The Holy Java

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Posts Tagged ‘human’

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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Most interesting links of July ’14

Posted by Jakub Holý on July 31, 2014

Recommended Readings

  • Video: The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Dynamic Typing for Practical Programs – a static-typing zealot turned friend of dynamic typing under the experience of real-world projects and problems shares thoughts about the limits of type systems (f.ex. both energy and torque are measured in N*m yet cannot be combined) and their cost: according to the Hanenberg’s experiment about static and dynamic typing => the time required to handle the time chacker > time to debug the errors that it would have caught. According to a review of issues at GitHub, only 2% of reported issues for JS, Clojure, Python, and Ruby are type errors and for a large, closed-source Python project type/name/attribute errors were 1%. “I have come to believe that tests are a much better investment [than static typing].” Rigorous type system/model => limited applicability (due to different needs) <=> modelling some things with types doesn’t cut it. “Are the costs of static typing offset by a few percent fewer defects? Is agility more important than reliability?” “Static types are anti-modular” – too a tight coupling. “Static type checking comes at the expense of complexity, brittleness and a tendency to monoliths.
    (Personally I miss static typing – but that is perhaps due to having relied on it for so long.)
  • ThoughtWorks Tech Radar July 2014 (pdf): f.ex. Ansible in Adapt, Masterless Chef/Puppet in Trial, Machine image as a build artifact: Trial, PostgreSQL for NoSQL: Trial, Adopt Dropwizard (Rest 4 Java), Go lang, Reactive Extensions across langs [JH: RxJava, RxJS, ..]; Asses Property-based (generative) testing, … . Other highlights: Mapbox (open-source mapping platform), OpenID Connect as a less complex and thus promising alternative to SAML/generic OAuth, Pacto/Pact for Consumer-Driven Contracts (contract => simulate consumers/stubb producers => test your REST clients against the contract so that the rest of tests can assume it is correct and use a stubbed client), Swagger for REST documentation.
  • The madness of layered architecture – a nice critique of over-designed “enterprise” apps, why that is a problem (SRP, cost of code, unclear where to do a change, ….), why it is different from the successful layered network stack of Ethernet/IP/TCP/… (because in an app, all layers are on the same level of abstraction); bottom line: do not add a layer unless you have a really good reason (hint: the advice of a consultant/speaker does not count as one)
  • Key Takeaway Points and Lessons Learned from QCon New York 2014 (viz @RiczWest) – “[..] deep insights into real-world architectures and state of the art software development practices, from a practioner’s perspective.” – architectures of Fb, Foursquare etc., continuous delivery, creating culture, real world functional programming, … .
  • Questioning the Lambda Architecture (J. Kreps of LinkedIn) – maintaining the same processing in two very different systems (one batch, one stream & real-time) is a maintenance nightmare => improve the RT/stream processing to handle re-processing and thus both (using e.g. Kafka to store the data and thus be able to re-play them)
  • Google: Checklist for mobile website improvement
  • Google Dataflow and the transition from batch to stream processing – G. Dataflow might not be a Hadoop killer due to requiring that the data are in the Google Cloud but the trend is clear, going away from batch processing to more stream-oriented processing with tools like Spark, Flume etc. that are faster thanks to using memory better and more flexible thanks to not being limited to the rigitd two-stage model of map-reduce. (Reportedly, Google – the one that made Map-Reduce popular – doesn’t use it anymore.)
  • OS X: Extract JDK to folder, without running installer

Society, economics, people

  • HBR: The Power of Meeting Your Employees’ Needs – people feel better, perform better, are more engaged and likely to stay longer (=> profitability) when 4 basic needs are met: physical [energy] renewal (=> give opportunity, encourage to take a nap or do whatever that helps), value – feeling of being valued by the company, ability to focus, purpose (i.e. serving something larger than ourselves). “What’s surprising about our survey’s results is how dramatically and positively getting these needs met is correlated with every variable that influences performance. It would be statistically significant if meeting a given need correlated with a rise of even one or two percentage points in a performance variable such as engagement, or retention. Instead, we found that meeting even one of the four core needs had a dramatic impact on every performance variable we studied. [..] when all four needs are met, the effect on engagement rises from 50% for one need, to 125%. Engagement, in turn, has been positively correlated with profitability. [..] employers with the most engaged employees were 22% more profitable than those with the least engaged employees.
    [..] those who were encouraged to take intermittent breaks reported they were 50% more engaged, more than twice as likely to stay with the company, and twice as healthy overall. Valuing and encouraging renewal requires no financial investment. What it does require is a willingness among leaders to test their longstanding assumption that that performance is best measured by the number of hours employees puts in – and the more continuous the better — rather than by the value they generate, however they choose to do their work.
  • The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats – increasing inequality will eventually lead to the collapse of the sysem (at least so does teach the history). It is people – primarily the middle class – that are the source of the wealth of the society, they produce and also consume most. Thus it is necessary to support them …
  • Why the U.S. Corporate World Became ‘A Bull Market for Corruption’ – Enron, GM, Goldman Sachs, … – we hear more and more the names of large corporations in the context of negligence and misues of their customers and investors. It seems that leadership (in the lead by example sense) has died out as well as the feeling of responsibility when one wields power over her customers/investors/markets. Instead, we have the me-first and  money at any cost thinking. Organizations are designed to shield higher-ups from responsibility (meetings with no records…). High pay for short term gains, failure to punish high ranking people.
  • (US) This is what happened when I drove my Mercedes to pick up food stamps – the experience of life in poverty after dropping down from $125k to $25k/year in two months due to childbirth, real estate market crash, and loss of a job. “Using the coupons was even worse. The stares, the faux concern, the pity, the outrage — I hated it. [..] That’s the funny thing about being poor. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels entitled to share. [..] Poverty is a circumstance, not a value judgment. I still have to remind myself sometimes that I was my harshest critic. That the judgment of the disadvantaged comes not just from conservative politicians and Internet trolls. It came from me, even as I was living it.

Clojure Corner

  • Isomorphic Clojure[Script], part I – enjoying all the benefits of Single-Page Apps while avoiding their drawbacks (SEO, slower page load, accessibility etc.) – a SPA that can be pre-rendered by the server. Using Om/React, JDK8 with the Nashorn JS engine, core.async, Sente (bi-dirrectional HTTP/WS communication over core.async) and Clojure in the JVM, ClojureScript in Nashorn in the JVM, and ClojureScript in the browser. Example app: Omelette.
  • clj-crud: a relatively feature-complete example of a Clojure web (4/2014; GitHub) – using Component, Liberator (REST), Datascript + Quiescent (=> React.js), Enlive, Friend etc. including couple of unit-test and ui-test libraries
  • Conclujon: Acceptance testing tool (α), Clojure reimplementation of Concordion, a beautifully simple ADD tool
  • dynalint: human-friendly error messages during dev – Clojure typically provides little helpful and sometimes confusing error messages thrown from somewhere deep in the implementation, such as “Don’t know how to create ISeq from: java.lang.Long at clojure.lang.RT.seqFrom” while we want st. like “First argument to clojure.core/first must be seqable: 1 (instance of class java.lang.Long” – and that’s what Dynalint does. In the tradition of defensive programming, it adds checks and good error messages to Vars at runtime. You typically run it only during dev, triggering it from the REPL.
  • Grimoire (Reid McKenzie) – a more up-to-date replacement for ClojureDocs
  • Adam Bard’s Top Clojure Articles for beginners and intermediate Clojure devs – f.ex. Five Mistakes Clojure Newbies Make, Acceptable Error Handling in Clojure, Clojure Reducers for Mortals
  • J. Wilk: Isolating External Dependencies in Clojure – a nice overview of the options and their pros and cons – with-redefs, alter-var-root, Midje (using alter-var-root in a more controlled manner), higher-order-functions (#1!) etc.
  • philandstuff’s detailed notes from Euroclojure 2014

Tools/Libs

  • NixOS (via @bodil) – a new interesting “purely functional” Linux distribution – system configuration is fully declarative (think of Puppet/Chef) and it is always trivial to roll back, you can have multiple versions of a package, users can install non-global SW
  • InfluxDB – time series, metrics, and events DB that scales; contrary to Graphite it can store richer data than Graphite and its single value; additional highlights: authorization for individual data, roll-up/clean old data, https API. Written in Go.

