Production code and real-world tech

This week I read a tweet that really resonated with me:

I totally agree.

However, this applies beyond coding. I’d like to see more examples of tech being put to use on real projects. It’s cool to look at what’s new in tech – but to me, it’s even cooler to think of real-life examples where a specific piece of tech has added value that would have been a lot tougher – or impossible – with another tech choice.

Rather than talks or blog posts along the lines of “How we built a website in AngularJS”, how about why you used AngularJS? How about whether a framework has been a huge asset in the early stages of building an application, but it’s caused difficulties later on? How about moving between JS frameworks? How about tales from teams who have inherited bad codebases and gradually improved them? Or tips from developers who stay in jobs for a few years and have consolidated tools or reduced technical debt?

I’m sure there are plenty of these talks and blog posts around. I’d just like to see a little less of “here’s a new tool!” and a little more of “here’s how to get more out of your existing setup”.

How I prioritise small requests alongside project work

Recently, I changed the way I prioritise new work requests and projects. Here’s what I’ve started doing.

Prioritising the product backlog

JIRA is our central system for development requests. There’s one project for smaller requests: the “BAU” as I call it, which is anything that takes 2 days dev time or less. Except for urgent requests, which we will drop other work to look at, anything in JIRA is allocated a business area via a custom field.

Each week, I export a list of all open tickets, filtered by area. One or two people in each area indicate their Priority 1 and Priority 2 tasks, and those go into the queue. We also prioritise our internal work, such as changes to the core product, and improvements to our technical stack.

We won’t complete all of the prioritised tasks every week – but it allows us to see what the priorities are.

I believe it’s important for all areas of the business to be included in the prioritisation process. Nobody should feel that their area is being ignored. Allowing each business owner to define their priorities can prevent this issue.

Prioritising the projects

Instead of starting yet another spreadsheet, for projects I decided to use pen and paper. I ordered a stack of 1000 plain white 5×3 record cards and a pack of Sharpies.

I started by writing one project on each card, and laying it all out on the table (literally). Staff involved in the meeting can see all the known projects, ask what they are, and identify anything that may be missing.

Once all projects are defined, we agree what’s the next priority. This makes it very clear which project will be worked on next – and also what won’t be. Showing the number of projects can make it very clear if there’s a capacity issue. There’s only so much resource, so we can’t work on every project simultaneously.

Does it work?

As this is a very new process I’m trialling, it’s too early to say how effective it is. I’ll write a follow-up post on this.

Music update: new website and albums!

Over the last year and a bit, I’ve been through a very productive and enjoyable period of music composition.

My last album, “A Change of Scenery“, was finished in November 2009. After that, I went for 5 years with very little interest in writing music. Some of this was because I was totally tied up with working in London – not to mention commuting.

It took until November 2014 to come up with the track that kick-started my return to music – the aptly named “November Dawn”. Since then, I’ve been putting the finishing touches to what was going to be my sixth album – a double album called “Parallel Paths”.

However, with such a large gap since my fifth album, along with a change in the style of music, it felt like a good opportunity to start over.

Introducing… GFD Music.

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New music can be found under Albums, with the double album split into two “sister albums” – Symmetry 1, and Symmetry 2. A total of 22 new tracks are available to play or download.

There’s a music blog, a Soundcloud page for sharing individual tracks (although it’s not yet linked from the website), new graphics (album covers and track artwork), a Twitter account, and a Facebook page.

Please follow, listen, and spread the word if you like the music. Thank you!