Functional programming — A BitBakery Knowledge Nibble

Continuous learning is one of our core values. Every BitBaker brings their own unique experience to deliver for our customers’ projects.

Once a month, we get the team together for a lunch and learn series we call Knowledge Nibbles. We bring in catering from one of our favourite locals and take turns presenting a subject to the team.

The October learning session was lead by BitBakers Marcel Rusu and Pablo Morales. They presented an intro to functional programming with lunch from the Lancaster Smokehouse.

As a provider of outsourced software development, we work with a lot of different stacks. Two different customers might even use the same framework, but use different versions. We use continuous learning to build a deep understanding of the frameworks we use.

“You can learn a lot more by developing an understanding of the technology first.” said Pablo. “If you’re just running around asking questions because you don’t know the answers and not making time to learn, you’re not growing as much as you could be.”

Marcel has been following the concept of functional programming for a few years now. Both Marcel and Pablo studied computer science at Wilfrid Laurier University. “He kept talking to me about functional programming in second year and I didn’t really get it until I finally had the chance to work with React.” said Pablo.

Their talk focused on two principles of functional programming: declarative programming and immutability. Declarative programming is a shift from telling the program “what to do” instead of “how to do it”. You focus on the flow and structure of data before you type in your first line of code. Declarative programming makes it easier to see how data flows through your code. You’re also less likely to make simple errors that occur when you swap variables.

Immutability builds on the idea that state changes are the cause of most bugs. These changes can be implicit or accidental. An immutable date type is one that is never changed. Using immutable data types reduces and even eliminates these bugs. What can be an immutable data type? In Javascript, primitives like numbers, strings, and booleans all can be immutable. Other languages differ in the mutability of their standard types. Some allow for immutable arrays, others allow for mutable strings.

Marcel and Pablo chose the topic because of its rapid adoption in the industry. “What’s interesting is that web is leading this. It’s almost a decade ahead of mobile for moving into declarative.” Marcel feels that many people still have trouble explaining functional programming. “Many people use functional programming in frameworks like Angular and React, but I think it’s still hard for many front end devs to easily answer ‘what is functional programming?’”

Before diving into functional programming, Marcel recommends asking why are you using it. What benefits does it offer your development team?

“It’s really important to understand the technologies we use,” said Pablo. “We use a lot of different frameworks, and it’s important to build a deep understanding of them. Three months ago, I wouldn’t be comfortable explaining things to the team. Now I feel like I can really help Marcel and Edson.”

Marcel and Pablo both agreed that getting a chance to present was rewarding. “We’re both pretty passionate about talking and sharing. It’s exciting to do that here at BitBakery.” said Marcel.

When a device change breaks your app experience

While we all know change is a constant, it can still be jarring when it happens. As a business. you want to minimize the impact of that change on your customers as much as possible. A consistent app experience — whether on mobile or on the web — is paramount for keeping your customers happy and your customer service calls down.

When your customer upgrades to the latest phone, they expect all their apps to work the same. Unfortunately, there are times where the manufacturer makes a change that impacts your app experience. The most recent example of this is with a change in the Google Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL. Previous versions of Google’s flagship phone included a fingerprint scanner for biometric security. With the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, Google replaced the fingerprint scanner with a facial recognition scanner.

As reported in Digital Trends, this caught many financial institutions off guard. Customers who have come to depend on the security of fingerprint scanning now found themselves only able to login to secure services with a traditional password. Those once biometric-secure applications were now back to using a system many customers were not comfortable using.

As a trusted partner for outsourced development, BitBakery is constantly monitoring device, browser, and operating system developments to ensure your solutions work consistently for your customers. In the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL example, we let our customers whose apps relied on fingerprint scanning know about the potential impact. We’re also already working on getting client apps ready for the next Android update that adds in seamless support for devices that use either fingerprint or facial biometrics.

Whether it’s a full MVP or support for a project with a virtually embedded team, BitBakery works with you to make sure you continue to provide an amazing experience for your customers.

Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

Our newest BitBaker traded Avenida Atlântica for King Street West

Edson standing on King Street in Kitchener

Finding and hiring great tech talent isn’t just a problem in Silicon Valley. It’s an issue wherever your company is located – and it’s one companies here in Waterloo Region struggle with every day. 

Sometimes you have to go looking for talent outside your postal code – Toronto, Hamilton- even Ottawa. There are times when you have to search a little farther – and it was one of these searches that lead us to Indaiatuba, Brazil and our newest BitBaker – Edson Mesquita.

Earlier this year, we participated in a recruiting event run by Vancouver-based VanHack called VanHack Leap. Hosted at the Communitech Hub, VanHack Leap brought 15 developers from around the world to meet Waterloo Region tech companies. It was a great way to meet developers who we would never normally get a chance to meet. Once a connection is made, VanHack works to arrange for the necessary visas and helps with moving arrangements. 

Edson, his wife, and his cat landed in Canada in late September and they’re getting settled in to life in Kitchener. Edson is from Indaiatuba which is located outside São Paulo. If you’re like me, you’re asking why someone would move from warm Brazil to soon to be winter Canada. “Well, Canada is a first world country, it’s polite and chill and I feel I am the same way,” said Edson. 

Edson brought us these delicious snacks from back home in Brazil. Pé de Moleque, Paçoquita, and doce de leite. They did not make it past the first day.

Edson also was looking to work with a smaller company that worked on big projects – and that’s just what BitBakery is. “I prefer smaller companies where you can get to know everyone you work with,” added Edson.

It wasn’t just our team size either – it was our taste in burgers, specifically Union Burger in Downtown Kitchener. “It felt like destiny,” said Edson, “it was one of the first places I ate at here in Kitchener and then I find out that the team orders from there weekly.”

Moving to a new city can be difficult – moving to a new country is an entire order of magnitude harder – but Edson has a plan on how to meet people. “I love board games, they are great ways to meet people.” He’s picked a good place too – with our local board game cafes like Games on Tap, The Adventurers Guild, and The Round Table.

While education and healthcare are important for Edson and his wife, the quality of living and proximity to Toronto were also factors in deciding on Kitchener. “Indaiatuba is the same distance to São Paulo as Kitchener is to Toronto,” added Edson, “I’d rather live in a small, tight community that’s close to big events and sports.”

As for why Canada over other international destinations, “…you go to other places to be rich, you go to Canada to be happy.”

Welcome to Canada (and to BitBakery) Edson!

The end of “you’re not using it right. . . ” and other lessons in UX and design from Fluxible 2019

Have you ever had that experience where you’re looking at buying a new car (or any major purchase really) and you start to see that car everywhere you go? 

Over the weekend, Attila Schmidt, our Director of User Experience, and I attended Fluxible 2019 here in Waterloo. Over the two days of the conference, we couldn’t help but to see the impact user experience has on our daily lives. 

Alex and Attila at Fluxible 2019
Alex and Attila at Fluxible 2019.

Fluxible is celebrating eight years of bringing user experience professionals together to look at the present and future of user interaction design. Fluxible isn’t just a conference – it’s a week long series of brown bag lunch meetups and site tours around Waterloo Region that leads up to two days of speakers from around the world at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) building in Waterloo. 

Fluxible attendees inside the beautiful CIGI campus in Uptown Waterloo.
Fluxible attendees inside the beautiful CIGI campus in Uptown Waterloo.

Fluxible is a unique conference. It’s a user experience conference organized and run by user experience practitioners – including conference founders Mark Connolly and Robert Barlow-Busch. While the conference is a paid ticket, they offer free daily brown bag lunch meetups and evening activities during the week to bring more people into the conversations. 

Here’s our top three takeaways from our time at Fluxible 2019 – 

Stop saying “you’re not using it right”. You designed it wrong.

Setting the stage for one of our favourite talks, Fluxible organizers gave the conference’s first content warning before a talk. Based in London, Ontario, emergency physician Tarek Loubani works with the Glia Project who design high-quality, low-cost, open source medical hardware that can be manufactured anywhere.

