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How I changed my life forever

I’ve said the words “I can’t believe it’s all over” about a hundred times in the last 24 hours. Wednesday was Demo Day at Hackeryou and today is both Hiring Day and the last day of the program. It’s been an extremely intense, sometimes stressful, often incredibly fun experience. And definitely, definitely the best decision I’ve ever made. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of development, learning All the Things, pitching, presenting, cross-browser testing, and, of course, a bit of celebrating.

I think more than anything it’s going to be so strange not to see the other 23 students every single day, but I’m extremely confident they’ll all find success moving forward, and I can’t wait to see what they all go on to do. I’ve been continuously inspired and challenged by all of them from the beginning.

What I learned outside my text editor

Besides all the technical skills I’ve gained, I learned two key things about myself that I think are even more valuable. First, I learned about who I am as an individual – being in such close proximity to a group of people who are all simultaneously very similar and very, very different has shown me what makes me unique – something I struggled with before. My dry sense of humor, my passion for advocating for more diversity in tech, and my professionalism really shined through at Hackeryou.

The other thing I learned was that I love love love love LOVE development. A concern I think most of us shared going in to Hackeryou was the thought of “oh no, what if I don’t like to code?!?”. That concern, for me, quickly disappeared. I discovered that coding is a lot like creative writing – the feeling you get when your mind is going too quickly and being too involved to think of anything but the problem at hand – you’re completely immersed in it. It’s an amazing (and honestly kind of scary) feeling that you can only get if you’re really stretching yourself with complex thought. It’s just super fun. Although I’d tried my hand at programming on and off for years before Hackeryou, I’d never sustained it enough to get to this, and I’m so thankful I’ve found it now. I never want to do anything else.

What’s Next for Me

Moving forward, I want only one thing: to go to work every day and work on building things and solving interesting problems through code. It sounds insane, but I can’t wait to spend my spare time learning about UX and design, to polish older projects and work on new ones. As much work as I’ve done in the past nine crazy weeks, I honestly want to keep up the momentum I have right now and jump in to projects. It seems pretty likely that this will happen in the form of a career – Hackeryou is a very well-connected organization and I seem to be getting a lot of interest from some pretty great places. I’m really just looking for a great fit, as is anyone who’d want to hire me. I’d like to work in an agile company that values my previous professional experience, and sees both how far I’ve come and how far I’m clearly going to go. I’m finally confident in myself and my abilities enough to say that I’d honestly be an asset to the company that hires me, and that’s an amazing feeling.

For that and EVERYTHING else…thanks Hackeryou <3

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More making, less magic: my experience learning to code at HackerYou (so far)

I’m halfway through week five of nine weeks here at HackerYou and I simply cannot believe how much I’ve learned. Of course I knew going in the curriculum was going to be super fast-paced, and that the weeks would be intense and challenging, and they certainly have been. But there really was no way for me to grasp even what it feels like to just learn this much information in such a compressed time frame. I know one thing for sure: it’s exactly what I always wanted from a learning experience. It’s almost completely hands on – you learn a concept and within ten minutes you’re in the console or in your text editor hammering out code. Do some examples, have some discussion, questions answered, and now you’re on to the next concept, building on that previous one. But at the same time, all of the intimidation, fear of failure, and frankly the loneliness I felt trying to learn to code online or in a gigantic university classroom is completely gone as well. It’s everything I expected, and a lot more.

Getting rid of the “magic”

Certainly the most important thing I’ve gotten from attending HackerYou so far, though, is simply that I no longer see any “magic” when I look at or hear of technical things. Even if it’s a topic I know absolutely nothing about, I’m completely comfortable just throwing myself into whatever it is, and trying to find out if it’s useful to me, now or in the future, and if it is, how I’d going about using it. Nothing is “too difficult” for me anymore – for more advanced things it’s just “there’s n number of things I need to learn before I can learn this” (Node.js is a perfect example). And those who create technology (at least on the software side of things) are no longer magical themselves. Although they’re still my favourite people, of course :).

So what the heck have I learned anyway?

