The Holy Java

Building the right thing, building it right, fast

Posts Tagged ‘lean’

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?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in SW development | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Tiny, Tiny Steps – Experience Report Developing A Feature In Minimal Value-Adding Increments

Posted by Jakub Holý on November 10, 2014

A post for those who want to see what an iterative, MVP-driven development of a feature looks like.

@lukew: Start with the simplest version you can. It’s much easier to add complexity than to remove it.

Once upon time, there was a webshop portal with hundreds of partner webshops displayed on the front page. Potential users wanted to find out if their favorite webshops or a particular type of goods were available, existing users wanted to find a shop quickly. Therefore it was decided to implement search. But how to do that?

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in SW development | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Tiny, Tiny Steps – Experience Report Developing A Feature In Minimal Value-Adding Increments

Most interesting links of September ’13

Posted by Jakub Holý on September 30, 2013

Recommended Readings

  • Stuff The Internet Says On Scalability For September 13, 2013 – a collection of interesting performance related articles with summaries (via @_dagi)
  • Can you copy a culture? The NUMMI story (audio/transcript) – how the GM factory with the worst workforce has been turned around via a good application of Toyota Production System – “a truly inspiring story of human potential and how systems can be designed to bring the best or worst of of people.” And how GM failed to learn from it and to copy Toyota’s culture.
  • The Reactive Manifesto – why to write reactive SW – “Reactive applications represent a balanced approach to addressing a wide range of contemporary challenges in software development. Building on an event-driven, message-based foundation, they provide the tools needed to ensure scalability and resilience. On top of this they support rich, responsive user interactions. We expect that a rapidly increasing number of systems will follow this blueprint in the years ahead.
  • Frameworkless JavaScript – Why Angular, Ember, or Backbone don’t work for us [Moot discussion platform] (via JavaScriptWeekly) Me: Frameworks are not always evil, but are likely overused and there are good cases when rolling your own solution is the best way. Why in Moot? Because the want a minimal API (no framework methods), small code size, small and familiar code base, no dependency hell and external package updates, no lock-in to technology that will be gone in few years, need WebSockets not REST. “Moot uses native pushState for managing URLs, John Resig’s “micro templating” for views, and internal communication between model and views happens with a custom event library. There is no router or automatic data-binding.” The looked at Angular, Ember, Backbone. “As a result of our combined perfectionism and minimalism, Moot is an extremely lightweight, manageable, and independent web application [..]
  • NYT: Eiji Toyoda, Promoter of the Toyota Way and Engineer of Its Growth, Dies at 100 – learn about the life of one of the founders of lean thinking
  • Gojko Adzic: How we solved our #1 product management problem – valuable experience of false assumptions, learning from users, and a much helpful UI remake: even if you build a product to scratch your itch, you have to test it with real users

Big data

  • Don’t use Hadoop – your data isn’t that big – a great post about the downside of Hadoop and that there are much better options (large disks, large RAM, Pandas/R/Postgres) for data up to few TBs. “In addition to being more difficult to code for, Hadoop will also nearly always be slower than the simpler alternatives.”
  • Gartner On Big Data: Everyone’s Doing It, No One Knows Why – golf talk / hype -driven initiatives FTW! “According to a recent Gartner report, 64% of enterprises surveyed indicate that they’re deploying or planning Big Data projects. Yet even more acknowledge that they still don’t know what to do with Big Data.”
  • What makes Spark exciting – why it might be a good replacement for Hive/Hadoop, based on experiences with H/H: “Hive has served us well for quite a while now. […]  That said, it has gotten to the point where Hive is more frequently invoked in negative contexts (“damn it, Hive”) than positive. (Primarily due to being hard to test, hard to extend.)” “We had heard about Spark, but did not start trying it until being so impressed by the Spark presentation at AWS re:Invent [..] that we wanted to learn more. [..] Spark, either intentionally or serendipitously, addresses both of Hive’s primary shortcomings, and turns them into huge strengths. (Easy to test, extend.) [..] I find the codebase small and very easy to read, [..] –which is a nice consolation compared to the daunting codebases of Hadoop and Hive.” Cons.: Spark is only pre-1.0, the author hasn’t yet tested it heavily.
  • 10 Ways to Make Your Office Fun To Work In – because we spend there plenty of our time so why not have a pleasant/cosy, inspiring environment? Some tips: plants, not-your-boring-enteprprise-look-and-feel, open it to the nature (I want this!), design it as home, not office, provide play space (I am too into work to want to play but having a resting place for a nap is st. I’d love).



  • Stanford engineers build computer using carbon nanotube technology (via @RiczWest)
  • NYT: The Banality of Systemic Evil – a good article about human tendency to “obey the system” thus potentially causing evil – and thus the need to resist the system, as heroic individuals such as Snowden, Hammond, Schwartz, Manning. See the famous Eichmann in Jerusalem for how “doing your job” can create evil – “[..] what happens when people play their “proper” roles within a system, following prescribed conduct with respect to that system, while remaining blind to the moral consequences of what the system was doing — or at least compartmentalizing and ignoring those consequences.” (Tip: The book Moral Mazes explores the ethics of decision making within several corporate bureaucracies => mid-managers rules of life: (1) never go around your boss, (2) tell the boss what she wants to hear, (3) drop what she wants dropped, (4) anticipate what the boss wants so that she doesn’t need to act as a boss to get it, (5) do not report something the boss does not want reported, cover it up; the the job & keep your mouth shut.) “The bureaucracy was telling him [Snowden] to shut up and move on (in accord with the five rules in “Moral Mazes”), but Snowden felt that doing so was morally wrong.” “[..] there can be no expectation that the system will act morally of its own accord. Systems are optimized for their own survival and preventing the system from doing evil may well require breaking with organizational niceties, protocols or laws.
  • Fairphone – “A seriously cool smartphone that puts social values first” (likely the only one not built by poorly paid workers and creating too much ecological burden), for just €325. You can see detailed cost breakdown, list of suppliers, specs, and essentially everything. This is, in my opinion, super cool! Go and read the story!

