One of the first Stack Exchange sites I found out about was User Experience. My interest in this topic was sparked long before, while I was in college. I found human-computer-interaction one of the more fascinating aspects of the particular “brand” of AI program that was taught at Utrecht University. So today it’s finally time to do a new episode of the Stack Exchange Challenge, on UX Stack Exchange.
Let’s first roll up the stats for this particular sub-domain:
Here are a few entertaining questions from User Experience:
So much to do, yet so little time. Three weeks of vacation have come and gone. Two weeks of work have come and gone. One of those work weeks was even a week #OffsiteCoding, where we went to a great (I’d dare even say luxuruous) location with the whole IT team, to work (dedicated) on a new part of our product.
After those five summer weeks I’m still full of inspiration, and deep into several projects and new hobbies. If I fail to post on my blog, rest easy knowing I’ll be enjoying myself with:
This is a follow-up to my previous post on Hg Hosting Providers. I found that on the surface all four of them were very similar. From the four providers I investigated, CodePlex overall felt most intriguing, so I decided to start by trying out that one.
Note: I participate in another project, which I will be uploading to Bitbucket (because that’s the only one that supports small private projects at no charge), so I may be doing a follow-up on that provider too.
Sign Up and Project Creation
The CodePlex home page lures you into creating a project with a big, purple, Metro-style button:
When you hit the button you’ll be asked to either sign in or register:
If you don’t have an account yet (like I did) you can register for one on the spot. I decided to create an account linked to my Windows Live ID:
The hardest part is the Captcha: damn those things can be a challenge! After finally completing this mini-game, it turned out CodePlex had forgotton all about my intention to “Create a Project”, and instead presented me with my personal (and very empty) project home page:
Luckily, there’s another (though less obvious) “Create a Project” link on the page. There’s only a small number of fields you have to complete:
The whole point for me was to choose Mercurial hosting, but it’s noteworthy that both TFS (which also supports SVN clients) and Git are an option too. Hit “Create” and if all goes well you’ll be directed to the brand new project’s home page:
The project has now entered the “Setup Period”. This gives you 30 days to set up the project, i.e. before you have to go live. This was in fact a welcomesurprise to me, because since this was my first time coordinating a hosted project the setup period allows me to calmly check out all the features.
Importing the Existing Repository
Keeping in mind that eventually I would be hosting the code online, I had already started with a Hg repository, committing my changes locally. There are several advantages to using version control while still flying solo, amongst others having backups and traceability.
I already suspected it wouldn’t be too hard to merge an existing repository into a new hosted project, and I even got some response to my question on Twitter, indicating it should be possible. The only thing I was worried about is that the username for commits would be “wrong”, because my computer user name “Jeroen” is different from my new CodePlex user name “jeroenheijmans”. To get everything to work I took the following steps:
A simple copy/paste back-up of the existing repository, just to be safe.
With some effort I got this Hg convert trick to work, changing the user name in commits for the existing repository to my CodePlex username.
Make a clone (a.k.a. check out) of the project repository from CodePlex to a new local folder.
Copy the existing repository over the clone from CodePlex.
Some of the hidden files in the .hg folder have to be overwritten. I double checked all files with Notepad++, and in all (my!) cases the clone’s file could be safely overwritten.
Using TortoiseHg I now pushed all the changes. In the previous step the CodePlex URL was probably lost, but that was easily remedied by entering it once more.
To be honest, in hindsight I don’t know if step 4 and 5 are really necessary. I guess you could safely try just pushing your existing repo to CodePlex: if it doesn’t work surely you’ll get an explanatory error message?
Either way, after completing the above steps my CodePlex project contained a complete history of 40+ commits, only minutes after setting up the project!
CodePlex Features Overview
After importing the source code it was time to investigate the various CodePlex features. Given the 30 day setup period I was able to check out all the features without having to worry others may see my silly mistakes. Here’s my first impression of the available features:
Home is the first thing you see if you go to the project URL (which is a nice subdomain of CodePlex: http://yourproject.codeplex.com). It mainly contains some text to explain what the project is all about, and you’re invited to edit it (with Wiki-style markup). Worked nice and easy for my simplistic purposes.
Downloads is the section where you can offer releases, which can have various properties as well as attachments such as binaries or installers. So far I’ve only created two “Planned Releases”, which worked pretty straightforward.
Documentation is Wiki-based. So far I’m headed straight for the quintessential documentation pitfall: I’ll create it once the product’s finished.
Discussions looks like a forum-based commenting area. Given that the project is one we do together with friends we may not get to use this option much.
Issue Tracker is a very basic work-item system. It contains the bare essentials, but not much more. This was a bit disappointing to be honest, I would at least have liked to have some basic formatting, but apparently that’s still a work item on CodePlex itself.
