Is PHP 5.3 Terminal? Well, It’s Getting One For Namespaces

A language lives and dies by how easy it is for a person to express something within that language. But the ease in expression is much like the type I and type II error rate in a statistical test: as you adjust one to be nearer to where you want it to be, the other gets farther away. So the architects of a language have to choose between adding more keywords and constructs or having longer, but simpler sequences of existing ones.

PHP is a very easy language to learn and use because it has a syntax that is a simplified sampling from C++/Java and Perl. People who use these languages pick up PHP fast, and people who haven’t used any languages often learn PHP with as much ease as they would learn Perl.

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Posted in: Articles, Development

Meet Ryan Scott: Intern

My name is Ryan Scott, I’m a junior Computer Science major at Arizona State University and Synapse Studio’s newest intern. I’m currently learning everything I thought I knew in the world of coding was wrong, and that a semi-intelligent monkey with thirty minutes of spare time could destroy all the data saved in the MySQL databases of my pet project Nayrpg. I’m doing some basic grunt work at the moment while I work to iron out my first pseudo project that will gauge my ability to learn PHP and MySQL.

I love video games, food and my girlfriend, Jenny. In the virtual world, I lead the Moogle Mafia which is a giant (hundreds of people-strong) guild of video game fanatics whose purpose is to train new players in the games we play in. I enjoy browser-based strategy games as well as online MMOs. (Yes, I play WoW, and lead my guild of 157 players.)

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Posted in: People

Recreational Reading: Designing Interactive, A User Interface Blog

Twitter is great for keeping up with the happenings of friends and family alike, but it’s also a great tool for discovering new people and resources. Example: I follow 37signals’ @jasonfried, who tweeted back to @joshwalsh that Basecamp was up and running again. I clicked on @joshwalsh to see his original post and happened to stumble upon his great blog on usability & interface design, Designing Interactive.

Josh’s latest post goes into some detail reviewing the usability of the Old Navy site. It’s a great article, but I liked his article on red as an error state even more. (In it, he notes a specific example where an expired coupon displayed in red when it should have instead been greyed out, since the user themselves did nothing wrong, and grey brings less attention to the no longer useful data, rather than more undue attention to it.)

Josh has a lot of great advice pertaining to both the nuanced and big picture issues that designers face when developing intelligent, innovative and clean user interfaces. Do yourself a favor and add him to your feed reader promptly.

Designing Interactive

Posted in: Cool Stuff, Design

Stack Overflow: Ask Metafilter For Programmers

Stack Overflow logo Joel Spolsky of Joel on Software (and FogBugz) and Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror have teamed up to build a pretty kick-ass programmer Q&A site called Stack Overflow. It’s a bit like Ask Metafilter, but focused entirely on programming. The site builds a unique system to help separate the useful versus the trolls: it’s based on a reputation system. The more answers you provide that are up-voted by the community, the more reputation points you accrue. The more reputation points you accrue, the more abilities are granted to you on the site. The ability to up-vote or flag-offensive is granted at 15 points, with 10 points awarded when someone up-votes you. At 2,000 points, you can delete comments.

The system being merit based really helps the community entirely moderate itself. Ask Metafilter (and MeFi in general) is a great community because it’s ruled by moderators who filter the signal-to-noise ratio to something entirely reasonable. But it’s simply a core group of four people, one of whom is the founder, and they were trusted to understand how things are done on MeFi. Making the community control of SO merit-based is similar in some ways to how Wikipedia is governed. The community members who clearly care the most get the most power, but in a way that should be self-policing and self-balancing.

Most importantly, the site’s purpose is to provide easy access to clear, concise answers to your programming-related questions, without having to subscribe or buy in or worry about the accuracy of the answers. Because the site is highly editable in that your posts can be edited by highly-enough ranked mods, we’ll hopefully see a holy grail of sorts for answers to all the very obnoxious problems we run into day in and day out.

Check it out:

Stack Overflow

Posted in: Cool Stuff, Design, Development

TechCrunch50 Fail Boat: Yet Another Clone Wins, Innovation Is Dead

Last year was TechCrunch‘s first shot at a demo-ish conference. Forty startups launched and presented their premise to a crowd of bloggers, journalists, VCs and such and such. Last year’s winner was personal finance tracker Mint allows you to sync up all of your credit cards, loans, bank accounts and even reward points and track your entire financial well-being. It creates budgets for you and makes them pretty.

