Capstone: Sprint Reflection 6

Sprint 6 was the final sprint of the semester. We rounded up this sprint with an unfinished solution to issue APTS-254. Over the course of this sprint, we were feeling really good on our understanding of this issue. We required quite a bit of clarification from the Ampath team. After getting some really good clarification we found that the code we needed to work on was in an entire different directory from the one we had been previously working in. Once we finally found where we should be working, we began digging in deep into the issue. The first thing we noticed is that this issue was associated with their ETL server implementation. None of us on the team had previous understanding of what an ETL server was so we I did some digging. I found a few resources online (Here’s a good brief description) that I summarized for the group. The idea was fairly simple, except the way the Ampath team was using ETL was basically by skipping the Load portion and just passing the transformed data to the end user as a notification.

I had a really good understanding of the issue at this point and even began writing some code that I thought might work for this specific issue. Part of the major issue that stopped us from being able to test this solution was the fact that we were unable to test that our solutions actually worked before committing changes. In order to test our solutions we were going to need a running ETL server. In the end I was kind of bummed we weren’t able to resolve another issue before semester’s end. But I felt good in the things I learned from trying to resolve this issue.

I would love to continue working on these issues in the future but with all my personal projects and the fact that I will be starting a new job (as a Software Developer) on the 22nd, I don’t plan on having a lot of extra time. All in all I really enjoyed working on Angular 2 and seeing how a large scale project like Ampath was built.

The Software Craftsman: Chapters 5 & 6

Cahpter 5 resembled Chapter 2 from Robert C. Martin’s book The Clean Coder which has many of the same themes as this book. This chapter mostly covers the fact that as a professional you occasionally need to say no. If you don’t say no when you should say no, things can get ugly quick. I won’t talk too much on the reasons why here because I talked about it in more detail here.

I do want to talk briefly about one thing that was said in this chapter. With good managers, there should never be a “us and them” attitude. This could never be more true and I recently experienced the downside to an “us and them” attitude. I was on a job with the the VP of Stack Testing in Bridgeport, CT. We were working as contractors for a fairly large power generation company, we’ll call them “Big Guys”. So Big Guys have so many power plants that instead of contracting companies like us to do their stack testing, they have an entire team of internal stack testers. However, an issue came up where Bug Guys’ stack testing team didn’t have some special analyzers that my company has. This equipment is very expensive and very complicated to use. So we arrived on site and immediately the upper management of Big Guys made us feel threatened. The upper management made multiple comments about how if we screwed up even the slightest bit that they were going to throw us off site and hire a different contractor. That was the first sign this was going to be a rough few days. Anyways, we ended up meeting Big Guys stack testing team, we’ll call them “Little guys”. All of the stack testers from Little guys were incredibly nice and welcoming to us. They were excited to have us on site and really excited to see our equipment in action.

After a 16 hour day of testing along side Little guys, we started seeing some trends. Big Guys management kept referring to the testing that was happening as “Your tests”(Directed towards Little Guys), like somehow Little Guys are requiring them to test when the reality it that the State of Connecticut was the one requiring THEM (Notice the beggining of the Us and Them mentality). Then we noticed that Big Guys were not giving Little guys any information until the very last second. Each time they did this the sent Little guys into a frenzy getting ready for the next test. Same things like this kept happening throughout the day.

We arrive on site the next day to find out that after the previous day, Little guys were upset and disgruntled about the previous days happenings. They began venting to myself and my boss. The “Us and them” mentality become so apparent when they started go against what Big guys were telling them to do. Towards the end of the second day, Big guys told little guys on their last hour of tests to pause their tests. Big guys eventually told us why they paused the test and the reason was completely strange. They had us pause for reason that were 100% unrelated to what we were doing at that moment. Little guys made a unilateral decision to continue testing so they could leave before 7 pm. Obviously Big guys were furious when they found out and there was a yelling match (Thankfully neither my boss nor I were present for) between Big guys and Little guys. The moral of the story is if they had not had this us vs. them mentality I am almost positive the days would have been smoother and we there definitely would have been less contention.

 

Chapter 6 talks about Craftsmen as gardeners. I really appreciate this visual. There certainly is a difference between someone who plants and someone who gardens. Someone who plants prepares their base, digs their holes and plants their plants and then moves on. If you do this as a gardener then you will quickly find your plants getting choked out by weeds or overgrowing other plants. This is not okay. One of the most interesting points made was the mindset of developers thinking the didn’t have enough time. I never realized it, but I have done this. Multiple times. Working on small projects I could have saved my self countless hours if I had simply taken the time to create unit tests. I see that now. I know that now. But I still don’t always do it. Why? “CAUSE I THERE’S NO TIME FOR THAT!!”. Really? Really, Tyler? Don’t you remember last time you said that? You spent hours debugging a simple logical error that could have been found in seconds using unit tests. ….Yeah, I still skipped unit testing to push features “faster”. This is something I am trying to break for sure and this chapter was a good reminder that it’s a time saver for everyone if I simply write unit tests and take the time.

