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Cognition

Back-end Development

We’ve written 17 blog posts about Back-end Development. View all topics »

  1. Cool under pressure

    Why are doctors sometimes considered “cool under pressure?” Is it because their personality is one that doesn’t get riled up when faced with a challenge? Is it because they have an ingrained character trait that allows them to remain calm when everyone else is completely losing it? Have you ever noticed that web developers are sometimes labeled the same way? Is it the same thing? Are web developers saving the world too? Probably not.

  2. Expressive type for CSS

    Guys I figured it out! I figured out how to code type on the web.

    I kid. However I have been really digging my approach to type in the template-build phase as of late. It’s super simple, saves you tons of time, makes your files smaller, and communication both with your teammates and the client more focused. I’m not selling CSS snake oil here, I’m just that into it.

  3. How to build development systems (for a web site)

    Over the last year, I have been using Brad Frost & Dave Olsen’s PatternLab for many projects. In doing so, I have learned about building systems rather than web pages. Most of what I’ve learned is that I’ve been doing wrong out of habit.

  4. My one true layout

    11/6/15

    by Mark Huot

    0 Responses

    Recently I’ve been “evangelizing” Docker quite a bit among the Happy Cog developers. Sometimes that sounds like “zomg, Mark really loves Docker” and other times it’s closer to “omg, why is he over engineering this again.” What I’ve been working on, lately, is a way to use Docker containers to re-implement a more flexible version of Heroku. The end goal is a workflow that starts with a developer pushing code. That code, regardless of branch, is published to a unique URL that anyone can see, regardless of their setup or environment.

  5. Gone zshin’

    Terminal is one of the more powerful apps that comes pre-installed on the Mac. In a nut-shell (see what I did?), it’s an emulator for bash, which is a command processor that lets us interact directly with the UNIX-based operating system that makes the Mac go. As developers, designers and curious tinkerers alike, it’s safe to assume we all rely on it one way or another.

  6. Channeling Your Back-end Developer

    You’ve heard the assertion before: Designers should learn how to code. Reading through the many articles and comments on the topic, this discussion has focused predominantly on front-end development. Yes, comps fail to capture behavior and the in-betweens that bring your responsive designs to life, but crucially, front-end code isn’t the only step to actualizing your designs. Even if your coded styles remain faithful to your design intent, it’s your content that will put that design to test. If you care about the way content should look in your designs, you should also care about the logic that powers it.

  7. Craft + Patternlab = Buzzwords!

    Craft is a flexible and powerful content management system (CMS) with a responsive interface content authors want to use. It uses the Twig template system to power its HTML front-end. Twig comes out of the Symfony project and provides a fast, secure, and flexible system. Twig code is inherently portable and is not tied to Craft, or even PHP, with recent ports showing up in Node. Craft is great for back-end developers.

  8. The Intro Tech Call

    Yesterday at Happy Cog, Mark, Abby, and I had an intro call with a tech team for a client who will be implementing our templates into their CMS, which, in this case, is ExpressionEngine.

  9. Automating Your Deployments

    11/14/13

    by Mark Huot

    0 Responses

    Deploying a website to a web server is hard. Not “It’ll take some extra time” hard or “We’ll need some help” hard. It’s “Get a whiteboard and plan out the thing A Beautiful Mind-style” hard. It’s easy to look at your code, look at your server, and just drag/drop files to production. It’s a lot more difficult to set up an automated system that will do that for you.

    At Happy Cog, we work in a variety of technical situations, and our deployment strategies must be extensible enough to suit each and every need. We deploy to Windows servers and to *nix servers. In some situations, we deploy code as well as content. We deploy PHP websites on some servers and Ruby web workers on others.

  10. Under Pressure

    Deep in the middle of the night, illuminated by the glow of five screens full of graphs, data, code, and live video, I sat on edge, as I monitored a small army of servers. The O Music Awards, a 24-hour, live-streamed music and awards festival in New York City, was in full swing.

    Sometime after 3am, I saw the first warning sign of a major issue—a slight uptick in an otherwise-flat graph. Over the next few seconds, it grew to a huge spike, and I alerted the team that we had a problem. Thanks to some well-configured caching, the homepage and live streams were unaffected, which meant a large majority of users didn’t even know we were having an issue. But, the failures were going to cause errors during voting, and a few other pages on the site were going to crash. The situation wasn’t great, but the mission-critical things were still working properly.

  11. Expanding The Box

    10/18/12

    by Mark Huot

    4 Responses

    I always hear stories of managers pushing employees to “think outside the box“—to go beyond their day-to-day and find that idea that is unlike anything else. This is a tall order and maybe even a bit unrealistic. If our comfort zone is A, B, and C, how can we expect to find X without first understanding D–W? Because of this, I like to think in terms of “expanding the box” instead of jumping entirely outside of it.

  12. The Tech Behind Site Week

    In February we gathered a group together in our Philadelphia office to redesign and rebuild our happycog.com website in one week. The goal of our Site Week was to redesign the website (Greg Hoy covers the thinking behind this in a Cognition post back in Janauary) and to push ourselves to do something different.

  13. Knowledge is Power

    10/13/11

    by Mark Huot

    1 Response

    Earlier this year I started the P90X workout regimen. The program is 90 days long and emphasizes “muscular confusion” through a variety of cross-training exercises. Throughout the program, Tony, your lovable yet demanding trainer, reminds you again and again to write down how many reps you do. Whether it’s 10 pull ups, 30 squats, or 15 push ups, you’ll be reminded to “write it down” each and every time. It gets monotonous, sure. It seems silly at first, yes. But in the end it’s probably the single best way to ensure you get the most out of the program. The worksheets are designed for quick comparisons of your success. With these worksheets, it’s easy to track your progress over time and see that your upper body is getting stronger or that your lower body is remaining stagnant, for example. With this information, you’ll know what areas need work and what areas need rest.

  14. Bicycle Illustration by Chris Cashdollar

    Not everyone’s a technophile

    6/16/11

    by Mark Huot

    6 Responses

    When you engage Happy Cog in a full scale web redesign, you typically come out of the project with a fully integrated content management system (or CMS). The implementation of a CMS implies that you and your team will have access to a tool that will facilitate updating content across the entire website. The system creates an abstract of the website using simple forms to enable content entry. Completing those forms will generate all the necessary callouts, sidebars, related links, archives, etc. from which your site is built.

  15. Hollywood

    Typecasting Ourselves

    In the movie business when an actor plays the same role over and over, he is considered “typecast.” A word that carries negative connotations and general disdain. The typecast label implies actors only play one role well, emoting the same expressions throughout projects, and presenting the same personality no matter the situation. Generally, being typecast is not something an actor strives for.

  16. Making Dirt

    Two years ago, my wife and I stopped throwing all of our organic food waste into the trash. Instead, we purchased a composter and started tossing our food scraps into it. The intent behind this change was mostly selfish: we wanted a way to create nutrient rich soil to mix into the planting areas in our backyard. However, a week or two into using it, while pushing our trash can out to the street curb, I noticed another positive side-effect: the trash can was lighter and emptier. We were sending less to the landfill!

  17. Responsible Development

    11/18/10

    by Mark Huot

    15 Responses

    When Happy Cog undertakes a development job, one of our goals is to empower our clients with the necessary knowledge for them to help themselves. We’re not passing the buck — we’re planning for the future. No one likes writing or receiving panicked emails about urgent updates to the legal speak of the footer, or that so and so’s aunt just looked at the website and couldn’t find the button that adds an item to the cart. We work with our clients every step of the way to ensure that, even in those panicked moments, they are able to help themselves.