Tag Archives: NorDev

PDD, The Other SDLC

As I’ve said before, I’m no stranger to public speaking. That said, NorDevCon was my first conference and, by all accounts, I did OK.

My talk, “PDD1, The Other SDLC2” focused on how external stimuli, such as live production errors and impending deadlines, can cause development practices to break down. Ultimately this breakdown boils down to communication, or lack thereof. This talk was spawned from my talk on “Agile In The Real World” last year, and both of these talks focus on the personal experiences I have had when real life gets in the way of theory.

Personally I like this type of talk as it’s something that tends to resonate with the audience. With Impostor Syndrome and fears about “Am I doing it right?” being quite common among developers it can be quite useful to stand up and highlight where it commonly goes wrong so people know they are not alone.

Of course the irony is my own Impostor Syndrome and fears about “Am I doing it right?” have me worry the audience will respond with “No, we don’t relate to that, it’s just you doing it wrong“. Having the original author of some of the work I was building on attending the talk also added to the pressure a tad.

Having proved to myself that not only can I do it, but that I thoroughly enjoy it, I’ll be looking to see if I can do talks at other conferences3. I’m also hoping to line up so local talks too during the year (including my PDD talk if you missed it at NorDevCon). I suspect this year is going to see a lot of me using Keynote 🙂

1 PDD: Panic Driven Development

2 SDLC: Software [or Systems] Development Lifecycle

3 Ones where I don’t personally know the organiser, and run the group backing the conference 🙂

I am not a developer

I am not a developer anymore” – Me, last night

This (probably not so) startling statement was made by me at yesterdays Norfolk Developers meeting as part of a discussion about the Developer to QA ratio in my team. Actually, the statement is probably more accurate if you change it to “I am not a professional developer anymore“. The reality is I’ve not done any real development at work for about a month now. I’m a manager. I don’t code, I… well, that’s the thing. I’m not so sure what I do any more.

Developers make the worst managers” – Me, c.2003

History has taught me that developers are not good at management. Don’t ask my why this is1, it’s just something I’ve observed during my career. It’s by no means a hard and fast rule, but there is a strong correlation there.

This doesn’t bode well for me. If you’ll excuse the WoW2 analogy: I feel like I’ve gone from being a level 60 Developer with Epic gear to being a level 1 Manager with noobie kit. Oh, everyone says I’m doing a wonderful job, but this is still the honeymoon period and I’ve yet to cock anything up.

Yesterday I… erm…” – Me, 9:00am most mornings during the standup meeting

Part (most?) of my problem revolves round the fact that I no longer produce anything. As a developer I can point to a list of git commits and say “I wrote this code“; I can point to a feature and say “I implemented this“; I can point to a bug report and say “I fixed this“. My job is now meta. I liaise, guide, advise and facilitate while others do the actual work. Hopefully while doing this I add value.

For a long time now I’ve kept a private work journal detailing what I’ve done during the day. It’s proven to be useful on more than one occasion and now my job is much less tangible it helps keep track of what it is I actually do. There is a blissful irony here though: I’m now so busy doing… whatever it is I do during my day, that I don’t always have time to note it down at the end of the day.

Have you tried pairing a QA and a developer together?” – Chris Oldwood, last night, 21:00

One thing I learned being a developer is that peer review is A Good Thing™, and that you can learn new things from the most unlikely places. It’s part of the reason why I am so candid about our development processes at things like nor(DEV): and SyncNorwich, warts and all; the feedback you get is invaluable.

The discussion that ensued after Cat Landin‘s talk last night on why developers are so bad at testing gave some really valuable insight into fixing some of the problems we have in our team. Sometimes all it takes is someone unencumbered by the politics, culture and mindset of an organisation to point out simple, but effective fixes.

After last night I have a number of “bug fixes” for our processes. Lets hope they’re as easy to refactor as code.

1Trust me, if I knew I’d be cashing in on “How to go from Developer to Manager” courses and books.

2World of Warcraft – and also from 5+ years ago, I’ve been clean a while now.

NorDev 2 – brought to you by the MacBook Pro

For impartiality here I should probably point out (if you hadn’t worked it out already) that I’m a rabid Apple Fanboi and love most1 things they do.

