Here’s self-taught developer Orpheus Richards describing Flonation—an app he created that teaches people how to freestyle-rap—at our recent iOS Office Hours meetup. Thanks to Orpheus, Moven, Calvin and Rise for presenting!
Full-Stack Engineering is a new (and rapidly growing) meetup featuring presenters from across the stack discussing topics ranging from DevOps to data modeling to scalability. Organized by Greenhouse.io Director of Engineering Mike Boufford, the group held its first meetup on November 26 with presentations from Basho, ZocDoc and Chartbeat—some of NYC’s most well-known tech companies.
Full-Stack’s next installment at Gilt on Tuesday, December 17 is another winner! The evening will include talks by Gilt Senior Software Engineer Casey Kolderup (who will discuss our public APIs), Venmo VP of Engineering James Turnbull, and Customer.io Founder/CTO John Allison, as well as pizza, beer, and some networking time. RSVP here and soon—seats are almost gone! But if you can’t make it, just plan to visit us in January, when Full-Stack Engineering returns to Gilt.
Recently we asked Mike a few questions about his full-stack experiences and purpose for starting a dedicated full-stack meetup group:
Gilt: How did you evolve into a full-stack engineer?
Mike Boufford: I started by doing a lot of front-end programming and design in high school (mostly for fun), then I got my big break: a chance to help build my friend’s dad’s flower shop website for $10 per hour(!). One of the requirements was to receive orders via a form, and save them all in a database. I had no clue what was involved. So, I got a lot of help from a friend who was much rmore backend savvy than I was. He started teaching me how to program in ASP, and how to structure a Microsoft Access database (don’t judge me! it was 1999). That was when I started learning how all of the different layers of a website hung together; from then on, I was hooked. Fourteen years later, I finally kinda/sorta know how it all works.
What’s in your stack?
Which technologies do you personally use the most?
Why would an engineer present themselves as “full-stack” instead of specialized in one area?
Second, I can hand a full-stack engineer an entire feature, and they’re able to build it end to end. This saves time on coordination between developers, allows for more loosely spec’d requirements from product, and provides the full-stack engineer with total ownership over the outcomes of his/her work. Total ownership means that a feature becomes an extension of the developer’s identity—you’ll see higher productivity, more creativity, and a greater sense of accomplishment when their code is shipped to production.
Why do full-stack engineers need their own meetup? Full-stack engineers are a new breed of developer: We’re more versatile than specialized, our day-to-day concerns are different from those of traditional specialists, and we need a community built around the way we work.
NYC is filled with awesome meetup groups, but they tend to be either highly specialized (e.g., AngularJS) or very high-level (e.g., NY Tech). As a full-stack engineer, I’d have to attend a half-dozen meetups every month in order to gain sufficiently broad exposure to the topics that interest me. Our group is more concerned with breadth than depth. I created this group for two primary reasons: to expose members to different parts of an application stack in every meetup, and to help other engineers develop an understanding of full-stack engineering as a modern and holistic approach to software development.
I also thought it would be fun to surround myself with a ton of smart people who like beer, pizza, and programming ;).
What topics do you hope to see covered by your meetup?
2013 was a great year for Gilt Mobile. In addition to creating the platforms driving more than 40 percent of our revenue, the team saw their work featured in Apple’s October demo, released some major updates to Gilt on the Go, got invited to speak in some high-profile venues, grew by a few members (apply here to be the next one), and even exhibited at the MoMA!
