Tag Archives: week5

Tough Week at the Office

This week was not fun. Coming off of last week, which was the beginning of the JavaScript learning, I was anxious to be able to add a new kind of code to my work. The Codecademy assignments, at first didn’t feel to difficult but definitely started to pick up compared to html and css. However, the main difference when it comes to all 3 coding languages we’ve learned, was JavaScript was significantly more difficult to apply than the other two. I had little to no difficulties applying the Codecademy lessons to the assignments we had in the beginning.

With this gallery though, there felt like there was no end in sight. I sat down on Monday and figured out out my html that was already started in class, add the css aspects of the code and after about 45 minutes in my confident was pretty high. I thought to myself “hey look at me, coding, nice.” Little did I know this confidence and enthusiasm would soon fade.

I first took a look at what we had done in class and tried to use that as a base to move forward. The problem being that I really had no idea where I was trying to go. I got the gist of the assignment, hide some photos, press a button, the photo shows up with a new caption, going back and forth back and forth. The buttons weren’t too hard and neither was adding the images. It’s when it came to hiding the photos and having the captions show up I had difficulties. I tried to go on YouTube and watch videos that would show me how to get where I wanted to be. I, without any hyperbole, watched different Youtube videos for 2 hours on Monday night looking for guidance. I even texted 2 different classmates to see if they had any idea. What was funny was when they told me they were going to text me for help. That’s when I figured this may not come out the way I wanted. All in all, it was a good to experience the struggle for now I must guide myself until it all comes together.

Midterm Analysis – New Project, New Languages

My interview with Emmanuel Kenabantu was a fascinating take on how coding fits into real-life scenarios within the scope of work needed for various businesses — in his case, his non-profit organization clients. SharePoint was not a program I was familiar with, and I definitely had to do my research pre- and post-interview to find out more about what the program was and what its capabilities were. Once I was able to get that information under my belt (it was more digestible than I thought it would be), it was very interesting to hear how Emmanuel used coding and web design to tweak the forms, documents, etc. as he needed.

One of the programs that he mentioned using was C# (C Sharp), a coding language we have not yet learned and I’m guessing likely won’t be within the scope of this class. However, I wanted to know more and some quick googling and asking of friends helped me learn more about it and what it is mostly used for. ASP.net was another unfamiliar term, so I had to look into that as well.

One of the biggest things that surprised me was how small his team was on this project, and how quickly he was able to get it done with such a short-staffed group. Perhaps this is common in the non-profit world especially, but I would assume that a project of this magnitude (though perhaps it is not actually as complicated as it seems?) would take a lot longer to complete. I was definitely impressed by his ability to make quick work of this assignment, and present it cleanly and without bugs to his clients.

I definitely want to go back and ask him more questions about his background as well as how he got interested in coding and web design, and have inquired further with him — I hope to hear back soon and update my midterm post as soon as I possibly can.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Web Developer Profile – Jamie Newell

