TaskPaper 3: Insert Started Tag

Updated for TaskPaper 3. The original script is here, with a little more info.

function AddStartedTagWithDate(editor, options) {
  var today = DateTime.format('today');
  return editor.selection.selectedItems.map(
    function (item) {
	  item.setAttribute('data-started', today)
    }
  )
}

Application("TaskPaper").documents[0].evaluate({
  script: AddStartedTagWithDate.toString()
})
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TaskPaper 3: Insert Created Tag

Updated for TaskPaper 3. The original script is here, with a little more info.

function AddCreatedTagWithDate(editor, options) {
  var today = DateTime.format('today');
  return editor.selection.selectedItems.map(
    function (item) {
	  item.setAttribute('data-created', today)
    }
  )
}

Application("TaskPaper").documents[0].evaluate({
  script: AddCreatedTagWithDate.toString()
})

TaskPaper: Insert Started Tag

It’s not really enough knowing when you added a task to your list and know when it was completed. I mean, it always feels good to wrap something up, but it’s incredibly helpful to know how long that thing took to complete. Over time, you can use the ‘working time’ metric to tune your pipeline. Besides, I really dislike leaning back in the chair to rack my brain in order to remember exactly when I started working on a task. It’s also nice knowing how long something sat around waiting to be worked on. That’s why I whipped up Insert Started Tag.

on get_date()
	set currentdate to do shell script "date +%Y-%m-%d"
end get_date

tell application "TaskPaper"
	tell front document
		tell selected entry
			make tag with properties {name:"started", value:my get_date()}
		end tell
	end tell
end tell

Finding Clojure By Playing On The Seaside

The Technitai blog has been far too quiet for far too long, but it’s been because I’ve been burning the midnight oil learning a brand new, for me, way of thinking.

Late last year, I began compiling a list of programming languages and frameworks that I thought that I should at least know a little about. As part of this process, I  sat down with a project idea – a player/event management app for Firefight! That way, I could explore the problem domain and I knew where I could get a subject matter expert if I needed one. Early this past spring, I started digging in.

I started out with Opa, but didn’t get very far. Adam Koprowski, over at Opa HQ was very helpful with answering my early questions. But a few things made it difficult for me to gain traction with the language. The Opa project was transitioning from a Caml based syntax to one based on JavaScript. At the time, the documentation was split between the two which made the going quite rough as I have zero experience with Caml. Compound that with an inexperience in functional programming – well, sit back and imagine the soothing sound of grinding gears.

Opa, I shall be back. Oh, yes. I shall be.

I moved on to Seaside on the Pharo Smalltalk implementation. Six or seven years ago I attempted to dabble with Seaside on Squeak. I wouldn’t call it a crash-and-burn experience but I got nowhere fast. This time around things were totally different. I made some serious headway on the project and I fell in love with the expressiveness of Smalltalk. Years ago, the intrinsic coupling of the language and its environment threw me for a loop. Now I totally appreciate it for its elegance and empowerment. Seaside as a web framework is a stroke of genius. Couple Magritte with Seaside and you’ve got an extremely potent one-two punch for capturing and validating form data on the web. At the conclusion of the prototyping sprint, I felt like I developed an actual application rather than a collection of web oriented components. I thought that I had found my way of developing web apps.

Okay, two more languages were on the short list to check out: Scala and Clojure.

Scala looked the less exotic of the two. The biggest difference being not-LISP. Its syntax didn’t look all that far off from Python and Ruby where I felt quite comfortable. The functional bits could be ignored and used when desired. Kinda like how I was using JavaScript. Besides, it was Lift that put Scala on my RADAR to begin with, so I started heading off in that direction. But something made me pause and reexamine where I was headed.

Each week, I receive The Pragmatic Bookshelf monthly email filled with info on releases, news, and their PragPub magazine. That month they just released Programming Clojure (2nd Edition).

I remembered stumbling onto Clojure when it was new and noting to myself that I should learn-it-someday. I was of course intrigued by what I perceived as its arcane LISPness that verged on the mythical. Back then it was a someday-language. A language to learn someday when I’m suddenly smart enough to learn it.

I bought a copy of Programming Clojure and examined the Clojure web development field but didn’t find a counterpart to Seaside or Lift. Instead, I found stuff called RingHiccup, and Compojure. All of the moving parts had me a bit confused. What was I thinking? Then I found Noir:

Noir is a micro-framework that allows you to rapidly develop websites in Clojure.

