CakeDC Blog

TIPS, INSIGHTS AND THE LATEST FROM THE EXPERTS BEHIND CAKEPHP

Ed Finkler - Founder, Open Sourcing Me...

Do you know who Ed Finkler is or what OSMI does? If you are in the developer community, then it definitely is a name you should get to know. Open Sourcing Mental Illness is a non-profit organization  dedicated to raising awareness, educating, and providing resources to support mental wellness in the tech and open source communities. CakeDC and CakePHP has long supported and stood behind OSMI - Ed Finkler has been instrumental in making mental health a topic of discussion, and opening up lines of support for mental wellness in tech. Mental health and wellness are close to our hearts and we want to share with you OSMI and why you should support it. Ed has been active in bringing forward a previously rarely discussed topic - mental health. Being an advocate of mental health awareness and using his own experiences as a developer, he has recently announced that he is now able to go full time into OSMI. This is really fantastic news and CakeDC stands 100% behind him. We caught us with him to find out more. We love that you are now putting all your time into OSMI - but what was the Catalyst for your decision to focus full time into OSMI?
What we found is that we simply had to much to do, and not enough time to do it. Everyone at OSMI are volunteers, and it was becoming increasingly challenging to find the bandwidth for anyone to complete major tasks. We are ambitious, and our ambition far exceeded the time available. I couldn’t ask it of anyone else, but I could make a decision myself -- that I would step away from my CTO role at a tech startup and dedicate myself to OSMI full-time.
What is your favorite thing to do out of ‘office’ hours (Hobbies/activities etc)?
Generally I find myself watching movies or good TV shows, or playing video games (I’m deep in Mass Effect: Andromeda right now). I also write electronic music, which you can hear at deadagent.net.
Do you think that companies are becoming more receptive to your message and becoming more open about speaking about mental health?
Yes, I think so. Companies in general are gradually becoming more aware of the need to discuss mental health openly, the same way we discuss other serious public health issues, like cancer and heart disease. But there’s a long, long way to go, and we are just taking our first steps as an industry to deal with this in a healthy way.
Have you seen a marked difference in people opening up about their personal experiences?
I definitely have observed, over and over, that when someone takes that first step forward, others follow. Fear is the thing that keeps mental illness hidden, and fear is why so many suffer in silence. Seeing someone speak without fear about their own issues empowers the listener. They may not need to stand up on stage like I do, but I’ve had numerous people tell me that hearing someone speak openly was what allowed them to seek help and/or start speaking openly about the subject.
What would you say is the biggest misconception that you have encountered when speaking about and sharing your personal experiences?
I think the biggest misconception I encounter is companies believing that by simply offering some level of mental health care in medical coverage, they’ve done all they can. That would be fine if we treated mental disorders like we do cancer or heart disease or diabetes, but we don’t -- we are afraid to discuss it, and as a consequence, we don’t know what to look for, why it matters, and how to seek help. In the absence of consistent, positive affirmation that it’s a safe topic, our default is to be afraid to discuss it. That keeps people from seeking the help they need.
Biggest piece of advice that you would give someone battling with mental health issues
You are not alone. Lots of people are like you. There is no shame in what you deal with. You are stronger than you know.
You recently spoke about mental health breaks on the OSMI blog, how would someone know they are in need of one and how would you suggest for employees to bring this topic up with their employers?
I am leery of giving specific health advice, but in general I’d say this: listen to your mind and your body, and remember that your own health is far, far more important than any job. Plus, if you’re healthy, you’ll be able to do your job much better.
In the last 5 years, you have achieved incredible breakthroughs and achievements in bringing this to the fore - where do you see OSMI and mental illness awareness in the next 5 years?
Ultimately, those two things are intertwined. OSMI will continue to grow because so many of us suffer from this, and more and more of us are realizing that we aren’t alone. That we aren’t broken. That we aren’t without hope. OSMI is about giving hope to those that felt they had none. Giving compassion to those who are hardest on themselves.
It’s my sincere hope that OSMI will drive the awareness of mental health in the tech workplace and change what we choose to value in employers and employees. However we get there, I believe we will succeed.

