ShipIt Day Recap Q3 2017

Caktus recently held the Q3 2017 ShipIt Day. Each quarter, employees take a step back from business as usual and take advantage of time to work on personal projects or otherwise develop skills. This quarter, we enjoyed fresh crêpes while working on a variety of projects, from coloring books to Alexa skills.

Technology for Linguistics

As both a linguist and a developer, Neil looked at using language technology for a larger project led by Western Carolina University to revitalize Cherokee. This polysynthetic language presents challenges for programming due to its complex word structure.

Using finite state morphology with hfst and Giellatekno, Neil explored defining sounds, a lexicon, and rules to develop a model. In the end, he feels a new framework could help support linguists, and says that Caktus has shown him the value of frameworks and good tooling that could be put to use for this purpose.

Front-end Style Guide Primer

front-end style guide Although design isn’t optional in product development, the Agile methodology doesn’t address user interface (UI) or user experience (UX) design. We use Agile at Caktus, but we also believe in the importance of solid UX in our projects.

Basia, Calvin, and Kia worked to fill the gap. They started building a front-end style guide, with the intention to supply a tool for Caktus teams to use in future projects. Among style guide components considered during this ShipIt Day were layout, typography, and color palettes. Calvin worked to set up the style guide as a standalone app that serves as a demo and testbed for ongoing style guide work. Kia explored the CSS grid as a flexible layout foundation that makes building pages easier and more efficient while accommodating a range of layout needs. Basia focused on typography, investigating responsive font sizing, modular scale, and vertical rhythm. She also started writing color palettes utilizing colors functions in Stylus.

Front-end style guides have long been advocated by Lean UX. They support modular design, enabling development teams to achieve UI and UX consistency across a project. We look forward to continuing this work and putting our front-end style guide into action!

Command Line Interface for Tequila

Jeff B worked on a command line interface to support our use of Tequila. While we currently use Fabric to execute shell commands, it’s not set up to work with Python 3 at the time of writing. Jeff used the Click library to build his project and incorporated difflib from the standard library in order to show a git-style diff of deployment settings. You can dig into the Tequila CLI on the Caktus GitHub account and take a look for yourself!

Wagtail Calendar

Caktus has built several projects using Wagtail CMS, so Charlotte M and Dmitriy looked at adding new functionality. Starting with the goal of incorporating a calendar into the Bakery project, they added an upcoming events button that opens a calendar of events, allowing users to edit and add events.

Charlotte integrated django-scheduler events into Wagtail while Dmitriy focused on integrating the calendar widget onto the EventIndexPage. While they encountered a few challenges which will need further work, they were able to demonstrate a working calendar at the end of ShipIt Day.

Scrum Coloring Book

Charlotte F and Sarah worked together to create a coloring book teaching Scrum information, principles, and diagrams in an easily-digested way. The idea was based on The Scrum Princess. Their story follows Alex, a QA analyst who joins a development team, through the entire process of completing a Scrum project.

Drafting out the Caktus Scrum coloring book.

Over the course of the day, they came up with the flow of the narrative, formatted the book so that all the images are on separate pages with story text and definitions/image to color. Any illustrators out there who want to help it come to life?

QA Test Case Tools

Gerald joined forces with Robbie, to follow up on Gerald’s project from our Q2 2017 ShipIt Day. This quarter, our QA analysts tinkered with QMetry, adding it to JIRA to see whether this could be the tool to take Caktus’ QA to the next level.

QMetry creates visibility for test cases related to specific user stories and adds a number of testing functions to JIRA, including the ability to group different scenarios by acceptance criteria and add bugs from within the interface when a test fails. Although there are a few configuration issues to be worked out, they feel that this tool does most of what they want to do without too much back-and-forth.

Wagtail Content Chooser

Phil also took the chance to do some work with Wagtail. Using the built-in page-chooser as a guide, he developed a content-chooser that shows all of the blocks associated with that page’s StreamFields. The app can get a content block with its own unique identifier and would enable the admin user to pull that content from other pages into a page being worked on. Next steps will be incorporating a save function.

Publishing an Amazon Alexa Skill

For those seeking inspiring quotes, David authored a skill for Amazon Alexa which would return a random quote from forismatic. An avid fan of swag socks, David came across the opportunity to earn some socks (and an Echo Dot) from Amazon if he submitted an Alexa skill and got it certified. He used the Flask app Flask-Ask to develop the skill rapidly, deployed it to AWS Lambda via Zappa, and is now awaiting certification (and socks). Caktus is an AWS Consulting Partner, so acquiring AWS Alexa development chops would present another service we could offer to clients.

Catching Up on Conferences

Dan caught up on videos of talks from conferences:

He also looked at the possibility of building a new package that preprocesses JavaScript and CSS, but after starting work he realized there’s a reason why existing packages are complicated and resolved to revisit this another time.

That’s all for now!

Although the ShipIt Day projects represent time away from client work, each project helps our team learn new skills or strengthen existing ones that will eventually contribute toward external work. We see it as a way to invest in both our employees and the company as a whole.

To see some of our skills at work in client projects, check out our Case Studies page.

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