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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Presenting at the July NEPA.js Meetup

Earlier this week my Condron Media cohort Tucker Hottes and I presented at the July NEPA.js Meetup. Our presentation was about automation and all of the things we can automate in our lives personally and professionally. And also how we employ automation in our workflows for creating applications and web sites using our own task management suite.

Here are just a few examples of reproducible tasks that you can automate that perhaps you haven’t thought about:

  • Your home’s temperature
  • Applying filters to multiple photos at once
  • Social media posts
  • Combining many files together into one
  • Deleting unused files
  • Calendar events

There are countless others. Perhaps you’re doing some of these things now. You might set a reminder for yourself to clean the bathroom every Tuesday. Or, your using a Nest to control your home’s temperature based on your preferences.

But there may be others that you’re not doing. Posting regularly to social media can seem daunting to some. But automating those posts can make it much easier to set aside time to schedule the posts and then go about your day. Or editing photos or video may never happen because you don’t have time to go through them all and edit each one individually. But these are tasks that can be automated.

We showed a quick demonstration of automating the combining of multiple text files using Grunt. There are a lot of ways something like this can be useful. Combining multiple comma-separated value (CSV) files that are reports from many retail locations, web development, and others.

Then Tucker provided a list of all the tasks we do when we get a new client at Condron Media. The full list can take a person up to 1.5 hours to “start” working on that customer’s project. So we’ve begun working whittling away at that list of tasks by using another task manager called Gulp. We call this suite of automation tasks Bebop – after one of the thugs from Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Bebop is separated into the smallest tasks possible so that we can combine those tasks into procedures. Creating new folders, adding Slack channels, sending Slack messages, spinning up an instance of WordPress, adding virtual hosts to local development environments, etc. etc. Bebop can then combine these tasks in any order and do them much quicker than a human can clicking with a mouse. We estimate it will take 1 minute to do what took 1.5 hours once Bebop is complete.

Another benefit of automating these types of tasks is that you can nearly eliminate human error. What if someone types in the wrong client name or forgets a step in the process? Bebop doesn’t get things wrong. Which saves us a lot of headaches.

Here is the example Gulp task that we created to demo Bebop to the NEPA.js group.

We then asked the group to take 5 minutes and write down what they would like to automate in their lives. The answers ranged from making dog food to laundry to simple development and environmental tasks. Every one in attendance shared at least one thing they’d like to automate.

Tucker and I had a blast presenting but we enjoyed this final session the most. Similar to my event suggestions to Karla Porter earlier this year, I find that the more a group interacts with one another the more I personally get out of a meetup or conference. Presentations can be eye opening but personal connections and calm discussions yield much fruit for thought.

Thanks to everyone that showed up. I think we had 14 or 15 people. The NEPA.js community is active, engaged, and I’m very happy that it is happening in Scranton.

Electric City Building, Scranton, PA – January 2017

Published: June 17, 2017

Coney Island Lunch, Scranton, PA – December 2016

Published: June 2, 2017

Penn Avenue Parking Garage, Scranton, PA – January 2017

Published: June 1, 2017

Northern Light Espresso Bar & Cafe, Scranton, PA – January 2017

Published: May 31, 2017

Human waste. Scranton, PA – November, 2016

Published: May 22, 2017

Iron Horse movie bistro in downtown Scranton

On Sunday we went to the Iron Horse movie bistro in downtown Scranton. I was going to write a review but Joe Evans of NEPA Scene has already hit most points that I would cover.

All of the follow quotes are from his review. Be sure to head to their site to read it.

The first thing that stood out to me was how simple it was to buy tickets. Being able to reserve and select exactly what seat you want is fantastic. Knowing that you’re going to have exactly what seat you want is awesome. You don’t need to worry about fighting through a packed theater with your date, hoping for two seats together that still have a decent view of the screen.

We bought tickets through the Fandango app. Reserving specific seating is fantastic. I had zero anxiety about “where will we sit?” and that changes the movie-going experience pretty dramatically.

When you finally reserve a seat, the theater recommends arriving about 30-45 minutes early to grab a bite to eat and a drink in the theater’s lobby bar.

Evans made this bit a little confusing for me. In reality, they want you to order your food and drinks when you’re in the theatre not at the bar. At least, that was the direction we were given. Perhaps you can do both? By getting there 30 minutes prior to the show this gives the waiters plenty of time to take your order, get you the food, and pay your bill before the movie starts. I recommend aiming for 40 minutes before so that you can walk in the moment they allow you to. This process worked fairly well for us but not for the woman sitting next to me. She never got her drinks and asked for a refund after the movie. So clearly there are some kinks to work out. I’d give Iron Horse another month or two if you care to be a beta tester.

Evans goes on.

