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Things we love 1

At FutureLearn, we’re always on the look out for new sources of inspiration and keen to share what we learn with the world. So here, in the first of a new series of posts, our Product Team talk about some of their favourite things from around the web, their writing elsewhere and a few events they’ll be speaking at soon.

3D printed confections from The Sugar Lab
One of the things we love – 3D printed confections from The Sugar Lab.

Our inspiration

Move Fast & Break Nothing

We use continuous delivery at FutureLearn to quickly get improvements into the hands of our users. As the company grows and evolves, how do you balance staying fast and shipping new changes quickly, while not breaking things? In this talk, Zach Holman gives a great overview of various approaches we can take to deal with these issues.

– Melinda Seckington, Developer

The 2014 CSS Report

We write a lot of CSS at FutureLearn, but, as Alex McPherson notes in this report, the CSS landscape has changed a lot of over the last couple of years. Whereas once we would be handcrafting every single line of CSS there are now a huge number of pre-processors, frameworks and tools to make this more manageable and the code we write more maintainable. This report is a fascinating overview of how other teams are writing and using CSS. I don’t necessarily agree with his assertion that writing CSS is “often a developer’s least favorite task” though, but maybe that’s just me?

–  James Mockett, Developer

The Boring Designer

No designer wants to be called boring. We want to be recognised for our daring creativity, our boldness and the persistent pursuit of our perfect idea. However, Cap Watkins has written an interesting article defining “the boring designer.” Although I may not like the title, many of his points resonate with me and are indicative of working within a great multi-skilled team where everyone cares, everyone has a unique and strong voice, and everyone has the opportunity to promote their idea. Maybe being a boring designer isn’t such a bad thing?

– Dereck Johnson, Designer

The Boring Front-end Developer

A companion post inspired by The Boring Designer, Adam Silver approaches the discipline of front-end development with very similar ideas. Designing and building a good experience for all users regardless of browser, device or access is something that’s very close to our hearts at FutureLearn.

How to Have Better Meetings

Meetings. Love them or hate them, sometimes they’re necessary. These five tips from our former Product Manager, Tessa Cooper, will help to make them more productive, enjoyable and useful for the whole team – even the people who aren’t there. Just don’t click on this link if you’re in a meeting right now.

– Nicky Thompson, Developer

Rails Web Console

The recently-released Rails 4.2 includes a new debugging facility. The Web Console lets you jump into any controller or view code and interact with it via the browser, inspecting the value of in-scope variables and so on. On error pages, it also lets you jump to any frame in the stack trace and look at the local state in that method. Rather than being a step-through debugger, it gives you random access to the call stack after the fact, making it easier to go back in time and find out why the error happened.

– James Coglan, Developer

Data Driven: Creating a Data Culture

I’m really enjoying this new (free!) book from Hilary Mason and DJ Patil. It’s full of very pragmatic advice about how to use data to make decisions and how to encourage a data-driven culture within your organisation.

– Chris Lowis, Data Analyst

The Sugar Lab

I’ve always been fascinated by 3D printing, so when I stumbled across The Sugar Lab the other day I was immediately addicted.  Their deliciously designed, geometric, 3D printed, sugar sculptures will make your mouth water.

– Lucy Blackwell, Creative Director

Us elsewhere

Telling Stories Through Your Commits

At the London Ruby User Group last Monday, our CTO, Joel Chippindale, spoke about some of the ways that you can improve how you develop code and communicate with your team through your commits.

Collaborative User Testing: Less Bias, Better Research

Want to know more about how we do user testing? Our Interaction Designer, Alla Kholmatova, wrote an in depth article on A List Apart about our approach to dealing with bias.

London Web Standards – 19 January

Joel will be giving a lightning talk about learning through blameless reviews, exploring what blameless reviews are and how to use them to help your team learn and build trust.

EmberLondon – 12 February

Nicky will be giving a more in-depth run-through of the trials and pitfalls involved in making “Likes” more accessible on FutureLearn.

Future of Web Design – 28-29 April

Lucy will be talking about how experiences sell products. She’ll explore how brands have evolved to understand what makes people feel good, what they actually remember, what they value, and why we are more likely to share experiences with the world.

Melinda will be talking about un-artificial intelligence, examining some of the theories behind how machines learn versus how people learn and maps it to real life examples of how specifically users learn their way around interfaces and how designers and developers apply learning methodologies in their day-to-day actions.

Seen something lately that you think we’ll love? Share it in the comments below. Want to know more about the way we work? Take a look at all of our “Making FutureLearn” posts.

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