AIAIO: Our Blog

AIAIO: Our Blog

The pulse and reviews of Alexander Interactive

Facebook Responsive Photo Gallery Plugin

It’s been way too long, but I finally got around to updating the Facebook Photo Gallery plugin for the terrific image gallery framework, Galleria.  The library lets you put Facebook album photos on your website using the Graph API.  Galleria has great support for responsive photo gallery layouts.

Facebook loves to change their Graph API without warning (and sometimes defying logic), and we needed to make a small tweak to the syntax for changing the default limit of 25 photos on a album to:

var url = '' + params['album_id'] + '?callback=?' + '&fields=photos.limit(' + this.options.max + '){images,source,picture,link,name}';

Enjoy the plugin, and take part in the discussion on the aiaio github.

Put Facebook photos on my website


IRCE Focus: Digital Design

Righteous Recap for Rockstar Retailers

by Grace Paik


Alexander Interactive recently attended the IRCE Focus conference on Digital Design in sunny Los Angeles, California. We had a booth on the exhibition floor, as well as a separate booth in which our Experience Director and design-wizard, Ed Samour, was able to provide in-person design consultations for conference attendees. Co-founder and pixel-whisperer, Josh Levine, enjoyed the limelight as the conference’s concluding speaker, sharing thought-provoking insights on how to incorporate social sharing in a site design along with some pretty killer anthro-animals. Yes, that’s a thing.

As exhibitors, we found the conference a fantastic opportunity to connect with existing clients and meet some new ones. By attending some of the seminars, we were able to learn what’s really on the minds of retailers big and small. What are their burning questions? What are the specific challenges they’re facing? What are some digital concerns that they hadn’t considered but should be prioritizing?

Many retailers were visiting the conference to find solutions for a specific pain point. Others were more interested in learning where the industry is focusing its efforts, both on an enterprise and small business scale.

Here’s some stuff we learned while we were there.

  • Agency-recommended SEO best practices are great, but retailers should drill into the ones that translate to actual sales. Look holistically at your business and focus your energy on those strategies that will move the right needles.
  • We’ve known for a long time that video helps drive conversions in e-commerce. Did you know that YouTube is the second most popular search engine on the Internet? Combining video with your SEO strategy is more crucial now than ever.
  • Buying and sharing should not exist in silos. Learn from social sharing – implement seamless favoriting and hearting on your site.
  • Customers are researching products on social networks where you might not have much control over those conversations. Have no fear! This content is gold – aggregating and integrating it into your site not only helps with merchandising, but also provides customers with more confidence in your products.
  • Know your audience. If your site sells beautiful jewelry, privilege visual social platforms over others (i.e., do you really need that Twitter share button?).
  • Speakers who invested in responsive design found that it did not increase their mobile traffic very much. But it did increase their mobile conversions – and their bottom line – in dramatic ways.
  •  A full 30% (WHAT?) of the top 500 internet retailers aren’t set up to be mobile-friendly, either with responsive design or with an m-dot site.
  • Google is changing its algorithm on April 21, 2015 so that sites that are not mobile-friendly will drop in the rankings.

Ai Pedals for Puppies to Continue Giving Back

This past December, Ai created a holiday website where each employee committed to making or doing something to raise money for Bideawee, a leading animal welfare organization in New York.  If your commitment were purchased, the money would be donated to Bideawee.  My commitment was to host a charity ride at Swerve Fitness, a team-inspired cycling studio a few blocks south of Ai’s office, to raise even more money for Bideawee beyond the price of my commitment.  As of about a week ago, that commitment was fulfilled!

On Monday night, March 9, 2015, 47 of my closest friends, family, and co-workers joined me for the event I deemed “Pedal for Puppies”.

Pedal for Puppies Collage

We rode for 45 minutes and celebrated afterwards with a fun photo session and time set aside to play with five puppies, two of which were up for adoption.  Together we used our collective energy for some good and raised an additional $1500 for Bideawee.

Both of my dogs growing up at home were adopted from Bideawee, and I went to high school across the street from Bidewee’s Long Island location. That night I rode in their memory, for all the puppies looking for a home, and for the people who work so hard at Bideawee to find them one and keep them comfortable until they do.

Pedal for Puppies Group PhotoThank you to everyone who participated in Pedal for Puppies, to those who donated, to Swerve Fitness for hosting, to Bideawee for doing the great work they do each and every day, and to Ai for being the catalyst that fostered the creation of Pedal for Puppies.


