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.

Stop Pitching, Beg Them!

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You want your startup to be visible on TechCrunch, right? But you don’t have $15-20K per month to bribe a reputable PR firm to get you there? No worries. This blog post will give you a set of simple instructions on how you can get the attention of those tech journalists who are currently busy writing about Musk’s and Zuckerberg’s innovative ideas. They will definitely write about your baby, I promise you. Just do what I say.

Software Project Review Checklist

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A few years ago I wrote about the independent technical reviews any software project must regularly go through in order to make sure everything is under control. I even said recently that there is no excuse for not doing them. Moreover, the more we trust programmers, the higher the necessity to review their projects regularly. Here is a short summary of what a report from a reviewer must include.

How to Create a Java Web Framework from Scratch, the Right Object-Oriented Way

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How do you design a web application in Java? You install Spring, read the manual, create controllers, create some views, add some annotations, and it works. What would you do if there were no Spring (and no Ruby on Rails in Ruby, and no Symphony in PHP, and no … etc.)? Let’s try to create a web application from scratch, starting from a pure Java SDK and ending with a fully functional web app, covered by unit tests. I recorded a webinar no.42 about it just a few weeks ago, but this article should explain it all in even more detail.

Logging Without a Static Logger

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How do you organize logging in your applications? I mean web applications or command line apps, or even mobile apps. I bet you have some global variable or a singleton, known as Logger, which has a few methods like info(), error(), and debug(). You configure it when the app starts, or it configures itself via something like log4j.properties, and logs everything to the console or a file, or even a database. I was doing exactly that, or something very similar, for many years, until I finally realized how wrong this approach was. In one of my recent Ruby applications I did it all differently, and since then I’m much happier than I was before.

How Data Visibility Hurts Maintainability

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I’ve been writing so much about object-oriented programming and its pitfalls, claiming that most of the design patterns and “good practices” which we are accustomed to are actually wrong and hurtful, that I totally forgot to explain the bigger picture problem. Someone asked me some time ago in the blog post about “naked” data: What is the problem we are solving and why exactly does maintainability suffer if we don’t encapsulate our data enough? Here is the answer.

Why I Want to Live in Silicon Valley

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You remember my blog post about Why I Don’t Want to Live in Silicon Valley, don’t you? Read it first if you haven’t already. The gist of it is that Silicon Valley is a place with a lot of troubles. No one should want to live there, according to that previous post, right? That is what many of my readers concluded, but they were wrong. Despite the problems, the place is definitely unique and there are a lot of reasons why you may want to consider it as a great place to live, for a few years at least, especially if you are in the tech business.

Zache: A Simple Ruby In-Memory Cache

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A month ago I stumbled upon a problem: I wasn’t able to find a Ruby gem which would do in-memory caching with the capability to expire on timeout. After some quick research I decided to implement my own and called it Zache (as in “zero cache,” since there is no back end). Here is how it works:

How to Deploy Maven Artifacts to CloudRepo via Rultor

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In my previous article, I described how to set up a private Maven repository in Amazon S3 and deploy there via Rultor. This is a great solution if you’re familiar with managing Amazon Web Services (AWS), S3, and AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM). However, if you’re not comfortable administering an AWS account and all the related permissions, you may want to store your Apache Maven Artifacts in some cloud based repository manager instead. Here is how you make Rultor deploy your Maven dependencies to CloudRepo. I wrote this blog post together with Chris Shellenbarger, their founder.

My Recipe Against Dependency Hell

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Do you specify exact versions of your dependencies? I mean, when your software package depends on another one, do you write down, in your pom.xml, Gruntfile, Gemfile, or what have you, its version as 1.13.5 or just 1.+? I always thought that it was better to use exact version numbers, to avoid the so called dependency hell, and I was not alone. However, very soon I realized that dynamic versions, like 1.+, give more flexibility. Just a few weeks ago I realized that neither approach is right and found myself a hybrid formula. No suprise, I again saw that I wasn’t alone.

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