Making Things Simple for Complex TV

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In recent months, Greane Tree Technology has been working on high-profile, high-traffic web applications for clients. The resulting sites make extensive use of streaming video, social media integration, and responsive design.

A Video Hub for a Demanding Demographic

Last fall, Complex Media asked Greane Tree Technology to build a video hub for its growing collection of exclusive short video properties. Complex Media is the brainchild of urban fashion designer and hip hop impresario Mark Ecko. Boasting over 60 million unique monthly visitors, the sites that make up Complex Media attract their primarily young, male visitors with original content on style, technology, and celebrities. Complex was named to this year’s AlwaysOn OnMedia 100 list of “top emerging companies … in the world of media, advertising, marketing, social commerce, branding, and public relations.”

 Complex needed a web application that would fetch assets from the Ooyala video content management and analytics system, then display them in a stylish and user-friendly video portal or in widgets that could be deployed in other web properties. The software had to be built quickly to capitalize on trending content, but to withstand millions of views, it had to be built well.

To build clean code quickly, Greane Tree Technology worked with frameworks: Laravel for PHP, Backbone for Javascript, and Foundation for CSS and HTML. Mustache templates expedited the generation of dynamic HTML. JQuery and Underscore.js furnished libraries of useful functions. A Redis key-value store gave the web application quick access to video file directory information.

Following the Agile methodology, Greane Tree worked with Complex to prioritize features and deliver functionality in small, well-crafted increments. Within two months of project start, the dedicated video portal, complex.com/tv, was launched. Since launch, the videos have been receiving about a million views per month. Greane Tree Technology continues to make enhancements, such as new Twitter Player Cards to facilitate video sharing via social media.

Growing Trend

Complex is only one of the clients for which Greane Tree Technology has created applications integrating video and social media and supporting a high volume of users on multiple platforms. We’re not yet at liberty to discuss the particulars of all our current work, but suffice it to say, the projects’ high profile and technological interest keep us motivated and keep our skills sharp. Greane Tree is always looking for more top-notch developers; contact Annmarie Lanesey if you are interested in joining our team.

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Matt Gerrior’s Talk on Social Media Integration

April 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Senior Software Engineer Matt Gerrior spoke to a lively crowd at this morning’s Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley in the lovely Cohoes Music Hall. He crammed a lot of information into a short talk. Download his slides on social media integration and study them at leisure!
SMBTV-at-CohoesMusicHall

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Matt Gerrior Takes You Behind the Scenes of Social Media

April 22, 2013 Leave a comment

Greane Tree Technology Lead Software Engineer Matthew Gerrior knows a lot about the ins and outs of integrating social media into web applications. He will be sharing his insights at Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley #14: The Mechanics of Social Media. The event will be held from 8 to 10 am on Tuesday, April 30, at the Cohoes Music Hall. Breakfast will be provided by All Good Bakers.

Matt’s experience with social media includes:

  • Using Trendspottr to pull data from Twitter and Facebook to help users tailor their own engagement with social media
  • Enhancing video sharing with Facebook Open Graph and Twitter Player Cards
  • Interweaving data from Twitter and Instagram to add a live stream of relevant social media to webcasts from entertainment venues

Matt will explain the basics of social media APIs, and will give pointers on how to use them. Joining Matt on the panel of speakers will be Scott Glasser, Founder, Design & Development, Beaglebird Studio, and Tommy Nguyen, doctoral student, Computer Science Dept., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. They will speak about the history and use patterns of social media.

To learn more about and register for the event, visit Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley.

Girls in STEM, Women in Business

April 2, 2013 Leave a comment

Greane Tree Technology President Annmarie Lanesey will speak about Girls in STEM and Women in Business at two events in April.

The first event is “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM): Change. Create. Collaborate. Contribute. Girls in STEM.” The event aims to educate girls and their parents about the opportunities and rewards of STEM education and careers. Annmarie will appear with representatives from GLOBALFOUNDRIES, NYSERDA, CNSE, and Ballston Spa Central School District on a panel entitled “Business & Industry Careers – Amazing Women Leaders in STEM.” Other panels will address “Messaging & How Girls Learn” and “Summer Camps.” There will also be workshops exploring education and careers in Information Technology, Clean Energy, and Semi-Conductor and Nanotechnology. Contact Mary Burke for more information about the event, scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 20, 2013 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm at HVCC’s TEC-SMART campus in Malta.

