Posts By Ian Bits

Slick Modular Web Components with Polymer

As a primarily back-end focused developer, I admit that sometimes I find user interface work pretty tedious, especially when I can’t get something to look or behave the way I feel it should. On large projects, stylesheets can get cluttered and I have a bad habit of throwing everything into a single “site.css” file that gets loaded into every page. I wind up with dozens of CSS classes and identifiers to make sure that each component of my website has its own specialized styling and doesn’t accidentally inherit the styles of something else. Usually, the look and feel of my site is at the mercy of whatever CSS library I’m using. Fortunately, I’ve discovered a relatively new framework that takes a lot of headache out of front-end design. The framework is called Polymer: a JavaScript framework from Google that takes Web Components to a new level. Here are three features of Polymer that make it great: 1. Hundreds of plug-and-play elements The Polymer Element Catalog has many useful open source elements that can be directly included in your source code once the Polymer framework has been installed, ranging from responsive and animated text fields and buttons, to elements which help you manage AJAX requests. The elements have declarative syntax, meaning that once you’ve included them in your project, they can be inserted directly into your HTML files just as easily as any of the native HTML elements. You can combine these elements with data bindings to pass values between components and validate forms without writing any JavaScript. 2. Custom elements If you can’t find the right element to suit your needs, Polymer gives you the tools to build your own elements. Elements have encapsulated style, form and function, meaning you can detail specifically how an element is to look and behave. Polymer elements contain methods and properties that can be called from other elements in the DOM. This makes your components feel more like extensible objects, rather than simple UI elements. 3. Class-like inheritance If you have a shared functionality or style among a number of elements, you definitely don’t want to repeat that code. Fortunately, Polymer allows you to inherit multiple styles and behaviors into elements. Instead of re-writing a particular function for each of your elements, you can instead write that function as a behavior, and have each element extend it. Similarly, if you wish for a family of custom elements to use the same CSS properties, you can import one or many custom style elements. These elements enable easy theming, allowing you to change the appearance of your application simply by swapping style elements. For more information on Polymer, check out their Polycasts on YouTube as well as their Polymer Starter Kit.

Interning at RSI – A Worthwhile Investment

When I started my internship last summer, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I had heard about Rural Sourcing from career fairs and even knew a few grads from my university that were employed there, but I wasn’t sure just what I’d be doing. I was fearful that I would be stuffed in the role of the stereotypical office gopher, delegated all of the non-programming tasks. I was also taking summer classes, and I knew that my schedule was going to be tight. One of the biggest challenges I faced while interning with RSI was managing my time. When I began my internship, I was spending between 15 to 20 hours a week on school-related activities such as attending class, completing assignments and preparing for exams. Combined with an average of 25 hours of internship per week and travel between home, school and the office, I found myself frequently working in excess of 50 hours per week. I doubt I could have kept myself motivated if I wasn’t enjoying the work I was doing. Fortunately, my internship experience was well worth the extra workload. I wasn’t just some office gopher making sure the coffee was warm; I was a bona-fide software developer. Immediately upon arriving (after some compulsory H.R. orientation) I was expanding my skills and learning new technologies by creating actual software. I was surrounded by experienced software engineers who were both able and eager to help the other interns and I learn. I was able to leverage resources like Pluralsight and create training projects based upon what I had learned. Within the first six months of my internship, I had the opportunity to: • Work on a mock-client on a small team of developers • Demonstrate software I created to stakeholders • Participate in an office-wide software competition • Dress up for a Halloween costume contest • Go to an awesome Christmas party Interning at RSI is not easy, but it's a worthwhile investment for students who are looking to take developing their programming skills seriously. For those up to the challenge, apply for an intern position and be prepared to work hard, have fun and learn lots!

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