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


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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Cheat Codes for Good Documentation

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Everybody, especially developers, loves working on documentation. They understand the importance of docs and its impact on customer adoption and customer experience, and they always consider docs when planning and releasing code. Wait, why are you laughing? Many companies have some kind of trouble with documentation. Lots of common problems make docs difficult to wrangle; information gets out of date or lacks completeness, the content is poorly organized or inconsistent, readers can’t find what they’re looking for, and code samples might be broken. If you walk through most engineering departments and ask for volunteers to help update docs, you’ll be

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Two Years: A Long Time as an Evangelist

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24 months. It doesn’t seem to add up; “Developer Evangelist” still seems like the job I just started. I guess after writing code for a third of my life, that’s true. Learning and doing new things keeps me busy enough that I haven’t paid much attention to time sneaking past me. You could say that a lot has happened in those two years and nobody would call you a liar. SendGrid has raised more money, quintupled the number of employees, hit a couple bumps in the road along the way and continued a rapid pace of growth. When they offered

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Learn to Code: Build a Conceptual Framework

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When we last talked about learning to code I recommended learning program design before jumping into choosing a program language and writing code. The hardest thing about learning new tech is getting the conceptual framework. My question may be simple, but I don’t know how to ask. — Sarah Allen (@ultrasaurus) July 4, 2013   Sarah Allen is speaking about complex systems in general, but her tweet gets right to the heart of why it’s important to learn flow control structures, simple data modeling, and program design if you want to be a developer: these tools give you the conceptual framework

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