By Nathan L. Walls

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Articles tagged “development”

Reading and Learning: Dec. 30, 2014

For some background on what’s going on here, see the first tool sharpening post

This is a longer post, simply because of how much time has passed since the previous entry, largely due to end-of-year holiday preparation and celebrations. I hope you enjoyed your holidays with family and friends as I did.

I’m also splitting out what I read, watched and listened to from technical tool sharpening. These are different concerns on different schedules and just as I want to sustain and improve both sets of practices, I don’t want them unnecessarily coupled. So, here’s articles, podcasts and presentations with technical pieces to follow separately.

Articles read

Screencasts, podcasts and presentations

Tool Sharpening: Nov. 23, 2014

For some background on what’s going on here, see the first tool sharpening post

Environment + Process tweaks

I’ve used thoughtbot’s dotfiles repository for years, but I’ve maintained my own fork on GitHub. I’ve also maintained a private sidecar repository for more sensitive things. But, I’ve been out-of-sync with the head of development. Lately, thoughtbot has released rcm which allows for just such a split-brain dotfile set-up. Rather than fight to update my existing set-up, I’ve opened a new repository and ported my existing dotfiles and customizations to a new sidecar repository that fits with rcm‘s methodology.

This project took about two hours of focused time for the conversion and gave me an opportunity to rediscover some pieces of my dotfiles that I hadn’t quite fully grasped previously. When it came time, rcm worked perfectly about updating symlinks from the configured repositories into my home directory. Neat tool.

I also:

  • Fixed a Tmuxinator profile for a work project
  • Created a BBEdit project for keeping project specific development notes in a more collected fashion

Project work

I picked up work on my Dayplan bin script/Gem, primarily organizing what has to get done in a step-wise fashion.

Skill improvements

  • Reminding myself of new BBEdit 11 shortcuts and previously worked with Emacs shortcuts that are available in BBEdit

Articles read

  • “The Sixth Stage of Grief Is Retro-computing”, by Paul Ford
    • This piece has been recommended by a lot of folks over the last few weeks and I’m adding my recommendation to the pile
  • “Web Applications and Security”, by Alan Cox
  • “The unexpected costs of third-party login”, by Taylor Hughes

    • Just what it says on the tin. There are some substantial tradeoffs to using Google, Twitter or Facebook accounts as login mechanisms that aren’t readily apparent when a product team decides to shortcut account creation. One point I found particularly interesting was this:

      As it turns out, supporting multiple sign-in options adds a tremendous amount of complexity. Instead of an interface where a user can only do one thing — even if it means filling out a tedious form — people have to stop and think about options.

      This leads to another unexpected side-effect: When logging back in, lots of people forget how they signed up for your service in the first place, and they end up trying the wrong method.

      Worse, long-lived mobile sessions exacerbate the issue. When users log in again months later, it’s like rolling the dice.

      This results in support emails from users who are very confused about why all their content is missing after upgrading phones — or users wondering why, when they login on the web site, none of their stuff appears.

  • “Tail Call Optimization in Ruby”, by Nithin Bekal

  • “Rust and Go”, by Adam Jacob

  • “A Five-stage Model Of the Mental Activities Involved in Directed Skill Acquisition”, by Stuart E. Dreyfus and Hubert L. Dreyfus

    • This is the original “Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition” paper and very accessible
  • Corey Haines, “Short-lived Branches”

    • Haines explores the constraint of finishing a feature on a branch in a day or deleting it and starting over the next
  • “How to Read an Academic Article”, by Peter Klein

    • With the growth of groups like Papers We Love, it’s helpful to have an idea on how to approach reading academically focused material
    • There’s more info at Papers We Love’s Boston chapter with an upcoming meeting