The second event is the “Tech Valley Series for Empowering Women Annual Symposium.” The symposium will offer “strategies and solutions” to help women-owned businesses (WOB) achieve success. Annmarie will lead a workshop called “The Business of Running Your WOB.” Participants will discuss strategies and tactics for handling challenges specific to women-owned businesses, and also explore the importance of building a support network of other entrepreneurial women. Other workshops offered are: “Getting the Yes: Critical Negotiation Skills for Women,” “Manage Your Career. Don’t Let It Manage You,” “Making Impossible Conversations Possible,” and “Demystifying the Roles of Mentors, Advocates, and Sponsors in Your Career.” The symposium will be held on Thursday, April 25, from 11 am to 5 pm, at the Century House in Latham.

For more information on “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM): Change. Create. Collaborate. Contribute. Girls in STEM” see PDF.

For more information on the “Tech Valley Series for Empowering Women Annual Symposium” visit the Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce website.  

Rensselaer County Regional Chamber Logo

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Helping the Helpers: Greane Tree Technology and the Comission on Economic Opportunity

March 1, 2013 Leave a comment

At Greane Tree Technology, we are especially happy when we can use our skills to contribute to our community. Such was the case when we recently worked with the Commission on Economic Opportunity to rebuild their website, www.ceo-cap.org. CEO has long been one of our favorite organizations, and we were deeply gratified to assist them in their mission to empower local people.

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The steady support of her Head Start teachers and the pretty coat donated by CAP COM will help this child build a future worthy of her potential.

The Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO) was formed in 1965 as part of the network of Community Action Agencies created to administer Head Start and other programs that help people rise out of poverty and become independent. CEO now has over 25 programs, addressing the needs of everyone from infants to grandparents. In its own words, “CEO gives people the tools they need to build financial stability and lead healthier, happier lives.”

In 2012, CEO embarked on a website redesign to create a site that would better serve as a platform for communicating the agency’s mission and activities with the public. The redesign process resulted in an updated look, but still lacked many of the navigation and usability features consistent with current trends in web design. The site was also not optimized for search engines, making it difficult for someone to find.

Annmarie Lanesey is on the board of the CEO Foundation. She was aware of CEO’s struggles, so she offered Greane Tree Technology’s services at cost. Within two months, Greane Tree Technology was able to design and build a website that gave visitors a well-organized introduction to CEO’s philosophy and programs, offered CEO staff an easy way to add content and create custom forms, and in general expressed CEO’s energy and enthusiasm for its mission.

The site is built in the WordPress content management system, using the Gravity Forms plugin to facilitate the creation of custom forms. The site’s customized CSS expresses CEO’s brand, and adheres to the principles of Responsive Web Design, automatically adjusting its layout to fit the device (desktop, mobile, etc.) on which it is viewed. The site’s new architecture facilitates Search Engine Optimization (SEO), so CEO can make sure its programs are easy to find on the web.

Emily Cote, CEO’s Director of Marketing and Communications, says, “Working with Greane Tree was an absolute joy. Both the design and the development phases moved quickly and smoothly. We couldn’t be happier with the final product, and we feel that our visitors will appreciate the new design, both for how bright and crisp it is, and for how easy it is to navigate. We’re proud to have this as the new ‘face’ of CEO online.”

Greane Tree Technology is grateful for the contributions that CEO makes to our community. We’re delighted that our technical expertise can help CEO offer people in the Capital Region the tools they need to become self sufficient.

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Agility and Integrity

February 5, 2013 Leave a comment

As part of the Agile methodology, in addition to the regular reviews of the work product, there are retrospective meetings to inspect and adapt the work process. Our retrospective discussions with Baby-Friendly, USA, Executive Director Trish MacEnroe and Russo Project Management CEO Mary Alice Russo yielded insights that apply not only to the Baby-Friendly, USA, project, but to other Agile engagements as well.