The issue? Mint is really just a re-skinned version of Yodlee. Yodlee is a bank account aggregation tool that makes itself available to banks who want to offer their customers the same sort of “one look” aggregation services in a white-label manner. They’re good at what they do, and they offer a free personal edition called MoneyCenter. Mint simply slapped a bunch of pretty gradients on top of it (they actually use Yodlee as their backend) and some transaction matching algorithms that generally miscategorize items or retitle them if it thinks it knows what they were. (It’s wrong, in my experience, a staggering amount of the time.)

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Posted in: Rants

Hug A Developer…

The story of our lives…

Posted in: Development

Project Management Tips from the Developer’s Point of View

Today’s post is on something a bit different but still very much relevant in the web development world: project management. Now, I’m not all that old and I haven’t been a web developer for all that long (about 6 years in total, 3 actually getting paid ;-) but I have had the opportunity of working for a medium-sized media company with a development team of about 25 developers, a small 5-6 person development company (3 developers), and as an independent contractor.

When I began my career at the medium sized company, I initially saw my project managers as a pain in the ass. All I was interested in doing was coding. I had my own ideas of how the project or feature was going to be done and I thought that I could handle deadlines and project requirements better than they could. Was it really necessary to ask me multiple times a day what I was doing and what percentage of the project was still left to be done? PM’s gave new meaning to the phrase “avoid like the plague.” In all honesty, I wondered why in the hell these people were even hired to begin with. I just could not see the role of a project manager as being all that important.

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Posted in: Articles, Development, How To

Introducing Ask

Sometimes, our developers are a bit too busy to come up with blog topics on their own. They’ve requested we have the masses feed them to them directly, instead.  So in an effort to make their lives easier (and to stop us from having to beat posts out of them each week), we’ve created a new category: Ask  Here, we hope to open up to our readers and answer any of your questions on anything ranging from UI/UX design concepts, complex development issues, architecture and code concepts and everything in between.  We’d also love for you to seek reviews of websites, services, books or anything else related to technology or that you happen to find interesting in the field.

So start submitting your ideas for topics you’d like us to cover, your questions, and your links for our review now!  We’ve added this handy form that shows up on the sidebar when you are in the Ask HTMList section of the site to make it easier on you.   And of course, you can email your questions to ask [at] htmlist [dot] com. Try to stump us; we’ll let you know if we had to cave to Google in our responses!

Posted in: Announcements, Ask

Magento eCommerce Review: Platform Perils and Impressions, Three Months In

It’s been about three months since I broke into Magento for my first project here at Synapse Studios so I thought I’d give my impression on the shopping cart tool having gotten to know it a bit better.

Obviously a free, full-featured, shopping cart and e-commerce solution is great concept. I mean, really, one can’t bitch too much about something that is free (notwithstanding, say, venereal diseases or OScommerce…) Magento’s feature list is comprehensive: coupons, specials, multiple checkout and shipping options, tiered pricing, layered navigation, etc. Unfortunately, when you are neck-deep into anything, you get a better sense of the minor and major flaws lurking just under the rosy surface. Take a look after the jump at some of its more vexing problems.

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Posted in: Development, Reviews

Cuil: Search That Sucks or: How NOT To Launch A Search Engine

Search engine Cuil (pronounce it however the hell you want to, but apparently they prefer “cool”) launched yesterday to a whole lot of “Google-killer” OMG vibes. And thus far, it really rather sucks.

The home page is Google-simplistic: Logo. Input box. Search button. Over-inflated index count. About link. Privacy link. On black. (Which is, I hear, the new black.) Start typing and a helpful suggest engine ala Google Suggest pops up. Cheers.

Try to search. One of several things will happen. Since we’re out of the “our servers are cooked” phase of things, chances are, you’ll get a results page. But if you were lucky to give it a shot early on, you’d just be flat presented with a “no results found” page. I searched “web application development” and “web development” and both came up with a 0-results page. This is apparently because the caching system isn’t able to retrieve results on the first request so instead places them in a queue. Except that Cuil doesn’t bother telling you that they’re still getting their shit together and that you’ll need to check back when they’ve actually pulled and cached those results. Not that you’d want to. Here’s why, after the jump.

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Posted in: Rants