Saturday, September 26, 2009

IDEs and Builds Scripts (September Better Software)

I wrote an article for the September/October issue of Better Software Magazine: IDEs and Build Scripts in Harmony where I discuss how to use build tools, and IDEs while minimizing duplicate work and getting the benefits of both tools.

As usual, the editors did a great job selecting metaphorically appropriate art work, and there is lots of other good content in the issue, including an interesting commentary by Lee Copeland on testing, Scrum, and "testing sprints."

I won't repeat anything I say in the article (since I already said it), but I want to add some philosophical comments. The question of working in environments that use IDEs for development and integration builds that are driven by other tools is one that I care about because it involves some of the issues that often cause a lot of angst and discussion on development teams:
  • Standardization and the effects of tools on individual and team productivity, and
  • Repetition: having the same information in two places.
Many of these problems can be solved by tools that separate information appropriately. For example, dependency information in build scripts, formatting information in IDE settings, so you don't need to have duplicate configurations checked in. Or even having some sort of canonical way to describe formatting rules which you keep with the build scripts in a form that IDEs can leverage. This frees developers to use the tool that they are most accustomed to (and productive in), while maintaining the amount of standardization that helps teams be more productive.

I hope that you find the article interesting and thought-provoking.



Note: There was a production error that caused an old bio to show up in the print edition. I work at Humedica, not where the bio says .

Saturday, September 5, 2009

97 Things Every Programmer Should Know

This past week 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know was made available to the public. This project was driven by Kevlin Henney, who I know from the early Pattern Languages of Programming conferences, . The list of contributors contains many familiar names, and I'm honored to be among them.

My contributions are about the agility, deployment, and their intersection. They include:
This project has contributions from many really interesting and insightful people. Maybe you already know everything on the lists, but you might get a fresh perspective by reading the contributions. You are very likely to start thinking.

On a related note, this past week, there was a conversation in my office between one of my colleagues who is a parent of a toddler, and one who isn't about why one works so hard to sound excited when talking to children about tasks.

You might say in an excited tone:
"Let's brush our teeth! It will be fun!"
instead of
"You need to brush your teeth because it's good for you..."

Being the proud (some who know me IRL might say too proud) parent of a 2-year, 9-month old boy, this got me thinking about why parents do this, and why it works so well. I suspect that the reasons are two-fold:
  • Toddlers don't (yet) get the idea of consequences, but they get the idea of "fun" so framing something as fun and exciting is just the path of least resistance.
  • Toddlers are wired to explore and learn, and every new thing is fun!
I'm realizing that, while as professionals, we need to do things for purely practical reasons learning about how to work better can (and perhaps should) be fun too. Seeing how toddlers learn makes me wonder how much of that joy of discovery we give up as we grow, and whether we need to lose it.

So as you read through the contributions in 97 Things, try to find something new and learn about it not just because it's something you should know, but because you enjoy programming, and because learning new things is fun!