Getting to Know Our New Neighbors

Ever since we moved into our new larger office, we’ve been exploring the neighborhood and trying to see what we can get involved with.

We’re just a block down now from the main branch of the Akron Public Library. They’re home to many interesting programs (and a great asset to the community), but the one that piqued our interest is the TechZone@Main. Offering up a wide variety of cool equipment and resources, anyone can stop in and use things like 3d printing, green screen video, audio recording studio, photo printing, laser engraving, and more.

What caught our eye was the vinyl printing. We’re working with a local company on getting some external signage for our new office, but we wanted to supplement that with some vinyl graphics for windows.

The library staff was patient and helpful as we prepared our files, and we even got to watch the printer in action, slowly building our graphics, making another pass to score the material after printing so you can easily peel off your custom shapes.

In a few minutes we had our prints; all we had to do was peel away the uncut areas and stick the vinyl to our glass.

Overall it was a great experience and we now look more official from the front door. We’re not sure if this material and approach is what we’ll use long term (and it’s hard to see in the photos), but this was quick and painless way to test it out and learn about the process.

 

Bigger Team; Larger Office

I’m happy to introduce Christopher Stoll, the newest member of the Coffee and Code family! Chris brings a wealth of programming experience and team building skills and acts as an anchor for our company’s future direction. I am very excited for what he brings to our group and what that means for the future of Coffee and Code.

Building a talented, well respected team is difficult work and I’m extremely proud of what we have accomplished together since Eric joined me over three years ago. However, Coffee and Code has never been known for being sedentary, and are constantly looking towards the future and how to provide even more value for our clients.

Our future includes building a friendly environment for fostering future generations of developers and designers. Chris’s skillset will help us to not only continue to produce top quality work, but will help to further build our specialized team whose talents amaze our clients and outshine our competitors.

In addition, our future facing growth has paved the way to our brand new office in downtown Akron┬álocated between two green spaces and next door to a coffee shop. We need room to develop our desired company and our new space provides just that. We’re still in the process of making it feel like home, but we’re planning to have an open house as soon as the dust settles.

If you’d like to be invited to our open house, or would like to keep tabs on what we have going on, please sign up for our newsletter.

We are still laser focused on delivering the same high quality output that our clients have come to expect. Our entire company focus at this point is producing a more cutting edge and future focused team that can help our clients execute on their ideas while providing a sense of direction and stability in a seemingly unstable technological landscape.

– Jonathan Knapp, President and Founder

Sharing What We’ve Learned

We try to give back to the web community and help others learn (as well as enriching our own skills) in a variety of ways: speaking and attending events, sponsoring things we want to see more of, and trying to participate on social media and in local community discussions. One thing we haven’t haven’t been able to do is mentoring.

We still haven’t really invested in mentoring, but we had the opportunity last week to take a baby step and worked with some new developers on some job shadowing.
Our guests came to us via Akron Women in Tech’s new Code Epic. This is a fantastic program; taking the idea of code schools and bootcamps and making it available to people who can’t afford to quit their day jobs and/or pay the steep tuition.

The developers we worked with had enough experience that we could dive right in and start walking them through our daily routines. We talked through a morning standup meeting, and then went into detail about one of the projects we’re currently working on.

All of us share an overlap of interest/skill in front-end development, so we talked through the tools/projects/frameworks we’re using, and why we made the technology choices we did.

One very interesting exercise was to look at our list of technology involved with the project. We talked through everything, and then went back and added markers by the tools that we knew prior to 2 or 3 years ago. We also made other marks to signify which technology this project is using that didn’t even exist 2 or 3 years ago. The underlying message here was that learning how to learn efficiently, the fundamentals of development, and making informed choices is easily more important than simply trying to master any specific language or environment.

After that we talked through a small feature we need to add, and discussed the pros/cons of different ways we could tackle that problem.

We wrapped up by trying to answer any questions the Code Epic grads had, and we also talked a bit about the pluses and minuses of various work arrangements: consulting or agencies, large or small, in house/product, freelance, etc.

Overall we had a great time. It was really refreshing to talk to some new developers, and learn from them as we shared a bit about what we do and what we’ve learned.

2016: A Year In Review

When a new year begins, we always take some time to set our own (usually unrealistic) goals for ourselves both personally and together as a company. This helps us stay focused and dedicated throughout the year. As the year comes to a close we found ourselves reflecting on what this year meant for us. We are incredibly thankful for our clients and for our friends for supporting us throughout this year. We’d like to take a bit to recap our year, and give some insight into what the next year will bring for us.