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Most interesting links of June ’14

Posted by Jakub Holý on June 30, 2014

Recommended Readings

  • The emperor’s new clothes were built with Node.js – I know sadly little about Node.js but this goes against the hype and is thus interesting. So what does Node.js give us? Performance 1-5x slower than Java [like Clojure] according to the Benchmarks Game (contrary to other benchmarks with the opposite result as mentioned in the comments), use of a single CPU/core on our multi-cpu, multi-core machines, callback hell. At the same time, there are good non-blocking servers available in other languages (Clojure’s http-kit, Vert.x, etc.) (Update: From the comments it seems that f.ex. the “callback hell” situation is geting better with 0.11, fibers and other things I do not know anything about. Also Sandro has a nice anti-comment (No. 36).)
    The Node.js Is Bad Ass Rock Star Tech 5 min video is a nice companion 🙂
  • The Expert (Short Comedy Sketch)  (7 min) – you’ve certainly seen this one but I had to put it here; a young engineer is hammered into being an “Of course I can do it, I am an expert” ‘expert/consultant’ during a business meeting. Maybe you too have experienced a dialog with the business where your true expert opinion was crushed by the business people’s insistence on their absurd requirements?
  • Reset The Net – Privacy Pack – privacy-enhancing apps for PC/mobile
  • The Dyslexic Programmer (via Kent Beck) – interesting read about quite a different way to percieve and think about code, the advantages of IDEs.
  • It’s Here: Docker 1.0 => more stable from now on
  • Kent Beck: Learning About TDD: The Purpose of #isTDDDead – what is the purpose and value of TDD? Where are the limits of its value? “I recognize that TDD loses value as tests take longer to run, as the number of possible faults per test failure increases, as tests become coupled to the implementation, and as tests lose fidelity with the production environment.
  • Failure & Cake: A Guide to Spotify’s Psychology of Success – want to be innovative and successfull? Learn to embrace failure, nurture the “growth mindset” (failure as opportunity to improve) rather than the “fixed mindset” (I do not learn and every failure shows I have no value). Read this if you want your org to be a better place to work!

Non-tech

  • LSD — The Problem-Solving Psychedelic – I never knew that drugs could be used to something positive, with an incredible effect. Are you stuck with a tech/design/art problem? Try LSD! 🙂
  • The French are right: tear up public debt – most of it is illegitimate anyway – “Debt audits show that austerity is politically motivated to favour social elites. [..] 60% of French public debt is illegitimate” – not improving the lives of people but thos at power/rich. Time to reconsider this debt business and ways to make our system better?
  • Forbes: Why Financialization Has Run Amok – Wall Street is the kind and companies do everything to look better in its eyes – including giving up on opportunities. The might of the finance sector is destructive to our economy and distorts it, away from producing more value to making financial institutions richer, away from (value) creative activities to distributive ones. The article describes the problem and proposes a solution including limiting the size and leverage of banks, taxing financial transactions etc. Example of the effects: “[..] a cabal of senior IBM executives and the managers of some big investment firms got together and devised a five-year scheme—IBM’s Roadmap 2015—for increasing IBM’s earnings per share—and their own compensation—through measures that are not only increasing earnings per share but also steadily crippling IBM’s ability to innovate and compete [..]
  • Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Uncertain Biological Basis of Morality – very interesting criticism of “morality” that is mostly based on emotions and thus contradictory, a good argument for utilitarian morality [not that it hasn’t its own challenges]. According to the author, many conflicts are nor primarily due to divergent values but due to different interpretation of the reality and history (such as “who has right to this land?”). People suffer “[..] from a deep bias—a tendency to overestimate their team’s virtue, magnify their grievances, and do the reverse with their rivals.” “This is the way the brain works: you forget your sins (or never recognize them in the first place) and remember your grievances. [..] As a result, the antagonisms confronting you may seem mysterious, and you may be tempted to attribute them to an alien value system.” This leads to partial judgements that play very badly with another psychological feature – “Namely: the sense of justice—the intuition that good deeds should be rewarded and bad deeds should be punished.” “When you combine judgment that’s naturally biased with the belief that wrongdoers deserve to suffer, you wind up with situations like two people sharing the conviction that the other one deserves to suffer. Or two groups sharing that conviction. And the rest is history.” And “The most common explosive additive is the perception that relations between the groups are zero-sum—that one group’s win is the other group’s loss.” => “So maybe the first step toward salvation is to become more self-aware.
    When you’re in zero-sum mode and derogating your rival group, any of its values that seem different from yours may share in the derogation. Meanwhile, you’ll point to your own tribe’s distinctive, and clearly superior, values as a way of shoring up its solidarity. So outsiders may assume there’s a big argument over values. But that doesn’t mean values are the root of the problem.
    Those who choose not to act in the trolley dilemma[..] are just choosing to cause five deaths they won’t be blamed for rather than one death they would be blamed for. Not a profile in moral courage!

Clojure Corner

  • The Case for Clojure (video, 5 min) – a short video arguing for Clojure as a good solution language based on its simplicity, power, and fun factor. There are many claims and few facts (as dictated by the short length) but it might be interesting for somebody.
  • CrossClj.info – cross-reference of many OSS Clojure projects – find all uses of a fn across the projects, all fns with a given name, all projects using ring, … . Search by fn, macro, var, ns, prj.
  • The Weird and Wonderful Characters of Clojure – ‘A reference collection of characters used in Clojure that are difficult to “google”.’

Tools/Libs

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Most interesting links of February ’14

Posted by Jakub Holý on February 28, 2014

Recommended Readings

Development

  • Nathan Marz: Principles of Software Engineering, Part 1 – Nathan has worked with Big Data at Twitter and other places and really knows the perils or large, distributed, real-time systems and this post contains plenty of valuable advice for making robust, reliable SW. Main message: “there’s a lot of uncertainty in software engineering“; every SW operates correctly only for a certain range of inputs (including volume, HW it runs on, …) and you never control all of them so there always is an opportunity for failure; you can’t predict what inputs you will encounter in the wild. “[..] while software is deterministic, you can’t treat it as deterministic in any sort of practical sense if you want to build robust software.” “Making software robust is an iterative process: you build and test it as best you can, but inevitably in production you’ll discover new areas of the input space that lead to failure. Like rockets, it’s crucial to have excellent monitoring in place so that these issues can be diagnosed.“. From the content: Sources of uncertainty (bugs, humans, requirements, inputs, ..), Engineering for uncertainty (minimize dependencies, lessen % of cascading failure [JH: -> Hystrix], measure and monitor)
    • Suffering-oriented programming is certainly also worth reading (summary: do not start with great designs; only start generalizing and creating libs when you have suffered enough from doing things more manually and thus learned the domain; make it possible > make it beautiful > make it fast, repeat)
  • ThoughtWorks open-sources Go, continuous delivery platform – good bye, Jenkins! – better support for pipelines etc., see features and elementary concepts
  • Cloud Design Patterns: Prescriptive Architecture Guidance for Cloud Applications (recommended by @markusbk so it must be good); Patterns: Cache-aside, Circuit Breaker, Compensating Transaction, Competing Consumers, Compute Resource Consolidation, Command and Query Responsibility Segregation (CQRS), Event Sourcing, External Configuration Store, Federated Identity, Gatekeeper, Health Endpoint Monitoring, Index Table, Leader Election, Materialized View, Pipes and Filters, Priority Queue, Queue-based Load Leveling, Retry, Runtime Reconfiguration, Scheduler Agent Supervisor, (data) Sharding, Static Content Hosting (-> CDN), Throttling, Valet Key.
    Guidance topics: Asynchronous Messaging Primer, Autoscaling, Caching, Compute Partitioning, Data Consistency Primer, Data Partitioning, Data Replication and Synchronization, Instrumentation and Telemetry, Multiple Datacenter Deployment, Service Metering
  • MOOC course Functional programming with Clojure at Uni of Helsinki – to get started you need, I suppose, follow the “Material and course content” – essentially read the text for each chapter, clone its repo, submit pull requests to get your work graded
  • Jez Humble: The Case for Continuous Delivery – read to persuade manager about CD: “Still, many managers and executives remain unconvinced as to the benefits [of CD], and would like to know more about the economic drivers behind CD.” CD reduces waste: “[..]online controlled experiments (A/B tests) at Amazon. This approach created hundreds of millions of dollars of value[..],” reduces risks: “[..] Etsy, has a great presentation which describes how deploying more frequently improves the stability of web services.” CD makes development cheaper by reducing the cost of non-value-adding activities such as integration and testing. F.ex. HP got dev. costs down by 40%, dev cost/program by 78%

