“What has Mike West been up to recently?” This is one question that you almost certainly haven’t been asking yourself recently. That’s a shame, really, as I’ve got a few small projects floating around that I think you might be interested in paying attention to.
If you’ll indulge me, I’ll run through them in no particular order:
- VimRoom is a Vim plugin that replicates the best features of WriteRoom in my favorite editor. I do most of my writing (code and otherwise) in Vim, as the keyboard shortcuts I’ve painstakingly assembled are hardwired into my fingers (and, I suppose, because I’m a huge nerd). Combined with iTerm2’s brilliant fullscreen mode, VimRoom offers a great way to shut out the myriad distractions floating around my iMac, and focus on actually getting words onto the screen: I’m pretty pleased with how it’s turned out, and I hope it might be useful for others.
static_gettextis a (tiny) internationalization framework that makes it possible to generate arbitrary localizations of static source documents. Dynamic frameworks like Django or Rails have good systems in place to deal with the tough problems of removing hard-coded strings from source code and templates. Less complex, static websites aren’t going away, however, and
static_gettexthas solved the problem for me nicely, generating industry-standard
*.pofiles that can be easily handed off to translators. The framework is currently seeing active use on the HTML5 Boilerplate site for the German translation (which I helped out with), and a few other localizations are in the pipe.
- PyPlaceholder is a command-line Python script that generates placeholder PNGs for use in… well… wherever you might use placeholder PNGs. It’s made my life a little simpler while putting together mockups, and it has a few tiny features that I didn’t see on any of the surprisingly numerous alternatives. I’ve additionally wrapped it up in a Flask application,
flask-pyplaceholder, to generate images on the fly via placeholder.mikewest.org.
- Send To Instapaper is a stunningly well-named Chrome extension that has no purpose other than to replicate the standard Instapaper-bookmarklet functionality with two small additions: it adds a keyboard shortcut, and it’s streamlined, clean, and pretty.
And now, the point…
I read Jesper’s Doc Robot this morning, and found myself nodding vigorously. I disagree about the inherent valuelessness of all autogenerated documentation (as I’ve also been doing a good bit of work on Ryan Tomayko’s Rocco, which autogenerates lovely documentation if you do the work of coding in a literate fashion), but I think he makes a great point about the way we generally treat documentation as an afterthought. I’d like to share the solution I’ve come up with for my code.
You’ll notice that these projects that I’ve linked to above all have landing pages that more or less clearly explain what the project is, how it works, and what your next steps might be, should you be interested enough to want to try it out for yourself. Each of those landing pages also has a clear changelog, and an RSS feed that you can subscribe to, should you be interested in keeping yourself up to date. There’s even an RSS feed for the site, in case you’d just like to have a good handle on what it is that I’m up to.
I think this is the bare minimum a project needs to offer in order to begin to serve an audience. I’ve put together projects.mikewest.org in order to have a clear place to put any and all documentation I generate for the projects I’d like to present to the public. The ever so clever Tim Huegdon has put together a similar project listing with good documentation, and I’d like to encourage you to do so as well.
GitHub pages makes the process of putting together a basic website hassle-free, and you can take a look at the project page repository to see how I’ve bent Jekyll to the task of generating RSS feeds and embedded changelogs. It’s not rocket science, but it took a bit of experimenting that you can spare yourself. Use the repo as a template. There’s nothing there I wouldn’t gladly share.— Mike West