Based on my previous experience trying to learn code, if I had had to guesstimate what I’d learn at HackerYou by the beginning of week five, I’d have probably said “oh probably a lot of HTML, some advanced CSS stuff I’d hope, uhhh probably you’ve made a couple websites and are starting to build on the basics, maybe you can start thinking about using other people’s plugins or…something”. Yeah that would have been completely incorrect. In the shortest possible way, here’s SOME of what we’ve covered so far at HackerYou, in FOUR weeks:

  • Intro to html, basic concepts
  • Intro to CSS, basic concepts
  • Floats, the box model, laying out a page using CSS
  • Normalize, display, positioning (oh my)
  • Lists, navs, drop down navs using lists, forms, hidden and visible to create awesome navigation
  • More forms. I like forms. Other people do not like forms.
  • Best practices when writing HTML and CSS, best practices of design for the web
  • Design fundamentals, web design fundamentals, typography, some photoshop
  • Creating wireframes (both lo- and hi-fi) and style guides using HTML and CSS
  • Design resources, intro to UX concepts, learning about front end frameworks and why people would want to use them
  • More UX, why it matters, including talks from professionals working in the field
  • Responsive design: why to do it, how to do it, do it.
  • Embedding webfonts, media, etc.
  • Advanced CSS, start working with a preprocessor and start using SASS
  • More advanced SASS (I also like SASS)
  • Refactoring all the things
  • git, the command line, command line basics, using git in the command line (I freaking love the command line), git in a GUI (boo)
  • FTP and hosting, keyboard shortcuts and other ways to optimize your workflow
  • All the things you ever wanted to know about being a freelance dev. Just really, all the things. Even though I want to work for a company when I leave, this has been incredibly interesting stuff to learn.

And so far, in two days of Javascript:

  • Basics, syntax, that kind of thing
  • if statements
  • for loops, while loops, for-in loops
  • functions
  • arrays, objects

(This last bit, by the way, took about a month and a half to go over in my intro to programming course in my undergrad, and I understood less of it then.)

ALL including many, many, many examples, exercises, full on projects, and presentations. And then most of the students stay late in class, go to developer meetups, help each other day in and out on chat and in person, even go to hackathons or meetups to learn new frameworks, or create their own little side projects and a constant barrage of sick codepens. Blogging and tweeting, being active on github, and so on. Aaaaaaand so on.

Am I really learning? Short answer: yesyesyesyes.

You may be tempted to think “alright well sure you can go over those things…if you talk really fast…but you’re not actually taking them all in”. But an awesome thing happens when you get a group of people together who’ve been chosen because they have an amazing drive and willingness to learn, expect a lot out of them, and then give them a completely immersive learning experience where they gain knowledge through trial and error – we actually do learn, and quickly. Sure, we’re not going to be senior developers when we graduate – our job once we leave HackerYou is to keep coding awesome stuff and learn like mad while contributing to our own freelance business or the companies we work for. But we’re some of the quickest learners out there, with the strongest drive and willingness to grow as both developers and people, because frankly you couldn’t get to week five here any other way.

I’m interested in hearing about front-end internships and jr. dev positions in companies that share my values, and I’ll be available for work in late June! Let me know if you have something in mind for me at eeporta@gmail.com.

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Tweetdeck: the answer to “WOAH what the heck is that!?”

This is what Tweetdeck looks like on my laptop:


To those that don’t regularly use it, it looks pretty nuts. I remember thinking that when I first saw it. But really, it’s a fairly straightforward system of overstimulating your brain with Twitter, and that’s basically it. I had a request from my fellow HackerYou student Megan O’Hara to go through what’s going on here, so here it is: the quick and dirty guide to my beloved Tweetdeck.

First, you can download Tweetdeck or just sign in to it in your browser. That right there was the first time I’ve ever been on Tweetdeck in the browser – it’s just too much going on for me for such a confined screen. So what I do is download the app and then on my mac I go in to Presentation Mode with it. That way you have as much room possible so really take advantage of why you have Tweetdeck in the first place – it’s awesome use of “glanceable information” – that is, the many, many columns you can set up. And it’s really quick on a mac to swipe back and forth between Tweetdeck and your working desktop.

On both the browser and .app version of the program, you have your menu on the far left, where you can add columns for basically anything you’d like to see. As you can see from the picture above, some of my columns are Mentions, every time someone mentions me,  I see it there; Spring 2014 Bootcamp, the list someone at HackerYou made and shared for our cohort; User, which is narcissistic me; and Yay People, a list of some of the people I want to see every tweet from for sure.