And it couldn’t be any simpler.

Sold!

In less than a day, I put my eyes on every character of every word of Programming Clojure. After the once-through, I didn’t intimately understand everything that I read but I got it. On day two I began coding. There were some fits and starts and sudden stops, but soon, I gained some real velocity. After prototyping the Clojure project to be as close as possible to the one done in Smalltalk, I took a step back and thought that while it looked the same in the browser, it was relatively primitive underneath. At first, I thought that I went backwards. But I soon learned that this was a instead a strength.

I did a quick survey of what JavaScript frameworks were out there for building modern web apps. I went with AngularJS. It turned out to be an excellent fit with Noir.

Using AngularJS, I “modernized” the prototype and soon its functionality surpassed the one done in Smalltalk and Seaside. But even more importantly, I understood what Halloway, Bedra, and Hickey were talking about. The lingering doubts that I had about OOP modeling, all the while that I thought that I was good at it, were gone. To top it off, my code base was smaller and just as legible. Don’t get me wrong. My code was quite unpretty here and there and organization in places left much to be desired but those were things that I knew how to fix. And I could fix them without the fixes rippling out across the rest of the system. I freaking learned Clojure!

Okay, back to the mission. I didn’t want the exuberance of learning Clojure to limit my appreciation of Scala so I jumped into it headlong.

There are a lot of good Scala tutorials on the ‘net but I homed in on Programming Scala at O’Reilly. The book itself is a good value too, by the way.

The first thing I did was create a new Scala project to parse the Firefight! ePub in order to pre-populate the database with stuff. I had a heck of a time getting sbt, the Scala Built Tool, to download the project dependencies. Eventually, I gave up and just downloaded them manually. But I did get Scala to parse the XHTML and to insert data into MongoDB.

I’m totally sold on Scala as a scripting language. Having access to all of the libraries that run on the JVM is a huge boon.

As I worked through Programming Scala, I couldn’t manage to gain velocity on the prototype project. A ball of frustration grew inside of me because, as a language, Scala looked familiar. The functional parts were empowering. Traits looked, to me, lightyears ahead of Java Interfaces. After coming off Clojure, there seemed to be so much code but I could have gotten over that if I had a better experience with the build tools, and hadn’t encountered binary incompatibility with compiled libraries, all the while trying to learn both a language and a framework at the same time. It simply felt like too much, and I ran back to Lein.

Scala, Lift, and the Play! framework are all obviously powerful and I’ll be revisiting them before too long, but I’ve decided to build my app prototype into a full blown product using Clojure.

So, yep. I found Clojure by playing on the Seaside.

FIREFIGHT! Oscar Mike

The website for our game FIREFIGHT! has launched. It has been a lot of work but so worth it. I touched everything from logo design to line height and danged near everything in between. Writing content was perhaps the most difficult part. For a while now I’ve been working on my visual design chops but writing for an audience is a much more recent turn for me. It’s tough! I have an improved but not new respect for those who do it every day.

The site itself runs on Drupal within the Acquia Drupal Gardens cloud. I’ve been impressed not only with the stability of the site but the pace at which the Acquia guys are rolling out new features. For example, they just released functionality to add custom JavaScript frameworks to your site. Nifty.

Back when I was a systems administrator I maintained a Drupal install. The Acquia team does it better than I did or could do today.

Some parts of the process were painful. Working with the built in rich text editor proved difficult and a majority of the time I worked outside of it using apps like TextMate, Espresso, and the amazing CSSEdit. Along the way I picked up a few techniques like editing live within Firefox with Firebug to do rapid prototyping. I think there’s a blog post or two in there somewhere.

Anyways, check out the site and let me know what you think. Feedback is always appreciated.

Gamestorming the Benefits of Firefight!

Gamestorming the Benefits of Firefight!

We’re at the stage now with Firefight! where we’re really working on marketing. I’ve got to be honest with you, it can be tough for me. It’s not a moral issue. It has more to do with spending so much time creating and fabricating that it’s a big context switch. Sure, we’ve established strong design goals but those don’t typically directly translate to benefits or even features that a potential player can relate to. How did we translate those technical bits of game geek speak into benefits and features? We Gamestormed it and went from this:

To this:

It was inspired by the Cover Story game. But instead of using it to bring forward new ideas we used it to jump in and focus on what’s important from the perspective of potential customers.