magpiebrain

Sam Newman's site, a Consultant at ThoughtWorks

Archive for ‘October, 2005’


Dr Dre and Burt Baacharach have collaborated on a new record

This according to the Observer Music Monthly – as if Jamie Cullum guesting on the latest Pharrell Williams album wasn’t weird enough. I’m bracing myself for the inevitable rise of easy listening crunk.

The Fall’s Mark E Smith to read the football scores on the BBC

This scoop also courtesy of the Observer Music Monthly. I’m sure John Peel would approve.

Samuel L Jackson to star in “Snakes on a Plane”

What is it with people with middle initials this week? Anyway, appalling title aside (and after The Man you’d assume Samuel L Jackson might be looking for something a little more – well, high-brow), the synopsis should say it all:

On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who’s a witness in protective custody, let loose a crate full of deadly snakes.

Dear god, did no-one learn anything from Anaconda? I have absolutely no hope for Jackson’s Black Snake Moan.

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On the 28th and 29th of November, XP Day 2005 will be held in London. Organised by the local Extreme Tuesday Club, XP Day (tag line: “More than XP, more than one day”) will be hosting multiple tracks for beginners, journeymen and experts alike. I really encourage any of you interested in agile development to come along – it’s surprisingly good value.

This year, I’m happy to be presenting the Lego XP game which I developed as a teaching aid for our company. Unlike the more traditional XP game (which introduces some of the central tenants of XP and agile development with the help of balloons, playing cards and dice) the lego version makes a clearer link with the development of software, introducing such concepts has regression bugs, refactoring and technical debt. Expect a fuller writeup after the event.

It was with some disbelief that I sat through Cal Henderson’s otherwise highly entertaining (and to be recommended) Building Flickr Workshop, to hear that automated testing didn’t feature highly in their list of priorities (as an interesting aside, Cal also considers object oriented programming to be ‘insane’, which all ‘sane’ code existing in the space between one-giant-function programing and OO). “Testing web applications” Cal said, “is hard”. This is a common misconception. Like any type of application, if you structure it for testability, testing is easy. And if you invest in testing tools written specifically for testing web applications (FIT and FITnesse, Selenium are good examples) even those applications written without testing in mind have no excuse for going without.

But with Flickr being such a high profile and successful application I assumed there would be a more mature approach towards automated testing. Is this laissez faire approach to automated testing common?

Lets look at this another way. If you don’t have automated tests, you either have to test manually (which means longer time to release) or you don’t test. If you are in the business of delivering quality products, it probably means you do end up performing lots of manual tests which could otherwise be done quickly, automatically and even if you want on every checkin.

The architecture of the web makes it idea for an agile release early, release often process. With the web, the only destination environment you have to worry about is your server and the client’s browsers. Pushing out a release really can be as simple as the one-click deployment Flickr uses. With a mature testing framework, releasing directly to your user can be managed multiple times a day if required.

Testing might not seem like fun – but once you realise it means you can release cool functionality to your users more often, and you’ll spend less of your time fixing bugs, perhaps we can all start to love writing tests just that little bit more.

Much fun was had at the Django/Rails meetup in London last Monday. Colleagues Duncan Cragg and Ben Butler-Cole managed to demo a Django-based project being developed for a bid (more to follow if we win), and Michael Sparks from the BBC demoed Kamelia, and we also had lots of people from the monthly Python meeting there too,

Both Simon and Natalie had got jobs since the last meeting – Simon as you may know is now working for Yahoo on Flickr, whereas Natalie is now working for Torchbox, who she met at the last meeting. I also managed to have good chats with Matt (sans demo, although hopefully he’ll have one next time), Tom, ribbed Edward about his collections of machines running Debian, and as always drank too much with Simon. I also talked to lots of other people, but I have a terrible memory! Hopefully I at least remembered everyone who brought me a drink at least.

General consensus was that everyone had fun, although the venue was too loud. I’ll be scouting a couple of potential new venues this week (hopefully somewhere that serves food other than Hula Hoops) – expect the next meeting to be closer to the City proper. I’ll announce a date for the next meeting once I’ve confirmed a venue (and made sure we don’t clash with Jez’s Java meetups), but expect it to be on either the 7th of 14th of November.