They also used and checked out lots of apps produced by other mobile teams around the world. Here are a few favorites and essentials from 2013:
I have a ton of apps on my phone. Most of them I open only once or twice just to check them out—but I keep going back to Digg. It has a simple, clean interface, and the content includes a great selection of real news, geeky stuff and silly fun. A simple but super-useful feature inverts the background and copies colors when in low lighting, which makes for much easier reading. Digg has become my preferred way to waste a few minutes and maaaaaybe learn some new things! —Christopher Gonzalez, Director of Mobile Product
Capitol Bells is positioning itself to change American politics in a huge way, and to some extent it already has. By providing live voting alerts and bill information, it has attracted a growing user base of legislators—and its virtual voting feature enables the general public to cast their vote on individual bills. Users can also add their voting district, completing the feedback loop and allowing politicians to gauge local favor in their districts. Capitol Bells might still need some work, but it’s pretty impressive considering that just one guy built and maintains it! — Randy Gretz, QA Analyst
I love the new iPhone app from Rent the Runway. The sleek design incorporates beautiful, large images, which makes it easy and fun to browse. The app is not overly abundant with features: the content reflects the information that I would most likely look up quickly on my phone while out and about. I was excited to play with Dress Match, which lets users take advantage of their phone cameras to snap a picture of a dress, pattern or color and then suggests similar dresses based on it. At Gilt, we always try to enhance our customers’ shopping experiences by finding the best uses for all the great sensors included in phones (check out our Try It On feature!). It’s really great to see other companies strive to do the same. —Ruxy Staicut, Software Engineer
When it comes to calling a cab, 99Taxis is super-useful. It finds your location (you can edit the address if the app provides the wrong one) and shows a map with the taxis near you. When you click “Request Taxi,” the app notifies taxi drivers to head your way (there’s a different app for drivers). The first driver who answers is assigned to you. The app then displays the taxi’s car model and license plate and the driver’s name, picture and phone number. You can send the driver some predefined messages, an SMS, or call him/her. You still see the map with your and the taxi’s location until you get in the car and click “Taxi Arrived.” 99taxis claims to verify the driver’s documents, so in theory it’s safer than grabbing a random cab on the street. Most taxi drivers in Sao Paulo are using it (they have a few other cities too), which makes it really fast and easy to get a cab. It’s amazing how there’s always a bunch of taxis near you—just not necessarily in sight. —Rodrigo Carpintero, Senior Software Engineer
Moves is a great app for tracking where you go and how much walking—or running, biking, or driving—you do to get there. On any given day you can see how many steps you took, the distance you walked, and how long you spent in each spot. A helpful map shows where you went, and allows you to attach names to specific locations you frequently visit. Previous versions of Moves severely degraded battery life, but the latest version now takes advantage of the M7 chip on the latest iPhone, the 5s. Battery drain is still a concern on older devices, but don’t let that stop you from using this handy mobility measuring tool. —Evan Maloney, Principal Software Engineer
LearnVest has a really cute design! It makes managing your finances and budgeting not so terrible ;). I like how they use a passcode to easily unlock the app. I would love to see them add support for background fetch to instantly update. —Christine Yokoyama, Senior Software Engineer
I am not a huge fan of intro tutorials, but IFTTT is a special exception. The animation is well polished and feels playful, yet does not overwhelm. I also think IFTTT is a unique enough concept that it probably warrants an explanation of how to use the app on first launch. Once you are signed in, the app has a super-simple navigation structure paired with a few gentle animations. I think it is a good example of sophisticated minimalism. Now if only I had a need that it satisfied. —Louis Vera, Senior Software Engineer
At first glance, Conjugation Nation is nothing special: the UI is simple and straightforward, and you might even say it could be prettier. Nevertheless, I think it’s a really great resource for learning Spanish vocabulary words and verb conjugations. What I especially like is that you can tailor the difficulty level of the quizzes to those areas where you need extra practice. The quizzes can be so hard, in fact, that even native Spanish speakers will have trouble getting them right. —Matt Isaacs, Senior Software Engineer
Songza is my current go-to app for music. I love the user flow, which enables you to select a playlist to match your current activity. (My latest favorite pairing is “cooking” with the “1960s girls around the world” mix.) The iPhone app is very easy to use, especially for new users, which makes it instantly addicting. The iPad app offers some nice animations for transitioning between screens. —Christine Yokoyama, Senior Software Engineer
Forecast.io isn’t really an app, but it is a fantastic mobile experience. When you navigate to forecast.io from your iPhone, you’re greeted with instructions to “Add to Home Screen” so that, when you click on the icon in the future, the site looks and feels like an app. I love its simple visual treatment, user experience cues and reliability. Among its novel features, forecast.io includes a visualization that lets you know if it’s raining and for how many more minutes. And each day is represented as a row that includes an hour-by-hour color spectrum that lets you know what the weather will be like. A key characteristic for me in judging a really excellent user experience on an app is whether I think I can use the app while blindfolded. Is it THAT easy to use? Yes: Forecast.io is impossible to get lost in or misunderstand. It has saved me during many a rainy moment and has shown me that some of the greatest experiences on the iPhone can still be produced via the mobile web. Of all the apps I introduced to my friends and family in 2013, this was the easiest to use. —Gregory Mazurek, Software Engineer
