25 Feb 2020

Knowing your users

History / Edit / PDF / EPUB / BIB / 2 min read (~314 words)

What should I know about my users if I want to build appropriate software for them?

If you are building technical software for your users, you need to know what their level of expertise and experience is. If you can use a job title to describe their position, that is a great start.

You should define the users' strengths and weaknesses, that is, what you expect them to excel at and where they will require more of your assistance to succeed at their task.

Define the scenarios in which your users use the software you will build. What information do they have available? Which information do they need to gather? What kind of decisions do they need to make? Which decisions can be automated for them? Do they need to run the software in a specific environment? Do they need access to data to do their task? How is this data made available to them? When do they use the software? How frequently do they use the software? How much of their time is spent on the task they are solving using the software you're building?

Define what the users' goals are. You might be creating a text editor, if your users' goal is to transmit information between companies, they may not care at all about making the text fancy but they might appreciate your editor helping them correct grammatical mistakes.

You want to be as specific as possible when describing your users so that your decisions are guided by this persona you're creating. What kind of company are they working in? Startups, PME, large enterprises? Do they have multiple responsibilities or are specialized?

With all this information about your users you should be able to make more judicious decisions. This will help you scope your work.

25 Feb 2020

Introducing mypy in code with lots of issues

History / Edit / PDF / EPUB / BIB / 2 min read (~282 words)

I want to include mypy as part of my CI pipeline but my existing code contains a lot (> 100, but < 500) of issues. How can I get started?

Create a minimalist configuration of mypy such that it will list issues that need to be fixed and return a non-zero exit code. Based on the problem definition, we assume that at this step you have more than 100 issues that are listed and that fixing those issues will take many hours you'd rather invest in improving the code than to fix typing issues.

Add a step in your CI pipeline that runs mypy and list all those issues. Verify that it indeed breaks the build.

Once you've satisfied yourself that CI fails, we will "fix" the mypy issues by adding the #type: ignore and/or # noqa comment after the offending lines with issues. This will have the effect of resolving all the currently found mypy issues, such that mypy should now return a zero exit code. With this, any future code that fails to pass the mypy check will break the build. This will allow you to use mypy from this point forward to check your types.

I suggest adding an additional comment such as # FIXME: TICKET-ID, where TICKET-ID refers to the id of a ticket in your issue tracking system that explains that you need to take care of this technical debt.

Always prefer to fix the issues instead of ignoring them. However, also consider whether fixing those issues is an appropriate use of your time when you want to introduce mypy (which should be as soon as possible in my opinion).

24 Feb 2020

Rotten Tomatoes ratings exporter

History / Edit / PDF / EPUB / BIB / 1 min read (~129 words)

I have rated a lot of movies on Rotten Tomatoes and I'd like to export them to a text format. I also know PHP. How can I do that?

In 2013 I wrote Rotten Tomatoes ratings exporter for the purpose of exporting the movies I had rated into a format I could read and also store.

To automate the process of acquiring the ratings, I wrote a small class which needs information available in the site's cookies once you are logged in. With this information in hand, it is then possible to fetch the ratings from the website and store them in any desired format, given that the data returned to you is a plain PHP array.

24 Feb 2020

Writing documentation

History / Edit / PDF / EPUB / BIB / 1 min read (~23 words)
  • Define the audience
  • Define the purpose
  • Define the assumptions
  • Provide a way to contact the author
  • Provide a way to ask additional questions
24 Feb 2020

The definition of value in business

History / Edit / PDF / EPUB / BIB / 1 min read (~126 words)

How is value defined in a business context?

For a solution to be valuable it must solve an actual problem.

If a need exist for the solution, then the solution must do one or many of the following:

  • Reduce costs/time: reduce human resources needed to produce the same results
  • Increase quality: Increase accuracy/repeatability of a process
  • Solve a problem that could not be solved previously
  • Have a significant impact on costs for improving an already solved problem
  • Offer the ability to scale the process without having to scale the necessary human support linearly with the growth of the process
  • Help with identifying the most important pieces of the business in order to follow the 80/20 principle