A lot of it is pretty straightforward, just look down the list of menu  items on the left and you’ll get a sense of what it can do. Where some extra fun functionality comes in is in the Add Column feature. If you click on Add Column’s icon its menu will pop up and you’ll see lots of options. Some of the neatest are Lists (add any lists you’ve created or subscribed to) and Collections, which is basically storify within Tweetdeck, although I’ve never really found a use for it.

Features you may have missed:

  • You can add more than one account to Tweetdeck! And then add all the columns you choose from any of those accounts, tweet from any of them, and so on. You used to be able to add things like your facebook account back in the day, but now that Twitter bought them you can’t.
  • If you click on the little two lines with circles to the right of each column name you’ll get a drop down with a ton of awesome customization options for each column. For example, in my Notifications column I have my absolute favourite option, by going in to Content > Excluding and entering in the name of a local sports team that has some….sports thing going on at the time, so I don’t have to see tweets about it. TweetDeck2
  • You can drag and drop any image on to TweetDeck, and it’ll open up the “new tweet” box and auto attach your image for you!
  • the default theme is white – if you want to look more 1337 you can go in to settings and change it to the dark theme, modify column size, etc.
  • if you’re a bit overwhelmed, try turning off realtime updates in the settings panel. I find this especially helpful when a major event is happening and your timeline is going nuts with updates.
  • If you click on someone’s username, their profile will come up, where you can do things like create a column just for them (stalkers unite!), or just view all their tweets. I use this a lot as it’s the quickest way to see more context about what they’re talking about.
  • Similarly, you can click on any tweet and the column will change to a view of that tweet and all its replies, and/or what it’s replying to, a feature you often need with the brief nature of twitter posts.TweetDeck3

I like Tweetdeck because it’s simpler than Hootsuite but still provides a lot of functionality and customization options. It doesn’t bombard you with every option all at once, instead opting to put actual content first. And that means you can do things like catch all your HackerYou twitter friends tweets 0.5s after they tweet and favourite and reply to them, scaring them a little. So give it a try!

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Venturing into the world of the command line…

Today at HackerYou we learned how to work with git in the command line (we also played around with a GUI yesterday, but that was far less fun). While we were doing so, we shared around this post from a HackerYou alum that everyone really enjoyed. It takes you through the initially daunting process of taking your command line from boring to awesomely tricked out. So I did that (I’m using the sorin theme). Great. But then I got home and told myself that I was going to do as many things possible in the command line and only the command line. Every time I didn’t know how to do something (make a new file, open a file, move a directory, etc etc etc) I’d look it up and figure it out. So I did, and that was awesome too. I had previously done some sort of “learn the command line” online course, so I got bit with the bug of wanting to push myself further. I then realized my shell said “zsh” and not “bash” and I wondered why.

…oh my goodness. So turns out zsh is not just some neat thing that lets me customize the shell with pretty (and useful) colors. I feel kind of silly now, admitting that that’s what I’d assumed, but that’s ok! Because now I know it’s in fact a totally different shell with lots of added functionality that I can play around with! This is also really important to know for two reasons: 1. I had no idea what a “shell” was until I got this comparison point and 2. lots of commands aren’t going to work in zsh when they would in bash.

What I learned:

How to Change Filenames to Lowercase Letters

After playing around with moving and creating new files and directories, I quickly moved on to my first task: taking all the files in an entire directory and changing every filename to all lowercase letters.

  1. Open up your command line (again, I’m using zsh for this), and navigate to the directory that contains the files you’d like to make lowercase. You use “cd” to do that. For example, if I wanted to change all the filenames in my “Cats” folder, which is on my desktop, I’d type: cd Desktop/Cats and hit enter*
  2. Now that you’re in the directory you can change the filenames. If you want, type ls and hit enter to see all of the files you have in that directory, just to be sure.
  3. To change the filenames, we’re going to use this friendly little zsh command called zmv. To use it, type in autoload -U zmv.
  4. Next, while you’re still in the directory of the files you want to change (type pwd and hit enter to make sure) type in the following: zmv ‘(*)’ ‘${(L)1}’ and hit enter.
  5. That’s it! All the filenames in your chosen directory should now be lowercase only. To check, type ls and hit enter again. If it didn’t work, most likely you accidentally applied the command to a different directory (probably the parent of the one you intended) or you need to double check that you typed in the command exactly as it’s written here.