Guess what, Tyler. There. Is. Time. Write Unit Tests!

I have the written on a sticky note on my monitor at home.

The Software Craftsman: Chapters 3 & 4

Chapter 3 of The Software Craftsman is spent defining what is a Software Craftsman. The earlier parts of the chapter are spent on talking about the history of Software Craftsmanship, that is all very interesting but I’d like to discuss the Software Craftsmanship manifesto.

Not only working software, but also well-crafted software

Not only responding to change, but also steadily adding value

Not only individuals and interactions but, also a community of professionals

Not only customer collaboration, but also productive partnerships

So, lets take a look at this line-by-line. The first line states “Not only working software, but also well-crafted software”. I think we can all agree as some form of software developer this is the best thing to strive for. The question then becomes, how do we get here? Sandro makes a statement that is truly interesting. After describing what any good developer would know to be truly well-crafted software, Sandro states “In order to evolve applications, developers must not shy away from changing them.”. This statement is so intriguing to me because it simply makes sense. You can’t have evolution without change, and you want your software to evolve to “well-crafted”, right? Well in order to do that, you’re going to have to make changes to the code, sometimes that may be big. Other times it may be small.

The next line says we should be steadily adding value to the project. This is again something that no one can refute as a good thing. However, I think as developers, we many times find it hard to “Leave it cleaner than we found it”. As you are reading this I can almost guarantee that you are thinking back to a time where you made a bug fix, but that bug fix made things just a little bit messy. I am sure whatever reason you had for putting in that bug fix messy like that was valid. However, this starts becoming an issue when everybody working on the project adds some messy code here and there. Eventually the system becomes maintainable and it’s an unfortunate side-effect to us being humans. However, as software craftsmen we need to strive to not get caught in this net and constantly clean up the code.

The next line says we need to be a community of professionals. I really like this piece. I’ve worked with people on both ends of the spectrum (not in the software field). On one end there are people out there who will give you the bare-bones, need-to-know information to get the job done. I am unsure as to why anybody would want to do this. Flip the coin and I’ve worked with people who are delighted to share their knowledge and understanding of the given subject matter. I think mentor-ship is incredibly important. If no one ever mentored a young developer and didn’t pass down the knowledge that’s been attained over their long career, then the young developer is going to fall into all the same pitfalls that has plagued software development for years.

This final line in the manifesto, is essentially stating: In order to succeed you will need to act as a professional. It also talks about the flip side of your manager needing to act as a professional and expect you to act as a professional. We should want to strive to produce the best possible products we can and in doing just that, I think a lot of the time the customers or the employers are more willing to work with you through issues. They are able to see past you as their employee or contractor and begin to see that developing software is a partnership. In order to create good software there needs to be professionalism on both sides of the coin.

 

 

Chapter 4 talked about attitude of the software craftsmen. More so the chapter discussed our attitude towards pursuit of knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge should be a personal burden and not a burden you try and place of your employer. It is your sole responsibility to continuously improve skills and knowledge as a craftsman.

Many of the ways to improve this were discussed in an earlier blog covering “The Clean Coder” book. I won’t re-hash something I’ve already discussed. But as a brief summary, some good ways to extend your knowledge is through books, blogs, podcasts, training events, seminars, meetups and coding challenges.

Capstone Project: Sprint 2 Reflections

Another sprint down! This sprint was much more exciting then previous sprints. This sprint we were finally able to get OpenMRS and Ampath running locally on our machines so we could fiddle with it! I have a tendency to probe things I don’t understand until I either 1, understand them or 2 break them. Luckily this time was the former over the latter. Part of our previous sprint was to re-write an Ampath module, specifically the authentication. This was to help us learn how the REST API works and to generally learn how Angular works. We broke our sprint down into a few steps.

  1. Remove all traces of an authentication module from the Ampath directory tree.
  2. Attempt to rebuild a basic html/css of the original Ampath login page.
  3. Creating the Authentication routing so when we visit localhost it will successfully show us the html page we had just created.
  4. Make sure the login button successfully authenticates the user.

These four basic steps were what we felt as a scrum team, each individual could finish in the time we had for the given sprint. Unfortunately for me, because I enjoying coding and learning new things so much, I finished this by day 3 of our approximately 8 day sprint cycle. This left me with nothing to do, but plenty of time on my hands. I took that time to start researching TDD inside of Angular and how to write Karma tests. I really like the Karma framework and the way you simply declare what a test should be doing. I feel that it makes your testing output extremely easy to read, which is especially nice when you are showing it off to your wife who is by no means a software developer. But in the case of the real world, it gives someone A LOT of insight into what your code is supposed to do by them simply running test.