Web

  • Client-side messaging in JavaScript – Part 3 (anti-patterns) (via @ruudud so it must be worth reading)
  • Request Quest (via @jraregris) – entertaining and educational intractive quiz regarding what does (not) trigger a request in browsers and differences between them (and deviances from the standard) – img, script, css, etc.
  • The REST Statelessness Constraint – a nice post about statelessness in REST if you, like me, don’t know REST so much in depth; highlights: Statelesness (and thus the requirement for clients to send their state with every request) is a trade-off crucial for web-scale and partially balanced by caching – while typical enterprise apps have different needs (more state, less scale) so REST isn’t a perfect match. Distinguish application (client-side) and server (resources) state. Using a DB to hold the state still violates the requirement. Use links to transfer some state (e.g. contain a link to fetch the next page of records in the response).
  • Functional Programming in Javascript – an interactive tutorial teaching map, filter, mergeAll, reduce, zip

Other

  • CodeMesh 2013 presentations – good stuff! F.ex. Refactoring Functional Programs: Past and Future, Distribution, Scale and Flexibility with ZeroMQ, Deepak Giridharagopal on Puppet, Immutable Deployments, Analyzing Systems with PuppetDB, Francesco Cesarini and Viktor Klang on the Reactive Manifesto and more
  • Cognitive Biases in Times of Uncertainty – people under pressure/stress start to focus on risks over gains and (very) short-term rather than long-term and thus also adopt 0-some mindset (i.e. if sb. else wins, I loose) => polarization into we x them and focus on getting as big piece of the cake possible at any price, now, dismissal of collaboration. With accelerating rate of change in the society due to technology, this is exactly what is happening. How to counter it? Create more positive narratives than the threat-based ones (views of the world), support them via short-term gains. Bottom line: each of us must work on spreading a more positive attitude to save us from bleak future.
  • Book – Nathan Marz: Big Data – I dislike the big data hype (and, with passion, Hadoop) but would love to read this book; it presents a fresh look at big data processing, heavily inspired by functional programming. Nathan has plenty of experiences from Twitter and creating Storm and Cascalog (both in Clojure, btw.). Read ch 1:  A new paradigm for big data.
  • Facebook Engineering: The Mature Optimization Handbook (or go directly to the pdf,   ePubMobi). If you get bored, jump directly to ch 5. Instrumentation.

Clojure Corner

  • Schmetterling – Debug running clojure processes from the browser! – upon an exception, the process will pause and S. will show the stack, which you can navigate and see locals and run code in the context of any stack frame; you can also trigger it from your code
  • Gorilla REPL (screenshot, 11min video)- interactive web-based notebook where you can mix text (with Markdown formatting), mathematical formulas via LaTeX, graphs, tables, Clojure code. Great for exploring and, at the same time, describing data. ❤
  • Local state is harmful – how can we answer the questions about when/why did state X change, how did output Y get where it is? Make state explicit, f.ex. one global map holding all of it, and perhaps not just the current state but also history – thus we can easily query it. Prismatic’ Graph can be used to make the state map, watches to keep history. Inspired by databases (Datomic is an excellent example of SW where answering such questions is trivial)
  • S. Corfield: Insanely Useful Leiningen Plugins – lein-ancient (find updated deps), lein-exec (execute Clj from cmd.line / scripts in Clj), lein-try (try a lib in REPL), Eastwood – a lint tool for Clojure
  • Sente – Clojure(Script) + core.async + WebSockets/Ajax – a tiny 600 LoC library for websockets (with fall-back to long-polling) communication between ClojureScript frontend and clojure backend, using EDN, support for request-reply and multiple user windows/tabs (comparison with Chord (no non-WS fallback or req/resp))
  • Nicholas Kariniemi: Why is Clojure bootstrapping so slow? – don’t blame the JVM, most time spent in clojure.core according to this analyzes on JVM and Android (create and set vars, load other namespaces); some proposals for improving it – lazy loading, excluding functionality not used, …
  • Cheat your way to running CLJS on Node – (ab)use D. Nolen’s mies template intended for client-side cljs development to create a Node project; the trick: compile everything into 1 file so that Node does not fail to find dependencies, disable source maps etc. Update: the nodecljs template now does this
  • lt-clojure-tutorial – A Clojure tutorial optimized for Light Table, ported from Nolen’s cljs tutorial

Tools/Libs

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Seek Understanding

Posted by Jakub Holý on February 23, 2014

The most important lesson I have learned in 2013 is that I won’t change anything by writing critical blog posts and talking to like-minded people. Fostering the “we vs. them,” we who are right vs. them idiots sentiment is ineffective, even destructive. To be able to achieve anything, I have to talk to the people with opposite opinions and understand them. They are rarely ***holes and typically have good reasons for their opinions. Only by understanding those reasons and the background, history, and emotions they stem from – and hopefully helping the “opponents” understand some of my reasons and context – we can find a common ground and common goals that we can build upon to go further – perhaps not in harmony but still together rather than against each other.

Talking to people is difficult. Having my dearly hold beliefs exposed to discussion and criticism is painful. Trying to find a common ground with people with totally different needs, experiences, and ideas about the best way to do software development in a particular context is challenging. But only by doing so, and by being open to changing my own stance, I can hope to influence the stance of other “stakeholders” and thus bring a positive change to a project or organization.

Side note: It’s funny that the more I learn about IT the more I realize that the main challenges and solutions we encounter are not about technology, but about the fundamentally human in us. Also the approach advocated here – seeking understanding and respect in spite of disagreement instead of the radically adversarial “we vs. them” thinking – is crucial not just for IT, but also for building a better society. So far it unfortunately seems that politicians – especially in the US but not just there – tend to prefer the wrong approach. And also the willingness to expose one’s beliefs to discussion and the openness to change are important not only for talking to people, but for being able to keep developing mentally and spiritually, as put so well by M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled.

I’d like to thank to Markus Krüger for showing me the power of talking to people and to Marshall B. Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life for being so inspirational on this path.

You might enjoy also other posts on effective development.

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Most interesting links of August ’13

Posted by Jakub Holý on August 31, 2013

Sorry folks, this month it will be very brief. I have many more great stuff in the queue but haven’t managed to write it down yet. Next month will be heavy 🙂

Recommended Readings

  • Interested in native vs. webapp? Check out Why mobile web apps are slow (mobile browser much slower, not much real improvements, weak CPUs,…; seems to be really high-quality, plenty of data) and Sencha’s 5 Myths About Mobile Web Performance (Mobile web performance is mostly driven by JavaScript performance on the CPU, CPU-Bound JavaScript has only become faster because of HW improvements, Mobile browsers are already fully optimized, Future hardware improvements are unlikely to help, JavaScript garbage collection is a performance killer).
  • Why Software Projects are Terrible and How Not To Fix Them – many teams are not ready to embrace new/better software practices, primarly for two reasons: 1) most of them are nonintuitive (f.ex. adding more people will slow dev down) and need to be sold through a high hierarchy of managament – but people/managers/organizations don’t really care, it takes years for good/bad practices to have an impact, which is not relevant “now.” 2) Businss objectives change too quickly and SW is blamed for not delivering. Based on evaluating many failed projects. Conclusion: Choose carefully people/organizations your work with. Avoid blame-driven ones. Quote on middle managers: “He has to put more developers on the project, call a meeting and yell at people, and other arbitrary bad ideas.  Not because he thinks those will solve the problem.  In fact, managers often do this in spite of the fact that they know it’s bad. Because that’s what will convince upper management that they’re doing their best.” “In the vast majority of failed projects I’ve been called to looked at, the managers have not read one book on software engineering.

