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It's been awhile! I've started a business around Design Systems, Basalt, and became the maintainer of Pattern Lab!
2018-02-27
pattern-lab
design-systems
basalt

Hi! I almost titled this post "Hello World, again!" – it's been far too long since I've posted... but, I don't feel too bad: I've been busy! I've had a lot to share lately and want to start sharing more again, but before I started (and damn it: I'm going to keep up the habit of blogging this time!), I felt it necessary to give an update; here's a summary of what's gone down in the past year:

I gave a presentation at DrupalCon on working with Pinterest about empowering content editors with design systems through our build of Pinterest Business. We outlined how the whole process had each staging thinking about components. The designers delivered comps of components (and comps of those components used in pages). The front end developers created reusable components in Pattern Lab using Twig. The backend developers created a CMS that wasn't about pages, but pieces that made up the page: an interface that allowed content editors to select these components the designers and front end developers created and to compose the pages they envisioned. Too often we get excited about how reusable components help our particular discipline, but it's very important to remember who we are building these sites for, and often time it boils down to empowering people. Sadly, the DrupalCon staff messed up the recording and it's not available... I've got the audio and the slides, so it's possible to put them together, but life's busy; ping me on Twitter if you're interested and I'll let you know if/when we get it together and available.

My time as a Software Architect at Phase 2 came to an end and I was faced with a fork in the road: work for someone else, or work for myself. Across my 13 years in the technology industry, I've worked for myself as a freelancer or owning my own business about 40% of that time; I'm quite aware of the pros & the cons of both sides of the fence. I've known for a long time where I've wanted to end up; and though it's challenging, a favorite quote of mine repeatedly came to mind:

"Before you go climbing the ladder of success, make sure it's leaning against the right building."

And so, that brings me to my next fork in the road after that decision: to freelance, or to start a business with others. In order to answer that question, I had to ask myself another question: what do you want to do? And to keep a long introspective quandary succinct: I wanted to fix the process, because I really feel like it's broken! And by process, I mean what happens after a company decides it wants a new website and up until it goes live. Somewhere between point A and point B, it all goes to shit.

Now, don't think for a second that I'm calling the individuals or companies involved out! Remember, the first time someone accessed an HTML document via a web browser was around 1990 – this is a pretty new field! Biology has a huge head start on Technology as a field of study! Anyway, all I'm trying to say is this: I feel like we've got room to improve and get better. And I don't know all the answers, but I know some of them, and I can either bitch in the corner or speak up and try to do something about making the process better for all involved.

Basalt logo

So I started a business with others because this is bigger than me and I need help. And I got extremely lucky with those I'm working with! We started a company called Basalt, I'm the CTO, and it's off to a rockin' start! (pun intended) The Pacific Northwest area around Portland, OR that we live in has a ton of volcanic basalt rock and one of the first times we all hung out years ago was when we went whitewater rafting down a river that goes over a basalt rock bed. That history, combined with our love of outdoors and wanting to provide a base camp for the companies design systems we served, resulted in the perfect name. Plus, super short email addresses!

Next up in my life: a whole lot o' hustle. It's a tricky balance to set things up that are nimble and easy, yet resilient and scalable.

Sometime in early fall, Brad Frost reached out to me and asked if I wanted to take over as the maintainer of Pattern Lab from Dave Olsen who created the original PHP Pattern Lab along with Brad – a huge honor as it was key to me getting obsessed about how design systems, prototyping, and component libraries can help improve the process. This worked out surprisingly well, as I'd been collaborating with Salem Ghoweri over the past half year after we met at DrupalCon, decided Pattern Lab wasn't getting the attention it deserved, chose to fork it, and keep on improving it. After getting the keys to Pattern Lab core, we were able to merge in a lot of hard work! Also, lots of hat tips to the Four Kitchens crew for helping with some collaboration!

And after all this: so much more... I really want to write more about all the technical revelations I've had, so many cool tricks! And if any of you know me (and you must to of read this far), then you know how much I love all the little tricks. And it's not because they're "tricky", but it's because they help make what one is doing easier so the problem that we are trying to solve is more in focus and less muddled. It all builds, it all works together, and when piece by piece of the foundation improves: it makes the process better.