Source Code is the section where… well… you can find the source code! It shows all commits in descending order, and even though I haven’t tried it yet it also shows forks and pull requests. If you click on a commit you get to see the diffs for changed files.
People shows all the coordinators, developers and editors on the project. It’s also the place to invite your team mates to the party!
License is where you can view and change the license for your project. CodePlex allows you to choose from ten different OSI licenses. I’m leaning towards picking the BSD license, but this license stuff feels like a snake pit (with it’s own acronym: IANAL).
So far this list of features seems pretty sufficient. At least: I haven’t “missed” a feature so far.
All together I’m pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to set all this up. I’m not sure (yet) how it actually compares to the other hosting providers I considered, but so far I’m happy I chose CodePlex.
I’m fairly certain our project will be published some time soon, and when it does you can find it at bieb.codeplex.com: join the party!
Most usually, I’m a very organized person. Even before I was programming (when I was making Hero Quest maps in Q&A and WordPerfect) I would still want periodic backups of my data. Given all that, I’ve remained remarkably oblivious of Version Control for quite a long time. Here’s an overview of my VCS history:
On a coding project with friends, one of them suggested we’d use one of the DCVS systems: either Hg or Git. After a short debate (and after reading endless flamewars between the two) we decided on trying Hg. My “re-education” started with reading the HgInit tutorial by Joel Spolsky. Here’s a quote that stuck with me:
It turns out that if you’ve been using Subversion, your brain is a little bit, um, how can I say this politely? You’re brain damaged. No, that’s not polite. You need a little re-education.
True as it is.
To be honest though: I still don’t mind using SVN. At work we have an existing repository from which we’ll probably not be switching, and it even has some advantages over Hg. However, for any new project I would choose a DCVS, either Git or Hg, depending on the circumstances.
So for my latest pet project I’ve started a Hg repository as well. So far I’ve just been committing locally, using it as a backup and history mechanism. However, with friends and family joining on the project I will probably be moving the repository to an Open Source Hosting Provider. There’s a few that came to mind, and I’m currently considering four of them. Even though there’s a decent Wikipedia comparison article, I still decided to make my own comparison table with features I find interesting:
Hg, Git, SVN
Hg, Git, SVN, TFS
Hg, Git, SVN
Daring Fireball-based markdown
10 OS licenses available
Any OS license
Codeplex + optional Win. Live
Currently I’m leaning somewhat towards CodePlex, for no particular reason or rationale. Or perhaps I’ll end up trying them all before deciding. Either way, I’ll sleep another night on it, for now.
Okay, I’ll admit it: I love making lists. I’m one of those people that can make a list of things to do, and add one or two things I’ve already done, just so I can enjoy that feeling you get when you check something off the to-do-list. Do you recognize that feeling?
For books I know there’s wildly popular sites like Goodreads, to keep a list of things to read, get suggestions, and so on. I wanted something simpler, and something I have control over. So I decided to put it up on my blog as a page, just like all the (other?) hipsters with blogs. Not so much a reading list to tell others what they should read, but more a track record where I can quickly look up things I’ve read before.
The book that inspired me for this reading list (shown in the image) is The Pragmatic Programmer, amongst others. Who knows; perhaps this post will inspire others to (re)start a reading list as well?
Want to know what I have been reading? Check out my book list.
Recently I’ve been mostly lurking on the main Stack Overflow site, incidentally asking or answering a question or two. However, I’m not ready yet to do a post on the main site…yet.
The reason I was triggered to write a new post on the Android sub-domain will become clear in the section with My Questions, below. Let’s have a look at how the site will hold up (compare?) against, say, XDA-Developers.
Here’s the stats for this relatively new sub-domain:
At the moment of writing, there’s only one item in my questions on Android Enthusiasts. I wasn’t a regular, in fact I had not visited the site before I figured it was the best place to go with my question:
And there’s the reason I love browsing through the Stack Exchange sites (usually): the percentage of nice and helpful people on those sites is very high! Within the hour someone popped up and wrote a detailed, practical answer. Awesome! And a great incentive to write this post.
To be honest: I didn’t spend very much time on the site after asking my question. Before writing this I decided to sit down, do some research, and even help out and answer a question or two if I could. I’m almost too ashamed to post it, but here are the results:
This weekend I decided to deep dive in a StackOverflow question on the combination of pseudo-elements and the IE8 (and lower) filters. Even though it seemed to me the question couldn’t be answered with 100% certainty, I still gave it a shot. A similar but better answer got accepted (damn you, “ScottS”!!), but that’s besides the point. The most important thing I learned from answering this question, is understanding the magic in IE (especially version 8 and below). So, for reference, here are the important links of articles that made me understand IE a bit better:
On having Layout, a piece from 2008 explaining the details and consequences of IE’s take on layout.
