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Let’s Dance: Arc90 Is Acquired By SFX Entertainment

On Wednesday, October 23, 2013, our company Arc90 entered into an agreement to be acquired by SFX Entertainment. SFX is the world’s largest producer and promoter of live electronic dance music.

The designers and developers at Arc90 will become the core of the SFX Platform Team. We will work with the other groups at SFX to create a completely new digital platform to connect and serve the legions of fans and artists that make up electronic music culture.

I will oversee this effort as Chief Product Officer. Everyone who works at Arc90 will be part of the new product team. We will also be adding developers and growing the team. We are gearing up to do great engineering at a world-changing scale.

We are incredibly excited.

At our founding in 2004 we decided to make Arc90 a company focused on building world-class digital platforms for a very small number of clients. Our client engagements typically lasted years. We became known as a developer-first company that did innovative work, and as active contributors to the open-source community. We also became known for the products that came out of Arc90 Labs, such as Kindling and Readability.

SFX originally came to Arc90 as a client. As the relationship grew, we were incredibly impressed by the scope of SFX’s vision: a vision of one digital framework that connects together every aspect of Electronic Music Culture (EMC). It was clear to us that SFX had plans to build something entirely new and unprecedented: a global, API-driven platform that delivers content, connects people to events (and to each other), connects artists to their fans, integrates with the largest social networks, and works across devices. And those are just the aspects of the system that we can publicly disclose.

We knew we wanted this challenge. We wanted to build and support this system, and we knew we’d need to grow to do that. That’s why an acquisition made perfect sense.

I’m proud of the family we’ve built. But I also know that this is a wonderful way forward. It’s a chance to watch our culture grow and adapt. Arc90’s commitment to great design and rigorous approach to engineering will become the core of SFX’s platform strategy. Our engineers will have more opportunities, more challenges, more opportunities to scale, and more chances to attend awesome dance festivals than any other engineers on earth.

We see incredibly exciting days ahead. If you’d like to join us on this next journey, we’re hiring and we’d love to hear from you.

Finally, to the employees, clients, and supporters who helped us get here: thank you.

Teaching Gestures to Users of Touch Interfaces

iOS may be the fastest-growing operating system in history, and I believe it represents the future of mainstream computing. It won’t be long before most work done with computing devices will be done with touch interfaces. And for good reason: they radically simplify the human-computer interaction model, and make computing safer, simpler, more intuitive, and more reliable.

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Limited Event: Cocktails and Conversation with Arc90 and friends

It’s summer in the city and we’re in the mood for a party – a networking party, that is. But like any good party, we’re starting with some good people.

On July 31, we’re hosting a panel discussion featuring special guests Karen McGrane, Paul Ford and our own Richard Ziade. Moderated by Code Meet Print’s Glenn Nano, the panel will discuss anything and everything about technology, culture, the web and publishing.

Want to join us? We’re opening up a few invites, first-come, first-serve, to our blog readers. Shoot us an email at and we’ll give you the access code.

Sustainable Resourcing

There’s a plant in the lobby of our office that almost dies every month. It’s not anyone’s job to water it, so it slowly dies until finally I notice it on my way to the kitchen. I throw a glass of water into its pot and so far that’s been enough to resurrect it, to bring it back from its soft-and-weepy state. I found it near death again today, but this time instead of watering it, I hacked away at it with a pair of scissors first. I removed all the dry leaves and even most of the leaves that look like they’re headed in a bad direction. Then I watered it twice.

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Happy Hour mini-contest

We’re hosting a happy hour in NYC next week. Want to score an invite? Enter our mini-contest and we’ll pick three lucky winners to join us for drinks, food and good people.

The Contest

Write an implementation of Fizz Buzz using Fibonacci numbers- up to 50 terms – as the sequence. Drop your implementation in a Gist. Bonus points for elegance, using recursion, compactness and sheer creativity. We need to be able to run any answer.

To submit, tweet at @arc90 with a link to your Gist. We’ll pick the top three and send you an invite. Good luck!

Reintroducing: TBUZZ!

Tbuzz 2.0 screenshot 845x690

About 4 years ago we introduced TBUZZ, a Web browser add-on which makes it super-easy and super-fast to tweet about any web page and to see what people are saying on Twitter about that page. We were big fans of the tool and enjoyed using it ourselves, and it developed a small but passionate group of users out there in the world.

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The Difference Between Jobs and Opportunities

It’s graduation season and over the next month or two we’re going to see a new crop of candidates hit the job market. Some of them are already out there, creating profiles on job sites and networking with their college career center and calling the connections their parents keep bugging them to pursue. And when I think about those graduates who are interested in pursuing the field of technology, I have one piece of advice for them when the time comes to accept a position:

Do not accept a job. Accept an opportunity.

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Always Be (tele)Commuting

I’ve been telecommuting on a regular basis for about 7 years. This has taken various forms:

  • A day or two each week where I stayed at home
  • Working evenings and weekends from home
  • Working in airports or hotels when travelling
  • Working in the local office with teams in 3 countries
  • Working at home full-time

You might notice that one of those is not like the others. How can I be telecommuting from an office? Well, in this case, even though I had an office with a test lab and a local co-worker, the majority of my communication was with people in remote locations. Frequently, my coworker and I, despite sitting back-to-back, would opt to chat with each other electronically, rather than remove our headphones. As many remote workers have experienced, the generally asynchronous nature of online communication makes it easier to block off time to focus on a particular issue.

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The First Arc90 Hackathon

The Marksy team coding.

The Marksy team coding.

Just before the Christmas break, we shut down our company for two days. It had been a few months since our last lab experiment and the group of creative technologists here at Arc90 were getting a bit restless. We needed some time to put our “normal” work on hold, team up with a different group of people, and think about solving new problems for a while. Our friends at Kindling and Readability agreed to join, too.