Data & Analytics

  • Big Data: Kafka for uSwitch’s Event Pipeline – a better alternative to log files – use LinkedIn’s Kafka for messaging, have MR jobs to import latest messages into Hadoop/HDFS. The advantage of Kafka is that it persists the messages for a period of time so it is easy to batch-import and even re-import them. The uSwitch’s talk Users As Data explains the downsides of log files. LinkedIn’s Camus is a tool for importing messages from Kafka to HDFS.
  • Realtime Analytics with Storm and Hadoop (at Twitter; presentation deck) – pre-aggregate some data into a read-only, random read DB such as ElephantDB, Voldemort, or Manhattan. For newer data use Storm and aggregated data in a read-write, big-data DB such as HBase, Riak, or Cassandra. For stuff that cannot be pre-aggregated you might use Storm’s Distributed RPC.
  • The Unified Logging Infrastructure for Data Analytics at Twitter – a paper from late 2012 that presents “Twitter’s production logging infrastructure and its evolution from application-specific logging to a uni- fied “client events” log format, where messages are captured in common, well-formatted, flexible Thrift messages” – with the benefit of “s streamlined log collection and data analysis”.

Other

  • Development and Deployment at Facebook (Kent Beck et. al., 8/2013, 13p paper) – “More than one billion users log in to Facebook at least once a month to connect and share content with each other. Among other activities, these users upload over 2.5 billion content items every day. In this article we describe the development and deployment of the software that supports all this activity, focusing on the site’s primary codebase for the Web front-end.

Talks

  • One of the most valuable talks I’ve seen, in just 18 min: The Progress Principle – about the disengagement crisis and motivation at work by Teresa Amabile at TEDx Atlanta (via @thovden). Disengagement from work is increasing, at all age and salary levels, and leads to unhappy people, low productivity, huge financial losses. Based on analysing diaries of 12k participants, the single most important engaging and motivating factor is making progress in a meaningful work (including small wins). A culture of management by fear and punishment for failure creates disengagement and can crush even an innovative, profitable, praised company in a few years. Everybody, though especially the management, creates the culture through their everyday, small actions. If everybody focuses on catalysing progress and supporting their fellow humans through good and bad times, engagement and success will follow. Remove progress inhibitors, nourish the human spirit (acknowledge what we humans value, encourage people). Yet of the managers asked, very few knew of the significance of making progress (or, I can assume, of supporting people and making them happy(er) and the impact of our inner work life (perceptions, emotions, etc.) on our productivity and creativity). The study included two seemingly similar, successfull companies, one with great engagement, another with a new management that managed to destroy the engagement and thus eventually the company. Actions to take: catalyse progress, celebrate wins, encourage and support your colleagues.

Clojure Corner

  • Wonderful Clojure Cheatsheet 1.5 with tooltips showing the doc and summary of information available at clojuredocs.org (other Clj versions), by Andy Fingerhut
  • Chas Emerick’s Clojure type selection flowchart to help you decide whether to use a map, a record, reify, proxy, gen-class, or deftype.  (Reify and proxy don’t produce a class but just an instance of an anonymous class; proxy can extend a base class, reify cannot. gen-class produces a class visible from Java and can extend Java classes.  …)

Tools/Libs

  • Docker.io – pack, ship and run any application (and its dependencies) as a lightweight container, i.e. essentially “a VM without the overhead of a VM,” using linux containers (chroot on steroids with resource limits via control groups) see reports of some uses such as Java app deployment, desktop virtualization, automatic app deployment in GitHub commit. Docker also supports evolving the containers over time, i.e. deploying new version, by pushing just diffs so it’s low-overhead. You can build a container (include files, SW, forward ports, …) using a Dockerfile. See dotScale 2013 – Solomon Hykes – Why we built Docker for an intro (20 min).
  • Packer.io – tool for building pre-configured VM images for different platforms (EC2, VirtualBox, …), remotely similar to Netflix’s Aminator. See Immutable Servers With Packer and Puppet for an example use case.
  • Ubuntu-build Vagrant boxes at cloud-images.ubuntu.com/vagrant/
  • SlimerJS – PhantomJS-compatible headless browser engine based on Firefox/Gecko (well, it is not fully headless yet but that is planned; the main focus now is full compatibility with PhantomJS’ API) (Both work with CasperJS for navigational steps/testing.)
  • localtunnel – instantly show locally running webapp/server to the rest of the world (gem install localtunnel,  localtunnel <port to share>, => share the url returned, e.g. http://xyz.localtunnel.com) – I haven’t tried it but it looks simple and very convenient
  • Logstash + Kibana (via @mortenberg): take control of your logs – while Logstash can collect (from multiple servers/services), parse (over 100 built-in patterns), store, index, search your logs, Kibana is a web interface to seach them, view them in realtime (based on a query) etc. See this Logstash slides (9/2012) and an overview of Kibana’s powers. PS: Logstash can also compute metrics and send them to graphite etc. It is typically used with ElasticSearch.
  • ncdu is an interactive, command-like disk usage browser that shows a list of directories sorted by size shown in human-friendly units, you can navigate with arrows and enter and i to show the current dir/file info, d to delete it, q to quit; check out this article about ncdu with screenshots and ncdu man page. Install via Apt etc., run f.ex. with ncdu -x / .
  • vagrant-cachier – Vagrant plugin for caching apt/yum/.. packages locally, thus speeding up destroy+up

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Most interesting links of April ’13

Posted by Jakub Holý on April 30, 2013

Recommended Readings

The top top article

How To Survive a Ground-Up Rewrite Without Losing Your Sanity (recommended by Kent Beck) – sometimes you need to actually rewrite an important part of a system; here we learn about two such rewrites, one which went well and one that failed badly – and what are the important differences.

The pain of a rewrite: “it’s [a major rewrite] going to take insanely longer than you expect” – because: “there’s this endless series of weird crap encoded in the data in surprising ways” and it takes days to convert them, “It’s brutally hard to reduce scope” (you cannot drop features, edge cases), “There turn out to be these other system that use ‘your’ data”.

To succeed you need: 1) Determine clear business-visible wins to justify the effort that will be much higher than expected and to know when to give up / what to postpone; 2) Do it extremely incrementally (<->  Succession) – break it into a series of small, safe steps, each generating a business value and learning of its own thus enabling early and frequent economical tradeoffs (stop, shift priorities, …) – ex.: rewrite a single reports, migrate its data, switch customers to it, go on to the next one – complete slice of functionality => a more realistic estimate soon => reprioritisation; incrementalism requires you to be able to write data both to the old and new system, which is hard but always pays off: “Here’s what I’m going to say: always insert that dual-write layer. Always. It’s a minor, generally somewhat fixed cost that buys you an incredible amount of insurance.” 3) “Abandoning the Project Should Always Be on the Table” (<- known biz value, better estimate based on early feedback).

Some Specific Tactics: Shrink Ray FTW (a graph of how much has been already replaced => motivation), Engineer The Living Hell Out Of Your Migration Scripts (tests, robustness, error handling, restartability), If Your Data Doesn’t Look Weird, You’re Not Looking Hard Enough.