Loubani talked about the harrowing work he and others do as volunteer emergency physicians in Gaza. Tools we take for granted, such as stethoscopes and tourniquets, are the difference between life and death in areas like Gaza. The Glia Project has produced a $3 version of the world’s best selling $300 stethoscope that can be 3D printed that works just as well (and in some cases better) than the $300 model.

Loubani’s talk focused on design problems with the tourniquet. One of the problems was the packaging. Based on price, a bag was chosen that opened at the bottom instead of at the top by the cardboard product tag. This confused physicians in the field whose cognitive memory of consumer packaging has you always try to open at the top. This added a five-second delay to the time it took to open the package – critical time when trying to treat a patient. We see unintended problems like this often when startups design MVPs using the Lean Startup method.

There was also feedback from the field that tourniquets were breaking – but the response was that they were not being used right. Loubani experience three out of four tourniquets breaking during his last time working in Gaza and was able to get the tourniquets re-designed. The original design had them working at four turns and breaking at five – but in the field under gunfire, physicians and volunteer EMTs were not counting. The re-engineered tourniquets can now support five times the force that is needed to work correctly.

Everything that is going to be invented will need design.

Fifteen years ago, no one specialized in designing interfaces for a five inch piece of glass that your touched with your finger. Ten years ago, interaction designers hadn’t begun to get into the intricacies of designing voice interactions for a cylinder that sits next to your couch. 

Zendesk’s Principal Designer Bill DeRouchey opened his talk with a look at how much technology can change during our careers. For those at their mid-career (~45 year-olds), technologies like the world wide web, mobile phones, and cloud computing hadn’t been invented when they began their careers. Over the last 20 years, these technologies have become commonplace – and user experience design has played a major role in how we use them every day. 

He then went through a laundry list of technologies emerging today; synthetic reality, deep fakes, autonomous vehicles, drones, 3D printing, nanotechnology, and material science to name a few. These are all technologies that will need to be designed – and the user experience professionals at their early-career (~25 year-olds) will be the ones who shape these interactions. 

Bill DeRouchey gave examples of what topics you could use for future tech topic book club.
Bill DeRouchey gave examples of what topics you could use for future tech topic book club.

DeRouchey’s advice: learn one new topic every month. His suggestion is to omit July and December for holidays and focus on ten topics a year. We’re going to start a “tech topic book club” and meet once a month to discuss our own deep dives into a new topic.

There’s no “right question”.

If you’ve ever done a user research session, you’ve most likely spent more time than you’d like to admit coming up with the perfect questions. Meena Kothandaraman, a senior strategist at Boston-based twig+fish, challenged attendees to stop doing that – and instead focus on how we can get people to open up and share all the interesting nuggets, experiences, and insights that are what we really need.

Kothandaraman shared a few great ways that we can provide participants with platforms to help them articulate their thoughts – and create a fun and engaging space for them to do it.

“It’s your job as a researcher to get people comfortable to start talking,” said Kothandaraman, “the right question is ‘share your answer’”.

Meena Kothandaraman presents on stage at Fluxible.
Meena Kothandaraman presents on stage at Fluxible.

One way is by giving the user an empathy map and letting them take the time to complete it. Instead of starting with what you are interested in, let them start from whatever point they feel is important to them. An empathy map can also become a great shared artifact for both you and the user to continue to write on during the interview.

Later in the day, Carolyn MacGregor took the stage to share her favourite research tool – “the fly on the wall”. MacGregor is the Associate Chair Undergraduate Studies, Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo and identifies herself as an introvert. For her, “the fly on the wall” is her way of observing users to get their full, honest experience. Like Kothandaraman, MacGregor wants to give the user the freedom to express their feedback without judgement. 

Being a fly on the wall with Carolyn MacGregor
Being a fly on the wall with Carolyn MacGregor

Fluxible is not a conference where you come out with new tools to apply in daily practice. Instead, the speakers at Fluxible ask you to look at the emerging patterns in user experience design – and what those changes mean to the ethos of user experience.

We’d love to hear what your takeaways from Fluxible were – let us know in the comments.

Bringing remote teams closer together with cheeseburgers

What do cheeseburgers and outsourced development have in common? 

