Read my latest article: 8 things I look for in a Ruby on Rails app (posted Thu, 06 Jul 2017 16:59:00 GMT)

Show up smiling

Posted by Wed, 28 Feb 2007 14:20:00 GMT

“Showing up on time …with a smile on your face is almost always more important than what you actually say or do.”—Seth Godin

overhead here...

quote of the day: server tricks

Posted by Tue, 27 Feb 2007 18:03:00 GMT


...overheard on an internal forum…

“My my passion for nifty server tricks will blow peoples minds”Daniel Johnson

Meet... Chris, Graeme., and Gary

Posted by Mon, 26 Feb 2007 16:01:00 GMT

Okay, this is a little overdue… but better late than never! ;-)

We’ve had several new people start with PLANET ARGON over the past few months. Some of them are blogging about their experience of working with Ruby on Rails and being a part of our team. I wanted to quickly introduce you to a few of them and their blogs, which I hope that you consider subscribing to.


For quite some time, we’ve been needing more design assistance, so late last year… we hired Chris Griffin, who moved here last year from Florida. He’s our new User Interface Designer and gets to work within the Rails environment everyday with the rest of us. It seems that Brian and Chris worked over the weekend to get his new blog up. Chris is self-proclaimed genius. I suggest that you keep an eye on his blog… because I’m sure it’s going to be a pretty active one. Chris joining our team marks a pivotal point in our teams evolution as we continue to place more emphasis in our Design and Development process on the User Experience.


Graeme Nelson

Our newest hire is Graeme Nelson, who recently moved to Portland from Seattle. He just joined our Design and Development team and if you’ve been reading the Rails-related blogs, you might have seen his blog already. He’s been blogging a lot about using RSpec with Rails and other fun things. He’s been contracting with us since the start of the year and I’m really excited that he’s accepted a job offer and joined the team!


Gary eats sushi

Last… but not least is Gary Blessington. I believe that I first offered Gary a job with PLANET ARGON about 2 1/2 years ago when we were still focused on PHP/PostgreSQL…. but PHP apparently wasn’t enough of a catalyst. Gary and I previously worked together at Imark Communications several years ago, when I first started doing web development. He was the senior developer on the team and was an important mentor during my early days of developing in a professional environment. Late last year, he hung up his .NET tool belt to become our Design and Development Director. He started blogging earlier this year and is sharing his experience of switching from .NET to Ruby on Rails.

I’ll introduce the others as they start blogging and such. :-)

Seattle in late March

Posted by Tue, 20 Feb 2007 23:35:00 GMT

I’m going to be hanging out in Redmond, WA. late next month… why? That… I’ll explain at a later date. ;-)

What I can say is that I’ll be available on a few evenings if anybody is interested in meeting up to talk shop, which can include anything from d3, ruby on rails, bdd, agile interaction design... to BBC comedy shows. :-)

I’ll be flying up from Portland to Seattle on Saturday, March 24th. I’m going to try and stay downtown for that night… and then will be staying at Sheraton Bellevue until Tuesday night. So… Saturday-Monday nights are currently open.

I’m also planning to head to the monthly Seattle.rb meeting on Tuesday, March 27th.

If you’re interested in meeting up, drop me a line.

UPDATE If you’re taking the kinky aspect of BDD too serious... please don’t email me. ;-)

On Apologies

Posted by Thu, 15 Feb 2007 21:01:00 GMT

Recently, Seth Godin posted a short blog post, titled, Apologies, ranked, which points out several ways of apologizing. When you work in a service industry, it becomes very important to develop good apology skills. Let’s be honest for a moment. Not everything works out for the best in every customer experience. Sometimes it’s their fault and many times… it’s our fault.

In response to Seth’s post, Marc Chung has written up a similar post that adapts this to software bugs, titled, Seth on Fixing Bugs.

It’s worth a read and definitely relates to the communication issues that we keep talking about within the Dialogue-Driven Development community and how that can translate to a healthy testing process with BDD.


Get to Know a Gem: Hpricot

Posted by Tue, 13 Feb 2007 13:48:00 GMT

In this new series, Get to Know a Gem, we’re going to take a look at hpricot.

What is Hpricot?

WhyTheLuckyStiff released Hpricot in July of 2006 in an effort to bring fast HTML parsing to the masses. It’s currently unknown what prompted it, but my guess would be that Why is secretly scraping all the pages on the internet that archive the future. To speed it up, Why has written the Hpricot scanner in C, to be much faster than the other options available in Ruby.


This process… is as always with most gems, very simple.

$ sudo gem install hpricot
Need to update 23 gems from
Select which gem to install for your platform (powerpc-darwin8.7.0)
 1. hpricot 0.5 (ruby)
 2. hpricot 0.5 (mswin32)
 3. hpricot 0.4 (mswin32)
 4. hpricot 0.4 (ruby)
 5. Cancel installation
> 1

Great, let’s now play with it!


In this first example, we’re going to use Hpricot to parse a web page through the Open-URI library. For this, we’ll need to require a few libs.

require 'rubygems'
require 'hpricot'
require 'open-uri'
Now that we have the libraries loaded, we can create a new Hpricot object and in this example, we’ll load the PLANET ARGON About page.

# Open the PLANET ARGON about page
page = Hpricot( open( '' ) )    

Great, let’s have some parsing fun. Let’s parse for the first instance of a div with a class name of team. Hpricot will return array of elements that meet your search request. "//div[@class='team']" ).size 
=> 7    

Great, this is a good sign that I need to add several people to the website. :-)

If we want to peak at the first instance of this class, we can do: "//div[@class='team']" ).first
=> {elem <div class="team"> "\n" {elem <div class="team_name"> {elem <strong> "Robby Russell" </strong>} ", Founder &#38; Executive Director" </div>}    ....SNIP

You’ll notice that there is a <strong> element within the results, which we can search deeper into this tree. "//div[@class='team']" ) "//strong" )
=> #<Hpricot::Elements[{elem <strong> "Robby Russell" </strong>}]>

Hpricot provides a method named inner_html, which will return the contents within the element. "//div[@class='team']" ) "//strong" ).inner_html
=> "Robby Russell" 

Let’s now iterate through each of the elements and output all of the team member names.

# search for each team member div and iterate through them "//div[@class='team']" ).each do |team|
  puts "//strong").inner_html

Robby Russell
Allison Beckwith
Brian Ford
Nicole Fritz
Alain Bloch
Audrey Eschright
Gary Blessington

So, there you have it. A quick and basic introduction into using Hpricot for parsing HTML content. You can use Hpricot for a wide variety of structured data, such as XML and CSS. For more examples, please visit the HpricotBasics page.

Final Thoughts

I’m going to guess that Why built this for hoodwink.d, which I’ve been a regular user of for a long time. I haven’t spent much time playing with the XPath syntax and playing around with Hpricot has given me a much better understanding of it.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I am going to make Getting to Know a Gem a regular feature on my blog. If you know of a lesser known Gem that needs some attention, please send a suggestion to me.

Until next time…

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