Clojure Corner

  • Amazonica – “A comprehensive Clojure client for the entire Amazon AWS api.”
  • Talk Ritz, The Missing Clojure Tooling (40min, 9/2013) – thanks to this I finally understood how to use Ritz but it still seems not to work well, f.ex. setting a breakpoint always reported “Set 0 breakpoints” (lein ritz/middleware 0.7.0, nrepl-ritz.el 0.7.1); according to callen, debug-repl is simpler and nicer if you only care about local vars and evaluation. To try ritz: use M-x nrepl-ritz-jack-in, then M-x nrepl-ritz-break-on-exception, exec. f.ex. “(/ 1 0)”. In the poped-up buffer, t or enter to show frame locals, e to eval a code in the context of the frame etc. If you managed to trigger the debug buffer through a breakpoint, the actions lists would contain STEP etc. (See fun. nrepl-ritz-line-breakpoint)
  • C. Grand’s spreadmap – “library to turn Excel spreadsheets in persistent reactive associative structures” => access content via map functions; changing a value updates formula cells using it
  • Alembic Reloads your Leiningen project.clj Dependencies – add a dependency to your project.clj w/o needing to restart your REPL (just call (alembic.still/load-project), provided you have it in your lein dependencies). Limitations: cannot remove deps or change versions.
  • Defeating stack overflows – techniques for transforming mutually recursive calls etc. into something that won’t blow the stack – “Priming the pump” (memoize subresults first), core.async
  • Google Groups: Clean Architecture for Functional Programming – How do the Clean Architecture and the Clean Code best practices apply to FP (Clojure/Haskell)? Some points: OOP isn’t worse than FP, only people do class-oriented programming instead; OO better e.g. for UIs, combining them (func. core, imperative shell) can be sometimes best. Some clean arch. patterns are actually more like functions – “Interactors and Presenters, for example, do not maintain any state of their own.  Even those objects that do imply some kind of state, such as entities and gateways, keep that state hidden behind boundaries and present a functional interface instead.
  • night-vision: Handy, super light weight debugging utility – add it to your lein profile and then call (night-vision.goggles/introspect-ns! '<name of ns>) and it will print each entry/exit of a function within the scope of the namespace with the argument/return values
  • Nil Punning (Or Null Pointers Considered Not So Bad) – a great post about why nil in Clojure is not bad contrary to Java’s null (because it is actually an object, you can call functions on it, treat it as false/empty list/map/set, most core functions work on it)


Posted in General, Languages, Testing, Tools, Top links of month | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Most interesting links of September ’13

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”.


  • 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.


  • 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 (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.  …)


  • – 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).
  • – 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
  • 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. – 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

Posted in General, Tools, Top links of month | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Most interesting links of June ’13

Posted by Jakub Holý on June 30, 2013

Recommended Readings

Agile, process, SW dev, people etc.

