– we create awesome web applications

Content Creation Flow (5 mins reading time).

Today we're going to talk about an effective way of defining new product features.

A product feature can be defined in two ways – from either a marketing or engineering perspective. The marketing approach means explaining how the feature benefits the customer, and the engineering perspective means explaining how that feature works.

Some product managers may miss this distinction and explain a new feature to their engineering team from a marketing perspective. As a result, engineering may work really hard and possibly proceed in the wrong direction, losing time and money for the company.

For example, let’s take the well-known concept of an online marketplace that sells several products and describe an exciting new feature from a marketing perspective. Our marketplace will now display a list of 10 featured products on its home page.

Well, engineering will have lots of questions. Who will feature the products? How will they be featured? How long will they be featured? Who will un-feature the products? All of these issues have to be clarified.

At Astrails, we've come up with the concept of Content Creation Flow. It’s a way of first explaining how data is created in the system and then understanding how it’s consumed, instead of vice-versa. Also, at any given time we can only use terms that were defined beforehand (i.e. objects that have already been created). It makes the concept a little harder to define, but so much easier to understand.

For example:

Facts - application admin users moderate the products; a products back office UI is used to edit/update the products.

Flow - application admins should be able to mark a product as “featured” through the back office UI. The ten most recently featured products should appear on the home page.

In this example, the creation process is described before the consumption process.

This makes it easier for engineering to understand and implement the feature. In our example, each product will have a featured timestamp. In order to feature a product, application admins will trigger the timestamp to be set to the current time. The 10 most recent products should appear on the home page in descending order of those timestamps. We'll cache these 10 products and invalidate the cache when any product is changed or when a different product is featured by the application administrator. Crystal clear. For engineering.

This concept can and should be applied to wireframing and designing user interfaces as well.

Let’s assume again that we’re building a new online marketplace. The designer starts by designing a home page instead of starting with the inner pages, and presents a first draft showing 10 featured product boxes. Each box has a product image, product name and a short description.

Engineering then receives the homepage design and discovers that there is no short product description field at all. So, what now? Engineering can add this field, but they don’t have a UI for the seller to provide a short description. The web designer can remove the field and use the seller's name instead. In either case, precious time has been wasted.

A better way to develop the product would be to design the seller’s product-editing page first. Once that is ready, designers will know that the only fields supported are product name and long product description. Long descriptions can obviously not be used in a small product display box, so the designer will use the seller's name in the homepage design in the first place.

Everything is clear from the engineering perspective - the data to be consumed has already been created and the engineers know how to query it.

So, we discovered that feature specs are described more clearly using Content Creation Flow. Designs and UI can also be produced more efficiently according to this flow.

It turns out that engineering can use the same flow as well and save lots of time.

How? Let’s imagine the following situation. Engineering got specs for some new exciting feature. The specs are 90% complete. The engineers are ready to start coding but there's an editing screen that hasn't been designed yet. They decide not to wait. They'll just seed some data, render other pages that use seed data and get back to that editing screen later. After a while, it turns out that the editing screen has more fields then they expected, with complex relations between them and seeds are not good enough. Now engineering needs to refactor the code and throw away lots of their work before they even start adding the new fields. Result: time wasted.

If they had started with the editing screens, all of the fields and relations that will be used later would have already been defined.

There's nothing wrong with seeding some data for development, but it’s probably not a good idea to do so before it becomes clear what the data will look like. So, creation before consumption. Always.

If you have any questions about content creation flow, or any questions at all, feel free to email me at boris@astrails.com.

I'm going to start a series of short digest blog posts that will cover a few things worth mentioning. I sumble upon a lot of things reading different sources, here I will share the most interesting ones. Well, at least most intersting for me.

Here we go.



A browser for the HTML5 era Entirely written in Javascript. Free. Modular. Hackable.

The browser is really nice especially its minimalistic design. Chrome Development Console works as usual, so it can really be an alternative for Incognito Tabs/Windows when debugging web applications that require to work on flows involving different logged in users.


The ios_webkit_debug_proxy allows developers to inspect MobileSafari and UIWebViews on real and simulated iOS devices via the DevTools UI and WebKit Remote Debugging Protocol.

I'm really an Apple fun, but Google's DevTools rock.


MacDown. The open source Markdown editor for OS X.

I used MarkdownPro for a while, but this one is really cool and free.


iTerm2 is a replacement for Terminal and the successor to iTerm.

2.0 is released.



Detecting login state for almost any website on the internet

I'm not sure if it worths it to re-implement Location-based redirects in all the projects I participated but big guys probably have to consider this.


File encryption software that does more with less.

In short, users have only remember the passphrase, keys pair will be generated automatically based on the passphrase.


