and work projects alike. And now I can’t wait to get home in the evenings so I can learn some more!

“Well that’s fine for Dave,” you might say. “What if I can’t ‘practice my craft’ here at home because of the type of work I do for a living? What say you then, DAVID??”

I would encourage you to find something to work on (that you also enjoy) that maybe closely resembles what you do. That way, you might gain some fresh perspective to take back with you to work! The other option is that you choose an entirely different hobby to work on — anything you can build or make that might offer you that perspective, or even crazy life experiences that build your character or skillset.

“But what about my weekly viewing of The Walking Dead ?!” I’m telling you, get started on something new, something extra, something you care about or could care about! Chances are that you will get attached to that something because it will often give back to you, in one form or another. Plus, if you’re clever, you might be able to squeeze in that harrowing hour of post-apocalyptic zombie survival too!

– David Olson

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SOLVING OFFSHORE COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS

Last modified: August 26, 2016 | Posted in Management
by Benjamin Venegas

When I first joined Bixly, we were still a small start-up with just under a handful of active developers. Over the years, our team has expanded into what is now an international group many times larger and growing.
When discussing offshore team-members with our American clients, however, I have found myself addressing many of the same hesitations and fears: language-barriers, time-zone differences, commitment vs. distance, etc.
One such issue that is not perhaps given enough consideration, or rather, is often lumped under the umbrella of ‘Cultural Differences’, is the communication and “authority gap” with foreign devs.
At Bixly, we’ve seen how it can dramatically raise the success of development.
The Power Distance Index
In exploring this critical communication element, let me first reference a study conducted by a cultural psychologist named Geert Hofsteded, where he tracked attitudes towards superiors among selected world countries. Hofsteded developed a numeric value, called the Power Distance Index, which defines how a person would generally react to an authoritarian figure.
In countries with high PDI (in no way related to it’s acronym-cousin PDA) it is expected that subordinates maintain a respectful, or reverent, distance from their superiors.
Conversely, cultures with low power distance see those in power as more approachable and their decisions more negotiable. In other words, the higher PDI, the less likely subordinates were to question authority.
Looking at outsourcing mishaps through this lens, it’s easier to see how many client-developer partnerships are primed for failure when you consider PDI scores that are dramatically misaligned.
A Common PDI Example
Take, as a fictitious example, an American company hiring a freelance programmer from Russia for a weeklong project. If the Power Distance Index is to be taken into account, you should note that the United States scores in the forties and Russia in the nineties.

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