Brian Perry

Web Developer


Middle End Developer

February 15, 2018

I say that I'm a 'full stack' developer, even though it is a term I've never really liked all that much. The main reason that I don't like the term is because I feel like it doesn't mean that much to people. Full stack developer kind of feels like someone saying 'I'll do whatever'.

I'm not sure if it is directly related to being a full stack developer, but over the years I've seen a pattern in how I'm utilized. In my various roles as a developer, I often start out doing front end work, and then over time find myself doing predominantly back end work. This could be because back end work has a higher value at the places I've worked. It also could be because I suck at front end and just don't know it (hopefully not that one.) It's almost as if what people take full stack to mean is that the developer is exaggerating about their skill level on either the front or back end of the stack. Or maybe that they just haven't figured out which end of the stack their real talent lies.

I've always considered myself someone who prefers front end, so that is a bitt of a challenging pattern to be stuck in. But lately I've been wondering, am I not being honest with myself?

Maybe I'm just describing myself wrong. I often describe myself as is a full stack developer with a preference for front end. While that sounds kind of like a line from a personal ad, it does describe what I like to work on. I prefer front end work, can do back end work, and especially enjoy back end work when it is in service of making front end work possible or better.

Drilling down on that last part brings us to the section where perhaps I'm not being honest with myself.

I can do back end work, and especially enjoy it when it is in service of making front end work possible or better.

Maybe my real thing is what lies in the middle. The overlapping part of the venn diagram between front end and back end.

There is so much in the middle.

Helping front and back end developers communicate. Developing and maintaining pattern libraries. Helping different developers or different systems integrate with pattern libraries. Everything that goes with decoupled architectures - the APIs supporting them, the fancy JavaScript frameworks that use those APIs. And of course, stepping out of the middle when the situation calls for it.

Maybe I've been a middle end developer all along.

iO West Is Shutting Down Next Week - Splitsider

February 14, 2018

iO West, the Los Angeles branch of Chicago’s iO Theater (formerly ImprovOlympic) founded by Del Close and Charna Halpern, is closing its doors for good next week.

At first it struck me as odd that many of my comedy friends on social media were talking about this like someone close to them had passed away, but I eventually realized that I've just been out of the comedy scene too long. If this happened to my home theater back in the ImprovBoston days, I probably would have reacted the exact same way. Running a theater is an inherently risky business and 25 years is quite an accomplishment. I hope everyone finds a new home to keep doing what they love.


DrupalEasy Podcast 205 - Fatima Khalid - First time sprinter's guide

February 14, 2018

Fatima Khalid (sugaroverflow), web developer with Digital Echidna, and DrupalCon Nashville track chair and sprint mentor joins Mike Anello to talk about how to be a first-time sprinter at a local Drupal event or a DrupalCon and how she came for the community and stayed for the code.

Thought this was a really fun and accessible overview of what a sprint is like. I found them very intimidating at first and I think hearing an overview like this in advance would have helped. Don't know how many first time sprinters are avid listeners of Drupal podcasts, but any little bit helps.


Designer-Oriented Styles - James Kyle

February 12, 2018

Each of these have trees of components which are made up of other components and elements (often named different things). Each element in the tree is independently styled. It's not built around cascading styles and the expectation is that you can copy any element and place it anywhere else and it will look identical.

Interesting way to think about this - the end result of CSS-in-JS might just be what our designers wanted all along.

Note: I’m going refer to “CSS-in-JS” as “Component-Oriented Styles” from here on out, because JavaScript really doesn’t have much to do with it. “CSS” will refer to the traditional way of writing .css files with selectors and all.

I also really like the term "Component-Oriented Styles." Be it a methodology like BEM or a library like Styled Components, we're really just trying to make styles predictable within the scope of of a reusable component.


To PESOS or to POSSE - Dries Buytaert

February 11, 2018

The IndieWeb movement has provided two clever names for these models:

  1. PESOS or Publish Elsewhere, Syndicate (to your) Own Site is a model where publishing begins on third party services, such as Facebook, and then copies can be syndicated to your own site.
  2. POSSE or Publish (on your) Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere is a publishing model that begins with posting content on your own site first, then syndicating out copies to third party services.

I've been thinking about this as well as I build out this website. I fall into the POSSE camp, and right now it's completely manual and mostly just me posting links on Twitter. To some extent, I'm even fine with this website just being its own disconnected thing. It will always be a small subset of my social network that would make it here and actually read something, and that seems just about right.


February 11, 2018

When initially setting up gatsby-source-drupal for this site I started thinking about how I could adjust my GraphQL query to only include published posts. I eventually realized that the plugin was already doing that by default. That isn't always the case for stuff like this, so it was a nice time saver.