Tomorrow we start Sprint 3. From my understanding we are going to become familiar with JIRA and Ampaths issue tracking, so we can start (hopefully) resolving some issues for them! I am very exciting to be finally diving deep into this project and I hope to make some significant changes!

The Clean Coder: Chapter 7 & 8

This week in the Clean Coder I read chapters 7 and 8. These chapters covered a lot about testing. Acceptance testing and testing strategies to be specific. One of the more interesting topics that was talked about was estimates. This is an interesting topic to me because a few months back I listened to an interesting podcast on the same exact topic. Now Uncle Bob didn’t go into as much details here as did Steve McConnell on the podcast but he made the most important point:

Professional developers understand that estimates can, and should, be made
based on low precision requirements, and recognize that those estimates are
estimates.

The later-half of that quote is the important part. The statement that estimates are estimates is important. A lot of the time estimates are taken as absolute fact in industry and unfortunately this has become poor practice. Once we remember that estimates are estimates then we start taking uncertainty back into account and everyone is happier for it.


In chapter 8 Uncle Bob began talking about testing strategies. The first point he decided to hit was actually a reiteration of something he said in an earlier chapter, “QA Should Find Nothing”. My understanding initially is that as a developer you should make sure QA has NO role. However, this is not the case. The issue here was my view on the role of the QA engineers. I assumed that their job was to catch the bugs I missed. This is wrong. According to Uncle Bob their role should consist of creating automated acceptance tests and characterizing the true  behavior of an application.

The rest of chapter 8 continues to talk about the different types or stages of automated testing. These are things like; unit testing, component testing, integration testing, system testing and exploratory testing. These are all things I’ve talked about in previous blog posts so I won’t spend too much time talking about them. I do however, want to note one thing Uncle Bob mentioned,

Unit tests provide as close to 100% coverage as is practical. Generally this
number should be somewhere in the 90s. And it should be true coverage as
opposed to false tests that execute code without asserting its behavior.

It’s interesting that when he talks about code coverage he makes it a point to say that our tests should assert something about >90% of the code we’ve written.


That’s all for this week. I look forward to the next week’s chapters which talk about Management and go into more depth about Estimations!!

Capstone Project: Week 2 Reflections

Another week, here and gone. Man time flies by when you’re having fun!

This past week the group and I made our first approach to google’s javascript framework, Angular 2. We dove right in with TypeScript and Angular2 by following the Tour of Heroes tutorial. This was pretty awesome but also very overwhelming. I found that it was quite a bit of information to digest in such a small amount of time. I, just as many others, learn best by solving problems of my own so I actually tried to tweak the tour of heroes a little bit here and there to learn a little bit more. As we dive head-long into the AMPATH project I am sure there will be times where I am completely overwhelmed, due to having to learn this brand new framework but something about that really gets me giddy like a child! I enjoy stretching my knowledge base and this is a for-sure way to do that.

In retrospect, one tutorial felt too short and I felt I didn’t learn enough. Myself and others in my group have decided to append our sprint, mid sprint to extend our Angular 2 learning. I have started reading the advanced guide to Routing on the Angular website to try and glean a little better understanding in this complex topic.

The Clean Coder: Chapters 3 & 4

Another week done and two more chapters of The Clean Coder read. This book has been quite enjoyable and it’s nice to have assigned reading from school that isn’t so “text-booky”. It’s nice to have something to read that is someone’s personal experience in the field of software engineering and hear about his successes and mistakes.

Chapter 3 talked about the flip side of chapter 3, saying yes and when to say it. I really enjoyed this chapter because it’s something I had make an conscious effort to approach in the past 9 months or so. I noticed at work I was using the phrases “try to get it done” and “might get it done”. I noticed this was simply giving me an excuse to take things at more of a relaxed pace and maybe not giving 100% to my employer. In May or June (I do not recall the exact date) I was moved into more of an IT infrastructural role at work. My first task.. Fully rebuild the LAN/WLAN structure of the facility. The president of the company told me this was of high importance to get this done a.s.a.p. and requested I estimate how long this would take. After some research and getting the things I needed on order I gave my boss a definitive date of 2 weeks until completion. Because I gave the president a definitive date and completed 2 days ahead of that date. He then started giving me tasks that we meant for my immediate supervisors because he knew that we would get a date things would be done by. I have since found that using correct language and giving good time tables creates better channels of communication and makes everyone in the organization happier.


Chapter 4 was the first time I had some serious differences in my ideas compared to Uncle Bob’s ideas. This was negated by the fact that he explicitly stated:

You will likely not agree with everything I say here. After all, this is deeply personal
stuff. In fact, you may violently disagree with some of my attitudes and principles.
That’s OK—they are not intended to be absolute truths for anyone other than me.

