Hello World! Tales From the Newbie’s Desk

Friday, August 26th, 2016 | Posted in Careers Fresno Happenings

Hey all!

My name is Aaron K. and I’m one of Bixly’s newest Front End Developers. I’ve had the pleasure of working with this wacky, talented, group of people for about three months now, and have learned a lot from my time here.  From the moment I walked in for my interview and saw the whole staff huddled around four TVs and Xboxes, smashing controller buttons and barking orders at each other, I knew I would love it here.

In my short time here, I have gained an immense appreciation for Bixly’s ideologies and culture. As the local noob, I’m presented with a unique opportunity to look upon Bixly with a fresh pair of eyes and offer up some juicy insider info (and also, it couldn’t hurt to get some brown-nosing in). Allow me to share what I think are three of the greatest things about Bixly (so far):

 

1. Trust from management

One of the things that I learned quite quickly was that the management was willing to put a lot of trust on me fairly early on. In meetings, my opinion is always asked for and my suggestions listened to, which is something that startled me at first. As a junior developer, I wasn’t expecting to have my input considered so early on, and that trust has helped to develop my confidence as a developer.

2. An atmosphere that promotes continual learning

Perhaps my all-time favorite thing about Bixly is that they have developed a strong atmosphere of learning. Whether it’s just chatting around the office about the latest web tools, bantering about design choices on our favorite web sites, or learning a new technology for our latest project, the scholarly spirit is thick in the air. We also have our biweekly “Learn-30’s”, where at the end of the day one of the team will put on a mini lecture on the topic of their choice, which helps to foster interdisciplinary learning.

3. Fostering company pride by developing a strong culture

Bixly has done a remarkable job of developing an inviting, engaging, and passionate culture. From champagne Thursdays, to halo nights, to gathering for drinks at a local bar, it was apparent to me from the get-go that Bixly takes its culture seriously. I think this is especially successful for not only improving the troop’s morale, because staring at code all day can be mentally exhausting, but also because it instills a sense of company pride in us. I’m looking forward to what the future has in store at Bixly!

Building the Bixly Team

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016 | Posted in Careers

Bixly team

The topic of a recent meeting was what could be done to further the growth of the tech industry in Fresno. The question was posed to us, “What does Bixly look for in employees? What does your recruiting process look like?” We know that no interview process is perfect, and because of this we are constantly trying to improve ours. On top of that, screening programmers has its own set of challenges. Here’s our current process.

It begins with a quick phone screen of no more than 30 minutes. In this conversation, we are mostly looking for some good communication skills and an appropriate level of professionalism. If someone starts swearing, has a really hard time expressing themselves, or (since we hire internationally) their English is not comprehensible, then we won’t hire them. We also begin to check for an attitude and cultural fit. We know it’s impossible to know someone very well from such a brief conversation, but if a candidate is blatantly rude, then that’s not going to work at Bixly.

After the phone screen is a four-hour group test and personal interview. This is a long day for everyone! Be prepared to write some code for a small project. We have two different tests: one for back-end, and one for front-end. For the back-end test, we allow the applicants to perform this test in whatever language they feel most comfortable. At this point, we are obviously assessing a candidate’s technical skills. At Bixly, we certainly don’t look for perfection, so don’t psych yourself out. What we’re looking for are good building blocks. We intend to put training and time into our devs. We expect our devs to grow in knowledge and skill, even if they’re a black belt. We believe there’s always more to learn, and with the rapidly advancing tech world, there’s probably not a career in which that is more true. In addition, we know that it’s impossible to see a programmer’s full range of skills in a small four-hour project, so we take that into consideration when we look at the results. If we feel an applicant has the basic skill level that we can build upon, that person will advance to the personal interview. Here is where we assess personality, cultural fit, professionalism, whether their professional goals match the position, etc.