Today happens to be both National Cheeseburger Day and a scheduled weekly review meetings with one of our clients. Our client develops financial and human services software and are based in New York City. We’ve been supporting their outsourced development needs with a virtually embedded team out of our office in Kitchener-Waterloo. 

Our developers Ryan and Brad

We provide virtually embedded teams for clients who need additional development support for their internal projects. Virtually embedded teams are set up from the start to provide the security and privacy that our clients would expect from onsite, full-time employees. 

Once an engagement begins, we provide dedicated developers for the length of the project. In most engagements, our developers use secure connection to the client’s specification to access their networks. For a few high security projects, our clients provide development hardware for our developers to use. 

We suggested a burger lunch to our client to celebrate a few development milestones — and National Cheeseburger Day too. They picked up lunch at one of their favourites and our developers Ryan and Brad picked up burgers from Union Burger, our go-to spot in Downtown Kitchener.

VPCN - Virtual Private Cheeseburger Network

Like any remote employee or team, it’s always a great idea to find ways to connect. There are great tools available to make working remote as good as being in the office. For video conferencing, we use Zoom.us, Webex, Google Meet and Skype —  just to name a few. Being remote doesn’t mean you can’t drop by someone’s desk to ask a quick question either. Tools like Google Hangouts, Slack and Flowdoc make real-time conversation a snap.

While we think video conference calls are great, video conference calls with a tasty burger are even better.

Happy #NationalCheeseburgerDay!

Fresh out of the oven

We’re methodical when we work for our clients – it’s in the BitBakery DNA. We employ this mindset to all phases of a project from running through design sessions to reviewing mockup and wireframe to the development and testing process. 

Over the summer, we were beyond lucky to have a student from the University of Waterloo, Buu Chau, join us for her co-op. Buu is a talented designer and developer and we had the perfect project for her – redesign our website. 

BitBakery has grown over the last year to the point where not only have we outgrown our current office in Downtown Kitchener, we’ve also outgrown our website. 

This project was also an opportunity to use the same processes and methodologies we use for our clients on something very important to us.

Our new site is live now and we’ll have more posts soon from Buu on her experience building it. We’re excited to hear what you think.

Here we grow again!

We’re excited to announce a new addition to BitBakery: Nur Ipek has joined us as our Director of Customer Relations and Operations.

Nur is no stranger to the vibrant Waterloo Region innovation ecosystem. She began her tech journey at the Velocity incubator where she thought strategically about the community, planning events and managing programs. She later worked for Communitech, where she paired entrepreneurs with the resources and mentorship they needed to scale their business. Most recently she supported the City of Guelph with their Smart Cities application, where she provided insight on how the municipality can adopt technology solutions to improve resident well-being.  

Now at BitBakery, she’s excited to join a team of top-notch software engineers, product managers and designers. In this role, Nur will help manage our projects, culture and focus on establishing processes to optimize our customers’ success.

When she’s not hard at work, you can find Nur planning her next vacation.

Follow her journey on Twitter @ntipek or connect with her on LinkedIn.

By BitBakery

Interview with Wes Worsfold, BitBakery Co-founder and CEO

Interview with Wes Worsfold, BitBakery Co-founder and CEO

Wes is co-founder and CEO of BitBakery, a software company which develops apps, websites and digital solutions. He leads a team of talented software engineers, product managers & designers. When he’s not working at BitBakery, he’s teaching Innovation and Entrepreneurship, volunteering in the community and working to improve his arial photography skills.

 

What sparked your love of entrepreneurship?

My interest in entrepreneurship started at a young age. My parents each ran their own business and they involved me in all aspects of their businesses.

When I turned six, my father let me use two acres of land to grow and sell crops. I decided to grow cucumbers and sell them for pickling and relishes. I decided on cucumbers because they grow quickly and I knew two customers who would take everything I could produce – Bicks and Willie’s.

The first year I did everything myself and quickly learned that was limited – I couldn’t scale. So, in my second year, I hired friends to help me grow the business, which increased my revenue and profit. My efforts paid off, I purchased my first motorcycle at the end of that summer.

These early experiences taught me the importance of hardwork, how to get along with others, the value of money, and how to scale.

