After 3 months, I thought it time to check in on the interweb. Last time here I mentioned a 6 week bootcamp for the Salesforce Platform Developer certification. The bootcamp ended up being trailhead lessons I'd done over the past couple of years, save for two. There was also some overview about how to program and caveats for what happens in Salesforce. I knew most of those going into the class, too. I would have been disappointed, but the price of the class included a voucher for taking the exam, and was reduced to the cost of the exam. In essence, free training and tips.

Post bootcamp, I took a half-day webinar on prepping for the exam. Again, I was good on most of this stuff.

In April, I purchased training materials from Focus on Force. Good content, and 15 practice exams. I was making 75-90 on practice exams. On the real exam, I would have to make a 65 (out of 100). I felt good going into this.

My scheduled exam time came and I began my remotely proctored test. After 55 minutes of my 105 minute allotted time, I had answered everything and gone back and reviewed those answers I was unsure about. Out of 65 questions, there were 5 that I had no idea on. The scenario based questions were a little different from what I had studied - and there were a lot more questions about messaging services than I was expected. As I submitted the test, I was pretty sure I'd passed - maybe something in the 70% range.

59%. 3 questions short of passing. Well. Shit.

The summary of my score tells me what percentage of each major (5) categories I got right. In essence, I really didn't know what I had gotten right and what I had gotten wrong.

After being down, a little mad, and not knowing what to do next, I realized a couple of things. This test was an exam to see what I knew, not guide me to study what I didn't know (those category scores just weren't as helpful as I wanted). My high scores on the Focus on Force practice tests had come from me taking those tests enough that I had basically memorized those answers and questions - in that order. It's the way my brain had gotten geared for tests in school - these will be the questions asked, and these will be the answers.

So I went back to re-study, now that I knew what the test looked like. Better understand what solutions go with general scenarios, that was my big lacking. I did this for 3 weeks and scheduled my 2nd attempt. To make my life easier, the half day webinar I sat in on included a discount voucher that could be applied to follow up exam attempts (so it only cost me $30 instead of $100). Attempt #2 saw me more confident. Luckily for me, I saw questions I remembered from my first attempt - questions I had gone back afterward and double checked what the right answer should be. I went through and once again had everything answered after 55 minutes. This time, I went back and double checked every question regardless of my first impulse on whether or not I'd gotten it right. On the second pass I changed some answers. Some of those I'd marked to double check, some not. When it came time to submit my answers, I was confident. Surely I'd done better than the last time. In my gut I was sure I was in the 90% range.

73%. I passed by 4 questions. Not 90%, but I passed and can now claim Platform Developer Certifiability.

It still bothers me that I don't know specifics on what I missed. It bothers me more that there are things I was sure I was right on and that I know, but I'm wrong. I'm most likely doing some of that wrong stuff day to day.

There are a couple more certifications I told myself would be nice. After the uphill battle of getting this one, I'm not speeding toward trying to grab either of those. My brain has to learn that my old method of studying for tests doesn't work here. And while I know how to program and code, there are some quirky Salesforce things that are possible that I just don't do, but need to know how to do when the day comes along that they're needed. That's the hard part to figure out how I need to learn and retain.

With all of that work/Salesforce stuff going on, I really haven't done much else for fun. The 4Ground Mall managed to get 1 store "completed", which I need to take some pics of. There was a little Black Friday procuring of some minis on sale. I've also been working for a homemade shelves idea to go in the mall stores - now on version 3. With the holidays coming up I should have a normal hobby-related post before too long.

programming/interweb salesforce work



I got a new toy. Well, for me it's a toy. Many years ago I gave up using mice and went with trackball(s). My trackball of choice was the Logitech Trackman Marble as I can use my fingers to roll the trackball instead of my thumb. I seem to have finer motor control over fingers. A Logitech trackball lasts about 3 years for me. That's when the left button decides to work intermittently. I don't think it's a problem with the components or a connection gone bad, but instead a build up of gunk from my fingers clicking the button for years. I know it sounds gross, but given the dirt I clean out of the ball holder (yes, that sounds bad too) about once per month I can only imagine what creeps into the crevices of the button.

I could try to clean it out, but given that one of those trackballs is $20 it's just easier to get a new one.

Well, the trackballs used to be $20 when I could trot down to CompUSA and pick one up. The last one I got (for work, Aug 2016) was $23.

Whenever it's time to replace a trackball I look to see if there's anything new that I want to try. Kensington has a nice selection, but the ergonomics don't work well with my hand placement. I could swear I've tried others but nothing else comes to mind just yet.

