On Friday, Gilt hosted a free day of instruction in Go—the latest NYC installment of our free tech course series. Leading the class was BoardRounds Co-Founder/CTO Aditya Mukerjee, who covered Go basics and highlighted the language’s advantages. Here’s Aditya in action:
Friday’s class had great turnout from our own team—here are Scott Thompson and Will Chiong from #gilttech personalization, and Paolo Lim from the Gilt City team:
There are four #gilttech engineers in this photo—can you spot them?
Thanks to everyone who applied and attended! And big thanks to Aditya for spending the day teaching!
Gilt says “dzień dobry” to Natalia Bartol, who recently joined our engineering in team in Dublin, Ireland! Natalia is a passionate software engineer and open source contributor who will work on continuous delivery at Gilt. Originally from Poland, she moved to Dublin nearly four years ago and has been getting used to Irish weather ever since. “I eventually fell in love with the taste of Guinness and even started to appreciate windy weather and the cold sea, as I recently took kite-surfing lessons,” she says. “I also enjoy rock-climbing, skiing and… shopping.
Discovering Gilt brings about both fascinating technological challenges and a fashion thrill :-)”
Here are the slides from Gilt Senior Software Engineer Yoshi Sugawara’s talk last week in Honolulu, Hawaii. Enjoy!
Gilt recently released Mockingbird Toolbox, an open-source project for iOS intended to make common development tasks easier. The Toolbox is the basic building block of Mockingbird library, which will be released in stages over the coming months. Mockingbird serves as the base layer of Gilt’s award-winning iPhone and iPad applications.
This post is the first in a series that will be highlighting the code available in Mockingbird Toolbox and explaining how you can use it in your iOS projects.
Modularity in software design is a key strategy for managing complexity. A well-crafted code module is:
When separate modules need to interact with a shared resource, modularity becomes more difficult to attain.
In order to be well-behaved, modules need to use shared resources in a way that recognizes the fact that other modules may be using that resource, too.
One way to try to account for that might be to introduce a mechanism for modules to communicate with each other to ensure proper behavior with respect to the shared resource. But doing so would make the modules less focused and isolated.
Gilt’s mobile team faced these sorts of design decisions during the evolution of our iOS apps. One generic solution we built was the
MBServiceManager class, which we’ll discuss further in a future post.
But there was one specific shared resource that required its own solution: namely, the network indicator that appears in the status bar.
The network indicator is the animated spinner that you sometimes see in the status bar, typically to the right of the other network information in the upper-left corner of the device screen.
The spinner doesn’t appear automatically; instead, applications are responsible for turning it on when they’re using the network, and turning it back off once they’re done. Displaying the network indicator is entirely optional, but polite applications are honest about when they’re consuming the user’s bandwidth.
Applications control the spinner through the
networkActivityIndicatorVisible property. Setting the value to
YES causes the animated spinner to appear. Setting the property back to
NO hides the spinner.
You might think that managing the network indicator is as simple as setting
YES when an operation starts and back to
NO when it finishes, but consider what happens when an app sends multiple network requests:
Under this scenario, the spinner should be animating from Step 1 through Step 6.
But that’s not what happens if we directly manipulate the
networkActivityIndicatorVisible property at the start and end of each request. Instead, we get this behavior:
Half the time, the network indicator is reflecting the wrong state.
Because the beginning and end of different network operations can be interleaved, the fact that there is only a single on/off value for the network indicator becomes problematic. If more than one set of code attempts to directly manipulate the value of
networkActivityIndicatorVisible, we will get unexpected results.
To avoid this problem, we decided upon creating a coordinator for the network indicator. The coordinator provides a simple interface for reporting when operations begin and end. Wherever network operations are performed, our code interacts with the coordinator, which in turn decides when to show and hide the spinner based on what’s happening across the entire application at any given moment.
