Stelian Firez

I am a web designer with a degree in engineering and I truly believe that "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works."

Antwerp, Belgium

Nov 2, 2014

How we won the Rails Rumble Hackathon

In case you didn't see it on my Twitter page, this year I was part of the team that took the first place in the Rails Rumble Hackathon. Our app, RefactorCop, managed to gather 735 points which made it the most voted entry in the competition.

The Sunday before the Hackathon weekend

That's when we had our first team meeting. Maarten, who I already knew, contacted me a few days before, but Sunday evening was the first time ever I've talked to the other two team members, Dale and Anthony. And not even in person, but on Skype. Being a kickoff meeting not a lot of things were decided. We made a Google Docs document for everyone to write their app ideas and we scheduled the next call for Wednesday. That's pretty much how the evening ended.

The 2nd meeting

It was even shorter than the first one. Maarten had this idea about an app that would scan open source code on Github and return a list of issues for a certain project. This way, anyone interested in contributing to open source would be able to discover code that might benefit from improvements. He even had a name for this app - RefactorCop.

It didn't take long before we decided this is what we'll be working on. How we'll be working was not really a problem either: I was in charge of design and front-end while the others would do the rest: setup Heroku, code Ruby on Rails, configure Rubocop, integrate my HTML and CSS, etc. We even had a place where to work. Anthony put his famous garage at our disposal. The guys accepted, I sort of declined. Moving my iMac seemed a bit of a hassle, but I promised to visit them on Saturday, so we can talk better. Fun fact: I found out that Anthony's house is within walking distance of where I live.

The Hackathon: day 1

Starting earlier on Saturday morning, the first idea I had was to use the newer Robocop style. But as I was arranging the elements on the screen, I realized the theme was a bit dark, maybe too “robotic”. So I thought I should try something else, spend a couple of hours to see if I can come up with something else. This time I chose the classic Robocop as a starting point and went for a friendlier color scheme.

RefactorCops

Once I had the two half of homepages ready I put them on Skype and went to the garage to talk to the guys. By the time I got there they already had a favorite. This helped a lot because in the next hour we managed to establish what other information will be displayed on the homepage and how many more pages need to be designed.

RefactorCop Team

So I returned to my iMac, got the front page design finished and began turning it into HTML code. Which I had ready around 12PM. Not longer after that I went to bed. The other guys kept on coding till morning.

The Hackathon: day 2

Again, I woke up early in the morning and as soon as I did I just started putting some color and setting the fonts on the wireframe we drew a day before in the garage. By the time the developers woke up I already had the project page designed. We decided it was OK, so I began writing the HTML and the CSS.

Later, in the evening, about 6 hours before the Hackathon ended I went to join the crew in Anthony’s garage. At this point we were just polishing things, fixing bugs, adding last minute features, pretty much enjoying the whole thing. An hour or so before the deadline “Code Freeze!” was declared and we ended the Hackathon with a glass of bubbly.

I would like to show my appreciation to the Rails Rumble organisers, the sponsors and all the people who voted for us. Thank you!

May 27, 2014

Speaking at the Dutch Mobile Conference

Dutch Mobile Conference

Sometime in April, I've been contacted by the nice people from Ibuildings if I'd be interested to give a presentation at the upcoming Dutch Mobile Conference. I said 'yes', so a month from now I'll be in Amsterdam speaking about Web Performance Optimisation.

To give you a better idea of what to expect, here is the structure of my keynote:

  • In the beginning of the talk I will try to make some strong arguments, backed by numbers, why Web Performance Optimisation is still extremely relevant and how it helps users and businesses as well.

  • Afterwards, my focus will shift towards listing the most effective optimisation techniques and explaining how they work. I will also share a number of tools that help automate these techniques. This will be the core of the presentation.

  • The final part of the session will be dedicated to discussing the new challenges of web optimisation and how to make better use of a device’s capabilities.

Besides me, obviously, there will be other talented people that will speak about various topics, so if you decide to attend DMC14 I'm sure there will be plenty of interesting things to see. In the meantime you can get tickets here.

May 22, 2014

Multi-Mania 2014

Day 1

The best presentation I attended the first day was JavaScript ♥ Unicode by Mathias Bynens. Although the topic was a bit obscure, Mathias, besides being a great developer is also a talented speaker, so the talk was both informative and entertaining.

Another keynote that interested me a lot was given by Sakri Rosenstrom. He shared a few tips and tricks on how to improve the performance of HTML5 Canvas, something that I'm currently using on a project.

Day 2

Bert Timmermans - Gotta code them all

For me, the most anticipated part of the second day was Bert Timmermans' presentation: "Gotta code them all, a Pokémon and HTML5 love story". While I used to work with Bert and have seen various demos before, I was really curious to see the progress on his project - writing a Pokémon game in Javascript. The highlight of the talk was, obviously, the demo. Which I think impressed everybody. Well done, Bert!

