Date/Time Printing Can Be Elegant Too

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I owe my pretty high StackOverflow reputation to this question in particular, which I asked a few years ago: How do you print an ISO 8601 date in Java? It managed to collect a lot of upvotes since then and 20+ answers, including my own one. Seriously, why didn’t Java, such a rich ecosystem, have a built-in out-of-the-box simple solution for this primitive task? I believe this is because the designers of the Java SDK were 1) smart enough not to create a print() method right in the class Date, and 2) not smart enough to give us an extendable set of classes and interfaces to parse and print dates in an elegant way.

Be Unhappy to Be Happy

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At the very end of one of my recent meetups I was asked a question: “Are you a happy person?” I mumbled something about being happy from time to time, but later gave this question more thought. Am I happy? Not really. Well, sometimes. What makes me happy? And why are so many of us unhappy so often? It seems that there is an answer, and a recipe for happiness.

How to Motivate Kids to Code

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I got an email a few days ago. “I’m not a programmer. I’m a mom of two kids: 9 and 14. They both seem to be interested in computers, but they mostly play games. What would you recommend I do to help them make a career in tech?” I’m not an expert in parenting, but I’m getting similar requests rather often. It’s great to see that some people realize the difference between playing GTA and Java coding. It’s very sad to see that they don’t know how to motivate their kids. I don’t know either, but I can try to make a guess.

Daily Stand-up Injection of Guilt

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A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the daily stand-up meetings many software teams are doing regularly. Since then, the article has been getting comments from both sides. Readers either 1) strongly agree with me or 2) accuse me of having no idea what morning stand-ups are for.

My point was: only weak managers need such meetings to coordinate the team, while strong ones use more formal instruments to organize the flow of information. However, as someone noted, morning meetings are not supposed to be used by managers to coordinate anyone, but “to discuss progress, impediments and to plan.” I’m not buying it.

The Joy of Programming

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Yesterday I was working with a slide deck for one of my future talks about Java and object-oriented programming and got stuck at finding convincing arguments for the transparency of logic. I was going to say that it is important for programmers to be able to understand how everything they do works, even if they don’t see it or never want to see it. But then I realized that maybe not everybody thinks that way. Maybe some programmers prefer to stay in the dark about the majority of things, as long as the code in front of them “just works.” Hence this blog post, to ask you which side you are on.

Inversive Management

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If you are a manager in a software team, your job is to make your people get things done. This is obvious. The question though is how exactly you make it happen. How do you make them do what you want, according to your plans, achieving your objectives, to your quality standards, and within the borders of your requirements and expectations? Some of you may say that these are our objectives, our mutual plans, our quality standards, and our requirements. This may be true, but initially they are still only yours. How do you make them theirs? There are two ways: a traditional one and an inversive one.

TDD Misbeliefs

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While I was working with a previous article about Test-Driven Development (TDD) I read many blog posts and a few books on the subject and found out that I disagree with a few of them; even some that are pretty important. It seems that most software experts simply misunderstand how software development works. Maybe because they are not really programmers, but are instead book authors and conference speakers.

SyncEm: Thread-Safe Decorators in Ruby

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I wrote some time ago about thread-safety in OOP and how it can be achieved with decorators. It was also said that it’s very important to make sure objects are thread-safe (in Ruby and in Java), especially in web apps, which are multi-threaded (well, in most cases anyway). Well, here is SyncEm, a primitive Ruby gem which makes the above possible with a single decorator.

How Much Do They Suffer?

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Remember the famous article Who’s Got the Monkey? The gist of it is simple: good managers always make their subordinates responsible for their own results. When they attempt to send the monkey back to the manager’s shoulders by making excuses, the manager has to be on the alert and not accept the monkey, always keeping workers fully accountable and responsible for what they are doing. It’s a terrific principle, but it doesn’t work for most managers. Here is why. Let me tell you a story.

Where Do You Seek Help First?

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Just a few days ago a friend of mine, who is not a developer but a co-founder of a software startup, asked me to help his programmers with a technical problem they got stuck with. I said “Why not?” and asked them what was going on. They told me that their PostgreSQL server was running slow because it was doing this and that, and when they restarted it it was repeating this and that… Long story short, I had no idea what they were talking about, even though I was a user of PostgreSQL for many years. My first reaction was: “Have you posted a question on StackOverflow yet?” They answered: “We still hope that that won’t be necessary.” I replied, surprised: “Huh?”

Trust Them to Get the Job Done, Not!

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There are twelve principles in the Agile Manifesto. The fifth one says: “Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.” I disagree. Strongly. This formula suggests treating people in a binary way: they are either motivated and trusted or … what? They have to be let go? This mindset is very typical, according to my observations, and leads to poor management and project failures. Instead, our people management must be more iterative and much less rigid.

Please, Don't Improvise

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We all know what happens when a programmer decides how a web site or a mobile app should look. It ends up looking ugly. And why is that? I don’t know exactly, but my best bet is on the left-brained nature of programmers, who mostly are rigid and logical mathematicians. UI design, to the contrary, requires creativity and intuition, which reside in the right side of our brain. Some recent studies are skeptical about that, but my personal experience tells me that you should never expect a programmer to make a user interface right. Moreover, I’m one of those programmers: No matter what I draw, it’s either black-and-white, or ugly. But I still have to design my pet projects. Here is a list of the top lessons I learned for myself, which help me survive with my left-sided brain.

0rsk.com: Cause + Risk + Effect

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“A project manager’s work should not focus on dealing with problems; it should focus on preventing them,”—this is how Rita Mulcahy started a chapter about Risk Management in her great book PMP Exam Prep. Sounds smart, but how does a project manager know about the problems which are supposed to be prevented? This is what that chapter and Risk Management Tricks of the Trade for Project Managers (yet another great book by the same author) are dedicated to. What I learned from these books, and from my multi-year experience of identifying, analyzing and dealing with risks, is that the best format for specifying them consists of three parts: cause, risk, and effect.

Sibit Demonstrates How Bitcoin Works

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Bitcoin was a big technical mystery for me. All the articles I’d read about it sounded extremely complex and absolutely indigestible. Until I got stuck with a task: I had to integrate Zold, our experimental non-Blockchain cryptocurrency, with Bitcoin. I had to study the architecture of Bitcoin and I found this short and simple video (I highly recommend you watch it). I managed to implement the integration and understand how Blockchain works. Here is my short summary. I hope it will be helpful.

Elegant READMEs

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Some time ago I wrote a blog post An Open Code Base Is Not Yet an Open Source Project where I suggested a few important qualities of a good open source repository/project. One of them was the well-written README file. Here I will try to give a few hints on how to create a good README file and what mistakes to avoid. I hope you find it helpful.

How to Use Nutch From Java, Not From the Command Line

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Apache Nutch is an open source framework written in Java. Its purpose is to help us crawl a set of websites (or the entire Internet), fetch the content, and prepare it for indexing by, say, Solr. A pretty useful framework if you ask me, however it is designed to be used only mostly from the command line. You download the archive, unzip it, and run the binary file. It crawls and you get the data. However, I’ve got a project where this crawling had to be embedded into my own Java app. I realized that there is a complete absence of any documentation for that. Hence this blog post. It explains how you can use Nutch from Java, not from the command line.

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