 

How did you get involved in software businesses?

I discovered my interest in software development during my first year at University of Waterloo. I really enjoyed creating code, submitting it to be compiled and getting immediate results.

My first commercial application of software was an e-learning management system (LMS) and later in mobile and web applications.

 

What key lessons have you learned in your career about developing a business?

The key lesson I’ve learned is the power of persistence. Persistence allows entrepreneurs to defy the odds even when they seem insurmountable and to persist through extraordinarily difficult obstacles.

 

As a leader, what principles do you embrace when guiding teams?

The most important thing about leading a team is to recognize that each team member is an individual with their own strengths, weaknesses and interests. Your role as a leader is to help each team member achieve their potential.

I believe in small, high-performance teams. Productivity and results only marginally increase when teams are larger than three or four people. Small teams are lean and rely less on formalized processes to accomplish results.

 

What principles does a company need to operate by to last decades?

This is a big question. The simple answer is monitor and adapt to trends, the marketplace and customer interests.

A wise person once told me to “capture a corner on the obvious, and the world will beat a path to your door.” I think this is good advice on how a company can remain current and relevant.

 

What advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Aspiring entrepreneurs should start by understanding themselves well – their strengths and weaknesses. They should look for co-founders and teammates to complement their skills and traits.

Next, it’s important to understand the marketplace and their customers – build something that people really want.

Lastly, once you have something to test with customers, don’t hesitate to get to market and be prepared to iterate quickly based on their feedback.

 

How do you harmonize your work and personal life?

Everyone has the same amount of time – 168 hours per week. Being productive in harmonizing work and personal life starts with understanding priorities.

Scheduling time for personal activities such as learning, personal development, exercise, nutrition, sleep and work priorities, is the key to striking the right balance. A great resource to understand this concept is Mike Kirkup’s TedX Talk: There’s only 24 hours, so what are you waiting for?

 

What is it you strive to achieve through your work?

On a personal level, a motto I live by is ‘find a job you love and you never have to go to work’.

I’ve been fortunate enough to always love my work and it’s never felt like a job. For me, work is pleasure.

I strive to create opportunities for others and to find opportunities to improve our community.

 

What resources would you recommend to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Read books and blogs or listen to podcasts – a minimum of 30 minutes daily. Lifelong learning is an important attribute for entrepreneurs. Learning from others is a great way to accelerate learning.

Professional and personal friends – surround yourself with professional and personal friends who are supportive, can call you on your shit, and tell you frankly how to improve.

Mentors and Coaches – they can help you navigate through difficult times. These mentors may include family, friends, or ideally, someone who has more experience and offers advice from their experiences.

 


Jack Mitchell
Jack is a Laurier Business student and is passionate about all things tech


 


Wes Worsfold
Wes Worsfold is CEO and co-founder of BitBakery Software located in Waterloo Region


App Economy Forecast and Trends

“We’re spending 2 hours/day in apps, or one month each year.”

In a recent report, App Annie forecasted the 2018 app economy. The publication celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the Android and Apple app markets. The predictions cover consumer spend, AR, P2P, voice agents and plenty more.

Here’s an overview of Matt Miller’s work:

Update on 2017

      1. As of November 1st, 2 and 3.5 million apps were available
          on iOS & Google Play, respectively.

      2. In October, over 50,000 and 150,000 apps were added
          to iOS & Google Play stores.

      3. China is leading consumer iOS App Store spend.

      4. We’re spending 2 hours per day in apps, or one month
           each year.

Consumer app store spend will pass $100 billion in 2018?

Consumer spend will increase “30% year over year to exceed $110 billion in 2018.” Games will account for most spending. That said, the growth rate of non-game apps will exceed games, forming a larger spending share. This is largely due to subscriptions and economic maturation.

Watch China, India and Brazil

For app stores, the growth rate of Chinese consumer spend will outpace all other countries. India and Brazil will lead time-spent on Android phones. “Increases in smartphone penetration in these markets will fuel future growth of total time spent, which will lead to higher mobile commerce spend.”

