Tag Archives: developer

Modern Day Journalism

Our world is constantly developing and changing. From the readings, we can see how the internet evolved to lead us to where we are today. It is not going to stop here and as our demand increases, the urge to create something new is a requirement. As our world becomes more complex, the problems we face do too. Computational thinking is a critical way to solve such problems because we need to understand and assess the situation before taking a stab at solving it.

I found it very interesting to learn more about the importance of our mindset behind learning how to code. As PR professionals, we understand the importance of digital platforms and how crucial it is to utilize them as best as possible. A couple of years ago, I was working for a tech company that helped couples plan their weddings. One of our main goals was to constantly update our mobile app to make it as user-friendly as possible. Consumers are always on their phones and we need to meet such demand. We must understand human behavior to understand their needs. Journalism is evolving and in order to do better journalism, we need to incorporate innovation and technology. We must look at a matter as a whole then dissect it into small pieces, in order to find patterns and understand what the issue is made up of.


Week 6: Feeling Hopeful

This past week we had to apply the concepts we learned about jQuery and create a photo gallery. We created an outline of the steps during class, which was really helpful. The thought of having to figure out making the gallery on my own is overwhelming. As we worked through it during class I realized, I am picking up on the vocabulary and concepts. JavaScript alone was challenging, but jQuery helped make it a little more bearable. Writing code is really about understanding how different parts relate to one another.

The highlight of this week was being able to interview a black female web developer. This class has really opened me up to the industry and hearing her perspective really impacted me. Though the field isn’t as diverse as it could be, she stressed the importance of showing up. Karen had a totally different career before transitioning into web development and design. Hearing about her career path also reassured me that it’s OK to jump around in your career. Interests change and that is perfectly normal. As a senior with no current job offers, this was a helpful message.

I’m not exactly sure where my career is going but I’m so glad I am in the School of Communications at Howard University. Our journalism scheme forces us to have knowledge and skills in a variety of different mediums. I never would have thought I’d be learning how to code, but here I am. I can only hope that my diverse skill set will allow me to stand out as a potential candidate for jobs.

It’s Almost Midterm Season

I missed most of the class this past week, so I don’t have much to say on that end. Based on what my peers have told me, the gallery assignment is a little daunting I even got told: “for real though you should try not to miss that class [redacted] is hard.” Ha. So I will do my best to attend every class for the remainder of the semester. (I will be in California on Oct. 4, but we can discuss that at another time).

Anyway, I will talk about my midterm project now. I did an interview with Brittany Ohalete, a senior in the school of engineering. We share a mutual friend, which worked out so perfectly. Brittany Ohalete is unique because she is an artist and a developer. She has a pretty popular graphic design business — called BOPHO — where she creates custom logos, event/party flyers, Snapchat filters, CD cover art, and more. On the other end, she is a full-stack developer. (Sidebar: it’s pretty cool that I even know what that means now.) She fluent in about 6 or 7 programming languages and loves to learn new ones as well as developing frameworks. I’ll end it here, as not to ruin the actual project.

I have written a little over half of it now. My next steps are to finish it — duh. Edit, rearrange, make things more concise, tighten up quotes etc. etc. I don’t really know the direction I am going with this profile, though. It feels as if I am just rambling. I think I need to figure out my hook and how to move the story to a natural progression. When I read profile articles from The Guardian or The New York Times there’s always a very strong hook. All the material is there, I just need to find a better way to organize it.

Words of Wisdom: A Q&A with Two Developers

For my web development Q&A, I interviewed two developers: Zach Howe, an iOS developer at Mobolize, a start-up in California and Alan Florendo, a web developer at Asynchrony Labs. Both are interesting people because they took different paths to do similar jobs: Howe forewent university to become a professional developer while Florendo formerly worked as an accountant and attorney before deciding to go into web development. Both offered insights on how to master coding, how to get better at it and how to pursue a career in technology and web development.

Alan Florendo, a lawyer-turned-web developer

How did you get into web development?

ZH: I was interested in computers from a young age. I taught myself to program early on. I was in high school, I wouldn’t do homework, I would go home and code. But I learned how to code.

AF: It’s a weird story. I used to be a lawyer and my husband was in grad school and when he graduated, he moved to St. Louis and I moved with him. I never liked being a lawyer. I decided to move with him and not practice law anymore. I started working out a lot and the guy I worked with went to a coding bootcamp and learned a lot of what you are learning. The purpose was to train you to learn enough to get you a job afterwards. I always tinkered with computers, followed suit and took the career path of this guy. I’d worked as an accountant before I was a lawyer. I did a lot of work with Excel and databases and converting data into large Excel spreadsheets. I had a background both in databases and understanding them in a rudimentary level and programming them in Excel. I had a couple courses in high school that stuck with me pretty well. I had basic principles and when the opportunity came around, it kind of all clicked.

