Thursday, January 31, 2008


So, along with a whole heap of other changes lately, I've been plaing quiet a lot of scrabble lately. Actually, saing that I'm plaing is a bit of an understatement. It's been getting so serious that I've just ordered a copy of the official scabble dictionary. Hopefully this will put an end to the arguments.. And just for the record, Qi and Fa are real words...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Catching up with life

As I'm sure many of you already know, the last year has been particularly hard for me. I've had a few personal issues that needed to be taken care of, and with that, I also took a bit of a back seat in the world in general, content to just let everything take it's course.

Somewhere along the way, I realised I was missing something. My Mojo.. I lost my mojo.. When I realised this, I decided to do something that I probably should have done a little earlier. I changed jobs, getting me out of my comfort zone and also did my best to get rid of some other baggage.

So here I am now, start of a new year, looking to get back on top of everything. So keep an eye out on the blog, and I'll keep you all up to date with the what's, how's and why's..

Thursday, January 03, 2008

If I hear it one more time

"Why don't we use code generation"...

I'm going to put it very very simply.. I HATE CODE GENERATION.

Why? It's simple. Code generation CAN help developers get applications to market quicker. I won't argue that point at all. My argument against code generation is all about abstraction and workflow.

I've worked in many environments, but one thing seems to remain the same. At some point, you will have to integrate with an older system. More often than not, that integration will be done at the database. Yes, I know the whole point of SOA is to re-use the services, but how many places are in a position to do that yet?

Anyway, back to the point. Over the life time of an application, entities in a system tend to change. They acquire new attributes, they change their behaviour and many other subtle changes. The end result, a person for example is could originally be stored with just an Id, a few fields for their name and maybe a data of birth. Over time, more information gets added. The person may now be an Employer, an Employee, a Client.

As these entities gain more attributes and new meaning, business rules will be applied to each different incarnation. A person is no longer a person.

Now you may think I've gone off track a little. What does this have to do with code generation. It actually has 2 things.

The first is that Code Generator Fanatics will just point their favorite tool at the database and let it do all the work. The problem, is that you now have services and a UI that are just a representation of a person with lots of other information. This is how you end up with applications with 20 tabs and a few hundred fields that all need to be populated before the user can press save. It's hideous and not very user friendly.

The second part is to do with the "We can just rebuild the whole thing" mentality. In this world of source control, managed change etc, at what point did it become acceptable to just blow away half a project and re-generate it just to add an extra field to an entity. Ooops.. Did someone change that file..

Next up on my list of gripes is to do with workflow. I touched upon it just above. I'm a big fan of services guiding workflow. I don't know how often I end up on a project where the services are just a set of GetXX(), AddXX(), UpdateXX() DeleteXX() methods. I hear developers talking about CRUD (you know, create, read, update, delete).. This stuff works fine in small projects, but when you start having to add workflow into the picture, it very quickly becomes messy.

Lets look at a simple problem with this. Imagine that within the database we have Users and Contacts. Both a user and Contact have Addresses. Some smart cookie along the way realised that this could be normalised and they both have a relationship with the same "Address" table. Now you need a SaveAddress() method. That's cool and all, but should you be saving an address without some sort of context as to why it exists.

In this situation, I tend to go for AddAddressToContact(Contact, Address), AddAddressToUser(User, Address). This is clear what is happening and you no longer have confusion about why your wonderful OO design doesn't work in a messaging environment.

One Final word
I'll also throw in another little issue I have, and that is when devs take it just that little extra step. They also code gen their unit tests. C'mon... What point are unit tests if they are always going to succeed. You are making our unit tests so they only call your code the way YOU WANT OUR CODE TO BE CALLED. It's not testing for the unusual cases.. Unit tests are supposed to test the unusual cases as well..

Anyway, that's my little rant for now. Feel free to drop a comment about how wrong I am on the subject and I'll buy you a beer while I argue with you until I'm blue in the face :)

It's done and dusted for another year

Yep, that's right, the party season is over, it's time to sit down behind the computer and get back to the hard work. Projects don't finish themselves. Actually, this is what my post is about. Projects not finishing themselves.

I often find it ammusing how often I find myself on the critical path of a project, not that I find this a problem, quiet the opposite. I find I work best under pressure. For me, this is the one thing that keeps me motivated. However, working as a team lead, I often find that more and more of my time is taken up with meetings. You know the type, talking to project managers, talking to busniess reps, talking to BAs. It's the communications.. All projects need communications.

The problem though is this. I spend more time communicating and less time coding. Sure, others in my team are still busy working away, yet my work seems to be getting left behind. This leads me to believe that there is a problem. I don't think that there should be less communications, I just think that I need to find a more effective way to communicate with all the other people in the project. Meetings are a nice break, but I'm sure they are not the most effective way to communicate...

Anyway, I'm going to post more about this over the next few days, but lets jsut say that it's not going to be easy considering the tools I have at my disposal. Stay tuned for all my fun adventures...