Thursday, September 4, 2014

Is it really 'Team Agility' ?

Today, as enterprises continue to face increasing competition from freelancers and startups as increased cloud adoption is causing disruptive business opportunities and challenges for everyone. It is not surprising to see the enterprises going for more agile processes.
However, there is a world of difference between large enterprises and small units of tightly cohesive teams that are set out to achieve software agility. In a recent conference that I went to, this was echoed as 'culture' that no tool or technology could change - as it came from within. A lot of agile projects have not reached their promised outcome as the culture got in the way of their implementations. My personal observation is that apart from team culture, individual behavior and understanding has also got in no small way to do its part in making changes into the outcome. The culture is merely the result or the sum of individual behavior and as micro ecosystem influences the macro one, the individual behavior plays a compounding role in the business of being agile and at the end of the day delivering quality software.
I have worked across different teams during my experience as a software craftsman and the major part that facilitated output was not only the tools and automation in place, but also how the team got on together as a unit, without having egos and finger pointing out at one another. In a larger enterprise, that is rarely the case and my main point here is to reflect upon the team composition as in most projects, there is a management team that handles teams working across different timezones and also managing the bench strength. Unfortunately, this leaves a large room behind for miscommunication which is resolved through process aka documentation that kind of defeats the purpose of being agile in the first place.
What is needed is to have small teams that are oriented towards individual results rather than team efforts(this might be contradictory to the management version of a team but will lead to transparency) instead of large monolithic units ('Lines of Businesses' as they are called) and have cross-functional lines of management between them (to facilitate agility in different sprints) instead of being top-heavy. It is easy by major software tool providers to sell tools to add in agile processes, DevOps, automation, etc. but at the end of the day these are just some buzzwords that probably make your client satisfied about the agility and the appearance of a leaner process when apparently there isn't any.
So instead of merely claiming to have a startup culture, both the software providers as well as clients need to own up to the fact that to have a faster and a cheaper software delivery model, the team size and work needs to be more transparent rather than process heavy which allows for both incidental and malicious efforts to cause inefficiency.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: 'Real Time Communication with WebRTC'

I am presenting the review of the book, 'Real Time Communication with WebRTC' by Salvatore Loreto and Simon Pietro Romano.
This book is an interesting mix of both Theory and Practical components of WebRTC, better explained to a layman as Voip or skype within a browser.
One of the things that could really affect you as a reader is the way this book is written - the theoritical fundamentals are interspread with code and practical advices. At times this makes a seemingly straightforward topic like painful to understand, but this is quite handy if you are stuck at a specific problem and need to go deeper into it.
As I am already having experience in developing applications that utilize WebRTC, it was a refreshing read that also explained a lot of theory details associated with this technology and the various possible ways in which peer-to-peer audio and video can be shared on a real time basis.
To give you an overview of this book, it gives a long introduction to the users and handling of user media(mic and webcam) from a HTML5 browser, before starting the discussion of the different design strategies used in a peer-to-peer connections. It then runs the user through an application from scratch to increase his confidence over the topics discussed and finishes with a discussion of advanced features of WebRTC API.
My greatest peeve in using this book was the lack of authority in the examples - some examples failed to execute with the firefox browser. Also, some of the routinely occuring errors could have been added as this technology is constantly evolving and it is not unexpected to find some code that might not be supported by future versions of browsers.
However, the browser based peer-to-peer communication is completely discussed and this book is one of the most comprehensive text on it at the moment.
Disclaimer: I have been provided a free copy of this book by OReilly under their Blogger review program.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Packt Ten Year Celebration Campaign - Packt Publishing

Packt Publishing launches an exciting campaign to celebrate 10 years and is offering all eBooks and Videos at just $10 each for 10 days (Till 5th of July). 

This publication has been a boon for open source frameworks - by providing a well formed additional documentation/how-tos for a specific technology. 

Press Release:

Packt’s celebrates 10 years with a special $10 offer

This month marks 10 years since Packt Publishing embarked on its mission to deliver effective 
learning and information services to IT professionals. In that time it’s published over 2000 titles and helped projects become household names, awarding over $400,000 through its Open Source Project Royalty Scheme.

To celebrate this huge milestone, from June 26th $10 each for 10 days – this promotion covers every title and customers can stock up on as many copies as they like until July 5th Dave Maclean, Managing Director explains ‘From our very first book published back in 2004, we’ve always focused on giving IT professionals the actionable knowledge they need to get the job done. 