Where do you work now and what do you do exactly for them?

ZH: I work at a startup called Mobolize. I mostly do mobile development now and I got started with iOs. I’ve been in mobile since I started.

AF: I work at a software consulting called Asynchrony Labs. I’m a software consultant. We work at long-term projects. We are contracted out for 3 months to a year to build software projects, Android apps, enterprise systems and consumer-facing systems. I build web apps for them.

What’s your favorite development project you’ve worked on?

ZH: When I worked at a company that built an app that was large with a lot of users, it was awesome to use and that people outside my company used it at my work. That made it exciting. When we built this up, millions of people used it. It was at Fandango, and millions of people used the app. It was awesome to see that I was making something and millions of people would use it. To know that many people would actually see your work, instead of something that would be buried on the app store.

AF: I’ve built some games. There’s a lot of complexity in games.

What projects are you working on now?

ZH: It’s really just one I work on. They’re all kind of interrelated though. So I work on an app with Sprint. It deploys on their app store. They vendor our app, which we build for them. It’s a secure app—whenever you get on public wifi that’s not secure or isn’t Starbucks where people can listen on traffic, we build a software on Apple or Android that would encrypt that data on demand where you wouldn’t have to do anything at all. I worked at Trucar on their mobile application for iOs. It’s all about the same stuff – basically mobile front-end to their website, companion apps to their websites.

AF: I work on a job recruitment site for a financial institution—pretty simple, listing their jobs and what they do, but there are a few additional hoops people have to get through so we program those.

How difficult is it for people to learn how to code?

ZH: I think people can learn it better than they think they can. It often looks intimidating but you learn it bit-by-bit and it takes time and you begin to understand it a lot better. At some point, everything just clicks. The more and more you go and do it, the easier it gets. It just takes time to get good at.

AF: There are a lot of coding bootcamps and there’s concern too many people are learning how to code and not enough. It’s easy to learn how to type something in and make the computer do something. It’s more of a skill to do something in a manageable way. It’s one thing if your little game works well and you don’t understand the code in a way. But if the code is written poorly, it can require rewriting the whole thing to make a simple change. You have to distinguish between writing manageable code and writing something that functions.

What is the best advice for people who want to go into web or mobile development?

ZH: Jump right in—solve the problem you want to solve. From a learning perspective, you can’t jump in all at once and be able to do everything. Don’t expect to build the biggest app ever or Facebook overnight. That’s a massive project. A lot of apps I work on don’t happen overnight. Try to find something you want to build yourself and you have a use for. Those kinds of things are easy to navigate through. If you don’t learn as you go, you will never go off the ground. Find something you are passionate about and stick with it.

AF: Think about why you want to go into web development – is it the design portion of it? The coding portion of it? You can’t learn everything at once – try to learn some sort of depth into the skill first before going into anything else.


Developer Profile: NPR’s Wes Lindamood

For the profile, I reached out to Wes Lindamood, who works as a senior interaction designer for National Public Radio. 

What made you decide to pursue a career in web development?

I graduated from college 17 years ago. Man, I’m getting old. Anyway, when I was in school, I had a strong interest in journalism, graphic design, and advertising. Unsure of how to combine my interests, I turned to an amazing advisor, Dr. Cassandra Reese. It was her wise counsel that guided me to the interactive multimedia program in the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University. I was immediately captivated by the potential to tell stories and build experiences with code. I’ve been working at the intersection of journalism and design ever since.

Wes worked for several other organizations before landing his current job at NPR in 2010. Before joining the NPR Visuals team, he worked as a platform and enterprise story designer for USA Today and as an art director for the American Chemical Society, where, among other things, he worked on the organization’s website and on producing its online newsmagazine.

What drew you to work as a web developer for NPR?

Quoting Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Michel Martin has said that NPR is “unbought and unbossed.” The phrase “unbought and unbossed” was Chisholm’s presidential campaign slogan, and when applied to NPR it means that the public, not shareholders, own us. Our mission is to create a more informed public, and make our work as widely available as possible. That mission not only influences our journalism, but the code that we write.

How has your time at NPR influenced your perspective on web development?

