Notes on designing, developing and delivering great products

Getting Started in Virtual Reality with JavaScript [Video]; Announcing Android Workshop

By on in Events, Everything Else, Mobile, Web

Virtual Reality is something we at Carbon Five have been playing around with the past few months, learning not only how to get started but how we can use our current toolset to work within the growing field. That’s why I was excited two weeks ago to give a talk on getting started in virtual reality through JavaScript and WebVR at EmpireJS in New York. We all had a fun time while I (wearing a TRON hoodie and Snow Crash referencing tee) walked through what we’ve learned while cracking jokes about Lawnmower Man and the 90s obsession with VR.

The video of the talk is available above (thanks to the EmpireJS crew for it and being incredible hosts) and the slide deck is available below. Try out demos on our VR demo site c5vr.com with all the code being available through the site’s repository.

Finally, we’re holding a workshop in our Santa Monica office walking through the same concepts for the Android platform, using Google Cardboard and Unity on Wednesday May 20th at 7:00pm PDT. For $15 you get one of the limited spots and your own take-home headset so if you’re interested, please register here!


Days of Learning: 2015 Spring Summit Diary

By on in Everything Else

This month we welcome J.J. Arnold to the Carbon Five blog. J.J. recently joined us as the office and events coordinator in the San Francisco office. Her first week coincided with one of our semi-annual retreats, and she graciously agreed to write up a diary of her experience.

April 21st marked the start of Carbon Five’s 2015 Spring Summit! Team members from San Francisco, Chattanooga, and New York converged on our new office in Santa Monica. The days that followed included informative presentations, exploration, experimentation and a whole lot of team bonding.

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May you find the droids you are looking for

By on in Events

Star Wars Day isn’t the only thing to look forward to this May. Join us for some new (and classic) events this month. If you’re looking for some adventure our hack nights are a great place to find it. Find kindred souls, work on your own projects, or build a lightsaber. Every hack night is different but they are always free and everyone is invited to laugh, learn, and drink beer at a Carbon Five office near you. Interested in something more cerebral? Have lunch at AutoDesk for a Sum of the Parts talk or join us in our new LA office for an AIGA Workshop.

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Mise en World

By on in Design

I gave this talk at Kluge’s Evenings at the Loft on March 20, 2015. The theme of the event was Aesthetics. Skot Carruth and Jeremy Mumenthaler also spoke. Video is forthcoming. Special thanks to Arturo and Cameron at Kluge and to David and Courtney at Carbon Five for helping me shape this.

mise en world title

My background is in filmic set design. I started in film school, ended with a degree in Visual Art and Art History and spent a brief period of time in architecture school. Given my background in physical design, when I started thinking about the theme of aesthetics, I couldn’t restrict myself to screens.

This is my vision for user experience design, leaping off from aesthetics as a starting point.

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Introducing Presto

By on in Everything Else

Note: If you’re looking for information on Houdini or Toggle, you’re in the right spot. After changing the project name from Toggle to Houdini (for SEO reasons), we’ve switched again (there was another Houdini already). If you know of another language called “Presto” please let us know, we’ve got more names.

At Carbon Five we pride ourselves in crafting amazing web experiences using the best tools and technologies available. Over the years we’ve tried basically every language and framework combo there is. Java & Spring, Ruby & Rails, Python & Django, JavaScript & Node, Go & ??, C# & ASP.NET (OK, not that one), and even Perl & PHP (or that one).

Over the years we’ve noticed that it seems like every day, all day, all our fancy code boils down one basic thing: showing and hiding DIVs. That’s it. Send a bunch of DOM to the browser, then toggle those DIVs on and off. Logged in? Show a DIV. Logged out? Hide a DIV. Click a tab? Yup, another DIV.

So, we’ve gone and done it. We wrote our own language, Presto. And Presto is all about showing and hiding DIVs. Fast. How? Read on. It’s like magic.

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Hop Into April

By on in Events

Spring into action by joining us for this months events! Our hack nights are a place for you to work on a project, or get in on a surprise challenge with like-minded folks. Hear brilliant speakers share their thoughts about interesting things at this months Tinderbox discussion.

All events are hosted at a Carbon Five office and are open to the public unless otherwise stated.

Los Angeles  Map
Wed, April 15 @ 6pm // Hack Night
Wed, April 29 @ 6pm // Hack Night Continue reading …


Communication between collaborating directives in Angular

By on in Web

Directives man! While the they’re literally the entry point into Angular development (every application contains a call to ng-app), many people starting out with Angular are hesitant to write their own because of the complexity associated with them. And directives are complex. Even a simple directive requires understanding complicated concepts like restrict, scope and link. But when you figure it out, the value of a directive as a reusable component becomes indispensable.

But what about when a directive isn’t self contained? What if a complicated component comes along that is naturally modeled by multiple directives? This group of directives, as a whole, form a single self contained component. None of directives in the group can stand alone because they only make sense when used together; they collaborate; they are aware of each other and need to communicate with each other.

This post will discuss best practices for managing communication among collaborating directives and illustrate these practices with an example.

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Delivering value, Making money

By on in Process

When I begin working on a new product, I’m always looking for ways to optimize the interactions for business and user value. I believe the best way to accomplish that is to get to market as early as possible with the proposed value. By getting to market, I mean everything from talking with customers about the value proposition to releasing the smallest version of the product. You may know this method as Lean Startup. Even if you don’t, read on.

At Carbon Five, we don’t often use the word lean, but it’s not because we don’t believe in it. It’s because we don’t believe in being dogmatic about it.

flexibility sustainability reason

Our process values flexibility, sustainability and reason. We aim for a middle ground — building what our clients think they want to build, while providing ways to learn along the way. Continue reading …


Docker, Rails, & Docker Compose together in your development workflow

By on in Docker, Ops, Rails, Web

Docker on Rails

We’ve been trialing the usage of Docker and Docker Compose (previously known as fig) on a Rails project here at Carbon Five. In the past, my personal experience with Docker had been that the promise of portable containerized apps was within reach, but the tooling and development workflow were still awkward – commands were complex, configuration and linking steps were complicated, and the overall learning curve was high.

My team decided to take a peek at the current landscape of Docker tools (primarily boot2docker and Docker Compose) and see how easily we could spin up a new app and integrate it into our development workflow on Mac OS X.

In the end, I’ve found my experience with Docker tools to be surprisingly pleasant; the tooling easily integrates with existing Rails development workflows with only a minor amount of performance overhead. Docker Compose offers a seamless way to build containers and orchestrate their dependencies, and helps lower the learning curve to build Dockerized applications. Read on to find out how we built ours. Continue reading …


Product Management For Agile Teams: Why Oh Why

By on in Process, Product Management

At Carbon Five, we build software. We build it using Agile methods. This has worked out well for us and our clients for a long time. We recently added product management as a discipline to our team. There are some common challenges we see at C5 and we’ve been deliberately experimenting with different activities and practices around product development, some of which we will be sharing in this series of blog posts.

Picture this:

Our team is working in a startup environment. Our product owner–let’s call him Alex–while business savvy, has no product management experience. He has a very clear and detailed vision of the product in its finished state. Complete with comps. Those designs, while beautiful, were not created in response to specific user problems; they’re a product of Alex’s brain alone. When our team begins work, questions arise. User stories are written against the comps, instead of against problem statements generated by research with real users. The comps are referenced, but a picture doesn’t necessarily speak the same 1000 words to everybody.

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