This new weather app, introduced this year, takes a different approach to displaying a weather forecast. The graphs are amazing: they pack so much useful information into an incredibly digestible display. The contextual weather info is helpful, especially when you’re on the go and trying to find out what to expect from the weather as quickly as possible. —Eric Czarny, Principal Software Engineer
I had to add Instagram: It’s probably the app I use the most (besides Gilt!). It’s great for killing time, catching up with friends, and finding inspiration! The UI is very clean, simple, and easy to use. I loved their iOS7 update. —Adam Kaplan, Principal Software Engineer
Venmo is a mobile payment platform that enables me to casually and quickly send money to my friends and family. My most common use of Venmo is reimbursing my friends for meals and taxis (I never seem to have cash when I need it!). When I send money, the service will deduct it from my account balance first, then my bank account (or credit card for a fee). My friends will immediately receive a push notification, email or text message confirming the transfer. The app and service are free to use. By default Venmo will add incoming transfers to your balance, but with one tap of the “Cash Out” button, I can have it transfer funds to my bank. It’s also worth mentioning that the Venmo iOS app has passcode protection for piece of mind. —Adam Kaplan, Principal Software Engineer
Uber's an amazing service that's changing the taxi/car service industry. It's a great example of a user experience that focuses on the task that the user is trying to accomplish. —Yonatan Feldman, Vice President, Mobile/Global Engineering
A second vote for Uber. My wife and I live in a part of town where you can’t always flag down a cab at odd hours. We used Uber when she was in labor at 5AM, and we used Uber to bring our newborn back from the hospital. (As far as we know, we have the world’s first Uber Baby!) The system they’ve built ensures stellar customer service, and we’ve never been disappointed. In just a short time, Uber has revolutionized the livery industry.—Evan Maloney, Principal Software Engineer
Sunrise is a slick calendar app that helps keep me on top of short-term events like Facebook birthdays and my upcoming appointments for the next couple of days. The simple UI and focused views are fast and easy to navigate. —Christopher Barr, Interactive Designer
I’m really not that crazy about American sports, but baseball holds the most appeal for me. The MLB app is surprisingly good: Though fairly complicated, with a lot of moving parts and features, it’s nevertheless stable and crash-free. The scoreboard on the iPad version of the app is well-designed. —Matt Isaacs, Senior Software Engineer
Here’s something I’ve wanted since I studied abroad. Created by Sincerely, Postagram allows you to use your own photos to create and send physical personalized postcards. Among other things, you can import contacts from your phone’s address book and send a postcard to multiple recipients; Postagram also supports integration with Instagram, Facebook, and Dropbox for pulling photos. Each postcard is 99 cents—a great deal in comparison to having to find and buy postcards and postage in foreign locales. They’re printed in the U.S. (‘Merica!) and generally take a week for domestic delivery. I finally got to use it during some recent travels to Kenya, Jordan, and Turkey, and got a lot of positive feedback from the wide audience of friends and family I was able to reach for the ‘thoughtful gesture.’ —Randy Gretz, QA Analyst
As long-time PostgreSQL users and supporters, we’re super-excited to host the New York City PosgreSQL User Group's final meetup of 2013. The meetup takes place Wednesday, Dec. 11 at our 2 Park Avenue office.
Our very own Rangarajan Radhakrishnan will kick off the evening with a short presentation on Docker and Postgres. Then featured speaker and meetup organizer Jonathan S. Katz will explore the whole family of PostgreSQL indexes—B-tree, expression, GiST (of all flavors), and GIN—and discuss how they are used in theory and practice. There are only a few seats left, so RSVP ASAP!
Dublin-based Software Engineer Erica Mitchell recently joined Gilt’s architecture team, and works on building the next generation of our dev tools. She’s already gotten into the Gilt groove—taking our Intro to Scala and Intro to Hadoop courses and organizing some fun group outings!
Before joining Gilt, Erica was a Java/Groovy developer and worked on social networking initiatives (for example, integrating social content with mobile devices); converting product build systems to Gradle; building and supporting daily deployments to development, sales demo and test environments; and creating deployment artifacts for deployment engineers for staging. She’s also been an Eclipse plugin developer and a Java UI developer.
Outside of work, Erica is a volunteer with Arthritis Ireland—leading walking groups and helping to deliver the “Living Well with Arthritis” course. We’re excited that she’s joined the team!
How does Gilt apply personalization strategies to attract, interact with, and persuade customers to make high-end purchases? Find out at the Brooklyn Tech Meetup’s Dec. 10 event, featuring Gilt VP Personalization Erik Lumer! Eric will discuss what we call “smart serendipity”: the discovery of surprising, albeit personally relevant items. He’ll also explain how Gilt implements this strategy on our platform, both at the end-user interface and predictive affinity engine levels, to personalize shopping experiences for millions of users.
In addition to Erik’s talk, the meetup features presentations from the time-management app Sociidot and the consumer preference data outfit Have to Have, as well as “crazy views, rotating panels, and even interactive LED lighting!” RSVP here to catch Erik’s talk (and those LED lights)!