A New Approach to Software Development

Trish and Mary Alice were not familiar with the Agile process when the project began. Both, however, were veterans of traditional software development efforts and knew from experience that detailed upfront planning does not always forestall misunderstanding and disappointment. All the same, they were skeptical about Agile: without clearly defined requirements, how could a coherent system be developed? Wouldn’t daily meetings be tedious and time-wasting? How would the busy executive director find enough time to give the necessary feedback? Despite these misgivings, Trish and Mary Alice were willing to try the new approach because they had faith in the integrity of Greane Tree Technology staff.

The Value of Agile

Trish and Mary Alice soon saw the value of the Agile methodology. The daily stand up meetings (usually conducted by skype) turned out to be a quick and efficient way to share information and coordinate effort. Frequent contact also helped team members become familiar with each other, making it easier to communicate comfortably and align expectations. Watching the system grow according to her priorities convinced Trish that participation in the development process was worth her time. During the Sprint planning meetings, Trish learned that the development team would really direct their efforts to building the features that she decided were most important, even if they were features that she had not initially anticipated. But the development team also made it clear that new features necessitated trade-offs: Trish would either have to give up some originally imagined features or she would have to find funding for the extra work. Because she could see the system evolving in the weekly Sprint review meetings, Trish could make informed choices about when to trim features and when to expand the budget.

Transparency and Teamwork

Trish said she would not have been comfortable embarking on the Agile process if she had not felt confident that Greane Tree Technology would deal with issues frankly and give honest answers even when they were difficult. Trish may not have known that transparency and candor are fundamentals of the Agile methodology, but she intuitively recognized that Greane Tree Technology had the integrity to live by those principles.

Mary Alice said that organizing the work into short iterative Sprints allowed the team to be dynamic, and, in working together on an evolving system, to “uncover gems” that might have been discovered too late or not at all in a traditional process. Together, the team found opportunities and solutions that they couldn’t have anticipated during upfront requirements analysis. The Agile methodology turned out to be flexible but disciplined, with defined practices and principles to keep the process grounded, efficient, and effective.

Trish and Mary Alice have found that the Agile methodology can be applied outside of software development. Trish has adopted the practice of daily standup meetings with her staff. Mary Alice finds that user stories are excellent tools for organizing training objectives for people who may have trouble articulating their needs. Both of them have seen how Greane Tree Technology relies on and reinforces transparency and teamwork to build high quality software tailored to its customers’ needs.

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Representatives from Baby-Friendly, USA and Greane Tree Technology at project kick-off standing with boxes of Kellogg’s cereal. The project was funded by a generous grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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Greane Tree Technology Salutes Russo Project Management

January 24, 2013 2 comments

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Most small businesses owe part of their success to a network of trusted suppliers, vendors, and external partners. Greane Tree Technology is no exception, and we’ve decided to profile some of the people we depend on. We recently completed a project for nonprofit Baby-Friendly USA during which it was our pleasure to work with Mary Alice Russo, CEO and founder of Russo Project Management (RPM).

Mary Alice was helping Baby-Friendly USA devise and execute a capacity building effort. Together they identified a need for a technology upgrade to improve communications with the birthing facilities that Baby-Friendly assists and accredits. When RPM and Baby-Friendly USA interviewed Greane Tree Technology as a candidate to help coordinate this upgrade, we told them frankly that we thought RPM had the coordination well in hand, and that our skills could be better used building a custom web application that would allow them to meet their goals.

It wasn’t what they had expected, but Mary Alice quickly saw the advantages to Baby-Friendly of redirecting part of the coordination budget into actual system development. Mary Alice kept insisting that she was “non-techie,” but she quickly picked up on all the concepts she needed to be not only a great project manager, but also an excellent business analyst, writer, and all-around problem-solver.

Russo Project Management (RPM) is a results-oriented, multi-specialty consultancy that helps corporate and nonprofit clients develop and execute realistic, manageable plans to achieve their goals. RPM’s services include: project management; budgeting and fiscal oversight; risk assessment and mitigation; staff development and vendor management. In short, RPM does what it takes to move clients’ important projects from the “to-do” list to the “done” list. Mary Alice, an RPI MBA, has a sharp mind, a keen wit, and more than 25 years of business development and project management experience.

We look forward to partnering with Mary Alice and Russo Project Management on future projects, and we plan to highlight some of our other wonderful colleagues in future blog posts.

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