Falling as I do in the anti Windows camp it’s little wonder I haven’t done any .Net development2. Personally I don’t have anything against .Net, from what I understand C# is just Java written with the benefit of hindsight, which can only be A Good Thing™, plus there is plenty that you can learn from the .Net camp that applied to the broader world of programming. It does amuse me somewhat, however, that the two .Net centric talks we’ve had so far at NorDev have been given on Macs – albeit running windows.

Yesterdays talk was by Simon Elliston Ball3 on Glimpse, a very funky looking debugging tool for .Net web developers which I really, really wished existed for Java developers as I could seriously do with a tool like that. Glimpse is open source and well documented so I would recommend you go check it out. It’s also very extensible so if you fancy writing a Java port for it I’d be eternally grateful.

Our second speaker, Phil Nash, also used a Mac, but that’s hardly surprising as he was giving a talk on TDD and iOS development, something that’s not going to work on anything else. After a brief introduction into Objective-C, which is a funny old language, we were then shown some techniques to effectively use TDD when writing iOS (or in fact any Objective-C app) with some live coding examples – something I always enjoy watching. Interestingly, 100% of all NorDev talks have ended with someone called Phil live coding on a Mac. You may argue that a sample size of 2 is not statistically significant but it still doesn’t stop it being fact 🙂

1 Im not a complete fanatic and will admit there are some things they’ve done wrong, for example: mice. Apple are a company that seem incapable of making a good mouse. Trackpads they can do; mice, they suck at. I get my mice from Razer. They know how to make mice.

2 Yes, I know there’s things like Mono which means I can code and run it on other platforms, but… faff.

3 Elliston Ball is a double-barrelled non-hyphenated surname – can your code cope with that? Not entirely sure all of ours can. There’s a lesson to be learned there 🙂

NorDev 1

It’ll be all right on the night!

And it was! OK, so we had one helper and an organiser drop out at the last minute due to illness; my dinner was a bit rushed; I forgot the memory cards for my camera; I forgot to return the memory card I attempted to borrow; I rather fluffed the wonderfully witty and insightful intro talk I was going to do (twice, given we split it into two chunks); and the projector was playing silly buggers… but I don’t think anyone noticed (well, maybe they noticed the projector, but we’re techies, we expect this kind of thing).

NorDev 1 is in the can and Norfolk Developers is on the map. Our opening night saw nearly 50 developers descend on Virgin Wines in Whitefriars to see Liz Keogh and Phil Trelford talk, as well as enjoy a glass of fizz and a brownie or two.

Liz was, as always, fun and engaging as she detailed the differences between lean and agile practices in a 6 round “fight” with a wicked twist at the end. Given most of my team attended the talk I suspect we’ll be adopting much of what was talked about and becoming more lean over the coming weeks and months – actually, even if they hadn’t attended I’d probably be foisting a lot of it on them, but it’s nice to get buy in from the start, and for them to understand why 😀

Phil’s talk was funny and hugely interesting, even for a Java developer like myself. Having a room full of devs meant he could fire up the IDE and write code live during the talk, something that is helpful when faced with a new language. I find myself hankering after something F#esque for the JVM.

Despite the hiccups I think everyone had fun, people found it interesting and, hopefully, will come to NorDev 2 (Wednesday 10th July… which only seems to be 2 weeks away, eeep!). No doubt it’ll bring its own set of hiccups 🙂

Norfolk Developers (NorDev)

I’ve got to admit, when Paul Grenyer from Naked Element approached me a couple of weeks ago about setting up a new group specifically for developers I was a bit sceptical. Leaving aside my concerns about being available on a regular basis to run the group – which was easily solved by sharing that with Paul and Ben Taylor from Validus – there was also the question of how many people would be interested.

I was wrong to be concerned; there are loads of you out there. At barely a week old we currently boast 64 members (which as a geek makes me smile), and 23 of those have said they’re coming to our first event. An event we haven’t even named or confirmed any speakers for!

What I do know is that it’s on the 26th of June, will be held at the Virgin Wines offices since they’ve kindly sponsored the group, and there will almost certainly be cake and some wine to try. No doubt there will be some great speakers, and some interesting conversations sparked from it. Hopefully I’ll see you there.