What went right?

After taking the plunge to moving the company from a single person to a lean, three person team, this year was our most successful to date (and we’re really proud of that). The way we measure that success is by seeing how many things from the past year we can put into our “things we care about most” buckets which are:

  1. Client Wins
  2. Personal Wins
  3. Speaking Engagements
  4. Event / Organization Sponsorships

Client Wins

Our clients success is our success, and we’re deftly intent on seeing them succeed. Here are some awesome wins they had in 2016:

Owner of CrowdfundInsider launches platform to search and promote SEC filings

We worked with the owner of the leading news and information website covering disruptive finance to improve the process that users go through to access SEC filings. This service, Disclosure Quest, allows users to see an “at a glance” view of crowdfunding filings but more importantly, allows them to dig deeper and view the actual documents and assets that were filed with an easy to use search interface.

The AIM Institute launches a service to test new markets for product development

AIM is a long-time client of ours who we have had an ongoing feature and maintenance contract with. They’re an absolute pleasure to work with. This year we were able to bring to fruition an amazing idea they had, B2B MarketView, which gives businesses the ability to answer a few questions to receive an insightful, custom built report regarding the market position of potential new products.

iDisclose and Disclosure Quest launch Form C support

May 15th, 2016 was a big day in the crowdfunding industry. It was the first day that one could file the newly available “Form C” document, allowing individual people to invest in one’s company in exchange for equity. We can proudly say that the first Form C document that was filed, at 6:35am that day, was a document created by iDisclose, a client whose web based application we developed in 2015.

Soon after submission, someone could find the filing information on Disclosure Quest, another of our client’s projects. Having support for Form C from day one was massively important for our clients, a need that we can say confidently that was met.

vLoan launches newly realigned homepage and expanded online mortgage service

We worked with vLoan on a number of pieces to their online mortgage system, but this year we were given the ability to take a fresh look at their homepage which was originally built for their MVP launch. We had a year of data and customer experiences which were used to target the messaging and layout for conversion. In doing so, we were also able to make improvements to design, performance, and page accessibility; three things we care a lot about as a company.

Peak Telematics launches Darby, a usage based insurance application

Working directly with Brad Colbow, a local UX and design guru, we designed and built the templates for the company’s web application which takes an ultra modern approach to an industry not known for putting an importance on usability and design. In 2016 they released an alpha version of their application which they intend to license to insurance companies.

A magazine with more than 500,000 monthly page views gets complete website redesign

Working with our friends at Studio Mercury we had the distinct pleasure of implementing, from the ground up, the new website design they created for one of their clients. There was a lot of custom functionality developed to help meet the new, modern demands of their site’s users. The website is slated for launch in early 2017.


Personal Wins

We believe that it’s very important to grow as a person outside of the business. We try to give back and involve ourselves in causes that we care deeply about in our communities.

Byron was accepted into the 2017 class of Akron Torchbearers, a Leadership Akron independent affiliate

One of our developers, Byron, was accepted into the 2017 class of Torchbearers. This program is equally focused on leadership development and community service and has well over double the amount of applicants as it does accepted members. The organization exists to strengthen the connection between Akron-area nonprofits and emerging leaders.

Company sponsors, helps organize, and attends Cleveland GiveCamp

Cleveland GiveCamp, one of the nations largest GiveCamps with over 200 volunteers annually, has been a passion of Jon Knapp since its inception 8 years ago. As Coffee and Code grows, so does its involvement in the organization. More on this can be read in a previous write-up here.

Company helps organize and attends Hack N Akron, a civic hackathon

Hack N Akron, a civic hacking group, was founded by a group of local volunteers including our developer, Byron. He helped not only plan the technical direction for the day, but connected the city staff to the development team, and worked hard to make the event a success. Eric also attended the event and helped with design guidance and research questions.

Akron Front End Development Group

Byron has been the sole organizer of a technical meetup group in the Akron area that he started as a Micrommunity of Launch League in May of 2016. The group has hosted monthly meetups and several hack nights to create a community of local developers and designers interested in leveling up and expanding their skill set.


Speaking Engagements

We believe that public speaking, especially at conferences and meetups relating to your field, is one of the best ways to grow as a person, and as a professional. The confidence, required research, and people skills developed while doing this are invaluable.