Screencasts, podcasts and presentations

  • Attended Brandon Mathis’ Triangle Ruby Brigade presentation, “Dive into Ruby”
    • A nifty, REPL-driven question and answer presentation for folks new to Ruby
  • Organized and attended Henry Petroski’s Triangle DevOps presentation, “Success and Failure in Engineering: A Paradoxical Relationship”
    • I’ve been a huge fan of Dr. Petroski and I asked him back in January, via note I sent to his department at Duke University, if he would be willing to speak to the group. He was and the talk he delivered this past week was absolutely everything I hoped it would be
    • The talk was recorded by our hosts at Bronto Software. Give it a look.
  • Listened to Is TDD Dead: Ep. 3: “Feedback and QA”
  • Listened to Is TDD Dead: Ep. 4 + 5: “Costs of Testing” and “Answering Questions”
    • These two episodes finished out the series. It is evident that each of the participants has a great deal of respect for the other two
    • I’m far closer to Martin Fowler and Kent Beck’s positions on the value of testing than I am David Heinemeier Hansson’s
    • Despite being further from DHH’s position, I leave the series with a better understanding of his perspective
  • Listened to Accidental Tech Podcast Ep. 88: “Standing on Opposite Sides of the Gym”
  • Listened to Accidental Tech Podcast Ep. 89: “DeLorean + McLaren”
  • Listened to Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Ep. 121: “Prolificness (Allison House)”
    • Something House mentioned during the podcast was the notion of a second shift of personal projects, e.g. a 20-minute portrait painting where the painter has to focus on what’s critical
    • The key, it sounds like of second shift personal work is making it consistent and sustainable
    • This is something I aspire to, but still find myself struggling with
  • Listened to Bikeshed: Ep. 1: “Sandi & Derek’s Rules”
  • Listened to Back to Work Ep. 193: “Disappointment Delivery Mechanism”
  • Listened to Back to Work Ep. 194: “The Company of a Clown” Listened to Ruby Rogues Ep. 179: “Accountability and Diversity with Meagan Waller”
  • Listened to Ruby Rogues Ep. 180: “Barriers to New Developers with Kinsey Ann Durham”
    • I can’t think of a bad episode of Ruby Rogues, but these two are exceptionally good ones – windows into experiences I can’t have (being a female developer) or haven’t had in a long time (being a new developer). I highly recommend giving these both a thorough listen

Programming note

First, I can explicitly state the next entry will be in December, likely Dec. 7. Second, I’m entertaining the idea of breaking this larger post into smaller components. Once a week for all of this feels a little thin and two weeks starts to feel a little much. I’m thinking the articles and podcast/presentation sections are both getting a little long and may benefit from separate publication weekly with my project work, environment tweaks and skill improvements happening more on a biweekly basis. I’m not set on that, but I think I’m going to experiment with it.

Tool Sharpening: Nov. 9, 2014

For some background on what’s going on here, see the first tool sharpening post

This week, there’s not a lot with regard to more than podcasts or articles read. On one hand, I’m not happy in hindsight with not having written much code. But, I have to balance that against the fact that I did more reading and, honestly, that’s what the week felt like.

Environment + Process tweaks

  • Added a few GMail filters for mailing lists to help improve inbox sanity

Project work

Somehow, the week was busier than expected and somehow, not code-focused, so the pieces I wanted to get to, I didn’t. I don’t like that outcome.

Skill improvements

Nothing particularly of note here, this week.

Articles read

Alright, here’s where most of my post-work tool-sharpening time went. There were several interesting pieces.

  • “The Road to Ember 2.0” by Tom Dale
    • A polite, but audible, shot across the bow of Angular JS and the notion of having to rewrite apps to keep up with framework changes as being an acceptable course of action
  • “AngularJS: The Bad Parts”, by Lars Eidnes, who throws down early against AngularJS

    • Quote:

    Popularity wise, Angular is beating the shit out of the other frameworks. I spent most of last year working on a large project built on AngularJS, and I’ve gotten to know the framework in some depth. Through this work I have learned that Angular is built around some really bad ideas that make it a pain to work with, and that we need to come up with something better. Whatever the reason is for Angulars popularity, it isn’t that it’s a great framework. - The polemic against Angular is good. Stick around for the conclusion, too.

  • “Rebuilding the Shopify Admin: Improving Developer Productivity by Deleting 28,000 lines of JavaScript”

    • A possible outrider indicating a move away from thick front-end web applications back to server-side focused applications

Altogether, these first three pieces point to a trend I won’t pretend is anyway new – this is where the women and men programming in the 70s and 80s shake their heads and mutter, “kids” – but one that I’ve noticed over the last couple of years is that as an industry, we are so eager to think of something new and shiny as a self-evidently worth replacement for whatever came before it. We pick frameworks or languages because of where everyone else is going, but not stopping to look at what’s there before ditching something we know.

There’s a lot more nuance and complexity to this than I can think through and write right now, but I liked these three pieces because each of them, to a degree calls out practices I’ve seen recently that have left a bad taste in my mouth.

Screencasts, podcasts and presentations

  • Listened to Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Ep. 119: “Create Value or Create Technology? (Pete Hunt)”
  • Listened to Back to Work Ep. 192: “Party City Trophies”
    • Dan and Merlin have a great episode about finding how to motivate their kids without backstopping their parenting with fear. Powerful and personal
  • Listened to Is TDD Dead?: Ep. 2: “Test-induced design damage”
    • David Heinemeier Hansson expands on why he thinks TDD leads to damaged repository. I thought Kent Beck did quite well in pointing out that TDD doesn’t make you do anything. My opinion is closer to Beck’s so far and I am very much enjoying hear him express a depth to his point of view that is worth listening to, whether or not you agree with him

