Wednesday 18 November 2015

Recommended Reading

These are the best books I have read so far that I think every software developer should read. Every one of them has really helped me to understand and improve the way I work.

Code Complete (2nd Edition) amazon

Would recommend this book to anyone who is looking at taking a career in software development. Covers almost everything you need to know to a basic level, though a couple of sections are a little dated this book really helps make the transition from just understanding how to code to being a career software developer.

Clean Code amazon

Clean code is a good book about coding standards and thinking about how you lay out your code. While I do not necessarily agree with all the recommendations it is spot on with all the areas that you need to consider. It really helps to make you think about how you lay out your code and take some pride in it.

The art of Unit Testing (2nd Edition) amazon

This is a really good book for people who are looking at starting to do automated developer testing, while it may take a couple of reads mixed with a lot of practice eventually it will all make sense. I would recommend avoiding the first edition of this book as the writer changed his approach on a few key areas that really make a difference when trying to get to terms with unit testing.

The Design of Everyday Things (1st Edition) amazon

The design of everyday things is a great introduction to usability and its underlying concepts. I would recommend getting the first edition as I found the second edition much harder to read due to the extra information in it.

Conceptual Blockbusting amazon

This book is not about programming but I would really recommend it anyway as it looks at the way you solve problems and aims to help you with understanding and improving the process. It is also full of little games and exercises that are fun to do.

Design Patterns amazon

This book is a really good introduction to the concept of design patterns and has most of the classic (although some you probably won't ever use) design patterns listed. While the catalogue part of the book can be hard to read it really helps you by giving you an insight to some useful patterns that experienced developers use.

Refactoring amazon

Refactoring is an awesome book although I find the catalogue part that lists all the refactorings mostly useless when you are working in a modern IDE that has short cuts for a lot of them. It gives a good understanding of what refactoring is and why it is so key to being a software developer.

Soft Skills amazon

This book is essentially a motivational self help book written especially for developers, it is a really good read and full of all sorts of useful information on how to deal with the rest of life while having a software developing career. From making a CV to getting your dream job and managing money this book essentially covers everything that's not normally in software books.

Object Thinking amazon

This defiantly feels like more of an advanced book but really helps you to think about the way you design your object oriented programs. Some of the sections about using polymorphism over conditional logic we're quite a mind opener. Am looking forward to reading this one again soon as I feel this book still has much to offer.

The Mythical Man Month amazon

If any book can be described as a classic in the software development field it is this one, a great book that focuses on managing software projects. While much of the information may seem out of date it has so many points that still ring true in today's software development world.

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Git Aliases

Git Aliases

You can add extra git commands in the command line to make your life easier using git alias

if you type git config --global -e you will be able to edit these.

they should go inside the [alias] section (add one if it's not there)

Basic Commands

These commands are just simple aliases for anything that I use a lot, mainly because I have to type less to use them.

s = status

See the status of the repository

c = commit

Commit changes to the local repository

cm = commit -m

Commit with a message
git cm "Updated some code stuff"  

aa = add -A

Stages all the changes in the workspace.

co = checkout

Checkout a branch or commit.
git co master  

Viewing History

lga = log --graph --oneline --all --decorate

Shows the history for the repository in a nice way.

lgab = log --graph --oneline --decorate

Shows the history for the current branch in a nice way.

Pushing & Pulling

plr = pull --rebase

pull but rebase instead of merge, find this useful when working on a branch that have others working in it to avoid merge commits. Makes the history much cleaner. See the internet for arguments about this.

pushup = "!git push --set-upstream origin \"$(git rev-parse --abbrev-ref HEAD)\""

Push a local branch to the origin remote, does what it says on the tin. Use this lots when working within a feature branch/pull request workflow.

Stash & Reset

Most of these I found on Phil Haacks blog

wip = !git add -A && git commit -m 'WIP'

Work in progress commit, commits anything to the current branch so it can be reverted later. Useful if you need to change what you are working on. You could use git stash but I prefer having a proper commit.

load = reset HEAD~1 --mixed

Used to undo the commit that was done with the wip command and put the changes in the working directory.

wipe = !git add -A && git commit -qm 'WIPE SAVEPOINT' && git reset HEAD~1 --hard

Really like this one, use it instead of "git reset --hard" to clear the current working directory. Much better because it still commits the changes before wiping so they will remain in your local repository until they are garbage collected.


Tuesday 10 November 2015

Running a Release Retrospective

We just shipped the first release of a project that I have been working on out to customers and it was decided it would be a good time to run a release retrospective with all of the teams involved.

Format of the session

3 hours in the afternoon with roughly 30 people attending.


Some senior managers came in and just say a few words to kick off the meeting in a positive way. Sometimes retrospectives can turn quite negative so this helped make the point that the release was a success and we are there to look for improvements in the coming versions.

Discussion of outcomes

Discussion of the expected outcomes of the meeting, this was a list of different items with actions we are going to take and owners for those actions. The items were:
  • Recommendations (What we did well)
  • Knowledge (What we learnt)
  • Mysteries (Things that need investigation)
  • WTF's (Things that we can improve on)
Next time I would rename recommendations to something else as they came out as recommended things we can do better rather that things we did well that we recommend we keep doing and pass on.


We tried energizer for this meeting as described in parts of a retrospective. After some reading we decided to try the Candy Love Energizer (whats better to get people talking than chocolate?).

This worked well and got everyone being talkative, would really recommend this energizer (think its a bit more interesting as most people haven't done it before).

Story of the project

This was a brief presentation with some key dates and statistics of the project, to help focus people on what we were going to be discussing the following breakout section.

This was shorter than hoped but it worked well to help frame the period we were talking about. 

Retrospective Prime Directive

"Regardless of what we discover, we understand and truly believe that everyone did the best job they could, given what they knew at the time, their skills and abilities, the resources available, and the situation at hand."

Read out the prime directive and explained that the meeting is supposed to be a positive thing looking at what we can do better and improve on rather than blame.


We broke up in to 4 teams each with flip board paper and pens with each team to focus on a different area. Each team should identify Recommendations, Knowledge, Mysteries and WTF's with possible actions.

Quality & QA

Looking at our quality management & testing


This is essentially the story of a story, from customer to shipped.

Planning & Release

Looking at how the project was planned and released.

Work & Environment

How the teams interact and work together, inside and outside of the team. as well as generally at working within the company & skill sharing.


Each team presents their findings and we discuss as a whole group the proposed actions.

The discussion was very interesting though some of the topics were very developer focused, it was suggested that we should have a developer only meeting first next time to avoid bringing the other team members to boredom.

Actions & Owners

Review the actions and assign owners.

The hardest part of these things always seems the be actually getting something practical out of as many items as possible. To try to help we assigned owners to each item and I will try to chase the owners to make sure progress is made over the coming weeks.

Release Success

Each person gets a piece of paper and writes a 1-10 on it to say how well they thought it went. This provides an anonymous way to gather information on how well everyone who worked on the release believes it has gone.

While this is probably not the best way to judge the release it was interesting to see the information that came in. In future I would suggest maybe using a more simple system (Well, OK, Poor) or something along those lines.


The session went pretty well most of the feedback was very positive. We identified several points and actions that we will be looking at over the period of the next release.

I would highly recommend playing around with the different subjects to suit the number of people you have joining in and areas you want to cover. Hopefully when we do another release retrospective we can try another set and compare the results.