Methodology, agile, lean

  • M. Fowler: The New Methodology – a good description of the rise of Agile, the motivation for it, the various Agile methodologies (XP, Lean, Scrum etc.) and what is required to be able to apply an agile approach. Main points: Agile is adaptive (vs. predictive) and relies heavily on people and their judgement and skills (vs. treating them as same, replacable units) – which also leads to the need of leadership instead of (command&control) management. Discusses unpredictability of requirements and scope, foolishness of separating design and implementation, difficulty of measurement of SW development, continuous improvement etc. Quotes: “However letting go of predictability doesn’t mean you have to revert to uncontrollable chaos. Instead you need a process that can give you control over an unpredictability. That’s what adaptivity is all about.”
  • The Toyota concept of ‘respect for people’ – many state that they respect their workers but fail to really understand what it means; it is not about freedom of act, it is about a mutual respect, leveraging the strengths of each other: worker’s experience and insight and manager’s broader overview, as demonstrated by the problem-solving dialog and challenges (problem – root cause – solution – measure of success, the manager challenging the worker’s answers). Also a nice example how the evaluation of individual performance leads to a much worse system and high turnover compared to a whole-oriented company.
  • Fixed Bid Agile Without Cognitive Dissonance – a refreshing take on fixed-scope projects and Agile; yes, they are bad but sometimes the client has no other choice so what best we can make out of it? The core advice: Agree “a pragmatic change management protocol (along with a contingency built into the pricing)” (push for lower initial requirements granularity, customer involvement, flexibility of functionality) => “you can gain significant agile benefits for clients who wouldn’t otherwise accept them”.
  • Agile Atlas: Scrum – a good description of Scrum and its values, roles, artifacts, and activities

Learning, psychology, estimates

  • How Developers Stop Learning: Rise of the Expert Beginner – sometimes you meet people with experience-indicating titles that are actually little competent, perhaps leading incompetent IT departments. Why? They, unchallenged by competent peers or broader IT community, came to believe that they are “experts” while actually being only little more advanced beginners, better than their beginner colleagues but still lacking any understanding of the big picture and the knowledge of what they do not know, trapped in the “unconscious incompetence” stage. The post explains this in a more detail and is followed up an explanation how it can lead to the rise of a mediocre SW group in “How Software Groups Rot: Legacy of the Expert Beginner“.
  • Coding, Fast and Slow: Developers and the Psychology of Overconfidence (via @peterskeide) – why are we so bad at estimating (inherent complexity of SW vs. our overconfidence) and why it cannot be fixed. We can learn to somehow estimate tasks of few hours length (less complex, plenty of practice opportunities). The question is: “how you can your dev team generate a ton of value, even though you can not make meaningful long-term estimates?”
  • Cognitive Overhead, Or Why Your Product Isn’t As Simple As You Think (via @JiriJerabek) – to make apps more accessible to users, we try to make them simple – but “simple” might be different from what you expect. The important thing is not less steps, less features, less elements, but lower cognitive overhead, i.e. “how many logical connections or jumps your brain has to make in order to understand or contextualize the thing you’re looking at.” Good examples of unexpectadly high / pleasantly low cognitive overhead, some tips, even suprising ones such as make people do more (to be more involved in the process – e.g. bump their phones), slow down your product.

Other

  • Economies of Scala – a case for using Scala over Java, supported by data: many capable developers want to use it but there are few opportunities for them – and getting developers is one of the main challenges.
  • A canonical Repository test – a nice standard way to test a “DAO”; highlights: use of  FEST assert 2 for clean and nice checks, no unimportant details in the test (f.ex. details of the test data hidden in randomPerson() and randomOder(Person)).
  • How To Think Like An Engineer – some nice ideas such as: “Build A Simple First Version: With People, Not Code” – “Technology is not always the best solution, because technology is not always the simplest solution.”, i.e. don’t automate everything from the start (examples from Netflix, Amazon); “Rather than trying to do everything at once, break down the functions of your company into smaller goals.” – and focus at one at a time
  • Economies Of Scale As A Service (do not mix up with Scala! :-))- an interesting description of the trend away from ownership to the rental of important resources (servers, manufacturing capabilities, personal cars, …) and the resulting changes in the society, business, and industry
  • Troy Hunt: Our password hashing has no clothes (or the much shorter though biased How To Safely Store A Password) – MD5 and SHA are not safe enough due to brute-force attack enabled by GPUs, irrespective key size; it’s crucial to use hashing algorithms designed for passwords (and thus sufficiently slow) – f.ex. bcrypt, or PBKDF2 or the newer scrypt.
  • Everything about Java 8 – a well-made summary of what should come in Java 8, based on the current state, discussing the finer points: static and default (non-static, overridable) methods on interfaces, lambdas (do I need to mentione that?!) and method references (String::valueOf, Object::toString, myVar::toString, ArrayList::new); good discussion of the various use cases and limitations of lambdas (capturing x non-c., ..); java.util.stream for functional operations on value streams (filter, map, reduce etc.); java.time inspired by Joda, more concurrency utilities (e.g. CompletableFuture for chaining futures); String.join (finally!), Optional ~ Scala’s Option & more; yummy!
  • How To Keep Your Best Programmers – what motivates capable programmers to stay/leave? The author lists some common reasons and concludes that, ultimately, all are linked to the desire for autonomy, mastery, or purpose. However he goes further and proposes that, to keep talented devs, you must offer them an appealing narrative (regarding their actions and a result, related to autonomy/mastery/purpose) and reaffirm/update it frequently; ex.: “With the work that we’re giving you over the next few months, you’re going to become the foremost NoSQL expert in our organization.” “At any point, both you and the developers on your team should know their narratives.” – so that they will be “constant points of job satisfaction and purpose.”

Clojure Corner

  • Clojure Data Analysis Cookbook review – “The book provides a collection of recipes for accomplishing common tasks associated with analyzing different types of data sets. It starts out by showing how to read data from a variety of sources such as JSON, CSV, and JDBC. [..] how to sanitize the collected data and sample large data sets. [..] a number of different strategies for processing it.” How to present them with ClojureScript and  NVD3 (D3.js components). “Some of the highlights include using the Clojure STM, parallel processing of the data, including useful tricks for partitioning, using reducers, and distributed processing with Hadoop and Casalog.”

Favorite Quotes

once again, trying to do it *and* do it right was too much all at once, resulting in little progress and little learning.

– Kent Beck’s tweet 2013-04-16

A true agile development process can be recognized by its continual evolution:

A project that begins using an adaptive process won’t have the same process a year later. Over time, the team will find what works for them, and alter the process to fit.

– Martin Fowler in The New Methodology

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Most interesting links of Mars ’13

Posted by Jakub Holý on March 31, 2013

Recommended Readings

A lot of stuff this month since I have finally got time to review some older articles. Quite a few articles by Fowler. Few really great (yet short) talks on agile & SW development.

Top

  • Agile in a Nutshell (originally Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell) by Henrik Kniberg – the best explanation of the agile development process ever, in just 15 minutes and with wonderful animation; every developer should see this. Some highlights: the most important task of product owner is to say NO so that backlog doesn’t grow infinitely; at start, the estimates of size and value will suck and that’s OK because the value is in the conversation, not in the numbers (that are anyway just relative); the goal is to maximize outcome (value), not output (# features). Compromises between short-term vs. long-term goals, knowledge vs. customer value building etc. Build the right thing (PO) x build it right (devs) x build it fast (SM). Technical debt x sustainable pace. As I said – you MUST see it.
  • Martin Fowler: The Value of Software Design (talk, 22 min, from 0:45:00 til 1:07; Feb 2013) – a balanced argument for the value of good software design and internal code quality based on paying off by enabling us to keep our development speed. Discusses the DesignStaminaHypothesis (bad design => rapid decline of development speed), TechnicalDebt, TechnicalDebtQuadrant (Prudent x Reckless, Deliberate x Inadvertent), TradableQualityHypothesis. According to the experience of Fowler and others, the good design payoff point “it’s weeks, not months.”
  • What Does It Take To Become A Grandmaster Developer? – great post about cognition and learning, valuable references, quotes from an interesting study of good vs. mediocre developers. We have mental capacity for ~7 chunks of information => great performers recognize patterns and see and understand thus higher-level chunks and have many “chunks” (patterns encountered previously) readily available. You need deliberate effort to learn more chunks – especially initially but you must always try to get out of your comfort zone to grow. Experienced collegues can help a lot in acending the learning curve.