  • Real Options—a Mindset – an intro into the Real Options approach, which has been quite a hot topic and a transformational way of thinking for a number of inspiring people (Dan North, Liz Keogh etc.). “Real Options help us to better make decisions and commitments with three simple principles: Options have value. Options expire. Never commit early unless you know why.” We can “pay” to keep our options open longer, i.e. to avoid commiting prematurely.
  • Demystifying the CHAOS report’s claim of ~ 1/2 features being unused: the Standish Group’s CHAOS report has been often quoted for its “finding” that a large percentage of features in applications is never/rarely used. However this claim seems to have never been confirmed, their “research” is reportedly not very scientific and not publicly available for scrutiny.  Critique by Laurent Bossavit (2013), Jorge Aranda’s Standish, the CHAOS report, and science. Thx to @smalltalk80 for pointing this out! However there is one research, Online Experimentation at Microsoft, that supports the claim, in a different context but the same problem applies to features: “Evaluating well-designed and executed experiments that were designed to improve a key metric, only about one-third were successful at improving the key metric!”
  • Why Yammer believes the traditional engineering organizational structure is dead – small teams, small projects (2-10 people, 2-10 weeks), no separation into front/middle tier/backend team (=> communication, design obstacle); have instead people specializing in these areas and construct feature teams from them based on the actual needs; engineers, not managers do eng. decisions; all aligned via focusing on the same 3 key metrics. Small projects => constant sense of urgency (and excitement): Often very long projects cause engineers to lose track of the end goal.  Think of it in terms of hiking: start fresh & excited, get tired and losing track of the goal, excited again at the end => cut out the middle part, keep them in the exciting state where they can measure progress and see it visually; it’s the only way to maintain urgency and morale. Focus: people alwasy work only at one (short) project at a time (there are special bug-fixing teams for maintenance tasks with people rotating in&out).
  • Agile development is more culture than process – Why thinking of agile as culture and not just process explains resistance and difficulty in teaching and learning the approach – and should be taught so => 1. Underscore agile values that motivate practice; 2. Identify organization values that compete with agile values, conflict of values; 3. Be sensitive to culture shock.
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s Letter to Investors: ‘The Hacker Way’ (quite long, you might want to read only “The Hacker Way” part at the end) – about Facebook’s “unique culture and management approach” – “Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete.” “Hackers try to build the best services over the long term by quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations rather than trying to get everything right all at once.” “Instead of debating for days [..], hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works.” “Hacker culture is also extremely open and meritocratic.” “Many of our most successful products came out of hackathons, [..].” <=> five core values: Focus on Impact (focus on solving the most important problems, be good at finding the biggest problems to work on); Move Fast (“[..] if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.”); Be Bold (“Building great things means taking risks.”); Be Open (=> effort to make as much info as possible visible to all); Build Social Value (“[..] Facebook exists to make the world more open and connected, and not just to build a company. “)
  • Dave Nicolett: I know how to tie my shoes – on the difficulty of convincing people to try unfamiliar software development techniques – “People change the way they operate when they are experiencing some sort of inconvenience or negative feedback. As long as things are going along reasonably well, people don’t go out of their way to change the way they work.” (with few exceptions) You can learn to tie your shoes in a split second, but why to invest the effort? You’d need to set aside assumptions, suppress habits, practice. You can argument there are many inconveniences (bugs, criticism for slow delivery, …) but “Unfortunately, that’s all pretty normal, and most people in the software field are accustomed to it.  They don’t see it as a problem that calls for them to change their practices. Most of them probably have a hard time visualizing a different reality.” => Maybe that’s the reason there’s been no satisfactory answer to the question of how to convince people to adopt different practices. We shouldn’t be trying to convince people to do anything. We should be helping people solve their problems and achieve their goals. If they are satisfied with the outcomes they achieve using their current methods, then there is no problem to solve.
  • Kent Beck: Pace of Progress = Pace of Feedback – ‘”The pace of my progress is completely constrained by the pace of my feedback”. If I want to go faster, it’s hard to achieve by going faster. I can almost always optimize my feedback loop, though.’ “The second lesson from this episode is that it’s not just the duration of the feedback loop that matters, it’s also the quality. All week I was working in tiny little iterations. Without producing useful information, though, those iterations could be as small or as large as I liked, I was still just going to spin my wheels.” => “The next time I seem to be going slow, I’m going to look at my whole feedback loop–duration, quality and my ability to respond to the information.
  • What Google Has Learned About How to Hire People – interview results have no relation to actual performance on the job: “We looked at tens of thousands of interviews, and everyone who had done the interviews and what they scored the candidate, and how that person ultimately performed in their job. We found zero relationship. It’s a complete random mess.” “Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, [..]” ‘Behavioral interviewing also works — where you’re not giving someone a hypothetical, but you’re starting with a question like, “Give me an example of a time when you solved an analytically difficult problem.”’ Link to an interesting book, Hiring Geeks That Fit.

Cool tech stuff

  • The Elixir language – Clojure + Ruby + Erlang – a functional meta-programming aware language built on top of the Erlang VM; a dynamic language with flexible syntax with macros support that leverages Erlang’s abilities to build concurrent, distributed, fault-tolerant applications with hot code upgrades. First-class support for pattern matching, polymorphism via protocols, etc. (via @bodil)
  • Random Testing seems to be gaining popularity and looks very interesting; at NDC Oslo, John Hughes has presented how QuickCheck, which generates random sequences of API calls, has been successfully used to find bugs in the Riak DB and a file system that a human would never think of, and Stuart Halloway has presented simulation testing with Simulant, which runs predefined actions according to a probabilistic model (e.g. 100 traders, each having 1h mean time between trades and mean traded amount 100, the test runs for 4 simulated hours). Something worth exploring!
  •  Dmytro Navrotskyy’s collection of Frontend Development resources and learning materials for tools (grunt, unused css detection,..), best practices (Atomic Design, …), JS/CSS frameworks, typography, animation, visualization, useful on-line services,  and many more (via Herman Schistad)
  • The Secret To 10 Million Concurrent Connections – The Kernel Is The Problem, Not The Solution: To have really fast SW, you need to implement your own core services (FS, net driver (packet handling), thread scheduling, ..) tuned for your app. You need to be aware of the clock-time cost of cache misses, memory access etc.. Custom solutions are times faster than what the general OS kernel can offer. => “data plane oriented system” Core areas and solutions for them: packet scalability, multi-core scalability (locks are expensive), memory scalability.