The coordinator was designed to:
networkActivityIndicatorVisible property to
YES whenever the count increases from
networkActivityIndicatorVisible property to
NO whenever the count decreases from
Operate correctly in a multi-threaded environment
The public interface to our coordinator is provided by the
MBNetworkIndicator class, part of the Mockingbird Toolbox open-source project.
Any code that issues network requests can maintain one or more
MBNetworkIndicator objects. Each instance is intended to represent one or more related network operations occurring on a single thread. While those operations are in progress, the
MBNetworkIndicator instance is kept around, and is notified when operations begin and end.
The API consists of three instance methods:
operationStarted— Called whenever a network operation begins
operationFinished— Called whenever a network operation completes
cancelOperations— Called to signal that all in-progress operations associated with that specific instance should be considered finished (equivalent to calling
operationFinishedonce for each in-progress operation)
MBNetworkIndicator instance maintains a counter of network operations that is incremented for each call to its
operationStarted method and decremented for each call to its
Calls to those methods also update a master counter, which keeps a single, application-wide count of in-progress operations.
You can think of it this way:
The count maintained by any given
MBNetworkIndicator instance is equal to (the number of times its
operationStarted method was called) minus (the number of times its
operationFinished method was called)
The master count is equal to (the number of times
operationStarted was called on all
MBNetworkIndicator instances) minus (the number of times
operationFinished was called on all
Whenever the master count of network operations is greater than zero, the status bar network indicator is displayed. Otherwise, when there are no operations, the indicator is hidden.
Let’s say you have a
UINavigationController-based app, and any given
UIViewController pushed onto the navigation stack could result in multiple network requests being issued. Further, you handle the user tapping the Back button by hooking into
viewWillDisappear: to cancel any network operations that haven’t yet finished.
In such a case, you might opt to have each
UIViewController maintain its own
MBNetworkIndicator instance. You would call
operationFinished as requests are processed normally. But within
viewWillDisappear:, you would call
cancelOperations to signal that all pending operations for that view controller have been cancelled.
cancelOperations is equivalent to calling
operationFinished once for each pending operation.
To ensure that the master counter balances over time,
MBNetworkIndicator assumes that when an instance is deallocated, it is a signal that there are no related network operations still pending. (This is achieved by a call to
cancelOperations from within
Because of this, you are expected to maintain strong references to
MBNetworkIndicator instances that are still tracking pending operations.
Because individual network operations are bound to specific threads,
MBNetworkIndicator instances are designed to be used only on a single thread; instances must not be shared across threads.
However, the underlying mechanism that maintains the master counter and manages showing and hiding the network activity indicator is thread-safe.
The mechanism uses functions declared in
<libkern/OSAtomic.h> to ensure that the master counter is handled correctly when several
MBNetworkIndicator instances are in simultaneous use on multiple threads.
MBNetworkIndicator class is just one way to manage a shared resource while adhering to the principles of modularity.
In subsequent posts, we’ll discuss:
MBSingleton protocol and our super-easy way to make singletons
MBServiceManager class and how we use it to manage shared runtime services that we don’t necessarily want running all the time
Sitepoint has just published the third installment of Gilt Email Engineer Lauren Ribando’s informative “best practice email design series.” This time around, Lauren gives us tips on coding practices—from avoiding CSS shorthand to slicing images. Go here to read her full article.
Terve, aloha, and nǐ hǎo are just a few ways the #gilttech and #giltpmo teams would like to welcome Mackenzie Nicholson, the newest business systems manager to join our Program Management Organization! This global citizen was born in Napa Valley, grew up in Hawaii, went to high school in Seattle, attended college in Chicago and New York, and spent a year living in Helsinki running her own American-style baked goods company while commuting to London and Hong Kong for the engineering consultancy Systra. (She’s already given us a presentation on making the best of travel reward programs!)
Fittingly, Mackenzie is currently working with our back office team, which works on Gilt’s international payments and logistics. We’re thrilled to have her. Welcome on board, Mackenzie!
