Why open source is amazing

Everywhere, tons of coders are building software packages and making it freely available without making a dime off of it. I recently experienced a perfect example of just how useful and efficient this can be.

My goal was to have users fill in their city and country in their profile page, which I added recently:

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What I realized is that I don’t want to leave it up to users to spell their city and country correctly, so I went on the hunt for a Django app that contained our world’s geographical information. I came upon two separate applications that I could plug in to my site’s code: Django Cities and Django Cities Light. The former is a much larger and more complex program than I needed at the moment so I went with the lighter version. The only problem was that when I tried to upload the data I kept receiving a duplicate error for some city in Latvia: Daugavpils.

I scratched my head and went to work googling the error but nothing came up. Finally, after searching long and hard I gave up and opened my first issue report on Github. The main contributor, jpic, responded shortly afterward along with several other coders who had the same problem. Over the next few days back and forth discussion solved the problem and another bug that popped up immediately afterwards. I was so impressed with this amazing collaborative effort and in particular, that of jpic, who went to town solving these problems in which he received no monetary compensation for. Coming from a finance and economics background I really found this refreshing.

Without the contributions to the community of open source developers working tirelessly on software such as Python, Django, and Cities Light, we definitely would not have the kind of web based technology we have today.

Special thanks to jpic for fixing my issue so quickly.

Day: 7  Budget: $?  Spend: $0

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Learn to code for free

I wanted to take a quick break on the progress of the site to quickly discuss learning to code. After spending a lot of money going to school, on both an undergraduate and a masters degree, I have decided that I never want to pay to learn again. With the amount of resources freely available online, for many things, in particular coding, you don’t have to.

After picking up SQL working at web startups I decided I should take the plunge and actually learn to code. I started with CodeAcademy and Zed A. Shaw’s LearnCodeTheHardWay. CodeAcademy allows you to practice your coding skills directly on their sight while LCTHW gets you to go through the necessary pains of coding through the command line. I actually went back and forth between the two because sometimes seeing the same thing explained different ways gave me a better understanding. Each site allows you to choose from various languages, deciding on the right one should be made using some careful research as to what you intend on doing with your coding skills. I chose to learn Python over other languages like Ruby because of its application to statistical packages and because of it’s reputation for being an easier scripting language to pick up.

For a framework I made the natural choice of Django since I studied Python. I think it is worth mentioning again Mike Hibbert’s video series available here, which I highly recommend.

If you find that you aren’t getting ahead as fast as you would like there are a number of great coding schools popping up that have hands-on classes lasting a few weeks. In Toronto there’s Hackeryou and the soon to be launched BrainStation.

Ultimately, with the amount of information freely available on the internet, you can learn just about anything. I’ve even learned to become a semi-competent guitar player without ever paying for a single lesson!

Day: 5    Budget: $?    Spend:$0    Total Amount Spent Learning to Code: $0 (I did have to buy a computer but I’m not going to count that)

Bootstrapping the front end

In my first blog in this series I mentioned that I was looking for suggestions to implement. A friend on LinkedIn reached out to me with a suggestion to upgrade my CSS framework with Bootstrap.

Even though I mentioned that I wasn’t going to change the appearance until later I decided that now would be a good a time as any to do something about it. So, I downloaded a bootstrap template and went to work connecting it. My front end skills are even more in their infancy than my Python scripting but I managed to hack something together that worked. Here it is, in all it’s glory:

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I still have some work to do on the other template views but as you can see there is a vast improvement.

Let me know what you think: is this an improvement or not?

Special thanks to Ildar for the suggestion!

Day: 3   Budget: $?    Spend: $0

To like or not to like

Project Blackfish has a new added function! You may want to sit down for this: anyone, and by anyone I mean anyone logged into my computer, can not only like a post but unlike it as well! Ground breaking stuff, I know. Here is an example of two posts (please excuse the bad language, spelling, and grammer, someone got way too excited about foosball):

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Total scores of the article can now be negative. There are a few problems still: anyone, even if they are not signed in, can vote as many times as they please, and I have no idea how many votes are up or down. So there is still a lot to do on that front.

Also, users can now insert there first and last name upon registration:

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Other bugs include the header sign in not working properly, which has something to do with CSRF validation and I believe something to do with it being on the base HTML file. Can’t have unsuspecting users being hacked so that is a must fix.

Lastly, I had a problem with passwords of new users not being recorded and this stackoverflow link solved everything. Memo to self: learn more about the ‘super’ function.

Budget: $?    Spend: $0

Project: Blackfish

Beginning today this blog is back up and running. I’ve been learning how to code as an addition to my website analytics skills and I think it’s about time I actually put it to good use: I’m going to build a website and do so by bootstrapping it (I will spend nothing or as little as possible). Everyday I will spend 10-20 minutes writing a short concise blog on my progress.

Today, I’ll start bringing you up to speed about this project:

I’m building a site that allows users to post their own written content and build a reputation based how popular their content is. That’s it. I have a few more ideas but I’m keeping it really simple for now. As I build I’m hoping that anyone following this blog (anyone?) will make suggestions and add insights.

The site is being built with Python on a Django framework. Here is a screen shot of the main posts page so far:

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I’m not too concerned with the way it looks right now, it’s more about functionality first. Right now it includes the ability to signup, log in, write a post, and like and comment on posts thanks to these great tutorials by Mike Hibbert.

That’s it until tomorrow. Special thanks to Lucas Lu for designing my logo, check out more of his amazing work at: www.lucaslu.com

Budget: $?     Spent: $0