  • M. Fowler: EmbeddedDocument – a pattern for working with JSON flowing in/out of our services (REST <-> JSON-friendly DB) without unnecessary conversions but with good encapsulation; naive approach: json -> object graph -> (processing) -> json; “In many of these situtiations a better way to proceed is to keep the data in a JSONish form, but still wrap it with objects to coordinate manipulation.” – use a lib to parse the JSON into a generic structure (e.g. a structure of lists, and maps/dicts) and store in a field of an object defining methods that encapsulate it – f.ex. for an Order we could have a method returning the customer and another computing the cost, accessing the underlying generic structure. The user of the wrapper object doesn’t need to know/care about the underlying structure. “The sweet spot for an embedded document is when you’re providing the document in the same form that you get it from the data store, but still want to do some manipulation of that data. [..] The order object needs only a constructor and a method to return its JSON representaiton. On the other hand as you do more work on the data – more server side logic, transforming into different representations – then it’s worth considering whether it’s easier to turn the data into an object graph.”
  • ThoughtWorks’ Approach To Big Data Analytics – an inspiring, brief read. Some really good points such as “It’s not about Data. It’s about Insight and Impact” => “focus on the questions you’d love to answer for your business” => “changing big data from a technological problem to a business solution.” Also “The value of data is only realised through insight. And insight is useless until it’s turned into action.” Measure the value you gain at each step. See  Introducing Agile Analytics: A Value-Driven Approach to Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing by Ken Collier
  •, Nassim Taleb: Beware the Big Errors of ‘Big Data’ – in big data, noise has much stronger effect and in a large enough dataset we will always find spurious (i.e. false) relationships => beware! “Well, if I generate (by simulation) a set of 200 variables — completely random and totally unrelated to each other — with about 1,000 data points for each, then it would be near impossible not to find in it a certain number of “significant” correlations of sorts. But these correlations would be entirely spurious.”
  • A Taste of Salt: Like Puppet, Except It Doesn’t Suck – a deescription of Salt and the tools around by an enthusiastic user with deep experience with Puppet. Highlights: Light-weight communication over ZeroMQ, very active community, simplicity, configuration is YAML, Salt-cloud can spin instances in EC2/Openstack/…, Salt-virt does the same for virtual machines (KVM/Xen/…), Salt-vagrant, Salt-monitor (work in progess) can ask all the server for their stats. “Having stood up a number of different configuration management systems across a wide variety of environments, I’ve yet to find a solution that’s as rapid to deploy, simple to scale, or as well architected as Salt.”
  • Trash Your Servers and Burn Your Code: Immutable Infrastructure and Disposable Components – leveraging the lectures of PF to have a stable infrastructure – instead of updating servers, throw them away and create a new one from scratch (requires virtualization/cloud); this is something that Netlfix is doing and also Comoyo is moving towards
  • Robin Ward: AngularJS vs Ember – a nice overview of the different approaches of the two; the author is strongly pro-Ember, claiming that AngularJS is much closer to low-end libraris like Backbone/Knockout and that you will often need the additional features of Ember. The comments provide the right countrweight to the biased post and form thus a good whole together.
  • Scala Productivity. A Survey of the Community – people (that asnwered) seem to be productive with Scala right from the start


  • After Your Job Is Gone – an interesting essay on the future, which, according to the author, we can already see happening, when technology will take away most of our work and we will not need to work all day. Not very optimistic, though (the author predicts few reach and many poor people).

Clojure Corner

  • Clojure Cup 2013, Sept 28-29 – create something cool with Clojure/ClojureScript within 48h and perhaps win a price! #fun
  • Clojure use in the industry – examples at an e-mail forum – Netflix, Puppet Labs (e.g. PuppetDB), UBS (talk), Deutsche Bank (talk, some details), Citigroup (reportedly “the largest private sector deployment of Clojure to date,” 11/2012), (with frontend moving to ClojureScript; -> Why Prismatic Goes Faster With Clojure), (details in a Relevance podcast), (big data), Trend Micro, Walmart,, (50kLoC), (20kLoC), World Singles (13kLoC) and more… (another similar thread)
  • Stuart Sierra’s My Clojure Workflow, Reloaded (6/2013) – mainly about reloading changes into REPL, working around things that are not reloaded/left over => restart the app from scratch after significant changes => the app as a transient object => no global state, careful management of resources, :dev profile with :source-paths to a dir with user.clj (autoloaded by repl, pre-loading useful stuff) and dev util deps
  • Adam Bard’s walk-through useful Clojure libs – f.ex. clojure.[data.[csv xml json] inspector java.browse xml], tools.logging, clojure.core.[match logic typed contracts …]
  • Jon Pither’s and Malcolm Sparks’ “network of experienced IT professionals who specialise in the Clojure programming language,” providing training, consulting, talks
  • Anthony Grimes: The Clojure Community and Me (2011) – an exciting insight into the embracing and supportive Clojure community
  • In Clojure-based Machine Learning: “Our backend is 99.4% coded in Clojure, and 66% of the team [of 3] had never programmed seriously in any Lisp, let alone Haskell or Prolog (heck, not even I (the remaining 33%) had actually tried anything non-mainstream for real in a big project!) Maybe some Ruby, and lots and lots of Java and C and C++. But they accepted the challenge after reading around and learning the basics, and 3 months later you couldn’t take Clojure from their prying hands.”
  • J. Pither: TDD and Clojure – “If you were to create a shopping list of things you really want for your development experience then what would you put at the top?” => 1. rapid feedback on changes, 2. REPL (place to explore and to play with your code <=> TDD), 3. FP and Immutability (“FP and dynamic languages lead to a lot less code. There’s less ceremony, less modeling. Because you’re managing less code you do less large scale refactorings.” => TDD needed less), 4. Regression Tests (“It’s my current opinion that what you get left out of TDD once you have amazingly fast feedback and a REPL is regression testing.”)



