by Kim on January 29, 2015
Ralph was born and raised in northeastern Tennessee in a town called Johnson City as the fifth of six kids. He spent his childhood enjoying comic books and running his paper route. His love of the outdoors started early, when he frequently hiked the Appalachians with his scout master dad. When Ralph was 17, he embarked on his first trip west with the Boy Scouts to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. After seeing the vistas for the first time, he instantly fell in love and knew he would eventually head west permanently. After 15 years, the dream became reality.
But first Ralph studied journalism, then spent the next several years working for small newspapers in East Tennessee. He left journalism to study computer science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville after his sister – who worked in the computer science department there – showed her boss Ralph’s GRE scores and got him a graduate assistantship. Ralph worked at the university for awhile, eventually moving to research administration. When writing technical documentation for the department of network engineering, his boss asked him to make it available via the internet. How? A new thing called “the world wide web.” Within months, Ralph was making websites for the school using this new revolutionary technology.
Using his expertise in building websites, Ralph moved to Atlanta to work for CNN, helping to get cnn.com up and running in 1995. He states that it was really exciting work because “we were making everything up as we went along.” The first really big story on the site was the OJ Simpson verdict in 1995, followed by the Clinton/Gore presidential election in 1996 which killed the servers because of the load. “We couldn’t throw hardware at it fast enough,” Ralph recalled. During his time at CNN, Ralph helped to build the CNN/Sports Illustrated site, the financial site, and the politics site for the brand. He moved on to work for Cox Interactive Media and then as a contractor for IBM interactive where he helped to build sites for the Grammys, the NHL, the NFL, and the Hermitage museum.
Around that time, Ralph planned a vacation to Boulder, CO and then spent the next year looking for a job here. He found one with XOR Network Engineering and moved west in 2000, making that childhood dream come true. The company started to unravel during the first internet bust and Ralph switched to contracting for a few years. He contracted with InspiringApps and soon became employee number three (after Brad and Aaron Gerber)!
Ralph enjoys working for InspiringApps because “the work varies a great deal.” Ralph states that since InspiringApps is small, there is not a lot of hyper-specialization, allowing him to write code, talk to a client, work on a server, and investigate a database…all in the same week. “Our small size keeps us nimble and we have a good culture and environment. The location and view are wonderful and I’m still very much in love with Boulder,” says Ralph. “The scenery, the mountainous beauty that is right there. The bike culture is great. I like the outdoorsy culture.”
In his spare time, Ralph likes to tinker with hobby electronics (“pretty blink-y lights”), do a little soldering, and program Arduinos. He’s built some cool stuff for his trips to Burning Man and gets a lot of inspiration from that event and the amazing engineering and art on display there. Ralph tries to bring that inspiration back and integrate it into his work and non-work life.
by Aaron Lea on January 7, 2015
Enjoy a little new year’s fun we cooked up in the InspiringApps design lab – The Developer’s Paper Kit! Ready your printer, sharpen your scissors and locate that glue (it’s in your junk drawer, remember?) Choose a character and get your craft on!
Send a photo of your creation to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post it for everyone to enjoy.
by Kim on December 2, 2014
Michele recently joined InspiringApps as our Marketing Director. She comes with a wealth of experience in marketing, especially for the active and outdoor markets, due to her 15 plus years working for the GORE-TEX brand.
Michele grew up outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she spent her days running around the neighborhood, meeting friends at the pool, and playing kickball in the streets. Some of her favorite childhood memories stem from camping in the gorgeous hills of central Pennsylvania.
Although she attended a high school with a strong STEM emphasis, an interest in broadcast cable led Michele to begin her college years as a Communications student at Penn State University. She soon realized, though, that she missed being more technically focused. She switched gears to engineering, and graduated with high honors in Mechanical Engineering in 1993, confident she’d still be able to use her communication skills along the way.
