CaptainCodeman Software Development Blog

Cargo Cult Mentality in Software Development

Friday, 11 July 2014 13:00:00 PDT

Have you ever worked on a project where people insisted that the team follow arbitrary rules?

There’s often a reason for the original ‘rule’ but like any Cargo Cult the reason has been long forgotten and lost over time leaving little behind but a blind adherance to a practice in the belief that it somehow magically bestows benefits on a project.

The best example of it for me that I see all the time on teams is the insistence on using fibonacci numbers when estimating.

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The difference between knowing and understanding

Wednesday, 02 July 2014 13:00:00 PDT

I came across a commit recently that perfectly demonstrates the huge gulf that can exist between knowing there is a way to do something and truly understanding the reasons behind it.

Anyone who has tried their hand at web development has probably gone through the stages of learning about HTML and how the different elements are rendered on the page and then discovers CSS and how they can be styled to look like the beautiful sites we all know and love … or not. Usually not by a long way, especially when you’re starting out.

At this stage we’re normally producing a convoluted mess of unmaintainable styles applied to every element as needed. If we want a <div> to have a red border then we add style="border: 1px solid #ff0000" to it. Eventually we stumble across a blog post or tutorial that explains that this is a bad thing and that we should really be using CSS classes instead to apply styling.

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Top 10 ways to fake it as a software developer

Tuesday, 01 July 2014 13:00:00 PDT

Or “how to survive in a role where you are supposed to have technical skills when you don’t really have any”.

If you’ve spent any amount of time working in software development then sooner or later you will get to work on a team where there are one or more ‘less than productive’ developers. If you’re particularly unfortunate then you get to work with someone who is a complete negative net asset - they consume more time and effort than it would take to create the work they ‘produce’ and no one seems to notice that they never really contribute to getting project features completed and instead spend their days interrupting others and creating problems.

But they survive and seem to even thrive, probably being paid more than many other people on the team who are actually getting the work done. How do they do it? Well, these are their techniques intended to help you to spot them early, not to become one of them!

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Switching blog from WordPress to Jekyll hosted by GitHub Pages and styled with Twitter Bootstrap 3.0

Thursday, 01 August 2013 13:00:00 PDT

Phew … that’s a mouthful !

I’ve used WordPress for my blog for the last few years since switching to it from BlogEngine.NET. Originally I continued hosting it myself but it seemed like a never ending treadmill of installing software updates and battling with incompatible plugins which I finally grew tired of so I eventually ‘outsourced’ it to the hosted Wordpress.com service.

This worked much better and I have no complaints with the quality of the service itself but am a little unhappy that after you pay to use it they add advertising to your site and you then need to pay extra to have their ads removed. I doubt my blog generates a huge amount of ad revenue but still, I’d much rather it came to me and I think it would be fairer to have a free ad-supported service OR an ad-free service which you pay for.

I’ve spent a few hours getting setup using an alternative and while it’s not yet finished and more than a little rough around the edges I can already see the value in it.

It’s based on GitHub Pages which provides free hosting of static content for github user, organization or projects. Because all the content is hosted in Github it’s automatically version controlled and published whenever you commit changes (within a few minutes).

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Creating labels for GitHub issue system

Wednesday, 07 March 2012 10:27:41 PST

I liked the ideas for Managing your backlog with GitHub Issues and the type of labels used but creating them was harder than it should have been because of the unicode characters and custom colors and so using them consistently on multiple projects would mean repeating the same work each time (unless there is a ‘copy labels’ button that I haven’t noticed!).

So, I decided to write a little script to automate the process. It creates a slightly different set of labels as shown below but could be easily adapted to your own needs:

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