70/70

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A few days ago, a friend of mine asked me to join him in a new startup. He said that he needed a partner, to help him partially finance the project, promote it, bring in new ideas, and push the business forward. I liked the business idea and wanted to participate. I started to ask questions about our future partnership and attempted to draw a simple partnership agreement. He quickly got offended. He said that he was looking for a real partner, who would share his goals and would never require any papers or lawyers.

Either Bugs or Pull Requests ... or You Are Out

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Here is how it goes, over and over again. I find a new developer for one of my projects managed by Zerocracy. He claims to be an expert with 10 years of hands-on coding experience, $60 hourly rate (we don't hire US guys), and fluent English. Then he joins the project and attempts to close a few tickets. But he hardly can. For many reasons. Then he comes back and explains why our microtasking methodology doesn't work, trying to convince me that I have to pay him per hour, instead of per result. Here is my answer.

What's Wrong With Global Variables?

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Only lazy people haven't written already about how global variables are evil. It started in 1973 when W. Wulf et al. claimed that "the non-local variable is a major contributing factor in programs which are difficult to understand." Since then, many other reasons where suggested to convince programmers to stop using global variables. I think I read them all, but didn't find the one that bothers me most of all: composability. In a nutshell, global variables make code difficult or impossible to compose in ways which are different from what its original author expected.

Are You an Architect?

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Over twenty five years ago, in 1992, at an OOPSLA workshop in Vancouver, Kent Beck, in answer to the question "What is an architect?" said, according to Philippe Kruchten, that it is "a new pompous title that programmers demand to have on their business cards to justify their sumptuous emoluments." Not much has changed since then. There is a big difference between a smart programmer and a project architect. Here is a list of traits that, I believe, a good architect has.

Simplified GitHub Login for a Ruby Web App

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You know what OAuth login is, right? It's when your users click "login" and get redirected to Facebook, Twitter, Google, or some other website which then identifies them. Then they go back to your website and you know who they are. It's very convenient for them. It's convenient for you too, since you don't need to implement the login functionality and don't need to keep their credentials in a database. I created a simple Ruby gem to simplify this operation for GitHub only. Here is how it works.

Object Validation: to Defer or Not?

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I said earlier that constructors must be code-free and do nothing aside from attribute initialization. Since then, the most frequently asked question is: What about validation of arguments? If they are "broken," what is the point of creating an object in an "invalid" state? Such an object will fail later, at an unexpected moment. Isn't it better to throw an exception at the very moment of instantiation? To fail fast, so to speak? Here is what I think.

One More Recipe Against NULL

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You know what NULL is, right? It's evil. In OOP, your method can return NULL, it can accept NULL as an argument, your object can encapsulate it as an attribute, or you can assign it to a variable. All four scenarios are bad for the maintainability of your code---there are no doubts about that. The question is what to do instead. Let's discuss the "return it" part and I will suggest one more "best practice" on top of what was discussed a few years ago.

An Open Code Base Is Not Yet an Open Source Project

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A few weeks ago someone suggested I should try to integrate IntelliJ IDEA's static analysis rules into Qulice, our aggregator of Checkstyle, PMD, FindBugs, and some other analyzers. I do love IDEA's rules---some of them are unique and very useful. I asked whether I could find them somewhere in Maven Central (they are written in Java) and the answer was "You'll have to figure out yourself how to use them, but they are open source." Here comes my opinion about this situation: I believe that open source doesn't just mean the code is readable without authorization. It means something much bigger.

The Right Way to Report a Bug

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You know, at Zerocracy, either you are a programmer or a tester, and we pay for each bug you find and report. Well, not quite. We pay for each bug report a project architect considers good enough to pay for. The architect's decision is totally subjective and non-disputable, according to §29 of the Policy. Some of our developers find this unfair and ask me to explain how they can report bugs such that they are definitely paid. Here is a non-exhaustive list of my recommendations.

How to Be Lazy and Stay Calm

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What frustrates me most in my profession of software development is the regular necessity to understand large problem scopes before fixing small bugs, especially if the code is legacy and not mine. Actually, it's even more frustrating when the code is mine. The "deep thinking," as they call it, which is always required before even a small issue can be resolved, seriously turns me away from programming. Or did turn me away. Until I started to think differently and encourage myself to be lazy. Here is how.

Nine Steps of Learning by Refactoring

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I was asked on Twitter recently how is it possible to refactor if one doesn't understand how the code works. I replied that it is "learning by refactoring." Then I tried to Google it and found nothing. I was surprised. To me refactoring seems to be the most effective and obvious way to study the source code. Here is how I usually do it, in nine object-oriented steps.

Fully Transparent Donations via Zerocracy

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Open source is free, as in beer: you write code, nobody pays you. Of course, there are many ways to monetize your efforts, but there will be no direct cash payments from your users, usually. There are ways to collect money, which include an obvious "tip jar" button on your GitHub project page. The chances anyone will pay are low though. In my opinion, this is mostly because nobody trusts you enough---they are not sure you will use the money to make the product better. Most likely you will just spend it and nothing will change. But they want the product, not to make you happier. At least that's what I feel when I see a Patreon button.

How I Test My Java Classes for Thread-Safety

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I touched on this problem in one of my recent webinars, now it's time to explain it in writing. Thread-safety is an important quality of classes in languages/platforms like Java, where we frequently share objects between threads. The issues caused by lack of thread-safety are very difficult to debug, since they are sporadic and almost impossible to reproduce on purpose. How do you test your objects to make sure they are thread-safe? Here is how I'm doing it.

Zerocracy: A Project Manager That Never Sleeps

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I've been in the software business for almost 30 years. I wrote my first piece of code when I was 12. Since then I have been programming and managing other programmers, hiring and firing them, planning projects and their budgets, finding and losing customers, investing into software teams and losing my investments, even teaching others how to manage software projects. What is my overall impression? It's a pain. I think I've found a solution though.

Fluent Interfaces Are Bad for Maintainability

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Fluent interface, first coined as a term by Martin Fowler, is a very convenient way of communicating with objects in OOP. It makes their facades easier to use and understand. However, it ruins their internal design, making them more difficult to maintain. A few words were said about that by Marco Pivetta in his blog post Fluent Interfaces are Evil; now I will add my few cents.

Don't Aim for Quality, Aim for Speed

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I decided to write this blog post after reviewing this pull request. What happened there? The author of the PR wasn't able to figure out the "right" way to implement it, and the code reviewer was waiting and waiting. Eventually, the reviewer came to me, since I was an architect, and complained that it was taking too long and he wasn't able to earn his money for the review he had done. Then the author of the changes explained that he couldn't finish since there were impediments and design inconsistencies; he also couldn't earn the money he deserved for fixing the issue. What did I say? I said: Forget the quality, just finish it any way possible.

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