Stephanie has a win and a gripe from her client project this week. In a previous episode, Joël talked about his work exploring how to model dependent side effects, particularly D&D dice rolls. He went from the theoretical to the practical and wrote up a miniature D&D damage dice roll app that you put in a few inputs. Then it will roll all the dice necessary and tell you did you successfully hit your target and, if so, how much damage you did. Together, they discuss how they think about fulfillment at work and what brings them fulfillment as developers. Obsidian (https://obsidian.md/) Joël's DnD dice roll app production (https://dnd-damage-roller.netlify.app/) site and repo (https://github.com/JoelQ/dungeons-and-dragons-damage-calculator) Engineering Management for the Rest of Us (https://www.engmanagement.dev/) The Five Love Languages (https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/click-here-happiness/202009/what-are-the-5-love-languages-definition-and-examples) Transcript: JOËL: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Joël Quenneville. STEPHANIE: And I'm Stephanie Minn. And together, we're here to share a bit of what we've learned along the way. JOËL: So, Stephanie, what's new in your world? STEPHANIE: So I have a win, I suppose, and a gripe from my client project this week that I would love to share. So my win is that I've been working in React lately. And I might have mentioned this on a previous episode, but it's been a few years for me. So I'm kind of catching up on the new, hot tooling, you know, whatever is popular in that world these days, and having to read a lot of documentation to figure out how to use it and just in general, I think being a little bit outside my comfort zone. And I was working on an existing React component that was untested, and I had to change and extend some functionality in it. And we're also a little bit on a deadline. So there's like a little bit of pressure on the team to be delivering. And so when I got this ticket, I was like, okay, I am seeing this existing component that looks also a few years outdated. It's using some of the older technology that we've kind of moved on from. And I was just like, oh, I really should write tests for this before I go in and change some things just to feel confident that my changes don't break anything because it was pretty gnarly. But I was not in the mood for it. [laughs] And this was like two or three days ago. I was just very grumpy. And I was like, oh man, why do I have to do it? [laughs] I kind of wanted to just get into making the changes so I could deliver on this work. So, spoiler, I did not write the tests that day and just kind of went ahead with the changes. But then, the next morning, I woke up, and I was feeling inspired. I was like, I made those changes, but I'm actually not feeling that confident about it. So let me go back and try to write some tests. And I got to use the new tools I had been looking into, and that was part of my hesitation too. I was like, oh man, this is like a really old component. And I don't want to use the older ones that we're using for testing. But how is it going to play with the newer testing tools that we're using? And so there was just like a lot of, I think, barriers to me feeling excited about writing those tests. But with my renewed energy, I did it. And I feel very happy about it and proud of myself. Yeah, that's my little win. JOËL: That's a roller coaster of a journey there. That sort of deception when you find out that there are no tests for this and somebody else's problem has kind of become your problem. But then you decide you don't want it to be your problem, you know, kick it down the road for somebody else. And then you feel good about yourself, and you decide to backfill the test anyway. And you get that confidence, and now everything's better for everybody. That is quite the journey. STEPHANIE: Exactly. I listened to another podcast recently where they coined this term called tantrum logic, which is basically the idea that when you're kind of grumpy or something happens, and you're like, man, I don't want to do any of this, like, if I can't do it my way, then I don't want to do it at all. [laughs] And just the idea that the way you're thinking about the issue at hand may not be totally grounded in reality. And I think I needed that reset and just a good night's sleep and going to do something else to come back and be like, actually, I do want to write those tests, even if it will be challenging. I'm in a better mind space for it. Mind space? Headspace? [laughs] Headspace for it. And I overcame the tantrum logic. JOËL: A good night's sleep is just such a powerful tool for resetting. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I agree. Shout out to sleep. [laughs] It turns out that it can really have a positive effect on how you feel. JOËL: By the way, this is not an advertisement. We are not sponsored by sleep. We just both love it and recommend it. STEPHANIE: [laughs] To get into my gripe a little bit, so you and I are on the same client project we've mentioned before on the show. And I think I even talked a little bit about receiving a new computer from our client to do our client work on. So now I have many devices at home. And we had also chatted previously about a note-taking app that we both use called Obsidian. And one of the reasons that I really like it is because it's all local storage. So your notes are not being uploaded to the cloud or whatever. But that does make it hard to use on multiple, I mean, not just hard, impossible to use [laughs] on multiple devices unless you pay for it. They have a sync offering where you can use it on multiple devices. And I think it's also encrypted in a certain way. Anyway, sometimes I'll be working on my client laptop and have some idea or thought that I really want to note down, but I don't have Obsidian installed on this machine, and it's not synced to my other Obsidian. And I have just been kind of annoyed about having to go open another computer to write a thought down if I want to document it. And I'm curious how you deal with this problem. JOËL: So the downside of Obsidian not being a cloud product is that you don't just get that sync for free. The upside of it just being markdown files on your hard drive is that you can use any other product or tool that you want to manipulate these files. So I have my Obsidian vault, which is just the term for the directory where it keeps all of these files in a Dropbox directory. And so I have it sync across multiple machines just by being signed into my Dropbox account. STEPHANIE: That's smart. And that sync is pretty smooth for you? You don't have any issues with updating it in one spot and seeing those changes in another? JOËL: I have not had issues with that. Of course, I'm not jumping between machines within 30 seconds of each other. Generally, I'm also connected to the internet. So I haven't had a situation where I make a change to a machine not connected to the internet, and then later on, I edit an old version on a different machine that is connected to the internet, and now we have conflict. I've not run into that problem. STEPHANIE: Okay, cool. That sounds good. It's funny you mentioned that because it's just the other day, off-mic; you and I were on a call doing a little bit of pairing. And you were on both machines at the same time [laughs] because we had to use one for our call. And then you were looking something up on your client computer as well. And the thought of you just using two computers at once was very amusing to me. JOËL: It's the ultimate hacker move in...I was going to say bad, but that's maybe a little bit too judgmental, but yeah, in classic, I feel like police shows, things like that. STEPHANIE: I do have one more thought about note-taking that we haven't talked about before. But I'm really curious, how do you deal with thoughts you have on the road during a time you don't have a device on you? Do you go and write that down somewhere, or what do you do with those? JOËL: I have an absolutely awful solution, which is I add it to my mental stack and hope it doesn't overflow before I get to a computer. STEPHANIE: That's really funny because I used to do something similar where if I had a to-do list or something like that in my head, I would remember the number of items on my list to try to cue me into remembering what those items were. The worst thing that would happen is I would remember that I had three things on my to-do list but could only remember two. And so I had to just [laughs] deal with my existential anxiety about knowing that there was something else that I had forgotten about but could not remember [laughs] for the life of me what it was. JOËL: So I do that trick sometimes for my grocery list if I don't want to write it down. I'll just be like, oh yeah, go to the grocery store, make sure there are five items in my basket when I check out. And similar to you, sometimes I have that problem. I had a light-bulb moment the other day, which is that this trick is actually an example of hashing content. STEPHANIE: [laughs] JOËL: So if you're ever hashing the contents of a file and then wanting to compare if another file is the same and you check the hashes are the same. In a sense, you're kind of hashing your grocery list and your shopping cart and trying to see do they both hash to the same value? Now, a good hashing algorithm has an infinitesimally low chance of a collision. Counting the number of items in your list or cart has a fairly high chance of a collision. You could have a cart and a list that both have five items, but they're not the same items. Yet this comparison would still make you think that they're the same. STEPHANIE: This is a very funny metaphor to me. I think the other issue is that as a human and not a computer, I do not have the mental storage space to then also remember what algorithm [laughs] I'm using to hash my to-do list. JOËL: The algorithm is the count function. STEPHANIE: [laughs] True, true, a more sophisticated algorithm then. [laughs] JOËL: Yes, which is why I keep using this not very safe, but it's good enough. STEPHANIE: Sometimes, we just need to be good enough. So, Joël, what's new in your world? JOËL: So, in a previous episode, I think we talked about some work I was doing exploring how to model dependent side effects, particularly D&D dice rolls. So this week, I went from the theoretical to the practical and wrote up a miniature D&D damage dice roll app that you put in a few inputs, and then it will roll all the dice necessary and tell you did you successfully hit your target, and if so, how much damage did you do? And it takes into account all these edge cases. STEPHANIE: Cool. That's so exciting because I think we mentioned last time how that would be a really interesting exercise to write up that code. Did you get any insight from doing that? JOËL: I think a lot of the insight that I got came from the initial diagramming phase. And I think coding it out really solidified the things that I had learned from the diagramming. Of interest here is that there are effectively or potentially four separate dice-rolling phases that can happen. First, you're rolling to see can you hit your target? And depending on the situation, you're rolling one or two dice. And then after that, you're rolling to see if you do hit, how much damage you do. And you're either rolling one set of dice, or you might be rolling two sets of dice if you happen to do a critical hit. So I think that the diagram that I had clearly showed these are four sets of randomness that have to happen and then how they relate to each other. These two are dependent on each other; these two are independent. I think one thing that was really interesting that I learned from the code is that for something like a dice roller, you usually don't want to see just the result. Because if I just have a button that says how much damage did I do, and then I get a number back that says, "You did zero damage," or "You did three damage," as a person, that's not very satisfying. And I don't know that I fully trust it. I want to see all the intermediate results. So I want to see, oh, did I roll two different dice for that initial two-hit? What were the numbers? And then I can say, okay, well, I need to roll above a five or roll above a 10. And I rolled these two dice, and they were both under 10. That makes sense why I didn't hit. Or I rolled one of them above and one of them below, but I was rolling with disadvantage, which means I have to take the lower of the two numbers. So I could have hit, but I didn't. So I think that is really fun as a user to see the intermediate steps. But also, as a developer, it helps me to be confident that the code I wrote works the way I expect it to. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's really neat. I think what I love about this is that you took something that, in some ways, could be really simple, right? And the implementation could have been just the first thing that you thought of, but you thought very deeply about it and made the dice roller that you wanted in the world. [laughs] I'm curious. Can anyone go check out this repo on the internet? JOËL: Yes. So we can link to the repo in the show notes. And also, the dice roller itself is up online at dnd-damage-roller.netlify.app. And we can link that as well for anybody who wants to go and check it out. STEPHANIE: Awesome. JOËL: I think my goal in this is it's more of a learning exercise. I don't think the world needs another D&D dice roller. There are better ones built into more comprehensive tools. But it was fun for me to work on this, to explore some ideas, and to dig into randomness. I've always had a fascination with random rolls. 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I'm curious about how you think about fulfillment at work in general and what brings you fulfillment as a developer. JOËL: Fulfillment is really interesting because I think it's a really kind of personal question. It probably varies a little bit from person to person. But there are probably also some aspects that are global to everyone. I know we've talked about things like psychological safety in the past. And if you don't have things like that, that baseline, it's going to be hard to feel fulfilled. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I agree. I am thinking of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and in some ways, fulfillment is kind of the tip of the pyramid. If you are feeling safe and like you belong and get enough sleep, like we mentioned earlier, you can reach towards getting into what really feels fulfilling and gives you purpose in life. JOËL: I love that you brought up Maslow's pyramid because like you said, that top part is self-actualization. So you need all those lower layers before you can actually reach the point of true fulfillment on the job. One thing I recently realized about myself is how I tend to approach projects that are in a difficult place. I find a lot of fulfillment in sort of relative change. It doesn't matter if a project is in a bad place as long as the project on a week-by-week basis is moving in the right direction. It might still be in a bad place, but is it better than last week? And was I a part of making that better? That makes me feel good. STEPHANIE: Yes. I have always really admired your optimism around that and how you share even small wins. You're really good about that, actually, and celebrating that. And it's interesting to learn that it's like that process itself that has a lot of meaning for you. Because I think I'm a little bit different in the sense that I have an ideal version of working in my head, and if we're not there, even if we are making some incremental progress week to week, I think I struggle. Sometimes I feel frustrated or stressed because I think that we're just not where I want to be. And I've definitely been thinking about harnessing some of that optimism and celebration that you have around, just making things better a little bit at a time. JOËL: And I think we should be clear that this is not the way one has to be; this is just how I tend to feel on projects. STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. JOËL: I know there are plenty of people who feel most fulfilled when they're on projects where things are mostly good. And then it's not about incremental improvement in the product, but maybe it's shipping a lot of features and feeling like they're moving very quickly. Maybe it's that feeling of speed that gives them fulfillment rather than the feeling of incremental progress. STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. I think what is helpful for me in hearing about this from you and just from others (I love talking to other people and learning about what motivates them.) is seeing what else is possible outside of my own little universe inside my head and doing the self-reflection to be like, okay cool, this works for Joël, but maybe this doesn't work for me. But having the input from other people lets me discover more about myself in that way. JOËL: That is incredibly powerful. I love that. I think in a variety of aspects of my life, but especially when it comes to fulfillment in software and at work, talking to other people, seeing how they relate to a project or to a particular task, and, like you said, getting to see their perspectives that are sometimes totally different than mine. STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. So you just mentioned one aspect of how you find fulfillment when a project is maybe in a tougher spot than usual. I'm curious if you can recall a time that you've been the most fulfilled at work. JOËL: Most fulfilled. I think one of the most fulfilling projects I did was several years ago. We built a dashboard for just exploring a lot of data from medical studies. And so the researchers would upload some time series data for things like heart rate, or skin electro-sensitivity, a bunch of other things, along with a video. It was a kind of an interview-style situation. They were doing a session with a patient. And we would then sync all of these data streams up. We would sync it up to the video, and then you could kind of explore the data. There were scrubbers, so you could kind of scrub through the video, and it would scrub through the time series data all at the same time in sync. You could scrub through the time series data. It would sync the video kind of like bidirectional. You could zoom in on the data. The idea is this is a high-level kind of exploratory tool. And you could then find the interesting bits of data that you could then do more quantitative analysis on. So you could then find a part of the stream and say, this is the interesting part. Clip from 10:55 to 11:10 in the stream, on all streams, and then export just that data in a zip file. And then I'm going to put that through a bunch of math and figure out, oh, is there a correlation between these moments? STEPHANIE: So what about that project was really exciting or fun for you? JOËL: I think the client was incredibly fun to work with. There was like an energy and excitement. This was part of their, I think, Ph.D. thesis. And they were really excited. They were incredibly knowledgeable, just delightful to work with. I think this was a fun...so we built this from scratch. It was a greenfield app. I think it had a lot of interactivity. It had a lot of visuals. It was one of the first projects I got to work on that used Elm. I think all those things combined to just make it a really fun project to work on. It was also a fairly short project. So we had a very kind of tight deadline. We were very pragmatic with absolutely everything on there. Like, what can we do to get this done quickly? Is this feature worth the time? It was kind of a classic MVP product. And I think it was one of the most fun things I've built. STEPHANIE: Cool. I'm also hearing there was probably some creative aspect of it that was really fulfilling for you, like exploring a lot of new things. Like, you said, you were working with Elm for the first time. And the project itself sounds very different from some of our other more typical consulting engagements and also the collaboration aspect. Like, you mentioned the tight deadline, which compelled you all to work really closely together to make this really cool thing in that short amount of time. JOËL: Exactly. Yeah, it was like a three or four-week project that I look back on really fondly. Like, oh, that was a good time with those two colleagues and that client, and we did a thing. It was really cool. STEPHANIE: That's awesome. JOËL: I think it's really interesting that just hearing that story, you're immediately picking up on, like, oh, I see elements of creativity and exploration. Do you have kind of an internal system that you use to analyze projects that you're on to be like, oh, this is a project I'm enjoying because of this element or that? Because you seem very self-aware around these types of things. STEPHANIE: I'm glad you asked that because I think I was trying to reflect back to you some of the things that I picked up about what you were sharing. I have been reading a book, surprise, surprise. JOËL: What? You read? STEPHANIE: I read. [laughs] It's called "Engineering Management for the Rest of Us" by Sarah Drasner. And I am not an engineering manager, and I don't necessarily know if I even want to be. But I really enjoy reading management books to better understand how to manage myself or how to be a person who is managed. And one of the things she talks about is understanding an individual's values and how those things end up being what motivates them and also likely what brings fulfillment. And so after I learned about the value of values, I started thinking, okay, what is it that I am motivated by? And really reflecting on when I have felt really good about work and also when I felt challenged or unhappy at work and what things were missing during that time. So the things that I have realized that I am very motivated by are human connection. I love spending quality time with people, and that is probably why I enjoy pairing so much. But also, in my one on ones with my manager, I really enjoy that time just being time for us to share space and get to know each other and talk. It doesn't necessarily need to be going through agenda items or a status report or even necessarily talking about my project. JOËL: So you mentioned that you value quality time with others. Is that a reference to "The Five Love Languages" concept? STEPHANIE: It is. It is. I think I also made a bit of a connection there too because what I like in my personal relationships also obviously applies to work. JOËL: Yeah, it's how you feel appreciated, how you feel fulfilled. And just for our listeners who may not have read this book, I think the concept is that there are five ways that people like to receive appreciation. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I think receive and both express appreciation and love. And quality time is one of them. JOËL: Yeah, yeah. And the other four, if I remember correctly, are acts of service, words of affirmation, physical touch. STEPHANIE: Gift-giving is the last one. Yeah, so that was a fun reflection on my part in being able to just know what makes me feel good. And then it also helps me communicate with other people how to work with me. I think that is super important. I love when people share with me what, I mean, I mentioned this earlier, just what drives them and how they like to be appreciated so that I can do my best to try to offer them that. And I guess this actually is a good transition into the next value of mine that really drives me. I was thinking about this because I mentioned just now that I was learning some new React tools, new to me, anyway. And I'm like, yeah, I like learning. But then I was like; I don't know if I like learning the way other people like learning in the sense that it's not the knowledge itself or the process of learning itself that drives me but learning as a tool to better understand myself. So I think personal development is very important to me. And that feels different from how other people might value learning. JOËL: Interesting. So you might be excited to learn a new React testing tool but not because you're chasing the latest, shiny tech but more because you feel like the process of learning this testing tool helps you learn something new about yourself. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I think that sounds right. One of the tools specifically...we're using MSW Mock Service Worker for mocking network requests in Jest. And I was able to use information about testing in Rails and Ruby and apply that to this new tool. And I got to kind of revel in the fact that I could use previous learnings to apply in this new context, and that was really cool to me. So it wasn't necessarily the tool itself or even the process of learning but kind of realizing that I was capable of applying one thing to this less familiar thing. JOËL: So kind of that realization that, hey, you're now far enough in your career, and you have enough experience. You have a broad base of knowledge that all of a sudden, you realize, wait a minute, I'm not starting from scratch anymore. I can apply lessons learned in the past to learn this new thing and make that easier. And that's a really validating feeling. STEPHANIE: Exactly. That was really cool to me, and I felt really good afterwards. I think this week at work has been very uplifting because I've been having all these little mini-revelations if you will. JOËL: I love that. I love that so much. STEPHANIE: So, one thing that I think is very easily conflated with fulfillment is the idea of success. And I kind of want to talk about the distinction between success and fulfillment. Does that bring up any thoughts for you? JOËL: Yes. I think the two are often entangled, but they're definitely not the same thing. It is possible to be fulfilled on a project that is not successful. And it's also possible to be on a successful project and yet not feel fulfilled. But oftentimes, the two go together because when things are going well on a project, they're probably also going well in a lot of other ways, and you might be feeling fulfilled as long as general parameters fit in, right? If values line up, things like that. I know for me I value quality and excellence and doing work that I'm proud of. So I think if I were working at a place that was doing kind of low-quality, low-cost work where it's just like, you know what? You want cheap and low-quality? Come to us. We'll just get it done quick and cheap. And yeah, it's not going to be great, but you get what you pay for. There's a reason this part of the market exists, and it's a totally valid way to build software. But I would not feel fulfilled there, even though maybe the clients are absolutely happy with the work that's being done. So I think that would be a situation where there is success, but I might not feel personally fulfilled. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I'm glad you brought that up because I think I really struggled in the beginning of my consulting career with equating client happiness with success. And I'm now just starting to kind of unlearn that a little bit and realizing that success means different things to different people. So even if we talk about thoughtbot for just a second, one of thoughtbot's values as a company is seeking fulfillment in everything that we do. And so even though, like you said, the client might be totally happy, for thoughtbot, that may not be a successful client engagement if you, Joël, as the developer staffed on that project, didn't find fulfillment. Because what's success for us here is that we are fulfilled in the project itself. And that was really helpful because, in some ways, I'm like, well, who cares? Who else cares besides me that I'm fulfilled? And to be like, oh, yeah, actually, what our collective success means is that I'm fulfilled, and you're fulfilled. That was really important to me and one thing that I really appreciate about working here. JOËL: Fulfillment comes partly from our environment, from maybe the project that we're working on, our colleagues, but also comes to a certain extent from ourselves. And to a certain extent, we can drive that ourselves as well. And I think that first step is a certain amount of self-awareness and self-understanding. You are clearly a master at this. What are some things that you do to drive that self-understanding, to build maybe a sense of how you become fulfilled, and identifying those values that make you feel fulfilled on a project? STEPHANIE: Listen, [laughs] I don't know if I would call myself a master at this, only that I'm very actively working on it in my life right now, in therapy, but also in talking to other people about this because, yeah, sometimes it has caused me a lot of turmoil. I'll be really stuck in a rut or feeling a lot of burnout, and that, ironically, actually motivates me to be like, how can this be different? And oftentimes, that means I have to look inward. But you and I had a conversation last week off-mic that was really helpful for me because I was feeling really bummed about my client work and it not going the way that I thought it would. And your insight helped me think about the project a little differently and think about metrics of success differently. For that project, I could not expect that project to look exactly like all of my past experiences. And success for those projects were not the same for this project. So yeah, talking to others, I highly recommend that. JOËL: I guess you mentioned that you read a lot of management books and a lot of books geared towards managers for discussing things like how to set up a one-on-one. Those are almost like...they're not really therapy, but they kind of lean a little bit towards that sometimes and trying to create fulfillment for your direct reports. So maybe seeing it from the other side helps you build understanding. STEPHANIE: Yeah, actually, that's totally a great call out because I highly recommend reading books about [laughs] management, even if you're not interested in management. Only because there's no guarantee that you'll have a good manager who can do all those things for you, so if you can equip yourself for doing those things, then you are likely to have a better workplace experience, in my opinion. JOËL: And I guess the obvious one that we have not talked about is if you do have a good manager, have these conversations with them. STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. JOËL: Part of their job is to help you be more fulfilled. And they should be having conversations to maybe help you discover those ways that you are feeling fulfilled at work and how to get there. Here's one aspect that we have not talked about that I'm curious to explore a little bit: recognition. STEPHANIE: Ooh. Yeah, that's a good one. JOËL: How important is it for you to feel recognized, either by your colleagues or by the more official org structure? STEPHANIE: This is a great question. I do value recognition from people I trust. So I think we were talking about sometimes client projects are not successful, but you tried your best, and you did do valuable work. And you might not hear that from the client. They might think differently. But if a trusted co-worker can provide that validation for you, oftentimes, I find that more helpful. JOËL: That's an interesting distinction. And I think recognition has a very different weight depending on the source it's coming from. If it's somebody you look up to, and they just give you a shout-out or something, I'm riding that high all day long. STEPHANIE: Yeah, yeah, that's a great point. How do you like to receive recognition? JOËL: Hmm. So at thoughtbot, we have an internal system where we can give shout-outs to each other. They're called high fives. And they get shared directly to the team Slack channel. And it's a small thing, but I really appreciate it when somebody calls out like, "Hey, I appreciated this thing that you did," or "This is the thing that had an impact on me," or "I appreciated the thing that you shared." Those things make me feel really great. It's a small thing. It takes 30 seconds to do. But I really appreciate that. And it's something that I am looking to more intentionally do more of because it's fun to receive recognition, but it's also really valuable to give recognition. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I'm with you. I am also trying to be intentional about being even more generous with my positive feedback for others. And I think there's also some degree of recognition and validation to give to yourself. JOËL: Self-validation. STEPHANIE: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I'm definitely trying to do more of that. Because if I'm doing work that lines up with my values, I want to be able to pat myself on the back for it, even if no one else will do it for me. [laughs] JOËL: What does that look like? You're like standing in the mirror and saying, "Good job?" STEPHANIE: [laughs] JOËL: Do you have maybe a document where you kind of list the things that you feel proud of, even if nobody else has noticed? What does that look like for you? STEPHANIE: Ooh, yeah, a brag document. I think some folks at thoughtbot have recommended doing that. For me, it's going and getting myself a treat. JOËL: Oh, I like that. STEPHANIE: So maybe like a latte the next morning or going to get just a sweet thing. Yeah, that's my way of doing it. JOËL: So we've talked about self-recognition, recognition from colleagues. I think another element is recognition from management or the company that you're working at. That can be just praise. But oftentimes, I think when you're looking at recognition from something a little more corporate, it has a more kind of concrete aspect to it. And maybe that is come yearly evaluation time; there's a raise that recognizes the fact that you've done good work. I know for me, last year, I got a big promotion. And I felt like I had been performing at a level that was kind of pretty far above and beyond the title that I had. And getting that promotion, in some ways, was very much kind of validation and recognition of the fact that I had been performing at that high level. STEPHANIE: Yeah, it sounds like the acknowledgment for the expanded work that you've been doing was really motivating for you. JOËL: Yeah. It's interesting you mentioned that acknowledgment is really motivating because it really is, and sometimes the reverse is also true. You feel discouraged or unmotivated because the good work that you're doing is not recognized. Are you familiar with the idea of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation? STEPHANIE: Yeah, I am. Being motivated by something externally, like someone offering a promotion, or a raise, or whatever, versus it coming from yourself. JOËL: Yeah. And I think for many people, you're probably not purely motivated by one or the other. There are some things where you're motivated by your own internal values, as we mentioned earlier, and some things where you're motivated by incentives offered at work. And that balance will probably shift over time and in different moments. But having a little bit of both can be really, really powerful. If you can be living up to your values and then get rewarded for it, that's kind of peak fulfillment right there. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's the sweet spot. Yeah, I wish that for everyone in the world. [laughs] On that note, shall we wrap up? JOËL: Let's wrap up. [laughs] STEPHANIE: Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm. JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore. STEPHANIE: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show. JOËL: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us @_bikeshed, or you can reach me @joelquen on Twitter. STEPHANIE: Or reach both of us at email@example.com via email. JOËL: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week. ALL: Byeeeeeee!!!!!!! ANNOUNCER: This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot, your expert strategy, design, development, and product management partner. We bring digital products from idea to success and teach you how because we care. Learn more at thoughtbot.com.
