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hardcore development & craft beer

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Rails Girls: Getting More Women into Technology


Rails Girls is an organization dedicated to promoting diversity in the tech sector and creating new opportunities for female technology workers who may have shied away from an industry unfortunately prone to being a mostly-still-a-boys’-club. Rails Girls aims to teach women that the tech industry is a great place to make a living. They organize seminars around the world teaching Ruby on Rails to women as an introduction to programming and technology as a career. No knowledge whatsoever is required in order to attend the events.

Of course, SDW was proud to host the first Rails Girls event in Charlotte.

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From Intern to Full Time: The Mel Shields Experience

A few years ago, my college roommate and I found an article listing out the worst degrees to choose economically. Number one was Anthropology, which was her degree, and lucky number two was Graphic Design, which was mine. We both laughed and asked ourselves what we were getting into.

I realized then that if I was going to stick with this career in design, I would have to get gritty. So I reached out to Skookum Digital Works and asked about a possible summer design internship. The only problem? SDW didn’t have a summer design internship! But they asked me to come in anyway, and after meeting me and seeing my work, they decided to take me on for the summer. After graduating from Appalachian State in May, I moved to Charlotte and got to work.

That move was over three months ago, and now that summer’s officially over, I wanted to write about what this summer taught me about jumping in with both feet, taking advantage of the professional community around you, and learning outside of the day job.

Get In Over Your Head

This summer, we were moving into a new office, and on one of my first days on the job, the SDW design team was brainstorming ideas for a huge 55’ x 12’ mural that was going to go on one long wall of the new space. I wanted to work on that mural! So I took it upon myself to sketch out an idea: a fun, colorful, mini-NC with the mountains to the West, Charlotte in the middle,  and the coast to the East. Everybody loved it and wanted to see more.

Early sketch of the NC mural

Early sketch of the NC mural

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Joe Ryan’s Tailgate, Or Why You Want to Live In Charlotte

Meet Joe Ryan

This is Joe.

This is the awesome building on the main drag of Uptown Charlotte where Joe works. It’s a mid-rise, whatever that is. But it’s shiny and houses the fabulous Skookum Digital Works where Joe makes a salary being a tech expert or something.

Joe is the head of Quality Assurance at SDW. In order to make sure every piece of custom software that rolls out of here is cool and sweet, every day, Joe and his team break things. He’s an expert breaker-man, essentially.

That’s Joe above on the 15th floor SDW Cafe. Beyond, he’s looking at the arena for the professional basketball team which is just several blocks away.

In Joe’s hand is a piece of healthy fruit from the freshly stocked kitchen. Lame HR organizations list fresh fruit as a “perk” in brochures. Probably tri-folded, printed ones. Joe just calls his fruit “tasty.”

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Friday Tech Talks: Post Mobile Computing with Douglas Welton

On Friday Aug 30, Einstein’s Legacy Chief Product Officer, Douglas Welton, stopped by Skookum Digital Works’ Friday Tech Talks to discuss a “post-mobile computing world” where battery life is never an issue, the theatre will tell your phone to be quiet, and every conceivable device is connected to the web.

Douglas breaks down where we are as a mobile computing public, already using multiple devices to access media at the same time. He also shares his ideas on where we are going, and describes a world where every device communicates in a unique language, therefore removing the :unreliable human element.”

This was a pretty fantastic and eye opening talk.

A Few Post-Mobile Items Douglas Covered:

  • Computer eras come and go; ours is not the last, so what is the newest revolution just over the rise?
  • Right now our mobile life revolves around our battery. We rinse and repeat a charge cycle every day. Why do we put up with this?
  • Post mobile computing is seamless, multi-screen computing where tasks are accomplished from start to finish on separate devices that know where you left off
  • What is data exhaust, and is there any use for all the data devices collect (other than for advertisers)?
  • In a world where we are always on, what are the consequences of turning yourself off?
  • Since form and function in technology are always changing, what will the newest form look like?

At the outset, Douglas claimed that he couldn’t predict the future, but most of the crowd agreed his take was an entertaining one.

More Douglas

Einstein’s Legacy (v2.0)


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SDW in the Charlotte Business Journal: “Not Just a Nice Little Tech Shop”

Recently, The Charlotte Business Journal dropped by Skookum Digital Works to chat with our CEO James Hartsell and our VP Bryan Delaney. Why, just look at this nice photo of these young entrepreneurs.

