Democratization of the Tech Tools

Having grown up in Palo Alto, California, I've had the real privilege of seeing first-hand the incredible changes in technology over the past twenty-five years. What used to require a greater mastery of infrastructure is now being democratized and packaged up. The Full-Stack Developer has given way to the Full-Stack Integrator, someone who can master the macro assembly of the pieces. For example, as I've geared up to launch my book The Fuzzy and the Techie, which comes out with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April, to use the Silicon Valley phrase, I'm "eating my own dog food." I'm using these very tools that I write about and talk about their accessibility. 

Here's a list of some of the tools I've found helpful to launch a book:

Bento.io: Amazing overview of tech learning resources out there. Curated list of the best of for learning everything front-end, back-end, data science, etc. Bento creates "tracks" where all you have to do is follow their lessons that point you to YouTube, Coursera, Udacity, Code School, Codecademy, Treehouse, and other amazing resources to learn everything you need to know.

Sublime Text: Incredible visual code editor that allows for stylized error checking across any language you could be learning or trying to develop in. Great integration and ease of getting saved, pre-written chunks of code from GitHub's online open source repositories (repos) to your editor.

Skrapp.io: Great way to run web scrapes off LinkedIn if you need email addresses. By using LinkedIn Premium (free trial for a month) you can easily pull most email addresses you need. For about $150 you can get credits to scrape up to around 10,000 email addresses. Skrapp is out of Paris. 

PersistIQ: Easy email automation or drip email platform for sending out emails in a non-annoying, non-HTML way. Send simple customized text emails in bulk to those people you want to reach.

Facebook Pixel: Simple Javascript you add to your website HTML to know who's been visiting your site. From there you can generate "Custom Audiences" and "Lookalike Audiences" on Facebook Ads Platform to retarget people who have visited your site. These audiences take into account common features or likes in your audience, and extrapolate probabilistically across a certain percentage of a market, like the US, that you want to target. For example, 1000 pixel hits can be extrapolated out into a "Lookalike" audience of one-percent of America. 

Facebook Canvas Ads: Great mobile optimized Facebook ad format that is highly immersive. Moreover automatic scrolling puts the engaged user onto your URL through scroll rather than clickthrough. Once they hit your site, they hit your Facebook Pixel, where you build audience.

Sketch: Photoshop 2.0 that's much, much easier to learn. Auto art boards make it simple to develop for any size format or screen, and you can export easily to Desktop, or to other apps like InVision or Framer or Zeplin to be able to take designs to the next step of interaction prototype. Sketch is out of The Hague, Holland. 

Noun Project: If you need beautiful, simple vector graphics of over 150,000 different items and icons, you can download them from the Noun Project, manipulate them in Sketch, and incorporate them into your design assets. 

Canva: Create great infographics or visuals for social media or Facebook Canvas Ads. Canva has great basic tools for image generation, and you can always export and bring them into Sketch if you want to customize them further before you add to your site or social media, already size formatted for Instagram, etc. Canva is from Sydney, Australia.

Framer: After you export your Sketch files, you can create interaction prototyping super easy by either manipulating the visual image and seeing how the code changes in the editor, or by manipulating the code and seeing how it changes the image. The code is CoffeeScript, which is a simpler syntax of Javascript. The CoffeeScript compiles to Javascript but isn't really production ready. Framer gets you very close to deployed product but then you need a developer to connect the dots to make it fully functional and ready for use. A place like UpWork you can hire that. Framer is from Holland.

Zeplin: Another tool like Framer. You can export your Sketch files to Zeplin and Zeplin autogenerates the CSS. CSS is the style code for the front-end design of your website. Rather than having to specify image dimensions and colors, Zeplin generates this CSS automatically upon upload. All you need to do is point your developer to Zeplin and it's all ready for them. Zeplin is from Istanbul, Turkey.

Cloudstitch: If you want to change content on a site dynamically, it's a pain. The way of serving content is called a CMS or a content management system. Cloudstitch creates a CMS that can autoupdate and run the content on your website, but do it off a Google Spreadsheet or Excel. What this means is if you're a restaurant owner and you want to sub in or change menu items, no more talking to your webmaster. Literally all you have to do is update your Google Doc that through Cloudstitch is attached to your website. Basically it turns Google Docs into CMS.

PSD2HTML: If you're close to deployment but not quite there, as in you've created all the Sketch files or even taken a stab at interactions in Zeplin, PSD2HTML will take you to the finish line. For about $100-300 per page they will connect these final dots and make it HTML ready. PSD to HTML refers to the file types for Photoshop to HTML which is web-ready code. They do more than just Photoshop, for example they work with Sketch, and all sorts of email automation, etc. 

Squarespace: If you get fed up with creating a customized site all on your own, you can always fall back on a great option like Squarespace to generate a great website, like this one, in a few hours to a few days worth of your time. All the tools are there, you just need to iterate on designs a bit to make sure it looks how you like. Sketch is a great design tool for these tweaks. 

The Fuzzy and the Techie: If this has been useful, please pre-order a copy of my book on the importance of the Liberal Arts in addition to STEM, the human behind our technology. We need equal consideration for context and code, ethics and algorithms, data and our biases, or in other words, Fuzzies and Techies.