The Holy Java

Building the right thing, building it right, fast

Moving Too Fast For UX? Genuine Needs, Wrong Solutions

Posted by Jakub Holý on November 12, 2015

Cross-posted from the TeliaSonera tech blog

Our UX designer and interaction specialist – a wonderful guy – has shocked us today by telling us that we (the developers) are moving too fast. He needs more time to do proper user experience and interface design – talk to real users, collect feedback, design based on data, not just hypotheses and gut feeling. To do this, he needs us to slow down.

We see a common human “mistake” here: where the expression of a genuine need gets mixed in with a suggestion for satisfying it. We are happy to learn about the need and will do our best to satisfy it (after all, we want everybody to be happy, and we too love evidence-based design) but we want to challenge the proposed solution. There is never just one way to satisfy a need – and the first proposed solution is rarely the best one (not mentioning that this particular one goes against the needs of us, the developers).

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Upgrade or not to upgrade dependencies? The eternal dilemma

Posted by Jakub Holý on October 20, 2015

Cross-posted from TeliaSonera Tech blog.

Handling dependencies is one of important challenges in any software project – and especially in the fast-moving JavaScript world. Our Nettbutikk team just had a heated discussion about handling upgrades of our dependencies that continuous our learning journey lined with failures (or rather “experiments that generated new knowledge” :-)).

Failed attempt one: Let tools do it

Originally we let npm automatically do minor upgrades but that turned out to be problematic as even minor version changes can introduce bugs and having potentially different (minor) versions on our different machines and in production makes troubleshooting difficult.

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Storytelling as a Vehicle of Change: Introducing ClojureScript for the Heart and Mind

Posted by Jakub Holý on October 7, 2015

People don’t really like changes yet change we must in this fast-developing world. How to introduce a change, or rather how to inspire people to embrace a change? That is one of the main questions of my professional life.

I have recently talked about Functional programming (FP) in JavaScript and compared it to ClojureScript, which was designed for FP. To my surprise the team proposed to give ClojureScript a try and we agreed to have a live coding session, implementing a new functionality in our internal part of our webshop using ClojureScript. But how to kindle this little flame of motivation to keep it going, despite hurdles that will certainly come? And here I got a few interesting ideas.

  1. An experienced speaker once recommended sharing personal experiences (even – or especially – if they make me vulnerable) as it is much easier for people to relate to them than to general statements.
  2. A Cognicast eposide mentioned storytelling as a great tool for introductory guides. We humans are natural storytellers, we think in stories and relate to them much more easily – so a story should be great also to communicate the value of a change.
  3. My ex-colleague Therese Ingebrigtsen gave an inspiring talk presenting some points from The Switch – mainly that we need to address the recipient’s minds with rational arguments, but also their hearts to involve their emotion (e.g. by drawing a picture of the new bright future), and that it is important to show a clear path forward.

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An answer to CircleCI’s “Why we’re no longer using Core.typed”

Posted by Jakub Holý on October 6, 2015

CircleCI has recently published a very useful post “Why we’re no longer using Core.typed” that raises some important concerns w.r.t. Typed Clojure that in their particular case led to the cost overweighting the benefits. CircleCI has a long and positive relation to Ambrose Bonnaire-Sergeant, the main author of core.typed, that has addressed their concerns in his recent Strange Loop talk “Typed Clojure: From Optional to Gradual Typing” (gradual typing is also explained in his 6/2015 blog post “Gradual typing for Clojure“). For the sake of searchability and those of us who prefer text to video, I would like to summarise the main points from the response (spiced with some thoughts of my own).

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Refactoring & Type Errors in Clojure: Experience and Prevention

Posted by Jakub Holý on October 6, 2015

While refactoring a relatively simple Clojure code to use a map instead of a vector, I have wasted perhaps a few hours due to essentially type errors. I want to share the experience and my thoughts about possible solutions since I encounter this problem quite often. I should mention that it is quite likely that it is more a problem (an opportunity? :-)) with me rather than the language, namely with the way I write and (not) test it.

The core of the problem is that I write chains of transformations based on my sometimes flawed idea of what data I have at each stage. The challenge is that I cannot see what the data is and have to maintain a mental model while writing the code, and I suck at it. Evaluating the code in the REPL as I develop it helps somewhat but only when writing it – not when I decide to refactor it.

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Nginx: Protecting upstream from overload on cache miss

Posted by Jakub Holý on October 1, 2015

These 2 magical lines will protect your upstream server from possible overload of many users try to access the same in cached or expired content: 

proxy_cache_use_stale updating timeout; # Serve the cached version even when outdated while refreshing it
proxy_cache_lock on; # Only one req is allowed to load/refresh the item, others wait / get the stale one 

You can verify this using Shopify’s Toxiproxy. 

❤ Nginx

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Shipping a Refactoring & Feature One Tiny Slice at a Time, to Reduce Risk

Posted by Jakub Holý on September 1, 2015

You don’t need to finish a feature and your users don’t need to see it to be able to release and start battle-testing it. Slice it as much as possible and release the chunks ASAP to shorten the feedback loop and decrease risk.

My colleagues have been working on a crucial change in our webshop – replacing our legacy shopping cart and checkout process with a new one and implementing some new, highly desired functionality that this change enables. We have decided to decrease the risk of the change by doing it first only for product accessories. However the business wanted the new feature included and that required changes to the UI. But the UI has to be consistent across all sections so we would need to implement it also for the main products before going live – which would necessitate implementing also the more complex process used by the main products (and not yet supported by the new backend). And suddenly we had a a load of work that would take weeks to complete and would be released in a big bang deployment.

Such a large-scale and time-consuming change without any feedback from reality whatsoever and then releasing it all at once, having impact on all our sales – I find that really scary (and have fought it before). It is essentially weeks of building risk and then releasing it in a big kaboom. How could we break it down, to release it in small slices, without making the business people unhappy?

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Running Gor, the HTTP traffic replayer, as a service on AWS Elastic Beanstalk

Posted by Jakub Holý on July 30, 2015

Gor is a great utility for replicating (a subset of) production traffic to a staging/test environment. Running it on AWS Elastic Beanstalk (EB) has some challenges, mainly that it doesn’t support running as a daemon and that there isn’t any documentation/examples for doing this. Well, here is a solution:

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AWS ebextensions: Avoiding “Could not enable service” (or .. disable ..)

Posted by Jakub Holý on July 30, 2015

If you are adding a service entry to your .ebextensions/ config to run a service in AWS Elastic Beanstalk and it fails with either “Could not enable service [..]” or “Could not disable service [..]” (based on the value of ensureRunning), make sure that the service init.d file supports chkconfig, i.e. contains the comments it looks for.

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Fixing a mysterious .ebextensions command time out (AWS Elastic Beanstalk)

Posted by Jakub Holý on July 29, 2015

Our webshop, nettbutikk.netcom.no, runs on AWS Elastic Beanstalk and we use .ebextensions/ to customize the environment. I have been just trying to get Gor running on our leader production instance to replay some traffic to our staging environment so that we get a much richer feedback from it. However the container_command I used caused the instance to time out and trash the environment, against all reason. The documentation doesn’t help and troubleshooting this is hard due to lack of feedback and time-consuming. Luckily I have arrived to a solution.

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