I should have posted about this last week, but I got so involved in talking about automating my functional tests that I forgot all about it, so my apologies, but this post is a little stale. I hope that someone still finds it useful though, even as an opinion piece.
Automating the functional tests isn’t going so well actually, as I’m stuck on actually executing TestExecute in the virtual environment. Its dependent on there being a desktop for it to interact with (no doubt for the purposes of automation, like mouse clicks and send keys and stuff) and I’m executing it remotely from a different machine on a machine that is not guaranteed to have any available interactive user sessions. Its very frustrating.
Developer, Developer, Developer was hosted at QUT on Saturday 6 December, and it was great. This post is primarily to give a shoutout to everyone that I saw speak on the day, as well as some of my thoughts about the content. Its not a detailed breakdown of everything that I learned, just some quick notes.
First up, the conference would not have been possible without the sponsors, which I will mention here because they are awesome. Octopus Deploy, DevExpress and CampaignMonitor were the main sponsors, with additional sponsorship from Readify, SSW, Telerik + more. The whole day only cost attendees $30 each, and considering we had 2 massive lecture theatres and 1 smaller room at QUT for the entire day, food and drinks and then prizes at the end, the sponsors cannot be thanked enough.
The first talk of the day (the keynote) was from Paul Stovell, the Founder of Octopus Deploy.
Paul talked a bit about the origins of Octopus Deploy through to where the company (and its flagship product) are now, and then a little bit about where they are heading.
I found it really interesting listening to Paul speak about his journey evolving Octopus Deploy into something people actually wanted to pay money for. Paul described how Octopus was developed, how the company grew from just him to 5+ people, their first office (where they are now) and a number of difficulties he had along the way as he himself evolved from a developer to a managing director. I’ve been reading Paul’s blog for a while now, so there wasn’t a huge amount of new information, but it was still useful to see how everything fit together and to hear Paul himself talk about it.
I don’t think I will ever develop something that I could turn into a business like that, but its nice to know that it is actually possible.
A big thank you to Paul for his presentation, and to Octopus Deploy for their sponsorship of the event.
Mehdi Khalili presented the second talk that I attended, and it was about microservices. Everyone seems to be talking about microservices now (well maybe just the people I talk to), and to be honest, I’d almost certainly fail to describe them within the confines of this blurb, so I’ll just leave a link here to Martin Fowlers great article on them. Its a good read, if a little heavy.
Long story short, its a great idea but its super hard to do it right. Like everything.
Mehdi had some really good lessons to share from implementing the pattern in reality, including things like making sure your services are robust in the face of failure (using patterns like Circuit Breaker) and ensuring that you have a realistic means of tracking requests as they pass through multiple services.
Mehdi is pretty awesome and well prepared, so his slides are available here.
I really should have written this blog post sooner, because I can’t remember a lot of concrete points from Mehdi’s talk, apart from the fact that it was informative while not being ridiculously eye-opening (I had run across the concepts and lessons before either through other talks or blog posts). Still, well worth attending and a big thank you to Mehdi for taking the time to put something together and present it to the community.
Microservices 2, Electric Boogaloo
I like Damian Maclennan, he seems like the kind of guy who isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re shit, but also never hesitates to help out if you need it. I respect that attitude.
Damian followed Mehdi’s talk on microservices, with another talk on microservices. I’ve actually seen Damian (and Andrew Harcourt) talk about microservices before, at the Brisbane Azure User Group in October, so I contemplated not going to this talk (and instead going to see William Tulloch tell me why I shouldn’t say fuck in front of the client). In the end I decided to attend this one, and I was glad that I did.
Damian’s talk provided a good contrast to Mehdi’s, with a greater focus on a personal experience that he had implementing microservices. He talked about a fictional project that he had been a part of for a company called “Pizza Brothers” and did a great walkthrough of the state of the system at the point where he came onto the project to rescue it, and how it changed. He talked and how he (and the rest of the team) slowly migrated everything into a Service Bus/Event based microservice architecture, and how that dealt with the problems of the existing system and why.
He was clear to emphasise that the whole microservices pattern isn’t something that you implement in a weekend, and that if you have a monolithic system, its going to take a long time to change it for the better. Its not an easy knot to unpick and it takes a lot of effort and discipline to do right.
I think I appreciate these sorts of talks (almost like case studies) more than any other sort, as they give the context behind the guidelines and tips. I find that helps me to apply the lessons in the real world.
Another big thank you to Damian for taking the time to do this.
Eventing, Not Just for Services
Daniel Little was the first presentation after lunch. He spoke about decoupling your domain model from the underlying persistence, which is typically a database.
The concepts that Daniel presented were very interesting. He took the event based design sometimes used in microservices, and used that to disconnect the domain model from the underlying database. The usage of events allowed the domain to focus on actual domain logic, and let something else worry about the persistence, without having to deal with duplicate classes or dumbing everything down so that database could understand it.