Agile, organization, innovation, project management

  • How to Prioritize a User Story Map – we all know that we should prioritize features by their value, risk, and lack of knowledge and that we should slice the features thin so that they fit into short iteration and can be deployed soon to produce feedback, right? Here we see a nice example of what happens if not done so and how to do feature slicing better.
  • Bob Marshall: Rightshifting – according to the author, 80% of knowledge work organizations are very ineffective, wasting resources on non-value-adding activites; only few are effective, even fewer highly effective. Rightshifting is the attempt at shiting them to the right, towards higher effectiveness. Links to a few videos explaining it more. Related: Steve McConnell’s Business Case for Better Software Practices, referring to a study by SEI; “The actual distribution of software effectiveness is asymmetric. Most organizations perform much closer to the worst practice than to the best.” – the best performing 10 times better then the worst/average (productivity, speed, defects, value)
  • On Antifragility in Systems and Organizational Architecture – introduces the concept of antifragility, based on Nassim Taleb’s book Antifragile that compares fragile, robust, and antifragile systems and organizational structures (which is also applicable to SW systems); robust = resists change (unless too large); antifragile: learn, adapt; closely related to DevOps and continous delivery
  • M. Fowler: PurposeOfEstimation – many Agilist disdain estimation, this is a balanced view: “estimation is valuable when it helps you make a significant decision.” (F.ex. when deciding what we (don’t) have resources for or when in need of coordinating related activities.) It is evil when used as commitments that people are forced to stick to and blamed for not managing to do so. “Above all be wary of anyone who tells you they [estimates] are always needed, or never needed.” A. Ferguson: “[..] it is poor project management (whether by project managers or other team members) that results in a client who thinks estimates are fixed, or that raw estimates = actual effort/duration”.
  • Ron Jeffries: Estimation is Evil – discusses the problems estimates can cause, issues with requirements gathering up front and their volatility, transparency and politics. Very valuable, highly recommended. See the “favorite quotes” at the bottom of this post. Also contains an interesting lesson learnt from the failed Chrysler C3 project: don’t try to build a grand new system to replace and fix the old one, fix one problem at a time – worth reading for this alone.
  • Interview with Steve Blank: Why Big Companies Can’t Innovate – the 2013 list of the world’s 50 most innovative companies has only a few large, established firms (those that have built innovation into its DNA such as Apple and Google). Established companies are less innovative because they focus in their existing business model, have risk-aversion (while there are many failures on the way to a new business model); finally “the people who are best suited to search for new business models and conduct iterative experiments usually are not the same managers who succeed at running existing business units.” – and thus aren’t given the chance. “[..]  the process of starting a new business [..] is fundamentally different from running an existing one. So if you want your company to grow organically, then you need to organize your efforts around these differences.”

Architecture & Ops

  • M. Fowler: Schemalessness + NoSQL and Consistency (20 + 20 min) two short, very good, balanced talks about NoSQL. He explains schemalessness and consistency and points out common misunderstanding about them so if you are into NoSQL, watch it.
  • What Powers Instagram: Hundreds of Instances, Dozens of Technologies (2012) – interesting high-level overview of the Instagram infrastructure based on AWS and Python (25 XL instances running Django/Gunicorn behind ELB with 3 Nginxes, sharded PostgreSQL with streaming replication on 12 QXL mem instances with software raid and XFS to freeze when snapshoting, media in S3, Redis, Solr for geo-search, Memcached. Gearman for task queues, pyapns for notifications. Munin for monitoring.)
  • The Netflix API Optimization Story – how Netflix redesigned its APIs to improve performance, reduce chattiness, and power product development and experimentation. The common REST API has become a development bottleneck and a lowest common denominator solution (w.r.t. supporting various clients). The main changes were: usage Hystrix for fault tolerance, each device team managing their own end-points in any JVM languges (primarily Groovy) and re-using common APIs (i.e. pushing some device-specific code to the server) => able to experiemnt more quickly, using the Functional Reactive Programming Model and asynchronous APIs (to abstract away thread-safety and parallel execution implementation details from the device teams so that code can execute sync. or async. without them needing to know).
  • Me: Overview of current monitoring libs for Java – Netflix’ Servo, Yammer’s Metrics, JavaMelody, JavaSimon.
  • Debug Servlets, or ‘HTTP Won; Use It’ – expose all debugging info of your services over HTTP – it makes debugging much simpler. We do a part of it and it really helps. Expose config (values, where they come from), logs, log configuration, JMX (setting it up otherwise not trivial), version, build number, git hash, server time (timezones tricky), metrics, stack dumps, app-specific status (Hadoop: live nodes, data size etc.). The author recommends JavaMelody to collect & visualize many common metrics. Not on security: Make sure to hide passwords and make the endpoints visible only internally. (Tip: consider Jolokia for exposing JMX over HTTP, see below.)
  • JVM Crash/Core Dump Analysis – 3 common categories of  JVM crash causes (JVM/JIT/JNI) and how to recognize and troubleshoot them

Other

  • How to lose wight in the browser:  The definitive front-end performance guide – a site by a number of experts from Twitter, Opera, Google, and other places with best practices for performant web sites (HTML, CSS, JS, jQuery, images). Ex.: styles up top, scripts down bottom; minify your html, css and JS; async script loading; combine css/JS files into one; cache array lengths while looping; use css sprites for icons.
  • Luke Stevens: The harsh truth about HTML5′s structural semantics (part 1) – “HTML’s structural elements — article, section, nav and aside — are, at first glance, some of the easiest parts of the HTML5 specification to understand and implement. However, they’re actually some of the most poorly specified, poorly understood, and poorly implemented parts of HTML5.” Interesting: The “research” leading to their establishment was quite random, ignoring a crucial source of information (css IDs).
  • Marco Emmanuel Patiño: Six non-technical books every programmer should read – 1. Team Geek: A Software Developer’s Guide to Working Well with Others (-> effective communication and collaboration), 2. The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master, 3. The Passionate Programmer: Creating a Remarkable Career in Software Development, 4. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship, 5. 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts (online), 6. Code Simplicity: The Fundamentals of Software.
    • Related: Top 5 Java programming books – Best of lot (actually 8) – 1) Head First Java, 2) Effective Java, 3) Thinking in Java, 4) Head First Design Pattern, 5) Concurrency Practice in Java, 6)Java performance, 7) Java Puzzlers, 8) Head First Object Oriented Analysis and Design.
  • Humans as slaves of chemistry: America’s Real Criminal Element – Lead – a fascinating article about how whole nations can be seriously influenced by a single chemical substance. Aside of that it is also fascinating to observe how we tend to search for causes in our domain of expertise (police, sociologists, …) and of interest while denying other possible causes, no matter how strong are the proofs. If the facts presented are true, then the fivefold increase in serious crimes in (not only) America since 60s has been caused by the increase of lead in the environment (pushing many people over the edge of ocassional violent loss of control). How many social problems in the world have similar industrial causes? Are we careful enough with what we let into our air and bodies?

Languages

  • newcoder.io: Learning more Python via projects – an excellent next step when you have learned Python syntax via LPHW or similar; in this tutorial series you will be building real-world apps while learning more of Python. You will play with, Data Visualization, APIs, Web Scraping, Networks, GUI.
  • Brian McCallister: Go is PHP for the Backend – a very good explanation why you might want to use Go and that you have to first learn “the Go way” to avoid insanity, since it is very opinionated and different from what you might be used to. Some pros: “native code, UNIX friendly, higher level then C, lower level then Python or Ruby, garbage collected, strongly typed, good performance, good concurrency support, etc.”
  • The Neophyte’s Guide to Scala 1 to 15 (list) – a good follow-up on the Cursera FP in Scala course, a series of blog posts exploring some topics more in depth. F.ex.: extracotrs (unapply, for pattern-matching), the broad applicability of pattern matching, pattern matching anonymous functions & partial functions #4, usiong Option idiomaticly #5, nice FP error handling with the Try type #6, Futures, etc. Higly recommended! Thx to Jakob Lind

Libs

  • Jolokia is remote JMX with JSON over HTTP: a REST API bridged to JMX, with support for security, fine-grained access control, bulk operations. Especially useful if you either 1)  need to perform bulk operations (e.g. get multiple values) or 2) want to access them from something that doesn’t support JMX. JSON is in general very easy to use and navigate. You can install Jolokia as a WAR (or mebedd its Servlet), a JVM agent, or attach it on-the-fly to a running JVM.
  • The Appeal and Controversy of ZeroMQ – why to use 0MQ? It is a messaging library that focuses on performance, decentralization and simplicity, solving some really hard problems (sending async. messages w/o locks, distribuing to specific subscribers) and providing a simple API. Main pros: decentralized (no central broker), many languages; cons: no security (but you can use it over SSH).

