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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shared Understanding Resource: Head First HTML5

I am constantly talking about creating a "shared understanding" between design and engineering. And I love it when I find a book or resource that creates more bridges across these two worlds.

Eric Freeman & Elisabeth Robson have done the community a great favor with the addition of Head First HTML5 Programming. If you are a designer or product manager or backend engineer (though as the latter you will have to get past the less serious tone you may be accustomed to) then this book is for you.

As with all of the books in the Head First series they aren't meant for mid to advanced level developers. Where they shine is as a first introduction to a set of technologies. In this case they do an delightful job of introducing the HTML5 family of technologies.

The first thing to understand is what they mean by "HTML5". They aren't restricting the discussion to just HTML5 markup and the technologies that are strictly part of the current HTML5 spec. Instead they take a looser, more popular perspective on what HTML5 is. I actually like this approach. I like it because it is just too confusing to constantly explain to the public what is in and what is out of the spec at any given time. And I really need an easy way to talk about this collection of technologies. So using the term "HTML5" in this sense becomes more expressive. I don't even mind when CSS3 gets lumped into the bucket. I know call me a heretic.

Ok, back to the review...

The book ends up covering a lot more than I expected: markup (of course), JavaScript, DOM manipulation, geo-location (complete with a google maps/geo-location integration), AJAX, Canvas, Video,  web storage and web workers. There is also some discussion of CSS3 and styling and selection.

Overall, I really liked the examples and was pleasantly surprised at how real world they were. Another great touch was the Bullet Points section which summarized each chapter in a single page.

Its really hard to write a book for the complete newbie yet remain technically accurate. The authors have done this and more. Let the shared understanding grow. Highly recommended.

Full Disclosure: I received a free copy for review. However, if I didn't like it I wouldn't have bothered to write anything. The review above would have been the same even if I had bought it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Excited About My New Role - Sr. Director, Web Development @ PayPal

Elsewhere I have updated my bio to reflect my new job as head of web development for PayPal (which starts on 10/24). The 'elsewheres' being on my twitter profile, facebook profile, blogger profile, linkedin profile, etc. I also tweeted it and updated my status that I had taken this new role. However, those formats are shorter so I thought I would discuss what I am up to and why I am making this change.

As many of you know, I returned to Netflix after a short stint away and have just wrapped up being back a year. Altogether I spent about 4 years at Netflix and had some wonderful experiences and especially wonderful folks that I got to work with (in particular I am partial to those who worked for me).

The first stint at Netflix was a strategic role in which I had the opportunity to define & build the UI engineering organization there as well as guide the architecture and build the talent. I also helped build out the UX design team and especially worked closely with that team. The second stint had some of the same elements as I focused on the ECommerce side and we built out a UI architecture using Mustache (the java version -- thanks Sam Pullara!). And as a team we rewrote the whole code base back to front, internationalized and localized it in just 7-8 months and launched in 43 more countries. In addition, we were able to simplify the device UI code base to handle multiple devices, resolutions and input handling. Even with those good things it was one of the more exhausting experiences I have had in my career. And once the dust settle I quickly realized the role was becoming way too tactical and too focused on one aspect of a single product.

So I popped my head up and decided I would start looking for an opportunity (thinking I would make the move in 6 months or so). But within just a few days this awesome opportunity at PayPal showed up.

Why PayPal?
PayPal continues to be the world leader in online payment. And with the formation of x.commerce the position of PayPal as the payment provider and more importantly the payment identity for online transactions around the globe, I could see the huge upside to the business. Couple this with what is to come in offline payments (POS, mobile, tablet, etc.) and the huge resources of eBay as the parent company and I was sold on PayPal as the company.

Why this role?
While PayPal has all this goodness, they felt strongly that one thing they needed was a strong Web UI leader who could help define a nimble, open source based UI architecture, who could help bring design & engineering together, who could help simplify the process of getting design to life and who could attract top UI talent to the organization. That is a tall order. But as we talked about this role and my background we felt it was the right match. And just 2 weeks after the initial conversations I accepted the role as Sr. Director of Web Development.

Looking back at my career the most successful & enjoyable times for me have been when I am in the role of influencer or change agent. Back at Sabre I was able to found the common web & desktop UI engineering teams as well as the UX design team and influence many of the core products. At Yahoo! as evangelist I was able to influence dozens of their sites and evangelize great engineering & design internally & externally. And as I mentioned, the same for my time at Netflix. So this seems the most logical next step for me.

I will have a lot to learn as I join PayPal. There are many people there I look forward to learning from. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I do have the confidence that I will be able to join forces with other smart people there and at the right time know what is the next best step to take. It's a little like improv. I can tell you a lot of stuff I might try, but until I get there and get a deeper understanding of the needs & the assets I won't know what will make the most sense to try.

It takes a Team
If you work at PayPal, be sure to reach out to me and let me know who you are. I need others like you in order to make the right impact. Or if you don't work there but would like to join me somehow in this opportunity please reach out also. And while I don't know yet what my open positions will be, don't hesitate to reach out in an exploratory manner.

Contact Me
You can always find me at billwscott on all social networks and on gmail. Look forward to talking with as each of you that reach out to me.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Join Me in Boston for User Interface 16!

I am excited to be part of UI Engineering's upcoming User Interface 16 Conference in Boston. The full event is November 7-9th and will be held at the beautiful Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel.

I will be giving a full day workshop Monday, November 7, on "Designing Rich Interactive Experiences." You can check out & signup for my workshop here.

Additionally on Tuesday, November 8, I will be presenting a talk on "Designing for Mice & Men" which focuses on experiences across mobile, tablet, TV & Web.

There are a host of other great speakers as well: Kevin Hoffman, Luke Wroblewski, Jared Spool, Hagan, Brandon Schauer, Kim Goodwin, Steve Portigal, Stephanie (Sullivan) Rewis and Greg Rewis.

Join us in Boston for an awesome lineup of topics & speakers.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Looking for a User Interface Engineer for our Account UI team

How about it? Want to work at Netflix? If you have strong user interface engineering skills coupled with solid computer science skills then my latest opening may be just the fit for you.

The ECommerce Team at Netflix is responsible for all member account & profile experiences (including help). It's time to grow the team so I am looking for a talented, passionate engineer who will take on the following responsibilities:
  • In concert with design and product management, deliver multiple simultaneous experiences in an A/B test environment
  • Develop the full stack from data marshaling in Java, to JSP, Mustache, HTML5, CSS and JavaScript to create these experiences
  • Work in close concert with backend web development team, be able to understand the impact on the whole product, and suggest and plan the best solution with backend to UI in mind
  • Take full ownership of a feature set from first discussion to bringing it live on the site
  • Turn requirements into simple, elegant, optimal solutions that balance the needs of the health of the technology stack but always guided by our business needs
If you are interested or know someone interested, please email at bscott -- over at netflix dot com.

Full description here (or apply here):