I am BARRY HESS > Blog

Nesting in Code

My wife is pregnant and our third daughter will be arriving within the next few weeks. It’s an expectant time. The baby could come any day now and basically be considered full term. We’re ready for her to be here so we can get on with taking care of her every second of the day for the next year.

You could say I’m a bit of an old hand at this whole process. I’ve done it twice before and I recognize my reaction to the phases of pregnancy. Right about this time with my previous daughters, I was in full on nesting mode. For me this phase of shuffling, sorting and organizing lasts until a bit after the baby arrives.

Typically discussed is the female nesting instinct that goes along with pregnancy. This is a very practical form of nesting: get the hospital bag packed, attend to any loose ends at work, make sure there are enough baby clothes washed and suitable for wearing. It’s a pretty well-honed evolution.

Some, especially my wife, find my form of nesting to be quite the opposite of practical. Right around the time our second daughter was born, I gutted two of our closets to organize them. This included buying shelving at a hardware store, assembling and mounting said shelving, discussing the merits of putting this there or that here, and all the other stuff that goes along with a non-handy man trying to be handy. This was precisely the opposite of how I should have been helping manage a household of three-but-now-four, given the new baby and all.

I have learned my lesson. This time around I’m using that nesting energy and applying it to code. Clean a little here, organize a little there. As you can imagine, this particular type of, well, motivation is not ideal for scientific code magic. It is perfect for cleaning up all the cruft and pulling off some simple ideas. On to that buried lede…


A couple of years ago a colleague and I were in the market for a simple photo blog. We wanted each photo to be featured on a single page. We wanted a large format like The Big Picture. We wanted administration of the photos to be a snap. We wanted to the pages to load in a snap. And we wanted installation on, say, a Dreamhost account to be simple.

So we created Pharm, and the initial results were encouraging. The design was outstanding. Admin was pretty easy. But, damn, was installation a bear. Just look at the README. Random Joe on the street ain’t getting that installed any time soon. So the project withered on the vine.

Enter Nesting in Code™. With heavy inspiration from another colleague’s photo blog, and my favorite little blogging engine Scanty as a starting point, I set about creating something simple to deploy to Heroku. Posting a photo is as easy as pasting in a Flickr link.

Snapped was created with: Sinatra, Heroku, MongoHQ, MongoMapper, and Flickraw. The basics are open sourced via Snapped at GitHub.


I have a backlog of blog ideas collecting dust on my Things to-do list. The more interesting items to me are those about my views on building things, working, balancing life, and so on. By no means do I feel I have an amazing depth of knowledge on the subjects. I want to write about them to discover what it is I truly believe and what still confuses me.

All this comes together giving me a renewed interest in blogging. My future posts will be more of an article format. In fact, anything posted in 2011 and on will not have comments. With this fresh look at what it means for me to blog, I iterated on my blog design to simplify it even more. Pretty soon it will be paragraphs on a page with no title, date or author!

Then I gazed upon bjhess.com with contempt. What existed there before was basically a business card on the web. I like this concept, actually. If someone met me at a conference, seeing a picture of me makes it easy to remember the connection. A friendly paragraph about myself along with a bunch of links - it’s not a terrible way to go.

Yet I noticed that finally, four years after kicking off my second programming career, I had a fair number of projects under my belt. Most of them are small, unprofitable doodads, but I did them and I’m proud of them. It was time to put them front and center. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and all that.


One other thing. I open sourced more trivial software: Magic Lunch Ball. This app is used for randomizing the destination for a weekly lunch I attend. It’s the minimum that could possibly work, but often that’s all that is necessary. More on this later.

Improving that which is already there has been an effective use of my nesting energy. Maybe it is not making things that much better around the house, but at least it is not making things worse. And if I didn’t give my personal website a little TLC from time to time, it would still look like this.