Design Feedback for Everyone, Eric Browning

Eric’s talk, Design Feedback for Everyone, was a big hit this year. On discussing how non-designers and designers can interact more efficiently, Eric gave this talk at three different events. First at StirTrek, then at the Columbus Web Group, and lastly at Flight.

Personas: an Interactive User Experience Workshop, Eric Browning

Eric crafted an interactive workshop to help work out different personas given a particular group, organization, etc. He gave this workshop at the UX Akron meetup group and an event organized by Akron Women in Tech.

Docker on the Docks, Jon Knapp

Speaking to the Cleveland Ruby Brigade (CleRB) Group, Jon talked through the process of creating and setting up Docker containers, how they differ from VMs, and lessons learned bringing local development and deployments to the technology.

Building “Serverless” Software with AWS Lambda, Jon Knapp

After utilizing AWS Lambda for a few interesting projects at the company, Jon put together a talk on the subject which he gave at Erie Day of Code, Pittsburgh Tech Fest, and will be delivering it in January of 2017 at CodeMash.

Wadsworth Career Day, Jon Knapp

For the third year in a row, Jon talked to Wadsworth high school students at their annual Career Day. He spoke a bit on starting a business, his personal development path post high school, info about the job market, and focused on open Q&A with the students.

How HTTP/2 Fits Into Your Workflow, Byron Delpinal

For a while now, Byron has been interested in web performance. He gave this talk outlining the benefits of HTTP/2 and how to implement it at Flight and will be giving it again in early January 2017 at Codemash.


Event / Organization Sponsorships

We believe in supporting things that we want to see more of. It’s a big deal to us, especially in our local community. Here are the events and organizations that we supported in 2016:


Looking Forward to 2017

2016 was great, but what happens next? We’re looking to do more of what we love and are interested in finding:

  1. Awesome clients to bring on board in the new year.
  2. Great people to work with in developer, marketing/sales, and business development roles.
  3. Opportunities to speak at industry events.

If you’re interested in bringing any of these to our attention, don’t hesitate, we’d love to hear from you! You can contact us at info@coffeeandcode.com.

What does AWS Lambda support?

Anyone who’s developing in JavaScript knows the extremely useful features that have been creeping into Node and different web browsers. They also know the frustration of determining which features are supported and the pain of forced polyfills and code transformations tacked onto our build processes.

At Coffee and Code, I’ve been doing quite a few projects involving AWS Lambda which provides a Node.js runtime, but I kept having to look up whether I could use a specific ES6 feature or not.

How do I find out what features are supported and which I’d require something like Babel for?

Kangax provides a great resource for determining what features are supported in different JavaScript environments. However, they only show the major versions of Node.

node.green is a fairly new resource that focuses on more releases of Node and also utilizes the Kangax test suite, but they don’t list results for older versions of Node.

That’s why I built whatdoeslambdasupport.com, a website to quickly see what tests pass or fail for each Node runtime that AWS Lambda supports.

The tests results are generated by running the Kangax tests inside each of the Node.js Lambda runtimes so there’s no “it works on my machine” issues with the test results.

You can use this resource to determine what JS features you can use in your Lambda projects, or to make a call whether including something like Babel makes sense.


If you’re interested in hearing more about how I’ve used Lambda for client projects, I’ll be speaking at Pittsburgh TechFest and Erie Day of Code over the next couple weeks. Stop by and say hello!

We’re going to South by Southwest!

Later today I get to board a plane to one of my favorite American cities, Austin, Texas. It’s that time of year for the ridiculously large South by Southwest conference that celebrates all things tech, film, and music.

This trip is a little different though, as I’m going to celebrate one of our clients, iDisclose, being one of the selected startup companies at the SxSw Startup Showcase.

iDisclose robot avatar

I’m extremely happy with the work that we have done to get iDisclose to market over the past year. It is very satisfying to help a client go from idea to execution and then watch them gather the media and industry attention they deserve.

None of this would have been possible without CEO Georgia Quinn though. She’s extremely good at what she does and has made the difficult navigation of crowd funding much easier to navigate. This will even be the first time we get to meet in real life. Google Hangouts have gotten us a long way, but nothing beats being able to high five an amazing client in person.

If anyone else would like to learn more about iDisclose or how we tackled the project, feel free to say hello at SxSw or online.

Essential gear for working on-site with clients

We usually work remotely at Coffee and Code; with good collaboration tools and frequent communication there’s no need to be tied to a particular location everyday. But, sometimes the best way to tackle a project is to meet with a client at their office to work with their team face to face.