thoughtbot had an in-person Summit in the UK! Joël recalls highlights. Stephanie is loving daily sync meetings on a new project. The idea of deleting code has been swimming around in Stephanie's brain recently because she's been feeling nervous about it. Together, Joël and Stephanie explore ways of gaining confidence to delete code while feeling good about it. This episode is brought to you by Airbrake (https://airbrake.io/?utm_campaign=Q3_2022%3A%20Bike%20Shed%20Podcast%20Ad&utm_source=Bike%20Shed&utm_medium=website). Visit Frictionless error monitoring and performance insight for your app stack. Thoughtbot summit video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6d7gUq5J-ck) Gather Town (https://www.gather.town/) Sustainable Rails episode (https://www.bikeshed.fm/368) Chelsea Troy on deleting features (https://chelseatroy.com/2021/01/21/reducing-technical-debt/) Unused (https://unused.codes/) elm-review-unused (https://package.elm-lang.org/packages/jfmengels/elm-review-unused/latest/) Transcript: STEPHANIE: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Stephanie Minn. JOËL: And I'm Joël Quenneville. And today, we're here to share a bit of what we've learned along the way. STEPHANIE: So, Joël, what's new in your world? JOËL: I just got back from a few days in the UK, where thoughtbot has been having an in-person Summit, where we've brought people from all over the company together to spend a few days just spending time with each other, getting to know each other, getting to connect in person. STEPHANIE: That sounds like it was a lot of fun. I've been hearing really great things about it from folks who've come back. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it this year. I got sick a little bit beforehand and then ended up not being able to go. But it sounds like it was a lot of fun just to get together, especially since we're now a remote company. JOËL: Yeah, I'm really sorry you weren't able to make it there. It would have been amazing to do a Bike Shed co-hosts get-together. STEPHANIE: I know. In the same room, maybe even record. What a concept. [laughs] JOËL: So thoughtbot is a fully remote company, and so that means that getting a chance to have people to come together and build those in-person connections that you don't get, I think, is incredibly valuable. I was really excited to meet both the people that I work with and that I see on my screen every day and people who I don't talk to as often because they're working on different teams or different departments even. STEPHANIE: What was one highlight of the time you spent together? JOËL: I'll give a couple of highlights, one I think is more on the activity side. We went bouldering as a group. This was a really popular activity. We were trying to sign up people for it, and it was so popular we had to make two groups because there were too many people who were interested. And it was really fun. There are people with a whole variety of skill levels. Some people, it was their first time, some people had been doing it for a while. And just getting together and solving problems was a lot of fun. STEPHANIE: Yes, I saw that. That was one of the things I was really looking forward to doing when I was still thinking that I was going to go. And it's cool that it had opportunities for both beginners and people who have been doing it before, which I think, if I recall correctly, Joël, you are a boulderer yourself back home. So that's pretty neat that you were able to, yeah, I don't know, maybe share some of that experience IRL too. JOËL: Yeah, yeah, I think it's great because people were able to help each other. Sometimes you have a different perspective down on the ground than you do up on the wall. And then, in my case, because I've done it a lot, I know a little bit of actual climbing technique. And so I can give some tips on, like, oh, if you're stuck and you don't know how to get past a particular point, or you don't know how to start a particular climb, or your arms are getting tired halfway up, here's maybe a small change you can make that would make things easier for you. STEPHANIE: Honestly, that also sounds like a really good metaphor for pair programming, [laughs] like, looking at things from different perspectives, you know, someone who's on the wall? I don't know what the lingo is. But it's the equivalent of someone driving in coding, the navigator having a little more perspective and being able to point out things that they might not see that's right in front of them. JOËL: I love that metaphor. Now I'm going to think of that both when I pair and the next time I climb. STEPHANIE: I love it. JOËL: I think climbing, when I do it, it's always more fun with a friend, specifically for what you were saying. I climb alone sometimes, but as much as possible, I'll reach out to another friend who climbs and say, "Hey, let's climb together." And then we can alternate on the same route even. STEPHANIE: That's cool. I didn't realize that it could be such a social activity. JOËL: It is very much a social activity, and I think that's part of the fun of it. It's challenging physically but also mentally because it's a puzzle that you solve. But then also, it's a thing that you do with friends. I think another aspect that was a highlight for me was getting a chance to connect with people from other teams, other departments within thoughtbot. I think one thing that was really nice when we were located in an office is that over lunch, or just at the water cooler, or whatever, you would connect with people who were in other teams and who were in different departments. So I might talk to people in People Ops, or in marketing, in operations just sort of in the natural course of the day in a way that I think I don't do quite as much of now that we're more remote. And I tend to talk more with other developers and designers on my team. So I think that was really great to connect with people from other teams and other departments within the company. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I know what you mean. I think I really miss the spontaneous, organic social interaction that you get from working in an office. And I think we've maybe talked about remote work on the podcast before, or previous co-hosts Steph and Chris have also talked about remote work. But it definitely requires a lot more intention to manifest those connections that otherwise would have been a little more organic in person. And so, while you all were at an in-person summit in the UK, there was also a virtual summit hosted for folks who weren't able to travel this time around, and I really appreciated that. I got to spend a day just connecting with other people in Gather Town, which is a web app that's like a virtual space where you have little avatars, and you can run around and meet up with people into virtual meeting rooms on this map. [laughs] I'm not really sure I'm describing it well, but it's very cute. It is almost like a little video game. It's like a cross between a video game and video conferencing [chuckles] software. But yeah, I think I just really appreciated how inclusive thoughtbot has been doing remote work where, like, yes, we really value these in-person gatherings, and we understand that there is a bit of magic that comes from that, but also making sure that no one's left out. And at the end of the day, not everyone can make it, but we were still able to hang out and socialize amongst ourselves in a different way. JOËL: Agreed. I think that inclusivity is part of what makes thoughtbot such a great place to work at. STEPHANIE: Speaking of inclusivity, I mentioned a few weeks ago that I joined a new project recently and had been going through the onboarding and hopping into all these new meetings. One thing that I've really enjoyed about this new client team that I'm on is that in their daily sync meetings, we all share what we're working on. But we also all share something that's new to us, which is a little bit meta because we do that on this podcast. [laughs] But each person just shares maybe something they learned at work but also usually something just totally not work related like a new show that they're watching. There's another person on my team who learns a lot of things from YouTube videos. And so he's always telling us about the new thing he learned about, I don't know, like mushrooms or whatever, or AI [laughs] through YouTube. And yeah, someone else might show a sweater that they just knit themselves. And it's been a very easy way to get to know people, especially when you're meeting a whole new team. And yeah, I've been enjoying it a lot. It's made me feel very welcome and like I know them as people outside of work. JOËL: I love that. Yeah, they're more than just people you're shipping code with. You're able to build that connection. And it sounds like that helps smooth the...maybe we can say the social aspect of onboarding. Because when you onboard onto a project, you're not just onboarding onto a series of codebases and tools; you're also onboarding onto a team, and you need to get to know people and build relationships. STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. MID-ROLL AD: Debugging errors can be a developer's worst nightmare...but it doesn't have to be. Airbrake is an award-winning error monitoring, performance, and deployment tracking tool created by developers for developers that can actually help cut your debugging time in half. So why do developers love Airbrake? It has all of the information that web developers need to monitor their application - including error management, performance insights, and deploy tracking! Airbrake's debugging tool catches all of your project errors, intelligently groups them, and points you to the issue in the code so you can quickly fix the bug before customers are impacted. In addition to stellar error monitoring, Airbrake's lightweight APM helps developers to track the performance and availability of their application through metrics like HTTP requests, response times, error occurrences, and user satisfaction. Finally, Airbrake Deploy Tracking helps developers track trends, fix bad deploys, and improve code quality. Since 2008, Airbrake has been a staple in the Ruby community and has grown to cover all major programming languages. Airbrake seamlessly integrates with your favorite apps to include modern features like single sign-on and SDK-based installation. From testing to production, Airbrake notifiers have your back. Your time is valuable, so why waste it combing through logs, waiting for user reports, or retrofitting other tools to monitor your application? You literally have nothing to lose. Head on over to airbrake.io/try/bikeshed to create your FREE developer account today! JOËL: So you've been...is it two weeks in a new codebase? Have you gone and deleted any code yet? STEPHANIE: I wish. I am glad you asked this question because this has been a topic that has been swimming around in my head a little bit lately because this new client codebase it's very big and it's quite old. Like, I've been seeing code from 10 years ago. And it's been a really challenging codebase to get onboarded into, actually, because there's so much stuff. In fact, I recently learned that some of their model specs are so big that they have been split out into up to seven different files to cover specs for one model. [laughs] So that has been a lot to grapple with. And I think in my journeys working on a starter ticket, I've just stumbled upon stuff that is very confusing. And then I might follow that thread only to realize that, like, oh, this method that I spent 20 minutes trying to grok turns out it's not actually used anywhere. JOËL: That's a lot of dead code. STEPHANIE: It is a lot of dead code, but I am also not quite feeling confident enough to delete it because I'm new, because I have no idea what consequences that might have. So, yeah, the idea of deleting code has just kind of been swimming around in here because ideally, we would be able to, but, for some reason, I don't know, at least for me, I feel very nervous about it. So it hasn't been something that I've reached for. JOËL: That's a great question because I think in maybe Ruby, in particular, it's not always obvious if code is being used or not. When you do find yourself deleting code, how do you gain the confidence that it was safe to delete that? STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's a good question. In the past, when I've done it successfully, I'll probably post a Slack message or something and being like, hey, I noticed this code is not being used anywhere, or I'd like to delete it because why, like, I don't know, because it's been misleading me because it's just not providing any value. And then kind of give it like a day or two, and if no one speaks up about it, then I will usually go ahead. And obviously, get some code review, hopefully, get some other eyes on it just to make sure that whatever assumptions I made were valid, and then go for it. And then just watch [laughs] the deployment afterwards and make sure that there are no new errors, you know, no new complaints or anything like that. And, yeah, I think that has been my process, and I've definitely found success doing that. But I have also experienced a bad result [laughs] from doing that where one time, on my last client project, we were refactoring the signup flow. And we realized that after you signed up, you were redirected to this blank page for like 10 seconds or something. It was completely empty. There was nothing on it except a spinner, I think. [laughs] And then it would then redirect you to the dashboard of the app. And we were like, oh, we can definitely delete this. We have no idea what this is doing. We don't want to try to refactor this as part of the effort that we were doing. And so we deleted it, only to find out later from the marketing team that they had been using that page for something Google Analytics related, and we had to revert that change. And it was a real bummer because I think when we removed it, we felt good about that. We were like, oh yes, deleting code, awesome. And then having to bring it back without a clear plan of how to actually fix the problem that we were trying to solve was a bit of a bummer. JOËL: So, as programmers, we're hired to write code. Why does it feel so good to do the opposite of that, to delete code? STEPHANIE: That's a great question. I actually want to know what you think about this, but before that, I wanted to plug this Slack channel that we have at thoughtbot called Dead Code Society, where people can post their PR diffs showing more red than green, so more lines removed than lines added. And I have been really enjoying that Slack channel. It's very delightful. [laughs] But, Joël, do you have any thoughts about why it feels so good to delete code? JOËL: There are probably a few different reasons. Especially when it's not your own code, you're often not attached to it. There's often, I think, the sense when you go into an existing codebase you're just like, oh, everything's just bad, and I don't understand it. And those other coders who wrote this didn't know how to do their job and kind of be the curmudgeon character. So it just kind of feels good to remove that and maybe rewrite it yourself. I would say that's not a good mindset to go in for deleting code. I think there are positive ways where it is actually a good thing. STEPHANIE: That's fair. Just removing code because you would write it differently is not necessarily a net positive. [laughs] JOËL: But I think...so when I initially asked the question, I said, "We're hired to write code." And I think that's a bit of a false assumption built into the question. We're not hired to write code. We're hired to solve problems, to build solutions. And as much as code can be an asset in solving problems, it's also a liability. And code has varying maintenance costs that are typically not low. They vary from expensive to very expensive. And so any chance we get to remove some of that, we're removing some of the carrying costs, to use a term that we discussed a few episodes back when we talked about sustainable Rails. STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. One thing that I remember you sharing about the client project that we're both on in the past is they have a very cumbersome test suite. And in some situations, you have wanted to advocate for deleting some of those tests. JOËL: Deleting tests is a really, I think, spicy take because you're trying to get better test coverage. And if your test coverage isn't great, you don't want to lose any of that. So there's definitely a loss aversion there, and we might need it later. At the same time, tests have a cost, cost to run, cost to maintain. And if they're not providing a lot of value, then the cost of keeping them around might be higher than any kind of benefit they're giving you. And I think a classic case of this is tests that have either been marked pending in the codebase with an exit or something like that or that have been marked in your CI server as muted; just ignore failures from this test. Because now you're still having to maintain, still having to execute these tests. They're costing you time, but they're giving you zero benefit. And they're just taking up space in your codebase, making it harder to read. So if you can't get these tests back into the point where they're actually executing, and you're caring about the output, then you probably don't need those tests, and they can be removed. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's fair. I'm thinking about the perspective of someone who does not want to delete those tests. I think in the past, I've seen it and even felt it myself as someone who probably wrote the tests, kind of hoping for some ideal world where I will finally have time to go back to that test. And I already put a lot of effort into trying to make it work, and I want to make it work. I want to have the value of that test. And it's kind of like a sunk cost fallacy a little bit where it's like, I already spent however much time on it that it must have some kind of value. Because just hearing that someone else wants to delete the test can kind of hurt a little bit. [laughs] And it's tough. I do think that it's easier for someone with an outside perspective to be like, "Hey, this test is costing more than the value that it's providing." But yeah, I can see why people might have a little bit of pushback JOËL: Sometimes, the value of a test is also in the journey rather than the destination. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's a good point. JOËL: So if you're practicing TDD, maybe you use some tests to help you drive out some functionality, help you come up with a design that you want to do. But maybe once you've actually created the design, the test that helped you get there is not actually that useful. I've heard some people will do this by writing a lot of more system tests-like tests that are very integration-heavy, that have a lot of edge cases that you might not care to test at that level, at that granularity. And so they use those to help drive a little bit of the implementation and then remove them because they're not providing that much value relative to their cost anymore. STEPHANIE: I think that's a really good point. The tests that you write for implementation can have value to you as a developer, but that's different from those tests having value to the business when you commit them to a codebase and incorporate them as part of CI and a CI that everyone else has to run as well. So yeah, I think in that case, the context definitely matters. And hopefully, you can feel good about the value that it provided but then also have that eye towards, okay, what about the business, and what values does the business have? JOËL: Yeah, and accept that the test did the job that it was supposed to do. It got you to where you needed to be, and it completed its purpose. And now it's ready to move on. STEPHANIE: Another thing that I recently read about deleting code...and this was from Chelsea Troy. She advocates for regularly evaluating features in an app and deciding whether they're providing enough value to justify keeping around and maintaining for developers as well. And I thought that was really interesting because I don't know if that's something that I'd really considered before that sometimes an app might outgrow some features, or they might not be worth keeping around because of the problems or the maintenance costs that they carry into the future. JOËL: That's fascinating because I think you're taking the same analysis we were talking about tests and then kind of like bringing it up now to the product level. Because now, we're not just talking about deleting code; we're talking about deleting functionality that a product might have. STEPHANIE: I think the challenge there is that the effects of the carrying cost of a feature is not necessarily felt by the business stakeholders, or product folks, or people operating at a higher level, but it is felt by developers. If there's a bug that's come up from this old feature, and oh, I have never seen this feature before, and now I have to spend a day learning about what this thing is before I can fix the bug. It did feel like a radical idea that maybe developers can play a part in advocating for some features to be retired, that is, you know, maybe separate from how products thinks about those things. JOËL: I think in order to be able to make those decisions or really just to be part of those conversations, the dev side needs to be really integrated with the product team and with larger business objectives. And so then you can say, look, if we take a week of one developer's time to provide the support this feature needs and we have one customer paying $20 a month for it, that's not a good business prospect. Now, is this strategically an area that we're trying to grow? And so yeah, we're doing it for one customer, but we're hoping to get 100 by the end of the year, and then it will be worth it. Then yes, maybe we keep that feature around. If this is the thing, like, we experimented for a few weeks five years ago, and then it's just kind of hang around as a legacy thing that this one person knows about and uses, then maybe it's worth saying, look, this has a high business cost. It might be worth sunsetting that feature. But it's a conversation that everybody needs to be involved in. STEPHANIE: Yeah, yeah. I like the idea of it being something more proactive versus, I don't know, something that I think I've seen at other orgs and just in general as a person who uses digital products, like, a feature or a product, just kind of dying. And probably the organization just wasn't able to find a team to continue to support it, and it just kind of kept being this burden. And then, eventually, it just was something that they had to let go. But then, at that point, you had already spent all of that time, and effort, and energy into figuring out what to do with this thing. Whereas the approach that Chelsea is advocating for is more realistic, I think, about the fate of [laughs] software products and features. And as a developer, I would get that feeling of deleting [laughs] code that is so satisfying. And I'm just not burdened by having to deal with something that is not providing value, like cumbersome tests. [laughs] JOËL: I think it's always the fundamental thing that you have to go back to when you're talking about deleting code, or features, or anything is that sort of cost-benefit analysis. Does this thing provide us any value? And if so, does that value outweigh the cost of the work we need to do to maintain it? And in the case of dead code, well, it's probably providing zero value, but it's imposing a cost, and so we want to remove it. In the case of a test that is not muted or pending, then maybe it does provide some value. But if it's really brittle and constantly breaking, and it's costing us many hours of fixing time, then maybe it's not. If we can't find a way to fix it and make it more valuable because sometimes it's the other option, then it might be worth considering deleting it. Have you ever, on a codebase, taken some time to actually seek out code that could be deleted as opposed to just sort of stumbling onto it yourself? STEPHANIE: That's a good question. I think I have not just explored a codebase just looking for stuff to delete, but I have...maybe if you had something under a feature flag and you no longer needed the flag because it was released to everyone, you know, going back to delete it because you specifically made a ticket to make sure that you went back and cleaned that up. I do really appreciate the tracking of that work in that way and just making sure you're like, hey, I want to avoid a situation where this becomes dead code. And even just making a card for it is putting that intention out there. And hopefully, someone, if not yourself, we'll take that on because it's important. JOËL: Yeah, kind of proactively trying to make sure that the work that you've done doesn't become dead code, that it gets pruned at the appropriate moment. STEPHANIE: What about you? I'm curious from your perspective as an individual contributor when you are just moving through a codebase, and you see something suspiciously [laughs] looking like dead code what you do with it. JOËL: I often like to split out a small PR just to remove that if it's not too much work and it's semi-related to what I'm doing. I'd like to give a shout-out to two tools that can help detect or confirm that something is dead code. One is Unused, written by former thoughtboter Josh Clayton. It uses, I think, Ctags under the hood to track all the tokens in an app and then tries to determine are there tokens that are orphaned, that are isolated, and are not used? And it can then build you a report. And that can be good if you're doing a code audit of a codebase or if you're looking to confirm that a piece of code that you're working on might not be, like, is it actually used or not? Another one is elm-review-unused, which is a plugin for elm-review which is Elm's linter, kind of like RuboCop. And what's really nice there is because it reads the AST, and Elm functions don't have side effects. You know that if something is not reachable from the main function that, it is completely safe to remove. You've run the script, and it will delete a bunch of functions for you that are unused, and it's 100% safe. And it is very thorough. It finds all of the dead code and just removes it. It's practically just a...it's not a button because it's a script that you run but that you can automate to run on commit or whatever on the CI. But yeah, that's an amazing experience to just have it auto clean-up for you all the time. STEPHANIE: That's really cool. I like that a lot. I think that would be really nice to incorporate into your development workflow, like you said, that it's part of the linting system and just keeping things tidy. JOËL: Yeah, I think it's a little bit harder to have something that's quite as thorough for a Ruby or Rails app just because it's so dynamic, and we've got all this metaprogramming. But yeah, maybe this would be a thing where you would want to run something like Unused or some other linting tool every now and then to just check; hey, do we have any dead code that can be removed? STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. And I think this is totally a little bit different because we're just talking about tools, but I'm also thinking of red flags on a team level where I have definitely asked in a Slack channel, "Hey, I've never seen this feature before. What does it do?" and just crickets. [laughs] And even the product folks that I'm working with, they're like, "I don't know. It predates me," that being a bit of a smell, [laughs] if you will, to reevaluate some of those things. And those flags can exist on many different levels. JOËL: That's always terrifying because you're like 80% sure that this is dead code, but there's like a 20% chance that this powers the core of the app, but nobody's touched it in 10 years. STEPHANIE: Yeah, it is very scary. [laughs] JOËL: Hopefully, your test suite is good enough that if you comment out that function and then you run your test suite, that it just all goes red, and you know that that's actually needed for something. STEPHANIE: Yeah, though I think sometimes you might remove a piece of dead code, and there are some issues afterwards, and you find out, and you just revert it, and it's fine. At the end of the day, there are a lot of safeguards in place, and we've all done it. And so I think normalizing it is also very important in that it's okay if sometimes you make a mistake there. JOËL: Stephanie is giving you permission to go and delete that code today. Ship it to production, and if something breaks, it's okay. STEPHANIE: [laughs] JOËL: You can revert it. Hopefully, your company is set up where reverting commits from production is a cheap and easy thing to do, and life goes on. So I'm curious, Stephanie, have you ever gone into GitHub and checked your stats on a project to see if you're more red than green or what that ratio is for you on a given project? STEPHANIE: I have. Actually, someone else did on my behalf because I was posting a lot in that Dead Code Society Slack channel. And they then shared a screenshot of my overall contributions to a repo, and it was more red than green. I felt pretty good about myself. [laughs] JOËL: All right. Net negative but in a positive kind of way. STEPHANIE: In a positive way. [laughter] JOËL: On that note, shall we wrap up? STEPHANIE: Let's wrap up. [laughs] Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm. JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore. STEPHANIE: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show. JOËL: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us @_bikeshed, or you can reach me @joelquen on Twitter. STEPHANIE: Or reach both of us at firstname.lastname@example.org via email. JOËL: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week. ALL: Byeeeeeeee!!!!!!! ANNOUNCER: This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot, your expert strategy, design, development, and product management partner. We bring digital products from idea to success and teach you how because we care. Learn more at thoughtbot.com.
Damashe: [0:04] How's it going everybody? This is Demasi Thomas. Based off of a recent conversation on, as of the time of recording at least, a recent episode of the Unmute show that me andMichael Babcock recorded, go check that out at Unmute.show, including to get the episode to hear more about the situation that this tip here is going to help mitigate. Now before I get into showing this screen time tip here, I do want to mention that since recording that original episode of Unmute with Michael, it has come out that there is a potentialworkaround to putting this in place. However, I'm gonna continue and record this tip anyway for a couple of reasons. Number one, I said I was gonna do it. And Mike's depending on me to record it so that he has some content, all right? Number two, I do expect that Apple will probably close off that workaround if that is being put in place by someone intentionally. So we're going to get into it here. I'm going to unlockmy iPhone. Voiceover: [1:07] 220 APM. Settings. Search. Damashe: [1:10] Search field. I'm already in Settings. So I'm going to go to Screen Time. Voiceover: [1:13] General. Button. Screen Time. Button. Settings. Damashe: [1:17] And also feel free to make use of this tip for managing any other screen time stuff and putting it behind the passcode. I have some experience with this simply by managing my kids' iPads and restricting some of their activities and setting down time. Now what we're gonna do, I'm gonna quickly navigatethrough here. Voiceover: [1:37] Words, headings, family, heading. Damashe: [1:38] There's the family section and I'm gonna scroll past that and I want to find. Voiceover: [1:45] Use screen time passcode. Damashe: [1:47] Use screen time passcode. Now this is for my device because I didn't tap into one of my family members devices. I'm gonna double tap on use screen time passcode. Voiceover: [1:56] Passcode, zero of four values entered. Damashe: [1:57] And I'm gonna enter my passcode. Yes, yes, I know you're hearing my passcode. Trust me, it will be changed. Voiceover: [2:02] Five, two. So we're going to enter. enter. Passcode zero four values entered. Damashe: [2:10] I'm going to re-enter that passcode again. This is just a four digit pin. Voiceover: [2:14] One, one, five, two, one, eight. Text field is editing. Screen time passcode recovery. Heading. If you forget the screen time passcode, you can use your Apple ID to reset it. Apple ID. Text field is editing. Email. Character mode. Forgot Apple ID or password. Damashe: [2:29] Button. Now I'm going to choose to skip this particular option. Because the idea here is that I want to make sure that no one will be able to recover this passcode from me. Let's see if they offer me an option. Voiceover: [2:48] Don't let me skip, let's tap OK. Damashe: [2:51] Okay, so hitting OK didn't work, let's hit cancel. Alright, yes I'm sure. Voiceover: [2:58] Apple ID gives you a secure way to reset the screen time passcode if you forget it. Skip. Button. And I want to skip. Passcode. Four values entered. Damashe: [3:04] So hitting cancel there is what allowed me to not put in that recovery step. Now, this is where the temporary workaround that I think Apple will patch will come up. People have said, and it's been reported I have not yet tried this, but however, people are saying that even if you take the step that I just did that says I don't want to use recovery, skip thatstep, it still gives you the option. So be mindful of that, but I do feel that that is probably an unintended behavior that Apple will fix. So now I have my Screen Time Passcode set. I'm going to go to the settings. And we want to go to Content and Privacy Restrictions. I'm going to double tap there. ... Read more
Joël is joined by a very special guest, Sara Jackson, a fellow Software Developer at thoughtbot. A few episodes ago, Stephanie and Joël talked about "The Fundamentals" (https://www.bikeshed.fm/371) and how many of the fundamentals of web development line up with a Computer Science degree. Joël made a comment during that episode that his pick for the most underrated CS class that he thinks would benefit most devs is a class called "Discrete Math." Sara weighs in! This episode is brought to you by Airbrake (https://airbrake.io/?utm_campaign=Q3_2022%3A%20Bike%20Shed%20Podcast%20Ad&utm_source=Bike%20Shed&utm_medium=website). Visit Frictionless error monitoring and performance insight for your app stack. Earlier Bike Shed Episode with Sara (https://www.bikeshed.fm/354) The Linux man-pages project (https://www.kernel.org/doc/man-pages/) Gravity Falls (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1865718/) Elm types as sets (https://guide.elm-lang.org/appendix/types_as_sets.html) Folgers ad (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7LXSQ85jpw) Brilliant.org's discrete math course (https://brilliant.org/wiki/discrete-mathematics/) mayuko (https://www.youtube.com/@hellomayuko) Transcript: AD: thoughtbot is thrilled to announce our own incubator launching this year. If you are a non-technical founding team with a business idea that involves a web or mobile app, we encourage you to apply for our eight-week program. We'll help you move forward with confidence in your team, your product vision, and a roadmap for getting you there. Learn more and apply at tbot.io/incubator. JOËL: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Joël Quenneville. And today, I'm joined by a special guest, Sara Jackson, who is a fellow developer here at thoughtbot. SARA: Hello. JOËL: And together, we're here to share a little bit of what we've learned along the way. So, Sara, what's new in your world? SARA: Actually, I recently picked up crocheting. JOËL: That's exciting. What is the first project that you've started working on? SARA: I don't know if you happen to be a fan of animation or cartoons, but I love "Gravity Falls." And there's a character, Mabel, who wears many sweaters. I'm working on a sweater. JOËL: Inspired by this character. SARA: Yes. It is a Herculean endeavor for my first crochet project, but we're in it now. JOËL: That does sound like jumping into it and picking a pretty hard project. Is that the way you typically approach new hobbies or new things, you just kind of jump in and pick up something challenging? SARA: Yeah. I definitely think that's a good description of how I approach hobbies. How about you? JOËL: I think I like to ease into things. I'm the kind of person who, if I pick up a video game, I will play the tutorial. SARA: It's so funny you say that because I'm definitely the type of person who also reads manuals. [chuckles] JOËL: [laughs] I'm sure you've probably, at this point, read many sections of the Unix manual. Longtime listeners might recognize you from a previous episode we did on the history of operating systems. SARA: Yes, I am an avid reader of the man pages. In fact, I wish every command-line tool had man pages or at least more detailed man pages. Reading man pages, reading technical documentation, really, I feel like goes right in line with things like needlework, knitting, crocheting. You're following a very technical pattern description of what you should be doing, how many stitches. It's almost algorithmic. JOËL: Do you feel like the fact that you've read a lot of man pages and now that you're getting into reading crochet patterns, do you feel like that's helped you maybe become a better technical writer when you write documentation? SARA: Definitely. Yes. [laughs] There's a common meme going around on the internet of how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: open jar, put knife in jar. And you see somebody putting the knife in handle first because it wasn't specific enough. When you're looking at a crochet pattern, it needs to be written very explicitly, and in the same way, technical documentation needs to be like that too. It needs to be accessible for every audience, well, most audiences. JOËL: That's a big challenge because you want to give enough detail that, like you said, you don't accidentally use the wrong end of the knife to spread your peanut butter. But at the same time, if you give all the little details, you lose the forest for the trees. And people who know how to use a knife are going to struggle to use your documentation. SARA: That is true. That's why I think it is very valuable to do something that you recommend very often, especially when writing blog posts or call for papers is, defining the audience. Who's this for? JOËL: Yeah, knowing your audience is so important when it comes to any kind of media, even if it's a talk or an article, or I guess, a crochet pattern. SARA: Precisely. JOËL: Does the crochet world have sort of the concept of patterns aimed at beginners versus patterns aimed at a more advanced audience? SARA: I would definitely say that is the case. There are more advanced stitches and techniques that you would generally not see in a more beginner pattern. And in more advanced patterns, at least speaking from a knitting perspective...I'm pretty new to crocheting, but I've been knitting for a while. In knitting patterns, simpler techniques might not be described in such detail in a more advanced pattern. JOËL: So a couple of weeks ago, Stephanie and I were discussing the fundamentals, how much of the fundamentals of web development line up with a computer science degree. I had made this comment on that episode that my pick for most underrated CS class that I think would benefit most developers is a class called discrete math. SARA: I remember this class. It was a love-hate relationship. I am a big fan. JOËL: Would you describe yourself as a math person? SARA: I don't think so. No. JOËL: Because I know I hated math for the longest time. And I don't really find that math, in general, has been that helpful for software. There's kind of the stereotype that I'll sometimes hear from people when they find out that I write code for a living. They'll say things like, "Oh, you must be so good at math." And it's like, no, calculus was really hard for me, and I struggled and did not like it. SARA: I feel like that's a big reason why folks go into programming; the computer can do the math for you. JOËL: Right? It is a computer. It is a math machine. SARA: I mean, how many folks in computer-related fields got their start on a TI-83, programming in that thing? JOËL: A lot of people. Someday it might be fun to do an episode on the sort of common origin stories that you hear from people in the software industry, a lot of people programming a calculator, a lot of people I hear coming from Neopets. SARA: Yeah, Neopets and MySpace, editing the profile pages with CSS, HTML. JOËL: But that's an episode for another time. I think, in my experience, discrete math was not like all the other math that I did. It felt so practical, like, this is math for programmers is how I felt it was even though that's not how it's sold in university. What was your experience? SARA: My concept was very much like, this is logic. This is very hard. By hard, I mean firm way of looking at the world and defining the logic behind things when you think about proofs and set theory. JOËL: So we've been throwing around the term discrete math, and many of our listeners might not be familiar with what it is. If you had to describe discrete math to someone who is not familiar with it, what would you say? SARA: Math that's discrete. [laughter] Sorry, sorry. JOËL: What does discrete mean? SARA: When I think of discrete math, I think of logic, definitions, how data relates to each other, that sort of thing, as opposed to ones and zeros. JOËL: Yeah, discrete math; it felt like it was very much like a grab-bag class. It just involved so many different branches of math, and you kind of get a little bit of an intro of like ten different topics, all of which apply and are helpful when you're writing software. So I got a little intro to a couple of different forms of logic, propositional logic, and predicate logic. I got an intro to Boolean algebra. I got an intro to set theory, an intro to combinatorics, talked about recursive functions from a mathematical perspective, an intro to graph theory. Probably like a few more. There are like ten different things. You just got a little intro to them, spent a couple of weeks on each topic. But I felt like that was enough to give me a lot of value that I still reference on a daily basis in my work. SARA: Absolutely. One of the parts of discrete math that really stuck with me are computational models like Turing machines, pushdown automaton, finite-state machines. Learning about those, analyzing them really helped me break down algorithms and break down my code and look at, okay, for this specific input that I have for each of these variables, what are we doing? JOËL: So what does that look like in your daily work? You've got a complex card, and you see that it's a difficult feature to implement. And in your mind, you say, okay, let me try to describe this as a finite-state machine, and maybe you draw a diagram or something like that. SARA: Yeah, I will, actually. I'll draw a diagram, or I'll draw like a pseudocode out on paper. I'll think about all the different kinds of inputs that I would expect or not expect, which itself is not finite, but we try. And then what is the output that I would expect? What is the outcome that I would expect from, say, a user enters one, a user enters Sara, a user enters purple? What would the outcome be? Do I have those vectors captured in my code? And that also goes into TDD. JOËL: Do you feel like knowing about Turing machines or finite-state machines has made it easier for you to PDD? That's a connection I haven't heard before. SARA: Yeah, I think so because a Turing complete computational model is deterministic. That means that every possible path that could be got into from where you're at any path exists between the two. Sometimes it might mean rejection or an error, but the path has been defined. And thinking about that when it comes to tests, I feel like has been so helpful for me of like, I can't just think about the happy path. I can't just think about it's exactly what it needs to be. It's also what if it's not there? What if it doesn't exist? What if it's 0? What if it's empty? What if it's a different data structure? JOËL: That's really fascinating to me because I feel like I encountered some of these practical applications of it much later when I was learning about types and learning about Elm and sort of that community's approach to designing data structures. And one thing that they say a lot is that you should make impossible states impossible when you design a type, and the way that they tend to approach that is thinking of types as if they were sets. And so you think of a set of...the Boolean type is a set that has two elements because there are true and false. An enum might have, you know, if it's a three-element enum, that is, three elements. But then you start having things like records which are kind of like a hash in Ruby, which might have, let's say, two elements in them. And if it has a Boolean and an enum value, now those two multiply times each other. And so now you have two times three, six possible states. And maybe the problem you're trying to model only has five, and so you've sort of inadvertently added an extra state. They tend to talk about it a little bit more through the lens of sets and the lens of combinatorics, which are other elements of discrete math that give you mental models to deal with this. And so talking about all the different possibilities, that's combinatorics. Thinking of a type as a set and talking about its cardinality, that's set theory. So those were things that I would do when I was writing Elm programs on a daily basis, but I never made the connection back to finite-state machines. SARA: I feel like those marry so well together, those concepts. You can see combinatorics and set theory of objects and of where they can go. And that goes right into graph theory. JOËL: Oooh, I love me some graphs. SARA: [laughs] JOËL: Listeners of the show will know that I am a huge fan of dependency graphs and as a tool and as a model that can be applied to a lot of things, so thinking in terms of maybe the dependencies of your program like packages. But it can also be in terms of tasks to be done and so thinking in terms of a larger feature, breaking it down into smaller features, all of which depend on each other. And depending on how that dependency graph is structured, what order do you need to complete them in order to ship them independently? SARA: I love that. And it reminds me of graphs that represent state, like, finite-state machines sort of things where you can actually infer where you're going to end up based on where you are for certain types of graphs. And I feel like you can use that in programming. You can use that in proofs where you have the, okay, you've solved for the zero case. You've solved for the one case. Now let's solve for N+1 anytime in the future. This all feels very full circle in my mind. [chuckles] JOËL: I think that's very apt. And a really powerful thing that I've noticed is having different mental models to approach the same problem or different logical or analysis techniques to interact with the same problem. And so when you look at something through the lens of a finite-state machine, or through the lens of a graph, or through the lens of a set, or through the lens of combinatorics, you might be looking at the same problem. But by having different perspectives to look at it, you gain different insight and hopefully helps you come to a better solution. SARA: Absolutely. And I love that discrete math gives us those different tools to be better programmers. It's something that I enjoy. And I enjoyed the classes as much as they were extremely difficult. And I love the idea of being able to share those tools with other people that might not have learned about them. JOËL: You were talking about seeing things from different perspectives and how they kind of line up. There are some equivalences that I found were really fun between, let's say, sets and Boolean algebra, the operations that you can do. So things like ANDing two values is similar to doing an intersection on two sets, and ORing two values is similar to doing a union. Interestingly, we have preserved that in Ruby. Array has operators where you can combine arrays using set operations, and it has the single pipe, which we typically read as OR to union two arrays. I want to say it has a single AND that you can use. It's used to intersect two arrays. SARA: I actually used that sometime within the last year, I remember. JOËL: So, if you've ever wondered why those two particular operators to do set operations instead of a union method, now you know. SARA: I love set operations. I recently made an update to thoughtbot's internal tool hub, and I used set unions there. [laughs] MID-ROLL AD: Debugging errors can be a developer's worst nightmare...but it doesn't have to be. Airbrake is an award-winning error monitoring, performance, and deployment tracking tool created by developers for developers that can actually help cut your debugging time in half. So why do developers love Airbrake? It has all of the information that web developers need to monitor their application - including error management, performance insights, and deploy tracking! Airbrake's debugging tool catches all of your project errors, intelligently groups them, and points you to the issue in the code so you can quickly fix the bug before customers are impacted. 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JOËL: If you had to sell a colleague on the value of discrete math, what would be the example that you would use? SARA: What if I told you that you would never have to wonder what the results might be in a given situation of true and false? JOËL: That's deep. Do you want to know all the secrets of the universe? SARA: Let me introduce to you truth tables. JOËL: Oh, I love a good truth table. Yes, such a simple tool, but it pays so much. SARA: Absolutely, especially in a world where we have unless as an operator. JOËL: Unless gets me so much in Ruby, especially when there are compound expressions. So you say do something unless condition one or condition two, and then I have to think, wait, when does this happen? SARA: I have to read it to myself in English, not this and not that. [chuckles] JOËL: So that's interesting because when you translated that in English, you changed the operator that's being used. SARA: I totally did. JOËL: Unless a condition or other condition. And your brain was smart enough to flip that; mine is not. SARA: [laughs] JOËL: But what's happening here is, and you would learn this in a discrete math class, De Morgan's Laws that say what happens when you negate compound conditions. And you have to negate each of the individual conditions and also flip all the operators, so all the ANDs turn into ORs and the ORs turn into ANDs. And so I always have to remember to do that in my mind when I see an unless or when I see someone negating a compound condition. So now, in my mind, every time I'm reviewing code on a pull request, and I see negating a compound condition, it's just a sort of red flag for there's quite possibly a bug here. And maybe leave a comment asking the author, "Did you really mean to do this?" And like you said, maybe even write out a truth table just so that myself I know that the correct behavior is happening. SARA: It is a good example of a code smell because if it's hard for you to understand or me to understand, sure, it made sense when it was written, but code is read more than it's written. It should be easy to read and understand. So it's definitely easy to introduce a bug at that point like you were saying, worth commenting on. JOËL: You log on to your machine at the beginning of the day, open up a PR, and you're just like, oh yes, I love the smell of De Morgan in the morning. SARA: [laughs] Nothing like De Morgan in your cup in the morning. JOËL: [laughs] Yes. Oh, now I really want to -- SARA: A DeMorgan in the morgen. [laughter] JOËL: Now I really want to see a spoof of that Folgers ad. SARA: [laughs] For some reason, the jingle is escaping me, but it's there. JOËL: It's an ad for a brand of American coffee. SARA: Yes, for those that were not in America during the '90s to see the commercial, [singing] the best part of waking up is De Morgan in your cup. JOËL: [chuckles] That was amazing. SARA: [laughs] Hopefully, we don't get a copyright strike for that. [laughter] JOËL: You know what? That is the sell for why you should learn discrete math. SARA: Yes. What are some other ways you find discrete math around in your day-to-day life? JOËL: I think the most practical part is working with Booleans because writing conditional code writing Boolean expressions is something that I do multiple times every day. And I think anybody who's done programming for any length of time gets some amount of intuition around working with Boolean expressions. Having spent a little bit of time studying them, you learn some patterns. You learn ways of working with them. And a common thing that I will often see in Ruby code is people will overuse the if expression when you could have used a Boolean expression instead. So I've seen things like if condition return true, else return false, which is just identity. I've also seen more complex things which will say, "If value one is true and value two is true, return true; otherwise, return false," or some fancy things with early returns that, in the end, are just reimplementing Boolean AND. So knowing about a little bit of basic Boolean algebra, being comfortable with combining things using AND and OR rather than just writing early returns, I think, gives a much richer toolkit and something that is much more scalable. And, of course, for those situations where there are complex conditional code, having truth tables as a tool in your back pocket is just absolutely invaluable. SARA: 100%. When those get so complex, definitely realizing it's worth maybe breaking up a chain of Boolean logic into separate mini-methods if you need to. There's nothing like seeing a whole bunch of stuff ANDed together that are only kind of related. [laughs] JOËL: There's a form of logic that you dig into as well called predicate logic, and there's a whole set of things you can do with it. But two things that stood out to me were these two operators that apply a condition to a whole set of values. And they either claim that a certain thing is true for at least one of the elements in a set or for every value in a set. And the interesting thing is that if you claim that something is true for all elements, in order to falsify that claim, you only need to find one counterexample. You don't need to check every item. If I can find one, and maybe it's the first item in this set that is wrong or that contradicts the logical statement that I'm trying to make, then I've immediately disproved your entire statement because you claimed that this was true for every element. SARA: And it's hard learning these sorts of fundamentals from computer science; it's hard to not apply that to real life and hear somebody using a statement, "Every this, all of that." I immediately come back with, "Well, some of them." [laughs] I'm that guy, yep. JOËL: The person at the end of a conference talk who puts up their hand and says, "So this is not really a question. It's more of a statement." SARA: [laughs] I found this one example. Yeah, I'm a stickler for specificity, for sure. Thanks, discrete math. JOËL: It definitely helped me be much more nuanced in the way that I speak. I tend to not speak in absolutes or superlatives because of that class. SARA: Yeah, I very frequently use the term a non-zero amount of times to describe, for example, there exists one in a set. JOËL: There's also another interesting aspect of this, which is when you see a chain of ANDs, so condition, and condition, and condition, and condition, and condition, you're effectively making the assertion that something is true for all elements or that all these conditions are true. Therefore, it only takes one for the whole thing to evaluate to false. And I want to say the fancy name for this is annihilation, where you can have a giant chain of conditions that are ANDed together, and they're all true, but if any single one of them is false, then the whole chain evaluates to false. SARA: And this is where you can get a little clever with the order in which you put those in your AND where you have the least heavy lifting checks first so that they fail first. Or if you have things that need to check for nil, check them after. Check the basic stuff first. Let it almost short circuit; let it fail fast, as they say. JOËL: Yeah, these are all performance tricks that I think, even if you don't have a discrete math background, you might have picked up. You know about short-circuiting. You know about trying the cheap checks first. And now you know a little bit of the theoretical background of why. SARA: [singing] Where do we go from here? [laughs] JOËL: So we have these sort of logical operators that will claim that something is true for all elements of a set or at least one element of a set, and those are kind of theoretical. They're useful if we're trying to set up a logical proposition. But these exist in code, in Ruby, as part of the enumerable module. Enumerable has two methods; they are any and all. And you can use those methods to claim that all items in an array will evaluate to true when the given block runs or that at least one evaluates to true for items in that array. SARA: What's the word where you're taking out some of a set? Slice but not slice. There's intersection [crosstalk 26:46] union, so not a set theory one, no. JOËL: Like getting the inverse? SARA: Maybe. I don't know. JOËL: I feel like there's a term for getting the inverse of a set. SARA: Not the inverse. JOËL: Because you can get the inverse of the intersection or something. SARA: Yeah. I think I'm just going to go along the lines of being able to slice out what you want with select and how you can then chain an enumerable on that. JOËL: Okay. Okay, I see. So you're making a connection from enumerable to set theory. SARA: Mm-hmm. JOËL: Excellent. SARA: Even if you don't necessarily want every item in your enumerable, your array, your hash, you can use things like select and reject to get a subset for a certain condition, and you can slice out based on a condition. And then you can then apply any or all to that. And so I want all of the even numbers, and now for all of these even numbers, such and such should be true for the set. JOËL: So now we've made a connection between enumerable and predicate logic. And we've also made a connection to set theory. SARA: It's coming full circle again. [laughs] Discrete math is everywhere. JOËL: So if you use the enumerable module in Ruby, which you should be (It's one of the best parts of the language.), you're doing discrete math every day, and you didn't know it. SARA: You're welcome. JOËL: So we've seen that a lot of us are interacting with elements of discrete math every day and that learning a little bit about it more formally can help us be a bit more mindful in how we code every day. It can give us the mental models to solve and analyze problems that we encounter daily. For those listeners who might want to dig a little bit more deeply into discrete math, do you have any resources there that you recommend? SARA: Well, not sponsored, but brilliant.org is a pretty good resource for things like math, computer science, for the very least. I'm sure it has other courses, but those are the ones that I've kind of looked at on some YouTubers' free trial. [chuckles] And I liked their approach to teaching, and I think it has got a low barrier to entry for learning these topics. I would definitely recommend that, so brilliant.org JOËL: It's funny you mentioned that they sponsor a lot of technology, science, and math YouTubers. So for those listeners who are interested in checking it out, maybe look up some YouTubers and see if they have a free sign-up code. SARA: Mayuko is a good YouTuber for that. I believe she gets sponsored by Brilliant occasionally. She's a software engineer out in California. JOËL: Clearly, we're not sponsored because we don't have a code to give out. SARA: [laughs] Sponsor us, Brilliant. JOËL: [laughs] Host at bikeshed.fm SARA: [laughs] JOËL: All right. Well, with that, shall we wrap up? SARA: Yeah, let's do. STEPHANIE: Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm. JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore. STEPHANIE: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show. JOËL: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us @_bikeshed, or you can reach me @joelquen on Twitter. STEPHANIE: Or reach both of us at email@example.com via email. JOËL: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week. ALL: Byeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! ANNOUNCER: This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot, your expert strategy, design, development, and product management partner. We bring digital products from idea to success and teach you how because we care. Learn more at thoughtbot.com.
