Neo Joins Fix It

By, Neo Ellison

I know what you are thinking, who is this jerk and what is he doing writing on Emily’s glorious site? While that is a fair question, I actually did the HAML, so it is kind of my site too, almost. Either way, please allow me to introduce myself in what I hope is my first and not last post.

My name is Neo, besides being Emily’s husband, I am also a philosopher, beer lover, statistician, published poet, musician, gamer, and as of late a hacker.

I have always been into computers, but it was only recently that I had my renaissances into the world of actual programming. Before this time I lived in a dark world of programatic boxes. I would write some SQL here, write some SAS there, copy/paste the output to Excel, and go about my work what I was sure was the “stupid way”. Then, one day the lid of the box crept open just long enough for me to see how dark a world I had been living in.

While working, my normal routine was: pull data in SQL; do analysis in SAS; copy the results to Excel for presentation. Then my company switched to a Linux-based batch version of SAS. This started as a headache. All at once, I was removed from my comfortable windows client that allowed mouse dependent highlighting and piecewise code running. This forced me write better code, code that ran all at once. It forced me to write complete thoughts. It forced me to think like a programmer.

Once I had adjusted to this new development, I soon discovered the magic of ODBC connections allowing me to write the SQL in the SAS program, do the query and analysis all at once, and then spit out a snazzy HTML. The new results were exciting but the excitement didn’t last. SAS is at best a ghetto version of C++, but without the power and configurability. I tried Python, but could never really find anything to grab onto and catch my attention.

Now with the knowledge that I was in a box I started trying to find a way out. I made, with Emily’s help, my first website It is pure static HTML gold. (Don’t judge, I didn’t know any better.) Thinking that static HTML’s was all there was to web development, I went back to my routine with a couple more tricks but still dreaming of something more.

Emily went on to learn Rails, and I must admit I was pretty jealous. After watching her make such websites as even this one, I was determined to build something for myself. I re-dusted off my Python and gave it a good go but, still just couldn’t get into it. Django is cool and all, but with something so complicated as programming and web development, I needed a tutorial with some teeth.

Enter Rails, enter Hartl. What pushed me to Ruby and Rails was, besides having a pretty convenient teacher, a more active and engaged community. I spent the better part of a month and half just fighting my way through the tutorial. I am told that is actually pretty good, so I am kind of a big deal.

And that brings me to last Friday, armed with an understanding of Ruby and Rails I set out on my first task: create a bot. I had no idea what that entailed, but two days and 6 beers later I have a little buddy that logs on to the Twitter REST API and stores the information to a PostGres database of my creation every hour!

So now that you know a little about my journey into casual hacking, I look forward to sharing more of my exploits.

Thanks for reading,