James Strocel 2014: Resolution

howfarwehavecome copy
This time last year, my son was barely the length of my fore-arm and couldn’t even roll over. Today he manages quick toddles in between tables, can bring me the books he wants to read from across the room, and charms the pants off the cashiers every time we go grocery shopping. Now, what have I accomplished this year?

I’ll admit 2013 didn’t start off all that great. I started the Spring unemployed from what I had thought was my last crack at a 9-5 job. Being your average technology worker born after 1970, I was no stranger to joblessness. However, I tried something different this time. I ignored some very good advice and started building my own web app, Gameplaydate.com. I had the idea that I could get adults interested in multiplayer video games again. It’s still up there if you want to sign up. It has approximately 0 regular users, but it led me to my next job, and I’m still using the code base in that very job today.

I learned something very important that Summer. I learned to not accept my limits. I would still have limits, everyone has them. But from now on I want to know them, not just accept them.

Now, if I need to learn a complex technology or design methodology, I’ll just learn it and try to sell the solution to my bosses or clients. Most of the time, I don’t even need to sell the solution since that pattern I found saved me so much time and effort that everyone is happy. If a technology is too complex for me to work with, then I find someone who knows it, and I usually get the solution that way too.

If I were just to accept the limits of my knowledge, it would have dire consequences on my work. I’d be working with an existing codebase that I would be too scared to touch coming from a developer I respect too much to contact for a client I’m too afraid to bother with so much as a status e-mail.

I’m in a very good place right now because of those ideas, and in 2014 I want to take them even further. It might be cheesey to make resolutions at this time of year, but I find when I set goals now, a few of them start coming true. We’ll start off with the career and personal development goals and follow up with all the leisure goals, i.e. the books, games, and movies I plan to get through this year, because I have to get through that backlog somehow. When I make progress on any of them, I’ll be sure to post an update. Here goes!

Goals for 2014


Save up for a House
Learn TDD for Angular JS
Build a Raspberry Pi
Build my own Contact Manager
Build at least one video game in any language
Revisit Raingeek.com
Rebuild my consulting business
Meet my MP or MLA
Learn to Sew

Leisure Goals

Books (Fiction)
Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
Fulgrim by Graham McNeill
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Slayers vol. 1 by Hajime Kanzaka

Books (Non-fiction)
Antifragile by Nicholas Taleb
Lean Startup by Eric Ries
The Upside of Irrationality by Dan Ariely
Creating Magic By Lee Cockerill
The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp
Nurture Shock by by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Books (Computer)
Hacking: The Art of Exploitation
Raspberry Pi User Guide
Programming Interviews Exposed
AngularJS Directives
Storytelling for User Experience

Super Mario Galaxy 2
Halo 4
Wolf Among Us
StrongBad’s Cool Game for Attractive People
Rogue Legacy
Super Robot Wars J
Persona 3

Pacific Rim
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 1
X-men Days of Future Past

TV Series
Doctor Who
Marvel: Agents of SHIELD
Battlestar Galactica (2003)
Madoka Majica
Yamato 2199
Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)

Daily Scrum 2013-10-08 The End?

For the past week or so, I’ve been employed by a small IT consultancy in Abbotsford. With that, I consider the Gameplaydate project to be a success. It succeeded in its primary function which was to get me a new job programming in rails. I must say it’s knocked it out of the park in that aspect. I’ve got a 10-minute commute, my own office and all the k-cups I could drink.

Now you might be thinking that this is the last scrumcast from myself, and that may be true. I don’t really have to show up here to prove that I’m programming rails anymore. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m leaving gameplaydate behind. Projects like these are a great form of unemployment insurance, and the problem still remains: I still can’t play online games with people I know whenever I want. I still want to go to full indie this month and I still want to create a presentation about Gameplaydate. A new video update every now and again might just complete this one-man media empire of James Strocel. I’ll only have an hour to work with each night, but if anything you read on Hackernews is true, then that’s all I will need.

Daily Scrum 2013-09-24 Feedback! Glorious User Feedback!

Part of yesterday was spent repairing a rather ugly incident in production where I deleted a test user, but did not delete the events created by that user. Remember to use dependent destroy boys and girls!

Yesterday, a good friend mine and a loyal viewer Ryan Taylor responded to my call for more user feedback. He just sent some notes through facebook messenger. Mostly about cosmetic stuff, like position of the signup button, or that the font size may be too small for the dropdowns.

The most revealing notes were about matters of user miscommunication. For instance, should you use your real name at signup, or a gamer tag? And what does it mean to claim a game? Does it mean you own it? Is it installed?

This just goes to show that programming is not so much about solving a problem as it is about communication. The program has know that the user is there to do something and it has to tell the user what it can do. Ryan suggested using a wizard or tooltips to walk users through the site, but I wonder, can I make the site’s design obvious enough so that anybody can use it from the get-go?

I also noticed that as Ryan signed up on the site, he was not able to create any events because he did not have any friends on my site. Which is not really true, I’m connected to him through facebook. Yesterday I managed to run the password authentication through oauth, which means I can finish implementing the facebook authentication. Hopefully I’ll use that so that if facebook friends go on the site, they should be able to find their friends immediately after signup.

So to re-iterate, talking with users get you great feedback and much-needed direction. Anybody who is working on a web app should get it in front of their friends and family as quickly as possible. If any of you want to give me notes on the user experience of gameplaydate, just head down to gameplaydate.com, make an account, and send all notes to me! Through James@gameplaydate.com.