After college, Michele accepted a position at W.L. Gore & Associates, a company known for its unique corporate structure and innovative products. She worked in product and technology development for a number of years, then moved to product management, and finally landed in the marketing world. Michele jokes that joining the marketing group was likened to “going to the dark side” since she was no longer involved with product technology or development. But the dark side was kind to Michele. In a recent 3-year period, she achieved strong GORE-TEX® brand presence online and doubled the number of sites telling their brand story.
Michele has always loved the business side of things. She enjoys watching the lights go on as potential customers realize why a product is worth their money. At InspiringApps, she is excited for the opportunity to spread the word about what we do well, helping us to grow into new market areas. We are thankful for her dark-side experience!
Outside of work, Michele loves to help create community, often over a shared meal or a glass of wine! She is grateful to live near world-class mountains, and getting to hike, camp and ski in them is a fabulous treat – especially if friends or family are involved too. Michele and her husband are raising four kids, so many weekends involve sporting events, Girl Scout activities, or other kid-centric fun. “It’s a full life,” Michele states, “but I am very grateful for it.”
by Kim on November 17, 2014
Eric Miller, one of our talented software engineers at InspiringApps, has also been busy with an inspiring project outside of the office. He has been working with the Handweavers Guild of Boulder on an activation of the arches framing the entrance to the Dairy Center for the Arts at 26th and Walnut. The arches are woven with various metals and lined with 2280 addressable, programmable, RGB LEDs. Called “Luminescence”, the project is set to launch on the evening of November 19th. Volunteers from the Guild and community have contributed countless hours of labor and expertise so far.
Of his own role, Eric says, “Along with some modeling and design work, I’ve been building a WebGL-based 3D simulator for testing and speccing the project. The code is open source, and the hope is to release it as an authoring environment in which the community can develop their own programs both for this installation and other illuminated art projects.”
Other technical leads on the project are Dan Julio of Dan Julio Designs in Boulder and Mike Bissell from San Francisco. Dan designed the power system, LED drivers, and integrated the core hardware, while Mike has built a lightweight and powerful OpenPixelControl rendering engine in Java.
“Mike’s renderer is running on a networked Raspberry Pi, which is talking to Elizabeth Scott’s awesome little fadecandy boards over the OpenPixelControl protocol. Then Dan’s system carries data and power out to the 38 LED strips. A lot of the hardware has been sourced from our local DIY company SparkFun, which has been contributing as well.”
Meanwhile, Nederland High School teacher Mark Savignano has been working with his students on the the initial interactivity design, which is scheduled for unveiling in early December.
“It’s been a big open-source, community effort,” says Eric. “I’m really happy I could be a part of it.”
You can read more about the project on the Dairy’s announcement page.
by Kim on November 10, 2014
Andrea joined InspiringApps in the summer of 2014 as our QA Specialist. Her dedication to the job and her wit came through when she responded to the job opening. One of the requirements for the QA job was, “Confidence in your testing to approve a build before a release. You have the final say if an app is ready to ship.” To this requirement, Andrea replied, “Scary! Just kidding. Preventing defects from getting shipped is my job. I take the accountability for this very seriously.” Her dedication to finding and reporting bugs, as well as her sense of humor, make her a welcome addition to the InspiringApps team.
Andrea grew up in Virginia in the suburbs of Washington DC. She states that it was not very interesting, “but now, looking back, maybe some of my friends’ parents could have been spies.”
She moved to Colorado twenty years ago, after visiting a friend and deciding it would be a better place to live. She likes the weather and the lifestyle. As a former long-distance runner, she thrives in a running mecca. Andrea lived in Boulder until she bought a house in Lafayette. She moved to a new job at Sun Microsystems as a data analyst using SQL on databases. When the system moved to production, Andrea became part of the QA team. She continued her work with data analysis and QA over the next several years for various companies, and even ran her own technical services company.
At InspiringApps, Andrea reports that the QA position is “way different” than anything she’s done before. She says, “I tested Windows desktop applications for long enough! Being at InspiringApps, and looking at things from the app side is a whole new world and a new perspective and it keeps my brain sharp.” And what about her co-workers? “I’m around some really sharp people: people with way more knowledge and different perspectives, people who are experienced with app development in a way that I have not been exposed to. And personally, I think they are all very interesting.”
Outside of work, Andrea loves that she can bike and walk almost anywhere. She just began riding her bike from home to the office, and enjoys biking with her husband and their 6-year-old son. Andrea also loves being in her vegetable garden or with the rescue horse and young pony she trains.
by Kim on October 15, 2014
Our Senior Project Manager, Stacy Griffin, hosted an event this week in our office for the Colorado International Media and Communication Network (CIMCN). Stacy spoke about the NFORS project that InspiringApps is working on (http://911perform.org/n-fors/) and provided details about our development process.
Stacy then welcomed Dr. Revi Sterling, Founding Director of the Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICTD) Graduate Studies Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The program is part of the Atlas Institute in the College of Engineering (http://atlas.colorado.edu).
Dr. Sterling spoke about the work she does with graduate students and her impressions of how the International Communication Technology (ICT) space is impacting international development work. She offered some ideas and insights for how companies, non-governmental organizations, and universities can work more closely together to engage in fruitful partnerships.
Specifically, Revi talked about:
- The importance of understanding the culture where a project is taking place. As an example, she discussed a student who solved a communication problem between hill towns by using OCHA Symbols via SMS to communicate weather shifts rather than phone conversations. This solution skirted cultural biases that would not allow unmarried men and women to communicate and allowed the hill towns to better conserve water.
- The focus on field work in her program. She noted other programs around the country that focus on policy and research. She discussed the process she goes through when assigning students to internship positions. It is vital that students work where they are passionate, but she also urges them to step out of their comfort zone.
- The importance of technology in what her students deliver. She has a mix of students with strong technical backgrounds and not so strong. She likes the idea of her students understanding the problems first and then finding the best technology.
The meeting wrapped up with a discussion of the pros and cons of using open source technology. For example, Open Data Kit (ODK: http://opendatakit.org) offers the ability for users to build data collection forms, but has stability issues. Stacy discussed the reasons InspiringApps created our own cloud-syncing solution rather than relying on third-party options.
Thank you Revi and the CIMCN group!
by Aaron Lea on September 24, 2014
Apex Ski Boots, a Boulder-based company, is revolutionizing the ski boot industry. Their products, targeted toward intermediate and advanced skiers, have grown popular in the few years they’ve been available. Apex customers love their boots – which have a soft inner boot that fits into a rigid outer chassis similar to snowboard boots – and they love telling other skiers about them.
With such a loyal and supportive customer base, Apex came to us looking to break into the mobile market. We worked with them to create Apex Inside Edge, a cross-platform mobile marketing app. Inside Edge helps Apex develop word of mouth and reach potential customers in existing and new sales channels. By delivering interesting, engaging content, Inside Edge gives Apex’s loyal customers a way to become brand ambassadors who refer fellow ski enthusiasts to Apex products.
To motivate brand ambassadors, users earn points with each referral, which they’re able to exchange for branded merchandise. Ambassadors and potential customers can explore Apex’s product offerings with the Product Showroom feature complete with photos, videos and product details. If a user wants more information about Apex products, they enter their contact information, and the app will send them a text message with more instructions. Requiring a limited amount of contact information makes the referral process easy so users can quickly get back on the slopes.
We were excited to work with such an innovative local company to give users an opportunity to share their passion for Apex boots. We’ve expanded our cross-platform portfolio with Inside Edge, ensuring Apex’s ambassadors can spread the word, regardless of whether they’re on iOS or Android. Implementing the rewards program and the technology behind the referral texts were exciting challenges for us to meet, and we’re looking forward to seeing how Apex fans share their love for the products with other skiers.
by Aaron Lea on September 18, 2014
We celebrated our 7th anniversary on September 18! In the past 7 years, we’ve gained expertise in new technologies, collaborated with clients in a wide variety of industries, and put mobile technology in the hands of users around the world in client products and our own. Our team continues to grow and improve, driven by commitment to our work and to each other. Bring on 8!
by Jess on June 2, 2014
We loved having the excuse to get outside, make new friends, and get a little competitive thanks to this challenge. But you can’t have a good adventure without some misadventures to balance everything out. Here, software engineer Seth McClaine tells us about an afternoon that made him question his cycling karma:
Doing my typical Saturday ride with the Bicycle Village group and one of my new riding friends I met through the Quick Left Strava Challenge, I finally get my first flat ever on a ride.
Starting from the beginning, I decided to ride from my house and get the extra 5 miles in to put towards the challenge. I get to BV (Bicycle Village) and we are scheduled for a 30 mile ride. We head out, get some coffee in Erie, and start heading back. About 5 miles out from returning to BV a fellow rider blows out her rear tire. I stopped to help. After giving some assistance and leaving her with a ride ambassador, my friend and I continued riding back.
I went on to say “I always try to stop because I feel like it’s good karma. In the four years I’ve been riding I’ve never gotten a flat on a ride…”
About a mile from BV I have a massive blowout. A pop, three whizzes (rotation of the tire while you can hear the air coming out), and my tire is completely flat. So much for karma!
I’m thinking, “Ehh, about a mile out, I could just walk back to BV then drive home… Oh wait, I didn’t drive.” I replace my tire, using CO2 to fill it up, get back on and get back to BV. A couple minutes after I had set my bike in the rack we hear a pop. At first I figured someone else popped their tire throwing it on the rack, as someone was putting their bike on the rack next to mine.
Later I find out, no my tire blew up, blow out number 2! The CO2 must have warmed up and over inflated the tire. Conveniently I brought an extra tube since my friend didn’t have extras. I take my wheel into the shop and replace the tube again.
As I get close to 100PSI BANG! Nothing makes your ears ring like exploding a tube inside a building. I managed to pinch the tube with the tire since I was being hasty replacing the tube and didn’t roll the tire correctly. I was out of tubes and a little frustrated.
Fine, I take it back to the service area and let them fix it. A couple minutes later I get my tire back and start to walk toward the register. Then I notice a small bubble coming out of the side of the tire… Apparently the pinch flat I had just done caused the side of the tire to blow out. Ok, back to service. They set me up with a new tire, and I’m finally good to go after paying.
All in all, at the end of the day, I now have matching red wall tires on my bike for the first time in two years.
We had lots of fun this month, misadventures and all. Thanks to Quick Left for organizing this challenge! It was an excellent way to foster community, get people out and about, and support a wonderful cause. In honor of Radio 360’s win, we’re making a donation to their chosen organization, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
by Jess on May 8, 2014
One of our favorite weeks of the year, Boulder Startup Week, is right around the corner! It’s a great opportunity to spend time learning from our fellow startup and tech enthusiasts – and to meet some of the most amazing people the scene has to offer.
Swing by our office on Tuesday at 2 for the “I Moved to Boulder and…” event. A handful of newly-minted Boulderites (including our own Stephanie!) will share what it was like to move to Boulder, from job hunting to relocating a family and scouting out the best happy hours around town. We’ll even have some beer on hand (and we’ll be making it rain with our new stickers.)
But, enough about us – here are a few more events we’re looking forward to:
- Crafting Incredible Designs
Tuesday, 1pm, Galvanize
- Impact Investing in Technology
Tuesday, 4:30pm, Impact HUB
- A Better Boulder through Sustainable Urbanism
Wednesday, 9am, BMoCA
We’ll also be reppin’ at the sold-out Ignite Boulder. If you see us around, make sure to say hello! And if you’re attending Boulder Startup Week as a job seeker, we’re hiring and would love to meet you.