PHP7 Vagrant Box

We’re keeping a close eye on PHP7 and what it means for the future of the language. We know it’s coming and will eventually effect the way we work and how we write PHP. The earlier we can get eyes on the new paradigm, the better.

Installing in your local dev machine is risky, especially if you have ongoing work. As usual, Vagrant comes to the rescue!

Rasmus Lerdorf has put together a Vagrant box to ease in the setup and isolate your testing. 

If you use Atlas, check out the box here. Otherwise, the readme is available on Github


Presentation Tips: 15 ways to calm your nerves before your next presentation


Our Creative Director, Julia Sosa, kicked off our AiU 2015 season with a fantastic session where she shared some pre-presentation coping strategies that she’s adopted over the years. It was too good not to share publicly. Deck and written version below. Enjoy!

— (Transcript)

I hate the word hamburger.
I spent 3 years in speech therapy because of this stupid word, and many other words I couldn’t pronounce. At 6 years old I already hated the sound of my own words.

I hate “R”s too.
I hated the letter “R” and many words with “R”s, and avoided them at all costs. Rrrrrrrrrr……

Fucking R’s.
The anxiety of getting this nasty letter out of my mouth — is still with me, buried deep in my psyche.

Enter Hell.
I started working in advertising — the industry that is the single largest employer of people who love to hear themselves talk. But I wasn’t one of them.

Hell x 2.
And to top that off my first job was at an agency where one of the premier clients was (god help me) BURGER KING . R’s and the word hamburger were proving unavoidable.

Time to buck up, Buttercup.
It was time to face my fears, and start building an arsenal of coping techniques.

Here are a few of the tips and tools I’ve been stockpiling along the way.

Before we start, remember…
“Ready” ain’t a thing. The first step in preparing for any presentation is realizing you will never be fully prepared. Get over it.

Okay, let’s really do this…

Tip 1: Study yourself.

Take notes of physical symptoms during your next meeting or presentation. Write down the dumbest thing you said.

Now go ask someone who was there if they noticed anything of those things.

Boo, you so crazy. Guess what? No one noticed that shit! And if they did, it wasn’t half as bad as you think…

Now let’s talk about preparing for your NEXT presentation…

Tip 2. Finish Early

24 hours before ideally. Know when to cut bait. At a certain point, getting the material you have in a good place is better than just creating more content.

Tweaking a deck at 4am won’t make it better. It will make you feel like shit the next day.

Tip 3. Get comfy.

Make sure you’re comfortable with what you are presenting, and if you aren’t change it or just say so.

Ask your tech bestie to cover the crazy technical questions. Ask your budget buddy to speak to the numbers and dollars slide.

Tip 4. Have props.

Give yourself visuals, quotes, cultural references on slides — they can be a crutch or safety blanket to make you more comfortable.

Tip 5. Educate yo’ self

Identify anything you think you will just be “reading” and try to learn it. Ask questions, get someone else to tell you what it means to them, how they’d say it.

Tip 6. Bite-size points.

Write as much as you need to think through but then capture in short bullets and sound bites so you can speak naturally to it. Turn them into your cheat.

Tip 7. Plan your “segways.”

Focus on your opening line and setting up the ‘theme”– that’s the toughest part and sets tone, cadence, comfort. Plan transitions to and from other presenters.

Okay, you are so ready for the big meeting! What now?

Tip 8. For f*cks sake, sleep!

Don’t be stupid. Ain’t no slide, fancy transition, pie chart that matters more than this.

No Ray Donovan marathons. No League of Legends midnight missions. No last minute, mad dash deck cray, you crazy buggers.

Tip 9. Three hours before…

Take a walk. Pin kittens. Call your mom. Do other work. Just forget about the presentation.

Avoid other stressors or intense meetings. Say no if you have to.

People get it, and they want you to do your best!

Tip 10. Fifteen minutes before…

Glance over bullets. Harness your inner spirit animal. Head in.
You got this. We love you.
Carpe f*ckin’ diem.

Tip 11. Settle in, say hi.

Say anything to anyone in the room about anything unrelated to the meeting. Fancy a carrot? Ye ol’ weather banter, whatevs’. A single interaction before a meeting will help you be less presentation-y and more real with peeps in the room.

Tip 12. Find Soul Mates

Don’t just feel compelled to speak “to” the person or client you think you should. Speak to everyone or anyone you can engage. Feed off the nods or smiles.

BONUS TIP! Screw the grumpy cats!