For my midterm, I profiled a coworker’s husband, Jamie Newell, who works for Discovery Communications, or as many know it, The Discovery Channel a.k.a. SHARK WEEK! But Discovery also owns TLC and Animal Planet, among many other popular T.V. channels. Jamie has been a web developer there for 3 years at the headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. Prior to joining Discovery, Jamie was the Director of Web Development at Amplify Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. for 3 years, and before that, spent around 11 years doing freelance web development in the area. I asked Jamie to tell us about his journey to becoming a full stack developer.
//* What is your current job/title and what do you do for Discovery? 
My title is Web Developer and I primarily develop websites and interactive learning modules. Our website is very interactive by design, which was one of the reasons I chose Discovery! *//
//* What programming language(s) and CMS do you use for work?
Well, of course JavaScript as I just said, but at Discovery I also use HTML, CSS, and PHP languages, and work a lot with Drupal and the React JavaScript library. *//
//* How did you get into web development? What drew you to it? 
I messed around with programming growing up and enjoyed the challenge of solving technical problems, along with the satisfaction that came from creating something. In my early 20s I volunteered to create a website for a recording studio that I was working for at the time and decided then that I would pursue web development as a career. *//
//* Is that still the same reason you enjoy it today? Or has it changed with time? 
Yes, the challenge of solving technical problems is still what I enjoy about web development. It’s true — even someone with years and years of experience still encounters new and tough challenges when programming (more often than you’d think!). The problems are just often more highly technical.  *//
 //* If possible, can you recall some early struggles you had learning languages/programming and offer any advise to us newbies? (Anything you can think of that helped you succeed.)
My biggest struggle in the beginning was not being able to find answers to my questions. At the time, there were very few online resources to go to for help, so I spent a lot of time experimenting. While finding answers, tutorials, and examples is much easier nowadays, I would still advise experimenting. *//
//* If you had to pick, what would you say is of your favorite language and why?
At the moment I am enjoying working with the recent versions (ES6 and later) of JavaScript. There is always something new to learn and to manipulate. *//
//* Can you describe a favorite development project and detail (high level) how you built it? 
While working at Amplify, I designed and developed a collection of highly interactive advocacy tools that I integrated into our clients’ WordPress and Drupal sites in order to engage users and encourage them take action in support of a cause. The tools were built with PHP and JavaScript, and would push and pull data from the APIs of social media platforms, geolocation and mapping platforms, third-party advocacy platforms, and the Sunlight Foundation, to name a few. *//
//* How do you stay up to date on the latest in the programming world? Blogs? Websites? Programs? 
By spending time reviewing projects on GitHub! It is a great resources once you figure out how to navigate and utilize it. *//
//* Any other insights you’d like to share with the class? 
The industry advances very quickly and it can be overwhelming trying to keep up. Many of the shiny new languages and frameworks do not stay popular for very long so stay focused and don’t jump from one hot framework to the next. Experiment a lot with the language you are already learning and build from there. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript (and jQuery) will outlast us all. I’d say to all those learning the ropes to just practice, practice, practice! *//
A huge thanks to Jamie for taking the time to provide us all with some words of wisdom. It was encouraging to hear him say he uses the same languages we are learning now in his daily work. I know I have a long way to go, but this made me feel like I could talk about his work with him — I now have the basic tools/words — and maybe, one day, work alongside him. We are only halfway through the semester and I’m already seeing results!
I can only imagine how difficult it must of been for Jamie to teach himself how to code… And it made me think about how much I have been relying on Google. I know Greg encourages us to search for answers to our problems, and it makes sense since the resources are so readily available, but perhaps going forward I need to experiment and fail a couple times to really learn. I will say that Codecademy gives us the opportunity to experiment a couple times in each lesson, and I have found that by try 3 tries, often, I will finally get it correct. The failure forces me to really scan the code I’ve written looking for errors.
The project Jamie worked on for Amplify really struck me. I work in cause consulting so I was able to really connect some dots and see how a tool like that would have a huge impact for a non-profit or advocacy group. His example got me excited to learn PHP next week and got my brain cogs churning in thinking about a possible final project.
I laughed when Jamie said he uses Github as a resources to stay up to date on all things web development and to learn new techniques and tricks from colleagues. I think I found it funny because Github seems so abstract and mechanical. But in understanding how it works to some extent, I can see how reviewing others projects could be quite helpful. Sounds sort of similar to inspecting webpages to see how certain things were coded.
The insight Jamie left for us is poignant I thought. It was the first or second class when I asked Greg why everyone isn’t using Apple’s programming language, Swift, because like all things Apple, (I’ve read) that it is super user-friendly and clean. I think I even asked if there may be a future where there is one universal, open-source language… but that is for another time. I appreciate how Jamie warns of the “shiny new languages” and says to instead keep practicing the “oldies.” That is just what I plan to do!
I really enjoyed this exercise and hearing from a web developer in the field. I can’t wait to read everyone else’s profiles or project descriptions this week — and see what advice or take-away they provide.

Cool people. Awesome development tricks.

This week I got to talk to someone I really admire at The Post. My Q and A with Matt Callahan was a really nice way too see the “after” of what you can do in web development. I very much am in the “before” category, so looking at all the amazing enterprise pieces that Matt had a hand in was an education in itself.

We’ve been toiling away learning the foundational lessons in coding, and this was a really nice break to see how far we’ve come and where we can go with this. Like many of my classmates have mentioned, a lot of our work can feel overwhelming but to see someone else who has used this platform and made amazing storytelling vehicles was a nice way to see the forrest from the trees.

As for other work, the slideshow was a pretty hard assignment. I asked around for some tips and help, and without that I honestly don’t think I would have been able to complete the assignment. Going over it in class was helpful, but it would have been better to go over it on the outset. Again, I understand that the aims of this class aren’t to spoon-feed us, but it would have been extremely helpful to have some footing before we began the project.

I am relieved to hear that the class takes a pivot now to longer projects. I’m looking forward to thinking about final projects, and trying to conceptualize what I can do after learning the basics in development. I still think that I’m interested in front-end design, and making things look pretty. It would be really cool to design something for The Post that we can use for the fine arts team, but I’m going to continue to mull what my options are. Until next week!

My Interview Process with Greg Collins

The web developer that I interviewed was Greg Collins. Greg is the former chief information officer at EarthLink. Due to unfortunate circumstances EarthLink went through a series of layoffs, which left Greg without a job. Greg now works as a freelancer in the Atlanta area.

Interviewing Greg was very interesting. I found him through linkedIn as a friend of a friends. I asked him if he would mind speaking with me on the phone for half an hour and he said he would be glad to.

