3 Lessons Learned from Web Unleashed 2016

3 Lessons Learned from Web Unleashed 2016

Web Unleashed is an annual conference for front-end developers and designers held in Toronto. Many hot topics such as the state of the industry and future trends are discussed by developers, designers, freelancers and everyone in between.

I attended numerous sessions, including panels, tip-&-tricks talks and inspiring monologues at this year’s event. Here, I’ve put together a list of the three lessons I learned over the course of the conference. So let’s jump in.

Lesson 1: Think outside of the browser

The first lesson and one of the biggest eye openers for me is that the future of web technologies isn’t in the browser.

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How to avoid getting burned by your Android

How to avoid getting burned by your Android

Have you ever woken up to a phone that looked like a toasted marshmallow? I’m hoping the answer to that question is no. But, you’ve probably experienced an overly warm Android in a less extreme way. Phones heat up when they’re working hard and hungry for power. And, that’s not a good thing unless maybe you actually want to use it to toast marshmallows.

 

 

As developers, we have a responsibility to our users. They don’t expect us to abuse their battery life — nor should they.

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Getting on Track Towards Continuous Deployment

Getting on Track Towards Continuous Deployment

In November of 2015, my three-person team was given a rather high-level, “make-our-development-process-better” mission and we were struggling to figure out how to start. The CTO decided to stop by and share his vision of how we would develop software going forward. His goal was to get to Continuous Deployment; to be deploying to our production servers every 30 minutes. To put this into perspective, at that point we deployed hotfixes weekly and major feature releases twice a year — and we were supposed to get to Continuous Deployment; pushing code every 30 minutes every day.

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Quick and Easy API Testing with NodeJS

Quick and Easy API Testing with NodeJS

Continuous delivery is difficult and here at Achievers, we embody all of it. With several deploys a week, it’s important to stay on top of things and ensure that our API is functioning correctly. Several of our applications, as well as third-party clients, rely on our API. Here’s how we developed a test suite for our platform’s API within three days.

Before diving into libraries, let’s talk about JSON Schemas. A JSON Schema is JSON that can be used to validate the structure of other JSON.→ Read More

The Perks In A Great Development Culture

The Perks In A Great Development Culture

What makes a great development culture? Free drinks? Free breakfast? Every day happy hour? Sure, those things are attractive. But, cool perks are par for the course these days. Virtually every startup and their uncle with a round of funding have perks of some sort. So, if perks are ubiquitous, there must be more to a great development culture than perks.

I’ve been a Developer, a Team Lead, and now a Manager at Achievers. Throughout my career here, I’ve been exposed to many habits and behaviours that have really influenced my own day-to-day happiness and engagement.

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Continuous Delivery and the Iron Triangle of Software Delivery

Continuous Delivery and the Iron Triangle of Software Delivery

The lords of software delivery have always told us that we can pick two out of the three sides of the iron triangle: good, fast, or cheap while building and deploying software. Continuous Delivery helps us by never having to make that choice again, deliver on all three and in fact continuously improve on each of them.

Continuous Delivery is the key philosophy, but its foundation is the better-known Continuous Integration (CI). Continuous Integration is the first step of the Continuous Delivery pipeline, it means that every developer keeps their work-in-progress continually integrated with every other developer.→ Read More

The 11 habits of highly effective Agile delivery teams

The 11 habits of highly effective Agile delivery teams

What makes an Agile delivery team effective and successful?

We are living in an era of group accountability and collective ownership. Cowboys have traditionally been very effective and organizations have loved them for far too long but have started realizing the latent cost of encouraging that kind of rogue behaviour. Instead, what we need are teams that work together well and bring out the best in each other. That brings us to today’s topic. What are the 11 fundamental habits or characteristics of highly effective agile delivery teams?

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Accessibility Evaluation Checklist

Accessibility Evaluation Checklist

At Achievers, we started the journey of making our platform accessible about a year ago. It involved making existing and any new features accessible. I have created a handy checklist of the tools and techniques used in this process. This checklist can be used by developers and testers to test features and identify areas of improvement.

Before going through the checklist let’s have a look at what accessibility is and why you should even care about making your web content accessible.

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How to Survive Deployments and Not Disrupt Your Users

How to Survive Deployments and Not Disrupt Your Users

Our panel of experts share their experiences in delivering high performing, scalable, and reliable software to the web.

In this Achievers Tech Talk, we answer your questions on code reviews, profiling, versioning, automation testing, rollout strategy, disaster recovery, and zero-downtime deployments.

We answered your questions on code reviews, profiling, versioning, automation testing, rollout strategy, disaster recovery, and zero-downtime deployments.


Kaelen Proctor — Software Architect

Kaelen has been a part of the evolution of the Achievers platform over the past five years.