Talks

  • Tim O’Reilly: Create More Value Than You Capture (30 min + questions) – build apps that matter, that change how we do things. Thinking just about money is bad. Try to make the society better, smart, create more value than you capture, solve important problems, help people. Ex. startups: Uber, Square, Code for America.
  • TED: Bruce Feiler: Agile programming — for your family (20 min) – an inspirational talk, based on positive experience from multiple families, about applying the agile thinking and values to make our families happier by empowering the children (enlist them in their upbringing, deciding on goals, rewards, punishments), letting them know who they are, being adaptive, having regular “retrospectives” (that eventually become cherrished memories). Backed by research. Did you know that the #1 wish of children isn’t that parents spend more time with them but that they are less stressed?

Clojure Corner

  • What’s new in Clojure 1.5.x – reducers, new threading macros (cond->, as->, some->, ..), various improvements, improved performance, erro messages, doc strings, bug fixes
  • Stuart Sierra: On the Perils of Dynamic Scope – summary: don’t create macros like with-connection binding to a thread-local var; make all methods take the resource as a parameter – thus the user has the freedom to decide when to close the resource and isn’t limited to a single thread and can use lazy sequences
  • Logic programming is overrated – core.logic is essentially only a complex DSL for doing an exhaustive search and there is already a nice, clean tool for that: the for comprehension. A logic puzzle can be much more clearly and also efficiently using for. But it is not completely useless – logic programming is good e.g. for running programs backwards, unification is important for writing type checkers, and the new constraint programming piece has good potential. Read also Logic Programming is Underrated, which provides a faster core.logic solution than for-comprehension and provides some pointers rgarding the practical usefulness of core.logic.
  • Prismatic – Graph: Abstractions for Structured Computation – How to reduce the complexity overhead in large, real-world, FP systems by decoupling what is done from how it is executed. Graph is a Clojure library enabling a declarative way to describe how data flows between (mostly pure) functions => “It allows us to formalize the informal structure of good FP code, and enables higher-order abstractions over these structures that can help stamp out many persistent forms of complexity overhead.” By decoupling the description of how data flows and the actual execution, we can execute it in different ways (parallelized, with memoization, lazy/eager) and apply various interceptors (for logging etc.). See especially the part “Graph and complexity overhead.”
  • Mike Anderson: Game development in Clojure : Alchemy 7DRL post-mortem (and the previous 7 daily updates, Alchemy @ GitHub) – an interesting report about game making in Clojure during 7 days, in as functional and immutable style as possible while keeping it sufficiently fast. How do you represent & handle statuf game objects, the world map, game state? The design of the game, what was easy and what hard with Clojure. Tl;dr: search it for “Some parting thoughts” (Clojure productive, immutability hard but pays off, prototype objects great, more typing would have helped). “Making everything immutable in Clojure is harder than it would have been in an OOP language like Java where everything can be encapsulated in mutable classes. In particular, the state update functions are tricky to make both correct and performant. The payoff is big however: in terms of the simplicity and effectiveness later on, and in the conceptual clarity being able to treat the entire game state as an immutable value”. Having REPL is a big win.
  • Refactoring Java using Clojure with the Eclipse Java development tools (JDT) (operation on AST nodes, i.e. little too low level; the Eclipse Refactoring API might be better)
  • Clojure at a Bank – [Our] Clojure Code Immaturity – experiences with going from Java to Clojure: 1) too few comments, too short names => hard to learn the code; 2) not knowing clojure.core well enough => reimplementing (if-let, juxt, …); 3) structure, comment, split up your namespaces well, navigating more complicated then in Java IDEs; 4) reasonably used Macros, Protocols, Defrecords payed off;
  • Datomic for Five Year Olds – explaining the key characteristics of Datomic compared to relational and NoSQL DBs (schema, architecture, programmability/language); doesn’t go into details of how it works (e.g. how does Datomic determine what subset of the DB to cache locally and what if it is few GBs); Honey Badger’s 2012 talk Exploring Datomic: a database deconstructed explores the architecture and technical details much more

Tools

  • Vagrant 1.1.0 is out (what’s new?), with support for VMWare Fusion and AWS VM backends in addition to VirtualBox – use the same config to create, provision, stop, destroy and connect to a virtual machine locally or in the cloud (with limited support for shared folders, I’d suppose). V. 1.1 is backwards compatible aside of plugins, upgrade to new config optional.
  • Animated presentations: ArtRage (drawing program, also for iPad), Wacom Intuos 5 (drawing tablet), Screenflow (screen & audio capture) – used for the Agile in a Nutshell (Agile Product Ownership in a Nutshell) mentioned above
  • ckjm — Chidamber and Kemerer Java Metrics (via Neal Ford) – a command-line tool (also Maven/Ant plugin) to compute some metrics, outputting text or XML for further processing; the metrics: WMC: Weighted methods per class (cyclomatic complexity of its methods), DIT: Depth of Inheritance Tree, NOC: Number of Children, CBO: Coupling between object classes, RFC: Response for a Class, LCOM: Lack of cohesion in methods, NPM: Number of Public Methods, Ca: afferent coupling.
  • Bulletproof Demos: Record & Replay built into Chrome – ever got a failure while demonstrating a web app though it has worked moments ago? No more! You Chrome to record your requests and responses and let its cache handle them during the real demonstration. (Mac: stop Chrome, to record run open -a “Google Chrome” –args –record-mode, to replay run open -a “Google Chrome” –args –playback-mode. Linux: google-chrome –record-mode and –playback-mode. Win.: run chrome <arg>)
  • UserTesting.com (via Ash Maurya, the author of Running Lean) – on-demand usability testing; they have a large base of test users, can select those matching your criteria and unleash them upon your site guided by a script your provide, watch videos of their actions while they verbalize their thinking process, recieve written answers from them, talk to them.
  • MindMup.comopensource, free mind-mapping in the cloud by Gojko Adzic & co., with main focus on productivity. Store private maps in Goolge Drive, support for mobile devices, keyboard shortcuts. No registration needed.

Favorite Quotes

Once we estimated a project to require 9 man-months but were later told that we do not understand a thing and it may not take more then 4. At the end it took over 25 and still wasn’t done.

– paraphrasing my collegue Kim Leskovski

On collecting requirements up front:

At the very beginning, we know less about our project than we’ll ever know again. This is the worst possible moment to be making firm decisions about what we “require.”