Revolutionizing Observability with New Relic In this episode, Daniel explains a new strategy towards observability aimed at contextualizing large volumes of data to make it easier for users to identify the root cause of problems with their systems. Daniel Kim is a Principal Developer Relations Engineer at New Relic and the founder of Bit Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to making tech accessible to under-served communities. His job is basically to get developers excited about Observability, and he hopes to inspire students to maximize their potential in tech through inclusive, accessible developer education. He is passionate about diversity and inclusion in tech, good food, and dad jokes. Show Notes First, it is important to differentiate between monitoring and observability. Monitoring is basically when a code is instrumented to send data to a backend, to give answers to preconceived questions. With Observability, the goal is to monitor your system so as to later ask questions that were not in mind during the instrumentation of the system. Hence, if something new comes up you can find the root cause without modifying the code. There are so many levels of things to check when troubleshooting to find the cause of a problem, and this is where observability comes in. There are different use cases for logs, metrics, and traces; Logs are files that record events, warnings, or errors however logs are ephemeral which means there is increased risk of losing a lot of data. A system needs to be in place to move logs to a central source. Another issue with logs is that it is poorly structured data. Logs are good to have as the last step of observability. Metrics and traces can however help to narrow down where to search in the logs to solve an issue. Metrics are measurements that reflect the performance or health of your applications. They give an overview of how the systems are doing but tend to not be very specific in finding the root cause of a problem; other forms of data have to be adopted to get a clear picture. This is where Traces come in. Traces are pieces of data that track a request as it goes through the system. Because of this, they can identify the root cause of an error or bottlenecks slowing down the system. However, they are very expensive and as such sampling is used when tracing but this reduces the accuracy of traces. Correlating information from logs, metrics, and traces gives a full clear picture for debugging to be carried out successfully. A lot of New Relic customers strive to get more pieces of data to get errors faster. To balance the right data at the right time with the right cost, the first step when collecting large amounts of data is to find out how your organization is leveraging the data. A quick audit of the data to identify useful data is helpful. This can be done monthly or quarterly. Unstructured logs are difficult to aggregate In the cloud native space, being able to be compatible with as many people as possible will determine the winners because there are many projects people use in production. Projects that are compatible with many other projects are the way forward. APM is still very useful to understand application performance and in the future, data from all sources will be correlated to figure out the cause of a problem. Getting value very early from the system involves having a solid infrastructure and installing APM. The real power of full stack observability is getting data from different parts of your stack so you can diagnose what part of your system is going wrong. Leveraging AI to make sense of large amounts of data for engineers is going to be a huge plus. A lot of vendors claim that their alert systems will automatically generate all alerts for you but this is not true because they would not know your team's needs. It is ultimately up to your team to set up alerts that create an observability strategy. Those who invest time into setting this up get the most ROI from New Relic. Engineers need to figure out what metrics are important to them. About New Relic One: This was made to be a singular observability platform where people can correlate various pieces of data to get more context making the work easy for engineers. The goal was to help engineers to find the information they need as fast as possible, especially during a crisis. This kind of third-party solution is much more applicable for processing millions of logs or larger data, compared to native tools. It also provides a large amount of expertise around observability and curated experiences around machine-generated data. The future seems to have customers tilting towards open-source observability solutions. OpenTelemetry is one example of this, as it brings together all observability offerings in open source in a whole stack observability experience. Visit the New Relic website to learn more about it. To learn more about ways to use New Relic, check out the New Relic Blogs. Top Quotes
Albany Pro Musica will present the Capital Region premiere of "Star Song" by Bradley Ellingboe, APM's composer-in-residence on March 5th at 3 PM at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. This work bridges historical periods, languages, and faith traditions and examines the idea that we are all, in the words of Carl Sagan, “made of star stuff.” We get a preview this morning with Opalka Family Artistic Director of APM José Daniel Flores-Caraballo and composer Bradley Ellingboe.
Stephanie is joined today by a very special guest, Andrea Goulet. Andrea founded Empathy In Tech as part of writing her book Empathy-Driven Software Development (https://empathyintech.com/). She's also the founder of the community Legacy Code Rocks (https://www.legacycode.rocks/) and the Chief Vision Officer of two companies: Corgibytes (https://corgibytes.com/) and Heartware (https://www.heartware.dev/) (which provides financial support to keep Empathy In Tech running). Stephanie has strong opinions about the concept of "Makers and Menders" that the Corgibytes folks have written/spoken about, especially around those personas and gender stereotypes. Andrea joins Steph to evolve the conversation and add nuance to the discussion about legacy code/maintenance in our community. This episode is brought to you by Airbrake (https://airbrake.io/?utm_campaign=Q3_2022%3A%20Bike%20Shed%20Podcast%20Ad&utm_source=Bike%20Shed&utm_medium=website). Visit Frictionless error monitoring and performance insight for your app stack. Makers and Menders from Corgibytes (https://corgibytes.com/blog/2015/08/14/makers-vs-menders/) Empathy in Tech (https://empathyintech.com/) Legacy Code Rocks (https://www.legacycode.rocks/) Forget Technical Debt — Here's How to Build Technical Wealth (https://review.firstround.com/forget-technical-debt-heres-how-to-build-technical-wealth) Equal Partners by Kate Mangino (https://bookshop.org/p/books/equal-partners-improving-gender-equality-at-home-kate-mangino/18336353) Sustainable Web Development Episode (https://www.bikeshed.fm/368) Transcript: AD: thoughtbot is thrilled to announce our own incubator launching this year. If you are a non-technical founding team with a business idea that involves a web or mobile app, we encourage you to apply for our eight-week program. We'll help you move forward with confidence in your team, your product vision, and a roadmap for getting you there. Learn more and apply at tbot.io/incubator. STEPHANIE: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Stephanie Minn., And today I'm joined by a very special guest, Andrea Goulet. Hi, Andrea. ANDREA: Hello, thanks for having me. STEPHANIE: So here on The Bike Shed, we like to start by sharing something new in our world. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and anything new going on for you? ANDREA: Yeah, so I have a background in strategic communications, and then kind of made a windy journey over to software. And so, for the past 13 years, I've been focused on modernizing legacy systems. And legacy is kind of a loose term; something you write today can be legacy. But essentially, we kind of help modernize any kind of software, any language, any platform, any framework. And so, over the course of doing that, in the work that I did before I came to software, I had a very technical understanding of empathy and communications and had just done a lot of that. And I just noticed how much that mattered in creating healthy and sustainable codebases. So now I'm kind of taking that experience, and I've got a book contract called "Empathy-Driven Software Development." So I've been working on just diving into a lot of the really deep research. So that's been kind of my focus for the past two years. And it's been really surprising because there were things that were positioned as truths, and then it's like, wait a second, neuroscience is completely upending everything. So it's been a fun learning journey. And I'm excited to share some of the things that I've learned over the years, especially [laughs] in the past two years with this book. So that is the new thing with me. And it's...I was telling you before it just feels like a constant new thing. Anybody who's written a book...it's the hardest thing I've ever done, so... [laughs] STEPHANIE: Yeah, that sounds tough but also kind of exciting because you're learning so many new things that then kind of shape how you view the world, it sounds like. ANDREA: Yeah. Yeah, it really does. And I think I really like diving into the details. And I think what started this was...my business partner, Scott, at the time, really embodied the stereotypical 2010 software developer down to the scruffy beard and dark-rimmed glasses. And what I found incredibly interesting was he had this belief of I'm good with machines, but I'm bad with people. And he just had this really deeply ingrained. On the flip side, I had this belief of, oh, I'm good with people, but I'm bad with machines. I'll never learn how to code. And I found that really interesting. And personally, I had to go through a journey because we went on...it was the first time either of us had ever been on a podcast. So this was about ten years ago. And at the end of the podcast, Scott was the only one on there. And he said, you know, the person asked about his origin story and about our company Corgibytes. And he was like, "Yeah, you know, Andrea is amazing. She's our non-technical founder." And by that time, I had been coding next to him for like three years. And I was like, why the heck would you call me non-technical? And I just felt this...what is it that I have to do to prove it to you? Do I have to actually go get a CS degree? I know I'm self-taught, but does that mean that I'm not good enough? What certificates do I need? Do I need to sit down next to you? Do I need to change my lifestyle? Do I need to look like you? So I was really upset [laughing] and just thinking through, how dare you? How dare you label me as non-technical? And Scott is very quiet and patient, great with people, I think. [laughs] And he listened and said, "I use the words that you use to describe yourself. When we were in a sales meeting right before that phone call, I paid attention to how you introduced yourself, and I pretty much used the same words. So when you call yourself technical, I will too." That shattered my world. It shattered my identity because then it put the responsibility of belonging on me. I couldn't blame other people for my not feeling like I didn't belong. That journey has just been so profound. This is what I see a lot of times with empathy is that we have these kinds of self-identities, but then we're afraid to open up and share. And we make these assumptions of other people, but, at the same time, there's real-world evidence. And so, how do we interpret that? In addition to this, Scott...like, part of the reason I called myself non-technical was because all of the people I saw who were like me or had my background, that's the word that was used to describe someone like me. And when I would go to a conference, you know, I have a feminine presentation. And this was ten years ago. My very first conference was 300 software developers, and there were probably about 295 men. And I was one of five women in the room. And because I looked so different and because I stood out, the first question that anybody would ask me, and this was about 30% to 40% of introductions, was, "Are you technical or non-technical?" And I had to choose between this binary. And I was like; I don't know. Am I technical? Like, is it a CEO that can code? I don't know. But then I have this background. And so I would just default to, "No, I guess I'm non-technical," because that's what felt safe because that's what they assumed. And I just didn't know, and I didn't realize that I was then building in this identity. And so then, as part of trying to create a warm and inclusive organization, we did one of the unconscious bias surveys from Harvard. And what astonished me when I did that myself was that I didn't have a whole lot of bias, like, there was some. But the most profound bias was against women in the workplace, and it stood out a big one. I was like, how is it that I can be someone who's a fierce advocate, but then that's my own bias against people like me? What the heck is going on? So really exploring all of this. And I think Scott and I have had so many different conversations over the years. We actually ended up getting married. And so we have a personal reason to figure a lot of this stuff out too. And when we start to have those conversations about who am I and what's important to me, then all of a sudden, we can start creating better code. We can start working together better as a team. We can start advocating for our needs. Other people know what we need ahead of time. And we're not operating out of defensiveness; we're operating out of collaboration and creativity. So the book and kind of everything is inspired by my background and my lived experience but then also seeing Scott and his struggles, too, because he had been told like, "You're a geek. Stay in the computers. Stay in the code. You're not allowed to talk to customers because you're bad at it," and flat out was told that. So how do we overcome these labels that people have put on us, and then we've made part of our own identity? And which ones are useful, and then which ones are not? Because sometimes labels can create a sense of community and affinity and so how do we know? And it's complicated, but the same thing, software is complicated. We can take skills like empathy and communication. We can look at them schematically and operationalize them when we look at them in kind of detail. So that's what I enjoy doing is looking under the hood and figuring out how does all this stuff work? So... [laughs] STEPHANIE: I did want to respond to a few things that I heard you say when you're talking about going to a conference and feeling very much in the minority. I went to my first RailsConf in 2022, my first RailsConf in person, and I was shocked at the gender imbalance. And I feel like every time I used the women's restroom; I was looking around and trying to make a connection with someone and have a bit of a kinship and be like, oh yes, you are here with me in this space. And then we would have a conversation and walk out together, and that felt very meaningful because the rest of the space, you know, I wasn't finding my people. And so I feel that very hard. I think this is also a good time to transition into the idea of makers and menders, especially because we have been talking about labels. So you all talked about this distinction between the different types of work in software development. So we have greenfield work, and that is writing code from scratch, making all the decisions about how to set up an application, exploring a whole new domain that hasn't been codified yet. And that is one type of work. But there's also mender-type work, which is working in existing applications, legacy code, refactoring, and dealing with the complexity of something that has stood the test of time but may or may not have gotten a lot of investment or care and bringing that codebase back to life if you will. And when I first heard about that distinction, I was like, yes, I'm a mender. This is what I like to do. But the more I thought about it, I started to also feel conflicted because I felt pain doing that work as well. ANDREA: Oh, interesting, yeah. STEPHANIE: Especially in the context of teams that I've been on when that work was not valued. And I was doing maintenance work and fixing bugs and either specifically being assigned to do that work or just doing it because I knew it needed to be done and no one else was doing it. And that had caused me a lot of frustration before because I would look around and be on a team with mostly White men and be like, why aren't they picking up any of this work as well? And so I was thinking about how I both felt very seen by the acknowledgment that this is work, and this is valid work, and it's important work, but also a little bit confused because I'm like, how did I get here? Did I pigeonhole myself into doing this work? Because the more I did it, the better I got at it, the more comfortable and, to whatever degree, enjoyed it. But at the same time, I'm not totally sure I was given the opportunity to do greenfield work earlier in my career. That could have changed where my interests lie. ANDREA: Yeah, it is. And it's funny that you mentioned this because I actually I'm a maker. But yeah, I created this community, and I'm known for this thing. And I had a very similar experience to how do I exist as someone who's different in this kind of community? And I think part of it is, you know, there's a great quote by George Box, who is a statistician, and he says, "All models are wrong; some are useful." And I think that's kind of the whole idea with the maker-mender is that it is a signal to be like, hey, if you like fixing stuff...because there is so much shame, like, that's what we were responding to. And Scott had the opposite problem of what you have experienced, where he was only allowed to work on greenfield work. They were like, "No, you're a good developer. So we want you working on features. We won't let you fix the bugs. We won't let you do the work that you like doing." And so that's why he wanted to create Corgibytes because he's like, "This work needs to be done." I am so personally passionate about this. And when we were having these conversations 13 years ago, I was talking to him about product/market fit and stuff like that. And I was like, "You like fixing software, and there's a lot of software out there to be fixed." I just was very, very confused as to why this kind of existed. And we had been told flat out, "You're never going to find anybody else like Scott. You're never going to be able to build a company around people who find a lot of joy in doing this work." And I think that this comes down to identity and kind of the way that Legacy Code Rocks was built too. A lot of the signaling that we put out there and the messaging and stuff really came from Scott's feeling of, like, I want to find more people like me. So being in the women's bathroom and like, how do I find more menders? Or how do I find people...because we were walking through a Barnes & Noble, and it was like a maker fest, maker everything. And he's like, "I don't have a community. There's nowhere for me to go to create these meaningful connections," exactly like you were saying. "I have maybe two people in my network." And then we were at a conference in 2015. We were at the large agile conference. And it was one of the first ones that I've been to that had a software craft track. And we met like 20 people who were really, like, I just saw Scott light up in a way that I hadn't seen him light up because he could geek out on this level that I hadn't seen him do before. And so when I asked, like, "How do you guys stay in touch afterwards?" And they're like, "Oh no, we don't. We don't know how to build a community." And it's like, well, okay, well, we can get that started. To your response of like, how do you operate when it is presented as a binary? And it's like, am I this, or am I this? This kind of gets down to the idea of identity-wise, is it a binary, or is it a spectrum? I tend to think of it kind of like an introvert-extrovert spectrum where it's like there is no wrong or right, and you can move in different places. And I think being able to explain the nuances of the modeling around how we came up with this messaging can get lost a lot of times. But I'm with you, like, how...and that's kind of something now where it's like, okay, maybe my role was to just start this conversation, but then everybody's having these ideas. But there are people who genuinely feel seen, you know. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's really interesting because what I'm hearing is that when there's this dominant narrative of what a developer should be, and should be good at, and what they should do, it's kind of like what you were saying earlier about how hard it was for you to claim that identity yourself. People who feel differently aren't seen, and that's, I think, the problem. And I'm very, very interested in the gender aspect of it because one thing that I've noticed is that a lot of my female developer friends do do more of that mending work. So when you talk about feeling like there was no community out there, it just wasn't represented at the time, you know, a decade ago for sure. And still, even now, I think we're just starting to elevate those voices and that work. I wanted to share that at thoughtbot; we have different teams for different business verticals. And so we do have a rapid validation prototyping team. We do have a greenfield like MVP, V1 product team. And then we also have a team, Boost, the team that I'm on. That is more team augmentation, working with legacy code and existing systems. And it was not lost on me that Boost has the most women. [laughs] ANDREA: Yeah, because you have the concept of cognitive load and mental load. STEPHANIE: Yes. ANDREA: Women at home end up taking a lot more of this invisible labor that's behind the scenes. Like, you're picking the kids up from school, or you're doing the laundry, or all these things that are just behind the scenes. And this was actually something...so when Scott and I also got married, that's when I first became aware of this, and it was very similar. And it was, okay, how do I...because Scott and I, both in our business and in our personal partnership, we wanted it to be based on equity. And then also, like, how do I show up? And for me, the hardest thing with that was letting go of control where it's like, it has to be a certain way. It's hard for me to comment on the broader enterprise level because what I see at Corgibytes is we have gender parity. That's been pretty balanced over the course of our..., and we're a small boutique company, so it's different. But then, in the larger community of Legacy Code Rocks, it tends to be more male. There are actually fewer women in there. And I think, too, like there's this idea of testers and QA, like, I think that falls in there as well, and that's heavily dominant. And I think sometimes it's like, oh...and I think this kind of comes to the problem of it, like, it's the way that we think about the work in general. And this might be useful just to think about kind of the way that it came about was, you know, makers and menders was we were putting together [laughs] actually this talk for this conference that we went to. And my background in marketing, I was trying to wrap my brain around when is it appropriate for mending? And I had my marketing degree. It's like, oh, the product lifecycle. And Scott's retort was, "It needs to be a circle. We're agile, so it needs to be a circle." And I was like, this doesn't make any sense. Because look, if you have maturity and then you have it...oh my gosh, it'll link back to innovation, and then you can do new stuff. And so yeah, I think when we describe makers and menders, and this is true with any label, the idea in the broader model is that makers and menders aren't necessarily distinct, and your team should 1,000%...everyone should be contributing. And if you only have one person who's doing this work, you're at a detriment. That's not healthy for your codebase like; this should be baked in. And the mender is more of like, this is where I get my joy. It's more of an opt-in. But I think that your observation about the invisible labor and how that gets translated to maintenance work is accurate. A lot of times, like when Scott was describing his thing, it's like, there's the movie "Office Space." I might be dating myself. But there's this guy, Milton, and it's like, "Just go to the basement." He was told maintenance is where good software careers go to die. [laughs] And so over the years, it's like, how do we celebrate this and make it more part of the maker work? And it's similar to how introverts and extroverts...it's like, we all work together, and you need all of it. But there is an extrovert bias. And extroverts are seen more as, oh, they have leadership traits and stuff. But increasingly, we're starting to see, no, actually, that's not the only way that you can be effective. So I think it's hard. And I think it does come down to belonging. And I think that there are also different cultural impacts there. And it comes down to just a lot of different lived experiences. And I so appreciate you sharing your point of view. And I'm curious, what would help you feel more like you belong? Is it the work and the environment that you're in that's kind of contributing to this feeling? Or is it other things in general or? STEPHANIE: Okay, so I did want to address real quick what you were saying about mental load and household labor because I think I really only started thinking about this after I read a book called "Equal Partners" by Kate Mangino, where she talks about how to improve gender equality at home, and I loved that book so much. And I suddenly started to see it everywhere in life and obviously at work too. And that's kind of what really drove my thinking around this conversation, maintenance work being considered less skilled labor or things that get offloaded to someone else. I think that really frustrates me because I just don't believe that's true. And to get back to what you were asking about what would make me feel more seen or valued, I think it's systemic. But I also think that organizations can make change within their cultures around incentives especially. When you are only promoted if you do greenfield work and write thousands of lines of code, [laughs] that's what people will want to do. [laughs] And not even just promotions, but who gets a kudos in Slack? Or when do you get positive encouragement? As a consultant, I've worked on different client teams that had different values, and that was when I really struggled to be in those environments. I have a really strong memory of working on a greenfield project, but there was another male developer who was just cranking out features and doing all of this work and then demoing it to stakeholders. But then there was one feature that he had implemented but had faked the data. So he hadn't finished the backend part of it but just used fake data to demo the user interface to stakeholders. And then he moved on to something else. And I was like, wait; this isn't done. [laughs] But at that point, stakeholders thought it was done. They thought that it was complete. They gave him positive feedback for finishing it. And then I had to come in and be like, "This isn't done. Someone needs to work on this." And that person ended up being me. And that was really frustrating because I was doing that behind-the-scenes work, the under-the-hood work for something that had already been attributed to someone else. And yeah, I think about that a lot and what systems or what the environment was that led to that particular dynamic. MID-ROLL AD: Debugging errors can be a developer's worst nightmare...but it doesn't have to be. Airbrake is an award-winning error monitoring, performance, and deployment tracking tool created by developers for developers that can actually help cut your debugging time in half. So why do developers love Airbrake? It has all of the information that web developers need to monitor their application - including error management, performance insights, and deploy tracking! 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You literally have nothing to lose. Head on over to airbrake.io/try/bikeshed to create your FREE developer account today! STEPHANIE: Do you have any advice for leaders who want to make sure there's more equity for people who like to do mending and legacy code work? ANDREA: Yeah, absolutely. I am so grateful for your questions and your perspective because this is not something that's talked about a lot, and it is so important. I wrote an article for First Round Review. This was in 2016 or 2017. And it was called "Forget Technical Debt — Here's How to Build Technical Wealth," and so if you want to link to it in the show notes. It's a really long article and that goes into some of the specifics around it, but it's meant for CEOs. It really is meant for CEOs. And I do think that you're right; some of it is that we have lionized this culture of making and the work that is more visible. And it's like, oh, okay, great, here's all the visual design stuff. That's fantastic, but then recognizing there's a lot of stuff that's behind the scenes too. So in terms of leaders, I think some of it is you have to think about long-term thinking instead of just the short-term. Don't just chase the new shiny. Also, you need to be really aware of what your return on investment is. Because the developers that are working on maintaining and making sure that your mission-critical systems don't fail those are the ones that have the highest value in your organization because if that system goes down, your company makes money. Greenfield work, yes, it's very...and I'm not downplaying greenfield work for sure. I'm definitely, [laughs] like, I love doing that stuff. I love doing the generating phase. And at the same time, if we only look towards kind of more the future bias...there's a great book that we were featured in called "The Innovation Delusion" that talks about this more in general. But if we only look at the visible work that's coming, then we forget what's important now. And so for leaders, if you're running a software company, know where your mission-critical systems are and recognize the importance of maintaining them. That's the very first step. The second step is to recognize the complexities of a situation, like, to think about things in terms of complex systems instead of complicated systems. And I'll describe the difference. So when I came to software, I had been working in the creative field, like in advertising, and branding, and copywriting, and all that. And we got inputs. We kind of ran it through this process, and then we delivered. And we did a demo and all of that stuff. It was when is the timeline? When is it done? Big air quotes. And we were pretty predictably able to deliver on our delivery day. Sometimes things would go wrong, but we kind of had a sense because we had done the same pattern over and over again. You don't get that in legacy code because the variables are so immense that you cannot predict in the same way. You have to adopt a new strategy for how do you measure effectiveness. And the idea of measuring software productivity in terms of new features or lines of code, like, that's something that goes all the way back to Dykstra [laughs] in the 1970s around, is that the right way? Well, a lot of people who code are like, "No, that's not." This is a debate that goes back to the earliest days of computing. But I think that the companies that are able to build resilient systems have a competitive advantage. If a leader wants to look at their systems, whether that is a social system and the people in their organization or whether or not it's their software if you look at it from a systems thinking, like, there are interactions that I need to pay attention to not just process, that is super key as well. And then the last one is to recognize, like, one of our core values is communication is just as important as code. I would be remiss to neglect empathy and communication in part of this, but that really is so important. Because when we position things in terms of...and I don't know as much about thoughtbot and kind of the overall strategy, but kind of an anti-pattern I have seen just in general in organizational behavior is that when you structure teams functionally and silo them, you're not getting that diversity of thought. So the way that we approach it is, like, put a mender on a maker team because they're going to have a different perspective. And then, you can work together to get things out the door faster and value each other's perspectives and recognize strengths and shadows. So, for me, as a maker, I'm like, I've got a huge optimism bias, and we can go through all this stuff. And for Scott, it's like he struggles to know when he's done. Like, for me, I'm like, cool, we're 80% done. I got it. We're good to go. And for Scott, he'll work on something, and then it's like, I have to stop him. So recognizing that we help each other, that kind of thought diversity and experience diversity goes across so many different vectors, not just makers and menders. But I think, to me, it's about reframing value so that you're not just thinking about what it is right now in this moment. And I think a lot of this comes down to investor strategy too. Because if you've got an investor that you're trying to appease and they're just trying to make short-term monetary gains, it's much harder to think in terms of long term. And I think it's developers understanding business, business understanding the struggles of developers and how they need lots of focus time, and how estimating is really freaking hard, and why if you demand something, it's going to be probably not right. And then coming up with frameworks together where...how can I describe this in a way? So to me, it really is about empathy and communication at the end of the day when we're talking about interactions and how do we operationalize it. STEPHANIE: I like what you said about reframing value because I do believe that it starts from the top. When you value sustainability...my co-host, Joël, had an episode about sustainability as a value in software development. But then that changes, like I mentioned before, the incentive structures and who gets rewarded for what type of work. And I also think that it's not only diverse types of people who like doing different types of work, but there is value in doing both. And I know we talked about it being a spectrum earlier, but I strongly believe that doing the legacy code work and experiencing what it's like to try to change a system that you are like, I have no idea why this decision was made or like, why is the code like this? That will help inform you. If you do do greenfield work, those are really important skills, I think, to bring to that other type of work as well. Because then you're thinking about, okay, how can I make decisions that will help the developers down the line when I'm no longer on this project? ANDREA: Exactly, which is a form of empathy. [laughs] STEPHANIE: Yeah, it is a form of empathy, exactly. And the reverse is also true too. I was thinking about, okay, how can working in greenfield code help inform working with legacy code? And I was like, oh, you have so much energy when the world is completely open to you, and you can make whatever decisions to deliver value. And I've really struggled working in legacy code, feeling like I don't have any options and that I have to repeat a pattern that's already been set or that I'm just kind of stuck with what I've been given. But I think that there is some value in injecting more of that agency into working with legacy code as well. ANDREA: Well, and I think, too, I think you hit it on the head because, like I said, with the mental load at home, it was like, I had to be okay with things failing where it's like, it wasn't exactly the way I would do it, and I had to be okay with that. Like, oh, the dishes aren't put in the dishwasher exactly the same way I would do it. I'm not going behind it. And like, okay, it's not perfect. That's...whoo, it's going to be okay. And I think that's kind of what we experience, too, is this idea of we have to figure out how we work together in a way that is sustainable. And I think that, similar to my experience with the technical, non-technical piece, there is an onus. Now, granted, I want to be very careful here to not...there is trauma, and there is absolutely horrific discrimination and abuse. And that is not what I'm talking about here in terms of power dynamics. I am talking more about self-identity and self-expression. And I think that if you are in a community like makers and menders, yeah, we're less represented. There is a little bit of an onus, the technical, non-technical, like the onus of understanding what non-technical means and where I can push back is really important work for me to do. Because what I was surprised with was everyone there, like, when I started asking...so my response ended up being, "Help me understand, why did you ask that question?" And I took ownership of the narrative. And it was like, oh, well, what I found was that most of the people were like, if you're a recruiter, I don't want to waste your time with a bunch of stuff that you don't want to talk about. And then being able to say, "Oh, okay, I can see that, and you assumed that I was a recruiter because of the way I looked. And I understand the intention here. Next time, if I'm at a software conference, assume that I know how to code and assume that I'm here for a reason." And a great opening question is, "What brought you here?" I'm like, oh, okay, when we ask a close-ended question, we position things as a binary, like, are you technical or non-technical? That creates a lot of cognitive dissonance, and it's hard. But if I open it up and say, "What brought you here?" Then I can create my own narrative. There is an aspect of setting boundaries and pushing back a little bit like you said, agency. And that can be really hard because it gets at the core of who you are, and then you have to really explore it. And what I found, at least, is in the majority, there have been exceptions, but in the majority of the male-dominated groups that I've been in in my career in software, the majority are very welcoming and want me to be there. But I feel inadequate, and it's more impostor syndrome than I think it is people being discriminatory. Learning about the differences between that and where is my responsibility and where's your responsibility in this that's a tough tension to play. STEPHANIE: Absolutely. And I think that's why it's really important that we're having a conversation like this. I think what you're getting at is just the harm of the default assumption that is chronic, [laughs] at least for me sometimes. And you mentioned earlier the history of computing a little bit. And I was really excited about that because I did a little bit of digging and learned about women's history in computing and how after World War II, programming, you know, there were so many women. In fact, I think by 1960, more than one in four programmers were women, and they were working on mission-critical work like for NASA for, you know, during World War II for code-breaking. And I read that at the time, that work was deemed boring and tedious, and that's why men didn't want to do it. They wanted to work on hardware, which was what was the cool, creative, interesting work. And the computing work was just second class. That's changed, but in some ways, I'm thinking about, okay, where are we now? And to what degree are we kind of continuing this legacy? And how can we evolve or move beyond it? ANDREA: Yeah, you're absolutely right. And in some of the research for the book, one of the things I learned is a lot of people know the name, John von Neumann. He created the von Neumann architecture, that is the foundation of all the hardware that most of us use today. And the very first kind of general purpose digital computer, ENIAC, all...I think it was eight of the people who were programmers for that were women. That team was led by John von Neumann's wife, Klára, and you never hear about Klára. You have to go digging for that. And The Smithsonian actually just about 8, 10 years ago did a big anniversary and then realized none of those women were invited to the press conferences. They were not invited. And so there is kind of this...similar to generational wealth, it's the thing that gets passed down. Like, if you're in the rooms in the early days...there was a quote by John Backus, who created FORTRAN and the Backus–Naur principle, where he talked about programming in the 1950s. He has an essay, and he was like, yeah, I mean, an idea was anybody who claims it, and we never cited our sources. And so it was whoever had the biggest ego was the one who got credit. And everyone's like, great; you're a hero. And so I think that's kind of the beginning of it. And so if you weren't invited into the room, because in the 1950s, in addition to gender, there was legislation that prevented...we weren't even allowed to use the same bathrooms. You had White bathrooms and Black bathrooms. So you had very serious barriers for many different people getting into that room, and I think that gets to the idea of intersectionality as well. So the more barriers that you had, the harder it was going to be. And so then you get the stereotypes, and then you get the media who promotes the stereotypes. And so that is what happened to me. So I grew up in the '80s and '90s, and just every movie I watched, every TV show portrayed somebody who was, quote, "good" with computers in a very specific way. I didn't see myself in it. So I was like, oh, I'm not there. But then, when I talk to Scott, he's like, "Oh, I never saw that. I never saw the discrimination. I just saw this stuff." That's part of it is that if you were in that position where discrimination, or difficulties, or stereotypes had been invisible to you, the onus is on you to learn and to listen. If you are in a situation where you feel like you have been in the minority, the onus is on you to find ways to become more empowered. And a lot of times, that is setting boundaries. It's advocating for yourself. It's recognizing your self-worth. And those are all things that are really hard. And saying, hey, if we want to be sustainable, everyone needs to contribute. I'm happy to train everyone, but this is not going to work. And being able to frame it, too, in terms of value, like, why? Why is it a benefit for everyone building that empathy? And you're right, I mean, there are absolutely cultures where...who was it? I think it was Edward Deming. And he said, "A single person is powerless in the face of a bad system." And so if you're in a system that isn't going to work, recognizing that and can you move into a different system? Or can you change it from within? And those are all different questions that you've got to ask based on your own fortitude, your own interests, your own resources, your own situation. There is no easy question. But it's always work. And no matter who you are, it's always work. [laughs] STEPHANIE: Yeah, yeah. I joined as co-host of this podcast just a few months ago. And I had to do a lot of reflecting on what I wanted to get out of it and what my goals were. And that's why I'm really excited to have you on here and to be using this platform to talk about things that are important to me and things that I think more people should know about or think about. So before we wrap up, Andrea, do you have anything else you want to say? ANDREA: I want to reinforce that if you feel joy from mending, it's awesome. And there are communities like legacycode.rocks. We have MenderCon, and it's a celebration of software maintenance. So it can be really great. We have a virtual meetup every Wednesday. And there's a kind of a core group of people who come, and they're like, it's like therapy because there are a lot of people who are in your situation where it's like, I'm the only person on my team who cares about automated tests, and I have no idea like...and just having people who kind of share in that struggle can be really helpful, so finding your community. And then I think software maintenance is really, really critical and really important, and I think we see it. Like, we're seeing in the news every day in terms of these larger systems going down. Just recently, Southwest Airlines and all of these flights got canceled. The maintenance work is so, so valuable. If you feel like a mender and you feel like that fits your identity, just know that there is a lot of worth in the work that you are doing, an immense amount of worth in the work that you are doing, and to continue to advocate for that. If you are a maker, yes, there is absolutely worth in the work you're doing, but learn about menders. Learn how to work together. And if you are a leader of an organization, recognize that all of these different perspectives can work together. And, again, reframe the value. So I am so grateful that you framed the conversation this way. It's so important. I'm very, very grateful to hear from you and your point of view. And I hope that you continue to push the narrative like this because it's really important. STEPHANIE: Aww, thanks. And thank you so much for being on the podcast. ANDREA: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Thanks for having me. STEPHANIE: Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm. JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore. STEPHANIE: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show. JOËL: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us @_bikeshed, or you can reach me @joelquen on Twitter. STEPHANIE: Or reach both of us at firstname.lastname@example.org via email. JOËL: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week. ALL: Byeeeeeeeeee!!!!! ANNOUNCER: This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot, your expert strategy, design, development, and product management partner. We bring digital products from idea to success and teach you how because we care. Learn more at thoughtbot.com.
Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career
Brought to you by Miro—A collaborative visual platform where your best work comes to life: https://miro.com/lenny | Coda—Meet the evolution of docs: https://coda.io/lenny | Vanta—Automate compliance. Simplify security: https://vanta.com/lenny—Annie Pearl is the Chief Product Officer at Calendly. Previously, she was Chief Product Officer at Glassdoor, as well as Director of Product Management at Box. She was named one of the most influential women in Bay Area business by the San Francisco Business Times. In today's episode, Annie shares three paths into product management and advice on how to get your foot in the door. She also gives us an inside look at how Calendly's product teams are structured, how they transitioned from solely PLG to adding a sales team and unlocking new growth levers, how they do planning, and much more.Find the transcript for this episode and all past episodes at: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/episodes/. Today's transcript will be live by 8 a.m. PT.Where to find Annie Pearl:• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/anniepearl/• Email: Annie.Pearl@calendly.comWhere to find Lenny:• Newsletter: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com• Twitter: https://twitter.com/lennysan• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennyrachitsky/Referenced:• How to send a calendar invite with Calendly: https://calendly.com/blog/how-to-send-a-calendar-invite• Google's APM program: https://careers.google.com/programs/apm/• The 15 Best Associate and Rotational Product Manager Programs: https://medium.com/agileinsider/product-management-digest-apm-3c2631683139• Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works: https://www.amazon.com/Playing-Win-Strategy-Really-Works/dp/142218739X/• Confluence: https://www.atlassian.com/software/confluence• Aha: https://www.aha.io/• Airtable: https://www.airtable.com/• Loom: https://www.loom.com/• Jira: https://www.atlassian.com/software/jira• Pendo: https://go.pendo.io/• Tope Awotona on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bawotona/• The Skip podcast: https://www.skip.community/• Skip Community on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/skip-community-for-cpos/• Nikhyl Singhal on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nikhyl/• Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't: https://www.amazon.com/Good-Great-Some-Companies-Others/dp/0066620996• Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products: https://www.amazon.com/Hooked-How-Build-Habit-Forming-Products/dp/0241184835/• 20VC podcast: https://www.thetwentyminutevc.com/• Sing 2 on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/81475311• Miro: https://miro.com/In this episode, we cover:(00:00) Annie's background(03:50) How to send a Calendly invite without feeling awkward(06:04) How to transition to product work from a non-technical career(09:53) APM programs(10:52) The characteristics of internal-transfer PMs(13:26) How Calendly structures product teams (14:57) Why Annie hired a Head of Design(16:58) How Calendly structures product teams(19:07) OKRs at Calendly(21:02) Changes made at Calendly to improve execution and shipping(22:45) The challenges with narrowing Calendly's customer base and adding sales (25:21) Where 70% of new Calendly users come from(26:17) The transition from PLG to sales(29:23) How to build a great relationship with your sales team(31:52) Planning and prioritization at Calendly(38:14) Strategy documents at Calendly(39:39) Calendly's product stack(40:21) How Calendly got their first 1,000 users (43:36) The surprising new growth levers at Calendly(46:05) Fun traditions(48:43) “Focus wisely” and other aspects of Calendly's culture(52:07) Learnings from Box and Glassdoor(54:57) The Skip Community(58:10) Lightning roundProduction and marketing by https://penname.co/. For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email email@example.com. Get full access to Lenny's Newsletter at www.lennysnewsletter.com/subscribe
Stephanie raves about more software development-related zines by Julia Evans. Joël has been thinking about the mechanics of rolling dice. Stephanie also started on a new client project that Joël has already been working on for many months. They talk about onboarding. This episode is brought to you by Airbrake (https://airbrake.io/?utm_campaign=Q3_2022%3A%20Bike%20Shed%20Podcast%20Ad&utm_source=Bike%20Shed&utm_medium=website). Visit Frictionless error monitoring and performance insight for your app stack. Julia Evan's Wizard Zines (https://wizardzines.com/) Why's Poignant Guide To Ruby (http://poignant.guide/) Learn You A Haskell For Great Good (http://www.learnyouahaskell.com/) Mazes for Programmers (http://mazesforprogrammers.com/) thoughtbot dotfiles (https://github.com/thoughtbot/dotfiles) rcm (https://github.com/thoughtbot/rcm) Transcript: AD: thoughtbot is thrilled to announce our own incubator launching this year. If you are a non-technical founding team with a business idea that involves a web or mobile app, we encourage you to apply for our eight-week program. We'll help you move forward with confidence in your team, your product vision, and a roadmap for getting you there. Learn more and apply at tbot.io/incubator. JOËL: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Joël Quenneville. STEPHANIE: And I'm Stephanie Minn. And together, we're here to share a bit of what we've learned along the way. JOËL: So, Stephanie, what's new in your world? STEPHANIE: So I got a very exciting package in the mail the other day that I wanted to share with you. So I think I've mentioned her on the pod before, but I got a package of software development-related zines by Julia Evans, and I'm going to share a few of the titles that I got. So I picked up, "Oh shit, git!" [laughs] Can I swear on this podcast? I don't know. I guess we're going to find out. Or maybe we can just make the executive decision that it's fine. [laughs] I also got "Hell Yes! CSS!", "The Pocket Guide to Debugging," which I think I mentioned previously. I had seen the PDF version before, but now I have this cute, little, I don't know, six-inch book that I can carry around for all of my debugging needs. Who knows? Maybe I'll be out in the world and just need to pull it out [laughs] and debug something while I'm on the train; who's to say? And then I also picked up "HTTP: Learn Your Browser's Language!" So I'm really excited to have these little illustrated digest-sized resources. I think they'll look really cute on my shelf next to my more intense hardcore technical books like "Design Patterns" and "Practical Object-Oriented Design in Ruby" or whatever. I'm really excited about the more creative endeavors people have done with creating educational resources about software development. In fact, I think last time when we talked about creativity and creative expression, we totally missed the world of side projects. And I've really just enjoyed when people illustrate things and make stuff a lot more accessible to a wider audience than a traditional textbook or more text-based heavy resources. JOËL: I love when people go for a bit more of the playful or quirky when dealing with technical topics. And this is a great example. I love Julia Evans' work. But I'm also reminded of things like "Why's (poignant) Guide to Ruby," "Learn You a Haskell for Great Good!" or even...I forget the title of it. But there's a book by...I think it's Jamis Buck on mazes. And it's told in this sort of quirky style in a narrative. But it's all about maze-solving algorithms but told through the eyes of characters who are wandering through a maze, and it's just delightful. STEPHANIE: Aww, that's so cute. I love that. I also just had the thought that these things would make great gifts for a fledgling developer or a developer in your life who, if you don't want to get them something super specialized or technical or whatever. There are so many, like you said, quirky and fun things out there that I'm sure they'll appreciate. So, Joël, what's new in your world? JOËL: I play D&D regularly with some colleagues at thoughtbot. And recently, I got to thinking about the mechanics of rolling dice. Specifically, what dice can be rolled together? Like, can I roll multiple dice at the same time? And which one do you have to wait for the outcome of a previous roll before it makes sense to roll it? That was really interesting to me because I think that connects to a lot of other things that we do in software, where sometimes some things are independent. You can do them at the same time. And then, other times, you have to wait for the outcome of the first thing before you can even start doing the second thing. So I think, in many ways, it's a great metaphor for the difference between parallel versus series operations. STEPHANIE: I think it's very funny that you found a way to connect D&D to software development. I'm just imagining you rolling your die and then while you're doing that, having some revelation like the math lady meme or whatever, just thinking about, whoa, if this outcome happens, then [laughs] what happens? I have not joined in on our company's D&D campaign, but I do like that y'all post little updates about the story in a public space for the whole company to check out. So sometimes I've been searching for some message in our company's knowledge base, and I have stumbled upon a post about the campaign so far and what happened in last night's session, you know, how all the adventurers fought the big bird, [laughs] and it is very delightful to me. JOËL: It's a really fun way, I think to be creative. I think I enjoy the role-playing side of it a little bit more than just the mechanics of rolling dice, even though the thing I was excited to share today is rolling dice is fun. It is kind of like doing improv, where you're trying to figure out what would your character do and how do they respond to what other people say? It's fun, but it's hard. STEPHANIE: One burning question I have is, does anyone do voices for their characters? JOËL: Absolutely. Aji Slater, who was on a previous episode of this podcast, is part of this campaign, and their character has some really fun voices. STEPHANIE: That's awesome. I'm really interested in joining as a guest or something. But yeah, the improv aspect of it kind of freaks me out. I bet it's a really welcoming group. And if other people are getting into it, then I can get into it too. JOËL: Yeah, this group is very, very low-key. Most people playing, I think, are fairly new to the game. So it's very friendly, very kind of tolerant of, oh, you didn't know this rule existed, that's totally fine. We'll make it work, things like that. STEPHANIE: Nice. So another recent development in my world is that I started a new client project, actually the same client that you've been working on for many months, Joël. JOËL: Yes, the same client but different teams within the client. So we don't get to necessarily interact with each other day to day. But it is interesting that now we get to share knowledge about how this application works with each other. STEPHANIE: Yeah, yeah. And I don't think we've gotten a chance to work together even in the same world like this before. So that's kind of exciting. JOËL: How has the onboarding been for you? STEPHANIE: So, one onboarding development that was surprisingly easy and felt good was setting up a new laptop. So the client company shipped a laptop to me to use for all of their work. And I had to set up just the laptop from scratch, so I could develop on it. And I was able to do that pretty painlessly with the help of the dotfiles that I had previously put together and all of the configurations that I had exported and uploaded to like a cloud drive. And so I was able to have that up and running within a day with all of my favorite keyboard shortcuts, applications, all my little preferences, and that felt really good. So I'm going to pat myself on the back [laughs] for past Stephanie's efforts in making current Stephanie's life easier. JOËL: I'm curious, do you use thoughtbot's dotfiles as the base for your development environment, or do you use something custom? STEPHANIE: I have my own personal dotfiles that I have in a GitHub repo. But I think I did, at one point, go through thoughtbot's dotfiles for inspiration. I found that it has just a lot of extra stuff that I don't really need, but I do like that it's out there. So if any folks want a place to start with having a laptop setup configuration, you should definitely check that out. And we can link that in the show notes. JOËL: I really like the tool rcm, which is also by thoughtbot that allows you to have a modular system of dotfiles that you can pull from a few different sources and combine together. STEPHANIE: Oh, that's neat. I hadn't known about that one. That's cool. JOËL: It's a suite of command-line tools that allows you to pull probably from a git repo. And it might be several, and then trying to pull them all to the right place on your machine to be executable. So, in my case, I have the thoughtbot dotfiles and then also some personal ones. And it just kind of merges them together based on some rules and creates all the dotfiles in my home directory for that. STEPHANIE: Nice. I think the one thing that I do need to keep up on is pushing updates to the dotfiles when I make changes locally because I did have to pull in a few things that I had adjusted or made tweaks to that didn't make it to the source that I was pulling from on this new machine. This is actually my fifth MacBook that I own [laughs] just from remnants of jobs and clients' past. And one day...I keep telling myself that I'll have to return one of the older ones that I'm not using anymore, but as of now, I am an owner of five computers. [laughs] JOËL: Just start mining Bitcoin on the idle ones. STEPHANIE: Oh. [laughs] That's genius. I guess that's definitely a better use than them just sitting in my drawers. JOËL: I guess you're paying for power, and that's kind of the whole point, so... STEPHANIE: That's fair. JOËL: What are some things that you like to do when you onboard onto a new project? STEPHANIE: So, aside from my laptop adventures, when I joined this new project, I had a few things in mind that I wanted to achieve during this onboarding process. One of the things I think I want to get better at is understanding the business when I'm onboarding onto a new client. I think this is an area that previously I hadn't really focused on, but I'm now understanding is actually really important to being set up for success on a team. And so, as consultants, we're dropped into a client project oftentimes when things are already moving. And they kind of clearly have some things that they were hoping we could help with. But I am hoping to also use this time to just take a bit of a step back and ask questions about, like, what is the product? And what are its core features? And who are its users? And also, what's the direction of the business? Can I get some more context on how things are right now? We're so frequently brought in and being like, okay, like, you're going to work on this project but without the context of is the business scaling right now, or what are its struggles? We aren't quite able to make as informed decisions as we could if we had been at the company for longer and had just seen things change and had more of a feel of why we're doing what we're doing. JOËL: I love that you're asking all those questions upfront. I feel like coming in onto a new project, and that can be as a consultant, or it could be just starting a new job, is the perfect time to just be asking all of those questions. And people, I think, appreciate when we ask those questions. Sometimes I think as consultants; we can sometimes be afraid that, oh, if we're asking these sorts of basic questions, people might think less of us. But I think the opposite happens where because we're asking those foundational questions about the business model, about the future of the product, about how the technical architecture works, people really appreciate that we're asking those foundational questions where other people might not. So it actually helps build credibility rather than hurting credibility. STEPHANIE: Yeah, and I think they are really important in making the right technical decision, too, because it can help inform where you spend your time refactoring or evaluating whether this shortcut is worth it to meet this deadline or if it's not because of the bigger picture and where things are headed. If anything, I've learned that being a developer really isn't just about being in the code but having as much information as possible so that there is less ambiguity and you have more clarity to make the right choices when you do have to write the code. Another key aspect that I have become a lot more observational about, I think, is understanding the team that I'm joining, especially what their process is, how they communicate. One thing that's kind of funny about seeing a lot of different companies and how they work as consultants is they might claim to use agile, but in reality, it is a little bit different than that. And you can have that perspective as an outsider. Things like pointing an estimation is kind of all over the place in the industry. So I really like to make sure I fully understand how the team does that and what points means to them. I think another thing that I want to do during my onboarding time this week and as I'm getting to know developers on the client side is learning about the pain points that they're feeling. And, yeah, just getting more of a feel about what's top of mind for them and where is a good space to invest my time and my energy. Lastly, some more basic stuff is communication. Another thing about being a contractor that's challenging is that we don't normally get the full onboarding experience that full-time hires do. And so we may or may not have an onboarding mentor or a buddy and finding out, okay, who is the right person that I should be asking questions to? Or where's the right space for that? When you join new teams, are there any other things that you like to take into consideration? JOËL: I like that you talked about understanding the team's process. One thing that I often like to do pretty early on is make some kind of small code change but then have it go through the full process of coding on my machine to deploy it in production. And so just find some small change in the code that needs to be done, and maybe it's an easy bug fix or something. But just so I can walk through all the steps and find out what the team's process is. What are some sort of weird things that this team does that other people might not that I need to know about? Where does review happen? Is there a staging environment, unexpected ways which my change might get rejected? Things like that. So walking through the entire, I guess you could say software development lifecycle, kind of speedrunning is, I think, a really valuable exercise to do really early on a new project. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's a great point. Like I mentioned, I think that looks so different for every team. And I'm now learning about new tools and SaaS products that I have never seen before. And even though I have an understanding of the software development lifecycle in general, just learning those quirks is very valuable so that you can be a contributor as soon as possible. JOËL: I like to contribute on day one, if possible, so kind of in order of...I don't want to say order of priority. But the order of things that I often do on a new project is one, clone the repo, try to run the setup script, or manually step through instructions in the README. Depending on the repo, that might be 10 minutes. That might be all of my first day. Number two, try to run the test suite. STEPHANIE: Yes. JOËL: Number three is figure out what went wrong for me in step one or two, make a fix for it, commit it, and open up a PR for it, and that's my contribution. If I can do those three things on day one, I feel like that is a solid first day. STEPHANIE: That's great. I love that. What can you do to help improve this process and make it just a little bit better for someone else? I think another good first-day task might be automating a part of that process that is currently manual and kind of annoying. MID-ROLL AD: Debugging errors can be a developer's worst nightmare...but it doesn't have to be. Airbrake is an award-winning error monitoring, performance, and deployment tracking tool created by developers for developers that can actually help cut your debugging time in half. So why do developers love Airbrake? It has all of the information that web developers need to monitor their application - including error management, performance insights, and deploy tracking! Airbrake's debugging tool catches all of your project errors, intelligently groups them, and points you to the issue in the code so you can quickly fix the bug before customers are impacted. In addition to stellar error monitoring, Airbrake's lightweight APM helps developers to track the performance and availability of their application through metrics like HTTP requests, response times, error occurrences, and user satisfaction. Finally, Airbrake Deploy Tracking helps developers track trends, fix bad deploys, and improve code quality. Since 2008, Airbrake has been a staple in the Ruby community and has grown to cover all major programming languages. Airbrake seamlessly integrates with your favorite apps to include modern features like single sign-on and SDK-based installation. From testing to production, Airbrake notifiers have your back. Your time is valuable, so why waste it combing through logs, waiting for user reports, or retrofitting other tools to monitor your application? You literally have nothing to lose. Head on over to airbrake.io/try/bikeshed to create your FREE developer account today! STEPHANIE: So once you've cloned the repo and you're poking around the codebase, what are some things that you notice when you're looking at the code? JOËL: Ooh, that's always fun. In a Rails application, there are a few files I almost always open first in a new project just to get a feel for it. Number one is the routes file. What does that look like? Is it huge? Is it small? Are there a lot of non-standard routes in there, not just standard RESTful resources? That's going to tell me a lot about how things are structured. I can probably even get a sense of what controllers are large, what controllers have 20 non-RESTful actions in them just by looking at the routing file. The other place I like to look at is the user model. Generally, that just collects so many methods. And so I can also often get a feel about the app just by looking at that. And then from there, it's pulling on connections and trying to say, okay, well, what seems to be the core model of this app that everything coalesces around? And maybe for an e-commerce app, it's some kind of product, or maybe for an insurance product, it might be some kind of policy object. And so you find that, and then you find all of the core business logic around there. And that can often give you a really good picture of what the app is like. STEPHANIE: Yeah, a few other things I would add to that list of things to check out is the Gemfile. I like to look at that to see what gems are familiar to me. Do they have authentication, common authentication gems that I've used before? Or is there a lot of stuff that's new to me? And it also kind of tells you, are they more likely to reach for a library or try to build something themselves? I liked that you mentioned that you try to run the test suite early on. I think test coverage is a good place to investigate as well if they have any metrics, you know, that also tells you that it is or isn't something they value. And then seeing like, okay, what parts are well-tested and what parts are a little less tested? I'm really glad that you pointed out how much information you can glean about controllers because then, once you're poking around in there, that can tell you a lot about where are the scary parts of the app? I've found that to be really interesting. You know, sometimes you can just open up a file and be like, whoa, [laughs] and have kind of a gut reaction. Other times, you might pick it up from other developers, and you might start hearing about areas of the app that they are a little nervous to touch. JOËL: I definitely connect with that. I feel like many products have a particular file that is kind of scary and that people don't want to touch. And sometimes, people will tell you upfront, sometimes, you just discover it yourself. And I've been on projects where it's like, oh no, we have a ticket that's come up. It's fairly straightforward, except we know whoever picks it up is going to have to touch the scary file, and I'm not it. STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. JOËL: I'm curious if you run any kind of automated tooling to try to understand a little bit more about the code. So I'm thinking things like maybe Flog or Flay or some of those tools to get a feel for maybe what are the hotspots in the application, anything like that that you like to look for? STEPHANIE: That's a great point. I think the only times I have invested energy into doing that has been more when I'm doing a code audit for a client, which, in some cases, is a separate service that clients can pay consultants for. But I can see the value of doing it when you're joining a team for the first time. JOËL: In a sense, I almost feel like we do a kind of abbreviated code audit for ourselves as part of onboarding. STEPHANIE: That's fair. I wonder if you can use those tools and scope it in a way to the particular team or areas in the codebase that you know that you'll be working on. JOËL: You mentioned the Gemfile earlier. And one thing that maybe seems super obvious is checking version numbers for things like Rails and Ruby because that will significantly impact how development is going to work. Is this a Rails 3 app, or is this a Rails 7 application? STEPHANIE: Yeah, yeah, that's a great point. I am glad you mentioned that because I think that's probably the very first thing [laughs] that I would do just to set my expectations around what I'm working with. JOËL: I feel like it's one of those things that's often just told to you when somebody helps you onboard. It's like, "Okay, you can clone the repo. It's over here. By the way, this is a Rails 3 app. We're kind of behind the times. Here are some weird things we've had to do to keep it alive. We have this other team. They're in this back room over there, slowly working on a Rails 4 upgrade. It's been in progress for four months, but we think we're pretty close. Can't wait for Rails 4." STEPHANIE: Oh God. [laughs] I think the alternative is a developer being like, "Oh yeah, we just upgraded to Rails 7," and they're all really excited and feeling really good about it, [laughs] as they should be, because I think that Rails upgrades are an important thing to stay on top of. And it is really great when you are working on a project that gets to be up to date there. JOËL: Yeah, Rails upgrades are interesting because I feel like when you're proactive about them, they're not that bad, especially more modern versions. I think Rails has gotten a lot better about making those upgrades smoother today than they were ten years ago. But when you're not up to date about them, when you've just kind of procrastinated on doing the updates, every month or year that you wait to do the update makes it so much harder to do that update when the time comes. Because now more gems have fallen out of date, more things have now been abandoned that you just can't use. A lot of community knowledge is just not around as much anymore. Because Rails 3...I forget when Rails 4 came out, probably about ten years ago. So people who remember how things were done idiomatically ten years ago, some of that knowledge has kind of passed on. It's not as prevalent as knowledge around Rails 6 or Rails 7 is. STEPHANIE: 100%. I think I heard someone at thoughtbot identify themselves as a post-Rails 5 generation developer. And I loved that because it really tells you a lot about just their experience. And it's kind of fun. I can imagine some kind of BuzzFeed quiz or something that's like, what Rails generation are you? But yeah, I've certainly seen pro-con lists about joining different projects, and a con might be the app is still on Rails 3. And then, if the app is on a very new version of Rails, that's usually in the pro column because folks are excited about getting to have all that good, new stuff. What do you look out for in terms of design patterns in a codebase? Is that something that kind of sets off your radar at all? JOËL: One thing that will definitely make me raise an eyebrow is heavy use of metaprogramming. I've been bitten by that a lot on projects. Some things are way too clever by half. So a lot of metaprogramming typically means it's going to be difficult to read and follow the flow of logic in the code. And also, there might be some unexpected bugs. Or I found once a memory leak that happened because of some weird metaprogramming. So that definitely makes me a little bit skeptical of part of the code. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's fair. And it also just makes it hard to understand the domain when you have no idea where things go. And you have to just find out later when you are debugging and are in the middle of desperately trying to figure out how this app works. So I can see how that is a little suspicious. I think one thing that I am reevaluating for myself when I notice design patterns is trying to figure out, do I want to perpetuate them? Do I want to follow them? And in the past, I have been more likely to just follow an existing pattern in the codebase. But one thing that I'm hoping to do moving forward is to simply ask, how do decisions get made around patterns? Who gets to introduce them? Are they documented? What does that process look like? Do you have a conversation with the team about it? Just so that I have more tools in my toolbox, I think if I ever do find something that I feel really strongly about, that should be different than what I'm seeing in the codebase. So kind of expanding my skill set there. JOËL: I think that's a fantastic question to ask, and I've done this on previous projects. And sometimes, the answers are just absolutely illuminating. So you see a weird pattern, and you ask, like, "Oh, where does that come from? Why do we do that?" And some will say," Oh yeah, that was Bob back in, you know, 2017. He read an article and was really a fan of this thing, and he put it everywhere. Nobody else really understood the pattern, but we haven't really been able to change it. And he's no longer with the company, and now we just kind of...it's there." Or sometimes it's like, "Oh, great question because you see, we have this subtle business problem. And we've got to reconcile these two pieces of technology with also this expectation that our customers have. And so we came across this pattern, and we decided to use it." And it's these things where just looking at the code with no context, you're like, that's weird. Why would you want to do that? And then, when you understand the underlying problem, it makes so much sense. It's like, okay, I don't love this pattern, but it's the correct solution here, and I fully support having that here. It's a tricky problem at the intersection of technological problems and business problems, and this was the best way we could solve it. I'm not always super happy, but it is the right choice. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I've heard someone describe that as code archaeology in a way that all codebases have a story to tell about how they got to the current state that they're in. And I have certainly struggled with this but trying to approach joining a new team and working on a new codebase, especially if it's legacy code, from a place of curiosity rather than being combative about it. And just going through the git commits or just simply asking members of the team, like, "Hey, what's going on here?" and getting to hear some of those fun stories. JOËL: Yeah, most code exists for a reason. It's not just people writing things just because, particularly code that, you walk in as an outsider and think, oh, that's bad code or looks weird. It's usually for a reason. People aren't just purposefully writing this to trigger you two years down the road. It's also important...as a new person onboarding onto a project, people care about your perspective. As an outsider, oftentimes, it's really rich to bring in an outside perspective. But it's also not a great look to come in and just immediately be like, "Oh, we need to tear this thing down," or "This is so bad." It's important to build trust with the team. And as with so many things in life, seek to understand before running your mouth. STEPHANIE: Wow, how insightful, Joël. [laughs] Speaking of building trust, can we talk a little bit about different strategies we have for doing that? JOËL: Yeah. As a new person on the team, you really want to build a strong connection with the client and to build that trust because then you can be more effective in doing your job. You can bring more value to the client. What are some ways that you like to get that moving in a positive direction early on a new project? STEPHANIE: I think setting up channels of communication is really important, so, ideally, having a one-on-one with a manager or a team lead because that is a great place to make sure that the work you're doing is aligned with what they think you should be doing. So figuring out what their expectations are, like, what do you expect me to get done in my first week? And then what do you want me to be doing by the first month? That is important because we might think about all the things we would love to improve about this codebase or like influence on the team. But if that is not lined up with their views of what success looks like, then we're not quite delivering on the value that we [laughs] had hoped that we would. Another thing that I'm starting to notice a lot more, and we talked a little bit about this previously when we talked about the value of sustainability in web development, but learning what the team's values are and also what the organization's values are because that will really inform the behavior of folks on the team and the decisions that they make. So some values that come to mind are transparency, or collaboration, or growth, or speed. Like, if you find out those underlying foundational pillars, that can really help you orient yourself in your work and being like, okay, I know that this organization really focuses on these kinds of things, so I would like to try to make decisions that uphold or are in line with the things that are important to them. JOËL: I want to really second your comment about good communication. That is one of the most powerful things you can do to build credibility to build trust with another human being, and that can happen in a lot of ways. Like you're saying, some of it is setting up actual communication channels with a manager. Some of that can be the things we mentioned earlier, like asking questions about the architecture, trying to learn all about the product and the business. That can also be being active in that particular team's Slack channel. Sometimes new people come on to a team, and they're a little bit more timid, and they're just kind of not present. And so kind of coming in and...like, you don't want to take over the channel but being active in the channel, asking your questions in that channel, even just talking about your onboarding experience being like, "Hey, I'm running through...I got stuck on this thing. Here's the thing I did to get unstuck." People love seeing that. And it helps them to feel like you're actively participating from day one. STEPHANIE: Yes, that is a great transition to what I wanted to make sure to say at the end of this is that your onboarding experience matters. I know that when you're joining a new team, you might feel a lot of pressure to start contributing and make sure that you are providing value. But your onboarding experience should be inclusive, and you should advocate for your needs. Like, if you don't have access to credentials or there are just various blockers to your onboarding, that's a big deal, and it should not be a gatekeep-y process. Everyone wants you to be able to do your job, and so if you're running into those issues, it's definitely important to raise those concerns for yourself and also for anyone else who comes along the way. Also, everything is new, and will probably feel uncomfortable. If you're anything like me, I feel a lot of pressure to prove myself when I join a new team and start contributing left and right. But it's just important to remember that when all this stuff is new, feeling uncertain or feeling confused and just being in that beginner's mindset again can be uncomfortable, but that is totally normal. JOËL: I feel like something I sometimes do that ties all of these ideas together is when I'm encountering some new code or a new problem, to help myself understand it, I will diagram it. But oftentimes, it can be nice to share that diagram in the team's Slack channel and to say, "Hey, I'm new to the project, and I was exploring this area, and I kind of diagrammed it." Just talk a little bit about the thing that you're doing and maybe what you learned about it. People love that. Visuals are a really powerful tool. And you might be surprised that there might be some team members that have been on the project for a while who never really understood that part of the code. And so they will latch on to what you've shared and be like, "Oh, thank you, because now I finally have a feel for that part." Or maybe you didn't get it quite right, and somebody will follow up and say, "Hey, I love your diagram, but you have a misconception here. There's actually a different piece that connects here." And then you can have a conversation, and you just revealed a blind spot. And so I've found that that can be a really positive way to get started. STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. Joël Quenneville, professional diagrammer. But even if you don't draw a diagram, putting your assumptions out into the world and how you understand things I think is really valuable because, yeah, it's like you are showing your learning path and also being open to receiving feedback if it's not quite right and, hopefully, spreading knowledge all around. So I love that. JOËL: This reminds me a little bit of the episode we had with Steve Polito about learning in public. And he was focused more on learning about Rails, and open source, and things like that. But there's a sense in which you can sort of learn the product or learn the codebase. And public means your team channel. So you can say, "Hey, I'm digging into this model, and here's how I understand the way things work. It's a bulleted list of three things." You might get some good comments on that. You might get other people who appreciate it. So kind of learning the internals of a product within the public confines of a team, I think, is a really good framework as well. STEPHANIE: Absolutely. JOËL: On that note, Shall we wrap up? STEPHANIE: Let's wrap up. Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm. JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore. STEPHANIE: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show. JOËL: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us @_bikeshed, or you can reach me @joelquen on Twitter. STEPHANIE: Or reach both of us at firstname.lastname@example.org via email. JOËL: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week. ALL: Byeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! ANNOUNCER: This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot, your expert strategy, design, development, and product management partner. We bring digital products from idea to success and teach you how because we care. Learn more at thoughtbot.com.