Positive energy in a room is contagious. You can always circle back to a furrowed brow when you have a comfortable stopping point, but don’t cater to the haters if it’s going to throw you off your game.

Tip 13. Stand up, paws out.

Speak with your hands. Get them moving. Imagine you are a kitten with a ball of string. Even on the phone! Stand if you can if it’s large conference room. It seems scarier but it will help get your energy up and out.

Tip 14. Be yo’ self.

You are not Joel Osteen or Don Draper. You are a normal person talking to normal people. Authenticity, sincerity and conviction IS compelling.

Tip 15. Now, stop! 

You’re done, don’t feel compelled to keep talking. And know your closer. Asking people “What are your thoughts on xyz” is a lot smoother than “The End” or “That’s all I got folks.”

Praise Yeezus, It’s Over.


“I’m like the vessel. And God has chosen me to be the voice and the connector.”

You’ll get better with each presentation, and each will be less painful. Find your swagger, your own style — and own it.

Have other tips to share? Questions?I’d love to hear them! Comment or holla’ anytime.


Mongular, a Content Delivery System

Mongular is something to keep a close eye on. We’ve had a number of projects here at Ai where we might want something… other than a CMS. Where content is king and that content is decoupled from the system using or displaying it.  Other solutions that we’re excited about are Prismic and Contentful.

Systems like this would let us do whatever we wanted with the site. Not being tied to the confines of a particular CMS’ way of doing things could be freeing. These systems offer much more powerful ways to relate content or parts of content to each other. Going far beyond just weighted tags.

What is Mongular?

Mongular is a Content Delivery System (Framework?… not really) built to take advantage of all the tools available to speed up the delivery of your content to users, and reduce server load.

Content Delivery System?

Mongular wasn’t built to be a Content Management System, even though with enough development it could probably be built to do just that.

Mongular was built to deliver content in an easy, efficient and extendable manner. Where developers take it, is up to them.

Related reading:


Nick Angiolillo Speaks to Digital Journal about Responsive Design



Our own Nick Angiolillo, Senior Front-End Engineer here at Ai,  sat down to discuss mobile responsive design with Digital Journal. “The big thing we’re seeing with responsive design now is that it’s being deployed everywhere,” he said. “Now that people do so much on mobile, you’re seeing responsive web apps, ecommerce sites and games.”

According to the article, a growing trend  Web Design (RWD) will emphasizes mobile first and then later adapt  for desktop.

In terms of development and process, responsive design has necessitated a shift in the way design, UX and development work together. This means a lot more collaboration and more work being done “in code” earlier to see how the product works across a lot of screen sizes.

Read more:




Holiday site raises over $10K for New York Animals

Arf! Meow. Oink? Woof! Yay!
Our holiday site raised over $10,000 for Bideawee


Our holiday site has always been a chance to do what we do best – be creative, laugh and have some fun. But this year we gave ourselves three goals. We wanted to feature the human beings that make Ai a company like no other, challenge ourselves to try new things, and use our collective energy to do some good.

Everyone chose one thing to make or do to raise money for Bideawee, a leading animal welfare organization in New York. And in true Ai form, people came up with some pretty unique and ambitious ideas. Put on a magic show, let someone shave your beard, create custom bedazzled artwork–the list gets longer and weirder. These contributions were featured for sale on our site and the purchase price of each item sold would be donated to Bideawee in an effort to raise a total of $10,000 by the holidays.

In the end we met our goal, but the success of the project went beyond that. It was an opportunity to try new ways of designing collaboratively, new technology to test drive, new photographers to partner with in attempt to shoot our entire office in 1 day. “The site also became an expression of us as individuals and as a company. Scrolling down the page and seeing the talent and energy our people committed to, it tells the story of who we are.” – Josh Levine, Chief Experience Officer

On the day we launched the site, Bideawee volunteers and some of their cats and dogs paid a visit. While the thrill of birthing our babies never gets old, this launch day was special. It was a celebration of the live site, but it was also a celebration of animals and their ability to bring out the best in humans.

Having lost our beloved Mayor Jack  this year, our French bulldog and VP of Security & Integrity, it felt good to have some four-legged friends in the office. And when one of Bideawee’s pups peed on the office floor, we knew Jack was looking down from heaven–smiling, drooling and sending us his love.