I also found that gatsby-source-drupal seems to work best with Contenta for some reason. More on that soon - I'm hoping to have a longer post on Drupal and Gatsby at some point.


MidCamp Needs Your Help

February 9, 2018

MidCamp is my home base Drupal camp and one that I've attended for years. This week the organizers apparently ran into a pretty major snag with some budgeting issues with the venue.

For me, MidCamp is a really important part of staying connected with the Chicago-area Drupal community. It is also the first Drupal event I ever presented at, and I'm scheduled to speak again this year. I'd really hate to see MidCamp have to scale back and not be the MidCamp we all know it can be.

There are many ways you can help. If you have a company (or a rich uncle) that could sponsor, that could make a huge difference. If you have the means to become an individual sponsor, that would help too. Word is that they are also working on an option to accept smaller donations as well. And if none of that is possible, registering or volunteering helps.

Do what you can, and hopefully we can all make it happen. Looking forward to seeing everyone in Chicago in March.

Update: MidCamp is also accepting donations of any size

February 3, 2018

Can't recommend Celeste enough. Perfect for Switch.


DrupalCon Nashville Session Proposals

January 29, 2018

The call for DrupalCon Nashville session proposals closed this past Wednesday and I was able to get my act together enough to submit two of them. The process of putting together a session submission is always an interesting one for me. For DrupalCon it is usually a wonderful mix of overanalyzing, combined with good old fashioned imposter syndrome. That said, I feel like I improve each time around, and I think these are my strongest proposals yet.

Submission one was 'Component Based Theming with UI Patterns.' I've given this talk before and was happy with how it turned out. I submitted this one very early, and also noticed that Mario Hernandez had submitted another talk on the topic as well. In hindsight, I should have reached out to him and seen if there was any way to collaborate as he ended up joining up with another speaker for his session. Lesson learned for next time.

Submission two was 'Hot JAMS(tack): Lessons from Building a Music Discovery App with Drupal and React.' Strong competition as well here with many Decoupled Drupal and React related topics, but Im hoping I have a slightly different angle that might garner some interest. True to my usual form, I also went with a goofy, high-concept approach with the submission. Almost got cold feet about going in that direction, but decided I'd rather have fun with it. Ironically, with a proposal that heavily references music, I didn't even make the Music City connection until writing this post. Would have been fun to play that angle up more.

This will be my third time submitting sessions to DrupalCon North America (which I guess is now just DrupalCon?) I've never been selected, but I have been asked to be on call as a back up speaker, which I had no idea was even a thing. Regardless of the outcome, I enjoyed the process putting these session proposals together and look forward to Nashville this year. I've never been!

Update: Was a little wrapped up in the DrupalCon deadline, but I also submitted both of these sessions to MidCamp in Chicago. In addition to being my home camp, MidCamp is always really, really great. You should go!

Nintendo Labo

January 18, 2018

Today, the company revealed a new initiative dubbed Nintendo Labo, which involves DIY cardboard accessories that can transform the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers into everything from a fishing rod to a piano to a full-on robot suit. These accessories are then used to control a variety of mini-games, essentially turning the Switch tablet into a tiny arcade.

Paraphrasing, but when I told my wife about Labo she said, "Nintendo is going to get you to buy a cardboard box, aren't they?"


Building Something from Nothing

January 7, 2018

It wouldn't be a new year without the desire to relaunch my personal website. Happy 2018!

It could be another case of New Years delusion, but this year I think the timing might actually make sense. Over the past year I've been exploring React and the world of Decoupled Drupal. After working through Wes Bos' React For Beginners course and having some concepts finally click, I took another shot at creating a web app based on the Album of the Year Project. Having a project I could slowly chip away at over the year provided a great low pressure way to learn, and also prevented me from having to re-learn things as they vanished from my brain. I'd love to duplicate that situation in 2018.

Next up learning wise I'm planning on continuing my experimentation with the JAMstack by way of Gatsby.js. I like what I've seen of Gatsby thus far. It allows me to leverage all of the things I've enjoyed about React, while combining that with the features of a static site generator like Jekyll or Hexo. And it plays nice with Drupal 8 as well, which is a plus.

So welcome to my new Gatsby site. It will be nice to have an active personal website again, but perhaps even more exciting is the fact that this serves as another low pressure project I can chip away at throughout 2018 to learn more about React and decoupling Drupal. I'll start out with a site very close to nothing - little content, little styling - and slowly add new stuff as time and interest allows.

With any luck this site will look completely different by the time 2019 approaches. And hopefully I will have learned a thing or two along the way. If you're curious, the code is available on GitHub.

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