The latest flakey button induced search brought me to the ELECOM M-HT1URBK Wired Trackball Mouse. This one caught my eye because

After watching the inventory go from low to out-of-stock and back to low, I ordered one to try out. Sure, it was $60 instead of $23, but given the number of hours per day I would use the blasted thing if it was even a marginal improvement over the Logitech series I'd been using for at least a decade then it would be worth it.

After 4 days of using the one that came in, I like it enough I've ordered another one to use at work. The size is perfect for my hand. All the buttons are naturally located for where my fingers want to fall. The scrollwheel is quickly my favorite part. The buttons are a little soft when they click, but only because I've been paying attention to all the little details. When I press naturally those buttons act like they should.

Now, the funniest part to a boonie hick like me was that the package didn't have a bit of English on it. Elecom is a Japanese company, so I'm going to guess all those characters I couldn't read were Japanese.

Except "HUGE trackball". I could read that one.


1 DealYear


Today I have been at DealNews for 1 year.  I'm not sure I've ever been as happy to work some place as I have here.  That's in large part due to working on government funded contracts for so long and needing a change, but it's also due to the environment at DealNews.  I like it.

The balloon filled office above is mine. It wasn't like that today, that was how it looked on the afternoon of the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Why? I wasn't there while everybody else was watching Ant-Man. Oh, there's more of a reason than that, but that was good enough for most of the people there to blow up a couple of the 280 balloons that found their way to my office. It wasn't something done out of spite or meanness, just a fun little prank.

The work is fun, but often frustrating. I'm still learning how to change my coding style to the current company style. It's not easy as I've spent a very long time doing things my way/whatever works now/just get it done. That is a very hard mindset not to revert to. Often I do things the hard way because that's the first (and often second) way of getting something done that pops into my head. But I'm learning. They haven't gotten rid of me yet, and I hope they don't. But even after a year that's still something (a fear maybe?) that motivates me to keep trying.

Now to make some progress to writing DealYear #2.

programming/interweb random

Javascripting & MVC


For the past couple of weeks at work I've been writing a lot of Javascript. Traditionally Javascript and I don't get along. I'm not completely sure why, Javascript has always been a part of web development. Even in the 90's, although it was avoided because it was evil and could be coerced into doing bad things to your computer. These days, Javascript is a fundamental part of the modern online experience, responsible for the seamless back and forth of data that doesn't interrupt the web page you're looking at. It puts the "fun" in "fundamental"!

It's also responsible for a good chunk of the "mental" in "fundamental" too.

Granted, I don't know the right way to do a lot of things in Javascript, but I can generally hack away and figure them out. Gone are the days of embedding events in an object to go do special things when you click/type/look at a textbox or a button. Now the hip cool thing is to search the Document Object Model for that textbox and button, then add a listener object for when you click/type/look at it. It's of great benefit to add listeners as you can add multiple listeners to a textbox or button. And that's got to happen at least a couple of times every few years.

The above is a by-product, I think, of modern programming separating the code from the design. Adding those embedded events meant that I knew, from a code standpoint, that certain things were fairly certain to happen. With listeners, it's not imperative for those things to happen and they (I think) handle things better when stuff's missing.

But I still make code and design. I don't hand off the logic to somebody and say "go lay this out and display it properly". I'm still in 1997 when there was 1 guy that did everything for a website. Knowing what a pain it was to be that one guy, I should be better accepting of how code/design is at least trying to evolve.

But then I look at the file I worked on last week. It was an HTML table that had 3 columns on each row that you could click on and it would either toggle Yes/No text that was displayed, or edit a number that was present (without turning into a textbox). It took 2½ days for me to make, and it even has a spiffy green background that would fade in to show you had successfully edited a field thanks to a 2 minute Google search-copy-paste. The problem was that the 1 new file and 1 edited file I used was implementing the old, pseudo 1997 way of things. I had to convert it to the new, hot 2015 way.

A week later, with 7 files involved (not counting the usual included files each page on the site has) it was finally working, doing the exact same thing it had been doing a week earlier. It shouldn't have taken that long, but I was fighting with Model-View-Controller object interaction AND that damn Javascript. Javascript that I had working once but all the references changed, somehow, thanks to the MVC setup.

But I learned. I learned the hard way, the painful way, which means it should stick.

And then when I was done, I learned there was a 2nd set of things to do that nobody told me.