“All of us here at Bideawee are so incredibly appreciative of the AI staff and management for their compassion and generosity in helping Bideawee provide shelter and medical care for the hundreds of dogs and cats waiting for their forever homes this holiday season!” – Nancy Taylor, President and CEO


Shout out to Bel, Nick, Katie, Chris, Judy and Josh for getting the site designed and built, Stephen Landau for photographing our entire company, all of our amazing employees for contributing their talents and passion, and our friends at Bideawee, for helping make this such a rewarding project.
Lastly, a special thank you from all us at Ai, and from the animals at Bideawee to everyone who helped us meet our goal of raising $10,000.


We are honored to announce that Alexander Interactive (Ai) has been named one of The Best Places to Work by Crain’s New York Business.

This coveted award is designed to identify, recognize and honor the best employers in New York City, benefiting the city’s economy, workforce and businesses

There is no doubt that what sets us apart from other companies is the culture that has come to define us. Five years ago the concept of “The Morgan Freemans” was coined to describe the type of human being who thrives here. Passion. Fortitude. Initiative. Resilience. Morgan Freeman embodies the qualities we value most–and the velvety, reassuring voice we all aspire to lead with.

“The values we foster are directly connected to the value we create for our clients, ” said Josh Levine, Ai’s CXO.

Success isn’t measured in deliverables or hours, it’s measured by the problems we solve and the process through which we solve them. This demands people who simply care about the other people we work with and the people we work for. People willing to get their hands dirty and fight the good fight, day in and day out.

“We give a darn about what we produce. We don’t just want to get a job done. We want to sweat and laugh with our team on a hot summer rooftop and then drink beers with the sun on our shoulders and feel like free men.”– Josh Levine, Ai’s CXO

Congrats to all of our awesome people. And thank you for making Ai a company like no other.

You can read the full list of companies here.




Apple Pay and Magento

The Business of Apple Pay (Alec Simonson)

On the outset, Apple Pay is very cool and could very well be the wave of the future. A lot of this hinges on “what’s under the hood” in terms of Apple’s contract with the leading credit card companies who helped with the development. If everything is open, and companies like Samsung can let their customers pay with NFC technology as well, I could see this as something that will be successful, adopted, and an example of Apple leading the way. However, if Apple goes all proprietary (as they love to do) and contractually forces these major credit cards to only use their devices, or charges other companies like Samsung to license their payment platform, or otherwise mandate that all touch-to-pay via smartphone methods are hereby known as “Apple Pay,” I could see adoption problems happening. Open standards have frequently been key to paving the way to adoption, and this has never really been Apple’s model in the past. For example, AirPlay is really cool and loved but does not work outside the environs of iOS, and can therefore never reach greater than 14.8% penetration as of this writing. So Chromecast was born, and while not nearly as simple or feature rich, it’s open to both Android and iOS and therefore has a much higher potential of adoption. Feature expansion will follow.

One of the aspects of Apple Pay that I think is great is that merchants aren’t really troubled with much of everything, since most of this is really on the backend. A new reader with NFC capabilities, and they’re off and running. Low cost or no cost adoption. Or is it? Nobody has mentioned what Apple’s commission is on this latest development. An article on Forbes suggested it may be around 0.2%, giving Apple $0.20 for every $100 spent. That’s not much, but when you consider what percentage that is of the credit card companies’ net (perhaps around 14%), it starts to look more substantial. Credit card companies like their investors, so it’s hard to imagine them not wanting to pass that extra cost onto merchants, who will be all-too-willing to share that with consumers.

All of that aside, it’s very smart and forward thinking, and early adopters will likely be looked upon with jealousy by others. From an implementation perspective, adding Apple Pay will likely be as easy as it was to add Google+, and merchants will do it. But the long-term prospects will rely highly on what sort of deal Apple made….the devil is always in the details.

The Technology of Apple Pay (Tim Broder)

Out of the gate, Pay is native app only. This leaves Magento sites at a disadvantage. In the future I’d like to see Apple open up this functionality to Safari on both mobile and desktop. Pay already has one-time number generation. This could be implemented in the browser similar to how 1Password can inject a credit card number into a form. Until something like this happens, only sites with a native app siting in front of Magento’s API will be able to take advantage.  If you are looking to investigate this space,, an unofficial Magento SDK, is a great starting point.

I’ll be curious if a developer comes up with a browser dedicated to this functionality. Tap into the Pay API and generate credit card numbers ad hoc, and bridge between Pay and e-commerce sites. Or, take it a step further and develop a custom keyboard for iOS 8. If allowed, it would be more seamless than a whole seperate browser. I say “if allowed” because there are some restrictions on what 3rd party keyboard can do. For example, they cannot touch passwords. The stock keyboard reasserts itself when tapping on a password field.