I find it funny that he had to mention 3 AM code. It seems to me that the general idea behind anyone who has tried solving a difficult problem with programming has come across this at least once in their efforts. I know I’ve talked with multiple programmers who all say the same thing, “If you can’t solve it, walk away for a while”. I’ve even told this to many programmers. It’s just a fact of life with any issue you can’t solve immediately. If you walk away and let your subconscious mull on the issue, 9 times out of 10, you’ll find the solution.

The one major thing I disagree with Uncle Bob on, is listening to music when trying to be productive. I am never more productive without music. I imagine this is something that changes from person to person as well. I know for my wife, she’s the most productive when things are dead silent. Now she’s a not a programmer and has never written a line of code but everyone has their own way of steadying their brain to focus in on a task. Part of my ritual to steady my brain is put on some music. Now I know that he also mentions avoid getting into the zone and this is something I already avoided anyways. But what music helps me accomplish is two things. It helps me set a rhythm to my work that keeps easily distracted part of my brain busy. Also, when I have headphones in it lets others know that I am baring down to get work done. In my office there are times I simply need to get stuff done and don’t have time for idle chit-chat. These are the times I find music especially helpful. If someone needs me they know they can simply come in to my area and I will almost always take my headphones off immediately. However, it puts up some sort of barrier that tells people I am too busy to chat about non-work-related topics.


All-in-all, it was another good week of reading what Uncle Bob had to say on Software engineering! I look forward to see what he has to say in Chapters 5 & 6.

The Clean Coder: Chapters 1 & 2

The Clean Coder, this is my first book by Uncle Bob (Robert C. Martin) that I’ve read. Clean Code was on my list of “to read” books along with many other great books for programmers and developers. I had been working through Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, albeit at a sluggish pace and that is a great book as well. However, I read through the first two chapters of The Clean Coder this week and it is simply amazing. It’s a breath of fresh air from all the other “coding” books. What’s most interesting about this book is the fact that, at least with these first two chapters, the ideas extend far beyond just software development. His ideas of professionalism will essentially make any type of career better.


Chapter 1 began by talking about Professionalism. Uncle Bob’s main point in this chapter to strive towards professionalism was taking responsibility for our problems. He elaborated on this and really pushed the point of “Do No Harm”, and by this he meant strive create working and easily maintainable code. Obviously this is what we all strive for as programmers, but he went a step beyond that and began talking about making the responsibility of “perfect code” ours and ours alone. Don’t leave it to the QA team to find and report bugs, take that on yourself. Don’t leave it up to someone else to refactor your code to make it more extensible, do that yourself. I really appreciated this point, because sometimes I find myself slipping into the mindset of, “I don’t need to take care of that, it’s someone else’s problem. Even if I don’t have the answer 100% I should do my best to help the person reach the solution faster.


Chapter 2 talked about Saying no. This is something I personally struggle with. I am the kind of person who generally can’t tell people no – especially my bosses. I was bread with the mindset, from an early age, that when your employer instructs you to do something, do it. Now not to say this is a bad mindset by any means, but in the real world this can seriously hurt your career and your companies future.

My first major piece of “Software” the I ever attempted at building was a simple front end for a database that also had some data crunching abilities. I also had to design and build out the database. My company is not a software company but an environmental engineering firm so no one really had a clue about building software/coding. Fairly straight forward and easy to build project, for a Senior in his CS degree program. However, when I started this program I was in my first year as a CS student. At this point I had written small programs in languages like Java or Python, but each of these programs did simply CLI type functions and nothing too complicated. I think the most interesting thing I had done at this point was a Fibonacci calculator that used recursion and memoization. I hadn’t approached any problems that essentially required an architecture that used a front end as well as needed data persistence. I had no idea where to begin but I dove in anyways. I told my boss it was going to take 3 months or so to build something like this. I was going to work non-stop over the summer on this project to get it done. The end of the summer came and I felt I barely had anything done. I was probably half way done with the feature sets that had been requested but felt I was on a roll. When my boss asked when it wouldn’t be done, I responded with the fact that I was “unsure”. I wasn’t sure what more bumps I was going to hit along the way because I had no experience at this. He gave me three more weeks and he wanted it done. I said okay.

I got all the features done is this program and it’s still being used at my company today. But I get requests constantly to fix some bug because I didn’t have time to test it. Because I didn’t tell my boss “No I can’t finish it in three weeks”, I was left with an embarrassing piece of work that I always afraid to show people due to my unprofessionalism during the development of that project.


In summary, I am extremely excited about going through this book and being able to apply what I read to not only Capstone project but also to my day to day work life. I think that not only developers should read at least the first 2 chapters of this book but anyone who builds a product for a customer.