App curation, more revenue and independent publisher attention

More apps can mean less discovery. Apple and Google will tackle this issue via more app curation/editorial content. These changes will impact leisure and entertainment apps, while “needs-based” apps (ie. food, banking) are “far more likely to be downloaded based on word of mouth recommendations or focused searches.” This platform will help independent publishers while boosting in-app purchase (IAP) revenue.

More AR!

Facebook, Apple and Alibaba, will drive future AR efforts. They’ll enhance the developer experience and further spur consumer interest (since September 2017, there’s been a surge in AR app downloads). Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Google Translate, MLB.com At Bat and other apps which layers into the real world are likely to boom and become the entry channel for most new AR apps.

app annie graph

More fragmentation of video-streaming services

Video-streaming services took off in 2017. Consumer viewing increased 85% and 70% for iOS and Google Play, respectively. Their popularity “appears to be driving the installation of multiple apps.” The result will be industry fragmentation, despite higher revenue and engagement. Eventually, consolidation will prevail, forcing some companies to succumb to profit pressures. Consumers will also rationalize about their uses of time and money.

app annie graph of streaming useage

Mobile to dominate retail

“In the US and UK, consumers spent nearly an hour on average in shopping apps each month.” More often, stores will be used as pick-up locations and cashiers will become less common. Mobile will become a core part of the shopping experience.

Restaurant aggregators and DaaS growth

Restaurant aggregators (ex. Grubhub) will continue to develop into underpenetrated markets and sway intermediary users. Delivery as a service (DaaS) providers (ex. UberEATS) will gain market share in premium markets. Rapid-service food providers (ex. QSR) will further partner with DaaS providers. Like video-streaming, this industry will see fragmentation and consolidation.

More in-home voice assistant sales

In 2014, Amazon’s Echo opened the in-home voice assistant market. Since then, Prime Day and holiday sales have skyrocketed. This year, sales will speed up during these dates (and for price promotions). Developer interest will increase, though “use cases (ex. music listening, web searching) will remain largely consistent in 2018.”

App Annie graph of downloads

Simplified Banking

PSD 2 will let more parties “provide comprehensive, app-centric, financial-related services, while providing users with security from government oversight and legitimacy.” Wells Fargo, for example, is launching Greenhouse. This app will take a mobile-first approach to spending analytics. This directive will simplify the banking value chain globally.

Diversification of P2P Parties and Services

Venmo, and similar person-to-person payment apps, have revolutionized the exchange of money. Expect more services from these apps to decrease bank competition and improve engagement. “We expect P2P payment apps to see increased transaction volume due to growth of instant bank transfers and third-party payments, with the latter bolstered by increasing adoption of these services as payment options by retailers and sellers.” As well, messaging and social networking apps, like WeChat, are likely to enter the space.

The Takeaway:

Consumers, developers and businesses alike have plenty to expect this year. Consider these forecasts to get the most from the app economy to aid your 2018 strategy.

Thanks for reading! Check us out on Twitter, LinkedIn or our website.

By Jack Mitchell


Jack Mitchell
Jack is a Laurier Business student and is passionate about all things tech


Waterloo Garbage & Yard Waste App

“I was always surprised by how many people had their yard waste at the curb out on the wrong days,” Wes Worsfold

Inspired by Google’s 20% policy, BitBakery Labs is where we solve our own problems and experiment with new technologies.

We built the Waterloo Garbage & Yard Waste app because too much yard waste was out on the wrong days. We wanted to help Waterloo Region – and ourselves – build a cleaner community with better yard waste (and now garbage) management. The app uses four principles: specificity, simplicity, reliability, and anonymity.

Here’s how it works:

      1. Download and install the app. Launch it

      2. Select your city/township and the pickup date

      3. Get notified the weekend and the night before pickup

The Garbage & Yard Waste App is reliable, specific to our community and doesn’t need any account. 1500 Waterloo Region households use the app making local living easier.

Download our app for free on iOS and Google Play, and spread the word!

Thanks for reading! Check us out on Twitter, LinkedIn or our website.

By Jack Mitchell


Jack Mitchell
Jack is a Laurier Business student and is passionate about all things tech