Zack Shapiro

Founder of Silencer

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BikeShare: a Ruby gem for Bay Area Bike Share

San Francisco is a fantastic city that suffers from some infrastructure problems. Most notably, biking infrastructure is pretty sparse. Of all of the ways to get around the city, biking is probably the best (and healthiest) option. That said, we need to make our city so much safer and more accessible for bikers.

Recently, Bay Area Bike Share went live which will help introduce more biking into the city and the South Bay. Options for their web and mobile apps aren’t too good right now and I wanted to help.

Introducing bikeshare

bikeshare is a Ruby gem that makes working with Bay Area Bike Share’s station and bike information pretty easy.

Start by including bikeshare in your Gemfile or with a require statement at the top of your Ruby script.

After, you can instantiate a new BikeShare class which will give you the latest data from every bike share station in the Bay Area.

You have...

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A list of the best media in the world right now

The following is a list what I’ve found to be the absolute best in media and publishing in the world right now. Every time I consume or interact with one of these, they inspire me and push me to create better things. They are presented in no particular order:

  • The Economist (print/web publication)

  • Esquire Magazine (print/web publication)

  • The Atlantic (print/web publication)

  • Top Gear (TV)

  • This American Life (radio)

  • (blog)

  • Breaking Bad (TV)

  • Cook’s Illustrated (magazine)

  • The Gaslight Anthem (band)

  • The National (band)

  • Instagram (public photo-sharing app)

  • Path / Days (private photo-sharing app)

  • Lift (habit-tracking app)

  • Dr. Weil’s blog (health website)

  • NPR (radio)

  • Medium (publishing)

  • GitHub (knowledge-sharing website)

  • []( (blog)

There is a level of quality and care that is put into each and every one of the items above in order to provide a flawless...

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Play your own game

Every day I feel like I’m doing something wrong.

I’m working on the wrong thing. Or I should be working in a traditional job. My exercise routine? That isn’t right. My diet? Suddenly it doesn’t make sense anymore.

They say you’re the average of the five people you hang out with the most. Now I feel like I need different friends. I learned to code and I absolutely love it. But am I good enough?

Some days I have too much stuff. Other days, I don’t have enough. I should buy a place and stop renting. Coffee is bad for you, I need to stop drinking it. But it also prevents certain forms of cancer, I better start drinking it again.

I heard that I need to read more to be more innovative. I also now know the “Ten ways I’m messing up my company’s marketing”. I can’t wait to read this book I just bought how I should be on an information diet.

Sound familiar?

There’s a whole lot of money and...

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I finally figured out what hashtags are for

Yesterday I tweeted, “Hashtags may be my biggest pet peeve on the Internet.” I hate hashtags. I think 98% of the time they’re useless and dumb. Most people have no idea how to use them.

Let’s start at the beginning. Twitter user Chris Messina created the hashtag in 2007, inspired by IRC, trying to help people organize their tweets into relative groups.

Hashtags were pretty nerdy for a while, but once political events and news networks covering those events started pointing them out to viewers who were also Twitter users, usage increased and spread beyond politics and early-hashtag adopters.

No one really explained to anyone what hashtags were for or how to use them effectively. As a consequence, today, few people know how to use them!

Let’s look at two bad examples of using hashtags:

The first, the useless hashtagging of random words in your tweet, in the hopes your tweet will be...

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Craftsmanship is everything. A way of life. A commitment to the fine details. It’s not sexy; it’s difficult. It requires discipline, iteration, and introspection.
If anything, it’s the most important part of our work.

This is an attempt to answer this week’s Startup Edition question: “How do you build engaging products?”

Lately, I’ve fallen in love with restaurants but not for the reason you might imagine. I’ve really come to admire restaurants during their off hours.

To me, this embodies craftsmanship.

The dinner rush is the prestige. It’s the part of the act that I see and that amazes me most. There’s so much more work that goes into a successful dinner rush than most customers ever think about.