I think this sort of pattern has a lot of value, as I often struggle with persistence concerns leaking into an implementation and muddying the waters of the domain. I hadn’t actually considered approaching the decoupling problem with this sort of solution, so the talk was very valuable to me.
Kudos to Daniel for his talk.
Cmon Guys, UX Is A Thing You Can Do
This one was a pair presentation from Juan Ojeda and Jim Pelletier from Kiandra IT. Juan is a typical user experience (UX) guy, but Jim is a developer who started doing more UX after working with Juan. Jim’s point of view was a bit different than the normal UX stuff you see, which was nice.
I think developers tend to gloss over the user experience in favour of interesting technical problems, and the attendance at this talk only reinforced that opinion. There weren’t many people present, which was a shame because I think the guys gave some interesting information about making sure that you always keep the end-user in mind whenever you develop software, and presented some great tools for accomplishing that.
User experience seems to be one of those things that developers are happy to relegate to a “UI guy”, which I find to be very un-agile, because it reduces the share responsibility of the team. Sure, there’s going to be people with expertise in the area, but we shouldn’t shy away from problems in that space, as they are just as interesting to solve as the technical ones. Even if they do involve people instead of bits and bytes.
Juan and Jim talked about some approaches to UX, including using actual users in your design (kind of like personas) and measuring the impact and usage of your applications. They briefly touched on some ways to include UX into Agile methodologies and basically just reinforced how I felt about user experience and where it fits in into the software development process.
Thanks to Juan and Jim for presenting.
Security is Terrifying
The second last talk was by far the most eye-opening. OJ Reeves did a great presentation on how we are all doomed because none of our computers are secure.
It made me never want to connect my computer to a network ever again. I might not even turn it on. Its just not safe.
Seriously, this was probably the most entertaining and generally awesome talk of the day. It helps that OJ himself exudes an excitement for this sort of stuff, and his glee at compromising a test laptop (and then the things accessible from that laptop) was a joy to behold.
OJ did a fantastic demo where he used an (at the time unpatched) exploit in Internet Explorer (I can’t remember the version sorry) and Cross Site Scripting (XSS) to gain administrative access over the computer. He hid his intrusion by attaching the code he was executing to the memory and execution space of explorer! I didn’t even know that was possible. He then used his access to do all sorts of things, like take photos with the webcam, copy the clipboard, keylog and more dangerously, pivot his access to other machines on the network of the compromised machine that were not originally accessible from outside of the network (no external surface).
I didn’t take anything away from the talk other than terror and that there exists a tool called Metasploit and Meterpreter which I should probably investigate one day. Security is one of those areas that I don’t most developers spend enough time thinking about, and yet its one with some fairly brutal downsides if you mess it up.
You’re awesome OJ. Please keep terrifying muppets.
So You Want to be a Consultant
Damien McLennan’s second talk for the day was about things that he has learnt while working at Readify as a consultant (of various levels of seniority), before he moved to Octopus Deploy to be the CTO there.
I had actually recently applied and was rejected for a position at Readify *shakes fist*, so it was interesting hearing about the kinds of gigs that he had dealt with, and the lessons he learnt.
To go into a little more detail about my Readify application, I made it to the last step in their interview process (which consists of Coding Test, Technical Interview, Culture Interview and then Interview with the Regional Manager) but they decided not to offer me the position. In the end I think they made the right decision, because I’m not sure if I’m cut out for the world of consulting at this point in my career, but I would have appreciated more feedback on the why, so that I could use it to improve further.
Damian had a number of lessons that he took away from his time consulting, which he presented in his typical humorous fashion. Similar to his talk on microservices earlier in the day, I found that the context around Damian’s lessons learnt was the most valuable part of the talk, although don’t get me wrong, the lessons themselves were great. It turns out that most of the problems you have to deal with as a consultant are not really technical problems (although there are plenty of those) and are instead people issues. An organisation might think they have a technical problem, but its more likely that they have something wrong with their people and the way they interact.
Again this is another case where I wish I had of taken actual notes instead of just enjoying the talk, because then I would be able to say something more meaningful here other than “You should have been there.”
I’ve already thanked Damian above, but I suppose he should get two for doing two talks. Thanks Damian!
DDD is a fantastic community run event that doesn’t try to push any agenda other than “you can be better”, which is awesome. Sure it has sponsors, but they aren’t in your face all the time, and the focus really is on the talks. I’ve done my best to summarise how I felt about the talks that I attended above, but obviously its no substitute for attending them. I’ve linked to the slides or videos where possible, but not a lot is available just yet. SSW was recording a number of the talks I went too, so you might even see my bald head in the audience when they publish them (they haven’t published them yet).
I highly recommend that you attend any and all future DDD’s until the point whereby it collapses under the weight of its own awesomeness into some sort of singularity. At that stage you won’t have a choice any longer, because its educational pull will be so strong.
Might as well accept your fate ahead of time.