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Managing technical debt is such an important part of software development we include this goal in every contract we send out:

Reduce or eliminate technical debt.

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Do you know a bit of R and have some data you need to visualize quickly? In this blog post we take a look at Rstudio's Shiny package and the first steps toward creating a working interactive to explore your data with it.

What is Shiny?

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The Bocoup Data Visualization team will be at the Eyeo Festival in beautiful Minneapolis this week. We’re looking forward to learning, getting inspired, and meeting friends and colleagues from all over the world. If you’re attending too, be sure to say hello!

Meanwhile, we wanted to share some of our latest work:

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If you've had any contact with JavaScript code, you're probably very familiar with how to define and call functions, but are you aware of of how many different ways you can define a function? This is a common challenge of writing and maintaining tests in Test262—especially when a new feature comes into contact with any existing function syntax, or extends the function API. It is necessary to assert that new or proposed syntax and APIs are valid, against every existing variant in the language.

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Recently, I had the opportunity to contribute to a massive, meaningful effort: the open-source Web Platform Tests (WPT) project. My task was to improve WPT test coverage for areas of the HTML specification dealing with navigation —things like the details of loading new web pages, browsing around the web, and opening new windows.

I didn’t anticipate that I’d stumble onto a bug affecting several browsers that dates back nearly 20 years, in one of the most established areas of the HTML specification.

How Web Platform Tests make the web better

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On February 15, 2017 we had a screencast to talk about how to improve webpack build times by utilizing the new webpack HardSource plugin created by our colleague Z Goddard. This post contains the video of that event along with a transcript and visual aids.

If you're interested in learning more about webpack, check out our upcoming event list!

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A webpack loader is a Node module that tells webpack how to take some input content and transform it into output JavaScript. I often build one-off loaders to experiment or fulfill specific needs for projects—their most basic interface is simple, but can get a lot done. They can be pretty easy to follow and understand, so you don't have to worry about adding opaque complexity to maintaining your build process.

I was helping a coworker recently who was looking at including raw markdown into a small project with webpack. Their application would then use a library to render that markdown as a slideshow.

A raw loader

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An illustration of a line of dinosaurs marching forward Illustration by Sue Lockwood

At Bocoup, we hold strong convictions about the social significance of the web platform. We want to see it expand, and we want to make sure that it remains open in all senses as it grows. Following the lead of Philippe Le Hegaret of the W3C (and in collaborations with the folks at WHATWG), we're framing web standards as a combination of three equally important components: specifications, tests, and implementations. We began in 2015, tackling the JavaScript runtime by modernizing the Test262 test suite. Through that work, we experienced the impact that automated conformance testing can have on platform compatibility. This year, we're starting a new effort for browsers and the web by contributing to the Web Platform Tests project (a.k.a "WPT").

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In part one of this series we started learning how to make maps rendered by WebGL, a browser based hardware-accelerated graphics API for 2D and 3D graphics. Our access to this technology was via Tangram, a map rendering library from Mapzen. This post will focus primarily on shaders, those perplexing parallel programs that power our pixels, and how to create visual effects using them. We will be focusing on 2D effects for now and will also look a bit at how to create interactive effects that are powered by shaders. If you haven’t read part one, you might want to start there.

What are shaders anyway?

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NVDA stands for NonVisual Desktop Access and is a FREE screen reading app for Windows OS. Emphasis on the "free", as there are other Windows screen readers out there with prices that will make you spit-take across your monitor. (Is there such a thing as a subtweet inside a blog post?) If you do end up using NVDA in your development process, please donate to them, as we all know free software isn't technically free.

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