I’m fortunate to work on a team that believes in open-source software development, and freely sharing what we know. The code we write has been used nationally and internationally to tell stories of protest, war, and the fight for freedom. The ethos and work of the open-source software community has been hugely beneficial to me over the course of my career, and my appreciation of it has only grown in my time at NPR. I hope my contributions have helped make the community stronger.

Some of the digital projects Wes has worked on at NPR include:

  • Project Argo – a reporting collaboration between 12 NPR member stations hosted on an open-source platform Wes helped build;
  • Life After Death – a digital story exploring the aftereffects of Ebola in the village of Barkedu in northern Liberia;
  • the award-winning documentary Lost and Found, which looks at the life of photographer Charles W. Cushman;
  • and (my favorite) an episode of NPR’s Planet Money podcast, titled Making a T-Shirt, which takes an in-depth look at the creation of a single t-shirt. The Planet Money web documentary was a collaborative effort between the visuals team and the podcast’s staff. In an explanation of the project, Wes described the teamwork, stating, Often in editorial settings, the design team is brought in after the story has been reported. I cannot emphasize enough how important it was to this project that the entire team was involved in this process from the beginning. Collective brainstorming sessions were crucial to forming a shared understanding of the story to be told. It allowed reporters to consider content that would lend itself well to a web-native experience while they were in the field, and allowed the design team to begin to consider the presentation of the story, even as we were working on other projects.

Outside of NPR’s work, what is your favorite website or digital story project out there right now? 

I discovered Robin Sloan’s app, Fish: a tap essay, at a time in which I was reflecting a lot on the kind of work and storytelling I wanted to do online. In the essay, Sloan asks us to think about the difference between liking something on the internet and loving something on the internet. Sloan’s thoughts about stock and flow, and the need for durable stories that stand out from the constant stream of news has had a huge influence on me. I continue to think about how to apply the principle of stock and flow to my work and my life on a regular basis.

What advice do you have for someone like me who is just beginning to learn how to code?

I think there’s a false belief by folks that are just starting out that experienced programmers write all their own code by hand. This belief is reinforced by bad hiring practices, and it’s simply wrong. Experienced programmers look up code snippets on the internet all the time. Taking an existing piece of code, dissecting it, trying to understand why it was written the way it was, and then adapting that code for your own use is the best way to learn. Bonus points if you write about what you learned, and share that with the community to pay it forward. 

Like our class, Wes uses GitHub as a platform, and you can find samples of his code there, as well as work from the NPR Visuals team.

Developer Profile: Dave–Consultant and Freelance Web Developer

Dave is a consultant and freelance web developer who does both front-end design for applications that provide analytics and marketing landing page design. Due to the sensitive and confidential nature of his government contract work, he has asked that I refer to him by his first name only. Dave is currently employed at a small consultancy in Virginia, and in his spare time, he does freelance web design for several small companies based in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area.

Prior to earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Dave taught himself basic HTML when he was in middle school, and later took a few programming classes as a high school student. I connected with Dave through a colleague, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions about his experiences and career as a website and applications developer. 

How did you become interested in web development, and how did you get started in the field?

I was always interested in software development as a creative outlet. I originally got into engineering because I wanted to develop video games, but became discouraged from pursuing that as a career before completing my education. While in college, there was a lot of [negative] publicity about people in that industry being overworked and underpaid. My brother is also an engineer, and he recommended that I interview with the large government contractor where he was employed. They gave me a fine offer, and I accepted it and did many years of uninspired work.

When the iPhone was released, I again became interested in software as a creative outlet. The proliferation of the iPhone seemed to have led the government to take an interest in better designed, better looking software. This led to me joining a smaller government contracting company and working on projects that involved a lot of web design, which was the closest I could get to doing app development while retaining career stability and my standard of living.

What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on? What about your least favorite project? Can you explain what made these projects your favorite/least favorite?

My favorite project was a single-page web app for a government client. It was a very complicated application, but I worked on a small two-person team with someone for whom I have a lot of respect. We accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. I found a lot of joy in this project because of the sense of accomplishment that came from designing and implementing a full-fledged product with such a small group and over a short amount of time. It taught me a lot about how important good chemistry is when working on teams, and how truly beneficial it can be to have assistance from others when working. It also taught me that nothing is insurmountable when you are in the right situation.

My least favorite project was a large government project that involved maintaining a poorly designed contracting/procurement application. It was not enjoyable because there was no expectation or desire for quality and efficiency, but rather, we were expected to follow a flawed process full of red tape.

What is your preferred programming language, and why?

I have been enjoying working in JavaScript with the AngularJS framework, because of the speed in which you can create a well-functioning, highly-visual output. Familiarity with CSS has also led me to be able to develop something aesthetically pleasing with relatively little effort.