This was the first Hackathon we’ve attempted at Arc90. Because we weren’t sure exactly what to expect, we only put forth one guiding principle: aim to ship in two days. That’s it. No other ground rules. Want to work with others? Great, form a small team. You’re a coder with a cool idea but need a designer? See if you can recruit somebody. Have an itch to hole up by yourself and get something out in two days? Grab a desk and do exactly that.

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Arc90 selected to design and build the Cornell NYC Tech web strategy

One of the things we’re most proud of here at Arc90 is where we come from and where we are today. From a tiny apartment in Brooklyn to our digs in midtown Manhattan, we take great pride in being a part of the New York City technology scene. Throughout that time, it’s been exciting to watch great startups like Etsy and Foursquare rise and go global. There’s something incredibly special about taking a risk and innovating in the greatest city in the world.

As a born and bred New York City agency, we couldn’t be happier to announce that Cornell NYC Tech has selected Arc90 to design and build out their web strategy.

Cornell Tech Campus Rendering

A rendering of the future Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island.

As soon as we began discussions with Cornell Tech, we knew that this wasn’t going to be just another graduate program. Their vision of blending the incredible entrepreneurial spirit of New York with a world class educational program strongly resonates with us. We’re incredibly excited to be joining Cornell Tech on the ground floor.

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Creating a thriving developer culture

In my eternal quest to understand how to deliver high quality software, I’ve spent a fair amount of time observing how very high level decisions and policies can expedite or impede this. A while ago, I read a discussion on “what makes a good engineering culture” that inspired me to put some of my thoughts to paper (as it were).

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Announcing SassMe

You know the drill: you’ve got a SASS project that uses variables for color values. When you want to tweak the color of an element on the page, SASS’s “lighten” and “darken,” though powerful, can be a hassle. You’ve got to change the value, save the file, recompile the CSS, then refresh the browser just to see if you chose the right color adjustment. If only there was a shortcut…

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What Arc90 Taught Me

We welcomed four awesome interns here at Arc90 this summer. As their final assignment, they were each asked to write a blog post reflecting on their experiences. Here’s the first, a post by our design intern Robert Vinluan.

If you were to ask me what I learned this summer as an intern at Arc90, I wouldn’t be able to tell you one thing. At my first internship I found myself surrounded by people who were willing to teach me things, whether it was Photoshop, or CSS, or Python, or outdated print industry terminology, or even juggling.

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Apps & Misfits

Songkick is one of those killer iPhone apps that any music fan immediately falls in love with. Its utility is simple and straightforward: it scans the iTunes library on your phone and tells you which of the artists in your library have shows upcoming near you. It even notifies you when a new show gets added to your geographic area.

Rdio is another killer music app. It’s a beautifully designed all-you-can-eat music service that puts just about everything worth listening to into your hands. It’s sort of like Spotify, except more elegantly executed. After subscribing to Rdio, the whole ritual of purchasing, syncing and moving files around on iTunes feels utterly silly. Rdio and its ilk are clearly the future. Rdio and Songkick. I’m in digital music heaven.

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The Mob, The Ramones & The Deeper Dive

There’s a saying that we repeat often when describing the Arc90 Lab:

Our experiments are our opinion pieces.

It’s a catchy phrase but it says something about how we try to say things here. It isn’t easy to say things this way. It takes time. It takes much longer than writing a three or four paragraph blog post, or clipping someone else’s blog post and dangling a wise-ass remark to the end of it, or tossing out a few tweets.

When we decide to “say” something—often something provocative—we have to make a big commitment. It can take many months and hundreds or thousands of man-hours to “write” that opinion piece. When you go out on a limb this way, it’s very scary. You’re not sure how your work will be received. When you finally do release that work (i.e. hit the “publish” button), you sit back and watch the quote-unquote feedback roll in.

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Introducing Readlists: Your Reading, Unbound and Remixed

Split spines: An occupational hazard of the old reading. (Credit Alice Volth.)

Quick, think back to the first time you cracked a paperback wide open. Not a guide book, not a novel, but a full-to-bursting, tombstone-scale tome. Recall that sudden stiff snap, the book shivering through your hands as its spine soundly split? Sometimes the binding gave way and stray pages spilled loose.

At times, reading online feels like that spine-busted paperback. Too often we’re leafing through loose pages, link to link, click to click, shuffling them around in our social circles, misplacing them in stacks.

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No DB?!?

On the train this morning, reading through my Readability reading list, I read one of the more compelling essays on software architecture which I’ve seen lately: NO DB by Robert C. Martin, AKA “Uncle Bob”.

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Why building relationships works better than recruiting.

Sowing comes before a harvest. (via Flickr)

Nothing goes south faster than a mismatched employee. We’re lucky to attract ambitious hard-workers here at Arc90, people who have big appetites for churning through work. If we don’t have enough work to hire someone—or if the work we have doesn’t match their goals—then I inevitably end up with an HR issue on my hands in less than 2 months.

Given these realities, I’ve had to adapt our hiring strategies. Instead of reactive recruiting, we now practice building relationships. And it’s totally changed the quality and retention of new hires that we’ve been able to attract.

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Git-sweep—Fresh from the Arc90 Lab

Here at Arc90 we use Git—and naturally, GitHub—for a lot of the work that we do. One of the greatest features Git provides is branching. I can work on my-whizbang-feature in a branch, committing early and often, and not affect the master branch where the expectation is tested and stable code.

This, of course, is not a new idea. With Git specifically, some workflows are solidifying that go into detail about how a team should use branches. If you haven’t seen Git Flow and GitHub Flow, you should read those posts.

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