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Realtime Blurring on iOS

Realtime Blurring on iOS

From bokeh to that fancy iOS Control Center overlay, blurry backgrounds just look cool. Unfortunately, programmatically blurring things is an expensive operation. It’s a convoluted process by definition! This means that realtime blurring of dynamically displayed images in an interactive user interface can pose a performance challenge. And, great performance is something our team takes very seriously.

Challenge

To further illustrate where the challenge comes in, let’s consider an example. Smooth scrolling of a UITableView (or any animation for that matter) requires displaying frames at a desirable frame rate.→ Read More

Full Stack TO: January MeetUp

Full Stack TO: January MeetUp

The January MeetUp for Full Stack TO was hosted by Achievers Tech. The two talks of the evening are as follow:

Front-End Performance Quick Wins

Performance is key to web applications, especially e-commerce ones. It’s said that for every second over two seconds conversion drops by 40%. In this talk, James will walk you through some quick wins for your front-end performance to help you speed up your site and increase conversions!

About James

James is a front-end web developer with Loblaw Digital the company behind Loblaws Click & Collect, Joe Fresh online, and Shoppers Beauty Boutique online.

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Accessibility: A Journey to Accessible Rich Components

Accessibility: A Journey to Accessible Rich Components

Accessibility on the web is a complex enigma to many web developers and designers. In this Achievers Tech Talk, Jason Jang covers how we approached making a large platform like Achievers accessible. He also briefly addresses some accessibility basics before digging into the journey of making our rich UI components accessible.

Jason has been building websites since tables were all the rage. Along the way, he’s designed and developed both as a freelancer and at various advertising agencies. His 10+ year journey landed him at Achievers where he’s tackling the platform’s accessibility by the horns.→ Read More

Social Product Design Tips from Facebook

Social Product Design Tips from Facebook

What do the best social apps have in common? They understand how people communicate with each other and develop technology to better facilitate these natural interactions. Facebook has built and enabled some of the most powerful social apps in the past decade and in the process gained a better understanding of human behaviour and where technology adds value. This Achievers Tech Talk covers what they’ve learned and their predictions for the future of social technology.

Sachin Monga works on platform partnerships at Facebook, helping top brands and technology companies build people-centric products.→ Read More

The Valley, Eh? Taking on Giants From Toronto 

The Valley, Eh? Taking on Giants From Toronto 

Mike McDermant started FreshBooks in his parents’ basement. Over the last decade, it has become a market leader that stares into the face of multi-billion-dollar giants every day saying “bring it on!”. But how did Mike make it out of the basement? What did he do differently? What has kept him going? And why is doing it in Toronto making all the difference? The answer is simple.

Mike is the co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, planet earth’s #1 cloud accounting specialist for small business owners.→ Read More

How Not to #UXFail

How Not to #UXFail

User experience isn’t just the job of the designer anymore. As long as you have humans using your product, user experience and design will matter. Are you serious about levelling up your UX skills? Have you ever wondered how that designer tweaked a layout to make it work better? Do you want to know how to work without designers, or how to work better with your current ones?

Bobby Bradford is a designer who loves to code. As Senior Product Designer, he manages the UX team at Achievers and has seen his fair share of UX failures and successes.

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Diversity in Tech: A Case Study

Diversity in Tech: A Case Study

Diversity is often presented as a series of affirmative action initiatives or a statistical analysis of the workplace. However, what is missed is how diversity benefits an organization and the potential pitfalls that can arise.

This Achievers Tech Talk features Natasha Lala, VP of Engineering at OANDA. Natasha handles the technical teams that build the software for a foreign exchange trading system transacting billions per day. In addition, she has led large scale projects in the CRM, telecom, and financial industries for SOMA Networks and IBM.→ Read More

Scaling a User Interface

Scaling a User Interface

Scaling a user interface requires more than smartly written HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Navigating through the hundreds of front-end tools, libraries, and frameworks can be daunting for even the most talented developers. And yet, what’s often overlooked are the things that really matter like performance, maintainability, and flexibility.

In this Achievers Tech Talk, Scott Spencer focuses on the hurdles and lessons the Achievers UI team encountered while developing our high-traffic Employee Engagement Platform. He dives into critical tools, best practices, and the value of stepping back to understand the bigger picture.→ Read More

Tech Leader Panel: Growing Software Development Teams

Tech Leader Panel: Growing Software Development Teams

Four tech leaders from the Toronto tech community discuss the challenges of growing software development teams in this Achievers Tech Talk.

Peter Daly – VP Engineering, Achievers

Peter has an exemplary track record of delivering large scale information technology solutions to customers in a plethora of markets. Most notable are Health, Financial Services, e-commerce and Telecom. He joined the Achievers team in February 2013 with the primary goal of growing and scaling their development organization.

Jason Primeau – Director of Development, OANDA

Jay’s first task at OANDA was to put his desk and computer together.