– Ron Jeffries in Estimation is Evil: Overcoming the Estimation Obsession

On the estimate of project delivery date at its initial phase:

It’s based on an unrealistic list of requirements, using weak estimates, made at the moment of maximum ignorance, by people who are always optimistic about their own abilities.
– ibid

On planning and requirements (the Chrysler’s C3 payroll project, having a payroll expert and a team familiar with the domain):

This was one of the best-planned projects I’ve ever seen, and even so, at least one third of the requirements were added, removed, or substantially changed.
– ibid

[..] a line of code is a liability, not an asset [..]
– Jez Humble in Why Software Development Methodologies Suck

Agile is not something you do, it is something you are.
– Huib Schoots in Creating my own flow
with personal kanban, Agile Record Feb 2013

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Most interesting links of January ’13

Posted by Jakub Holý on January 31, 2013

Recommended Readings

Various

  • Dustin Marx: Significant Software Development Developments of 2012 – Groovy 2.0 with static typing, rise of Git[Hub], NoSQL, mobile development (iOS etc.), Scala and Typesafe stack 2.0, big data, HTML5, security (Java issues etc.), cloud, DevOps.
  • 20 Kick-ass programming quotes – including Bill Gates’ “Measuring programming progress by lines of code is like measuring aircraft building progress by weight.”,  B.W. Kernighan’s “Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it.”, Martin Golding’s “Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live.” (my favorite)
  • How to Have a Year that Matters (via @gbrindusa) – do you want to just survive and collect possessions or do you want to make a difference? Some questions everybody should pose to him/herself.
  • Expression Language Injection – security defect in applications using JSP EL that can sometimes leads to double evaluation of the expressions and thus makes it possible to execute data supplied by the user in request parameters etc. as expressions, affects e.g. unpatched Spring 2.x and 3.

Languages etc.

  • HN discussion about Scala 2.10 – compilation speed and whether it matters, comparison of the speed and type system with Haskell and OCaml, problems with incremental compilation (dependency cycles, fragile base class), some speed up tips such as factoring out subprojects, the pros and cons of implicits etc.
  • Blog Mechanical Sympathy – interesting posts and performance tests regarding “writing software which works in harmony with the underlying hardware to gain great performance” such as Memory Access Patterns Are Important and Compact Off-Heap Structures/Tuples In Java.
  • Neal Ford: Functional thinking: Why functional programming is on the rise – Why you should care about functional programming, even if you don’t plan to change languages any time soon – N. Ford explains the advantages of FP and why FP concepts are spreading into other languages (higher abstractions enabling focus on the results over steps and ceding control to the language, more reusability on a finer level (higher-order functions etc.), few generic data structures with many operations -> better composability, “new” and different tool such as lazy collections, shaping the language towards the problem instead of vice versa, aligning with trends such as immutability)
  • Neal Ford: Java.next: The Java.next languages Leveraging Groovy, Scala, and Clojure in an increasingly polyglot world – a comparison of these languages with focus on what they are [not] suitable for, exploration of their paradigms (static vs. dynamic typing, imperative vs. functional)

SW development

  • How to Completely Fail at BDD – a story of an enthusiastic developer who tried to make everyone’s life better by introducing automated BDD tests and failed due to differences in culture (and inability to change thinking from the traditional testing), a surprising lack of interest in the tool and learning how to write good tests: “Culturally, my current team just isn’t ready or interested in something like this.” Morale: It is hard to change people, good ideas are not enough.
  • M. Feathers: Refactoring is Sloppy – refactoring is often prioritized out of regular development and refactoring sprints/stories aren’t popular due to past failures etc. An counter-intuitive way to get refactoring in is to imagine, during planning, what the code would need to be like to make it easy to implement a story. Then create a task for making it so before the story itself and assign it to somebody else then the story (to force a degree of scrutiny and communication). “Like anything else in process, this is medicine.  It’s not meant to be ‘the way that people do things for all time’ [..]” – i.e. intended for use when you can’t fit refactoring in otherwise. It may also make the cost of the current bad code more visible. Read also the commits (f.ex. the mikado method case).
  • Cyber-dojo: A great way to practice TDD together. Compare your read-green cycle and development over time with other teams. Purposefully minimalistic editor, a number of prepared tdd tasks.
  • On the Dark Side of “Craftsmanship” – an interesting and provoking article. Some developers, the software labouers, want to get work done and go home, they haven’t the motivation and energy to continualy spend time improving themselves. There is nothing wrong with that and we shouldn’t disparge them because of that. We shouldn’t divide people into craftsmen and the bad ones. A summary of and response to the varied reactions follows up in More on “Craftsmanship”. The author is right that we can’t expect everybody to spend nights improving her/his programming skills. Still they should not produce code of poor quality (with few exceptions) since maintaining such code costs a lot. There should be time for enough quality in a 9-5 day and people should be provided with enough guidance and education to be able to write decent code. (Though I’m not sure how feasible it is, how much effort it takes to become an acceptable developer.) Does the increased cost of writing (an learning to write) good code overweight the cost of working with bad code? That is an eternal discussion.

Cloud, web, big data etc.

  • Whom the Gods Would Destroy, They First Give Real-time Analytics (via Leon) – a very reasonable argument against real-time analytics: yes, we want real-time operational metrics but “analytics” only makes sense on a sensible amount of data (for the sake of statistical significance etc.) RT analytics could easily provide misguided results.
    CAP Twelve Years Later: How the “Rules” Have Changed (tl;dr, via @_dagi) – an in-depth discussion of the CAP theorem and the simplification (2 out of 3) that it makes; there are many more nuances. By Eric Brewer, a professor of computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, and vice president of infrastructure at Google.
  • ROCA: Resource-oriented Client Architecture – “A collection of simple recommendations for decent Web application frontends.” Server-side: true REST, no session state, working back/refresh etc. Client: semantic HTML independent of layout, progressive enhancement (usable with older browsers), usable without JS (all logic on the server) etc. Certainly not suitable for all types of apps but worthwile to consider the principles and compare them with your needs.

Clojure Corner

Tools

  • Vaurien, the Chaos TCP Proxy (via @bsvingen) – an extensible proxy that you can control from your tests to simulate network failure or problems such as delays on 20% of the requests; great for testing how an application behaves when facing failures or difficulties with its dependencies. It supports the protocols tcp, http, redis, memcache.
  • Wvanbergen’s request-log-analyzer for Apache, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Rails and more (via Zarko) – generates a performance report from a supported access log to point out requests that might need optimizing
  • Working Effectively With iTerm2 (Mac) – good tips in the body and comments

Favorite Quotes

A very good (though not very scientific) definition of project success applicable for distinguishing truly agile from process-driven projects:

[..] a project is successful if:

  • Something was delivered and put to use
  • The project members, sponsors and users are basically happy with the outcome of the project

– Johannes Brodwall in “How do we become Agile?” and why it doesn’t matter, inspired by Alistair Cockburn

(Notice there isn’t a single word about being “on time and budget”.)

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Most interesting links of August ’12

Posted by Jakub Holý on August 31, 2012

Recommended Readings

  • How To Fail With Agile:Twenty Tips to Help You Avoid Success – a great overview of ways people may make agile projects and initiatives fail – use them to either avoid the failure or to make it certain, according to your attitude towards agile
  • vim-adventures.com: Learning Vim keys in an entertaining way by playing an on-line 2D game. A brilliant idea!
  • The Search for a Better BIG Data Analytics Pipeline – how to use big data and analytics on it in a company. Big data = lot of data, simple processing; deep analysis = representative, small sample of data (no need for all), advanced techniques. Big data can provide input for analysis.

Links to Keep

  • Pat Kua’s Onboarding Strategies series – tips for getting new people onto your team as a tech lead and making them productive quickly. He also wrote the InfoQ article A Leaner Start: Reducing Team Setup Times based on the series. Some posts: Catalogue of patterns applied, Airing .. about feedback meetings, Pair programming, Preparation e-mail, Domain driven design and readable code, Tech huddles (what-we-learned session every 2nd day), Transparent technical debt, Visible architecture, Big vision business problem.

Useful Tools

  • OWASP Hatkit Proxy: TCP/HTTP proxy intended for developers that can intercept and modify requests and store parsed communication into MongoDB for later exploration. You can define what (not) to store/intercept with white- (black-)lists. Syntax highlighting, Swing UI etc.
  • Using Doxygen to understand a code base – Doxygen can generate a full cross reference of source code, class diagram, caller and call graphs for many languages including Java, PHP, C.

Interesting Quotes

Our standards by default exclude comments where possible replaced by representing as much intent as possible in the code itself. We focus on what it does and why. I’ve found “What” tends to be best represented by production code, whilst “Why” is better explained in tests because you can better represent different contexts there.
Pat Kua: Onboarding strategy: Domain driven design and readable code

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