Monday, June 23, 2008

Radiator construction at the Guardian - a guest post at

(click here to skip my introduction and go directly to the post)

The last project I did for ThoughtWorks was at Guardian News and Media, working on the redesign of their website. It should have been a dream project: I used to read the newspaper cover to cover, I'm really interested in media, and it's a chance to see what running one of the biggest websites in the UK is like. I was a bit shocked when I got there.

Like any software project, there were issues. The developers were doing their damnedest to meet some aggressive deadlines, the testers were writing automated tests like their lives depended on it, but something really wasn't gelling. It didn't seem to matter that the automated build that ran the functional tests was broken for days at a time. ThoughtWorkers the world over are capable of amazing amounts of discipline in software engineering. It felt like we weren't hitting that level and it wasn't clear why. What I did to try and fix this?

In the project room, there were 32 inch TV's on the walls to display the state of the website. It was just coincidence that the developers were housed next to the Guardian's excellent systems operations team. The developers had a Wi-Fi rabbit. It was no contest. Something had to be done. In the very first guest post on The Build Doctor, Michael Brunton-Spall picks up the story of how we built an Extreme Feedback Device called the Build Radiator.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

blog and job news ... the ThoughtWorks split is permanent

(Causeway Coast, Ulster, 1993)

  • My blog, the Build Doctor is no longer on the Planet TW aggregator. You can subscribe to the RSS feed, of course: Link
  • There's a new RSS feed for this blog. The old one redirects to this, but for what it's worth: Link
  • And I passed my 3 month probation at Beazley Furlonge. My new office digs are at Monument (ironically just over the road from the old TW offices); I'm really enjoying being back in the City. Do I miss my ThoughtWorks colleagues? Loads of them. Do I miss consulting for ThoughtWorks UK? Negative. I'm enjoying life.

The 20th Woking Bikeathon

The Woking bikeathon starts at 10am sharp. Once the speeches had finished, we set off about 10:20. To be fair, they had Alastair Campbell, a past Mayor of Woking and a present Mayor of Woking and other dignitaries queueing up to have their speech.

This year the route took us through New Haw, along the M25 in a zigzag fashion, through Virginia Water past the Wentworth golf course, across the M3 and back in Woking via Chobham and Horsell before heading back to Sheerwater where the ride starts. This route came very close to our street, but we didn't give in to temptation and go home for cups of tea.

It felt a lot easier this year. I put it down to the bike. Last year I was riding a mountain bike with street tires; this year I actually bought a hybrid road bike. It makes all the difference in comfort and speed. This year also felt easier because it wasn't hosing with rain. 30 miles quickly vanished under our tyres. Fueled on doughnuts (apparently, the staple food of the bikeathon), we did our bit for Leukemia Research in about 3 hours. I think I'll try it towing a child next time.

To all those who sponsored and encouraged us: thank you. It means a lot.

Tim's latest project: shelter for writers

My friend Tim is a London based Rails developer . He has given you such things as and He just announced his latest site, Writer's Residence. In his own words:
Writer's Residence is a product specifically for writers who need to market themselves and their writing. It's a fast, easy way to create professional portfolio site including CV / clippings / samples / tear sheets / publication lists. It's designed for showing off work to commissioning editors or potential employers.
I really like the concept: allowing people to focus on promoting their writing and not piddling around with blog skins, etc. The site was born out the frustration of a real freelance writer trying to promote herself online.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

A precious moment

Today, both my daughters were riding bikes, unaided. Lesley and I are over the moon about it.

We decided that it was time to get Emma a bike. After a visit to the fine Action Bikes in Woking, we learned that:
  • Abby, the older one was using a bike that was too small
  • The bike that Emma fancied in the shop was also too small.
We ended up buying Abby a new bike sans trainers, and putting the trainer wheels back on her old bike to give to Emma. It's rough being the youngest. There's an abandoned go-kart track near us in Woking that's now a park, so we went out there and let the kids loose. Emma went tearing off on her "new" bike. Abby had gained confidence after some false starts, and proceeded to demonstrate it by riding about 5 times around the track without stopping.

Both Lesley and myself knew that she had the cycling bug when she went around the track without stopping to talk to us. Now we need to get a cycle rack so we can all race around.

Two kids, each knocking off a rite of passage. Magic.