Earlier this summer our friends at Sauce Labs released Appium 1.0, which the Gilt Mobile team has been using to automate our mobile testing efforts. Not long after its release, Gilt Senior Software Engineer Matt Isaacs wrote a blog post for for Sauce Labs highlighting Appium’s advantages and where it still falls a bit short. Yesterday (August 20) Matt joined representatives from Sharecare, Softcrylic and other Appium-using companies at Sauce Labs’ all-day Appium Roadshow at Projective Space in the Lower East Side.
For all of you who couldn’t make it to yesterday’s sold-out event, here are Matt’s slides:
Last month Gilt CIO crossed the Hudson River to present a talk for the NJ Tech Meetup, the largest tech community in the Garden State. Steve’s talk focused on creating emotional connections with customers, and how Gilt constantly innovates to strengthen and maintain those connections. NJ Tech Weekly was there, and have just published an article on Steve’s presentation! Go here to check it out.
As an added bonus, here’s the deck from Steve’s talk:
By day, Senior Software Engineer Yoshi Sugawara works on Gilt’s Personalization team. By night—or at least tonight—he presents on Swift! As the featured speaker of the Organization for the Understanding of Dynamic Languages’ August meetup, Yoshi will deliver a Swift primer and answer questions. Regular readers of this blog are likely to expect meetups we announce here to take place either in NYC, Dublin (Ireland, not Ohio) or (to a lesser extent) Portland (Oregon, not Maine), but tonight’s (Aug. 20) meetup takes place at the Manoa Innovation Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. RSVP here.
Gilt Japan has released a brand-new version of our iPhone app—and the updates are significant! It’s been extremely rewarding to see so many people—and Apple—embrace our work and share positive feedback with us. If you haven’t already, please download the app now to check it out! (If you’re outside Japan, you might need to switch your store to see the app—the new version is only available in the Japan App Store.)
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane by looking at some screenshots of the old Gilt iPhone app. A sales page from the women’s category used to look like this:
A brand page, like this:
And a product page used to look like this:
With this being our first update in three years, there was much that we wanted to change about the old Gilt app. Some of our top priorities:
To provide support for iPhone 5 screens. Notice the constraining letterboxing in the old design—the content is just straining to be set free!
Enlarge the images. We invest a lot of time and creative energy into our photography, and we wanted our Japan customers to be able to enjoy them fully!
Introduce a lighter palette. The old Gilt branding was heavy on the black and gold, and quite dark.
Create a single checkout experience across all devices and offer a consistent experience for our users. We also wanted to develop a platform that was easier to maintain.
Now, let’s reveal our gorgeous new app! Let’s start with the sales page. So light, airy and visually arresting:
Here’s an individual sale page:
And here’s a product page—so bright and cheerful:
Besides brighter backgrounds, what’s new about the new Gilt app?:
Support for iPhone 5 screens. The elbow room feels good!
The branding and design now incorporates the conventions of iOS 7. Check out those edge-to-edge images and transparencies!
Bigger images to highlight our amazing photography
Full account support. Whether you want to update your shipping and payment information or start a return, you can now manage your full Gilt Japan account on the go
A great zoom view so that you can see every detail of an item
More than 40 very detailed sizing charts to ensure a precise fit
Maps featured with all Gilt City offers
In making these changes, we wanted to provide users with features that would inspire confidence in their purchases, and also make the Gilt Japan shopping experience even more simple and delightful than before. Our team built the app as a smart native/webview hybrid app: The full shopping experience is native, and checkout and account pages are responsive webpages loaded in the app. This strategy allows the app to share the same checkout experience as our mobile web and (eventually) full desktop site. Our platform is now more efficient, and making updates or rolling out new features will be a much faster process for us going forward.
Not only have our customers embraced the new Gilt app, but Apple has also supported it with some major promotional love—giving it a prominent position on the App Store homescreen as the top “best new app,” and helping to expose our work and the Gilt brand to so many new users:
As well as here:
What do you think about our new app? Share your feedback with us by emailing email@example.com!