As someone suffering and wanting to find out more or be involved, how do we reach out, what should we expect and where should we go?
There are lots of ways to help OSMI, and all you really need is a willingness to spend some of your time working with us. You should visit https://osmihelp.org and learn more about our work, and then email info@osmihelp.org to talk to us about volunteering.
As a business with employees in the tech industry, what should we do to make mental health more accessible
For each employer there’s a different answer, but there are some general things to keep in mind. The biggest one is that the well-being of your employees must be a top priority. It’s an easy thing to say, but if you truly value it, you’ll avoid doing what so many organizations do: rewarding overwork and unhealthy “loyalty.” Ping pong tables and bean bag chairs don’t make people healthier, and neither do free snacks and beer at the office. They’re short-term tricks to get people to come to you and maybe stay in the office longer, but they don’t encourage a healthy work/life balance. Too many developers think their work IS their life. That’s a mistake.
Long term, what works are reasonable work hours, easy access to mental and physical health care, and promoting healthy preventative habits. Employees who feel that their well-being is demonstrably valued will be more productive and stay with your organization longer.
I also strongly encourage everyone in a leadership position to take Mental Health First Aid <https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org>, a program that teaches the skills to respond to the signs of mental illness and substance use.
Quote to live by or key advice to follow every day
One time I was encouraged to do a six-word memoir, and this is what I came up with:
“By helping others, I save myself.”
Thanks to Ed! We absolutely loved catching up with him about OSMI, we hope that you take a moment to check out the links and find out more to get involved and continue this important conversation! For more information, be sure to check out https://osmihelp.org/about/about-osmi Recently, OSMI launched donation gifts - be sure to check it out and donate!

Color Accessibility – UX Best Practice...

Designing websites can be fun, challenging and exciting. Even if you are just managing the process behind the website design, it is important to be aware of best practices of color use in web design. Color is one of the most powerful tools when designing. Color can introduce personality into your web page, it can bring across your brand and your message, it can make the user feel more at ease. But it can also alienate and confuse people - imagine being color blind and navigating a site that hasn’t thought about this intricacy. Have you considered your end user in your color choice for your web design? Other factors that you should take into consideration are how our brains see color, the way color affects usability, and the cultural connotations of color. Color plays a role in the readability and user experience. For instance, overlaying colors on opposite ends of the color wheel can make reading easier. Designing with accessibility in mind is not a barrier to innovation, guidelines to help you design for a diverse set of end users will challenge you to find the best solution to your design problem. Some tips for designing with color accessibility in mind Don’t use color as the only visual means of conveying information Find and use alternative visual means to convey information - Use both colors and symbols. For instance, a required field left blank could be conveyed with a red border. However, if you are finding color difficult to visualise, then this wouldn’t be too useful. Another method would be to include a hazard triangle in the empty field to visualise and convey that the field has been left blank. This will help users who are unable to, or have difficulty with, distinguishing colors. Always ensure sufficient contrast between text and background Ideally it is said that the contrast ratio between text and its’ background should be at least 4.5 to 1. If your font is at least 24px or 19px bold, the minimum drops to 3 to1. But why you ask? Imagine if you are color blind, if the contrast is not there, the text and the background will just fade into each other. Quick rule of thumb - don’t overlay light-on-light or dark-on-dark and do overlay colors with varying values to help with readability. Keep it minimal Limit the color palette you use for your website - allow for fewer instances of confusion. Stick to a core group or core set of colors to best represent your design or brand. Minimalistic design is timeless and a current trend - it also is very useful if you are designing for color accessibility. Avoid these color combinations Here are a few combinations to avoid - depending on the type and severity of a user’s color blindness - these combo’s may be a potential nightmare

  • Green and red;
  • Blue and purple;
  • Green and brown;
  • Green and blue;
  • Light Green and yellow;
  • Blue and grey;
  • Green and grey;
  • Green and black;

Basics behind web applications and why...

Web apps, web applications, website applications - all terms that you have probably heard thrown around. But why should you be in the ‘web app’ know and why is it important that you have a working solution (in the form of a web application) for your business? Web applications, in simplified terms, are dynamic web sites combined with a server side backend, providing functionalities such as interacting with users, building databases, generating information or databases for users etc. There are a wide variety of functionalities - if you can think it, you will be able to build an app to do it (especially with the expert services of our development team!). There are two main technology categories for creating web apps, client side scripting and server side scripting. Here are some common Client Side Scripting technologies:

