Author Archives: Brandon West

About Brandon West

As a Developer Evangelist for SendGrid, Brandon's focus is on empowering developers to build things, gathering feedback for new features and improvements, and fostering a cooperative developer community for anything that needs email integration.

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Articles Posted by Brandon


Technical Debt is Not a Bad Thing

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If you work around developers, you have probably heard the term “technical debt.” It’s a widely used metaphor that is useful when considering how to build and maintain software. The term was coined by Ward Cunningham, a computer scientist who created the idea of a wiki and contributed heavily to the development of object-oriented design patterns. But even though the metaphor is widely used in the world of software development, I meet a lot of people who don’t understand what technical debt is and why it matters, or people who are completely unfamiliar with the term. What Is Technical Debt?

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How I Evaluate A Developer Evangelist Candidate

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Interviewing a developer evangelist is tricky because there’s a variety of hard and soft skills required. An evangelist has to be a strong developer, but also has to wear many other hats, work horizontally across departments, and be an engaging and helpful participant at events. If you’re wondering what the day-to-day duties of an evangelist might look like, check out the blog post I wrote after my first year as an evangelist. Standout Qualities I don’t give candidates an engineering test. I don’t care if they know which sorting algorithm is the fastest and I’m not going to ask someone

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Why Mind Maps are Awesomesauce

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About a year ago I started using mind maps to help me organize presentations, meeting topics and blog posts and I’ve found that it works really well for me. Mind maps help me take broad, abstract ideas and turn them into concrete, real world examples that I can use to help tell a story. What is a mind map? It’s basically a branching diagram. From wikipedia: A mind map is a diagram used to visually outline information. A mind map is often created around a single word or text, placed in the center, to which associated ideas, words and concepts

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Dirty Socks and Technical Debt

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Last month I spent two weeks traveling to Mexico City, Bogotá, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro with Geeks on a Plane Latin America. This was my second GOAP trip; my first was last year’s trip to Eastern Europe. GOAP is an amazing professional and personal experience and I highly recommend it to everyone. Once our group of geeks arrived in Mexico City, I discovered I forgot to pack socks, so the only pair of socks I had with me were the ones I had on my feet when I left home. Not a big deal, as I figured I’d

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Why We Open Sourced Our Documentation

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I talk a lot about docs, because it’s important to me and important for the success of a product. You can read some of my thoughts on what makes good documentation and using Jekyll to create documentation. One of the goals I set last year when I was asked to take over the documentation was to eventually open source it. I’m happy to say that this week we flipped the switch and anyone can now view and contribute to the source for our documentation. Check out the SendGrid Docs repo on GitHub. Good documentation allows feedback from readers so they

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Creating Sustainable Documentation with Jekyll

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I’ve spent a big part of the last year working on documentation for SendGrid. I’ve learned a lot of things. You can read about how we broke down the problem of documentation at a high level and why documentation is critical for success in Cheat Codes for Good Documentation. Below you’ll find the path we took, from the early days through last November’s switch to the current system, based on Jekyll. Most of what I’ll recommend applies to documenting an abstraction layer, e.g. an API. Scope of SendGrid’s Docs Just for context of what SendGrid’s docs look like, here is

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Building a Conceptual Framework: How to Design Programs

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If you want to learn to code, it’s important to start building a conceptual framework so you can effectively communicate with developers. The book I recommended in that blog post, Simple Program Design, is a great start and will give you the basic tools you need to get going. You can go through the entire book and all the exercises relatively quickly. Most people that are interested in learning to code want to dive in and make something work, and the goal of building a conceptual framework is to make sure you know how to swim first. But Simple Program

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