Over the years, there has been good evidence that certain treatments are of little or no value, provide harm and have substantial costs associated with them. Arthroscopic partial meniscectomy (APM) is not a recommended treatment for osteoarthritis. Despite this, millions of these procedures are still being performed each year. On this week's episode of Joint Action we are joined by Professor Teppo Järvinen to discuss the evidence behind APM and evidence-based medicine.Professor Teppo Järvinen, an orthopaedic surgeon at the department of orthopaedics and trauma at Helsinki University and Helsinki University Central Hospital. Teppo led the Fidelity trial and has a strong interest in the “too much medicine” movement.CONNECT WITH USTwitter: @ProfDavidHunter @jointactionorgEmail: email@example.comWebsite: www.jointaction.info/podcast Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
Stephanie shares that she's been taking an intro to basket weaving class at a local art studio, and it's an interesting connection to computer science. Joël eats honeycomb live on air and shares a video that former Bike Shed host Steph Viccari found from Ian Anderson. It's a parody to the tune of "All I Want For Christmas Is You," but it's all about the Ruby 3.2 release. In this episode, Stephanie and Joël shift away from literature and lean into art. Writing code is technical work, but in many ways, it's also aesthetic work. It's a work of art. How do you feel about expressing yourself creatively through your code? This episode is brought to you by Airbrake (https://airbrake.io/?utm_campaign=Q3_2022%3A%20Bike%20Shed%20Podcast%20Ad&utm_source=Bike%20Shed&utm_medium=website). Visit Frictionless error monitoring and performance insight for your app stack. Weaving, Computing, and the Jacquard Loom (https://www.scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk/objects-and-stories/jacquard-loom) Ian Anderson's Ruby Christmas song (https://www.instagram.com/reel/CmAxL_ZNMOa/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y%3D) Dan McKinley's Boring Technology Club slides (https://boringtechnology.club/) Simple English Wikipedia (https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page) Geepaw Hill's Twitter thread about levels of thinking (https://twitter.com/GeePawHill/status/1565389543628480518) Julia Evans's debugging puzzles (https://mysteries.wizardzines.com/) Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (https://bookshop.org/p/books/tomorrow-and-tomorrow-and-tomorrow-gabrielle-zevin/17502475) Transcript: AD: thoughtbot is thrilled to announce our own incubator launching this year. If you are a non-technical founding team with a business idea that involves a web or mobile app, we encourage you to apply for our eight-week program. We'll help you move forward with confidence in your team, your product vision, and a roadmap for getting you there. Learn more and apply at tbot.io/incubator. JOËL: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Joël Quenneville. STEPHANIE: And I'm Stephanie Minn. And together, we're here to share a bit of what we've learned along the way. JOËL: So, Stephanie, what's new in your world? STEPHANIE: I'm really excited to share that I've been taking this intro to weaving class at a local art studio. I'm actually a few weeks in, and it's wrapping up soon. But one thing that I found really cool at the very first class was that the instructor mentioned that weaving was, in some ways, a predecessor or inspiration to modern computing. And he said that, and I got really excited because surely that meant that I would be good at this thing [laughs] and this craft, and then I promptly kind of forgot about it. But I was inspired the other night to look up this history to just learn more about weaving and its connection to computer science. And I learned that, in particular, the invention of something called the Jacquard loom really led to early computing machines because, basically, weaving involves threading horizontal and vertical fibers. And the way you do it if you thread the horizontal fiber, also called the weft, over or under the vertical fibers, called the warp, you get different patterns. And so with the Jacquard loom, this invention utilized punch cards as instructions for basically binary code, and that would tell the loom how to raise and lower those vertical threads, which would then lead to a beautiful pattern. And after that invention, this previously very laborious process became automated. And that also had a really big impact on the textile industry. And fabric became a lot more available at a much lower cost. So that was a really cool little history lesson for me. JOËL: That is really cool. So are you saying that punch cards, as we know them from early computing, were borrowed as a concept from the weaving industry? STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's at least what I've read. I can see now how complex weaving tapestries and patterns set the stage for more complex computations. And I don't know if I'm going to keep going down this weaving journey. I liked the intro class because it was very chill, and I got to use my hands. And I had a little bit of fun making, I don't know, like ten by 12-inch little tapestry. But yeah, I've definitely seen other more advanced weavers make really beautiful textiles and fiber arts. And it's really cool to see the application of that detail-oriented skill in different formats. JOËL: Are you going to try to make your own punch cards? STEPHANIE: That's an interesting evolution of this skill [laughs] for sure. I think what I really did like was the hands-on approach. And so the punch cards did make this process automated. But I personally enjoyed the switching of the threads and pulling them through and doing it with my hands instead of something that's kind of turned into automated machine work. Does that inspire you in some way? JOËL: I think sometimes it's interesting, right? As software people, we sort of have the two urges. We work in so much automation. When we see a process, we would love to try to automate it ourselves, even if it's been done before. So, oh, could I build a small, automatic mechanical loom using punch cards? That sounds like a fun automation challenge. At the same time, so much of my daily job is automation that sometimes it's nice to kind of remove automation entirely from the picture and, like you said, just work with your hands. STEPHANIE: That's a really interesting way to think about it. I do believe that people have different reactions to it, like you said, where they're like, "Wow, I can use my skills to do this really cool thing." On the other hand, you might also respond with, "Wow, I've done this automation code-writing work for eight hours. So now I really want to do something completely different." And I think that's the camp that I was in, at least when I first signed up for this class, just having space, like three hours a week, to sit and not look at a computer and deal with the physical realm. JOËL: So here's the other route that I think a lot of software people take, and that is, here's a fun mechanical process that can be automated. What if we simulated it virtually? So what if I create a program where you can sort of create your own punch card, like, decide where you want to punch the holes? And maybe these are just radio buttons or something or checkboxes in a grid on a webpage. And then, the program will output an SVG that is the thing that would have been woven if you'd used it in that pattern. And so now you can kind of play around with, like, huh, what if I punch here? What if I unpunch here? And you get all these patterns out, and you could just get to try it around. STEPHANIE: That's fascinating. I can't believe your brain went there. [laughter] But yeah, the idea that it's not actually about the pattern itself but the holes that you make, that part being the creative process and then what comes out of it then being a bit of a surprise or just something organic that's a really interesting take too. JOËL: Something that I find is really fun about software and things created from software is this sort of really short feedback loop in terms of trial and error. So if you were actually having a weaving machine and you made a physical punch card, and then you try something, and you realize it's not quite right, the machine weaved something you didn't quite like, now you've got to set it up again. You probably have to start from scratch with a new punch card because you can't really unpunch holes unless maybe you can put tape over it or something. That trial-and-error feedback loop is much shorter. Whereas with a program, you just pause the simulation, punch-unpunch some holes, restart, and then you just kind of keep trying. And there's something fun about that creative exploration when you've got that really tight feedback loop. STEPHANIE: That's fair. I think perhaps that actually might be why doing it manually, and by it, I mean weaving, gives you a little bit more room to [laughs] debug if you will, because you can see when something goes wrong. And this actually happened to me in class earlier this week where I didn't thread the fiber over instead of under. And I was like, oh, this doesn't look right. Like, that's not the look I'm going for. And then I could kind of quickly see, oh, I missed a thread over here and unravel and do it again. Whereas what you just described, if the punch card is wrong and then you create this big piece of fabric, at that point, I'm not really sure what happens then. If someone out there is a weaving expert and knows the answer; I would be very curious to know. JOËL: Now I kind of wish we'd had this conversation last month because, in early January, there was a game jam event that happened. It's a yearly or biyearly Historically Accurate Game Jam, and they select a theme, and then everybody has to submit a game, or a simulation, or something, an interactive program that fits with the theme. And this year's theme was the Industrial Revolution. And I feel like simulating an old automated loom with punch cards would be the perfect fit for something that's small enough that I could build it in a week without spending 10 hours a day working on it. It fits within the theme, and it's still kind of fun. STEPHANIE: Wow, that would have been a really great idea. If there was an award for best fitting the theme, I think that would have won because then you're also tackling the history of computing. I was talking about earlier the loom obviously being...or the automated loom also really playing a big role in the Industrial Revolution. And, I don't know, maybe this is our future club, Joël, and we're going to get into video game development. [laughs] What's new in your world, Joël? JOËL: There are two things. One is that today former Bike Shed host, Stephanie Viccari, shared a video with me from Ian Anderson. This was made last December to the tune of All I Want For Christmas Is You. But it's all about the, at that time, upcoming Ruby 3.2 release. It is amazing. The lyrics talk about the different features that are upcoming. It rhymes. It's set to meter. I am just blown away by this. And I'm just really hyped [laughs] about this video. STEPHANIE: You sent it to me and I gave it a watch before we sat down to record, and I also loved this video. It was so fun. And I think Ruby has a bit of a tradition of releasing new versions around Christmas time. So if this became a tradition, that would be very fun, and maybe instead of singing Christmas carols, we'll be singing new Ruby version carols around the holidays. JOËL: I feel like if Ian wants to do another one next Christmas, now that you have the precedent, it'd be a great space to try something to the tune of Last Christmas because now you can reference back last year's song. STEPHANIE: Yeah. I might as well just go all in and create a whole Christmas album of Ruby anticipation carols. [laughter] JOËL: Yeah, really excited about that. Kudos to Ian. And for all of our listeners, we'll link the video on the show notes of the podcast. Go and check it out; it is worth the two and a half-minutes of your life. STEPHANIE: Agreed. JOËL: The other cool thing, for the past few episodes, we've been talking a lot about hexagons and how they show up in nature, and bees, and how they build their honeycombs and whether that is sort of by design or sort of just happens by nature through sort of external forces. And so this week, I went out to the store, and I bought some real honeycomb. And I'm going to try it on air. STEPHANIE: [laughs] Oh my gosh, I didn't realize that's what was happening. [laughter] Okay, I'm ready. JOËL: All right, I'm going to take a slice. STEPHANIE: Wow. For research. JOËL: For science. STEPHANIE: Wow, that is a big bite. [laughs] JOËL: Hmmm, it's basically crunchy honey. STEPHANIE: So I've enjoyed honeycomb in that raw form on ice cream. I really like it on there and oatmeal and stuff like that. I think it's a little bit waxy. Like, once you get to chewing the bits at the end, that part is a bit of a less pleasant mouth-feel [laughs] in my opinion. What are you experiencing right now? JOËL: Yeah, so like you're saying, the honey kind of dissolves away in your mouth. You had this really fun mix of textures. But then, in the end, you do end up with a ball of [laughter] beeswax in your mouth. STEPHANIE: Oh no. JOËL: Which I understand is completely safe to eat, so... STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's true. JOËL: I'm just going to eat the whole thing. STEPHANIE: I think it's kind of like swallowing gum. [laughs] JOËL: Which apparently does not last for seven years in your digestive system; that's a myth. STEPHANIE: Wow, debunking myths, trying honeycomb. You're welcome, to all The Bike Shed listeners out there. Investigating the important things. JOËL: What is interesting is that we're talking about the structural power of hexagons. I can cut a pretty thin slice of the comb, and it doesn't fall apart. It still has a lot of strength to it, which is nice because it means that the honey doesn't just go splashing everywhere. I can cut up a fairly thin slice, pick it up, it still holds the honey, put it in my mouth, and it doesn't make a mess. STEPHANIE: The bees know what they're doing. [laughs] Cool. Would you eat raw honeycomb again? JOËL: Well, I got a whole block, and I had one tiny slice. So, yes, I will be eating the rest of this. STEPHANIE: [laughs] JOËL: I don't think this will be a regular thing in my weekly groceries. But I would bring this out again for a special occasion. Or I can see this fitting nicely, like you said, on maybe certain breakfasts, even on a charcuterie board or something. STEPHANIE: Oh yeah, that's a really good use for it. JOËL: In some ways, it's nice because it's a way to have honey without having to have it on something else or having to eat it with a spoon. It's honey that comes with its own carrying vessel. STEPHANIE: That's great. Yeah, like a bread bowl for soup. [laughs] JOËL: Exactly. Bees make their own bread bowls for honey. STEPHANIE: [laughs] MID-ROLL AD: Debugging errors can be a developer's worst nightmare...but it doesn't have to be. Airbrake is an award-winning error monitoring, performance, and deployment tracking tool created by developers for developers that can actually help cut your debugging time in half. So why do developers love Airbrake? It has all of the information that web developers need to monitor their application - including error management, performance insights, and deploy tracking! 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You literally have nothing to lose. Head on over to airbrake.io/try/bikeshed to create your FREE developer account today! JOËL: So, for the last couple of weeks, we've been joking that this is turning into the Stephanie and Joël book club because we've been talking about a lot of articles and books. Today, I'd like to shift a little bit away from literature and lean into art. Writing code is a technical work, but in many ways, it's also an aesthetic work. It's a work of art. How do you feel about the idea of expressing yourself creatively through your code? STEPHANIE: So this is interesting to me because it's actually quite different from what we've been talking about in recent episodes around the idea of writing sustainable code, code for other people to read. Because if you are writing code purely for creative expression and just for yourself, that will look very different than what I think folks have kind of called boring technology, which is choosing the patterns, the tools, the frameworks that are tried and true, and just kind of sticking to the things that people have solved before. And so, in some ways, I don't know if I really get to express myself creatively in the code that I write, which I think is okay for me because I don't really consider myself someone who needs a creative outlet in my work. What about you? What thoughts do you have about this? JOËL: I think it's interesting the way you described it. I'm almost wondering if I'm making maybe a comparison to physical architecture; maybe you almost have a sort of brutalist perspective on the things you construct. STEPHANIE: [laughs] JOËL: So they're functional. They're minimal. They are not always the prettiest to look at, but they're solid. Does that metaphor sound about right to you? STEPHANIE: I feel like I have to make a pun about SOLID, the design patterns, and code. JOËL: Ooh. STEPHANIE: [laughs] But I think I like brutalist, I mean, the term itself. I don't know if I necessarily identify with it in terms of my work and output. But the idea that the code that I do is functional is, I think, particularly important to me as a developer. And I don't just mean, like, oh, the code works, so it's done, but functional for whatever need I'm solving and also for the people who are working with this code again in the future. I mentioned boring technology. There's a talk that I'm kind of referencing by Dan McKinley, and you can check out his slides at boringtechnology.club. And he talks about this idea of decision-making and how that relates to writing boring or creative code. And he also references Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And so, ideally, if you're working in an existing codebase, all the low-level decisions have been made for you. And then you can kind of traverse the hierarchy and focus your creativity on the high-level problems that you're trying to solve. So maybe you're not necessarily expressing your creativity in the syntax or whatever pattern you're using, again, because a lot of those things have been solved. But where the creativity comes from is the particular domain or business problem you have and the real-world constraints that you're faced with. And how do you figure out what to do given those constraints? JOËL: I think that lines up a lot with my own experience as well. I think as a newer developer, syntax is sort of the thing that's top of mind. And so, maybe trying to get clever with syntax is something that I would focus on more. Sometimes that's trying to get code really short and terse. Sometimes it's because I want to try. Can I do this thing with a particular piece of syntax, or even just does it look pretty? I think now, in my code, I am actually kind of boring with my syntax. I, probably when I write Ruby, mostly use a kind of slimmed-down set of syntax and don't use the full expressive power of the language for most of my day-to-day needs. So basic things with objects, and methods, and blocks, sort of the basic building blocks that we get from Ruby regular conditionals, if...else, and a few other nice things that the language gives us. But, in many ways, it almost feels like...I don't know if you've ever seen the simplified English Wikipedia. STEPHANIE: No, I haven't. What is that? JOËL: They're treating it, I think, like a separate language, but it is a version of Wikipedia in English with a more restricted vocabulary to try to make the content more accessible to those that might struggle with more standard English. So it's a sort of smaller subset of English. And, in many ways, I feel like a lot of the day-to-day Ruby code that I write is simplified, Ruby. STEPHANIE: Wow, that's really interesting. I think this also goes back to the specialized vocabulary episode we talked about. And is there value in keeping things accessible, and straightforward, and boring but at the cost of being able to express yourself with everything you have available to you? This is a bit of a tangent, I guess, but I grew up speaking Chinese with my parents, but since then, I have really lost a lot of that vocabulary. And, in some ways, I really struggle with communicating in Chinese because I feel like I'm not able to express myself exactly the way I want to in the way that I can in English. And when I'm talking to my parents, yeah, that's been a bit of a challenge for me because I do really value being able to say things the way that I mean, and I'm not able to have that with my limited vocabulary. So I can also see how people might not enjoy working within these confines of boring syntax and boring frameworks. JOËL: Sometimes it's nice to give yourself a sort of syntactical restriction, but they're very low-level when it comes to most of what we do for programming. And I think that's sort of what I've learned as my career has evolved is that programming is so much more than just learning syntax. So kind of like with art, maybe it's nice to restrict yourself to say, oh, can I do something with only a particular brushstroke technique, or restricting myself to a particular palette or a particular medium? And that can foster a lot of creativity. So, similarly, I think you could do some things like playing Code Golf, not on production code; please don't. STEPHANIE: [laughs] JOËL: But as an experiment in a side project or just almost as a piece of art, that can be a really interesting problem to solve and give you a deeper understanding of the language. And I'm sure there are plenty of other syntactical limitations you could put on yourself or maybe fancy things you would like to explore and say, "Well, this is over the top. We don't need to structure it in this way or use this syntax. But I want to sort of push the boundaries of what can be done with it. Let's see where I can take it." STEPHANIE: That's really fair. And I think it relates back to what I was saying earlier about perhaps creativity when writing software products comes from the constraints of the business of, in some ways, physical aspects of development. In the Dan McKinley talk, I mentioned about choosing boring technology. He generally recommends against bringing in a new language or framework because of the costs, the carrying cost of doing that, and the long-term maintenance to consider. But he instead suggests turning the question on its head and being like, how can we solve this problem with the current technology that we do have? And I think that relates to what you were saying about being able to push the boundaries of a particular medium or tool and in a way that you might not have considered before. JOËL: Exactly. And I think going back to the analogy with art; sometimes it is nice to restrict yourself to a particular brushstroke or something like that to try to foster creativity. But oftentimes, you want to explore creativity in much higher-level ways. So maybe you're not restricting things like brushstrokes and color, and, instead, you want to explore lighting. You want to explore maybe certain ways of mixing colors. There are all sorts of, I think, higher-level ways that you can be creative in art that's not just the mechanics of how you apply pigment to canvas. And we see the same thing like you were saying, in code where there's a lot of higher level business problems. Generally, how do we want to structure large chunks of the code? How do we want to build abstractions? Although that can also be a dangerous place to get too creative in. STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. Do you consider yourself a creative person or need a creative outlet? And how does writing code or software development play a role in that for you? JOËL: I would say, yes, I consider myself a creative person. And I would consider coding, in general, to be a creative endeavor. I sometimes describe to people that writing code is like building something out of infinite legos. You're constrained only by the power of your imagination and the amount of time you're willing to put into constructing the thing that you're building. Of course, then you have all sorts of business constraints. And there are things you want to do on a work project that are probably not the same as what you would want to do on a client project or on a personal project. But there's still creativity, I think, at every level and sometimes even outside of the code itself. Just understanding and breaking down the business problem can require a ton of creativity before you even write a single line of code in your editor. I was reading a Twitter thread the other day by @GeePawHill that sort of proposes that there are sort of four steps in evolution of kind of the mindset that programmers go through over their career. And I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on this evolution if you kind of agree with it or disagree with it if that maybe lines up with some of your experience. So this Twitter thread proposes four levels of thinking that we go through. I think we can kind of jump between these levels at various points in our work. So we might do all of these in a day, but to a certain extent, they also follow a little bit of a progression in our career. So the first level is thinking in terms of syntax; that's just knowing the characters to type in the editor. The second level is thinking in terms of code, that's, thinking a little bit more semantically. So now, instead of thinking, oh, do I need if then curly brace, then closed curly brace? Now we're thinking more in terms of, okay, I need a branch in the flow of control for my logic here. And at that level, maybe you don't even need to think about the syntax quite so much because you're so comfortable with. It kind of just fades away. Building beyond that, now you're thinking in terms of your paradigm. So Ruby is an object-oriented language, so you might be thinking in terms of what objects do I need to represent this problem and how do they need to talk to each other? And the sort of underlying semantics of, oh, do I need a conditional here or not? Those might start fading away because now you're thinking at a slightly higher level. And then, finally, thinking in terms of change sets. Now you're thinking less in terms of the language itself and more in terms of the business problems and how the current behavior of the software is different and needs to change to get to where we want the behavior to be. STEPHANIE: I think I disagree a little bit with the idea that it's a progression. And I'm thinking about how when you have a beginner's mind, anything is possible. And in some ways, if you are new to coding, before you have that understanding of what is and isn't possible, anything is possible. And so, in some ways, I've worked with people who are super new to coding, and the ideas that they come up with for how to make a change at that highest level that you were just describing, in some ways, make sense. You can be like, oh yeah, that actually is something we can do and an idea that you might eventually get to from someone more experienced, having followed those different levels of progression and reaching a place where you're like, I know exactly what tools or the details about how to do this. But when you have that beginner's mind, and you don't have the details of the how, I think you can still think about those problems at a higher level, and that is valuable, and maybe they'll need help implementing along the way. And I think that that could be a really interesting area of collaboration that perhaps we don't do enough in this industry because it's very mentorship-focused where it's like, okay, I have more experience, and so I'm going to teach you what I know. Whereas if you bring someone with a totally fresh perspective along, what ideas can you generate from there? JOËL: I think we definitely exist in all of these layers every day as developers. I think, looking back at myself as a newer developer, I tended to maybe work bottom-up when I tried to solve a problem. And I think that now I probably tend to work sort of in the reverse order, start by thinking in terms of changes and then work my way down. And so syntax, at that point, is the last thing that I'm thinking about. It's really an implementation detail. Whereas I think as a new coder, syntax was super important. Was your experience similar to that, or did you have a very different journey? STEPHANIE: It's funny that you mentioned it because I think when I was new to development, there were so many syntactic things that I didn't understand that I just kind of like blurted out of my brain when I was reading code and was then trying to latch on to the important pieces of information that I needed to know, which often meant class names or method names. Pieces that I could grab onto and be like, okay, I'm seeing that this method then calls this other method or whatever. And, yeah, what you were saying about implementation details falling away, I kind of did that at the beginning of my career a little bit, at least at that syntactic level. So, yeah, I think I'm with you where we all exist at different parts of this framework, I suppose. And that journey could look different for everyone. JOËL: So we're talking about ways to be creative at higher levels. And one way that I find has been really fun for me but also really useful has been bringing in dependency graphs as a tool for design. You knew I had to mention dependency graphs. STEPHANIE: We got there in the end. [laughter] Cool, go on. JOËL: I think it's been really good sometimes in terms of modeling change sets because dependency graphs can be a great tool for that, but also sometimes in terms of trying to understand what the underlying business problem is and how it might translate into code structures where things might be tightly coupled versus not. And so, drawing it out visually is a really powerful design tool. And because now I can look at it in two-dimensional space, I can realize, oh, I see something that feels like it's maybe an anti-pattern or might be a problem here. There's a cycle in my graph; maybe we should find a way to break that. Maybe we need to introduce some dependency inversion and break that cycle, and now our graph is acyclic. And so I think that's where there can be a lot of creativity that happens, even when you're not writing code at that point. You're just sort of talking about how different pieces of the project or even different subproblems...you're not even talking about if they're implemented in code, but just saying this subproblem is related to this subproblem, and maybe I would like to find a way for them to not have a connection to each other. STEPHANIE: I'm glad we got back to this dependency graph topic because I stumbled upon something that I'm curious to hear your opinion on. I have been following Julia Evans' work for a little bit now. And she recently released a new zine about debugging. And at the end of the zine, she includes a link to these choose-your-own adventure puzzles that she has created, specifically to teach you about debugging and how to do it. And so it's basically a little detective game, and you kind of follow along with this bug. And she gives you some different options about how would you like to find a little bit more information about this bug? And what approach would you take? And you make some different selections, and then as you go, you get more information about the bug. And that helps inform what next steps you might take. And, one, I think this is a great example of a creative project about software development, even though it's not necessarily your day-to-day work. But then she also uses a tool called Twine, which is for creating non-linear stories, or puzzles, or games. And it got me really thinking about the multi-step wizard we've been talking about and this idea of looking at a problem in different mediums. It also reminds me of if you have a designer on your team and they're doing prototyping, they usually have some kind of user interactivity that they have to codify. And they are making those decisions about okay, like, if you are at this step, then where do you go next? And those are all things that you've talked about doing as a developer, I think, at a later point in the future lifecycle. And I'm now just kind of thinking about how to integrate some of that into our workflow. Do you have any thoughts about that? JOËL: I had one of the coolest experiences in my career when I was doing a front-end project where we were building a typeahead component that was pulling data from a remote server and then populating a drop-down. And the designer and I sat down and just started to look through all the different states that you could be and how you could move from one to another. So it looked like maybe you start the typeahead is empty; it's just a text box. And then as you start typing, maybe there's a spinner that shows up. And then maybe you have some results, or maybe you don't have results. And those are two different entirely states that you could be in. And then, if you backspace, what happens? And what if something goes wrong on the server? Like, we just kept finding all these edge cases. And we built out a diagram of all the possible journeys that someone could take, starting from that empty text box, all the way to either some sort of error state or a final state where you've selected an item. But, of course, these are not necessarily terminal because in an error state, maybe you can just start typing again, and you sort of jump back into the beginning of the flow. So we did this whole diagram that ended up looking very much like a finite-state machine. We didn't use the term, but that's kind of what it ended up being. And I think we both learned a lot about the problem we were trying to solve and the user experience we were trying to create through that. There was just a lot of back and forth of, like, oh, did you think about what would happen if we get no results here? Have we thought about that state? Or it's like, okay, so now we're in an error state. What do we do? Is there a way to get out of it, or are we just kind of stuck? Oh, you can backspace. Okay, what happens then? STEPHANIE: Yeah, I mean, we've been talking about creativity as a solitary process. But I think that that goes to show that when collaborating with other people, too, that process can also be very fun and creative and fulfill that need outside of the way the code is written. JOËL: In many ways, I think working with somebody else, and that gets made at the intersection of two or more people's work, is probably the most creative way to build software. STEPHANIE: That actually reminds me of a book I read last year called "Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow." And it's about these two friends and their journey creating video games together. And it kind of follows several decades of their life and their relationship, and their creative and collaborative process. And I really loved that book. It was very good, especially if you like video games. There are a lot of great references to that too. But I think what you were saying about that fulfillment that you can get with working with other people, and that book does a really good job examining that and getting into our need as humans for that type of collaboration. So that's my little book rec. It goes back to our conversation about designing a game. Again, maybe this is [laughs] what we'll do next. Who knows? The world's our oyster. On that note, shall we wrap up? JOËL: Let's wrap up. STEPHANIE: Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm. JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore. STEPHANIE: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show. JOËL: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us @_bikeshed, or you can reach me @joelquen on Twitter. STEPHANIE: Or reach both of us at firstname.lastname@example.org via email. JOËL: Thank you so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week. ALL: Byeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! ANNOUNCER: This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot, your expert strategy, design, development, and product management partner. We bring digital products from idea to success and teach you how because we care. Learn more at thoughtbot.com.
