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Hacktoberfest 2020

Hacktoberfest 2020 logo

While 2020 certainly hasn’t been the finest of years thus far, there have been some bright spots to the year. I’ve found that the my amount of online learning has gone up with so many of my other activities having gone down.

This year I’ve gone full speed into Hacktoberfest, and have already submitted my 4 pull requests! ok, 2 of them were rather simple pull requests, but 4 nonetheless. Hopefully I will get a t-shirt when it’s all said and done.

I believe my finest pull request went towards confetti.js. A pretty slick little script o display confetti on a page. I added the ability to customize the colors used in the confetti, and sent a Pull Request in. Hopefully it’s something they can incorporate.

Hacktoberfest does a really great job of going over the basics of using GitHub. While I do use GitHub often, there’s always something new to learn or a better way to do things using it.

While I typically keep myself rather busy, Hacktoberfest really just gets me excited to contribute to open source projects. A great event and looking forward to contributing to more projects, and hopefully score a free t-shirt!

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Codecademy – Learn JavaScript

A few months back I started the Learn JavaScript course on Codecademy. I was already fairly proficient with JavaScript, but always looking to up my skill plus get a better grasp of some of the ES6 and ES8 techniques that I know but when it comes to code typically stick with ES5.

This was my first course on Codecademy, and I have to say I was really impressed. The interface was great, very intuitive with the concepts chunked up into an easy to follow way.

I didn’t try the Projects and Quizzes as they’re part of the Pro membership (which I’m not seriously considering giving a shot), but everything else was pretty great. I’d say I learned a couple of new tricks and am a lot more comfortable using the newer ES6 syntax in my projects now.

I’d highly recommend Codecademy to those looking to learn to code or to improve their coding skills.

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Degree Chooser

Areas of Study screenshot

We made a pretty slick degree chooser at work. Ours is labeled as Areas of Study, but ultimately we made an easier way for our visitors to sift through what degree(s) might appeal to them.

Live example:

https://stockton.edu/academic-affairs/academic-schools-programs.html

There’s a lot going on under the hood with this one, and we’ve utilized what I think are some pretty cool techniques to make it not only easy to use but also easy for our content managers to keep up to date.

Our CMS (content management system) is OU Campus which specializes in higher ed. They’re great for us. Their templating system relies on XML/XSLT (not always so great), so ultimately a content manager typically is editing an XML file on the staging server that is then transformed into an HTML file that live on the production server for visitors to see.

So to make editing as seamless as possible, we setup a table is OU Campus that our content manager can edit, just like any regular page. Just what they’re comfortable doing day in and day out. We then leverage some XSLT magic (there are parts of it that I still believe to be magic even though I wrote it) to transform the content managers edits. Here’s what’s happening when they edit:

  1. Content manager makes normal edits to a html table with columns, rows, etc. Each degree is a new row in the table.
  2. On publish the XSLT transforms the edited XML into 2 files. A standard HTML page of the table transform and grouped by degree type.
    1. This is the most basic but functional version of the page. It’s served up like this to meet any visitors who may be visiting with the most ancient of browsers. They will still at minimum get a fully functioning list of linked degrees.
    2. The table is also transformed via another XSLT file to a JSON file. This JSON file will serve as our data source of areas of study. The external JSON file makes it easier to use the data in other pages/applications too!
  3. So now we have 2 files. The HTML page which is fully functional, yet a tad boring and a JSON file just waiting to be used.

Next we used Vue to write the JavaScript for this little app. I found Vue to be pretty lightweight and translates well to our CMS and the talents of our team. It’s my current favorite way to code up JS projects.

We didn’t use the vue-cli, just some vanilla Vue for this one. If we do a 2.0 we’ll probably go with vue-cli as we have a much better understanding of it now and it’s benefits.

Vue

4. The Vue script not only filters by title, school, etc. but we also include a field for tags. This really opens the door for us to make sure that our degrees can be found not only on their proper name, but perhaps a name that is used at other institutions, or even if searched as a career driven term. This should be a big upgrade for all.

5. To top it off we collect Events in Google Analytics of terms searched on. This data will help us make sure that the tags being used make sense and if we should consider adding new tags or even renaming or launching new degrees in the future.

All in all a very fun project that really helps to modernize a highly used page on our site. We’re looking to incorporate the JSON data into other apps/uses as well.

Here’s the repository on GitHub:

https://github.com/joedag32/areas-of-study-app

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Vue JS 2 – The Complete Guide (incl. Vue Router & Vuex)

Vue.js logo

I’ve been eager to get better with Vue.js, and in additional to reading and watching all the great resources online, I also give the Vue JS 2 – The Complete Guide (incl. Vue Router & Vuex) on Udemy a shot.

The course was really great. I had to put it down for extended periods then come back due to my heavy workload at work, but the instructor Maximilian really put together a very solid Vue.js course. Highly recommended

The final project was a stock trading app. The final stock trading app did a good job of utilizing Vuex and Vue Router too, so that was a plus for sure.