If we feel confident in the candidate’s skills and fit, we might offer them a position at this point. If we feel we need to see more, we might ask an applicant to come back for our eight-hour group test. We usually give a two-week study period because we require this test in Python. This allows us to get a much more in-depth look at the candidate’s coding skills. (more…)

Automating Hospitality Industry With A Scripted Chatbot

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 | Posted in Examples

Beach bungalow at sunset - Maldives vacation background

Terry Woodward, of http://artilectmarketing.com, reached out to us in 2015 with a challenge. It was our first close encounter with the Hospitality Industry, specifically, Hotel guest hospitality. Here’s an interview with Terry.

Adam: Terry, we were excited to see you use Nebri for the hotel industry. Can you describe what you were looking for when you found Nebri, and how it has helped you develop your application?

Terry: Historic hotels provide a window into our past as part of a fun cultural experience.  Multi-day stays are common and guests look forward to a unique local experience.   Recent advances in natural language processing together with the emergence of increasingly sophisticated chatbot functionality have opened the door to ‘Concierge’ type applications where bots can enhance guest experience.

To provide a convenient on-the-go Concierge experience without the need for an App install, the TwilioSMS/MMS service was chosen to implement chatbot messaging for hotel guests and the Python pyAIML framework was selected to implement the chatbot logic.

Since guests have a lot on their mind when checking in to a hotel, having an invitation to use a Concierge service show up a few minutes after the car is parked and suitcases have been delivered to the room turns out to be a convenient way to begin a stay.

Scheduling  SMS welcome and goodbye notifications to occur in the future based on trigger events required some type of event workflow approach to queue and manage the messages.  Initially Python celery was explored as an option to manage this but it soon became evident that while celery would work just fine to take care of the mechanics of the messaging, there would need to be logging, administrative tools, and other support tools built to manage the process and it would have to be self-hosted.

Nebri … Discovering the Python based workflow/event management framework Nebri in a Python Weekly newsletter suddenly simplified the whole approach to scheduled messaging with the added bonus of a hosted cloud environment with developer ease of use similar to services like Twilio.   In addition, Nebri has a convenient email-to-task parser that can take incoming natural language based emails and transform the data into trigger data for customization python workflow scripts.   This feature made it possible to use a simple built-in Drupal guest registration webform to generate a built-in email to the Nebri system to schedule guest invitation messages – taking advantage of the natural buffering inherent in email systems (a REST endpoint could have also easily been set up within Nebri).    The Nebri administrative dashboard made it easy to develop custom workflow rule scripts, to install and use Twilio API support within Nebri, and to monitor the system performance.  This resulted in to rapid development and deployment of the workflow application.

Adam: That’s perfect! This is why we created Nebri. We were looking for process-heavy solutions like BPM, CEP and so on. That search ended up in sadness, let me tell you. I like the Drupal integration that you mentioned also. How does this tool compare to existing tools?

Terry: Initially, when looking for a good way to implement workflow with scheduling I explored the python Transitions module and the IFTTT saas system.   The Transitions module was fairly low level but needs a backing store and would need logging, administrative tools for managing the workflows and so on so a fair amount of work would be done to create a framework effect.   The IFTTT concept had the Admin side of things covered but was high level requiring a type of DSL approach to configuration and wasn’t Python.   NebriOS turned out to be the goldilocks fit – all of the low level developer control of Python Transitions (can even install Transitions within NebriOS and use it!) – yet with a built-in backing store and the easy administration and the configuration flexibility seen in the saas approach of IFTTT.

Adam: Have you gotten good feedback?

Terry: So far, the automated Hotel Concierge has been a hit with the guests.  Context such as intelligent interactions based on time of day and local events have resulted in multi-day repeated use of the SMS based Chatbot.   Guests have commented that the technology feels like texting a friend for recommendations.   NebriOS has been a key framework element in rapid, contextual deployment of this system.

 

Drinks at Swiggs after work

Friday, May 1st, 2015 | Posted in Fresno Happenings

Some of the team got a chance to hang out after work.

 

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Dallas Visit

Monday, March 16th, 2015 | Posted in Uncategorized

We visit a secret client in Dallas, Texas! Here’s a few pics from the trip:

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