Joël has been pondering another tool for thought from Maggie Appleton: diagramming. What does drawing complex things reveal? Stephanie has updates on how Soup Group went, plus a clarification from last week's episode re: hexagons and tessellation. They also share the top most impactful articles they read in 2022. This episode is brought to you by Airbrake (https://airbrake.io/?utm_campaign=Q3_2022%3A%20Bike%20Shed%20Podcast%20Ad&utm_source=Bike%20Shed&utm_medium=website). Visit Frictionless error monitoring and performance insight for your app stack. Maggie Appleton tools for thought (https://maggieappleton.com/tools-for-thought) Squint test (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bZh5LMaSmE&themeRefresh=1) Cardinality of types (https://guide.elm-lang.org/appendix/types_as_sets.html) Honeycomb hexagon construction (https://www.nature.com/articles/srep28341) Coachability (https://cate.blog/2021/02/22/coachability/) Strangler Fig Pattern (https://shopify.engineering/refactoring-legacy-code-strangler-fig-pattern) Finding time to refactor (https://thoughtbot.com/blog/finding-the-time-to-refactor) Parse don't validate (https://lexi-lambda.github.io/blog/2019/11/05/parse-don-t-validate/) Errors cluster around boundaries (https://thoughtbot.com/blog/debugging-at-the-boundaries) Transcript: STEPHANIE: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot that has basically become a two-person book club between me and Joël. [laughter] JOËL: I love that. STEPHANIE: I'm so sorry, I had to. I think we've been sharing so many things we've been reading in the past couple of episodes, and I've been loving it. I think it's a lot of the conversations we have off-air too, and now we're just bringing it on on-air. And I am going to lean into it. [laughs] JOËL: I like it. STEPHANIE: So, Joël, what's new in your world? JOËL: So, in a recent episode, I think it was two episodes ago, you shared an article by Maggie Appleton about tools for thought. And I've kind of been going back to that article a few times in the past few weeks. And I feel like I always see something new. And one tool for thought that Maggie explicitly mentions in the article is diagramming, and that's something that we've used as an industry for a long time to deal with conditional logic is just writing a flow diagram. And I feel like that's such a useful tool sometimes to move away from code and text into visuals and draw your problem rather than write your problem. It's often useful either when I'm trying to figure out how to structure some of my own code or when I'm reviewing a PR for somebody else, and something just feels not quite right, but I'm not quite sure what I want to say. And so drawing the problem all of a sudden might give me some insights, might help me identify why does something feel off about this code that I can't quite put into words? STEPHANIE: What does drawing complex things reveal for you? Is there a time where you were able to see something that you hadn't seen before? JOËL: One thing I think it can make more obvious is the shape of the problem. When we describe a problem in words, sometimes there's a sense of like, okay, there are two main paths through this problem or something. And then when we do our code, we try to make it DRY, and we try all these things. And it's really hard to see the flow of logic. And we might actually have way more paths through our code than are actually needed by the initial problem definition. I think we talked about this in a past episode as well, structuring a multi-step form or a wizard. And oftentimes, that is structured way more complex than it needs to be. And you can really see that difference when you draw out a flow diagram, the difference between forcing everything down a single linear flow with a bunch of little independent conditions versus branching up front three or four or five ways, however many steps you have. And then, from there, it's just executing code. STEPHANIE: I have two thoughts here. Firstly, it's very tragic that this is an audio medium only [laughs] and not also a visual one. Because I think we've joked in the past about when we've, you know, talked about complex problems and branching conditionals and stuff like that, like, oh, like, if only we could show a visual representation to our listeners. [laughs] And secondly, now that makes a lot more sense why there are so many whiteboards just hanging out in offices everywhere. [laughs] JOËL: We should use them more. It's interesting you mentioned the limitations of an audio format that we have. But even just describing the problem in an audio format is different than implementing it in code. So if I were to describe a problem to you that says, oh, we have a multi-step form that has three different steps to it, in that description, you might initially think, oh, that means I want to branch three ways up front, and then each step will need to do some processing. But if you look at the implementation in the code, maybe whoever coded it, and maybe that's yourself, will have done it totally differently with a lot more branching than just three up front because it's a different medium. STEPHANIE: That's a really good point. I also remember reading something about how you can reason about how many branches a piece of code might have if you just look at the structure of the lines of code in your editor if you either step away from it and are just looking at the code not really able to see the text itself but just the shape that it makes. If you have some shorter lines and then a handful of longer lines, you might be able to see like, oh, like these are multiple conditionals happening, which I think is kind of related to what you're saying about taking a piece of code and then diagramming it out to really see the different paths. And I know that that can also be obscured a little bit if you are stylistically using different syntax. Like, if you are using a guard clause to return early, that's a conditional, but it gets a bit hidden from the visual representation than if you had written out the full if statement, for example. JOËL: I think that's a really interesting distinction that you bring up because a lot of languages provide syntactic sugar for common conditional tasks that we do. And sometimes, that syntactic sugar will almost obfuscate the fact that there is a conditional happening at all, which can be great in a lot of cases. But when it comes to analyzing and particularly comparing different implementations, a second conversion that I like to do is converting all of the conditional code to some standardized form, and, for me, that's typically just your basic if...elsif...else expressions. And so any fancy Boolean operators we're doing, any safe navigation that we're doing around nil, maybe some inline conditionals, early returns, things like that, all of the implicit elses that are involved as well, putting them all into some normalized form then allows me to compare two implementations with each other. And sometimes, two approaches that we initially thought were identical, just with different syntax, turned out to have slightly different behavior because maybe one has this sort of implicit branch that the other one doesn't. And by converting to a normalized syntax, all of a sudden, this difference becomes super obvious. To be clear, this is not something I do necessarily in the actual code that I commit, not necessarily writing everything long-form. But definitely, when I'm trying to think about conditional code or analyzing somebody else's code, I will often convert it to long-form, some normalized shape so that I can then see some things about it that were not obvious in the final form. Or to make a comparison with something else, and then you can compare apples to apples and say, okay, both these approaches that we're considering in normalized form, here's what they look like. There's some difference here that we do care about or don't care about. STEPHANIE: That's really interesting. I find it very curious that there is a value in having the long-form approach of writing the code out and being able to identify things. But then the end result that we commit might not look like that and be shortened and be kind of, quote, unquote, "polished," or at least condensed with syntactic sugar. And I'm kind of wondering why that might be the case. JOËL: I think a lot of that will come down to your personal or your company's style guide. Personally, I think I do lean a little bit more towards a slightly more explicit form. But there are plenty of times that I will use syntactic sugar as well, as long as everybody knows what it does. But sometimes, it will come at the cost of other analysis techniques. You had mentioned the squint test earlier, which I believe is a term coined by Sandi Metz. STEPHANIE: I think it might be. That rings a bell. JOËL: And that is a benefit that you get by writing explicit conditionals all the time. But sometimes, it is much nicer to write code that is a little bit more terse. And so you have to do the trade-offs there. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's a really good point. JOËL: So that's two of the sort of three formats that I was thinking about for converting conditional code to gain more insight. The other format is honestly a little bit weird. It's almost a stretch. But from my time spent working with the Elm language, I learned how to use its type system, which uses a concept called algebraic data types, or some languages will call these tagged unions, some languages will call these sum types. This concept goes by a lot of different names. But they're used to define types into model data. But there's a really fun property, which is that you can model conditional code using this as well. And so you can convert executable code into these algebraic data types. And now, you can apply a lot of tools and heuristics that you have from the data modeling world to this conditional code. STEPHANIE: Do you have a practical example? JOËL: So a classic thing that data modelers will say is you should make impossible states impossible. So in practice, this means that when you define a type using these algebraic data types, you should not be able to create more distinct values than are actually valid in this particular system. So, for example, if a value is required to always be present for something and there's no way in the system for a value to become not present, then don't allow it to be nullable. We do something similar when we design a database schema when we put a null false on a column because we know that this will never be null. And so, why allow nulls when you know they should never be there? So it's a similar thing with the types. This sort of analysis that you can do looking at...the fancy term is the types cardinality. I'll link to an article that digs into that for people who are curious. But that can show you whether a type can represent, let's say, ten possible values, but the domain you're trying to model only has 5. And so when there's that discrepancy, there are five valid values that can be modeled by your type and an additional extra five that are not valid that just kind of shake out from the way you implemented things. So you can take that technique and apply it to a conditional that you've converted to algebraic data type form. And that can help find things like paths through your conditional code that don't line up with the problem that you're trying to solve. So going back to the example I talked about earlier of a multi-step form with three different steps, that's a problem that should have three paths through your conditional. But depending on your implementation, if it's a bunch of independent if clauses, you might have a bit of a combinatorial explosion. And there might be 25 different paths through that chunk of code. And that means three of them are the ones that your problem wants, and then the extra 22 are things that should quote, unquote, "never happen," but we all know that they eventually will. So that kind of analysis can help maybe give you pointers to the fact that your current structure is not well-suited to the problem that you're trying to solve. STEPHANIE: I think another database schema example that came to mind for me was using an enum to declare acceptable values for a field. And, yeah, I know exactly what you mean when working with code where you might know, because of the way the business works, that this thing is impossible, and yet, you still have to either end up coding defensively for it or just kind of hold that complexity in your head. And that can lead to some gnarly situations, and it makes debugging down the line a lot more difficult too. JOËL: It definitely makes it really hard for somebody else to know the original intention of the code when a conditional has more paths through it than there actually are actual paths in the problem you're trying to solve. Because you have to load all of that in your head, and our programmer brains are trained to think about all the edge cases, and what if this condition fires but this other one doesn't? Could that lead to a bug? Is that just a thing that's like, well, but the inputs will never trigger that, so you can ignore it? And if there are no comments to tell you, and if there are comments, then do you trust them? Because it -- STEPHANIE: Yes. [laughter] I'll just jump in here and say, yeah, I have seen the comments then conflict with the code as well. And so you have these two sources of information that are conflicting with each other, and you have no idea what is true and what's not. JOËL: So I'm a big fan of structuring conditional code such that the number of unique paths through a set of conditions is the same as the sort of, you might say, logical paths through the problem domain that we haven't added extra paths, just sort of accidentally due to the way we implemented things. STEPHANIE: Yeah. And now you have three different ways to visualize that information in your head [laughs] with these mental models. JOËL: Right. So from taking code that is conditional code and then transforming it into one of these other representations, I don't always do all three, but there are tools that I have. And I can gain all sorts of new insights into that code by looking at it through a completely different lens. STEPHANIE: That's super cool. JOËL: So the last episode, you had mentioned that you were going to try a soup club. How did that turn out? STEPHANIE: It turned out great. It was awesome, the inaugural soup group. I had, I think, around eight people total. And I spent...right after work, I went straight to chopping celery [laughs] and onions and just soup prepping. And it was such a good time. I invited a different group of friends than normally come together, and that turned out really well. I think we all kind of had at least one thing in common, which was my goal was just to, you know, have my friends come together and meet new people too. And we had soup, and we had bread. Someone brought a spiced crispy chickpea appetizer that went really well inside of our ribollita vegetable bean soup. And then I had the perfect amount of leftovers. So after making a really big batch of food and spending quite a long time cooking, I wanted to make sure that everyone had their fill. But it was also pretty nice to have two servings left over that I could toss in the freezer just for me and as a reward for my hard work. And then it ended up working out really well because I went on vacation last week. And the night we got back home, we were like, "Oh, it's kind of late. What are we going to do for dinner?" And then I got to pull out the leftover soup from my freezer. And it was the perfect coming home from a big trip, and you have nothing in your fridge kind of deal. So it worked out well. JOËL: I guess that's the advantage of hosting is that you get to keep the leftovers. STEPHANIE: It's true. JOËL: You also have to, you know, make the soup. [laughs] STEPHANIE: Also true. [laughs] But like I said, it wasn't like I had so much soup that I was going to have to eat it every single day for the next week and a half. It was just the amount that I wanted. So I'm excited to keep doing this. I'm hoping to do the next soup group in the next week or two. And then some other folks even offered to host it for next time. So maybe we might experiment with doing a rotating thing. But yeah, it has definitely brought me joy through this winter. JOËL: That's so lovely. What else has been new in your world? STEPHANIE: I have a clarification to make from last week's episode. So last week, we were talking about hexagons and tessellation. And we had mentioned that hexagons and triangles were really strong shapes. And we mentioned that, oh yeah, you can see it in the natural world through honeycomb. And I've since learned that bees don't actually build the hexagon shape themselves. That was something that scientists did think to be true for a little bit, that bees were just geometrically inclined, but it turns out that the accepted theory for how honeycomb gets its shape is that bees build cylindrical cells that later transform into hexagons, which does have a lot of surface area for holding the honey, though the process itself is actually still debated by scientists. So there's some research that has supported the idea that it's formed through physical forces like the changing temperature of the wax that transforms it from a cylinder shape into a hexagon, though, yeah, apparently, the studies are still a bit inconclusive. And the last scientific paper I read about this, just to really get my facts straight [laughs], they were kind of exploring aspects of bee behavior that led to the hexagons eventually forming because that does require that the cylinders are perfectly the same size and are at least built in a hexagonal pattern, even though the cells themselves are not hexagons. JOËL: Fascinating. So it sounds like it's either a social thing where the bees do it based off of some behavior. Or if it's a physical thing, it's some sort of like hexagons are a natural equilibrium point that everything kind of trends to, and so as temperature changes, the beehive will naturally trend towards that. STEPHANIE: Yeah, exactly. 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JOËL: So in the past few episodes, we've talked about books we're reading, articles that we're reading. This is kind of turning into the Stephanie and Joël book club. STEPHANIE: I love it. JOËL: That got me thinking about things that I've read that were impactful in the past year. So I'm curious for both of us what might be, let's say, the top two or three most impactful articles that you read in 2022. Or maybe to put it another way, what are the top two or three articles that you reference the most in conversations with other people? STEPHANIE: So listeners might not know this, but I actually joined thoughtbot early last year in February. So I was coming into this new job, and I was so excited to be joining an organization with so many talented developers. And I was really excited to learn from everyone. So I kind of came in with really big goals around my technical growth. And the end of the year just passed, and I got to do a little bit of reflection. And I was quite proud of myself actually for all the things that I had learned and all the ways that I had grown. And I was reminded of this blog post that I think I had in the back of my mind around "Coachability" by Cate, and she talks about how coaching is different from mentorship. And she provides some really cool mental models for different ways of providing support to your teammates. Let's say mentorship is teaching someone how to swim, and maybe helping someone out with a task might be throwing them a life raft. Coaching is more like seeing someone in the water, but you are up on a bridge, and you are kind of seeing all of their surroundings. And you are identifying ways that they can help themselves. So maybe there's a branch, a tree branch, a few feet away from them. And can they go grab that tree branch? How can they help themselves? So I came to this new job at thoughtbot, and I had these really big goals. But I also knew that I wanted to lean on my new co-workers and just be able to not only learn the things that I was really excited to learn but also trust that they had my best interests in mind as well and for them to be able to point out things that could help my career growth. So the idea of coachability was really interesting to me because I had been coming from a workplace that had a really great feedback culture. But I think this article touches on what to do with feedback in a way that I hadn't seen before. So she also describes being coachable as having two axes, one of them being receptiveness to feedback and the other being actionability in response to feedback. So receptiveness is when you hear feedback; do you listen to it? Do you work through it? How does that feedback fit into your mental model of your goals and your skills? And then actionability is like, okay, what do you do with that? How do you change your behavior? How do you change the way you approach problems? And those two things in mind were really helpful in terms of understanding how I respond to feedback and how to really make the most of it when I receive it. Because there are times when I get feedback, and I don't know what to do with it, you know, maybe it just wasn't specific enough. And so, in that sense, I want to work on my actionability and figuring out, okay, someone said that testing would be a really great opportunity for me to learn. But what can I do to learn how to write better tests? And that might involve figuring that out on my own, like, what strategies work for me. Or that might involve asking them, being like, "What do you recommend?" So yeah, I had this really big year of growth. And I'm excited to keep this mental model in mind when I feel like I might be stuck and I'm not getting the growth that I want and using those axes to kind of determine how to move forward. JOËL: I think the first thing that comes to mind for me is the episode that you and I did a while back about the value of precise language. For example, you talked about the distinction between coaching and mentorship, which I think in sort of colloquial speech, we kind of use interchangeably. But having them both mean different things, and then being able to talk about those or at least analyze yourself through the lens of those two words, I think, is really valuable and may be helping to drive either insights or actions that you can take. And similarly, this idea of having two different axes for receptiveness versus...was it changeability you said was the other one? STEPHANIE: Actionability. JOËL: Actionability, I think, is really helpful when you're feeling stuck because now you can realize, oh, is it because I'm not accepting feedback or not getting good feedback? Or is it that I'm getting feedback, but it's hard to take action on it? So just all of a sudden, having those terms and having that mental model, that framework, I feel like equips me to engage with feedback in a way that is much more powerful than when we kind of used all those terms interchangeably. STEPHANIE: Yeah, exactly. I think that it's very well understood that feedback is important and having a good feedback culture is really healthy. But I think we don't always talk about the next step, which is what do you do with feedback? And with the help of this article, I've kind of come to realize that all feedback is valuable, but not all of it is good. And she makes a really excellent point of saying that the way you respond to feedback also depends on the relationship you have with the person giving it. So, ideally, you have a high trust high respect relationship with that person. And so when they give you feedback, you are like, yeah, I'm receptive to this, and I want to do something about it. But sometimes you get feedback from someone, and you might not have that trust in that relationship or that respect. And it just straight up might not be good feedback for you. And the way you engage with it could be figuring out what part of it is helpful for me and what part of it is not? And if it's not helpful in terms of helping your growth, it might at least be informative. And that might help you learn something about the other person or about the circumstances or environment that you're in. JOËL: Again, I love the distinction you're making between helpful and informative. STEPHANIE: Yeah. I think I had to learn that the hard way this year. [laughs] So, yeah, I really hope that folks find this vocabulary or this idea...or consider it when they are thinking about feedback in terms of giving it or receiving it and using it in a way that works for them to grow the way they want to. JOËL: I'm curious, in your interactions, and learning, and growth over the past year, do you feel like you've leaned a little bit more into the mentorship or the coaching side of things? What would you say is the rough percentage breakdown? Are we talking 50-50, 80-20? STEPHANIE: That's such a good question. I think I received both this year. But I think I'm at a point in my career where coaching is more valuable to me. And I'm reminded of a time a few months into joining thoughtbot where I was working and pairing with a principal developer. And he was really turning the workaround on me and asking, like, what do I want to do? What do I see in the code? What areas do I want to explore? And I found it really uncomfortable because I was like, oh, I just want you to tell me what to do because I don't know, or at least at the time, I was really...I found it kind of stressful. But now, looking back on it and with this vocabulary, I'm like, oh, that's what true coaching was because I gained a lot of experience towards my foundational skill set of figuring out how to solve problems or identifying areas of refactoring through that process. And so sometimes coaching can feel really uncomfortable because you are stretching outside of your comfort zone and that your coach is hopefully supporting you but not just giving you the help but teaching you how to help yourself. JOËL: That's a really interesting thing to notice. And I think what I'm hearing is that coaching can feel less comfortable than mentoring because you're being asked to do more of the work yourself. And you're maybe being stretched in some ways that aren't exactly the same as you would get in a more mentoring-focused scenario. Does that sound right? STEPHANIE: Yeah, I think that sounds right because, like I said, I was also receiving mentorship, and I learned about new things. But those didn't always solidify in terms of empowering me next time to be able to do it without the help of someone else. Joël, what was an article that really spoke to you this last year? JOËL: So I really appreciated an article by Adrianna Chang, who's a developer at Shopify, about "Refactoring Legacy Code with the Strangler Fig Pattern." And it talks about this approach to moving refactoring code from one implementation to another. And it's a longer-ranged process, and how to do so incrementally. And a big theme for me this year has been refactoring and incremental change. I've had a lot of conversations with people about how to spot smaller steps. I've written an article on working incrementally. And so I think this was really nice because it gave a very particular technique on how to do so with an example. And so, because these sorts of conversations kept coming up this year, I found myself referencing this article all the time. STEPHANIE: I really loved this article too. And this last year, I also saw a strangler fig tree for the first time in real life in Florida. And I think that was after I had read this article. And it was really cool to make the connection between something I was seeing in nature with a pattern in software development or technique. JOËL: We have this metaphor, and now you get to see the real thing. I was excited because, at RubyConf Mini this year, I actually got to meet Adrianna. So it was really cool. It's like, "Hey, I've been referencing your article all year. It's super cool to meet you in person." STEPHANIE: That's awesome. I love that, just being able to support members of the community. What I really liked about the approach this article advocated for is that it allowed developers to continue working. You don't have to halt everything and dedicate time to refactor and not get any new feature work done. And that's the beauty of the incremental approach that you were talking about earlier, where you can continue development. Sometimes that refactoring might be paused for some reason or another, but then you can pick back up where you left off. And that is really intriguing to me because I think this past year, I was working on a client where refactoring seemed like something we had to dedicate special time for. And it constantly became tough to prioritize and sell to stakeholders. Whereas if you incorporate it into the work and do it in a way that doesn't stop the show [laughs] from going on, it can work really well and work towards sustainability and maintenance, which is another thing that we've talked a lot about on the show. JOËL: Something that's really powerful, I think, with that technique is that it allows you to have all of the intermediate steps get merged into your main branch and get shipped. So you don't have to have this long-running branch with a big change that's constantly going stale, and you're having to keep in sync with the main branch. And, unfortunately, I've often seen even this sort of thing where you create a long-running branch for a big change, a big refactor, and eventually, it just gets abandoned, and you have not locked in any wins. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's the worst of both worlds where you've dedicated time and resources and don't get the benefits of that work. I also liked that the strangler fig pattern kind of forces you to really understand the existing code. I think working with legacy code can be really challenging. And a lot of people don't like to do it because it involves a lot of spelunking and figuring out, okay, what's really going on. But in order to isolate the pieces to, you know, slowly start to stop making calls to the old code, it requires that you take a hard look at your legacy code and really figure it out. And I honestly think that that then informs the new code that you write to better support both the old feature and also any new features to come. JOËL: Definitely. The really nice thing about this pattern is that it also scales up and down. You can do this really small...even as part of a feature branch; maybe it's just part of your development process, even if you don't necessarily ship all of the intermediate steps. But it helps you work more incrementally and in a tighter scope. And then you can scale it up as big as changing out entire sections of a framework or...I think Adrianna's example is like switching out a data source. And so you can do some really large refactors. But then you could do it as well on just a small feature. I really like using this pattern anytime you're doing things like Rails upgrades, and you've got old gems that might not convert over where it's like, oh, the community abandoned this gem between Rails 4 and Rails 5. But now you need sort of a bridge to get over. And so I think that pattern is particularly powerful when doing something like a Rails upgrade. STEPHANIE: Very Cool. JOËL: So what would be a second article that was really impactful for you in the past year? STEPHANIE: So, speaking of refactoring, I really enjoyed a blog post called Finding Time to Refactor by a former thoughtboter, German Velasco. He makes a really great point that we should think of completeness in our work, not just when the code works as expected or meets the product requirements, but also when it is clear and maintainable. And so he really advocates for baking refactoring into just your normal development process. And like I said, that goes back to this idea that it can be incremental. It doesn't have to be separate or something that we do later, which is kind of what I had learned before coming to thoughtbot. So when I was also speaking about just my technical growth, this shift in philosophy, for me, was a really big part of that. And I just started kind of thinking and seeing ways to just do it in my regular process. And I think that has really helped me to feel better about my work and also see a noticeable improvement in the quality of my code. So he mentioned the three times that he makes sure to refactor, and that is one when he is practicing TDD and going through the red-green-refactor cycle. JOËL: It's in the name. STEPHANIE: [laughs] It really is. Two, when code is difficult to understand, so if he's coming in and fixing a bug and he pays the tax of trying to figure out confusing code, that's a really great opportunity to then reduce that caring cost for others by making it clear while you're in there, so leaving things better than you found it. And then three, when the existing design doesn't work. We, I think, have mentioned the adage, "Make the change easy, and then make the easy change." So if he's coming in to add a new feature and it's just not quite working, then that's a really good opportunity to refactor the existing design to support this new information or new concept. JOËL: I like those three scenarios. And I think that second one, in particular, resonated with me, the making things easier to understand. And in the sort of narrower sense of the word refactoring, traditionally, this means changing the structure of the code without changing its behavior. And I once had a situation where I was dealing with a series of early return expressions in a method that were all returning Booleans. And it was really hard because there were some unlesses, some ifs, some weird negation happening. And I just couldn't figure out what this code was doing. STEPHANIE: Did you draw a diagram? [laughs] JOËL: I did not. But it turns out this code was untested. And so I pretty much just tried, like, it took two Booleans as inputs and gave back a Boolean. So I just tried all the combinations, put it in, saw what it gave me out, and then wrote tests for them. And then realized that the test cases were telling me that this code was always returning false unless both inputs were true. And that's when it kind of hits me, it's like, wait a minute, this is Boolean AND. We've reimplemented Boolean AND with this convoluted set of conditional code. And so, at the end there, once I had that test coverage to feel confident, I went in and did a refactor where I changed the implementation. Instead of being...I think it was like three or four inline conditionals, just rewrote it as argument one and argument two, and that was much easier to read. STEPHANIE: That's a great point. Because the next time someone comes in here, and let's say they have to maybe add another condition or whatever, they're not just tacking on to this really confusing thing. You've hopefully made it easier for them to work with that code. And I also really appreciated, you know, I was mentioning how this article affected my thought process and how I approach development, but it's a really great one to share to then foster a culture of just continuous refactoring, I guess, is what I'm going to call it [laughs] and hopefully, avoiding having to do a massive rewrite or a massive effort to refactor. The phrase that comes to mind is many hands make light work. And if we all incorporated this into our process, perhaps we would just be working all around with more delightful code. Joël, do you have one more article that really stood out to you this year? JOËL: One that I think I really connected with this year is "Parse, Don't Validate" by Alexis King. Long-time listeners of the show will have heard me talk about this a little bit with Chris Toomey when he was a guest on the show this past fall. But the gist of the article is that the process of parsing is converting a broader type into a narrower type with the potential for errors. So traditionally, we think of this as turning a string which a string is very broad. All sorts of things are strings, and then you turn it into something else. So maybe you're parsing JSON. So you take a string of characters and try to turn it into a Ruby hash, but not all strings are valid hashes. So there's also the possibility for errors. And so, JSON.parse() could raise an error in Ruby. This idea, though, can be then expanded because, ideally, you don't want to just check that a value is valid for your stricter rules. You don't want to just check that a string is valid JSON and then pass the string along to the next person. You actually want to transform it. And then everybody else down the line can interact with that hash and not have to do a check again is this valid JSON? You've already validated that you've already converted it into a hash. You don't need to check that it's valid JSON again because, by the nature of being a hash, it's impossible for it to be invalid. Now, you might have some extra requirements on that hash. So maybe you require certain keys to be present and things like that. And I think that's where this idea gets even more powerful because then you can kind of layer this on top and have a second parsing step where you say, I'm going to parse this hash into, let's say, a shopping cart object. And so, not all Ruby hashes are valid shopping carts. And so you try to take a broader value and coerce it into a narrower value or transform it into a narrower value and potentially raise an error for those hashes that are not valid shopping carts. And then, whoever down the line gets a shopping cart object, you can just call items on it. You can call price on it. You don't need to check is this key present? Because now you have that certainty. STEPHANIE: This reminds me of when I was working with TypeScript in the summer of last year. And having come from a dynamically-typed language background, it was really challenging but also really interesting to me because we were also parsing JSON. But once we had transformed or parsed that data into this domain object, we had a lot more confidence about what we were working in. And all the functions we wrote down the line or used on the line, we could know for sure that, okay, it has these properties about it. And that really shaped the code we wrote. JOËL: So use the word confident here, which, for me, it's a keyword. And so you can now assume that certain properties are true because it's been checked once. That can be tricky if you don't actually do a transformation. If you're just sort of passing a raw value down, you'll often end up with code that is defensive that keeps rechecking the same conditions over and over. And you see this lot around nil in Ruby where somebody checks for a value for nil, and then inside that conditional, three or four other conditions deep, we recheck the same value for nil again, even though, in theory, it should not be nil at that point. And so by doing transformations like that, by parsing instead of just validating, we can ensure that we don't have to repeat those conditions. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I mean, that refers back to the analyzing conditional code that we spent a bit of time talking about at the beginning of this episode. Because I remember in that application, we render different components based on the status of this domain object. And there was a condition for when the status was something that was not expected. And then someone had left a comment that was like, technically, this should never happen. But I think that he had to add it to appease the compiler. And I think had we been able to better enforce those boundaries, had we been more thoughtful around our domain modeling, we could have figured out how to make sure that we weren't then introducing that ambiguity down the line. JOËL: I think it's interesting that you immediately went to talking about TypeScript here because TypeScript has a type system. And the "f, Don't Validate" article is written in Haskell, which is another typed language. And types are great for showing you exactly like, here's the boundary. On this side of it, it's a string, and on this side here, it's a richly-typed value that has been parsed. In Ruby, we don't have that, everything is duck-typed, but I think the principle still applies. It's a little bit more implicit, but there are zones of high or low assumptions about the data. So when I'm interacting directly with raw input from a third-party endpoint, I'm really only expecting some kind of raw string from the body of the response. It may or may not be valid. There are all sorts of checks I need to do to make sure I can do anything with it. So that is a very low assumption zone. Later on, in the business logic part of the code, I might expect that I can call a method on the object to get the price of a shopping cart or a list of items or something like that. Now I'm in a much higher assumption zone. And being self-aware about where we transition from low assumptions to high assumptions is, I think, a really key takeaway for how we interact with code in Ruby. Because, oftentimes, where that boundary is a little bit fuzzy or where we think it's in one place but it's actually in a different place is where bugs tend to cluster. STEPHANIE: Do you have any thoughts about how to adhere to those rules that we're making so we're not having to assume in a dynamically-typed language? JOËL: One way that I think is often helpful is trying to use richer objects and to not just rely on primitives all the time. So don't pass a business process a hash and be just like, trust me, I checked it; it's got the right keys because the day will come when you pass it a malformed hash and now we're going to have an error in the business process. And now we have a dilemma because do we want to start adding defensive checks in the business process to be like, oh, are all our keys that we expect present, things like that? Do we need to elsewhere in the code make sure we process the hash correctly? It becomes a little bit messy. And so, oftentimes, it might be better to say, don't pass a raw hash around. Create a domain object that has the actual method that you want, and pass that instead. STEPHANIE: Oh, sounds like a great opportunity to use the new data class in Ruby 3.2 that we talked about in an episode prior. JOËL: That's a great suggestion. I would definitely reach for something like that, I think, in a situation where I'm trying to model something a little bit richer than just a hash. STEPHANIE: I also think that there have been more trends around borrowing concepts from functional programming, and especially with the introduction of classes that represent nil or empty states, so instead of just using the default nil, having at least a bit of context around a nil what or an empty what. That then might have methods that either raise an error or just signal that something is wrong with the assumptions that we're making around the flexibility that we get from duck typing. I'm really glad that you proposed this topic idea for today's episode because it really represented a lot of themes that we have been discussing on the show in the past couple of months. And I am excited to maybe do this again in the future to just capture what's been interesting or inspiring for us throughout the year. JOËL: On that note, shall we wrap up? STEPHANIE: Let's wrap up. Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm. JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore. STEPHANIE: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show. JOËL: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us @_bikeshed, or you can reach me @joelquen on Twitter. STEPHANIE: Or reach both of us at email@example.com via email. JOËL: Thank you so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week. ALL: Byeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! ANNOUNCER: This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot, your expert strategy, design, development, and product management partner. We bring digital products from idea to success and teach you how because we care. Learn more at thoughtbot.com.