  • More beautiful and colorful git log, by Filipe Kiss (via @lcdutoit) You may also want to have a look at tig, which is a text-based UI for git with the default view similar to git log.
  • jq (via lcdutoit) – sed/awk/grep for JSON – slice, filter, map, transform structured data
  • SemanticMerge (Windows) – a Java-aware merge tool – free beta (I haven’t tried it)


  • JetLang – a high performance java threading library for in-memory messaging, based upon Retlang (via @tastapod, used likely in a trading SW).

Favorite Quotes

Agile [is] in NOT a process — it’s a philosophy.

– Joe Wroblewski in a comment to a blog post

Teach culture first, then process and techniques

– Jeff Patton in Agile development is more culture than process

If a candidate came telling me that s/he wanted to program only in, say, Java because that’s what s/he knows best and that s/he doesn’t really feel prepared or interested in learning and using, say, Clojure (or any other language, really), I wouldn’t hire her/him in a million years, no matter what language my project were using, and no matter how many thousands of candidates like this one I had at my disposal.
– José Antonio Ortega in Clojure-based Machine Learning

We shouldn’t be trying to convince people to do anything. We should be helping people solve their problems and achieve their goals. If they are satisfied with the outcomes they achieve using their current methods, then there is no problem to solve.
Dave Nicolett in I know how to tie my shoes

Posted in General, Languages, Testing, Tools, Top links of month | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Most interesting links of June ’13

Patterns of Effective Delivery – Challenge Your Understanding Of Agile (RootsConf 2011)

Posted by Jakub Holý on June 22, 2013

Highlights from Dan North‘s excellent, inspiring, and insightful talk Patterns of Effective Delivery at RootConf 2011. North has a unique take on what agile development is, going beyond the established (and rather limitied and rigid) views. I really recommend this talk to learn more about effective teams, about North’s “shocking,” beyond-agile experience, and for great ideas on improving your team.

The talk challenges the absolutism of some widely accepted principles of “right” software development such as TDD, naming, the evilness of copy&paste. However the challenge is in a positive way: it makes us think in which contexts these principles really help (in many) and when it might be more effective to (temporarily) postpone them. The result is a much more balanced view and better undestanding of their value. A lot of it is inspired by the theory (and practice) of Real Options.

What are Patterns of Effective Delivery?

  • Patterns – strategies that work in a particular context – and not in another (too often we forget the context and to consider the context where a strategy doesn’t work / is contra-productive); beware: a part of the context is the experience of the developer; for unexperienced devs it might be better to just stick to a process and applying TDD etc. all the time than trying to guess when they are appropriate and when not without having the experience to decide it right
  • Effective – optimize for something: volume of SW produced? time to market? learning/discovery? certanity? user experience?
  • Delivery – get stuff that is useful out of the door; software is not important, the utility it provides is; know why you write the SW to be able to get better at it

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in General | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Patterns of Effective Delivery – Challenge Your Understanding Of Agile (RootsConf 2011)

Ignore requirements to gain flexibility, value, insights! The power of why

Posted by Jakub Holý on June 1, 2013

I would like to share an eye-opening experience I have recently made. I have learned that if we do not just passively accept the requirements given to us but carefuly analyse the reasons behind them (and the reasons behind the reasons), we gain incredible power and flexibility. By understanding the real value behind it and by discovering other, related sources of value, we might find a superior solution and, more importantly, we gain a few degrees of freedom in the solution space, the ability to scope up or down the solution and optimize it with respect to other solutions. Let’s see how a seemingly fixed requirement can be easily expanded or shrinked once we bother to trully understand it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in General, SW development | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Most interesting links of June ’12

Posted by Jakub Holý on June 30, 2012

Recommended Readings


  • Neal Ford: Evolutionary architecture and emergent design: Emergent design in the wild – discusses why not to do Big Design Up Front and how to recognize the “last responsible moment”. Quote: “It’s puzzling that so many organizations continue to use BDUF in the face of so many failures and underachieving projects.
  • Gojko Adzic: How To Solve “Not Enough Time” – everybody in IT complains about too much work. The solution acording to Gojko? Kill software already made that isn’t needed (ex.: deleted 70% functionality that wasn’t used; remember that maintenance costs grow ~ exponentially with size/complexity). Kill software in making that won’t be needed (know the value –  effect maps). Kill software that was not successful (if you measure the value of SW, you know whether its existence is worth it). Well written and inspiring. I’m looking forward to killing some SW :-)
  • Coding Horror: Postponing decisions to the last responsible moment – a brief and pretty good explanation of this key lean principle together with its connection to YAGNI (and some criticism of LRM by A. Cockburn – I agree with the postscript 2)


  • Build The (USS) Enterprise – A fascinating site by an engineer who dares to think big yet manages to stay rooted in reality. A huge inspiration for us all! We tend to think too small. Having a great, inspiring goal is what moves us forward. And people are known to have achieve seemingly impossible things nobody else believed in (how many believed Columbus could reach India by by sailing the opposite direcetion? and even though he actually hasn’t, the impacts of his discovery were tremendous)
  • Hooking Users In 3 Steps: An Intro to Habit Testing – to be successful with a new web product in this age of distraction, you need your users to build the habit of using the app regularly (think of Twitter, Facebook, newspaper); this post describes how to find your habitual users, understand them, and optimize the application to turn more occassional users into habitual ones (identify habitual users – learn how they use the app & learn what turns random users into “devotees” – optimize the “habit path”)
  • Puppet: Serve configuration from a particular Git branch on demand (original: Git Workflow and Puppet Environments) – at Comoyo we use Puppet to configure all our environments and developers need to test their changes before pushing them to the live environment, preferably without interference from other devs. This post by Adrien of PuppetLabs describes how to enable each developer to have her private branch(es) and have Pupet Master serve the config from the branch on demand, using little puppet environments and hooks magic. (Notice that if using Puppet to serve files then you’ll need to have them inside a module, which is a good practice anyway.)


