Custom Development

jQuery Diagonal Grid Fill Algorithm

This week, the team mulled over a compelling code challenge: “How do you fill a grid in diagonal columns starting at the top left corner?”

As a person who legitimately takes pleasure in solving trivial puzzles, I approached the problem head-on. And although easy to solve on paper, the evolution of a grid quickly became tricky to invent for web use. But alas, after a couple Redbulls I came to a solution.

Visualization of jQuery Fade and Fill Diagonal Algorithm

To achieve the diagonal grid fill algorithm, only the height and width of the grid are necessary. Each diagonal column must be filled from top to bottom, left to right. It’s achieved by a loop and decrements to the selected cell by (width-1) and (height-1). The loop continues until the selected cell no longer exists.

Below is a PHP representation of the algorithm.

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Twimlbin October Updates

After meeting with some good friends from the developer evangelist team at Twilio, we’ve added a couple additional features to Twimlbin at their request.

1. XML Output

The first of these new features will give users the ability to force Twimlbin to render the actual XML rather than the HTML interface when viewing in a browser by appending “/raw” to the end of any Twimlbin URL.

For example, if you visit, you will see the entire Twimlbin rendered as an HTML friendly view. But with the new feature, when you visit, you’ll see the raw XML rendered to your browser.

Here’s another hint: This will work with any interface that accepts XML.

2. UTF-8 Encoded Character Handling

Another of the newly added features gives users the ability to properly validate UTF-8 encoded characters. Previously, if you put special characters (like emoji) in a Twimlbin, it would return back an invalid Twiml. This has been fixed and updated.

Keep an eye open for additional new features coming soon. We’ll also be adding support for all of the new Twiml verbs so things like Queues will properly validate as well!

Why the RFP Process is Broken

Since the end of the KGB, few three letter combinations have evoked as many negative feelings as RFP. No agency I know enjoys going through an RFP process, and most customers dislike the outcome it produces. The process is broken and outdated for both parties. It needs to be replaced.

An RFP is ostensibly implemented in order to protect buyers who aren’t knowledgeable about which vendors are best suited to solve a specific need. Many times, they are required for government “fair bidding” requirements. The goal in these cases is to get an “apples to apples” comparison and remove biases from the procurer.

The reality, however, is a different story.

Here is where the RFP process fails for both parties.

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The API is Coming

If you’ve never heard of an Application Programming Interface, you’re missing out. It powers many of your favorite apps and services that you use every single day. From posting to Facebook, to calling customer service, to seeing who’s talking about what on Twitter, there’s an API for practically everything nowadays.

Put simply, an API is a way to interact with another product or service. Many people might equate it to knocking on your neighbor’s door to ask for information. Here’s what it might look like to ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar, if you were an API:

*Knock Knock*
“Hey! How much sugar do you have?”
“I have 2 cups of sugar.”
“Can I have 1 cup?”
“Sure, here it is.”

Now, imagine all the data you interact with on a daily basis and the number of ways to record and utilize those interactions. Here’s a couple ways you can do it:

  • Pull every Facebook post that involves your girlfriend, find all the pictures that you’re both tagged in, and put them in a slideshow to music; that’s one simple way to make use of an API.
  • Pull every library of congress article.
  • Vuurr recently combined APIs from various startups at Hollywood Hackday where we built TuneClash, the world’s music trivia game with integrated video chat.

That’s just a couple examples. The power of the API will really be unleashed as more and more data becomes available.

In 2012, Barack Obama announced that he’s signing an executive directive to ensure that every government agency has a public facing API, thus making the information available in an effort to increase transparency. The power of this information floating around is sure to change the way we look at government and information in the future.

Here’s a situation you might experience a couple of years from now:

You’re driving down the street and your phone gives directions to the car stereo via its API. While driving, your phone also talks to the “traffic lights'” API and calculates your car’s average speed and its distance to the next light. The API discovers you will reach a red light at the next intersection. So, in order to increase efficiency, the API tells you over the stereo, “You’ll be hitting a red light in 2.1 miles, if you slow down by 3 mph, you can time the next light to be green.”