Since mid-summer 2013 Gilt and Code Coalition have been partnering up to co-host iOS Office Hours: free, monthly programming help sessions for mobile app developers of all levels. In just a few short months we’ve doubled our membership rolls, helped many a developer overcome their development-related obstacles, and made a bunch of new friends in the iOS community. So let’s celebrate!
On Monday, December 9, iOS Office Hours will hold its last meetup of 2013 with demonstrations by Moven, Flonation, Calvin and RISE. We’ll close out the year with some holiday-themed treats, warm beverages, and—as always—free programming help! Several Gilt engineers will be present to answer questions about mobile development at Gilt.
More About Our Featured Demos:
Moven: A debit account and real-time mobile money tool that provides instant feedback on your spending. Moven lets you spend money from your mobile device and provides instant feedback on your transactions and spending patterns.
Flonation: the only app that can teach anyone to freestyle rap with unique Rhyme Coach technology. Created by self-taught developer Orpheus Richards, the app features an intuitive video recording studio where both serious rappers and casual lyricists make and share music videos with a diverse community of 10,000+.
Calvin is a calendar app aimed to revolutionize the way we make and organize plans. Co-founded by Nick Sonnenberg and Claire Hobson, it is in private beta.
Rise: a simple alarm clock app designed for touchscreen. Downloaded more than two millions times by people in +80 countries, Rise has been an Apple “App Of The Week” and has been featured by digital and print publications worldwide. Its creator is Kellen Styler, founder of the company Simplebot.
To learn more about the featured apps and to RSVP, just go here (and please provide your last name so you can get past security)!
If you want to see how SQL is applied to big data analytics, we have the perfect holiday present for you: A free, full-day course in advanced SQL and analytics!
Taught by our very own Principal Data Scientist Igor Elbert, this eight-hour course will show you how SQL is applied in the big data field. You’ll also come away with a better understanding of what MapReduce is, and learn how to analyze click-stream data.
When: Wednesday, Dec. 18 from 10:30 AM-6:30 PM
Where: Gilt, 2 Park Ave. in Manhattan, NYC
What you need to bring: Your laptop, your brain, and one or two Capri Suns to drink with your lunch—which we will provide—for FREE (you’ll also get a free breakfast)
What Can I Expect?
Here’s the agenda (subject to change):
Who Should Take This Course?
This class is perfect for you if you’re:
A strong understanding of SELECT is expected. Fluency with JOINs, GROUP, ORDER, DISTINCT, HAVING, and COUNT is a must.
Besides the Free SQL Knowledge I’ll Acquire From Gilt’s Handsome and Brilliant Principal Data Scientist, What Else Do I Get?
Oh, maybe a job at Gilt? It’s true(!): We’re looking for a data analyst/consultant for a three-month gig starting ASAP, with the possibility of another three-month extension. You’ll munge our data from our NYC office (it’s quite posh and there’s ample amounts of chocolate candy hanging about—live a little!) and get to work alongside our data engineering team. This position will provide some exposure to machine learning, Teradata Aster and SQL/MapReduce on a massively parallel platform. A desire to understand the business side of things will come in handy.
This sounds amazing. How can I prove to you that I am worthy?
One easy way to help your cause: Attend the free course! Let’s hang out for a day and see how it goes.
I think I Can Do This. What Next?
Fill out the form below to submit your contact info. (Note: You must be age 18 or older to attend.) Please keep in mind that submitting this form does not guarantee you a seat. (Class size is limited to 40 students.) However, it does mean that you’ll receive details about the other courses we’re developing as soon as they become available.
We hope you can join us!
Photo by TheJaymo via Creative Commons.
If you were holiday-traveling last Tuesday night and couldn’t catch our featured tech talk by Dr. Janusz Bryzek—father of Gilt co-founder and CTO Michael Bryzek, father of sensors, TSensors Summit chair, and all-around impressive person—learn a bit about what you missed by checking out the slide deck:
With a festive spread of pies, cookies and cakes, presentations by three generations of Bryzeks, and an audience featuring the likes of Gilt founder Kevin Ryan and investor Nick Beim, Tuesday’s talk wasn’t just any other meetup. Thanks to everyone who joined us for Dr. Bryzek’s fascinating presentation!
The popular Dublin-based tech website Silicon Republic recently published “The Five Minute CIO,” a short interview with Gilt VP Architecture Eric Bowman. A fun excerpt:
"On a good day, I manage to get a few hours of coding in, and this job has made me into more of a morning person than I ever thought possible. Recently we’ve done a lot of hiring, so I end up spending less time coding and doing architecture than I would like, though when I’m lucky some architecture work happens while I sleep.
Read the full-interview here!