  • DZone reference card for Jetty (DZone login required) – useful, brief overview over Jetty XML and programatic configuration, especially useful is the overview of handlers, use of servlets and webapps, SSL support, websockets
  • What’s new in Groovy 2.0? – static type checking, Java 7
  • Speed, memory and LOC of Python 3 vs. Java 7 [fixed link] (the computer language benchmark game) – Python tends to take more time (though not terribly more) but is quite economical with memory and visibly more productive (3* less lines of code). Ruby is similar but way slower. Scala is little slower and more memory hunrgy but also more productive. Of course performance is rarely the key factor for picking a language on often it doesn’t matter that much.

Favourite Quotes

Goodhart’s Law: once a metric becomes a target, it loses its meaning as a measure.

by WordFriday

Clojure Corner

  • What Sucks about Clojure…and Why You’ll Love It Anyway – 40 min talk by Clojure Programming author Chas Emerick. Some of the negative points: Namespaces – complex (use x refer etc.; no package.* import, …), no forward references; Dynamic scope (with-foo …) has subtle, complex behavior and hard to see => avoid when you can; Using STM (effectively) is hard even though it looks easy, it’s overused, think of it rather as in-memory db with superior integr. with Clojure (ex.: what is the right ref granularity? whole word map? small particle?), nondeterministic (which tx will fail/suceed? – can’t reason) => strange error under high load/mix of operations; JVM: long startup time, …; Macros look easy but are hard (don’t compose nicely with the rest); Function composition – hard to find failure root cause.
  • Why is Clojure so slow? (2/2012) – an interesting comparison of Clojure and other languages (C, F#, Groovy etc.) and an analysis of its slow start-up time (metadata and docstring building) and slower performance. (Interestingly, ClojureScript runs it 9* faster.) According to the author, it’s slower partly due to the imutable data structures (nothing new here, we knew we have to offer some performance for the increased safety and robustness). Conclusion: “Clojure is a beautiful, powerful and very useful language, but […] not great for small script-y programs.” Also, the usefulness of the benchmark is limited if you aren’t writing games. Plans for making Clojure leaner and faster are under way.
  • Stuart Sierra: Functional Relational Programming with Cascalog – a brief introduction into Cascalog with a valuable background info about Hadoop, MapReduce, relational programming in Clojure. Good links, especially the paper Out of the Tar Pit looks interesting.

Posted in General, Testing, Tools, Top links of month | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Most interesting links of June ’12

Most interesting links of January ’12

Posted by Jakub Holý on January 31, 2012

Recommended Readings

  • Jeff Sutherland: Powerful Strategy for Defect Prevention: Improve the Quality of Your Product – “A classic paper from IBM shows how they systematically reduced defects by analyzing root cause. The cost of implementing this practice is less than the cost of fixing defects that you will have if you do not implement it so it should always be implemented.” – categorize defects by type, severity, component, when introduced; 80% of them will originate in 20% of the code; apply prioritized automated testing (solve always the largest problem first). “In three months, one of our venture companies cut a 4-6 week deployment cycle to 2 weeks with only 120 tests.”
  • Ebook draft: Beheading the Software Beast – Relentless restructurings with The Mikado Method (foreword by T. Poppendieck) – the book introduces the Mikado Method for organized, always-staying-green (large-scale) refactorings, especially useful for legacy systems, shows it on a real-world example (30 pages!), discusses various application restructuring techniques, provides practical guidelines for dealing with different sizes of refactorings and teams, discusses in depth technical debt and more. To sum it up in three words: Check it out!
  • Daily Routine of a 4 Hour Programmer (well, it’s actually about 4h of focused programming + some hours of the rest) – a very interesting reading with some inspiring ideas. We should all find some time to follow up the field, to reflect on our day and learn from it (kaizen)
  • The Agile Testing Quadrants – understanding the different types of tests, their purpose and relation by slicing them by the axis “business facing x technology facing” and the axis “supporting the team x critiquing the product” => unit tests x functional tests x exploratory testing x performance testing (and other). It helps to understand what should be automated, what needs to be manual and helps not to forget all the dimensions of testing.
  • Adam Bien: Can stateful Java EE apps scale? – What does “stateless” really mean? “Stateless only means, that the entire state is stored in the database and has to synchronized on every request.” “I start the development of non-trivial (>CRUD) applications with Gateway / PDOs [JH: stateful EJBs exposing JPA entities] and measure the performance and memory consumption continuously.” Some general tips: Don’t split your web server and servlet container, don’t use session replication.
  • Brian Tarbox: Just-In-Time Logging – How to remove 90% of worthless logs while still getting detailed logs for cases that matters – the solution is to (1) only add logs for a particular “transaction” with the system into a runtime structure and (2) flush it to the log only if the transaction fails or st. else significant happens with it. The blog also proposes a possible implementation in detail.
  • DZone’s Top 10 NoSQL Articles of 2011
  • DZone’s Top 5 DevOps Articles of 2011
  • Test Driven Infrastructure with Vagrant, Puppet and Guard – this is interesting for me for I’m using Vagrant and Puppet on my project to create and share development environments or their parts and applying test-first approach to it seems interesting as do also the tools, rspec-puppet, cucumber-puppet and Guard (events triggered by file changes) and referenced articels.
  • 5+1 Sonar Plugins you must not miss (2012 version) – Timeline Plugin (with Google Visualization Annotated TimeLine), Useless Code Plugin, SIG Maintainability Model Plugin (metrics Analysability, Changeability, Stability, Testability), Quality Index Plugin (1-number health indicator), Technical Debt Plugin