  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language)
  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)
  • JavaScript
  • Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML)
  • jQuery (JavaScript Framework Library - commonly used in Ajax development)
While here are the common Server Side Scripting technologies:
  • PHP (very common Server Side Scripting language - Linux / Unix based Open Source - free redistribution, usually combines with MySQL database)
  • ASP.NET (Microsoft's Web Application Framework - successor of ASP)
  • Ruby
  • Perl (general purpose high-level programming language and Server Side Scripting Language - free redistribution - lost its popularity to PHP)
  • Python (general purpose high-level programming language and Server Side Scripting language - free redistribution)
Web application frameworks are sets of libraries, components and tools organized in an architecture system which allows developers to build and maintain applications with a fast and efficient manner. CakePHP is one such framework. So why does CakeDC stand by CakePHP - for that precise reason, CakePHP is a tool that allows us to deliver your vision efficiently. But why are we app’s becoming more popular for businesses
  • They help create a professional online presence;
  • Get the reach to customers;
  • Create multi layer/multi category customer journeys
  • Flexibility and versatility offered by web applications

5 Things every website needs

Are you in need of an updated website or a new website that better suits where you are now with your business? Maybe you had your website developed and designed a few years ago, and it’s starting to show its age - or you’ve had a new idea and your website isn’t capable of that. Websites all need basic things - here are our tips for things to have on your website

  • Contact information on every single page.
Seems like a simple thing right? But most companies either miss this or forget to design it into each page. Include the phone number that you want people to call you on for sales inquiries. Another important key piece of information is an email address - not every visitor likes or has the time to phone through to inquire about your product.
  • Easy navigation.
It is so important to make sure that your visitors will be able to navigate your website easily. This could make or break your initial impression of the site (and in connection, the business overall). Have an easy to read and understand navigation menu - make it easy for visitors to stick around and find what they are looking for.
  • A blog.
We suggest having quality content. Quality content will help in your online marketing efforts - social media marketing, SEO optimization. To get maximum benefit, your blog (and associated content) should be listed under your main domain, and not on an off-site service. As an added benefit, a blog is an excellent opportunity to establish your company as an expert in your industry and connect with your customers.
  • An SEO strategy that suits and targets your services and products.
This also means having a clear message - your visitors shouldn’t have to guess if they have found the right place. Optimizing your site so that people can find you via web searches or web browsers is key to being seen and bringing in new customers/visitors to your site. This means more than just including your company name in the the metadata. Focus on generic terms that customers who may not know your business are searching for.
  • Links to your social media accounts.
Add links to your profile or business pages set up on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+.

TLS/ SSL Certificates Explained – Why ...

SSL certificates are incredibly important if you want a safe and secure site - especially for end user reassurance. But what are they and why should you be concerned if you do not have one for your website? Confidential information can be exposed to prying eyes, hackers or cyber criminals - SSL certificates offer a line of defense against this. SSL - secure sockets layer) certificates are small data files that are digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details. When installed on a web server, it activates the padlock and the https protocol. This allows for secure connections between a web server to the browser. They were created to protect sensitive data in transmission. It is designed to provide security while remaining simple enough for everyday use. Typically, these certificates are used to secure credit card transactions, data transfers and logins. The SSL protocol has been traditionally used to encrypt and secure transmitted data. Each time a new and more secure version was released, only the version number changed to reflect the update. However, when the update from SSLv3.0 to the new version was released, the version was renamed to TLSv1.0. Because SSL is still the recognised name, this is what most people refer to when describing these certificates - however, you are actually likely using/getting a TLS certificate. This is important to remember if you get a third party to purchase your certificate and you would like to make sure you are getting the right version/protocol. When secured by TLS, connections have one or more of the following properties:

  • The connection is private/secure because symmetric cryptography is used to encrypt the data transmitted.
  • The identity of the communicating parties can be authenticated using public-key cryptography.
  • The connection ensures integrity because each message transmitted includes a message integrity check using a message authentication code to prevent undetected loss or alteration of the data during transmission.
What is important to also know is that browsers are going to start penalising HTTP sites from 2017. Why? Well because browsers, like Google, want to make it known to their users of sites that may be less secure or do not have a SSL certificate and are collecting sensitive information. From January 2017, Google has started flagging HTTP pages that collect passwords or credit card details as non secure. Ideally, website owners should get onto this as soon as possible and ensure that their sites are secured. Visitors have also started to expect secure sites, research has indicated that they are specifically looking out for a ‘padlock’ or secure notification. This is important to sites in general - not only websites with an online store or login portal. SSL is more than just encrypting data submissions. Have you heard about letsencrypt.org? Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated, and open certificate authority (CA), run for the public’s benefit. It is a service provided by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG). Letsencrypt.org makes certificates more accessible while guiding you with how to properly set it up.  

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