Stephanie talks about hosting a "Soup Group"! Joël got nerd-sniped during the last episode and dove deeper into Maggie Appleton's "Tools for Thought." Stephanie has been thinking a lot about Sustainable Web Development. What is sustainability? How does it relate to tech and what we do? This episode is brought to you by Airbrake (https://airbrake.io/?utm_campaign=Q3_2022%3A%20Bike%20Shed%20Podcast%20Ad&utm_source=Bike%20Shed&utm_medium=website). Visit Frictionless error monitoring and performance insight for your app stack. Maggie Appleton's Tools for Thought (https://maggieappleton.com/tools-for-thought) Tangrams (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangram) Tessellation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tessellation) Hexagons are the Bestagons (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thOifuHs6eY) Sustainable Web Development with Ruby on Rails (https://sustainable-rails.com/) Transcript: AD: thoughtbot is thrilled to announce our own incubator launching this year. If you are a non-technical founding team with a business idea that involves a web or mobile app, we encourage you to apply for our eight-week program. We'll help you move forward with confidence in your team, your product vision, and a roadmap for getting you there. Learn more and apply at tbot.io/incubator. JOËL: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Joël Quenneville. STEPHANIE: And I'm Stephanie Minn. And together, we're here to share a bit of what we've learned along the way. JOËL: So, Stephanie, what's new in your world? STEPHANIE: I'm excited to share a winter survival idea for folks out there who are, like me, in a very cold place where all your friends don't want to hang out [laughs] and bear the cold temperatures of deep winter in January. Because tonight, I'm hosting my first soup group where I'm basically just going to make a really big batch of soup and have my friends come over with bread, and we're going to eat soup and bread and be cozy. And I'm really excited because I was trying to figure out a way to combat the winter blues a little bit. And, yeah, I think this time of year can be really tough after the holidays to get people together again. At least for me, I was feeling like I haven't seen my friends in so long. And I was like, well, I could just be the person to take the initiative [laughs] and be like, "Come over to our place." And the goal is to eventually do this regularly and just have this low-stakes open invitation for anyone to come and show up however they want to. It doesn't have to be, like, big pressure or anything. And if they can't make it at any one time, then there will hopefully be one in the future where they can make it, so I'm excited. After this, I am going to make soup for ten people, and it's going to be great. [laughs] JOËL: I love this idea. Soup on a cold day is just the coziest thing. STEPHANIE: Yeah, exactly. I definitely wanted to just make people feel warm and cozy. And that's what I want, so I'm really doing this for myself. [laughs] JOËL: And you know the advantage of hosting is you don't have to go outside. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's the real thing is I'm probably going to kick everyone out at like 11:00 p.m. and then go straight to bed, and it's going to be great. [laughs] JOËL: Have you been experimenting with a particular kind of soup recently? Are you going to bring out an old favorite? STEPHANIE: Yeah, I'm excited to make ribollita today, so kind of like a Tuscan style of veggie hearty soup. And I've just been bookmarking soup recipes left and right. [laughs] And I've outsourced the bread situation. So I'm excited to see what kind of bread people bring. And yeah, it'll be very fun and kind of surprising in a comforting way. JOËL: I'm not familiar with this soup. It's ribollita you said? STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's it. JOËL: You said it's a vegetable soup. STEPHANIE: Yeah, mostly veggies and beans. So I have this giant cabbage, a lot of kale, multiple cans of Great Northern white beans, and they're all going to get mixed together. And we'll see how it turns out. I'll update the podcast on how the soup group goes. It is the inaugural one. So I can't think of a time that I made that much soup before. So, hopefully, it goes well. We'll find out. So, Joël, what about you? What's new in your world? JOËL: So, in the previous episode, we talked a little bit about some of the things you had learned about note-taking. And you'd mentioned an article by, I think, Maggie Applebon -- STEPHANIE: Maggie Appleton. JOËL: Appleton...on tools for thought. It was linked in the show notes of that episode. And I went back and read that article, and it was so good, particularly the section, I think, on historical tools for thought and how they, over time, were sort of groundbreaking in helping us to either remember things or to think about problems or ideas in a different way, or to sort of interrogate those ideas and see if we think they're true or helpful. And these were things like writing or the number system but even some more fancy things like the scientific method for the Cartesian coordinate system. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I was really excited to share this with you because I think it was the intersection of a lot of your different interests, including note-taking, diagrams, history, and human cognition, so I'm glad that you found it interesting. JOËL: I definitely got nerd-sniped there. STEPHANIE: [laughs] JOËL: I think one thing that really struck me was the power of having multiple different representations for ideas. And one that jumped out at me was the Cartesian coordinate system, which, among other things, a really powerful tool that gave people...when this was invented, it allowed you to convert algebra problems into geometry problems. And so now, something that used to be an equation you can draw as a triangle or something. And we know how to find the area of a triangle. That's been known since the ancient Greeks and even earlier. And so now a problem that sounded hard is now easy, or at least we have a different way to think about that problem. Because if this equation is equivalent to a triangle, what does that mean? And vice versa, you can use this to convert geometry problems into algebra problems. And so sometimes the power of a new tool for thought might be in that it allows you to sort of convert between two other existing ways of representing things. And making those connections, all of a sudden gives you a whole new way of thinking about things. That blew my mind. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I agree. I think the other really cool thing is that a lot of these ideas that humans are discovering also already existed in the natural world. So when you are talking about math, you can see representations of math in plants and nature, and I was reminded of how honeycomb from bees is one of the strongest shapes. And yeah, it's really neat to draw inspiration from a lot of places and learn from things that, like, figured it out before we did. JOËL: Have you seen the video on YouTube called "Hexagons are the Bestagons?" STEPHANIE: No, I have not. Tell me more. JOËL: It's a video on YouTube. We can link it in the show notes. Basically, the hexagon shows up everywhere in nature in part because it has a lot of really fun mathematical properties. It's one of the few shapes that you can use to completely cover a surface. So if you want to subdivide a two-dimensional surface into smaller shapes without leaving any empty spaces between them, you really don't have that many options. I want to say it's like squares and triangles and hexagons are the only shapes that can do that. And hexagons have these really fun properties around strength. They also are one of the best balances between volume versus the amount of material that it takes to give you that volume and for strength and things like that. So it's good for honeycombs because you can store a lot of honey for very little amount of wax. But it's also good for all sorts of structural engineering because you can build things that are very strong yet light because they require very little metal or other material to create them. STEPHANIE: When you're saying hexagons filling a lot of space, I also thought about how they've become kind of popular in tiles or interior design in kitchens, and bathrooms, and stuff. [laughs] I've definitely seen that trend a bit. [laughs] So that's really cool just to see, like, yeah, this thing in the natural world that we have adopted for other uses. It's really fun. JOËL: I want to say this idea of taking a 2D space and being able to completely cover it without spaces with a shape is called tessellating a plane. It's a fancy term for it. And if you want to do it with just a single shape, I think there are only like three or four shapes that can do it. STEPHANIE: That's really interesting because it reminds me of those tessellation puzzles that I used to play with as a kid. Do you know what I'm talking about? JOËL: You're thinking like a tangram or something different. STEPHANIE: Yeah, yeah, tangram, that was...oh my gosh, those were fun. Wow, I was learning math as a young child, [laughs] just didn't even know it. JOËL: Another random fun fact: the logo for the Elm programming language is a tangram. STEPHANIE: [Gasps] JOËL: And the community is sort of encouraged to then remix it because the tangram is just a square tessellated out of a bunch of these shapes. But then, if you're building a library or you've got an event or something, the community will take those shapes and remix them into some other shapes that might fit your event. STEPHANIE: That's really cool. Is it a metaphor for how Elm can be used in different ways? [laughs] JOËL: I'm not sure about the story behind the logo. We'd have to look that up. STEPHANIE: That'll be a good adventure for later. [laughs] JOËL: In...I want to say Moroccan art, but I think it might be broader than just Moroccan. It might be more broadly North African or Moorish or whatever you want to call that. There's a long history of building these tessellations, I think, out of tiles, but maybe other things as well where you're doing it with a variety of shapes. So you might start...a classic one, I think is an eight-pointed...is it eight, or? I think it's an eight-pointed star, and then you sort of add other shapes around it. And those can create patterns that take a long time to repeat. And there are these beautiful geometric patterns that just keep on going and expanding without necessarily repeating over a lot of space. STEPHANIE: Whoa. That kind of blows my mind a little bit. It seems so counterintuitive, but then I feel like there are a lot of things in math that are like that as well. JOËL: So, yeah, I think a classic pattern you might start with something like an eight-pointed star. And then maybe to fill in the spaces around that central star, you might put some squares, and then maybe you put some triangles around that, and you sort of keep trying to fill in. And maybe eventually you get to another eight-pointed star, but it's not always perfectly symmetric. STEPHANIE: Someone should make a board game or something out of this idea. [laughs] JOËL: Oooh. STEPHANIE: I bet there's one that exists. But I'm just thinking about people who like jigsaw puzzles and that being the next level challenge of, like, can you figure out how things fit together without the confines of a little jigsaw shape? [laughs] JOËL: Right, right. You have a rectangle shape that you have to perfectly fill in with all of these other smaller shapes, and there is a single solution that will work. You have to figure it out. STEPHANIE: I personally would be very overwhelmed, [laughs] but it sounds fun at the same time. JOËL: So those are a lot of thoughts that I've been having inspiration reading that article that you shared on a previous episode. Have you been reading anything interesting recently? STEPHANIE: I have. I'm really excited to talk about this topic because during my investment time this past week, I've been thinking a lot about it, taking a lot of notes in Obsidian, which is a callback to the last episode, and yeah, I'm excited to kind of get into it. So what I've been reading is Sustainable Web Development with Ruby on Rails by David Bryant Copeland. And I think a lot of fellow thoughtboters have referenced this book or talked a little bit about ideas from this book; at least, I've seen discussion about it in Slack, so that's kind of why I wanted to pick it up. But what really blew my mind was honestly the first chapter where he talks about why he wrote this book and basically what sustainable web development is because it is a little bit, maybe, like a buzzy word. It's like, what is sustainability? How does it relate to tech and what we do? And he basically gets down to it by saying that the software that we write is sustainable if it continues to meet our needs years into the future or has longevity and continues to be something we can iterate and work on and not feel that pain or friction, and we feel like we want to, and we feel joyful working on this codebase. So that was kind of my interpretation of his definition about sustainability. JOËL: I love that definition of sustainability about code that can grow and live for a long time. And I feel like that's not a universal value in the tech industry. And on the extreme end of that, you'll have teams that promote the idea that maybe every few years, you should throw out your old codebase and rewrite. I want to say some teams at Google may have done that as a practice for a while, and, of course, then people quote that as a best practice. To a certain extent, I want to say that's kind of what happens with Basecamp in that there are multiple versions of Basecamp. And I want to say each of those is a fresh Rails app. So there's a sense in which those or that style of development is not sustainable in the definition that you were just giving there. How do you feel about that? STEPHANIE: I definitely think the industry has a bias towards newness and change. And a lot of people want to pick up the hot, new technology and, like you said, rewrite code, especially when it's become hard to work with. And honestly, I think that could be its whole own episode, rewrites because I think you and I have pretty strong opinions about it. But I genuinely think that most of our work is, at least, you and I on the Boost team, in particular here at thoughtbot, where we embed on existing client teams, and usually, that means legacy code as well, but I think that the work of development is mostly extending existing code and trying to sustain applications that have users and are working for users. And I think that that's certainly a value that I wish were highlighted more or were invested in more because sometimes that change or wanting to hop on to do something different or do something new has a lot of consequences that I'm not sure we talk about enough as an industry. 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Finally, Airbrake Deploy Tracking helps developers track trends, fix bad deploys, and improve code quality. Since 2008, Airbrake has been a staple in the Ruby community and has grown to cover all major programming languages. Airbrake seamlessly integrates with your favorite apps to include modern features like single sign-on and SDK-based installation. From testing to production, Airbrake notifiers have your back. Your time is valuable, so why waste it combing through logs, waiting for user reports, or retrofitting other tools to monitor your application? You literally have nothing to lose. Head on over to airbrake.io/try/bikeshed to create your FREE developer account today! JOËL: It's interesting you mentioned the types of projects that we tend to be on. I feel like there are a lot of projects that I've been brought on where my goal, specifically coming onto this project, was to make the software more sustainable for the team. It's very easy to sort of start moving very fast in the beginning with a greenfield app, and then eventually, a lot of your choices catch up to you. And then, as your team grows and your product grows, it becomes less and less sustainable. And that's often the point in the lifecycle of the product where I might join the team and try to help make things better for them. I love the keyword sustainable. I don't think that's one that I've used a lot, but it's a great label to put on that kind of work. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I agree. I think what you mentioned earlier, too, about values that, really stuck out to me in this book because it basically says, "This book is for you if you value these three things: sustainability, consistency, and quality." And all of the recommendations and techniques that he then presents in the rest of the book, using Rails, those decisions are recommended with those three values in mind. And I think, one, those values are personally important to me as a developer. But it also helped me develop some guiding principles around decision-making and provided a lot of clarity around times that I've been on teams where we were doing things that didn't quite align with my values, and I didn't enjoy it. And I couldn't really figure out why. But now I'm able to see that, oh, perhaps this team or organization was valuing something like speed, or profit, or change, or something like that that I just fundamentally value differently. And that was kind of where my internal friction or contentment or discontentment was coming from when working on these teams. So, yeah, that was really clarifying for me. JOËL: Would you say, for you, when you talk about these values, that these are fundamental or ultimate values for you when you write code? Or are they values that are a good way to sort of be a means to some other end? You know, for example, sustainability, do you care about sustainability just for its own sake? Or do you care about it because you want a product to be able to live for a long time? You're building for ten years or 20 years or however long you want this project to last. STEPHANIE: I think the thing with values is that they are really fundamental to a person's identity or belief system. In fact, the definition that I'm kind of working off of here is that values are those fundamental beliefs that drive our actions. And so when you say, like, are values driving how you write code? I think they drive everything. [laughs] But the point that he makes in this book is like, here's how they drive code and technical decisions. So the book is actually quite specific about technical recommendations that he has in the context of Rails. And it's funny because we're talking pretty abstractly and big picture about values and things like that. But then I think it's because he sets the stage to be like, everything I recommend here is what I believe to be sustainable, and good quality, and consistent. And just for an example, one of the recommendations he makes is to, when you're kind of setting up a greenfield application, is to use a SQL schema instead of the default ActiveRecord DSL, so using a structure .SQL file. Because, in his eyes, having the flexibility to write SQL and use the most you can with those tools when it comes to database work is more sustainable in the long term than using the DSL that might not have all the tools available to you that SQL does. And so he kind of gives his reasoning about, like, this is what I recommend, and here's why it contributes to sustainability, in my opinion. And so I have found myself, while I'm reading along, either agreeing, like, oh yeah, I can see his reasoning here, or maybe even disagreeing because I might think about things differently or have other considerations in mind that are more important to me and what sustainability means to me. But what I hopefully want to take away from the framework or understanding of values is evaluating technical decisions that I make based on my values as an individual but, more importantly, the values of the team or organization. JOËL: I love mental frameworks like that that give you clarity into your own thought processes or how you make decisions moving forward. Sometimes you can look at something that's very concrete. Somebody gives you some advice on maybe structuring your database schema, and that might be helpful in and of itself. But if you came away with a larger thought process, I think that's doubly valuable. As an aside here, I love this approach to writing where he sort of lays down almost like preconditions for this book. If you don't agree on these values, this book is not going to be very helpful for you. And then also, here are situations where this advice is not going to apply. Now that I've put down all these edge cases for the rest of this book, I'm going to be speaking very decisively; these are the things I recommend and not have to caveat myself all the time. It's like, yes, I know there are some edge cases where you might not want to do this if it's a one-off script or whatever it is. We've already dealt with all of those upfront. And now, I can be very confident and very direct for the whole rest of the book. And I feel like that's something I struggle with in some of my work sometimes is. I care a lot about nuance, and my audience probably cares about edge cases even more than I do. They probably care too much. Because I say something that's generally true most of the time, and I know somebody's already thinking about the one edge case where that's not true. And that doesn't matter for the main point I'm trying to make. So it's always a struggle to know when to caveat a statement that I'm making. But if you caveat too much, then you undermine your whole point. And so I like this idea of putting some caveats up front and then just saying, like, now we're in the 80% case. Within the 80% case, these are things I think are true. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's a really good point. I agree he is very clear about the intended audience. And so when you read this book, you are either on board because you value the same things he does, or you're not because you are focused and your goals are things that are different from him. So I think it was really helpful to get on the same page, even in a piece of content or in a piece of writing. Because I want to use my time well as a reader, so I want to make sure that what I am consuming makes sense for me, and I will find it worthwhile. David takes a really strong stance on what quality means. And even though that is a pretty subjective value, he describes it as doing things right the first time and acknowledging the reality that we likely won't have the time to go back and clean things up after they've been shipped. So, on this client project, I found myself wanting to refactor things as part of my process, suggesting different implementations to do things the quote, unquote, "right way," or the best way we could, and not everyone shared that sentiment. I sometimes got pushback, and that was challenging for me to figure out how I wanted to navigate that situation and what I was willing to let go and what I wasn't. And so I'm curious if you've ever been in a consulting position like that where maybe the team and organization's values were a little bit different from your understanding, or if they just weren't clear at all, and you were driving towards something that seemed very nebulous. JOËL: I think I've been on both sides of that, both sometimes saying, "Look, we need to maybe slow down," or "Here's a thing that we need to do otherwise that's going to cost us on the longer term. Here's an area where we need to invest in quality today." And sort of on the other side where I'll feel like someone is really pushing an overengineered solution claiming it's going to make life a whole lot better, "If we invest three months upfront today, and maybe in three or four years, it'll pay off if certain things happen," that don't really necessarily line up with the immediate goals. A lot of this, I think, comes down to understanding the client, and their business, and their goals. Sometimes there is a really important deadline for something that has to happen based on an event in the real world. If you were building software for something that had to do with, let's say, the World Cup, you don't want it shipping in January 2023. That's just pointless. And so you've got to prioritize shipping things. And sometimes you say, "Okay, well, do we ship a few broken things? Or do we prefer to ship something that's a little bit smaller, more tightly scoped, but that holds well together?" That again, you have to really understand the client, their business, their needs. So I think for me those values of sustainability, quality...I forget what the third one was that you'd mentioned. STEPHANIE: Consistency. JOËL: Consistency, yes. They all sort of inform how it's going to mesh with the product I'm working on, the goals of that product. Where's it going in the next three months, six months, 12 months? Where's it coming from? Who's the team that I'm working with? Am I with a team of 300 people that are just committing to the main branch all the time with no tests, and we're constantly fighting regressions? Then sustainability looks very different there than a one other-person team, and we're trying to ship something for the World Cup. STEPHANIE: Oh yeah, I have a lot of thoughts there too. Because I do agree that it can look different and sometimes shift a little bit depending on the situation. What you were just describing about team makeup that is really interesting to me because, yeah, sustainability can look different for different teams. If you have, let's say, a lot of earlier career developers on your team, maybe you really want to focus on readability and making sure that they're able to navigate the codebase and figure things out over something like more advanced patterns and skills that will just cause them friction. But maybe you have a team where you all agree that that's what sustainability means to you is choosing those more advanced technical patterns and committing to them and figuring out how to maintain that because it's important to you. And the other thing that you brought up that is also mentioned in this book is that the more information developers have about the future and direction of the business, the better code we can write. For some reason, I've found myself in situations where I don't know all too much about what we are working towards or what the goals of the business are both in the short term and the long term. And I try to make the best guess I can. But I think in those scenarios, at least moving forward, I would really like to be better about pushing product folks or leadership to explain to me why we're doing what we're doing, kind of share the information that they have so that we can build the best product that we can. I think sometimes that information doesn't get shared for some reason. They kind of think that engineers are going to go do their engineer thing, and we'll focus on long-term strategy over here. But yeah, I truly believe that the more information we have, the better quality work we can produce. JOËL: I 100% agree. And I think that's what we see in a lot of classic agile literature talking about things like cross-functional teams or even the client or the product team should be integrated with the development team. You're all one team working together rather than someone has an idea, and then the technical team executes on it. We see that also in some of the domain-driven design literature as well, where oftentimes projects start, and you sit down with a subject matter expert, and they just walk you through all of the business aspects. And particularly for the purpose of domain-driven design, you talk about a lot of the terms that make sense for the business. You build up a glossary of terms. I think they call it a ubiquitous language of things that are specific to your business and how does that work on a day-to-day basis. STEPHANIE: Do you have any strategies for getting more clarity around the work and why you're building it if it's not yet available to you? JOËL: I think there are sort of two scenarios where you have to do that; one of them that comes up maybe more often for us as consultants is onboarding onto a new client. There's a whole new business that we may know nothing about, and we have to learn a lot of that. And so, as part of the onboarding process, I think it's really valuable to have conversations with people who are not part of the dev team to learn about the business side of things. On a per-feature basis, if you've already been onboarded on a project, you've been there for a while, it's often good to go back to the person who maybe created a ticket, a product person who's asking for a feature, and ask, "Why? Why do you want this?" Ideally, maybe that's even part of the ticket-creating process because the two teams are more integrated, and product team is like, here's a problem we're trying to solve. Here's what we think would be a solution. Or maybe even just "Here's a business problem. We need a technical solution. Can you do that for us?" But I've often followed up with people outside of the engineering team to ask follow-up questions. And why are we doing this? And sometimes it's even you have to do like five Whys where it's like, "Oh, we're doing this because we need to do this thing for this customer. They asked for it." And it's like, "Okay, well, why are they asking for that?" "Oh, it's because they have this problem." And why are they having this problem?" And eventually, like, "Oh, I see. Okay." The real solution has nothing to do with what was asked, and you come up with something that's maybe much tighter scoped or will better solve, and everybody's a winner in that case. But it does require following up. So I guess the short and boring answer is talk to people outside the engineering team. STEPHANIE: That's a great point. I think the questions that we as engineers ask can drive more clarity to product people as well if we continue to ask those five levels of why in ways that they maybe didn't think about either. We have the opportunity to do that if we want to do our work well, too. That's kind of exciting to me that it isn't just okay, we're handed some work to do, and they've done all of that strategic thinking separately. And having to implement those details, we can kind of start to chip away at what are we really doing here? And you mentioned talking to people outside of the engineering team. I just was thinking that pairing with non-developers would also be a really great task to do, especially when you get a ticket that's a bit ambiguous and you have questions. And you can always comment on the ticket or whatever and ask your questions. But perhaps there's also a good opportunity to work things through synchronously. In some ways, I think that is a more natural opportunity for that conversation to evolve rather than it being like, okay, I answered these questions, and now I'm going to move on to whatever else I have to do. JOËL: So you mentioned pairing. It's often good to have someone maybe outside the development team pair with you on a technical thing, but sometimes it's good to flip the script. If you're building especially software for an internal team, it can be really valuable to just shadow one of them for a couple of hours or a day. I did a project where we were building a tool for an internal sales team. And I had the privilege to shadow a couple of the sales members for a few hours as they're just doing their job. And I'm just asking all the questions like, "Oh, why do you do it that way? And what is the purpose behind this?" And I learned so much about the business by doing that. STEPHANIE: I love that we took this idea of sustainable development and went beyond just technical design decisions or aspects of how we do our jobs. Because there is so much more that we can do to foster the value of sustainability or whatever other values that you might have, and yeah, I feel really excited to try both these technical strategies from the book and also the collaborative aspects as well. JOËL: I'm really excited about some of these ideas that are coming up from the book. I think today we basically just talked about the introduction, the idea of sustainability. But I think as maybe you read more in the book, maybe we can do another episode later on talking about some of the more specific technical recommendations, how they relate to sustainability and maybe share some of our thoughts on that. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I definitely am excited to keep y'all updated on this journey. [laughs] JOËL: On that note, shall we wrap up? STEPHANIE: Let's wrap up. JOËL: Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm. This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore. If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show. If you have any feedback, you can reach us at @_bikeshed or reach me at @joelquen on Twitter. Or at firstname.lastname@example.org via email. Thank you so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week. Byeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! ANNOUNCER: This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot, your expert strategy, design, development, and product management partner. We bring digital products from idea to success and teach you how because we care. Learn more at thoughtbot.com.
Joël's been traveling. Stephanie's working on professional development. She's also keeping up a little bit more with Ruby news and community news in general and saw that Ruby 3.2 introduced a new class called data to its core library for the use case of creating simple value objects. This episode is brought to you by Airbrake (https://airbrake.io/?utm_campaign=Q3_2022%3A%20Bike%20Shed%20Podcast%20Ad&utm_source=Bike%20Shed&utm_medium=website). Visit Frictionless error monitoring and performance insight for your app stack. Maggie Appleton's Tools for Thought (https://maggieappleton.com/tools-for-thought) Episode on note-taking with Amanda Beiner (https://www.bikeshed.fm/357) Obsidian (https://obsidian.md/) Zettelkasten (https://zettelkasten.de/posts/overview/) Evergreen notes (https://notes.andymatuschak.org/Evergreen_notes) New Data class (https://ruby-doc.org/3.2.0/Data.html) Joël's article on value objects (https://thoughtbot.com/blog/value-object-semantics-in-ruby) Episode on specialized vocabulary (https://www.bikeshed.fm/356) Primitive Obsession (https://wiki.c2.com/?PrimitiveObsession) Transcript: AD: thoughtbot is thrilled to announce our own incubator launching this year. If you are a non-technical founding team with a business idea that involves a web or mobile app, we encourage you to apply for our eight-week program. We'll help you move forward with confidence in your team, your product vision, and a roadmap for getting you there. Learn more and apply at tbot.io/incubator. STEPHANIE: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Stephanie Minn. JOËL: And I'm Joël Quenneville. And together, we're here to share a little bit of what we've learned along the way. STEPHANIE: So, Joël, what's new in your world? JOËL: I've been traveling for the past few weeks in Europe. I just recently got back to the U.S. and have just gotten used to drinking American-style drip coffee again after having espresso every day for a few weeks. And it's been an adjustment. STEPHANIE: I bet. I think that it's such a downgrade compared to European espresso. I remember when I was in Italy, I also would really enjoy espresso every day at a local cafe and just be like sitting outside drinking it. And it was very delightful. JOËL: They're very different experiences. I have to say I do enjoy just holding a hot mug and sort of sipping on it for a long time. It's also a lot weaker. You wouldn't want to do a full hot mug of espresso. That would just be way too intense. But yeah, I think both experiences are enjoyable. They're just different. STEPHANIE: Yeah. So, that first day with your measly drip coffee and your jet lag, how are you doing on your first day back at work? JOËL: I did pretty good. I think part of the fun of coming back to the U.S. from Europe is that the jet lag makes me a very productive morning person for a week. Normally, I'm a little bit more of an evening person. So I get to get a bit of an alter ego for a week, and that helps me to transition back into work. STEPHANIE: Nice. JOËL: So you've also been on break and have started work again. How are you feeling productivity-wise, kicking off the New Year? STEPHANIE: I'm actually unbooked this week and the last week too. So I'm not working on client projects, but I am having a lot of time to work on just professional development. And usually, during this downtime, I also like to reassess just how I'm working, and lately, what that has meant for me is changing my note-taking process. And I'm really excited to share this with you because I know that you have talked about this on the show before, I think in a previous episode with a guest, Amanda Beiner. And I listened to that episode, and I was really inspired because I was feeling like I didn't have a note-taking system that worked super well for me. But you all talked about some tools you used and some, I guess, philosophies around note-taking that like I said, I was really inspired by. And so I hopped on board the Obsidian train. And I'm really excited to share with you my experience with it. So I really like it because I previously was taking notes in my editor under the impression that, oh, like, everything is in one place. It'll be like a seamless transition from code to note-taking. And I was already writing in Markdown. But I actually didn't like it that much because I found it kind of distracting to have code things kind of around. And if I was navigating files or something, something work or code-related might come up, and that ended up being a bit distracting for me. But I know that that works really well for some people; a coworker of ours, Aji, I know that he takes his notes in Vim and has a really fancy setup for that. And so I thought maybe that's what I wanted, but it turns out that what I wanted was actually more of a boundary between code and notes. And so, I was assessing different note-taking and knowledge management software. And I have been really enjoying Obsidian because it also has quite a bit of community support. So I've installed a few plugins for just quality-of-life features like snippets which I had in my editor, and now I get to have in Obsidian. I also installed things like Natural Language Dates. So for my running to-do list, I can just do a shortcut for today, and it'll autofill today's date, which, I don't know, because for me, [laughs] that is just a little bit less mental work that I have to do to remember the date. And yeah, I've been really liking it. I haven't even fully explored backlinking, and that connectivity aspect, which I know is a core feature, but it's been working well for me so far. JOËL: That's really exciting. I love notes and note-taking and the ways that we can use those to make our lives better as developers and as human beings. Do you have a particular system or way you've approached that? Because I know for me, I probably looked at Obsidian for six months before I kind of had the courage to download it because I didn't want to go into it and not have a way to organize things. I was like; I don't want to just throw random notes in here. I want to have a system. That might just be me. But did you just kind of jump into it and see, like, oh, a system will emerge? Did you have a particular philosophy going in? How are you approaching taking notes there? STEPHANIE: That's definitely a you thing because I've definitely had the opposite experience [laughs] where I'm just like, oh, I've downloaded this thing. I'm going to start typing notes and see what happens. I have never really had a good organizational system, which I think is fine for me. I was really leaning on pen and paper notes for a while, and I still have a certain use case for them. Because I find that when I'm in meetings or one-on-ones and taking notes, I don't actually like to have my hands on the keyboard because of distractions. Like I mentioned earlier, it's really easy for me to, like, oh, accidentally Command-Tab and open Slack and be like, oh, someone posted something new in Slack; let me go read this. And I'm not giving the meeting or the person I'm talking to my full attention, and I really didn't like that. So I still do pen and paper for things where I want to make sure that I'm not getting distracted. And then, I will transfer any gems from those notes to Obsidian if I find that they are worth putting in a place where I do have a little bit more discoverability and eventually maybe kind of adding on to my process of using those backlinks and connecting thoughts like that. So, so far, it's truly just a list of separate little pages of notes, and yeah, we'll see how it goes. I'm curious what your system for organizing is or if you have kind of figured out something that works well for you. JOËL: So my approach focuses very heavily on the backlinks. It's loosely inspired by two similar systems of organization called Zettelkasten and evergreen notes. The idea is that you create notes that are ideas. Typically, the title is like a thesis statement, and you keep them very short, focused on a single thing. And if you have a more complex idea, it probably breaks down into two or three, and then you link them to each other as makes sense. So you create a web of these atomic ideas that are highly interconnected with each other. And then later on, because I use this a lot for either creating content in the future or to help refine my thinking on various software topics, so later on, I can go through and maybe connect three or four things I didn't realize connected together. Or if I'm writing an article or a talk, maybe find three or four of these ideas that I generated at very different moments, but now they're connected. And I can make an article or a talk out of them. So that's sort of the purpose that I use them for and how I've organized things for myself. STEPHANIE: I think that's a really interesting topic because while I was assessing different software for note-taking and, like I said, knowledge management, I discovered this blog post by Maggie Appleton that was super interesting because she is talking about the term tools of thought which a lot of these different software kind of leveraged in their marketing copy as like, oh, this software will be like the key to evolving your thinking and help you expand making connections, like you mentioned, in ways that you weren't able to before. And was very obviously trying to upsell you on this product, and she -- JOËL: It's over the top. STEPHANIE: A little bit, a little bit. So in this article, I liked that she took a critical lens to that idea and rooted her article in history and gave examples of a bunch of different things in human history that also evolved the ways humans were able to express their thoughts and solve problems. And so some of the ones that she listed were like storytelling and oral tradition. Literally, the written language obviously [laughs] empowered humans to be able to communicate and think in ways that we never were before but also drawings, and maps, and spreadsheets. So I thought that was really cool because she was basically saying that tools of thought don't need to be digital, and people claiming that these software, you know, are the new way to think or whatever, it's like, the way we're thinking now, but we also have this long history of using and developing different things that helped us communicate with each other and think about stuff. JOËL: I think that's something that appealed to me when I was looking at some of these note-taking systems. Zettelkasten, in particular, predates digital technology. The original system was built on note cards, and the digital stuff just made it a little bit easier. But I think also when I was reading about these ideas of keeping ideas small and linking them together, I realized that's already kind of how I tend to organize information when I just hold it in my brain or even when I try to do something like a tweet thread on Twitter where I'll try to break it up. It might be a larger, more complex idea, but each tweet, I try to get it to kind of stand on its own to make it easier to retweet and all that. And so it becomes a chain of related ideas that maybe build up to something, but each idea stands on its own. And that's kind of how in these systems notes end up working. And they're in a way that you can kind of remix them with each other. So it's not just a linear chain like you would have on Twitter. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I remember you all in that episode about note-taking with Amanda talked about the value of having an atomic piece of information in every note that you write. And since then, I've been trying to do that more because, especially when I was doing pen and paper, I would just write very loose, messy thoughts down. And I would just think that maybe I would come back to them one day and try to figure out, like, oh, what did I say here, and can I apply it to something? But it's kind of like doing any kind of refactoring or whatever. It's like, in that moment, you have the most context about what you just wrote down or created. And so I've been a little more intentional about trying to take that thought to its logical end, and then hopefully, it will provide value later. What you were saying about the connectivity I also wanted to kind of touch on a little bit further because I've realized that for me, a lot of the connection-making happens during times where I'm not very actively trying to think, or reflect, or do a lot of deep work, if you will. Because lately, I've been having a lot of revelations in the shower, or while I'm trying to fall asleep, or just other kinds of meditative activity. And I'm just coming to terms with that's just how my brain works. And doing those kinds of activities has value for me because it's like something is clearly going on in my brain. And I definitely want to just honor that's how it works for me. JOËL: I had a great conversation recently with another colleague about the gift of boredom and how that can impact our work and what we think about, and our creativity. That was really great. Sometimes it's important to give ourselves a little bit more blank space in our lives. And counter-intuitively, it can make us more productive, even though we're not scheduling ourselves to be productive. STEPHANIE: Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with that. I think a lot about the feeling of boredom, and for me, that is like the middle of summer break when you're still in school and you just had no obligations whatsoever. And you could just do whatever you wanted and could just laze around and be bored. But letting your mind wander during those times is something I really miss. And sometimes, when I do experience that feeling, I get a little bit anxious. I'm like, oh, I could be doing something else. There's whatever endless list of chores or things that are, quote, unquote, "productive." But yeah, I really like how you mentioned that there is value in that experience, and it can feel really indulgent, but that can be good too. MID-ROLL AD: Debugging errors can be a developer's worst nightmare...but it doesn't have to be. Airbrake is an award-winning error monitoring, performance, and deployment tracking tool created by developers for developers that can actually help cut your debugging time in half. So why do developers love Airbrake? 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From testing to production, Airbrake notifiers have your back. Your time is valuable, so why waste it combing through logs, waiting for user reports, or retrofitting other tools to monitor your application? You literally have nothing to lose. Head on over to airbrake.io/try/bikeshed to create your FREE developer account today! JOËL: So you mentioned recently that you've had a lot of revelations or new ideas that have come upon you or that you've been able to dig into a little bit more. Is there one you'd like to share with the audience? STEPHANIE: Yeah. So during this downtime that I've had not working on client work, I have been able to keep up a little bit more with Ruby news or just community news in general. And in, I think, an edition of Ruby Weekly, I saw that Ruby 3.2 introduced this new class called data to its core library for the use case of creating simple value objects. And I was really excited about this new feature because I remembered that you had written a thoughtbot blog post about value objects back in the summer that I had reviewed. That was an opportunity that I could make a connection between something happening in recent news with some thoughts that I had about this topic a few months ago. But basically, this new class can be used over something like a struct to create objects that are immutable in their values, which is a big improvement if you are trying to follow value objects semantics. JOËL: So, I have not played around with the new data class. How is it different from the existing struct that we have in Ruby? STEPHANIE: So I think I might actually answer that first by saying how they're similar, which is that they are both vehicles for holding pieces of data. So we've, in the past, been able to use a struct to very cheaply and easily create a new class that has attributes. But one pitfall of using a struct when you're trying to implement something like a value object is that structs also came with writer methods for all of its members. And so you could change the value of a member, and that it kind of inherently goes against the semantics of a value object because, ideally, they're immutable. And so, with the data class, it doesn't offer writer methods essentially. And I think that it freezes the instance as well in the constructor. And so even if you tried to add writer methods, you would eventually get an error. JOËL: That's really convenient. I think that may be an area where I've been a little bit frustrated with structs in the past, which is that they can be modified. They basically get treated as if they're hashes with a slightly nicer syntax to interact with them. And I want slightly harder boundaries around the data. Particularly when I'm using them as value objects, I generally don't want people to modify them because that might lead to some weird bugs in the code where you've got a, I don't know, something represents a time value or a date value or something, and you're trying to do math on it. And instead of giving you a new time or date, value just modifies the first one. And so now your start date is in the past or something because you happen to subtract a time from it to do a calculation. And you can't assign it to a variable anywhere. STEPHANIE: Yeah, for sure. Another kind of pitfall I remember noticing about structs were that the struct class includes the enumerable module, which makes a struct kind of like a collection. Whereas if you are using it for a value object, that's maybe not what you want. So there was a bit of discourse about whether or not the data class should inherit from struct. And I think they landed on it not inheriting because then you can draw a line in the sand and have that stricter enforcement of saying like, this is what a data as value object should be, and this is what it should not be. So I found that pretty valuable too. JOËL: I think I've heard people talk about sort of two classes of problems that are typically solved with a struct; one is something like a value object where you probably don't want it to be writable. You probably don't want it to be enumerable. And it sounds like data now takes on that role very nicely. The other category of problem is that you have just a hash, and you're trying to incrementally migrate it over to some nicer objects in some kind of domain. And struct actually gives you this really nice intermediate phase where it still mostly behaves like a hash if you needed to, but it also behaves like an object. And it can help you incrementally transition away from just a giant hash into something that's a little bit more programmatic. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's a really good point. I think struct will still be a very viable option for that second category that you described. But having this new data class could be a good middle ground before you extract something into its own class because it better encapsulates the idea of a value object. And one thing that I remember was really interesting about the article that you wrote was that sometimes people forget to implement certain methods when they're writing their own custom value objects. And these come a bit more out of the box with data and just provide a bit more like...what's the word I'm looking for? I'm looking for...you know when you're bowling, and you have those bumpers, I guess? [laughs] JOËL: Uh-huh. STEPHANIE: They provide just like safeguards, I guess, for following semantics around value objects that I thought was really important because it's creating an artifact for this concept that didn't exist. JOËL: And to recap for the audience here, the difference is in how objects are compared for equality. So value objects, if they have the same internal value, even if they're separate objects in memory, should be considered equal. That's how numbers work. That's how hashes work. Generally, primitives in Ruby behave this way. And structs behave that way, and the new data class, it sounds, also behaves that way. Whereas regular objects that you would make they compare based off of the identity of the object, not its value. So if you create two user instances, not ActiveRecord, but you could create a user class, you create two instances in memory. They both have the same attributes. They will be considered not equal to each other because they're not the same instance in memory, and that's fine for something more complex. But when you're dealing with value objects, it's important that two objects that represent the same thing, like a particular time for a unit of measure or something like that, if they have the same internal value, they must be the same. STEPHANIE: Right. So prior to the introduction of this class, that wasn't really enforced or codified anywhere. It was something that if you knew what a value object was, you could apply that concept to your code and make sure that the code you wrote was semantically aligned with this concept. And what was kind of exciting to me about the addition of this to the core class library in Ruby is that someone could discover this without having to know what a value object is like more formally. They might be able to see the use of a data class and be like, oh, let me look this up in the official Ruby docs. And then they could learn like, okay, here's what that means, and here's some rules for this concept in a way that, like I mentioned earlier, felt very implicit to me prior. So that, I don't know, was a really exciting new development in my eyes. JOËL: One of the first episodes that you and I recorded together was about the value of specific vocabulary. And I think part of what the Ruby team has done here is they've taken an implicit concept and given it a name. It's extracted, and it has a name now. And if you use it now, it's because you're doing this data thing, this value object thing. And now there's a documentation page. You can Google it. You can find it rather than just be wondering like, oh, why did someone use a struct in this way and not realize there are some implicit semantics that are different? Or wondering why did the override double equals on this custom class? STEPHANIE: Yeah, exactly. I think that the introduction of this class also provides a solution for something that you mentioned in that blog post, which was the idea of testing value objects. Because previously, when you did have to make sure that you implemented methods, those comparison methods to align with the concept of a value object, it was very easy to forget or just not know. And so you provided a potential solution of testing value objects via an RSpec shared example. And I remember thinking like, ooh, that was a really hot topic because we had also been debating about shared examples in general. But yeah, I was just thinking that now that it's part of the core library, I think, in some ways, that eliminates the need to test something that is using a data class anyway because we can rely a little bit more on that dependency. JOËL: Right? It's the built-in behavior now. Do you have any fun uses for value objects recently? STEPHANIE: I have not necessarily had to implement my own recently. But I do think that the next time I work with one or the next time I think that I might want to have something like a value object it will be a lot easier. And I'm just excited to play around with this and see how it will help solve any problem that might come up. So, Joël, do you have any ideas about when you might reach for a data object? JOËL: A lot of situations, I think, when you see the primitive obsession smell are a great use case for value objects, or maybe we should call them data objects now, now that this is part of Ruby's vocabulary. I think I often tend to; preemptively sounds bad, but a lot of times, I will try to be careful. Anytime I'm doing anything with raw numbers, magic strings, things like that, I'll try to encapsulate them into some sort of struct. Or even if it's like a pair of numbers, it always goes together, maybe a latitude and longitude. Now, those are a pair. Do I want to just be passing around a two-element array all the time or a hash that would probably make a very nice data object? If I have a unit of measure, some number that represents not just the abstract concept of three but specifically three miles or three minutes, then I might reach for something like a data class. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I think that's also true if you're doing any kind of arithmetic or, in general, trying to compare anything about two of the same things. That might be a good indicator as well that you could use something richer, like a value object, to make some of that code more readable, and you get some of those convenient methods for doing those comparisons. JOËL: Have you ever written code where you just have like some number in the code, and there's a comment afterwards that's like minutes or miles or something like that, just giving you the unit as a comment afterwards? STEPHANIE: Oh yeah. I've definitely seen some of that code. And yeah, I mean, now that you mentioned it, that's a great use case for what we're talking about, and it's definitely a code smell. JOËL: It can often be nice as you make these more domain concepts; maybe they start as a data object, but then they might grow with their own custom methods. And maybe you extend data the same way you could extend a struct, or maybe you create a custom class to the point where the user...whoever calls that object, doesn't really need to know or care about the particular unit, just like when you have duration value. If you have a duration object, you can do the math you want. You can do all the operations and don't have to know whether it is in milliseconds, or seconds, or minutes because it knows that internally and keeps all of the math straight as opposed to just holding on to what I've done before, which is you have some really big number somewhere. You have start is, or length is equal to some big number and then comment milliseconds. And then, hopefully, whoever does math on that number later remembers to do the division by 1,000 or whatever they need. STEPHANIE: I've certainly worked on code where we've tolerated those magic numbers for probably longer than we should have because maybe we did have the shared understanding that that value represents minutes or milliseconds or whatever, and that was just part of the domain knowledge. But you're right, like when you see them, and without a very clear label, all of that stuff is implied and is really not very friendly for someone coming along in the future. As well as, like you mentioned earlier, if you have to do math on it later to convert it to something else, that is also a red flag that you could use some kind of abstraction or something to represent this concept at a higher level but also be extensible to different forms, so a duration to represent different amounts of time or money to represent different values and different currencies, stuff like that. JOËL: Do you have a guideline that you follow as to when something starts being worth extracting into some kind of data object? STEPHANIE: I don't know if I have particularly clear guidelines, but I do remember feeling frustrated when I've had to test really complicated hashes or just primitives that are holding a lot of different pieces of information in a way that just is very unwieldy when you do have to write a test for it. And if those things were encapsulated in methods, that would have been a lot easier. And so I think that is a bit of a signal for me. Do you have any other guidelines or gut instincts around that? JOËL: We mentioned the comment that is the unit. That's probably a...I wasn't sure if I would have to call it a code smell, but I'm going to call it a code smell that tells you maybe you should...that value wants to be something a little bit more than just a number. I've gotten suspicious of just raw integers in general, not enough to say that I'm going to make all integers data objects now, but enough to make me pause and think a lot of times. What does this number represent? Should it be a data object? I think I also tend to default to try to do something like a data object when I'm dealing with API responses. You were talking about hashes and how they can be annoying to test. But also, when you're dealing with data coming back from a third-party API, a giant nested hash is not the most convenient thing to work with, both for the implementation but then also just for the readability of your code. I often try to have almost like a translation layer where very quickly I take the payload from a third-party service and turn it into some kind of object. STEPHANIE: Yeah, I think the data class docs itself has an example of using it for HTTP responses because I think the particular implementation doesn't even require it to have attributes. And so you can use it to just label something rather than requiring a value for it. JOËL: And that is one thing that is nice about something like a data object versus a hash is that a hash could have literally anything in it. And to a certain extent, a data object is self-documenting. So if I want to know I've gotten to a shopping cart object from a third-party API, what can I get out of the shopping cart? I can look at the data object. I can open the class and see here are the methods I can call. If it's just a hash, well, I guess I can try to either find the documentation for the API or try to make a real request and then inspect the hash at runtime. But there's not really any way to find out without actually executing the code. STEPHANIE: Yeah, that's totally fair. And what you said about self-documenting makes a lot of sense. And it's always preferable than that stray comment in the code. [laughs] JOËL: I'm really excited to use the data class in future Ruby 3.2 projects. So I'm really glad that you brought it up. I've not tried it myself, but I'm excited to use it in future projects. STEPHANIE: On that note, shall we wrap up? JOËL: Let's wrap up. STEPHANIE: Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm. JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore. STEPHANIE: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show. JOËL: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us @_bikeshed, or you can reach me @joelquen on Twitter. STEPHANIE: Or reach both of us at email@example.com via email. JOËL: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week. ALL: Byeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!! ANNOUNCER: This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot, your expert strategy, design, development, and product management partner. We bring digital products from idea to success and teach you how because we care. Learn more at thoughtbot.com.
Happy New Year! It's 2023
Addiction is at an all-time high in the United States and the results are deadly. During the COVID-19 pandemic, binge drinking increased by 21 percent and drug overdoses claimed more than 100,000 lives in just a 12-month period. But what causes a person to develop an addiction? Why are substance use disorders so complicated to treat? And what new treatments are giving people hope that recovery is possible? MPR News shares “Substance Use & New Paths to Recovery,” a special broadcast from Call to Mind, American Public Media's initiative to foster conversations about mental health. Through in-depth interviews and reported stories, we hear firsthand from individuals who have recovered from substance use disorders, clinicians leading research to transform the treatment field, and experts who work to decriminalize substance use disorders. Call to Mind specials are hosted by Kimberly Adams, senior correspondent for APM's Marketplace who covers mental health, politics, business and the economy from Washington, D.C. Guests: Scott Edwards is an associate professor of physiology at LSU Health Sciences Center and the associate director at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) a T32 Program. Yasmin Hurd is the director of the Addiction Institute within the Mount Sinai Behavioral Health System and the Ward Coleman Chair of Translational Neuroscience. She is also a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Carrie Kappel is a registered nurse and the board co-chair of the Minnesota Nursing Peer Support Network (NPSN), manager of operations of addiction services at Allina Health. Dr. Joji Susuki is the director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Subscribe to the MPR News with Angela Davis podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or RSS. Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.
Adam Pallozzi has been a professional musician, business owner and software developer. Now, he has co-founded SleepHQ, a CPAP support community where users can upload, review and share their therapy data with anyone. Ahead of his (spoiler: successful) launch of the Pro version, Adam sits down with Brittany to discuss his journey to finding Rails, his appreciation of Bullet Train, working on hardware (magic!) and finding community from AU. Show Notes & Links: SleepHQ (https://www.sleephq.com/) Bullet Train: The Ruby on Rails SaaS Template (https://bullettrain.co/) Adam Pallozzi (@adampallozzi) / Twitter (https://twitter.com/adampallozzi) Adam Pallozzi on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgFjsJxOnr4mL2fXFphJgyQ) Sponsored By: Honeybadger (https://www.honeybadger.io/) Status Pages now come with incident management! Build confidence with a public status page that shows your live service status, incident history, and more—and bring your own domain! Transparency inspires trust—when your next outage happens, communication is key. Go to Honeybadger.io (https://www.honeybadger.io/) to learn more. Scout APM (http://scoutapm.com/rubyonrails) Try their error monitoring and APM free for 14-days, no credit card needed! And as an added bonus for Ruby on Rails listeners: Scout will donate $5 to the open-source project of your choice when you deploy. Learn more at http://scoutapm.com/rubyonrails (http://scoutapm.com/rubyonrails).
Modernize or Die ® Podcast - CFML News Edition
2022-12-27 Weekly News - Episode 177Watch the video version on YouTube at https://youtu.be/EtTWj20ThRYHosts: Eric Peterson - Senior Developer at Ortus Solutions Daniel Garcia - Senior Developer at Ortus Solutions Thanks to our Sponsor - Ortus SolutionsThe makers of ColdBox, CommandBox, ForgeBox, TestBox and all your favorite box-es out there. A few ways to say thanks back to Ortus Solutions: Like and subscribe to our videos on YouTube. Help ORTUS reach for the Stars - Star and Fork our ReposStar all of your Github Box Dependencies from CommandBox with https://www.forgebox.io/view/commandbox-github Subscribe to our Podcast on your Podcast Apps and leave us a review Sign up for a free or paid account on CFCasts, which is releasing new content every week BOXLife store: https://www.ortussolutions.com/about-us/shop Buy Ortus's Books 102 ColdBox HMVC Quick Tips and Tricks on GumRoad (http://gum.co/coldbox-tips) Learn Modern ColdFusion (CFML) in 100+ Minutes - Free online https://modern-cfml.ortusbooks.com/ or buy an EBook or Paper copy https://www.ortussolutions.com/learn/books/coldfusion-in-100-minutes Patreon Support ( prodigious )Goal 1 - We have 43 patreons providing 100% of the funding for our Modernize or Die Podcasts via our Patreon site: https://www.patreon.com/ortussolutions. Goal 2 - We are 39% of the way to fully fund the hosting of ForgeBox.io Patreon Sponsored Job Announcement - Tomorrows GuidesTomorrows Guides is a fast paced leader in the UK care sector, catering for care seekers across three areas: Care Homes, Nurseries and Home Care. We are often called the Trip Advisor of the care sector. Current Roles - More in the job section Senior Cf Developer – UK Only | Remote | Permanent | Circa £60k - https://app.occupop.com/shared/job/senior-coldfusion-developer-5925b/ Automation Test Engineer – UK Only | Remote | Permanent | Crica £40k - https://app.occupop.com/shared/job/automation-test-engineer-a6545/ News and AnnouncementsICYMI - CFML Blog Aggregator - CFBlogs.org 2.0 ReleasedThe new version of CFBlogs ColdFusion Blog Aggregator has been released.This version displays all of the blog posts in an attractive three-column card layout and displays the open graph image or a site image at the top of the post. The card images should allow the user to quickly convey the author of the post. Users can sort the grids by author by clicking on the card image.https://www.gregoryalexander.com/blog/2022/12/5/CFBlogsorg-20-Released ICYMI - ColdBox Master Class - Completely Free until the end of the Year!Want to learn about modern web apps in ColdFusion (CFML)? We have our ColdBox Master Class for FREE until the end of the year! A gift to the community, so we can all build amazing apps together! Watch all the videos! Binge Coding Anyone? Enjoy! https://www.cfcasts.com/series/cb-master-class?utm_source=podcast&utm_medium=PODCAST&utm_campaign=LM-PODCAST Webinar / Meetups and WorkshopsOrtus Event Calendar for Googlehttps://calendar.google.com/calendar/u/0?cid=Y181NjJhMWVmNjFjNGIxZTJlNmQ4OGVkNzg0NTcyOGQ1Njg5N2RkNGJiNjhjMTQwZjc3Mzc2ODk1MmIyOTQyMWVkQGdyb3VwLmNhbGVuZGFyLmdvb2dsZS5jb20 Ortus Fridays are back in Full Effect in 2023 Ortus Office Hours - Jan 6th, 2023 Software Craftsmanship Book Club - Jan 13th, 2023 Ortus Webinar - Jan 20th 2023 Koding with the Kiwi - Jan 27th, 2023 CFCasts Content Updateshttps://www.cfcasts.comRecent Releases ITB - 12 Days of Xmas - ITB 2022 - All videos released to subscribers Software Craftsmanship Book Club - Clean Code - Chapter 2 https://cfcasts.com/series/ortus-software-craftsmanship-book-club---clean-code/videos/ortus-software-craftsmanship-book-club-clean-code-2 ColdBox Master Class - ddFREE for 4 more days 2022 ForgeBox Module of the Week Series - 1 new Video https://cfcasts.com/series/2022-forgebox-modules-of-the-week 2022 VS Code Hint tip and Trick of the Week Series - 1 new Video https://cfcasts.com/series/2022-vs-code-hint-tip-and-trick-of-the-week Coming Soon More ForgeBox and VS Code Podcast snippet videos Box-ifying a 3rd Party Library from Gavin ColdBox Elixir from Eric Getting Started with ContentBox from Daniel Brad with more CommandBox Videos Conferences and TrainingCF Summit Online All the webinars, all the speakers from Adobe ColdFusion Summit 2022 – brought right to your screen. All sessions will soon be streamed online, for your convenience. Stay tuned for more! MODERNIZING THROUGH EVOLUTION NOT REVOLUTIONGuust NieuwenhuisJanuary 10, 2023 | 15:00 - 16:00 EST (1 hour)Our company has grown over a quarter of a century, and across those years we have matured as developers and IT companies, refining both our tools and practices to a degree that the past seems hardly recognizable. Counter to this are the inevitable compromises, products of constrained timeframes, limited client budgets or strained resources. Projects inevitably lean more towards growth and depth than general modernization, to the point that they become difficult to maintain. So, what happens when the bugs add up and the monster emerges? Refactor? Rewrite from scratch? We've been involved in many such projects, internally and inherited both, and have learned there is no simple answer to the question “how do we move forward?” Through case studies and anecdotes I will explain what to look out for, from both a technical and business perspective.EASIER API DEVELOPMENT AND TESTING - USE POSTMAN, WEBHOOK.SITE, AND NGROK TO ENHANCE YOUR WORKFLOWDaniel GarciaJanuary 12, 2023 | 12:00 - 13:00 EST (1 hour)Postman, Webhook.site, and ngrok are great tools that can really enhance your API development and testing workflow. PostMan is a cross-platform API Testing Tool with lots of awesome features, Webhook.site allows you to easily inspect, test, and automate any incoming HTTP request or e-mails, and ngrok enables you to expose a web server running on your local machine to the internet. These are must-have tools for any API developer (either creating or consuming). In short, these tools solve problems and best of all, they all have free versions which allow you to be very productive. My goal is that after this conference, you will start using at least one, if not all three, tools when you get home. I'm not saying using these tools will be life-changing, but I am also not not saying that eitherSPREADSHEET MAGICKevin WrightJanuary 19 | 12:00 - 13:00pm EST (1 hour)Microsoft Office is the 'de facto' standard in most business environments. In this session we will look at different ways of integrating with one of the most used applications of the MS office suite, Excel. Come learn how to create, access and manipulate spreadsheets programmatically with the CFSPREADSHEET tag in ColdFusion. We will go beyond basic read and write features, and will delve into more advanced techniques like working with formulas and formatting, and creating multiple sheets. We will also look at examples of more complex types of spreadsheets by using lookups and even creating and embedding dynamic charts. FORMAT: Presentation with slides / live code reviewOPPORTUNITIES FOR BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY AND NFTS IN THE REAL WORLDMasha Edelen and Nick JuntillaJanuary 24 | 14:00 - 15:00pm EST (1 hour)Understanding the value and practical use cases of Non-Fungible Tokens in modern business applications. Learn how to get started using the blockchain and building your Web 3 strategy.Website for CF Summit Onlinehttps://cfsummit-online.meetus.adobeevents.com/VUE.JS NATION CONFERENCEJanuary 25th & 26th 2023 https://vuejsnation.com/VUEJS AMSTERDAM 20239-10 February 2023, Theater AmsterdamWorld's Most Special and Largest Vue ConferenceCALL FOR PAPERS AND BLIND TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW!Call for Papers: https://forms.gle/GopxfjYHfpE8fKa57 Blind Tickets: https://eventix.shop/abzrx3b5 https://vuejs.amsterdam/ Dev NexusApril 4-6th in AtlantaGeorgia World Congress Center285 Andrew Young International Blvd NWAtlanta, GA 30313USAApril 4th – 6th, 2023https://devnexus.com/ VueJS Live MAY 12 & 15, 2023ONLINE + LONDON, UKCODE / CREATE / COMMUNICATE35 SPEAKERS, 10 WORKSHOPS10000+ JOINING ONLINE GLOBALLY300 LUCKIES MEETING IN LONDONGet Early Bird Tickets: https://ti.to/gitnation/vuejs-london-2022 Watch 2021 Recordings: https://portal.gitnation.org/events/vuejs-london-2021 https://vuejslive.com/ Into the Box 2023 - 10th EditionMay 17-19, 2023 The conference will be held in The Woodlands (Houston), TexasThis year we will continue the tradition of training and offering a pre-conference hands-on training day on May 17th and our live Mariachi Band Party! However, we are back to our Spring schedule and beautiful weather in The Woodlands! Also, this 2023 will mark our 10 year anniversary. So we might have two live bands and much more!!!We are pleased to announce the call for speakers for the Into The Box Conference for 2023 is now officially open.CFP CLOSES IN 3 DAYS!https://www.intothebox.org/blog/into-the-box-2023-call-for-speakers https://itb2023.eventbrite.com/CFCamp is backJune, 22-23rd 2023Marriott Hotel Munich Airport, FreisingCall for Speakers coming in the New yearhttps://www.cfcamp.org/ More conferencesNeed more conferences, this site has a huge list of conferences for almost any language/community.https://confs.tech/https://github.com/scraly/developers-conferences-agenda Blogs, Tweets, and Videos of the Week 12/26/22 - Blog - Ben Nadel - Setting And Clearing Nullable Values In A Data Access Layer In ColdFusionAs much as possible, I try to avoid NULL values in my database schema design. But, sometimes, NULL is actually helpful in reducing schema complexity. Unfortunately, ColdFusion only has partial support for null values (by default); which makes it a bit tricky to pass a "required-but-null arguments" into a data access layer (DAL) method. To play nicely with both ColdFusion and SQL, I've been leaning on "magic values" when interacting with the my data gateways.https://www.bennadel.com/blog/4375-setting-and-clearing-nullable-values-in-a-data-access-layer-in-coldfusion.htm Full Null Support in Lucee and ACF Quick has a concept of `nullValue` to work around this as well 12/27/22 - Blog - Ben Nadel - Considering Nullable Date Columns As A Representation Of State In SQLIn my post yesterday on clearing NULLable database values in ColdFusion, I was using the concept of "Task Management" as my exploratory context. And, in the task database table that I created for the demo, I included both an isComplete column and a completedAt column. In theory, I could have written the demo using a single column, completedAt, since a non-NULL value within the completedAt column would indicate that the Task in question had been completed. But, I ended up using two columns because I believe they actually answer two different semantic questions.https://www.bennadel.com/blog/4376-considering-nullable-date-columns-as-a-representation-of-state-in-sql.htm “Similar” is not “the same” Quick Scopes solve the semantic issue nicely DRY is about Knowledge https://verraes.net/2014/08/dry-is-about-knowledge/ 12/22/22 - Blog - Fusion Reactor - How AI Impacts APMAI is rapidly transforming how businesses operate; our article “3 Ways To Achieve Digital Transformation With AI” explains that the technology simulates human intelligence to execute capabilities like learning, problem-solving, optical recognition, speech recognition, and planning.One key area that AI is transforming is application performance monitoring (APM) software. Websites, mobile apps, and business software use APMs to monitor performance metrics. It ensures that your networks, servers, and database execute their functions without error. Such is the demand that the global market for APM software is projected to be worth $13.3 Billion by 2027. With more businesses taking advantage of the performance capabilities of AI, many are using it to improve their APM software. Below are three ways AI is making APM more efficienthttps://www.fusion-reactor.com/blog/how-ai-impacts-apm/ 12/21/22 - Blog - Ben Nadel - Fixing GitHub Gist's Sudden Case Of Line WrappingYesterday, when I was giving my post on pagination using LIMIT and OFFSET in MySQL a once-over, I noticed that my code samples - which are powered by GitHub Gists - were rendering super wonky. When I inspected the runtime styles of the page, it appears that GitHub made a recent breaking change to the white-space property used within their "line of code" CSS class. To "fix" this (ie, turn off "word wrap" for my code snippets), I had to upload a CSS override to my blog. https://www.bennadel.com/blog/4373-fixing-github-gists-sudden-case-of-line-wrapping.htm 12/21/22 - Blog - Jim Priest - Visual Studio Code ExtensionsMainly posting this for my own reference. I used Sublime Text for years and blogged about it quite a bit. A few years ago I finally bit the bullet and started using Visual Studio Code. I still think the CFML plugin in Sublime is the best for editing ColdFusion code, but when editing anything else besides CFML VSCode wins and switching between them isn't really realistic (I tried). I'm setting up a new computer and thought I'd make a list of my favorite VSCode extensions, settings, etc.https://www.thecrumb.com/posts/2022-12-21-my-vscode-extensions/ 12/22/22 - Gist - James Moberg - mergeQbSqlBindingsCFML UDF to be used with QB parameterized SQL string & binding array to generate reusable SQL https://gist.github.com/JamoCA/bb681afd2eb1a0d6d380f3b714ccc138 12/22/22 - Tweet - James Moberg - cf_dump custom tagRegarding using cfdump/writedump with strings, I prefer Lucee's #cfml approach over #ColdFusion.An even better solution IMHO is the cf_dump CFTag by @Kwaschny. It encapsulates, identifies type, hints at length & has leading/trailing space indicators.https://twitter.com/gamesover/status/1605985349234094080https://github.com/kwaschny/cf_dumpA reminder that in Lucee you can hover over a dump output to see the file and line that outputed the dump. 12/20/22 - Tweet - Brad Wood - cfdump eval attribute#TIL @lucee_server's CFDump has an "eval" attribute you can use instead of "var" which also defaults the "label" attribute to show you what it is dumping.which is the same as:https://twitter.com/bdw429s/status/1605289984319279114 CFML JobsSeveral positions available on https://www.getcfmljobs.com/Listing over 37 ColdFusion positions from 25 companies across 22 locations in 5 Countries.0 new jobs listed this weekPatreon Sponsored Job Announcement - Tomorrows GuidesTomorrows Guides is a fast paced leader in the UK care sector, catering for care seekers across three areas: Care Homes, Nurseries and Home Care. We are often called the Trip Advisor of the care sector. Our Product team consists of over 20 individuals across the UK working remotely to expand and improve our offering with regular expansion in teams year on year. We work with both Coldfuson 2021 and Node.js/React in the Azure cloud, while also using both MSSQL and MongoDB databases. Currently we are looking for Senior Coldfusion developers and Automation Testers with training paths to node.js available as well. We offer a wide variety of perks from our company wide £4k bonus scheme, and quarterly nights out with the whole company and the Product team to a 6% company pension contribution. Current Roles in detail All roles: https://www.tomorrows.co.uk/jobs.cfm Senior Cf Developer – UK Only | Remote | Permanent | Circa £60k - https://app.occupop.com/shared/job/senior-coldfusion-developer-5925b/- Minimum three years' experience with ColdFusion- Database design, normalisation and ability to write/understand complex queries using MSSQL Server 2019- Familiarity with Git- Flexible skillset covering a wide range of development Automation Test Engineer – UK Only | Remote | Permanent | Circa £40k - https://app.occupop.com/shared/job/automation-test-engineer-a6545/- Minimum three years experience with automated testing- Experience with automated testing tools such as selenium- Experience with API test tools such as Postman/Fiddler etc Benefits of both roles:- £4,000 per annum discretionary company bonus scheme- 25 days annual leave + bank holidays- 6% employer pension contribution- Access to free perks and discounts through Perkbox- Long Service Awards- Cycle to Work Scheme- Company and Team nights outOther Job Links Ortus Solutions https://www.ortussolutions.com/about-us/careers There is a jobs channel in the CFML slack team, and in the box team slack now too ForgeBox Module of the WeekPassifierBy Michael BornA password strength checker based on zxcvbn4j. Measures the strength of a password and can give feedback or show how long the password would take to crack.https://forgebox.io/view/passifierVS Code Hint Tips and Tricks of the WeekCode GPTBy Daniel SanUsing the official OpenAI API inside the IDE with Code GPT you can improve your code.Features: Ask CodeGPT: CodeGPT will open a new Editor and respond the question Explain CodeGPT: CodeGPT will open a new Editor and explain the code Refactor CodeGPT: CodeGPT will open a new Editor and refactor the code Document CodeGPT: CodeGPT will open a new Editor and Document the code Find Problems CodeGPT: CodeGPT will open a new Editor and find problems in the code https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=DanielSanMedium.dscodegptThank you to all of our Patreon SupportersThese individuals are personally supporting our open source initiatives to ensure the great toolings like CommandBox, ForgeBox, ColdBox, ContentBox, TestBox and all the other boxes keep getting the continuous development they need, and funds the cloud infrastructure at our community relies on like ForgeBox for our Package Management with CommandBox. You can support us on Patreon here https://www.patreon.com/ortussolutionsDon't forget, we have Annual Memberships, pay for the year and save 10% - great for businesses. Bronze Packages and up, now get a ForgeBox Pro and CFCasts subscriptions as a perk for their Patreon Subscription. All Patreon supporters have a Profile badge on the Community Website All Patreon supporters have their own Private Forum access on the Community Website All Patreon supporters have their own Private Channel access BoxTeam Slack Live Stream Access to streams like “Koding with the Kiwi + Friends” and Ortus Software Craftsmanship Book Club https://community.ortussolutions.com/ Patreons John Wilson - Synaptrix Tomorrows Guides Jordan Clark Gary Knight Mario Rodrigues Giancarlo Gomez David Belanger Dan Card Jeffry McGee - Sunstar Media Dean Maunder Nolan Erck Wil De Bruin Abdul Raheen Don Bellamy Joseph Lamoree Jonathan Perret Jan Jannek Laksma Tirtohadi Brian Ghidinelli - Hagerty MotorsportReg Carl Von Stetten Jeremy Adams Didier Lesnicki Matthew Clemente Scott Steinbeck - Agri Tracking Systems Daniel Garcia Ben Nadel Richard Herbet Brett DeLine Kai Koenig Charlie Arehart Jason Daiger Shawn Oden Ross Phillips Matthew Darby Edgardo Cabezas Patrick Flynn Stephany Monge Kevin Wright John Whish Peter Amiri Cavan Vannice John Nessim Tia You can see an up to date list of all sponsors on Ortus Solutions' Websitehttps://ortussolutions.com/about-us/sponsors Thanks everyone!!! ★ Support this podcast on Patreon ★