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Entrepreneurship Series: Building a Billion Dollar Category 

Entrepreneurship Series: Building a Billion Dollar Category 

In this Achievers Tech Talk, Mark Organ talks about what it takes to create a new category and why this is important to becoming a market leader in your space. He shares five everlasting rules for building great cloud companies.

Mark is the founder and CEO of Influitive, helping companies mobilize their advocates to produce massive increases in referral leads, reference calls, social media participation and more. Mark first revolutionized B2B marketing as the founding CEO of Eloqua (ELOQ), the world leader in marketing automation software, which was recently acquired for $871M.→ Read More

Entrepreneurship Series: Growth Hacks

Entrepreneurship Series: Growth Hacks

How do ridiculously successful software applications grow and spread to users like wildfire? What psychological and technical strategies do you need to make this happen? Developer and founder Ankur Nagpal flew from NYC to share his growth hacks in this Achievers Tech Talk, the second instalment in the Achievers Entrepreneurship Speaker Series.

Ankur was the largest individual developer in the history of the Facebook platform! With 10,000 applications leveraging his work, he reached upwards of 200 million users. Because of this, publications like Business Week featured Ankur for the millions he earned this way.Read More

Entrepreneurship Series: Enduring Companies

Entrepreneurship Series: Enduring Companies

Achievers Tech Talks is ecstatic to launch our Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, catering to both Toronto start-up and technical audiences.

The first instalment in the series features Pat Grady, Partner at Sequoia Capital. Pat shares the patterns he’s encountered working with some of the most successful tech companies and entrepreneurs in the world. A Wyoming native, Pat’s first job was putting roofs on houses… but he didn’t truly appreciate what it means to be a builder until he shared in the ups and downs of creating a company.→ Read More

Agile Engineering: The Xtreme Labs Way

Agile Engineering: The Xtreme Labs Way

When we started Achievers Tech Talks, our goal was to give back to the Toronto tech community. Since then, we’ve been sharing the things we’ve learned while building and scaling the Achievers platform. As our community continues to grow, we want to extend our talks to rockstar speakers from other companies and organizations.

VP of Engineering at Xtreme Labs, Farhan Thawar, was named one of “Toronto’s Top 25 Most Powerful People In 2010”. Before joining the Xtreme team, Farhan held the positions of Chief Software Architect at I Love Rewards, Head of Search & MSN Platform for Microsoft Canada and Technical Lead at Trilogy Software.→ Read More

Profiling Web Applications: The Dirty Details

Profiling Web Applications: The Dirty Details

We’ve all been there. The production system grinds to a halt, and it’s up to you to fix it. But where do you start when profiling your web application? How do you navigate through the plethora of monitoring tools? What’s the right way to make things faster? To cache or not to cache? Surely, there’s a way to prevent this madness!

At Achievers, we’ve had our fair share of performance hurdles. The path to building a high traffic software platform is filled with moments that leave you scratching your head while burning the midnight oil.

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Web Security: Is your web application insecure?

Web Security: Is your web application insecure?

Are you confident that your web application is secure? Puzzled when it comes to cross-site scripting? SQL injection? Cross-site request forgery? Most developers have only a basic understanding of the most common security risks affecting today’s web applications.

It’s no secret that web application attacks are on the rise. Stories of attacks on high profile websites causing lost revenue, customers, and credibility have become typical.

For that reason, Achievers prioritizes mastery securing our website and our customer’s data. During this Achievers Tech Talk, Matt York dives into all aspects of the top ten vulnerabilities affecting the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).→ Read More

PHP Framework Battle

PHP Web Framework Battle: Choose Wisely

Choosing a web framework is like buying toothpaste. Every option has outrageous benefits and a religious following. Furthermore, they’re all trying to solve the same problem: making it easier for you to build web applications.

PHP is the language of choice at Achievers. But within the PHP ecosystem, there are dozens of web frameworks to choose from. In this Achievers Tech Talk, Zakir Hemraj explores the pros and cons of three of the most popular PHP frameworks out there: Zend, CakePHP, and CodeIgniter.→ Read More

MySQL Query Optimization

MySQL Query Optimization

Wish you were a MySQL ninja? Think only DBAs should worry about query optimization? Want to know what happens behind the scenes when you SELECT foo FROM bar?

Now more than ever, developers need to understand SQL performance to keep web pages up to date. At Achievers, our dev team dedicates themselves to building a web app that performs blazingly fast. Therefore, we constantly investigate all the queries that execute in our database to fine-tune them for optimal performance.

In this Achievers Tech Talk, CTO Dr.→ Read More

Scaling High Traffic Web Applications

Scaling High Traffic Web Applications

Most users expect web pages to load within two seconds. As users multiply, this expectation does not change. For that reason, scalability is important in order to maintain response times and grow your application; however, scaling a high traffic web application can be challenging.

What makes an application scale? What should you worry about early on and what can wait?

Achievers learned many lessons and gained fundamental knowledge on scaling our SaaS platform. In this Achievers Tech Talk, CTO Dr.

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