Digital Innovators Skookum Digital Works

We even got some front page love.

SDW CBJ Cover 1

Since our move to Uptown Charlotte in March of 2010, we’ve been flying the flag high for the Charlotte, NC tech scene. What started then as a nine person shop has now blossomed into a 45 person technology R&D think tank. Among others, the CBJ has noticed some buzz around  ye’ ole’ grand Space Volcano, so they wanted to tell the rest of the city what’s what.

Here’s some highlights from the CBJ:

  • Huge, blue chip companies are outsourcing their innovation to the SDW
  • CEO James Hartsell does not have an office; instead, he floats around the common areas
  • The young SDW founders met at UNC-C and both worked together at the DoD

As the CBJ article details, SDW is doing software development and technology consulting on a national level from our proud base of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Only great candidates need apply.

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What Apple’s New iOS 7 Mobile Update Means for Your Business

iOS6 vs iOS7 SDW

iOS 7 is Here

On September 18th, 2013, Apple will release the latest update to their mobile operating software for iPhones & iPads.

Till now, every iOS update has been so subtle that it was practically unnoticeable. 200 changes? Really… where? Most iPhone users would have had to search them out or trust some tech blogger to  list out all the (non)details.

iOS 7 Visual Changes

For Apple, iOS 7 is a blatant new direction of form and function. Once past the lock screen, users will be greeted with sharp new visuals that give more than a passing nod to modern design with flat textures, bright colors, and opaque layers.

iOS 7 Functional Changes

The new iOS looks great, but how does it run? Apple’s put a strong emphasis on intuition, seamless function, and improvements for enterprise clients this time around. Here’s a few big new iOS 7 features:

  • Multi-tasking will let more than one app run at once or update in the background so information is completely current
  • Control Panel will be available at a swipe so users can change settings without going into submenus
  • Data will be easily sharable via Bluetooth or WiFi with other nearby iPhones in a new function called AirDrop

iOS 6 vs iOS 7 Camera SDW

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SDW Tech Talks: Mobile Solar Power Generators

Video Tech Talks

Mack Coyle is an inventor. At the Southeast’s largest technology Meetup group, Mack talked about Distributed Electrical Generation, Water Access (Sanitation and Hygiene), and Ecology.

In addition, he brought two iterations of the Coyle Industrires CM-4 Workmate Portable Solar Generator which has been in use for over five years.

Mr. Coyle’s journey from Radical Activist and Skilled Construction Worker to Inventor and Start Up Company CEO is inspirational, entertaining, and educational.

More Mack Coyle

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SDW Tech Talks: Web Traffic Forecasting w/ SignalR and WebAPI

Video Tech Talks

Web traffic forecasting has long been a black-box art. No longer.

Since even the major players almost always produce wrong traffic predictions, SDW’s Keith LaForce talked to the largest technology Meetup group in the Southeast about his Silas project that uses SignalR & WebAPI to create four models on which to judge incoming visitor behavior.

More Keith LaForce


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SDW Tech Talks: Turn Your Cloud Infrastructure Into Skynet w/ Chef

Video Tech Talks

Maybe you have a few servers running in the cloud. Maybe you have a few thousand servers in the cloud. Forget the bash scripts (or *gulp* the batch files). Find out how to manage the provisioning of your entire infrastructure in a flexible, reusable way, and keep it all under source control.

After a few minutes getting the unfamiliar up to speed, Brandon Dennis showed us how to go from bash scripts to Skynet-style self-aware servers that adapt to infrastructure changes on the fly.

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The Meaning of Customer Experience

As far as your employees and customers are concerned, that new software application you just rolled out falls into one of three categories:

  1. “I love it and can’t wait to use it…”
  2. “I guess I can tolerate it but can’t believe I have to use it…”
  3. “I can’t stand it and won’t ever use it…”

How to engender reaction #1, and avoid #2 and #3, was the core focus of last month’s Forrester Research Customer Experience Forum.

Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 1.17.58 PM

That’s me circled in red…. I think.

Why Do Companies Routinely Build Software That People Don’t Like To Use?

I joined 1,000+/- seasoned heads of marketing, innovation, technology, and customer experience (CX) in NY to discuss a simple, but shockingly pervasive and revenue-threatening question: “Why do companies routinely build software that: 1) people don’t like to use; and 2) doesn’t actually solve a problem?”

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