Now I'm not done again. I have to return to the breach of MVC and Javascript. As painful as it is, I actually enjoy it. It makes more sense as I step through and use parts. Maybe not common sense, but I can see why it works. And even though a different command may work just as well, I'll use this new stuff I'm supposed to.

One of those reasons to use MVC and our homegrown Javascript objects that just seem like a glorified wrapper popped up earlier. When I develop and test I use Chrome and I often forget to try different browsers. I'm just lazy that way. I've got a Javascript function that will loop through and show all the properties of a Javascript object. When I wanted to toggle those Yes/No fields earlier, I looked and saw an innerHTML property that had what I wanted. Great, I used that. When it came time to edit numbers, innerHTML messed me up when I went to validate that number because any extra characters (space, line break) were converted into HTML and thus made my number not a number. I looked at the properties again and found innerText that had, you guessed it, the text with no HTML. Great, I'll use that. Everything worked great.

Until I switched away from Chrome. There was no innerText. There was no innerHTML.

The cross-browser friendly field turns out to be textContent. I think there's a library call I should have been making that would have grabbed the right property for me. Maybe after 20 years of making websites I should know textContent is the right property to use. But I didn't. Until now.

textContent. That's the ticket.



4 Weeks of Code


For the better of the last month I've been working on 1 chunk of code at work. Normally work has 2-3 days chunks at best. Why is this such a big chunk? Basically because it took over 2 weeks for me to figure out what the hell I was doing.

Users have the option to create alerts and get notified when a matching deal occurs. Right now they type in a keyword and behind the scenes magic figures out if that keyword maps to a store, a brand, one of our categories, and/or other stuff. It's magic. It's great when it works (and when I've looked at it, it's worked more than it hasn't. When it doesn't work... well, it doesn't.

Along from their came my task. Remake the alert notification. There was a nice little mock up of what all it should have. Fields for category, store, brand, and some other stuff that's pretty straight forward. We've got tools so that if someone starts typing in the name of a store or brand the autocomplete kicks in and shows options. That was all great until i got to the Category.

Who is going to know the way our Categories are set up? My first pass had a list of all the categories and their path, so that if you wanted iPhone cases you would scroll down a list to:
     Electronics > Phones & Cell Phones > Apple iPhones > iPhone Accessories > iPhone Cases
Obviously that wasn't going to work.

The existing autocomplete functionality only matches at the beginning of what's typed. Typing "iPhone" gets no matches because nothing starts with "iPhone" (it's under "Electronics", and then down 4 more levels).

After more miss-starts than I want to count, I saw down with Keith and Matt (seperately) at work and made up something that might work. An old fashioned MicroSoft ComboBox. It's starts out as a drop down list with the top level of categories, and each selection re-populates the list with the next level underneath. Alternately, you can start typing in the field and anything that matches (not just at the beginning of the text) will populate the list. For both, as you select your category a little breadcrumb trail of the path you've made is shown so that you can back out or pick back up in the middle.

It sounded good. I liked the idea. I knew how to make about 20% of it.

The majority of the past 2 weeks has been writing JavaScript. My JavaScript is weak. People can do a whole lot more with JavaScript than I ever imagined. What I've bene writing HAD to be JavaScript due to how the framework is laid out. I started writing things from scratch. That didn't work - there were too many existing conflicts. I tried to hack the existing autocomplete function(s). That didn't work at first because I was trying to do everything at once. After a frustration-thon, I backed up and took baby steps.

Break this down into functional parts with dummy data, then fill it with the right data. That's how I used to make web pages, why did I stop?

From there I took baby steps. Lots and lots of baby steps. I started with the existing autocomplete field and functions, copied them to a new file, and then proceeded to rip everything out piece by piece, which forced me to learn how it worked (read: JavaScript). It took longer than I wanted, but I eventually got what I wanted. I ComboBox you can type in or instead make selections from. A breadcrumb trail of the categories selected is dynamically populated, and you can remove one if you want - and all the sub-categories the removed category are removed too.

I haven't worked on the alert redesign for a month. I've worked on a damn ComboBox for a month. If I knew what I was doing to start with, it should have taken about 3 days. I wish I could chalk it up to the new job learning curve, but I've been there 7 months now, and if I knew the JavaScript that you would think would come along with 20 years of web design I should have grasped what was going on faster. I'm still not finished - there's some cross browser testing to be done, and I'm sure once I open the code up to a second set of eyes some optimization tweaks will come forward. But I'm ready to be done with this one as it's whooped my butt. Hopefully the result will be good enough to make the whooping worthwhile.


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