Where were a lot of buz about 2 charting libraries recently: http://fastly.github.io/epoch/ and http://www.chartjs.org/. Both are cool, I'm looking forward to testing both of them in a next project that will require charting.


Component Kitchen - Great ingredients for your web apps

Tons of useful code, all searchable.


Custom Elements - a web components gallery for modern web apps

More or less the same.


Welcome to the future - Web Components usher in a new era of web development based on encapsulated and interoperable custom elements that extend HTML itself.

Most exciting thing for front end development ever happened since Backbone.js. I'm trying to use it in the mobile verion of http://isratracker.com which will comes out shortly.



Google Noto Fonts - Beautiful and free fonts for all languages

Beautiful indeed, looks even better then Roboto.


Inside our Brand Evolution

An interesting reading about airbnb rebranding.



How Yo became one of the most viral apps of all time — step by step


2013 Logo Trends

Lean Startup Machine is coming to Tel Aviv this summer. Signup for a chance to win a free ticket.

Lean Startup is the hot new "thing". Its a practice that lets entrepreneurs build successfull startups in the most efficient way.

The proponents of Lean Startup approach focus on "MVP" - a Minimum Viable Product. Instead of waisting time and budget on building huge product that might not be what people need, you build an MVP to validate your assumptions about the market. Its a perpetual Build-Measure-Learn cycle that takes you from a Google ad to check initial customer response to a big company like Dropbox (one of the most profound lean startup success stories).

In short, if you are an entreprener, or dream of becoming one, you'd be crazy not to learn the principles behind this movement. It will save you lots of time and money, but most important, it will actually maximize your chances to succeed, not a small thing when we talk about startups.

So what is Lean Startup Machine then?

It’s an intensive three-day workshop which teaches entrepreneurs and innovators how to build a disruptive product. The workshop is happening all over the world and its coming to Tel Aviv too. Go sign up, your startup will thank you later.

I had a lot of things to do last Thursday, Feb-17. I met a friend from abroad 3am at Ben Gurion Airport and spent several hours talking before we went to sleep, signed a contract for developing killer web app at 1:30am, and finally gave a presentation at The Junction at 4:30pm.

Late evening I found myself thinking (again) about having at least 32 hours days to have enough time to accomplish all the planned tasks. As a developer I always kept a lot of todo tasks in a queue: some ideas about adding new cool features, some ideas about improving existing ones, some thoughts about refactoring. Unfortunately the queue tends to overflow and todo tasks get lost.

There are two ways to solve that.

  1. Have a large manageable queue by using modern project management tools and write everything down naively thinking you would get back to these task later.
  2. Adopt adaptive development approaches and use the right tools to develop web applications like Ruby on Rails, stay productive and happy.

Back to the presentation at The Junction. It has 3 parts:

  1. The Modern Approach: The modern approach of building applications. Creating products using adaptive development methodology allows getting faster to the market while keeping highly maintainable code. Methodology and technology aspects of creating awesome applications in a modern environment.

    Slides are here.

  2. Introduction to Ruby On Rails, a web development that doesn’t hurt. Why Ruby On Rails is so popular among startup founders and developers. What’s so special in web applications framework and general purpose language that makes them the ultimate choice for the next killer application.

    Slides are here.

  3. Case study: thounds.com

    Slides are here.

I hope that those who attended the meetup enjoyed it, and those who didn’t would take a look at the slides.

We presented on IGTCloud Ruby On Rails Day today.

Agenda was a bit different this time, not only technical presentations but also a few words about modern approach of building web applications.

Find the slides below.

  1. The Modern Approach - Michael Mazyar

    The modern approach of building applications. Creating products using adaptive development methodology allows getting faster to the market while keeping highly maintainable code. Methodology and technology aspects of creating awesome applications in a modern environment. Slides

  2. Introduction to Ruby On Rails - Boris Nadion

    Web development that doesn’t hurt. Why Ruby On Rails is so popular among startup founders and developers. What’s so special in web applications framework and general purpose language that makes them the ultimate choice for the next killer application. Slides

  3. Ruby Basics - Vitaly Kushner

    General overview of Ruby language.

  4. Rails Basics - Vitaly Kushner

    General overview of Rails framework. Slides for both presentations

  5. Case study - Michael Mazyar

    Adaptive development and Ruby On Rails - real world examples.


Supports ERB and HAML for now, vote on site for more formats.

Beautifully crafted, totally free and it's kinda fun.

2008 was the year when we finally switched to full time consulting. And like all consulters we faced the problem of correct pricing. There are two well-known ways to charge a customer: per-hour rate and fixed bid quote, and several combinations of them.

We just incorporated our own Ltd. company.

It was coming for a while now but we finally got to it when we started to hire people :)