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Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

  also known as zed
  & handle of notzed

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Friday, 11 April 2014, 12:13

developer tools and tasks vs non-developer tools and tasks

So I started on a project that uses maven for it's build / test and deploy 'script'. Or some part of it; it's complicated.

Like ant (or maybe worse), maven doesn't seem to do dependency checking on targets. All it does is build a dependency graph of the tasks and executes them in an order which satisfies that graph. Or if it fails mid-build you can add some command line arguments to continue from a specific place. Or you can manually cd to a specific part of the system and build that in isolation - but that's one-way ticket to fragility and is error prone even if you've got a really good idea of how the project fits together. So basically you're forced to recompile the whole shooting match every time even if nothing changed in most of the application. This is probably a direct result of both ant and maven's design as a task-based dependency tree rather than a goal based one.

Whilst talking to someone about how useless maven is they mentioned it sounded more like tool more suited to qa or production builds.

Which makes a lot of sense to me.

A developer needs:

But for configuration management for QA builds or production, the operator only needs:

Whilst there is considerable overlap there doesn't seem to be enough to me to justify the overhead in developer time - unless you're paying them peanuts having them wait Dx10xN minutes for D developers to re-build stuff that has already been built every time becomes an incredibly costly exercise.

I think this is similar to my main problem with git. Git was written by a configuration/qa manager (Linus), not a typical developer. His needs are that of a configuration/qa manager and not a typical developer. Apart from having an offensive name, it forces every developer to become their own configuration manager as well and whilst that might be a lofty goal it's taking away time from actually getting work done too. This costs money.

What's remotely agile about Agile?

They also use some sort of 'agile' team management process. I really can't say anything good about that at all.

Apart from some pretty shitty choice of words ('sprint' being the most egregious, but also 'backlog item' for all tasks, not just those beyond due-date; all designed to subtly force people to work harder for the same pay) the whole point of 'agile' seems to be to force all of the team to manage the team together. Which is ... a bit backwards. Firstly there's the problem of specialised skills and experience. It also exposes everyone to the responsibilities that managers "get paid the big bucks" for in compensation.

But ultimately it's just another overhead which interferes with actually getting work done. The point of a manager/team leader is to grease the wheels to let the other developers get work done as efficiently as possible and in a cohesive way. And people are different so more than one approach may be necessary. They usually never get to do any 'real work' themselves but without them (as in agile) nobody else does either. I sat through a 2 hour 'planning' meeting in abject horror as they seemed to mostly just group-operate a bug tracker. Something which could have taken the team leader 15 minutes of his own time (and the bigger items could have been done properly rather than just a hand-wavy guesstimate). I'm sure my disgust was visible because i don't even try to hide it and i was too tired to care.

Anyway I did a little reading about it and it just seems like someone went and interviewed (or imagined) a bunch of 'highly productive' teams about their "process" and wrote it down in a book to make money - creating a whole new language in the process as a way to start a new religion (and more profits).

But they forgot the key element: teams are made of people. And people are ultimately what make the team work regardless of (and often in spite of) any processes in place. But this has probably been forgotten on purpose, books like this are for management who wants to treat individual employees as identical resource units to be reallocated and 'consumed' at will.

I can see agile working ... but only in environments and on projects where it was never needed to start with and in those it would only add unnecessary and considerable overheads. This kind of magic cannot be bottled into self-help books which is all these types of books are and why these things are so faddish. Like self-help books if they actually worked the whole self-help publishing industry would collapse.

The whole two-week lock-step milestone thing is just nonsense too. There's never time to do any big architectural changes should they be required so they are never even suggested. And even little tasks just keep bouncing along across 'sprints' if they need to anyway it just means more wasted group-management time rather than letting them sit in the bug tracker till they're ready to be done.

I think like maven/ant they also forgot that a product which keeps the customer happy is the ultimate goal, not adherence to processes and racking up the count of passing short and arbitrary milestones.

But it's my day off ... but i'm too tired to do anything so I might just try to catch up on sleep and let my legs recover from the cycling. I haven't done this much for years and I was pretty much at my limit getting home yesterday; at least that's something that should improve quickly.

Tagged rants.
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