As we began our conversation I was instantly amazed that Greg didn’t begin his career in tech, he actually worked in retail as a store manager. His interest in coding and tech began much younger however.

Greg grew up in the suburbs of Tennessee where there were no real coding or web development programs in place. He was first introduced to the web world when a new teacher came to town with a web development background and began a coding club. He was instantly drawn to the club and became a regular at the meetings.

After high school and into college Greg self-taught through different books and mostly trial and error processes. As he was working as a store manager he thought that he might have some talent in the web development business. He sought out a job as a coding expert that came with employment training. From then on, that is what his work has consisted of.

Throughout our conversation I was very interested that the first type of coding language was BASIC, something I had never even heard of. He said that HTML was too futuristic and he didn’t learn that until his employer trained him.

Later in his career Greg turned to app development, which is what he focused on at EarthLink. He claims that the type of coding is very different, but still likes to focus on creating clean code.

Overall I learned a lot from Greg!

Excellent Discussion with Chamber Web Developer

This week’s assignment was my favorite thus far, partially because it used more traditional communications skills (e.g. interviewing, synthesizing, writing, etc.), but also because it reinforced that learning to code is not easy. Sarah Howe, the web developer I spoke with, talked extensively about her experience learning to code—noting it was a lot of trial and error, frustrating assignments, and a constant growing pain. When I discussed my frustrations with my experience thus far she reassured me my feelings were normal and with time my emotions would transition from infuriating, to frustrating, to exciting.

It was also reassuring to hear someone say this that now makes a career out of coding. Sarah is not just an individual that codes on occasion, her entire profession is based around web development, so if she struggled at the beginning that is really is only natural that I too am struggling a bit.

She also pointed out that you are never really ‘done’ learning to code, the way you might ‘complete’ another assignment. She said she is constantly learning new pieces of code, and there are a lot of things her coworkers handle that she does not understand. I had not thought of coding as something that can branch off into different practices in the way that public relations can break into different professions (e.g. media relations, social media, corporate communications, etc.) After speaking with Sarah, however, I now realize that there are lots of different ways someone can work in web development or coding. They can be back end, front end, client facing, management, or numerous other positions that all require knowledge of coding and web development, but to varying degrees.

I really enjoyed this assignment as I think, up until this point, we have been very focused on micro level coding and this was our first big picture look at web development. Rather than focusing on specific lines of code, we spoke with someone who enabled us to see the big picture of web development, including what you are trying to achieve with coding, the different career paths you can pursue with this knowledge, and the larger scale considerations you have to keep in mind when working on a site.

Q and A with Lauren Soni, Janelia Research Campus Web Developer

Lauren Soni Fraino

Lauren Soni Fraino is a young web developer new on the scene after a career in science research. Her path to web development encompasses the movement toward powerful women, and her experiences with graduate school at Northwestern University, the National Academy of Sciences, and Janelia Research Campus have led her to encompass everything digital.

This interview and my interactions with Lauren make me appreciate web development and web developers more. It is crazy how much work goes into the successful development of a website and one that focuses not only on aesthetics, but also on the user experience. My conversations with Lauren, as a result of this midterm project, additionally, gave me hope for my future in coding and web development. She was able to express her trials with learning how to code and looking at websites in a different manner. One of the things that stayed with me after this interview was that being a “coder” does not happen overnight. It is a long journey of continuously refining your skills. But there is hope–she helped instill that hope in me. Not to mention, she admitted that she, too, scours the internet for code guidelines and examples. So, we are not alone!

The following is a Q&A interview with Lauren Soni Fraino about her experiences entering the world of web development and her experiences working in a digital world.

[Note: the interview below has been adapted for length and clarity]

You’ve had an interesting journey to becoming a web content specialist and web developer. How did you decide to move from science research to web development?

I started off as a biologist, and quickly realized that I was better fit for asking and answering questions quickly within my reach. While working at the National Academy of Science, I realized this newfound aspiration of mine, and began working closely with my team’s web designer and web developer. I had the knowledge and insight of what content would appeal to prospective users, but I wanted to build and design experiences that would meet the user’s needs. This realization is what led me to my current career path—designing and developing digital experiences for those interested in expanding upon their knowledge of basic research within the life sciences.

What advice do you have for new web developers looking to learn the ins and outs of coding in different languages? What’s your favorite language to code in?

As a designer, I thoroughly enjoy working within CSS. I enjoy being able to have content laid out in front of me, and the opportunity to creatively display that content in an engaging way. Often times, this means adding page specific—or even site-wide specific—content in front of me where I can apply styling that will engage a user’s attention and captivate them based upon how I have styled specific content. As a designer/developer, I strongly suggest continuous practice of a specific language, without becoming discouraged by immediate results, to ensure self-satisfaction throughout a project’s duration.

