My third and final day began with another breakfast graciously provided by Ken’s wife and a walk around Ken’s land. The house and studio sit on about 3.5 acres which is part of the 12 acres he originally purchased.
He took me on a walk along the trail that he has cut along the perimeter of the land. The lots have some fun and interesting features of hills and streams and cascading waterfalls. I could see why Ken loves the place so much as he showed me where the bonfires, ATV rides, and paintball games take place.
I had just a couple of hours in the studio before I had to catch my flight and I continued with Tim Irwin on the same thing we had worked on the day before. We got into the view side of the story and I got to see how they were building their views with haml and sass.
My verdict is still out on these two templating languages. I can see the benefits they add on top of html and css, but I also wonder if the benefits are worth the added complexity of another syntax.
There are a couple of other tools I came across in my visit that I thought were worth mentioning.
The Rolemodel team uses the mac app Teleport to aid in their pairing. Teleport lets a mac connect to and control the keyboard and mouse of another. It uses the Mac accessibility interface to basically turn a laptop into a keyboard and mouse for another Mac
It was super-responsive over the LAN and makes a good alternative over passing a keyboard back and forth.
Many projects are also using Compass along with Sass to create and manage their stylesheets. Compass gives you things like variables, includes, and mixins to make using and reusing styles easier. It’s not something I’ve used before, but I think it’s worth looking into.
Tim was using 1Password. It’s a password repository, but web based and available on any platform or browser.
Other random observations
When you visit another shop, it’s hard not to make comparisons. I definitely noticed that we at 8th Light are really obsessed with testing. Some could probably fault us for wasting too much time testing something that is easy, but we do it anyway. I believe that it pays off for us too.
We produce value for our customers just as quickly as anyone else and we have higher degrees of confidence because of that. It’s what allows us to guarantee our work to our clients.
Being in Ken’s shop really made me want to work with younger and younger apprentices. Teenaged students are capable of writing software and who knows what great developers they might become with such a great head-start?
Come, follow me.
Ultimately, I came away with great respect for what Ken is doing. He’s building a company, a family, and a church all at the same time. At the heart of all three efforts is the name of his company, Rolemodel.
He’s teaching young people about software, life, and faith based on one of the oldest and most effective methods of education: apprenticeship.