Links to Keep

Clojure Corner

  • ClojureScript One Guide – “ClojureScript One shows you how to use ClojureScript to build single-page, single-language applications in a productive, effective and fun way.”
  • Asynchronous workflows in Clojure – true asynchronous (non-blocking) network access in Clojure with Netty/the Lamina project.
  • Clojure 2011 Year in Review – a list with important events in the Clojure sphere with links to details – C. 1.3.0, ClojureScript, logic programming with core.logic, clojure-contrib restructuring, birth of 4Clojure and Avout.
  • Clojure Atlas – interesting project (alpha version) presenting Clojure documentation in the form of interactive graph of related concepts and functions; it’s far from perfection but I like the concept and consider paying those ~ $25 for the 1.3.0 version when its out (however, the demo is free and it might become open-sourced in 2012)

Posted in General, Languages, Testing, Tools, Top links of month | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Most interesting links of January ’12

Most interesting links of October

Posted by Jakub Holý on October 31, 2011

Recommended Readings

  • Steve Yegge’s Execution in the Kingdom of Nouns – I guess you’ve already read this one but if not – it is a well-written and amusing post about why not having functions as first class citizens in Java causes developers to suffer. Highly recommended.
  • Reply to Comparing Java Web Frameworks – a very nice and objective response to a recent blog summarizing a JavaOne presentation about the “top 4” web frameworks. The author argues that based on number of resources such as job trends, StackOverflow questions etc. (however data from each of them on its own is biased in a way) JSF is a very popular framework – and rightly so for even though JSF 1 sucked, JSF 2 is really good (and still improving). Interesting links too (such as What’s new in JSF 2.2?). Corresponds to my belief that GWT and JSF are some of the best frameworks available.
  • Using @Nullable – use javax.annotation.Nullable with Guava’s checkNotNull to fail fast when an unexpected null appeares in method arguments
  • JavaOne 2011: Migrating Spring Applications to Java EE 6 (slides) – nice (and visually attractive) comparison of JavaEE and Spring and proposal of a migration path. It’s fun and worthy to see.
  • xUnitPatterns – one of the elementary sources that anybody interested in testing should read through. Not only it explains all the basic concepts (mocks, stubs, fakes,…) but also many pitfalls to avoid (various test smells such as fragile tests due to Data Sensitivity, Behavior Sensitivity, Overspecified Software [due to mocks] etc.), various strategies (such as for fixture setup), and general testing principles. The materials on the site were turned into the book xUnit Test Patterns: Refactoring Test Code (2007), which is more up-to-date and thus a better source.
  • Eclipse tip: Automatically insert at correct position: Semicolon, Braces – in “while(|)” type “true {” to get “while(true) {|” i.e. the ‘{‘ is moved to the end where it belongs, the same works for ‘;’
  • Google Test Analytics – Now in Open Source – introduces Google’s Attributes-Components-Capabilities (ACC) application intended to replace laborous and write&forget test plans with something much more usable and quicker to set up, it’s both a methodology for determining what needs to be tested and a tool for doing so and tracking the progress and high-risk areas (based not just on estimates but also actual data such as test coverage and bug count). The article is a good and brief introduction, you may also want to check a live hosted version and a little more detailed explanation on the project’s wiki.
  • JSF and Facelets: build-time vs. render-time (component) tags (2007) – avoid mixing them incorrectly
  • StackOverflow: What are the main disadvantages of Java Server Faces 2.0? Answer: The negative image of JSF comes from 1.x, JSF 2 is very good (and 2.2 is expected to be just perfect :-)). Nice summary and JSF history review.
  • Ola Bini: JavaScript in the small – best practices for projects using partly JavaScript – the module pattern (code in the body of an immediately executed function not to polute the global var namespace), handling module dependencies with st. like RequireJS, keeping JS out of HTML, functions generating functions for more readable code, use of many anonymous functions e.g. as a kind of named parameters, testing, open questions.


