C4Q is a non-for-profit hacker school based in NYC. We've had members of Artsy team help out by being TAs, run committees and steer the curriculum as Engineers in the industry. C4Q recently reached out to arrange a meetup between two of their classes learning Android and Web and Artsy engineers.

We thought it would be cool to have a talk from dB, our CTO, on what Artsy is and to also host a Q&A panel with our engineers. For a lot of the students it was their first time meeting a team of engineers, so we anticipated a lot of question time.

In prepration for the event, I reached out to the internet for ideas on what sort of questions juniors would be interested in hearing about, and people said they were also interested in hearing what we ended up being asked, and what our answers were. This post has the youtube video of the opening talk, and our panel's Q & A session.

It was really awesome to talk about how far we've grown as individuals, and what is important in our engineering lives.

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With the often overwhelming and downright discouraging reality that the tech industry isn’t a diverse and inclusive environment, I felt compelled to share what a productive, empathetic, and nurturing environment for female and female-identifying engineers looks like.

I have just shipped a post over on the Life at Artsy blog about how: Our culture of empathy, our hiring process and our company values provide a competitive advantage. This all contributes to ensuring that all engineers regardless of gender feel valued.

Read on at the Life at Artsy Blog →

Force is Artsy's main website, artsy.net. In the three years since it was open-sourced, it has provided a solid foundation to build features on top of without a lot of the costs associated with growth. It is an early example of Isomorphic ("universal") JavaScript, built on top of Express, Backbone, CoffeeScript, Stylus and Jade. It is also highly modular, adopting patterns laid down by its parent project, Ezel.

When first developed these technologies made a lot of sense; CoffeeScript fixed many of the problems with JavaScript pre-ES6, and Jade / Stylus made working with HTML / CSS much more elegant. As time progressed and new technologies became a thing these solutions starting feeling more burdensome to continue building features with and many of our developers longed to start using next-generation tools like React.

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Once Danger Ruby was stable enough for everyday use in 2015, it became obvious that running Danger on CI was both a positive and a negative. On the positive side, Danger has access to all artifacts created during testing - and on the negative side it takes a long time to get feedback. It was obvious that Danger could run on a server, but it was a big unknown what that could look like.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that we would need a JavaScript replacement of Danger - and so I applied constraints to Danger JS that made a server-side version of Danger a possibility. It was a stroke of luck that around the time Danger JS became usable for day to day usage, that GitHub introduced GitHub Apps - so I started work on Peril. Peril is server-side Danger. The rest of this post talks about how we use it Artsy today, how you can use it yourself and where it's heading.

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Artsy has always had a focus on Art meets Science, and we hosted a meet-up in July that really hits on both. We had a collection of Artsy Staff, members of Art + Feminism NYC, the CocoaPods Peer Lab, New York Arts Practicum and volunteers from Wikimedia NYC all helping out.

We came with two aims:

  • Help anyone interested in contributing to Wikipedia get started.
  • Use The Art Genome Project(TAGP) to improve Wikidata entries for women Artists.

I helped out with the second part, and the rest of this post will be about the lessons learned during this editathon.

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During Artsy's recent 2017 Hackathon we tackled making all of our editorial content accessible. The idea was hatched at Berlin JSConf this spring, where Laura Carvajal gave a talk following the Financial Times' experience implementing better accessibility requirements, and how they built these considerations into their testing process.

What does accessibility mean in a browser? Generally the term refers to supporting the wide range of assistive technologies for users with vision or motor impairments. These include screen readers, as well as mouseless navigation using a keyboard, eye tracking and other devices. Interestingly these technologies are implemented at the OS level rather than the browser itself. Mac's OS includes a built in screen-reader, and JAWS is the most popular application in this vein. It is also notable that browsers do not track users who employ assistive tools.

Two users on WebAIM's forum excellently present the case for accessibility as a developer's responsibility:

"Users may be highly resistant to having their disabilities identified as they go throughout the web. Most persons with disabilities would really just rather that the Web just work for them."

"Looking at accessibility as a way to serve a specific population is missing the point that accessibility is about inclusion of all people."

A central tenant of Artsy's mission is to 'make art as accessible as music'. By expanding accessibility for the visually and motor impaired to writing on art and culture, this projects allows us to follow through on this statement in a very literal way. Furthermore, there's no reason to ignore this audience; accommodating use of assistive technologies is an ethically responsible thing to do.

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We have a few apps now, but one of them isn't really used by anyone other than developers. This is our React Native host app. We built our React Native components as a library to be consumed by our other apps. Our development environment for these components is a unique app that acts as a host for the React Native components. It's effectively a long tableview.

This app is often updated for developers, but never deployed to beta users inside Artsy. So I automated it. Using Travis CI and fastlane. This post covers how I got that set up.

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About 3 years ago, dB. announced that Artsy had a public API.

The Artsy API currently provides access to images of historic artwork and related information on artsy.net for educational and other non-commercial purposes. You can try it for playing, testing, and learning, but not yet for production. The scope of the API will expand in the future as it gains some traction.

We've wrapped up some legal work around the developer API terms and services, the PR is here and I'm happy to announce that the API is ready for non-commercial production use.

The TDLR Terms and Conditions today for using the Artsy API is:

  • Non-commercial use only.
  • You only get access to public-domain artworks.

The API:

If you have a great idea for an app that can use public-domain data, then the Artsy API is the right place to look: https://developers.artsy.net.

I've worked on a few large-scale OSS projects, and I believe that people find it easier to just leave a comment and rely on a contributor to explain a problem rather than consulting the documentation. I consider doing everything you can to make people find their own answers a strong part of defensive open source.

For the posts I write, I have an even lower tolerance for comments. For example, I added the ability to turn off comments per-post and haven't allowed comments on any posts I've written here. A lot of transitory discussion around an article happens on twitter via @ArtsyOpenSource.

I'm willing to give it another shot though, and so I got around to creating a simple system for allowing opt-in comments on posts using GitHub Issues. The rest of this post will be about how you can do it also, and a bit about why I think GitHub Issues are a happy medium for the comments.

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