Today I was lucky enough to sit in w/ Ben Shinabery of the Dick and Jane Project on WOSU’s All Sides w/ Ann Fisher for Tech Tuesday!

This past January Neo gave The Dick and Jane Project a $100,000 grant for the development of Dick and Jane Labs, an application the facilitates the collaboration between middle school students and professional musicians to create radio ready songs!

You can stream the episode here: Tech Tuesday 12/4/2012

Dick and Jane Project:


Here are the notes I brought to the interview but thankfully Ben did most of the talking.


  • Ruby is a general purpose programming language created by Matz in ‘95
  • Ruby on Rails is an open source full stack application framework created by David Heinemeier Hansson in 2004


  • One of the most challenging things in software consulting is getting into the mindset of the client, and helping extract and distill their idea into quality software that can be delivered in a reasonable amount of time.
  • When you’re consulting for bigger companies, often times your “client” is someone in middle management who doesn’t necessarily have the “passion” for it. It’s been really amazing working with the Dick and Jane guys as this is definitely what they are passionate about.


  • Designing an interface to be used by middle school kids
  • When you’re working with someone who’s as excited and motivated as the guys from the Dick and Jane project, it’s hard to turn down feature requests, but the truth in the matter is that an application with too many features feels bloated and many often go unused. It’s been a challenge distilling all of Ben and Cory’s great ideas into a minimal viable product for this first official release.
  • One of the huge challenges that we, and the rest of the world face right now is the changing ways in which people (kids especially) use the web. Gone are the days when you can get by with a pretty web app that works on the desktop. We’re currently adding responsive styles so the site can be used on tablets and mobile devices without missing a beat
  • Going from full time development of the project at Neo to volunteer work on the side has obviously impacted the amount of work I’m able to get done. But, there are a few other people at Neo who I know would help out if we ever find ourselves in a pinch.

How we work

  • We work in a very iterative process that’s very hands on with the client. I’ll work locally on some code, push it up live to what we call a staging branch where Ben can review it and ensure it works properly. After we both sign off, we release to our production application
  • One of the key things we try to do at Neo is drive decision making with empirical data to the best of our ability. One of the things I’d like to do with Labs is gather anonymous usage data while the students and professionals use the application. That way we know what parts of the app are being used and what parts are not. After that, we know where we need to improve, and even what we need to remove.


  • It’s a pretty standard tech stack for us at Neo. We’re using the popular web application framework Ruby on Rails with a Postgresql database on top of the cloud hosting platform as a service Heroku. We chose this because it’s ease to maintain and ease of development.

Upcoming Features

  • Once a project is done, completed work can be added to a hall of fame section in hopes that future students can visit the page and draw inspiration