So here’s my biggest issue with the theater so far – the food, in my opinion, is thoroughly mediocre. There was nothing really wrong with it, it was by no means bad, but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

Because I read Evans’ review prior to going to Iron Horse I did not have the same expectations as he did. So for me, the food was fine. To me, the chairs and a beer were what made the experience.

Seriously, these seats are the best of all the theaters in the area. And it’s not even close.

Not only are they big, wide seats but they are plush and soft, almost pillow-like. They blow the seats at Regal and Cinemark out of the water.

Agreed.

He goes on, later, about the seats.

Since the button for the electronic reclining system is on the inner arm of the seat, I did press it accidentally while shifting in my seat a couple times, so keep an eye on that. It can be pretty startling in a dark theater if you’re not expecting it.

I did this 5 or 6 times. My hand, for whatever reason, hit the button and I kept making the seat move. This isn’t a complaint. I don’t think the seat design is poor. And I don’t think I will do it again next time. But I couldn’t believe how many times I hit this on accident. I felt like a moron.

Overall, the Iron Horse delivers a pleasant ride that adds a little something more to your local theatergoing experience.

Exactly. Iron Horse isn’t Regal and it isn’t Cinemark. And that’s great.

Oh, one final thing. Overall the experience cost us over $80.00. So it isn’t the most affordable way to go to the movies. But I think that is a very fair price for what we got and I think we’d likely do this a few times per year.

Pete Ventura on Scranton

Pete Ventura, friend and owner of Coney Island Lunch on Lackawanna Avenue in Scranton:

All of the years I’ve been here, and I’m 62 years old, I can’t stand it when people put Scranton or this area down. I won’t get mad at them, but I’ll tell them about all of the good things. I’ll say, “We might have had some trying times here and there, but it’s not like what you’re saying.” That’s my pet peeve. Don’t badmouth Scranton if you’re going to talk to me, because it’s been good to me.

Totally and 100% agree with Pete here. Also, each perceived “negative” that may be aligned against Scranton can also be thought of as a positive. Buildings are readily available and inexpensive, marketing to the entire region is inexpensive (get in touch), and being a big fish in a small pond is possible.

Be sure to stop by Pete’s place, shake his hand, and eat as many Texas wieners as you can afford.

Attending NEPA WordPress Meetup for March 2017

Last night was the NEPA WordPress Meetup for March 2017. It was a panel discussion regarding how agencies use WordPress with Jack Reager of Black Out Design (our gracious host, thanks Jack and team), Liam Dempsey and Lauren Pittenger of LBDesign in the Philadelphia-area, and your’s truly of Condron Media.

As these types of events typically do, the discussion meandered through many different topics including the reasons our agencies have decided to use WordPress as our platform for many of our projects, about how someone can get started using WordPress, about JavaScript and how it is the language that is currently eating the web, and even a bit about baking bread somehow.

One question that was posited by Phil Erb, our moderator for the evening, was what do the agencies or individuals get out of the WordPress community. Most of the answers were focused on what each individual gleans from WordPress-related events. If you’ve read my blog at all you know that I’m a strong advocate for attending events and that I think they have immense value. It was good to see all of the panelists agree on this point. I hope it spurs some in the audience to attend even more events and certainly more events out of the area and bring that energy and knowledge back to our nook in the mountains here in Pennsylvania.

It was a great meetup in a great space. Very glad to have been part of it.

Thanks to Phil and Stephanie for organizing the event, to Jack and his team for opening up their new space to us (they should be proud of the space they’ve created there, it is lovely), to Liam and Lauren for driving a few hours through fog and lastly to Liam for sharing his Duke’s pizza with me.

Attending February’s NEPA.js meet up

NEPA.js is quickly becoming my favorite tech-related event to attend.

On Monday night at the Scranton Enterprise Center a solid group of attendees listened and shared in Jason Washo’s presentation on whether or not to handwrite or generate JavaScript through transpiling. Jason is a big believer in transpiling JavaScript but he kept his presentation balanced by providing both the pros and cons of doing so. He also opened the discussion up to the group several times for feedback throughout his presentation. His presentation was very good, but the discussion was even better.

Afterwards topics began to fly regarding next month’s topic, future topic ideas, and how everyone really enjoys these meet ups. If you’ve been watching from your chair and thinking about attending – please do. You won’t regret it.

Post filtering fixes at Homebrew Website Club

Last night Tucker Hottes, Den Temple and I held the first Homebrew Website Club at The Keys in Scranton, PA. I really appreciate that HWC will force me to set aside some time to work on my personal site since it is often neglected for more pressing projects.

During HWC I began trying to fix my crufty URLs for post format filtering on WordPress. Unless I’m missing something, it doesn’t appear that WordPress has “standard” post format filtering out of the box. It can filter by every other post format – statuses, audio, images – but doesn’t for standard posts. I’m almost sure I am missing something. If anyone knows how to do this more elegantly please let me me know. However, I’ve added this functionality myself months ago and now those URLs are cruft free. You can see them in my sidebar.

