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Grant Skinner

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Announcing CreateJS

We’ve been working really hard on a lot of great stuff over the last couple months, and I’m thrilled finally to be able to share it with the world.

CreateJS

We’re going to be releasing EaselJS and a number of companion libraries under the new umbrella name “CreateJS”. CreateJS will be a suite of modular libraries and tools which work together to enable rich interactive content on open web technologies (aka HTML5). These libraries will be designed so that they can work completely independently, or you can mix and match as suits your needs. The initial offerings will be: EaselJS, TweenJS, SoundJS, and PreloadJS.

Along with the new name, we’ll also be launching a new site at createjs.com which will consolidate demos, docs, tutorials, community, and showcases for all of the libraries and tools. If you have a project or tutorial you’d like to see featured, tweet it to us: @createjs.

EaselJS

EaselJS provides a display list and interactive model for working with rich graphics on top of the HTML5 canvas (and beyond). It provides an API that is familiar to Flash developers, but embraces javascript sensibilities.

We’re planning a minor v0.4.1 release soon, which includes bug fixes and some minor feature additions. Following that, work will commence on v0.5, which will focus on some larger features, API clean up and consistency, and improved documentation. If you have features you’d like to see in v0.5, add them to the issue list, or tweet them to @createjs, and we’ll see what we can do.

Along with the CreateJS site launch, we will be releasing much improved examples, and links to resources and tutorials developed by the community. Again, let us know if you’ve written a tutorial, or have something cool you’ve built with EaselJS you’d like us to showcase.

TweenJS

TweenJS is a tweening and animation library that works with EaselJS or independently. It offers a deceptively simple interface, and a huge amount of power with support for delays, easing, callbacks, non-numeric properties, sequencing, and plugins.

TweenJS v0.2 will be tagged soon. It will incorporate some fixes and tweaks, along with a full plugin model. After v0.2 our next focus will be on performance and providing better demos and documentation in preparation for the CreateJS launch.

SoundJS

Audio is currently a mess in HTML5, but SoundJS works to abstract away the problems and makes adding sound to your games or rich experiences much easier.

We have a huge v0.2 release in testing right now. It is a ground up rewrite that incorporates a target plugin model that allows you to prioritize what APIs you’d like to use to play audio. For example, you could choose to prioritize WebAudio, then audio tags, then Flash audio. You can query for capabilities (depending on the plugin that is used), and it offers seamless progressive enhancement (for example, panning will work in WebAudio, but will be quietly ignored in HTML audio). Following v0.2 our focus will move to fixing bugs, and delivering plugins for mobile and application platforms like PhoneGap and Win8 Metro for a v0.2.1 release.

PreloadJS

The newest addition to the suite, PreloadJS will make it easy to preload your assets: images, sounds, JS, data, or others. It will use XHR2 to provide real progress information when available, or fall back to tag loading and eased progress when it isn’t. It allows multiple queues, multiple connections, pausing queues, and a lot more. We’re hoping to get a v0.1 build out in the next couple weeks for people to start playing with, and then will focus on fixing bugs, improving documentation, and just generally maturing things for v0.1.1.

Zoë

Zoë is an open source AIR application that converts SWF animations to sprite sheets. It supports some advanced features, like configurable frame reuse and multi-image sheets (important for mobile).

For Zoë v0.2 we’re planning to add support for reading the symbols in a SWF, and letting you select multiple symbols to include in your exported sprite sheet. It’s also worth mentioning here that Flash Pro CS6 will include direct support for exporting sprite sheets for EaselJS, offering a more integrated workflow than Zoë can provide.

Toolkit for CreateJS

We’ve partnered with Adobe to build a fantastic tool for leveraging all of the existing Flash Pro skill that’s out there to build amazing HTML5 experiences. The Toolkit for CreateJS is an extension for Flash Pro that allows you to publish content (including symbols, vectors, animations, bitmaps, sound, and text) for CreateJS & HTML5 as a library of scriptable, instantiable objects.

We’ve worked really hard to develop a workflow that makes sense, and to generate code that is completely human readable, and very small (in some cases the output is smaller than SWF when zlib compressed). You can even write JS code on the Flash timeline, and it will be injected into your published tweens.