As we look forward to the next 10 years, everything we do here at Packt will focus on helping those IT professionals, and the wider world, put software to work in innovative new ways. 
We’re very excited to take our customers on this new journey with us, and we would like to thank them for coming this far with this special 10-day celebration, when we’ll be opening up our comprehensive range of titles for $10 each. 

If you’ve already tried a Packt title in the past, you’ll know this is a great opportunity to explore what’s new and maintain your personal and professional development. If you’re new to Packt, then now is the time to try our extensive range – we’re confident that in our 2000+ titles you’ll find the
knowledge you really need , whether that’s specific learning on an emerging technology or the key skills to keep you ahead of the competition in more established tech.’ 

More information is available at

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When fast is merely not good enough

In the pursuit of applications that are having ever increasing speeds, I am constantly looking around for new ideas and have come across an interesting term, reactive programming that addresses a lot of concepts and puts the possible answer into a single umbrella; or quite simply speaking, gives it a name.
Basically, any web application under this umbrella term is people first - meaning it will inform its client what is happening instead of a delayed page load that can take anywhere between 2 seconds and hours. It always provides a real-time response to the client and responds to clients, events, load and failure.

This is typically done by making the application use following characteristics:
  1. Responsive
  2. Scalable
  3. Resilient
  4. Event-Driven

When these applications are cohesively applied, the common pattern/word that emerges gets labelled under the term reactive programming, which is promised by the

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review: Client Server Web Apps with Javascript and Java

The book, 'Client server Web Apps with Javascript and Java' by Casimir Saternos aply provides its puchline, 'Rich, Scalable and Restful'. These words do not only cover the essence of this book, but also describe the adoption of Javascript based frameworks and technologies on the user-interface/frontend of today's Enterprise Java applications.

A new term is used to introduce the users - Client-Server, which signifies that client side of an application is as important as its server side and the amount of programming efforts required on the client side is also as big as it is managed on the server. It is similar to the other topics that are introduced in this book - completely from scratch, which enforce learning familiar concepts like JavaScript refreshing to learn.
Even for an experienced developer, there are lot of things to watch out for like in chapter 2 where excerpts from 'Javascript: The Good Part' by Douglas Crockford are cited for concise learning. Similarly, in the next chapter detailing REST and JSON, the non-existence of url/syndication in JSON and its related debate surrounding HATEOAS (Hypermedia As The Engine Of Application State) is explained. The JVM specific languages are mentioned by highlighting build tools related to them, which is potentially confusing if the person reading is not familiar with build, version and test tools.
The next part of the book starting with Chapter 5 deals with the client side web application and quickly introduces the user towards finer points like asset pipelining and is followed up on the next chapter by introducing different JVM based servers to run and deploy the web application. Lightweight Java servers and developer productivity tools are listed in the couple of following chapters, which I think do not add much value to the overall premise of the book. The next chapter then covers the design and principals of RESTful web services and demonstrates one created in Jersy which is then followed up by jQuery.

However, the Chapter 10 covers Angular and Sinatra (a mini-web framework in ruby) which is a let down as Java8 has provided native node.js runtime through project Rhino and it would have been interesting to see angular being used in the full MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express.js, Angular.js and Node.js) as express.js is the De-facto framework in the node.js land and angular and express share quite a lot in common. That said, beginners to Angular should use this chapter to get a feel of angular and do not worry much about the choice of server side framework used to provide the RESTful service to the client side application in question. This chapter covers Angular.js in sufficient detail and covers the actual theme of the book but at the end of the chapter, as a user I am left wanting for more - especially given the multitude of client side frameworks available as of today. I will definitely keep an eye open for improvements in this chapter in the future revisions of this book.

The final three chapters deal with the packaging and deployment and touches these areas briefly - it covers just the starting pointers and the users can themselves choose the tools to learn further as they need more.
Another plus I found with this book was a well balanced Appendix - on one hand, practical examples on using different lightweight databases were given and on the other hand, various facts and trivia regarding REST was detailed.

Overall, this book is a gem of knowledge to existing/new programmers who are starting looking into the exciting world of client side javascript based webapps that interact mainly with lightweight web services.
For a few sections where a simple Java based Restful service is demonstrated, sinatra running on jRuby is created which is fine, but can potentially confuse some java programmers who are not familiar with the ruby/jruby landscape. Instead, some offshoot library of Sinatra created in Java could've been used. This apart from the smaller chapter 10 and the fact that any other client side framework and tools like grunt/bower have no mention is my main grouse from the otherwise stellar book that deserves a read for those who are starting up on new age web apps.

Disclaimer: I have been provided a free copy of this book by OReilly under their Blogger review program.