To do this isn’t trivial. Here are the steps you need to follow:

I’m glad HWC gave me the time to finally fix this as it had been bothering me for a few months. Looking forward to the next HWC where I’ll tackle a few more Indieweb things I’ve been meaning to bolt on.

Scranton’s first Homebrew Website Club

Next Wednesday I’ll be hosting the first Scranton-based Homebrew Website Club at Condron Media‘s headquarters on Penn Avenue. There are other locations HWC will be happening on that day too. If you have your own site and I you care to work on it in anyway at all please do stop by.

Homebrew Website Club is not a typical meetup, like say a WordPress meetup, in that you stop by to learn a particular topic (although I have no doubt you will learn if you attend one). It is more a reoccurring time that is set aside to allow you to work on your personal web site. Perhaps you’ve been meaning to finish up a blog post that has been in draft for weeks, or you need to fix a theme issue, or you want to do something more complex – whatever it is, HWC is your opportunity to do that while sitting next to other people that are trying to do the same.

I’ll be using the this time, each meeting, to fit more Indieweb building blocks into my personal site. I’ve recently added Backfeed, POSSE, Webmention, and others. And I plan on continuing to tweak them to get them just the way I’d prefer. Also, I plan on pushing my code and work back out into the world through this blog, my Github account, and #indieweb on IRC.

So, if this is something you’re into. Drop by.

Attending January’s NEPA.js meet up

Aaron Rosenberg NEPA.js

Photo: Aaron Rosenberg presenting an intro to Node.js.

January’s NEPA.js meet up, the second monthly meet up for this group, was held on Tuesday evening at the Scranton Enterprise Center. This group, though only a few months old, is starting to get its legs underneath it and it is really great to see the community building.

The meet up’s discussion was centered around an introduction to Node.js and it was extremely well presented by Aaron Rosenberg. Aaron did an excellent job explaining the project’s raison d’être, history, and growth. One bit I especially liked was him showing how the browser’s JavaScript engine processed requests using Loupe. All-in-all an excellent introduction. (Link to presentation slides forthcoming. Check back here.)

Following Aaron’s presentation was Mark Keith showing some real live coding of a simple Node app using Express, a framework for building Node web apps, which quickly devolved slightly into discussions on scope, globals, “this“, etc. which was all good because the attendees were steering the conversation.

After the two hour meet up we made our way through the parking lot to Ale Mary’s for a beer or two. I’m looking forward to February’s meet up.

Thanks goes to Aaron and Mark for putting together the presentations and to tecBRIDGE for the pizza.

Attending the NEPA.js meetup

NEPA.js

On Tuesday I attended the first monthly NEPA.js meetup at the Scranton Enterprise Center. Mark Keith, a JavaScript developer who somewhat recently moved into the area, was the organizer and TecBridge – who organizes the NEPA Tech meetup group – helped to coordinate, host, organize and provide pizza for this brand-new group.

The common refrain in our area is that those of us who build software products, enjoy a good bit of nerdery, or want to reach out and socialize with people who know what a npm package is… are somehow alone. That simply isn’t true and the first NEPA.js meetup proved that. Twenty-five or so people made it out to this first meetup even with the snow. There were young and not-so-young, men, women, and even those that didn’t know what JavaScript was but knew it was important for them to understand it.

After some introductions Mark did a great job of giving an overview of what JavaScript the language was and how it can be used. He kept it high-level and, though I’m sure some didn’t understand everything he said, surely they left knowing more about what JavaScript is then when they walked in. We also had those in the room that have been developing with JavaScript for years and years – and even one Mozilla team member.

The group meets again next month and will continue to do so the second Tuesday of each month. The group also has a Slack channel so if it you want in just ping me on Twitter.

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Bank tower, Scranton, PA – November 2016

Published: December 6, 2016

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Off Penn, Downtown Scranton – December 2016

Published: December 2, 2016

learning commons

Learning Commons, Marywood University, Scranton, PA – November 2016

Published: November 29, 2016

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Piano man, SAGE Awards, Scranton, PA – November 2016

Published: November 15, 2016

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Lobby, Scranton Enterprise Center – November 2016

Published: November 13, 2016

SAGE Awards winners

NEPA Scene:

The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce has announced the winners of the 2016 SAGE Awards, the Scranton Awards for Growth and Excellence that honor outstanding local businesses for their talent, creativity, and innovation. The winner of each award category was publicly announced at the Chamber Gala on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at The Theater at North in Scranton.

I was able to attend the SAGE Awards this year. The Theater at North is a great space. They did an amazing job refurbishing it. Everyone seemed to have a great time and those striving to help make the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre area better in their own way were deservedly acknowledged.

Oh, to the lady behind the bar with the handsome pour, I thank you.