There are some INSANE file renaming things you can do with zsh, it all gets pretty complicated, but another that I absolutely loved (since it drives me nuts to have to type a slash and space every time there’s a space in my silly file names) is replacing those spaces with a dash, or if you prefer, an underscore (and…I’m guessing probably whatever else you like if you’re crazy pants). So next up:

How to Replace Spaces in Filenames with Dashes

Once again, this is zsh specific.

  1. Just like before, use cd to target the files in the directory you want to change (eg. type in cd Desktop/TestFolder/SubTestFolder and hit enter). Type ls and hit enter to be sure you’re going to be editing the filenames you intend to.
  2. Next, also in your zsh shell, type the following: zmv ‘* *’ ‘$f:gs/ /_’ if you want UNDERSCORES to replace the spaces in your file names. See the little underscore right before the final ? Change that, and only that, to whatever symbol you want to replace the spaces with (I would highly suggest only using a dash if anything).
  3. Press enter. To check that your filenames have been changed, once again type ls and enter, and you should see the list of your files, with the words divided by dashes (or underscores, as you chose). For example, a file I had that was previously named “boo dogs.txt” will now be named “boo-dogs.txt”

That’s it! Congrats! If everything went swimmingly, you now have lowercase, dash-divided file names of great beauty and wonder. If anything went wrong, ping me at @AgentEmily and we’ll see if I can help. Or just google around and try to fix it!

Suggested Resource: definitely, definitely check out the awesome Commandlinefu.com for a whole bunch of commands you can use. And there’s an upvoting/downvoting system ala reddit or Stackoverflow, so you know when one command is probably better than another. They even have a twitter for all of the commands shared, and specific accounts for only those posts above 3 and 10 votes! How amazing is that!

*note: if your directory name contains (a) space(s), for example the folder name “Cats Rock”, you’d have to type cd Desktop/Cats Rock

I’m interested in hearing about front-end internships and jr. dev positions in companies that share my values, and I’ll be available for work in late June! Let me know if you have something in mind for me at eeporta@gmail.com.

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Hello, my name is Emily, and I’m a web developer.

I finally feel confident enough, after years of trying to teach myself code and getting sidetracked with, well, life, to say that.

It’s Monday on week two of my HackerYou bootcamp. I can’t believe it. I just put my first site online (the new emilyporta.com) and I love it. I haven’t posted since I finished my third site, so I’ll use this post to bring you up to speed on what I’ve been doing since then.

Pre-Course Wrap Up

So first, my third precourse site! I made a landing page for my partner, wolever, who’s a sr. dev and CTO at Akindi right now. I designed a clean, one page site, fulfilling his requirements: have links to all major accounts online, have his resume, make it look nice, and have his nerdy GPG key somewhere.


Since he’s on virtually every social network everywhere, I had to spend some time thinking through the layout of the content and how I’d include all of the links in a sensible way. I decided it would be best to start the page off with an about section that lists what he’s most involved with right now, with one of those being his stackoverflow account to showcase his knowledge in the field. Since his work is the most important content he has (as any role he’s going to fill will be quite technical), I made sure to repeat his SO account in the resume section, along with his Github and other most relevant tech-focused accounts. He doesn’t have a “real” resume, per se, but his LinkedIn, SO Careers site, and a pdf version of his resume from LinkedIn are included.

Otherwise the site is just a clean, basic layout, with a background pattern from subtlepatterns.com, and the header image is just from a google search. I don’t have the rights to use it so I’d have to change it if I were to put it online. I’m also using Google fonts (Oswald and Cabin).

CSS Transitions!

One major new thing I learned with this site was CSS transitions. I tasked myself with learning how to do a scrolling header and make links transition from one colour to another. The link and div colour transitions were easy enough, but the header was something else. I actually ended up using keyframes for it, relevant code here:


And here’s a video showing the scrolling header:

So that’s my third site! Since this blog post was sufficiently long, I’ll save the recap of my work on my first site while at HackerYou for another time.

EDIT: I’m happy to say this site can now be found on the internet at wolever.net.

I’m interested in hearing about front-end internships and jr. dev positions in companies that share my values, and I’ll be available for work in late June! Let me know if you have something in mind for me at eeporta@gmail.com.

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