Somewhat surprising, because I almost skipped it, the talk that, let's say, inspired me the most was the one from Dominic Wilcox. Dominic is an artist that makes wacky and interesting things. But it was not his work that stuck with me, it was the fact that people were talking about it and even using it. So what I realised at the end of his presentation was that almost no matter what you do, the internet is a pretty big place. And almost always there is a group of people that will be interested in what you make. You just have to make something and put it out there.

Dec 29, 2013

Mac apps I’ve used most in 2013

Mailplane

Mailplane

Probably by now a lot of people know what Mailplane is. So, as you can imagine, I use it to manage my four Gmail accounts. It has the features of a desktop app combined with the power of the Google machine.

YoruFukurou

YoruFukurou

Still my favourite Twitter client. I cannot find anything better in the market. But with its moderate stagnation and my ever-growing “following” number, YoruFukurou might not be as appealing as it once was. So the thought of building my on Twitter client is back.

1Password

1Password

It’s difficult to give it a better description than I have last year. Maybe this video of David Teare at Çingleton will shed some more light on the company(AgileBits) that makes 1Password. Also, have a look at the App Store “Best of 2013”.

Evernote

Evernote

Another one from last year’s list. I use it for a lot of things. Like keeping stuff that might be helpful in the near future or writing blog posts, like this one. Because it’s just easy to switch from my iMac to my iPad and that’s a feature that I appreciate a lot.

Skype

Skype

Chat and video calls. That pretty much sums it up. It does a good job at these two things. And it’s great that it runs on all the popular platforms, since I gave my old iPad to my parents.

Miro

Miro

I use this application to listen to podcasts. It’s free and open-source. A great combination, if you ask me. The main reason I chose it over iTunes consists in a feature that I consider crucial for a podcast app. I’ll talk about this in a later blog post.

LittleSnapper

LittleSnapper

Although discontinued and replaced with a shinier app called Ember, LittleSnapper still works great for me. Because it serves my purpose so well I haven’t even tried the new app yet. Maybe that’s a mistake I’m gonna fix in 2014, though.

Pixelmator

Pixelmator

It helps me with everything that is not “client work”. So at home I use it quite a lot for making the screenshots for CSS Religion, for example. I feel the need to also mention Sketch here, although I haven’t had the chance to use that much. But that might change soon.

Sublime Text

Sublime Text

This famous text editor is very reliable and makes my coding even more enjoyable. If you might have any feature request there’s probably a plugin(package) that can do what you’re looking for. In 2013 I’ve also started using Vim. But mostly on my iPad via ssh.

Transmit

Transmit

I have been using Transmit for a very long time. With no complaints. It does FTP very well, but the thing that impresses me is the way it works with Amazon S3. It makes it seem so simple! Also, Cabel Sasser gave an excellent talk at XOXO about Panic(the company that makes Transmit).

Dropbox

Dropbox

Dropbox is so good that I’ve never thought of using Google Drive or iCloud or SkyDrive. I just wish it had more pricing options. But it probably doesn’t make sense from an economic standpoint. Anyway, be sure to check Drew Houston’s Y Combinator Funding Application for Dropbox.

ImageOptim

ImageOptim

Drag-n-drop awesomeness and hassle-free image compression. I can’t find a reason why to not use it. By compressing images I save a bit on my Amazon S3 bill, but more importantly, my website’s visitors save time and bandwidth.

Plug

Plug

I found this little gem of an app a few months ago and I’ve been using it every day since. It plays music from The Hype Machine. With a beautiful and space efficient design it fits my desktop quite well. And did I mention it’s free?

As a note to this list, I want mention that after quite a few years of using Chrome as my default browser, in 2013, I went back to Safari. For speed and more privacy. And although I use Adobe products at work, I didn’t add them to the list because I’m not excited to talk about them.

Dec 28, 2013

I've only read two books this year

And I’m not saying this with any arrogance that these two books would suffice for a whole year. Quite the opposite: I admit, shamefully, that I read so little. The only small defence I can present is that my Instapaper’s full and my podcast subscription list has doubled in 2013.

So here are the two books:

I enjoyed both of them and I hope next year to read two books a month.

Oct 27, 2013

How to remove the Safari cookies at login

This script has been tested only in Mavericks. If you have applications that start at login and use the 'cookied' process, you might experience some unexpected behavior from those apps.

Let me exemplify: I have Mailplane enabled to open at startup and I use Gmail's 2-step verification. If the 'cookied' process is stopped while Mailplane is running, the latter will not be able to access the cookies, so Google will send me an SMS with the code to authorize the computer - pretty unpleasant to have it every day.

Clearly, this situation can be avoided by just starting Mailplane after checking if 'cookied' has started, something that can be done fairly easy with some more AppleScript.

Sep 25, 2013

Exploratory design

I absolutely love this kind of stories. Because it easily shows how exploratory and intelligent design is much more valuable than any flat design.

How we tripled our revenue by adding one button

Sep 16, 2013

Made for iOS 7

Excellent collection of app designs and icons made for iOS 7:

http://madeforios7.tumblr.com/