Where do you see the web development and user experience industry in five years? What about your own career?

I anticipate web developers and user experience professional working more and more closely together.  Nowadays, the two practices are disjointed, but in an ideal setting these types of professionals would work closely together. It is the responsibility of the user experience professional to gather and collect specific research to inform the user of a specific digital product, and for the web developer to produce this product. Without this harmonious approach, the two practices would have little contact with each other, and would result in unnecessary spending and product research.

To date, what has been the most interesting web and/or digital project that you’ve had the opportunity to work on?

The most interesting digital project I have worked on has been designing and developing a solution to help meet the needs of exposing our research institute’s advanced imaging center. Throughout this project I served as a designer, and lead digital project manager, to create a solution to pair those interested in working with Janelia Research Campus with a specific imaging tool, such as an advanced imaging microscope. This Buzzfeed-like quiz allowed us to create an engaging experience to pair users with the ideal imaging platform to meet their research needs.

What types of projects do you hope to work on in the future?

In the future, I hope to be a part of a project that focuses upon the user’s initials needs, and designing and developing a project with the user in mind. Often times, various political landscapes and organizational needs will cloud a project’s future. My ideal project would focus on a user-oriented product that would solve for a user’s needs with room for that solution to evolve as the user’s needs evolve in time.

What’s your most visited site? Do you ever get content and development ideas from it?

My most visited website it thenextweb.com. Because this website shares best practices as it relates to web design and development, I often get inspiration from this website to help shape the design and development of specific projects I am working on.

If you could be any superhero with any superpower, what would it be and why?

If I could be any superhero with any superpower, I would be Wonder Woman with her ability to use her Lasso of Truth to help inform my decision-making processes. If I had this ability, I would use [interviewees] to better inform my design-decision-making. It is a valuable practice to test assumptions on users before having developers devote time to producing a specific solution. If I were able to persuade users to provider their honest opinions of a particular product during initial user testing, I would be able to work more closely with the development team to produce a product that was more in-line with the needs of our users.

An Update on my Slideshow and Midterm

I feel a little better about code this week because I finally figured out my slideshow. After staying with Greg for 45 minutes after class, the Javascript on my slideshow was not working for some reason when I would put the link into an HTML preview. Considering that I am the kind of person and student that always wants to figure things out instead of let them go, I went home after class and experimented some more. I figured that when I downloaded or cloned my GitHub repo, my slideshow worked. It made me excited because I figured that all those hours of coding were not a waste.

I thought I would never be able to figure out how to do my slideshow, but it felt so rewarding to have it actually work. It may not be as pretty or as nice as I would want it to look, but finally publishing it felt so good. It reminded me that those “Eureka” moments are worth it when you put in the long grunt work.

My favorite part of this class was interviewing the two developers I found. It was a challenge finding people. I relentlessly reached out to people via LinkedIn, email and Twitter. Luckily, my efforts worked and I found two developers who said they would help me. One is a web developer and the other is a mobile developer at a startup. I love interviewing people. It is one of the reasons I wanted to pursue journalism, and both had such interesting paths. One decided not to pursue a traditional university path because he found a passion in coding and the other tried several career options before taking a 12-week intensive coding course. I always find it fascinating how some people land in the same career but take different journeys to get there. They were helpful in their advice about coding. Both basically said anyone can learn how to do it but it takes a specific mindset: You have to like problem solving and you have to enjoy learning how to figure things out. I’ve never considered myself a problem-solver but I would love to start now!

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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Midterm Reflections

Small update: Since interviewing Tiffanie Johnson and writing the Q&A, she has left Forum one and will be joining the Washington Post’s Web Development team on July 12.

One of the first things I noticed about Johnson is that she has a background in math an engineering. While neither of these are required for this career, it definitely helped her when she started learning. The other thing I noticed was how passionate she is about the field. She is driven to more forward, improve, and be an expert in her area. I did not add this the Q&A but she mentioned a specific need to be the best, to create the hardest to break software, and to develop something that has a positive effect on the world. This is why she left the department of defense.

I was encouraged and amused by the knowledge that, outside of this class, I can learn more about web development on YouTube. The fact that she did all of her development learning there is just funny. But she did stress the importance of coding daily and practicing. Where she found the time to do this while working, no idea, but it is good to know that it can be done.

I have never had to bid for work. I have never competed for an assignment, not this way anyway, so I don’t understand the challenges that come with having to do this. There is always something to be written, large or small, but I do want to become a freelancer. I want the flexibility that this type of working affords but it will mean that I will have to compete for stories.

At the end of the day, Johnson’s journey was inspiring in that she took an unconventional path to what I can only describe as the career of her dreams.

*This post has been backdated*