Adventures in Jeffland

Get Scrummed

Over the last couple of years an amazing transformation has happened in the federal, and even state-level, government with regards to technology. The much need arrival of United States Digital Service and 18F have brought with it modern development and management methods such as AGILE. It has been amazing to watch these folks use open sources tools, and modern methodologies to create deeply needed and truly functional web tools, in the open. It has motivated me to attempt drag myself and my organization into the same league with them, and to make ourselves more attractive to federal work.

To that end, I decided to try and get myself educated on Agile, and with much less effort than I thought, I'm able to say that I am a Certified Scrum Master. So if you need any scrums mastered, you know, let me know.

Now comes the hard part, trying to implement Agile into a 30-year-old organization, with very entrenched behaviors. Wish me luck.

Fuck it, we'll build a blog

I don't really know what I'd do to make money if I couldn't build websites. I have a degree in journalism, but it turns out I'm kind of a shitty writer (with the exception of this entry, which is beautiful and elegant prose). I started building in 1998ish, when I was a student/intern in London. A swell fella named Matt Zandstra was super nice, and gave me a paid internship at Corrosive Web Design when the only way I knew how to build a web page was with FrontPage or Dreamweaver. He promptly showed me where the text editor was and I've been hand crafting my code ever since.

The first few years were exciting and full of learning. I worked in a few different cities and countries for a few different companies, and experienced the tech boom and bust with a front row seat. When the dust had settled, I decided I'd like to work in the public sector making stuff people needed rather than wanted. I ended being the first full-time web developer hired by the Institute for Community Inclusion, at non-profit in Boston that worked for the inclusion of people with disabilities.

The first few years where a great time for me and an exciting time for the web. Doug Bowman, then with, created the first mainstream site to use table-less (css-only) layouts. It completely changed how websites where built and I picked apart his code for weeks to build my own UI for a CMS I built for my organization.

For me, and maybe the web in general, they next few years were a little dull. I felt myself hitting a rut with my work and wondering why I liked building for the web in the first place. Then two things emerged.

  1. Responsive Design/Progressive Enhancement
  2. Twitter and GitHub

Responsive design just seemed like the natural step forward for the web to embrace mobile technology. But I feel like Twitter was more important to me (and no, not just for Bootstrap, which I endlessly abuse). Part of my rut was due to the fact that I was somewhat isolated in my job as a web developer. Twitter allowed me to see what other people are working on and into, connect with people (sometimes IRL), and attend geek social events. Suddenly it felt like early days again, and I felt eager to seek inspiration and mentorship from those in my field. It has changed how I feel about the web and my choice in career in a massively positive way.

Which brings me to why I am writing this today. I've been inspired by people in my local community and in the larger one who have publicly documented their learning experience. Bigger names like Ethan Marcotte, Mat Marquis and Chris Coyier, and Boston's up and coming Fred Leblanc, Marc Amos, Dan Perrera, Nick Snyder, Niki Brown, Jeff Byrnes and Jimmy Wilson. I can see both my benefit of reading their work, as well as how they might benefit as well. And while I may not have anything good to contribute on Github, I might as well write about my own experience and discoveries I make in my own work.

So thank you all for being such a cool crowd to work with, and thanks for all the inspiration you've given me.

As you were.

About Me

I'm Jeff Coburn, I lead Web Services at the School for Global Inclusion and the Institute for Community Inclusion (located at the University of Massachusetts Boston). I do some developement, a little design, but if I'm honest with myself, I spend a lot of time planning things and writing emails about planning things. I occasionally write and speak on Web Accessiblity and technology. I try to live the "joie de vivre" up here in Southern Maine, with my family and friends.

You can follow me on twitter and Instagram, if you are into that sort of thing.