What are your favorite customizations or features to add to your sites or applications?

I like sweating the details. For example, making sure that a site functions under all resolutions, like the smaller iPhone SE, which web developers frequently omit and as a result cause undesired scrolling issues. I also like to make sure high-density screen resolutions are properly supported, so that images aren’t blurry and upscaled. These are the kinds of small details that exhibit that care went into development.

What are the best and worst things about web development?

The best thing is when you make a minor CSS tweak and it makes the entire design click into place. Something like a font weight, or border, which turns a decent design into an excellent design. The worst thing is the sheer volume of web frameworks and buzzwords in the industry. I have no interest in always using the newest, trendiest technology, and web development is fraught with that.

Can you share any helpful (free) resources or tools for debugging a piece of code?

I’m typically able to complete all work using Stack Overflow for consultation, and the Google Chrome Development Tools to debug code and layout issues.

What sites do you have bookmarked to refer to when coding a site or developing an application? You mentioned Stack Overflow–why is that a go-to site for you?

I always start with a Google search, and then favor any results from Stack Overflow. I find Stack Overflow to be the most useful because it is self-correcting. There are several different ways to solve any programming issue, and their ratings system is an easy way to evaluate the answers that present each method. It’s also helpful to have comments embedded from users right next to the answers, which will warn you about possible pitfalls in using that approach. The one exception to my “Stack Overflow first” rule is when I have a more generic question that has a lot of components to it–something like “how to get started doing [x]”–in which case posts from independent blogs tend to be more useful because they’ll provide detailed walk-throughs with plenty of lists and screenshots to assist.

In your opinion, what qualities make a successful web developer, and why?

It helps to be a perfectionist. There are a lot of different operating systems, browsers, and devices to support, and you need to always be diligent in making sure that code changes did not introduce regressions. Working with JavaScript is problematic because it is not as easy to detect code errors as it is in a compiled language like C++ or Java. JavaScript is easy to write but tends to be overly accommodating for code errors.

Do you have any advice you’d be willing to share with beginner developers?

Don’t fall for the startup/overwork culture. If a company offers you three free meals, it’s because they expect you to be available at work all day. All jobs have occasional crunch times, but you’ll never be truly rewarded for pushing yourself too hard and spending time away from your family unless you have ownership stake in the company.

What are your interests outside of web development, and do they overlap with your work?

I am interested in music, cars, creating cocktails, and architecture/home improvement. These are very different from my profession, but there is an overlap in terms of my overall drive to create the best possible product and find the best examples of a craft.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself, your work, and the field?

Our field is in very high demand. Make sure you do something you like and surround yourself with colleagues you respect.

Reflection on the Midterm and Gallery Assignment


One of the things that struck me the most as I learned more about Wes – the web developer I profiled for the midterm – was just how much thought goes into designing a story or website. Reading though his explanation of a web documentary he helped create for NPR gave me a greater appreciation for how much research, planning, and thought go into designing something for the web and how much designers think about the user experience when they do their work. I feel like as regular internet users, we often take for granted or ignore all-together the design of a site until a part of that design stops working and we become frustrated.

I also found it interesting that in answering my questions, Wes touched on some of the topics we’ve covered in our class. His thoughts on open-source software reminded me of the WordPress software philosophy piece from our pre-readings, which touched on four core freedoms known as the “WordPress ‘bill of rights’” and encouraged “freedom of use” of the WordPress software. I know Internet freedom is a much-discussed topic, and it was interesting to get some insight from the perspective of a developer.

When I was looking for someone to profile, I also reached out and sent a couple of questions to Christian Wood, a web developer who was part of my intern class at NPR last semester, and he was kind enough to answer them for me. I’ve included his responses below the fold for anyone interested in another perspective.

I found it interesting that both Wes and Christian brought up another point we’ve touched on several times in class: that Google is sort of a web developer’s best friend. Wes’s piece of advice to beginner coders was to remember that even experienced web developers, like the founder of Ruby on Rails, still have to look up code, and Christian listed surfing the web to find bits of code as one of the duties of his job.

I like these themes of sharing and learning from each other that seem to be a part of the web development community. It makes sense that when you’re working with something that’s constantly changing, like code, you’d need to be open to constantly learning.


As part of my work this week, I was also able to get my gallery to work by adapting Professor Linch’s code to my project. While I had my HTML and CSS set up correctly last week, I was having serious trouble with the JavaScript, and the tutorial in class definitely helped.

The final code can be seen here: https://github.com/tatyanaberdan/homepage2

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