With its powerful automatic speech recognizer, accurate natural language understanding and outstanding text-to-speech capabilities, the Amazon Echo, nicknamed "Alexa", always impressed me. While not the first in its category and introduced in late 2014, Alexa was the first consumer device in my home to truly enable the conversation between human and machine. It was stationary, always listening for a wake word, and clearly outperformed all previous attempts when it came to the ability to receive commands from the other side of the apartment.

Alexa knows about the weather, but it doesn't know much about art.

In this post I'll dig a little inside the Alexa software platform and go over the technical details of bringing Artsy to the Echo, starting with a very simple "Ask Artsy about Norman Rockwell."

Find the Artsy skill in the Alexa app and the complete Skill code on Github.

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Getting to grips with the entire JavaScript ecosystem is a tough job when you're getting started. Coming from the native mobile space, there's a lot to learn. I've spent a few months immersed in the environment now, and can try summerize a lot of topics. This should make it easier to find more information when you need it. This post is semi-opinionated, with links for further reading so you can get a different perspective too.

This post focus specifically on the JavaScript tooling around React Native projects, but is applicable to all JavaScript projects.

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This past year, our team started using a GraphQL orchestration layer that connects various APIs with multiple front-end apps including iOS. It also handles caching and extracts some business logic out of our client apps. This helped us not only to be more consistent with the way we fetch data across apps, but also improved developer happiness and even bridged teams by having our web and iOS developers work with the same API layer. This got me thinking what other problems GraphQL could solve at Artsy.

I work on the Publishing Team at Artsy, and we've recently been focused on page speed as a KPI. With so many ways of measuring speed, it's a daunting task but for this post, I'll focus on the way we handled things on the server-side and how integrating GraphQL on our API improved page speed.

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At Artsy we currently have thousands of client applications hitting our API and requesting authentication. When a user successfully authenticates through one of these clients, we want to embed basic user and application data in the resulting token rather than have to look up a session ID in the database on each request. For that we want to use JWT.

JWT (JSON Web Token) is a self-contained, secure and standard way of transmitting data between applications and clients as JSON objects. Using JWTs lets us use a standardized technology to cut our authentication workflow down by one round-trip.

We've recently switched our authentication flow to use JWT, and I'm going to cover what they are, how we've used them and how we're handling the transition.

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In the last few months twice I've wanted to access the source code of our application. The first time I did it I came up with a pretty neat hack, but it wouldn't really work in many places. The second time however, I asked the internet, and the internet replied.

TLDR: You can use your project's scheme to expose derived Xcode environment variables to your source code.

The rest of the blog post is a little bit about why I wanted to do that and what I did with it.

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Since we originally built Eidolon – an auction bidding kiosk app – the project has largely remained in maintenance mode. Eidolon was one of the first projects that we used automated deploys for, and the deploy process has remained largely unchanged. I believe this stability of the deploy process is a testament to how well the automated deploys have gone.

This post is going to detail the mechanics of automated deploys for an enterprise-distributed iOS application, discuss lessons we learned and applied to other projects' deploy processes, and describe some of the changes we'd like to make. Our project is entirely open source, so you can check out any part of the code on your own or open an issue with questions.

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In considering an offer to join us at Artsy, one of our newest incoming engineers asked me a great question: How does the tech team do professional development?

As I thought about it, I began to realize that the answer is “a lot”! Most of our efforts evolved organically. Someone had an idea, and people rallied around it. I thought it would be useful to share, in case others are inspired by what's caught on here. Here are some of the things we do.

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I’ve lived in NYC for 2 years now. I’ve been around long enough that some of the people I helped when they started learning have begun to feel like they’re not “Juniors” anymore.

They have begun feeling confident in their code, their responsibilities at the company and wanting to improve both. It's a feeling that maybe, just maybe, you're not struggling to stay afloat anymore.

This post aims to be technology-agnostic, and if you sit somewhere at 1.5 - 3 years of programming experience then you’ll probably get something out of it. On top of that, I’ll give some pragmatic JS and iOS specific tips at the end.

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The main Artsy.net website for the desktop, Force, was our first Artsy application to open its source code, Craig and Brennan did it back in 2014. Force's public offering laid the groundwork for the iOS OSS projects to come afterwards: Eidolon, Eigen, Energy and Emergence.

Though Force wasn't quite Open Source by Default, it represented a really important step for Artsy's OSS perspective but was not the end goal. We were opening our source, but not opening our process.

This month both Force, the desktop version of Artsy.net and Microgravity, the mobile version - moved to being built entirely in the open. Read on to find out how.

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