The limits to what you can do for your business with APIs are only confined by what data is available and by your imagination. The programmers at Vuurr are API specialists and can help your company develop, document, and deploy your API.

Whether you’re turning traffic lights green, or just asking your neighbor how much sugar he has, we’ll help to make sure you’re passing the competition.

How To Create & Apply Retina Graphics To WordPress

Whether you’re a fan of it or not, Apple’s new retina devices have created a new set of opportunities for web-developers to make the internet an even more beautiful place. After spending a few months with an iPad with a retina display (3rd generation) and recently acquiring a MacBook Pro with a retina display, I decided to see how long it would take and how difficult it would be to prepare this site, built on WordPress, to display retina graphics. Turns out, it’s surprisingly easy.

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Introducing “Where I Rank” – Free Objective Rank Tracking

Without data, any online marketing effort is doomed to fail. As marketers, we don’t have the luxury of betting on feelings to perform for us, we need data. Now, you’ll be able to check your rankings objectively, in near real time. Introducing “Where I Rank”. (This software is now deprecated and no longer available. We leave this here for all the memories. Read to bottom of post for replacement).

Rank Tracking Tool

What is it?

Where I Rank is a simple web app that takes a keyword, your domain or internal page link, and then emails you minutes later with a simple ranking report telling you what position that keyword ranks in Google and Bing. There are many different ways you can use this:

  • Performance Bonuses – When you rank a clients site to a certain position, you get a bonus. However, you’ll need a trusted and objective third party like Where I Rank.
  • Personalized Results – Sometimes, it’s difficult for people to believe they actually rank in a certain spot when Google’s “Personalized Results” shows them on the first page and they actually rank page 5.
  • Verify your existing rank tracking system’s ranking results – is it accurate?

What Makes it Different from Others?

  • More Accurate Results – Because of our affiliation with industry leading partners Authority Labs we’re able to provide more accurate results by collecting the individual pages of search results in sets of 10 instead of one block of 100. This allows you to see more accurate rankings for your keywords.
  • Full URLs not just Domain – Most tools only allow you to check the domain itself and not subdomains or full links to a blog post or internal page. That’s useful to determine where individual pages and posts rank for your keywords.
  • Fast Results – Accuracy and speed is the name of the game. If a keyword you’re looking for isn’t immediately available, of which tens of thousands are, you can put in your email and get the result sent within a few minutes. You can also keep your browser window open and we’ll refresh the page when your results are ready!
  • Google AND Bing Results – We have the ability to give you the results for Google and Bing with the same speed and accuracy so why wouldn’t we?

WhereIrank has been phased out and is no longer available. For Keyword Rank Tracking look to AuthorityLabs (who provided whereirank data previously).

Learning HTML & CSS with Twitter’s Bootstrap CSS Framework

Twitter Bootstrap CSS Framework

We recently brought on a new employee who expressed interest in beginning front-end development, but only had minimal knowledge of HTML and CSS. They’d been frustrated with the standard tutorials that attempted to explain each single tag, and weren’t interested in continuing. On a whim (but apparently good guess) I suggested they continue working with HTML but immediately include Twitter’s Bootstrap CSS Framework while learning and developing.

The result was astounding. In three weeks we turned a college student into a junior front-end developer.

We found that by simply having something look nice and working from an incredible example page with great documentation, the learning process went much smoother, faster, and resulted in higher-quality work. Now after just three weeks we have a new junior front-end developer who now does all of our prototyping and initial front-end builds with the expected level of incredible Vuurr quality.

Where to Start Learning

To get started with Bootstrap, use their guide here:

Sitepoint has a pretty good walkthrough of Bootstrap 3 as well:

Call Tracking with Twilio & Google Analytics using Twimlbin

Nearly a year ago, I was working on a new feature for an app powered by Twilio when I realized that it would be significantly easier to get started with Twilio’s TwiML if hosting an XML file could be removed from the equation. Several weeks ago, Twimlbin was born. One of the features we needed to implement quickly was the ability to track calls both as a pageview and an event in Google Analytics. After building this feature, we found it more and more useful for many other call tracking instances. With this feature and the TwiML <Redirect> secondary verb, it’s possible to use Twimlbin as a basic analytics proxy – something we find incredibly useful.

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