Show and Tell: A valuable company tradition

Show and Tell isn't just for grade schoolers. We have found it to be a valuable part of our team chemistry.

Once a month our virtual team meets for a two hour video chat to show off things we've learned or are curious about. Topics range from code reviews to discussions of tools and conference recaps. It's a great way to step back from project work and ensure we're always learning and staying on top of the latest technology. 

What follows is a brief recap of the topics we discussed this month. There's not a lot of context, but my hope is that by sharing what we're thinking about as a team might be valuable to others and encourage you to share your thoughts.

Writing better object oriented Javascript

  • Justin showed a jQuery plugin he wrote for a client web app to easily create various types of modal pop up windows.
  • Many of the issues we run into as coders are solved problems. Design patterns can show us the way. We should leverage existing patterns as much as possible instead of reinventing the wheel.

Interactive PHP command line debugger

  • PsySH is a command line PHP debugger
  • A bet replacement for the native PHP command line utility
  • Great for testing quick methods or dumping variables

Sublime Linter

  • Sublime Linter is a plugin for Sublime Text editor that checks for code syntax errors.
  • It helps catch syntax errors while you’re in the editor. Justin says, "I rarely see PHP syntax errors in the browser any more."

Recap of ConvergeSE talk on Agency Pricing 

  • Katie attended ConvergeSE in Columbia, SC and recapped Rob Harr's talk on Agency Pricing.
  • There’s no one perfect way to price design/development work (fixed, value, hourly)
  • “Whatever your rates are, raise them.”
  • Maintaining a cash cushion and get a line of credit before you need it.
  • When working with a new client, use discovery as a courting period and a time to mitigate risk both ways. You’re getting to know the client and they’re getting to know you. Use this time to talk about your pricing model.
  • Pricing should be a collaborative process with the client.
  • For each project, decide as a team what we're going to try that's new or experiment with.
  • Build in “finesse time” at the end of the project for clean up, refactoring, documentation, etc.


  • Bransin highlighted intercooler.js as a library that we should investigate.
  • It allows you to use AJAX using simple, declarative HTML attributes


  • Rob has spent some time investigating Squarespace for a client.
  • It has a very slick user interface and many great out of the box themes.
  • There doesn't seem to be a lot a lot of room for heavy customization like custom content types, etc.
  • Looks like a potential option for sites that might otherwise be built with Shopify and WordPress.

Recap of Peers Conference talk on Confessions of a Technical Director

  • Jason attended Peers Conference in Washingon DC and recapped a talk by Matt Fordham on his team's technical operations.
  • Document your team's procedures and code styles. A simple Google Doc will do. Update it every time you add someone to the team (at least).
  • User stories are captured in Trello cards. Each story has a checklist of acceptance tests that need to pass as well as browsers that need to be tested.
  • Each story must be peer reviewed, browser tested and deployed before being marked as "done."
  • Hire developers that love to code and collaborate. We're not looking for "front end developers" or "back end developers." If you like learning new technology you'll fit right in. This jives well with our Surprise Highway approach to hiring.

Have experience with anything we've mentioned or want to highlight your own research? Leave a comment.

Posted May 9, 2014 by Jason Siffring

Jason has over 15 years of web development experience and is the owner of Surprise Highway. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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