Some Tech Bits

  • Thanks to my work on Bibliofile, one of my old college friends who majored in Psychology looked me up and enquired about setting up a website to do “virtual therapy” over the Internet. It has been a treat to be in touch with him regularly again and to work through the details of how to create this service which is pretty cutting-edge in psychological circles. Expect more details on this in a few months, and a live site by fall if all goes well.
  • Speaking of Bibliofile, I’ve been adding some new features lately, the most significant of which is tagging, which allows you to group your books in all kind of interesting ways. Ruby on Rails continues to impress me — I was able to implement an announcements feature from initial programming to deployment to production in about two hours yesterday night after the younger kiddos went to bed and [Emily->] and I finished watching The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (which was great). You’ll see the new announcements feature if you already have an account and log in today.
  • One super-cool Firefox plugin I stumbled over yesterday that everyone doing web development should have in their toolkit: View Rendered Source Chart. It takes the HTML in a page and creates a really nice diagram of its structure. Extraordinarily useful for sorting out HTML.
  • Finally, from the QA department, creating acceptance tests for web applications has always been a bit of a trick, especially if you want to make sure everything works across browsers. The inimitable Zach Thomas yesterday turned me on to Selenium, an extremely interesting framework for developing automated acceptance tests that run within web browsers using a clever combination of Javascript and IFRAMES (generally a bane, but actually very useful in this context). Zach got it set up and some basic tests running yesterday, and I’m pretty excited about the help this will give us making sure that the work we produce is the best quality possible. Neat stuff for software engineering geeks.