Thinking beyond just tossing your laptop in your bag and going for it, you can make a great impression and make your life a little easier by grabbing these essentials for times you’re not at your usual workspace.

Things you might not think to bring with you, like adapters, cash, mints and swag.

  1. Sturdy bag

    Obviously you need something big enough to fit everything in, but make sure to get something that’s comfortable to walk around with too. You might be shuttling around a big campus or making some unexpected walks out for lunch, etc. A bag with some extra storage compartments helps you look more professional than dumping out everything you’re carrying just to find something at the bottom.

  2. Notebooks/sketchbooks/sticky notes

    From Moleskine to Field Notes, as an industry we love our fancy writing implements. Depending on what your field is, you might want to bring graph paper, pages with mobile device templates printed on them, or kits that make paper prototyping easier. Remember not to assume you’ll have access to your preferred tools when you’re working somewhere new.

  3. Pens & Pencils

    It seems silly but your meeting space or temporary office might not have even basic equipment like this, or you might have to waste a teammember’s time trying to round up supplies.

    If you just leave these in your bag all the time, make sure to check them every once in awhile. Nothing’s worse than a dried up pen or pencil with broken lead when you really need it. You get bonus points if you grab a few extras to share.

  4. Adapters for everything

    A recurring theme is that you never know what the setup is going to be at a new space; bring adapters for every kind of display you can think of…even VGA. You might be pairing with someone, or presenting in a small conference room.

    If you need an adapter for wired ethernet you should snag one of those too; client wifi can be spotty or there might be weird security restrictions you didn’t know about in advance.

  5. Power adapter with giant cord

    Bringing your power adapter is obvious, but if you have the option to bring a longer cord (like Mac laptops) make sure to toss it in. They’re awkward to haul around, but you never know when you need a longer connection, or you have to fit into a crowded power strip.

  6. Public wifi VPN app

    When you’re connecting to a bunch of different wifi networks, having a VPN to route your traffic through is a big step for security. We recommend Cloak on OS X. It kicks in automatically on open wifi networks and works seamlessly to protect you.

  7. Password manager

    We think everyone should be using a password manager like 1Password, but that’s a discussion for another day. The real advantage for working on-site is being able to save specific credentials to a vault, or tagged in some way. This way you can easily access everything related to one client, and if at some point they’re no longer relevant you can remove them cleanly.

  8. Headphones

    Even if you’re going to be spending the day collaborating, headphones are great for video conferences with your team or remote members without disturbing everyone else in the office. They’re also incredibly useful for tuning out ambient noise in an open office environment.

  9. Phone with tethering

    You’re obviously going to bring your phone, but consider making sure you have tethering on your phone/plan. If wifi gets flaky or you’re in an unfamiliar place having a connection you can use can be a lifesaver. You can also score bonus points by saving the day and sharing your connection with your colleagues if things go south.

  10. Mints or tiny mouthwash

    Especially if you’re a coffee person, a little freshening up before meetings can’t hurt. Throwing a travel sized mouthwash can save you from potential embarassment.

  11. Spare cash

    Some spare cash comes in handy at unexpected times. Traveling to a clients’ office takes you on routes you’re not used to; you might have to take a toll road or you might hit up a cash-only lunch spot.

  12. Your swag

    Business cards, stickers: whatever you’ve got don’t forget to bring some along. This goes double if you’re a freelancer or part of a smaller firm; you always need to keep marketing and stay prepared to jump on opportunities that might come up.

  13. Headache relief

    Let’s be honest, most of our jobs are not physically demanding…at all. But, there are still stresses and mental demands. Few things will ruin your day quicker than a headache when you have to stare at screens all day. Remember that any medications you carry will have expiration dates, so you’ll want to check them occasionally.

  14. USB drive

    Services like Dropbox work great, until they don’t. Connection weirdness, bandwidth issues, and syncing problems – sometimes a simple thumb drive can save you a ton of time and frustration.

  15. Input device

    It’s easy to get very accustomed to your usual home or office setup. Little things like not having your mouse or trackpad introduce distractions you don’t want to mess with. One extra caveat here is to check the batteries if they’re not rechargeable – buy a spare set and toss them in your bag too.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer visits our office space.

We were happy to chat with John Harper from the Cleveland Plain dealer and show him around our office. He wrote a great article about OSC TechLab where our office is (we’re the green and white office with client logos on the wall).

It’s nice to see some of our friends get mentioned too; we really believe that an environment filled with other people doing interesting work helps inspire us and keep us motivated.