by Dan DeMeyere - @dandemeyere
thredUP is hosting the San Francisco StackOverflow Meet-up this Wednesday, April 6th at 7pm at thredUP HQ. If you're a developer, designer or interested in getting into the web development field, you should really come. There's going to be beer (assuming you're 21), some snacks, and three really cool companies demo'ing their new, cutting-edge services. The great thing about all three companies that will be present at Wednesday's meetup is that all of them could be very useful for most apps. Below you'll find a little bit about each company and their services.
Learning About New and Old Technology
Topic: SimpleGeo Context
Andrew Mager, SimpleGeo's developer advocate, gave the thredUP dev team a demo last week about the 3 services SimpleGeo provides: Storage, Context, and Places. I'm not sure how to describe our reactions other than being absolutely blown away. All of our minds were racing with ideas. There were times during his demo when one or more of our jaws dropped, literally. If you can come to our Meet-up this Wednesday you can see for yourself and realize I'm not exaggerating at all. You don't have to be an engineer to appreciate what they can do either.
Storage provides a way to store location-based data in a system that scales well and is lightning fast to query. Places is a way to use that location-based data to find points of interest all of the world (and their database is growing rapidly). Context, however, is the one that could open doors to hundreds of new ideas and apps. Imagine being able to take a location, whether it's an address or latitude/longitude coordinate, and extracting specific contextual relationships that are defined and accessible like this no where else on the web. What does that mean? It means given a location you can determine someone's postal code, their weather, school district, neighborhood, census data, and the list goes on. Think about using all three of these services together and your head might explode. Proceed thinking with caution.
Web Services for your App
I don't know if you've ever played around with indexing and search engines, but it's not a walk in the park. There are a lot of different options when it comes to search (Sphinx, Terrier, Solr, etc.), but if you're not savvy with linux and hooking up 3rd-party gems/libraries to utilize and maintain the indexes necessary to run these engines, you should probably look into a service like IndexTank. IndexTank does all the indexing for you and allows you to add search functionality to your website using their API, which is available in Python, Ruby, PHP, and Java. If your team is small or your resources are limited, don't re-invent the wheel especially when someone has a great, simple-to-use implementation that is cost effective.
Assuming you need robust search capabilities, think about how many man hours it would take to build and maintain a new search engine, calculate your developer's hourly rates when you break them down and I'm guessing this will become more and more appealing. Reddit, one of the top 100 trafficked websites with 75 million monthly visits, only has 1 full-time developer now and they use IndexTank. If that doesn't convince you to take a look then I don't know what will.
I'm a metrics junkie, sometimes to a fault. If you're like me or you enjoy optimizing your app then Loggly might be your chance to finally geek-out on your logs. Loggly provides a way to analyze your app's logs while presenting the data to you in a consumable way. I've lost an entire evening before sifting through a 300MB production log file in search of an errant Ruby process that would eat up our server's resources like a worm until it consumed the CPU usage and crashed the instance. If I had known about Loggly, I could have searched the log (they index it for you) with a number of different criteria to narrow down the possibilities dramatically instead of blindly grepping through time windows that *I hoped* the process could have possibly ran within. Do you know how many log entries can occur inside a 15 second window of time on an app? Thousands. Save some time and check out Loggly - they will be speaking this Wednesday at the Meet-up as well.
I couldn't resist not commenting on how beautiful the SimpleGeo website is. First, their icons are captivating. Look closely at the detail in each one of them. They're all masterpieces. After you have marveled at the graphic design, check out the SimpleGeo team page and start clicking the different departments (i.e. 'Engineering'). Only the members in the department you clicked will remain visible while the others fade out. This isn't hard to do with jQuery, but it provides a pleasant experience and an easy way to deduce the size of each department and make the connections between the faces and the roles. It's the subtle, intuitive UI elements like this that demonstrate superior user experience in my opinion.
Ruby on Rails Developer & Front-end Engineer