Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Guest Blog: Back to Basics with CloudSpokes and Meteor.js by @dotNetkow

When we launched our First Time Submitter challenges mid way through last year we hoped they would serve as a an outlet for new members to participate on a fun, open ended challenge to get used to using CloudSpokes, before diving in head first and submitting like mad! We have seen some awesome apps built from these challenges and some of our most active members of recent have been participants of the monthly challenge. Matt Netkow, aka dotnetkow is no different. Matt won our most recent First Time Submitter challenge and was nice enough to write a blog about it for us! Aside from CloudSpokin', Matt loves gaming, movies and being a foodie! Get to know Matt and check out his guest blog below.

Back to Basics with CloudSpokes and Meteor.js

Hi, I’m Matt Netkow, a passionate .NET web developer hailing from Chicago. I’m always learning and applying new technologies to my work; it’s therefore no surprise that I found CloudSpokes, a crowdsourced platform that focuses heavily on web-based development challenges.

I primarily work with C# and ASP.NET, creating various automation tools and web sites for clients. I decided to start off 2013 by focusing on improving my web development skills. With all the new HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript enhancements/libraries coming out, I figured it would be a great time to go back to these core technologies. I’m currently focusing right now on JavaScript. Having just completed some books and training videos, I wanted to actually get a bit of practice with JS. A friend had told me about CloudSpokes a few months prior, so I looked up their current list of challenges.

Sure enough, I found many JavaScript-related challenges, but it was the First Time Submitter Challenge for January 2013 that caught my eye! The “First Time Submitter” challenges are (typically) monthly challenges that are open only to new members of the CloudSpokes community. They present a wonderful opportunity for developers new to the site to get a feel for how challenges work, without the pressure of competing against those that have more experience. I’ve noticed that these challenges have fairly open requirements as well - the one for January 2013 was to build any type of web app using the Meteor.js JavaScript library. I jumped at the change to participate and was later excited to find out that I won 1st place!

So what did I build? Knowing that time was limited, the real challenge was building something useful and polished enough to present real value. Thus, I built a lightweight single page web app used to track the status of projects and created a Youtube video and documentation to support the challenge entry.

Exploring Meteor.js was a lot of fun - in the past I’ve only really used vanilla JavaScript and some JQuery. The neatest feature is definitely the live page updates (templates update automatically when database data changes). There is a definite productivity boost to updating HTML/CSS, saving, and instantly seeing your changes reflected in the browser automatically. In the future this could prove very useful for rapid prototyping web apps!

Interesting code implementation details:

To learn more details and see the Youtube video, please check out my personal blog post here.

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