Tool Sharpening: Nov. 1, 2014

For some background on what’s going on here, see the first tool sharpening post

Environment + Process tweaks

  • Upgraded to BBEdit 11, which was released Oct. 22
  • Improved my tmuxinator profile for my Pomodori project and created one for my Dayplan project (see below)
  • Updated MsgFiler to work with OS X Yosemite
  • Updated OmniFocus Clip-O-Tron to work with OS X Yosemite

Project work

  • I started to update my Dayplan script to improve how the files for previous days archive and decided that I wanted to get it under testing, so I’ve started a Gem project around it

Skill improvements

  • I went through two Ruby lessons on typing.io
    • The first lesson gave me 46 words per minute with an unproductive keystroke overhead of four percent
    • The second lesson gave me 34 words per minute and 10 percent unproductive keystroke overhead
      • This one was pretty humbling with far more curly braces, which my fingers don’t naturally know how to find
      • I’m also realizing as I type that I really move my right hand around far more than I should to type far keys with my index and middle finger when I should be using my ring finger. My right pinky largely goes unused. For command keys, on either side, I favor my index and middle fingers vs. my ring or pinky fingers
  • Reviewed the BBEdit 11 release notes and a related TidBits article on changes to BBEdit 11 in order to pick up some of the new built-in editing functionality
  • Learned that I can rename files in a more efficient fashion. Instead of typing:

        mv foo-long-file-name.md bar-long-file-name.md

    I can instead type:

        mv {foo,bar}-long-file-name.md

    That’s much nicer. This also works with git mv

Articles read

Screencasts, podcasts and presentations

  • Listened to Accidental Tech Podcast Ep. 86: “Moving the Party to the Bar Down the Block”
  • Listened to Accidental Tech Podcast Ep. 87: “Not an Accurate Representation of my Mousing Skills”
  • Listened to Ruby Rogues Ep. 178: “Refactoring Ruby with Martin Fowler”
    • There is a ton of great insight in this episode. Lots of great questions and discussion top-to-bottom I’m going to be giving this a relisten very, very soon.
  • Listened to Planet Money Ep. 576: “When Women Stopped Coding”
    • A worthwhile 17 minute 12 second trip into part of why the 1980s saw a significant dip in the number of women pursuing a computer science degree
  • Listened to Is TDD Dead? Ep. 1: “TDD and Confidence”
    • I let this sit for a while to get some distance from feeling immediately negative towards David Heinemeier Hansson’s bomb-throwing assertions that TDD is harmful in a series of blog posts and his RailsConf 2014 keynote and just came back to it after hearing Fowler on Ruby Rogues
    • The entire series of five conversations between Martin Fowler, Kent Beck and David Heinemeier Hansson is available in audio or video and, at least in the first episode, offers good examples and nuance, particularly in unpacking the term “test driven development”. I’m looking forward to the remaining four episodes
  • Listened to Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Ep. 118: “Scare Yourself” with Dan Martell
    • In the interview, Martell used an interesting turn of phrase that I’m still turning over in my head; “compassionate detachment”

Tool Sharpening: Oct. 21, 2014

For some background on what’s going on here, see the first tool sharpening post

Environment + Process tweaks

  • Updated TextExpander shortcuts for phrases I typically drop into work chat windows
  • Added a number of TextExpander shortcuts for creating future Tool Sharpening posts, largely around standardizing snippets for podcasts for consistency
  • Upgraded my Mac to Yosemite (Mac OS X 10.10)
  • Upgraded home projects to Ruby 2.1.3

Project work

I made a little bit of head way with Issue #32 of my Pomodori project. Being honest, I’m not putting the kind of time or attention to this that I would like.

Skill improvements


This past week, I was preparing a software release. While we have a good deal of automation around this sort of work, there are some cases where the progression to release gets into a condition we haven’t automated for yet. In one of these cases, I needed to remove git tags we placed on the repositories for the release and further steps in our automated process.

Before, I’d likely just suffer through doing this three or four times, because it’s just at the edge of being worth writing a script. However, my coworker Steve Gambino reminded me that Bash is perfectly capable of solving this issue. It’s also a tool I could stand to get more familiar with for situations such as this.

for i in $( ls -1 ); do cd $i; git tag -d R36.0.2-20141016; git push origin :refs/tags/R36.0.2-20141016; cd ..; done

I ended up using variations on this for loop multiple times and I didn’t have any of the dollar auction costs of, “well, this will be the last time I do this, so it’s not worth writing a script.”


This past week, I had couple of tmux panes that I wanted to capture the buffer for and paste into BBEdit for separate examination. Rather than tediously scroll and copy and scroll and copy, I searched for a better way. As it happens, thoughtbot developer Chris Toomey had some additions to .tmux.conf that are very helpful for this sort of situation. Perfect.

Screencasts, podcasts and presentations