Exciting times! If you’d like to stay on top of CreateJS updates, please follow @createjs on Twitter.

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Earlier posts in this series: “Introduction“, “Hiring“, “Orientation“, “Training“, “Planning“, “Production“, and “Shadowing“.

At the end of shadowing, the trainee has been with us for 10-12 weeks, has received intensive classroom-style training, has planned and developed a small project from start to finish, and has worked on real commercial projects in parallel with a few of our most senior developers. Throughout this, we have been assessing and providing feedback on their productivity, code quality, communication skills, time management, and problem solving ability.

At this point we know for certain (hopefully) if they are going to be a great addition to the team.

As the 3 month mark approaches, we schedule a meeting with all of the senior staff who worked with the trainees. We compare notes, and discuss the strengths, weaknesses, and growth of the trainee, citing specific examples wherever possible. I take a lot of notes, and bring them into the review.

I like to keep reviews informal, usually over lunch or a beer. I talk to the trainee about what they are doing well, and how they could improve. Again, I try to use concrete examples where possible, so they can relate the input to real experiences. I give them lots of opportunity to ask questions or provide their own feedback on their performance and the training they’ve received.

If things didn’t work out, I make a point to provide them with honest feedback on what I think they need to work on if they want to continue in the industry, and where they could go next. I ask them how they’d be most comfortable with me announcing their departure to the team, and we generally have beers as a group to see them off amicably.

If things went well, I welcome them to the team, ask them a bit about their goals for the future, and start talking through possible projects we could put them on. From this point on we work aggressively to keep them busy on real projects, under the watchful eye of more senior staff who can ensure the quality of their output, and help to continue their growth in the company.

Of course, this whole process requires a large up-front investment which is wasted if we can’t retain our staff. I try my best to make gskinner.com a great place to work. We keep regular office hours, encourage our team to have a life outside work, pay fairly, have a good bonus model, offer praise and appreciation for accomplishments, foster continuous learning, promote a fun work environment, try to book interesting projects, and protect our staff from abusive clients. I would much rather lose a bad client than a good developer.

I have an amazingly fun and talented team that I love working with, and one of the things I’m most proud in my professional life of has been keeping them together over the years.

This concludes the Creating Great Developers series. Hopefully it helps inspire other dev groups to mould a new generation of creative, competent developers, and treat them with the respect they deserve. Interactive development is a creative pursuit, and I’m a strong believer that you can’t get exceptional results by treating developers as a commodity.

Note: I’m planning to revisit this series to do some editing (I’m not completely happy with the quality of writing), flesh out some details based on feedback, and add a persistent index.

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Earlier posts in this series: “Introduction“, “Hiring“, “Orientation“, “Training“, “Planning“, and “Production“.

Once the new hire has successfully delivered their internal project, they are ready to move to the next phase of training: project shadowing.

We pair the new hire up with one of our senior developers, and have them work on the same project and tasks in parallel. At the start of each week, the senior developer will sit down with the new hire to outline the goals for the week, help prepare micro-deadlines (ie. production targets for each day), and provide some guidance on architecture and approach.

Throughout the week, the new hire works towards the assigned goals, and is free to ask their mentor for help or advice in an appropriate, organized manner. We schedule time for the senior developer to account for this, so that it does not create a burden on them.

At the end of the week, the trainee is provided with the mentor’s source code and given some time to compare it to their own efforts. They then sit down with their mentor to review their code quality, communication, and productivity. This also gives the trainee an opportunity to ask additional questions that arose during development or (more critically) while they were comparing their efforts to the senior developer’s work.

Besides being another great learning opportunity, it also provides the trainee and the senior staff with applied benchmarks as to how they are performing on a real project, without the risk associated with actually placing them on a client project. An important factor is that shadowing is treated as a serious project by both the trainee and the team, with a project manager, deadlines, and testing / quality control.

We repeat this process for 3-5 weeks, depending on the trainee’s performance. Most weeks we will switch mentors, so that the trainee is exposed to a variety of working / coding styles.

At the conclusion of shadowing, the trainee has been with us for between eight to twelve weeks, and is ready for their three month review, which will be the subject of the next article.

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