The kicker from all this research is that I now finally understand this remotely related line of CSS I’ve seen (and even used) a lot:
This is a CSS hack to get some versions of IE to behave nicely. So far, nothing new. However, after reading the above articles, I finally understand what it does: it forces the hidden IE property hasLayout to true. And that’s useful for quite a few cases where you’d expect things to have layout, but when they don’t by default.
Hack or not, I’m glad I understand things a wee bit more now.
In addition, even though I’ve been mildly active on various SE sites, I didn’t have a real drive to dive deeply into one of them. However, I did experience one peculiar effect of the SE engine last month: you can earn badges while not being very active on a site anymore.
One of the sites stood out the most, awarding me a gold badge for asking a (now apparently) famous question. And that’s as good a trigger as any to grab some more writing experience, et voila: a blog post on Gaming.StackExchange!
Again, like last two reviews, some of the current facts for the site:
With 18k questions about as big as Programming, examined in my previous blog post.
At the time I write this I’ve asked a measly three questions. In my previous blogpost on Programming what held me back in asking questions was that I found it hard to ask “good subjective questions”. On Gaming there’s no such barrier, and as you can see in the FAQ they go for a totally different kind of questions here. What held me back in this case is just that on most games (the ones I play, at least) there’s already a ton of information to be found through Google search engines, rendering it useless to ask it again on SE. Of the three questions, these two were most interesting:
The site is great for browsing through occasionally. It’s probably more fun if you go with the hype and by AAA titles the moment they come out. Surely the site will be flooded with Diablo 3 questions soon. Not intending to play D3 that will probably chase me away though, but perhaps that will push me to another SE site for my next SE challenge?
Last week I wrote a post about CSS naming conventions, while trying to start up my review of the Programmers Stack Exchange site. Writing the question got me all excited about the wonderful answers and insights I was about to gain. Unfortunately my question fell to the 2nd page of the site quite quickly, with a meager one upvote, and one (though well-written) unsatisfactory answer.
For a week I debated whether to skip Programmers and review a different site, but today this problem struck me as an opportunity! This is a great way to test the bounty system. So I decided to put 100 of my current 106 reputation up for a bounty, looking for any answer that can provide me with something more solid than the “personal-preference” argument.
While waiting and frantically F5-refreshing the question I have some time to write about the site. One fun side-effect from the reputation system already became clear though: I can’t upvote any answers on the site anymore, because the 100 rep bounty I gave up dropped me below the 15 rep threshold you need to pass to be able to upvote things.
Just like last review, first we dig up the current facts for this site:
Bigger than Cooking SE, but still quite the “little brother” to Stack Overflow.
Next up, my questions. Even though I often have questions that feel like a great fit for Programmers SE, once I’m halfway writing them I tend to delete them again. The reason is simple: even though the “good subjective” kind of questions are the bread and butter of Programmers SE, I’m probably too exact to ask a subjective question. However, the one question that got this post rolling is still worth noting:
Like many people I have a certain mental threshold before I post anything on a public site like Stack Overflow. However, I was determined to overcome or ignore the threshold for the Stack Exchange Challenge. Nonetheless, at the time of writing this, I came up with zero answers.
Perhaps in the future I will answer a question or two (heck, I may even answer my own question), but until then, this section is shamefully empty…
Now this is the good part of Programmers Stack Exchange. Although often subjective or even “whiny”, there are quite a few questions that are interesting or plain fun to read! Some questions i enjoyed:
This particular Stack Exchange is a fun site. It’s a fine line though between subjectivity and questions following the “good” Q&A format. This fine line will probably keep me from becoming a regular poster. However, I can highly recommend the level of interaction I’ve currently settled on: follow them on Twitter for the occasional fun-to-read question that pops by.
My next Stack Exchange Challenge post will most likely be about the Programmers SE. One part of the challenge is to actually ask a question I have on the topic. The question I came up with (to be honest, this has been bothering me for months now) took quite some time to write down carefully. So, as I don’t have my next SE Challenge post ready yet, I decided to cross-post my question here on my blog as well.
The Question:what are the practical considerations for the syntax in class and id values?
Note that I’m not asking about the semantics, i.e. the actual words that are being used, as for example described in this blogpost. There are a lot of resources on that side of naming conventions already, in fact obscuring my search for practical information on the various syntactical bits: casing, use of interpunction (specifically the - dash), specific characters to use or avoid, etc.
To sum up the reasons I’m asking this question:
The naming restrictions on id and class don’t naturally lead to any conventions
The abundance of resources on the semantic side of naming conventions obscure searches on the syntactic considerations
I couldn’t find any authorative source on this
There wasn’t any question on SE Programmers yet on this topic
Some of the conventions I’ve considered using:
UpperCamelCase, mainly as a cross-over habit from server side coding