  • Kent Beck’s JavaZone talk Software G Forces: The Effects of Acceleration is absolutely worth the 1h time. Kent describes how the development process, practices and partly the whole organization have to change as you go from annual to monthly to weekly, daily, hourly deployments. What is a best practice for one of these speeds becomes an impediment for another one – so know where you are. You can get an older version of the slides and there is also a detailed summary of the talk from another event.
  • Rich Hickey: Simple Made Easy – Rich, the author of Clojure, argues very well that we should primarily care for our tools, constructs and artifacts to be “simple”, i.e. with minimal complexity, rather than “easy” i.e. not far from our current understanding and skill set. Simple means minimal interleaving – one concept, one task, one role, minimal mixing of who, what, how, when, where, why. While easy tools may make us start faster, only simplicity will make it possible to keep going fast because (growing) comlexity is the main cause of slowness.  And simplicity is a choice – we can create the same programs we do today with the tools of complexity with drastically simpler tools. Rich of course explains what, according to him, are complex tools and their simple(r) alternatives – see below. The start of the 1h talk is little slow but it is worth the time. I agree with him that we should much more thing about the simplicity/complexity of the things we use and create rather than easiness (think ORM).
    Read also Uncle Bob’s affirmative reaction (“All too often we do what’s easy, at the expense of what’s simple. And so we make a mess. […] doing what is simple as opposed to what is easy is one of the defining characteristics of a software craftsman.”).

Random Notes from Rich’s Simple Made Easy Talk:

There are also better notes by Alex Baranosky and you may want to check a follow-up discussion with some Rich’s answers.

The complex vs. simple toolkit (around 0:31):

COMPLEXITY                             SIMPLICITY
State, objects                            Values
Methods                                   Functions, namespaces
vars                                          Managed refs
Inheritance, switch, matching  Polymorphism a la carte
Syntax                                      Data
Imperative loops, fold              Set functions
Actors                                      Queues
ORM                                         Declarative data manipulation
Conditionals                             Rules
Inconsistency                            Consistency

What each of the complexity constructs mixes (complects) together

CONSTRUCT                        COMPLECTS (MIXES)
State, objects – everything that touches it (for state complects time and value)
Methods – function and state, namespaces (2 classes, same m. name)
Syntax – Meaning, order
Inheritance – Types (ancestors, child)
Switch/matching – Multiple who/what pairs (1.decide who, what ?)
var(iable)s – Value, time
Imperative loops, fold – what/how (fold – order)
Actors – what/who
ORM – OMG :-)
Conditionals – Why, rest of program (rules what program does are intertw. with the structure and order of the program, distributed all over it)

Values – Final, persistent collections
Functions – a.k.a. stateless methods
Namespaces – Language support
Data – Maps, arrays, sets, XML, JSON etc.
Polymorphism a la carte – Protocols, Haskell type classes
Managed refs – Clojure/Haskell refs (compose time and value , not mix)
Set functions – Libraries
Queues – Libraries
Declarative data manipulation – SQL/LINQ/Datalog
Rules – Libraries, Prolog
Consistency – Transactions, values

True abstraction isn’t hiding complexity but drawing things away – along one of the dimensions of who, what, when, where, why [policy&rules of the app.], how.
Abstraction => there are things I don’t need – and don’t want – to know.
Why – do explore rules and declarative logic systems.
When, where – when obj. A communicates with obj. B. => put a queue in between them so that A doesn’t need to know where B is; you should use Qs extensively.

Links to Keep

  • Incredibly Useful CSS Snippets –  “a list of CSS snippets that will help you minimize headaches, frustration and save your time while writing css” – few float resets, targetting specific browsers & browser hacks, cross-rowser transparency/min height/drop shadow, Google Font API, link styled by file type,

DevOps: Tools and libraries for system monitoring and (time series) data plotting

  • Hyperic SIGAR API – open-source library that unifies collection of system-related metrics such as memory, CPU load, processes, file system metrics across most common operating systems
  • rrd4j – Java clone of the famous RRDTool, which stores, aggregates and plots time-series data (RRD = round-robin database, i.e. keeps only a given number of samples and thus has a fixed size)
  • JRDS “is performance collector, much like cacti or munins”, uses rrd4j. The documentation could be better and it seems to be just a one man project but it might be interesting to look at it.

Clojure Corner

  • Alex Miller: Real world Clojure – a summary of experiences with using Clojure in enterprise data integration and analytics products at Revelytix, since early 2011 with a team of 5-10 devs. Some observations: Clojure code is 1-2 order of magnitude smaller than Java. It might take more time to learn than Java but not much. Clojure tooling is acceptable, Emacs is still the best. Debugging tools are unsurprisingly quite inferior to those for Java. Java profiling tools work but it may be hard to interpret the results. “[..]  I’ve come to appreciate the data-centric approach to building software.” Performance has been generally good so far.
  • Article series Real World Clojure at World Singles – the series focuses on various aspects of using Clojure and how it was used to solve particular problems at a large dating site that starting to migrate to it in 2010. Very interesting. F. ex. XML generation, multi-environment configuration, tooling (“If Eclipse is your drug of choice, CCW [Counter ClockWise] will be a good way to work with Clojure.”, “Clojure tooling is still pretty young [..]  – but given how much simpler Clojure is than most languages, you may not miss various features as much as you might expect!”)
  • StackOverflow: Comparing Clojure books – Programming Clojure, Clojure in Action, The Joy of Clojure, Practical Clojure – which one to pick? A pretty good comparison.
  • Clojure is a Get Stuff Done Language – experience report – “For all that people think of Clojure as a “hard” “propeller-head” language, it’s actually designed right from the start not for intellectual purity, but developer productivity.”

Posted in eclipse, General, j2ee, Languages, Testing, Top links of month | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »