Posts in Category: Client Projects

The new ElectNext site

Yesterday we launched a new version of the ElectNext site. With the election over, we’re expanding our focus beyond candidate matching, as explained on our blog:

…we will be developing a new suite of tools, far beyond the initial candidate matcher, so that we can help you discover, learn about, and act with, the people and political events that affect the issues you care most about — not just every four years in a national election, but in your neighborhoods every day… Our destination is a more informed and engaged democracy.

Jake did the design, and I did most of the implementation. We used the Twitter Bootstrap framework, and wrote media queries to make sure it looks good on all devices (and used Scott Jehl’s Respond.js to keep older versions of Internet Explorer happy).

…And I’m finally on the team page.

The new ElectNext site
The new ElectNext site13-Dec-2012 08:39

Joining the ElectNext team

ElectNext I’ve barely blogged at all for months, as I’ve been crazy-busy working for ElectNext. I’ve been on contract for a couple months, and I’m about to become employee number 5 (here’s the rest of the team). I found out about ElectNext late in the summer, when Philly Geek Awards nominated them for startup of the year. The first thing I learned in the interview, however, is that they planned to base the engineering team in San Francisco. As much as I’d like to move back to California, that’s not in the cards right now. I also didn’t have any Rails experience, and the position was for a Rails engineer. So it made for an interesting interview! In my favor was that 12 years ago I came up with an idea for a candidate matcher similar in concept to ElectNext’s, and built a prototype for it when I worked at Ask Jeeves, Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "moving-voter-registration-and-turnout", the CTO and I share a passion for clean code, and I was confident I could ramp up on Rails fairly quickly, given my other web development experience.

So what is ElectNext? Let our CEO Keya Dannenbaum explain it to you. Her presentation put us in the top 5 out of 77 startups at DEMO earlier this month:

Personally, I feel like I’ve found my dream job. Web development has been my career, but I’ve never let go of my interest in politics – specifically my interest in fostering civic engagement. The opportunity to combine the two is a thrill for me. And the team couldn’t be better: John has been a great Rails mentor, I work with Dave once a week at Indy Hall (I work from home the rest of the time), and I’ll be with the team in New York City next week, just in time for the election. After the election, we’ll be broadening our focus to local issues and elections, so we can be an ongoing, nonpartisan resource to help people engage politically in their communities, as well as nationally for issues important to them.

We need your help – do some clicking for us!

With the election one week from today, we could use your help to maximize our exposure while interest nationwide is at its peak. Please take a moment to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and go to to see which candidates align with you. When you get your matches, or if there’s a issue that’s important to you, click one of the links to tweet it or post it on Facebook. This is a key time for us, and your clicks can lead to a positive, viral increase in our exposure.

We also have an embedable widget version of our candidate matcher you can try. We’ve got it on a number of sites, including MSNBC, PBS NewsHour, The Washington Post,, and many others, including, of course,

[Update: now that the election is over, we’ve retired the 2012 candidate matcher]

The New Chatham Chat Web Site

I’ve been working with the new managers of the Chatham Park Home and School Association to re-launch their website (Kai goes to school at Chatham). We just finished – check out the Chatham Chat:

The new look for the Chatham Park Home and School Association web site

The new look for the Chatham Park Home and School Association web site


I did the back-end work on the site (for managing the email newsletter subscriptions, converting from the old site, etc), but not the design. It’s using WordPress (of course!), my Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "deko-boko-wordpress-plugin" for the contact form, a modified version of the Classroom Blog theme, and I did some customizations to the Subscribe2 plugin for emailing the Association’s newsletters.

Web Consulting Projects Wrap-Up

Last year I had several web consulting projects. I just finished the last of them, and I’m not planning on doing any more, so I figure now’s a good time to post a wrap-up. All 5 of these sites are running on WordPress.

Boxing Dragons - Original Asian ArtBoxing Dragons – Original Asian Art

Boxing Dragons – Original Asian Art

Body of Knowledge - Personal TrainingBody of Knowledge – Personal Training

Body of Knowledge – Personal Training

The Hope Funds for Cancer ResearchThe Hope Funds for Cancer Research

The Hope Funds for Cancer Research

Kai's Candy CompanyKai’s Candy Company

Kai's Candy Company

Newport Homes for SaleNewport Homes for Sale

Newport Homes for Sale

  • Body of Knowledge Personal Training: the most interesting part of the site is accessible only by their clients. I created a custom WordPress plugin that enables their clients to schedule appointments online. The plugin synchronizes the appointments with Body of Knowledge’s Google Calendar, and on the administrative side, provides invoicing and other bookkeeping capabilities.
  • Newport Homes for Sale – Terry Toppa, Broker Associate: you may recognize the last name 😉 . This is a site for my Dad’s real estate listings. It uses my Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "shashin-wordpress-plugin" and Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "deko-boko-wordpress-plugin". His friend Jim is a photographer, and he provided some fantastic pictures of Newport that really bring the site to life.
  • Boxing Dragons – Original Asian Art: I didn’t come up with the graphic designs on the other sites listed here, but I did for this one. I am by no means a graphic designer, but I can fake it sometimes. This site is over a year old now, and drove a lot of the improvements that went into Shashin 2.0 last year.
  • Kai’s Candy Company: this was my own business (why can’t I count myself as a client? 😉 ), which is now closed. I worked with a wonderful graphic designer, Paula Weindel, who created the site design for us. Our business volume never justified implementing a full-fledged shopping cart; Google Checkout served our needs just fine. After the business closed, I moved the site to free hosting with Google Page Creator.
  • The Hope Funds for Cancer Research: this project involved converting a static site to a dynamic one, and training their staff to use WordPress so they can manage most of the site without needing programming skills.

Penn Medicine Clinical Trials

The Clinical Trials search site I developed. My co-worker Joe created the design.The Clinical Trials search site I developed. My co-worker Joe created the design.

The Clinical Trials search site I developed. My co-worker Joe created the design.


In the six years I’ve been working at Penn, this is my first project that’s publicly accessible: Penn Medicine Clinical Trials. It’s a web application to help researchers as well as the general public find clinical trials at the U Penn School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. My co-worker Joe did a great job on the design, and I implemented the functionality. Joe gets the credit for the Google-like “less is more” user interface, which is dramatically different from the clinical trials sites at other leading medical research institutions.

I wrote a script that runs nightly to pull down XML documents on the clinical trials from (a website created by the National Institutes of Health to provide a central clearinghouse for information relating to clinical trials in the US). The script then parses out the most important data and puts it in a database, where its used for full text searching. For displaying the pages on each trial, I created an XSL template that’s used to dynamically transform the XML documents for display as web pages.

This was actually part of a larger project – the redesign and relaunch of PennMed’s ITMAT (Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics) web site. Joe created that design as well, and I provided the functionality for the member pages. These pages are dynamically updated as members update their profiles and new members join.

I have a few posts in mind based on this work, as I solved some problems on my own where there weren’t adequate explanations online. The topics are XML handling with PHP’s SimpleXMLItetator, XSL transformations with PHP’s XSLTProcessor, and an interesting CSS problem with the Clinical Trials “sticky footer” that we had to figure out. Stay tuned.

Introducing Kai’s Candy Company

Kai's Candy CompanyKai’s Candy Company

Kai's Candy Company


My blog has been quiet recently, as I’ve been focused on creating and launching the site for my new business, Kai’s Candy Company. Our goal with the company is to seek out the most unusual, fun, and tasty candies from around the world, and sell them! We’re starting with Obama and McCain candies that we’ve made especially for the 2008 Presidential campaign. The candies are hand made by artisans in Japan, using traditional kumi ame (rolled candy) techniques.

We also have a Halloween candy poll that’s waiting for your vote! Your votes will help us decide which candy designs to pick for our Halloween candies.

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