At 10am, the chef comes into the restaurant. He walks through the freezers and walk-ins, surveying what’s still in stock and what needs to be ordered. A truck or two might come and bring...

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Want to learn Rails? Start with me.(I’m teaching a course!)

On Saturday June 22 I’m going to be a teaching a three hour online Rails course. The course is offered through The Next Web’s Academy platform, costs $99 and I promise to make it worth both your time and money.

I wanted to teach a Rails course to help enable the next generation of developers and engineers who want to get started but don’t know where to turn.

My goal is to teach you the fundamental pieces you need in order to start writing Rails applications and building the wonderful ideas that are in your head.

I plan to offer this course in multiple parts, each class building on the previous week. Each class will have homework assignments designed to push you a little beyond the boundaries we walk through each week.

In addition, The Next Web’s Academy platform also gives you access to my video and slides as long as you buy the course, you can revisit in the coming days, weeks, and...

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A pause

This post was going to be something completely different.

Until I finished it and it did nothing for me. It wasn’t that it was bad writing. It’s that it didn’t speak to me at all. And it probably wouldn’t speak to you.

Maybe that is bad writing.

So I’m going to pivot a bit. Usually I don’t talk about my writing direction and choices but I’m going to now.

Because or world lacks a lot of authenticity right now.

And I just want to make a little dent in that, so you feel some authenticity.

I wrote a piece a few days ago called Graduation that I’m really proud of and I hope you read it.

It’s so much better, exponentially better, than what this post was going to be. Before I paused.

I’m going to back up and decide what it is that I want to write about. I think I’ll ditch the Sunday posting schedule because Sundays are no fun.

Spontaneity and serendipity is fun. It feeds our souls and...

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Semipermeable standards

I believe that now, more than ever, we should draw deeper lines in the sand. Set our boundaries more effectively. Put up chain link fences with little holes, that keep most things out. I say most things because there’s always something that, for a specific reason, ends up being too good to pass up.

One of the resounding psychological traits I see in many people today is the inability to make decisions. We want abundance and endless choice, all the time. All the while, secretly hoping that most people will like us.

Add instant gratification on top of that, constantly delivered by our phones and computers and the software we create, and you have a fairly messy recipe for successful human beings.

In short, we get nowhere.

Once we set up semipermeable standards, we can get somewhere.

semipermeable membrane

Like the membrane keeping the salt out of the right side of beaker, our cells have a semipermeable...

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Want to learn to code? Start here.

Last September, I wrote a post called Want to learn Rails? Start here. which has been pretty successful. I’ve met and emailed a good amount of people who have follow up questions or are in the middle of learning how to build things with software. I’ve referred a bunch of people to the post as well. I’m proud that the post is actionable and helpful. Since I wrote that post a while ago and developed my engineering skills much, much further. I wanted to write a follow-up post, some revised thoughts on learning how to code.

This post is intended for working professionals who feels a strong desire to code to build things that they want to see exist in the world. This post is not intended for the person who thinks they should code because they hear so much about it. I mean no offense but I’ve found those people to be lacking in the short and medium-term fire it takes to learn to actually...

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Momentum is a hell of a drug

On Friday, after being down by 16 at halftime. Colorado came out and scored 21 straight points on Illinois before Illinois put another point up on the board. Illinois had gone cold. Dead cold. Colorado had all the momentum in the world. I love momentum shifts.

But then Illinois started scoring again and Colorado started missing shots that they would have made when the adrenaline was flowing. Colorado got cold. Illinois got hot. Another momentum shift. Illinois eventually won the game.

What a shame. But it got me thinking a lot about momentum.

It’s incredibly hard to start, and continue, a lot of things. A new habit, a small behavioral change, and even scoring streaks (á la Colorado).

One of the primary reasons that it’s so hard is because we’re subject to the natural triggers of our environment and our diminishing willpower throughout the day.

You were going to work on that...

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