Here’s some of the issues or differences I had on the final project:

  • The only part I really had a little difficulty on was the Javascript logic for creating the stock and adding it to the portfolio. Ultimately I did get it to work, but I was going with 1 stock component for all the uses, while the course example went with 2 separate stock components. While either could work, going with 2 components in this case did seem to be a bit easier to get going.
  • Sometimes I still go with ES5 style instead of going with the ES6 Higher Order functions. I forget .forEach, .map, etc. but am getting better of giving them a short as well as the good old for loop that I tend to lean on.
  • I went with Bootstrap 4 instead of 3 that was used in the tutorial
  • For now I’ve omitted the Firebase integration. I’ll probably go back and include that at some point, but was thinking of implementing it in a slightly different way that was was proposed in the lesson.
  • Had to change the publicPath in config for the project to work on GitHub Pages. This had me stumped for a few minutes, but made sense once I thought it through.

The source can be found on GitHub. It can also try it out on the GitHub Page Environment.

Great course and highly recommended if you understand Javascript and want to figure out how the Vue.js works.

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Instagram Feed using Javascript and XSLT/XML

Recently an Instagram widget that we were using on a site broke when the Instagram API was upgraded/deprecated (I guess it depends on which side you are on). The widget was no longer supported, so we were looking for some workarounds/solutions.

We investigated moving to another commercial widget, building a script using their API and whatever other options we could think of. We found InstagramFeed on GitHub, which is a really cool Javascript.

The CMS we work in uses XML/XSLT for it’s templating, so using the CMS’s built in Components, we built a simple Component that would give a content manager access to basic form controls so to create/edit the script. We then wrote some XSLT to build out the script call and output to generate the InstagramFeed script on our website. Nothing too amazing, but not too shabby for the very short turnaround.

Here’s the XSLT we used to output the script with the options of passing:

  • feed name or type, @ username or # tag
  • number of items to display
  • number of items for row
<xsl:template match="div[@id='instagram-feed-comp']">
  <xsl:param name="feed-type">
    <xsl:choose>
      <xsl:when test="starts-with(@data-feed, '@')">username</xsl:when>
      <xsl:otherwise>tag</xsl:otherwise>
    </xsl:choose>
  </xsl:param>
  <xsl:param name="feed-name" select="substring(@data-feed, 2)"/>
  <xsl:param name="items" select="@data-items"/>	
  <xsl:param name="items-per-row" select="@data-items-per-row"/>	
			
  <div id="instagram-feed-comp"></div>
  <script src="_host-path_/instagram-feed-min.js"></script>
  <script>
  (function(){
    new InstagramFeed({
      '<xsl:value-of select="$feed-type"/>': '<xsl:value-of select="$feed-name"/>',
      'container': document.getElementById("instagram-feed-comp"),
      'display_profile': false,
      'display_biography': false,
      'display_gallery': true,
      'callback': null,
      'styling': true,
      'items': <xsl:value-of select="$items"/>,
      'items_per_row': <xsl:value-of select="$items-per-row"/>,
      'margin': 1,
      'lazy_load': true
    });
  })();
  </script>
</xsl:template> 

We hate XSLT, but you can do some very cool stuff with it if you can find good documentation and examples out there.

Once we make our template match, we’re assigning data attributes we have setup in our Component (not shared here) as XSLT params for later output. We create a new param feed-type that checks whether the feed-name starts with an @ or # to determine if it’s an Instagram account or a hashtag to display.

Next we just output a div for the script to append to, the include script for the Instagram Feed, and the function with options we want for our display. The scripts creators really did a great job documenting the options. GitHub and the web in general are so awesome at times!

We output XSL value-of’s where we want our Component values to output in the script. Again, very simple but works great without our CMS. A content manager can very easily add and update their Instagram feed on their respective page without knowing and Javascript or having access to source code.

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Recent Hobbies

I’ve found a few new hobbies/projects to learn during the recent pandemic. Some tech, some around the house, and others just random.

Vue.js

I’ve really gotten into the vue.js JavaScript framework. Recently I’ve been aiming to get stronger with JavaScript, and eventually found my way to Vue.

Thus far I’m using the framework to develop a degree/program finder at work, and another single page app for another project. I’ll have to write up a post on both projects when I launch them. Very excited.

Firebase

A bit tied together with my Vue interest, I’ve really been having fun with Firebase. Firestore and Authentication are what I’m mostly toying with at the moment. I am really excited to deploy into some final projects. The documentation is great.

Baseboard Trim

I finally put my miter saw to use and fixed the baseboard trim in my bathroom. Getting the trim to match at a corner was the biggest challenge.

Since some of the previous trim had gotten wet and moldy, I was able to salvage a piece of the clean original to match my corner, with a completely new piece of baseboard for the side with no corners. Very difficult to see the trim isn’t a perfect match on that piece.

Sprinkler Heads

Not too difficult, but I also dig up and replaced a few sprinkler heads. Installing and adjusting to get them just right wasn’t too hard. Just some trial and error, and digging.

RingFit Adventure

I have been playing RingFit Adventure for 90+ straight days now. While not a replacement for the gym, it’s been a pretty solid source of activity. It has me doing more core and balance work now, which is nice. Great idea making an exercise rpg, I think I’m up to level 106 now.

Kindle PaperWhite

One of the first (and few purchases) of the pandemic for me was a Kindle. It’s been awesome! Screen and battery are amazing, I’ve been borrowing books online through my local library. Probably have read 8 or so on it.

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