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Technologies To Improve Group-Written Code? 74

Posted by Cliff
from the team-building-and-improvement dept.
iamdjsamba asks: "I've been working at my company as a programmer for about 4 months now, and it's apparent that the working methods could do with a refresh. Practices that we need to start changing are things like: non source-controlled changes that get uploaded to our website when they aren't ready; poor code commenting; and very little in the way of code reuse (if I write a class that could be useful to others, I have no easy way of telling everyone about it). I'm currently looking into ways to change this, and was wondering if anyone on Slashdot had experience of what's good and what's not?"
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Technologies To Improve Group-Written Code?

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  • XP (Score:5, Funny)

    by VincenzoRomano (881055) on Friday November 10, 2006 @07:19AM (#16792104) Homepage Journal
    Maybe Extreme Programming [wikipedia.org] can help a little bit.
    • by Gr8Apes (679165)
      Run, don't walk, away from "extreme programming". About the only thing "extreme" about "extreme programming" is the cost for maintenance after the initial release.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Maybe Extreme Programming can help a little bit.

      Actually, I advocate "Very Extreme Programming" in cases like these.

      This best practice programming technique is not generally applicable, but it is very effective if implemented correctly. It was first popularized by the well known developers, Smith and Wesson. Smith & Wesson, Glock, and other companies produce commerical tools to assist in managing interactions with extremely difficult co-workers, which may be the only fix for the solution you find yourse
    • I often use some, but not all, of the techniques of extreme programming. It's a stupid name, I'll grant you that, but the so-called "agile methodologies" generally work fine.


      I find it much better to have frequent prototype revisions with the customers than running a big project in successive steps, only to find in the final testing stage that the basic structure one adopted from the beginning has some fundamental flaw no one had foreseen.

  • Wow. Quit now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday November 10, 2006 @07:21AM (#16792110)
    You clearly don't have any managers or developers with any experience because the first thing that a bright manager or an experienced developer would do is install a source control system so that you don't end up in the kind of development shithole you've found yourself in.

    I'd recommend leaving for a company that's going to be around for more than a year.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He may not have the option to just up and leave.

      The best thing you can do is get a source control system in place now. I'm assuming you aren't very senior at 4 months, so find a senior technical person to buy into it and then take it to your manager or team lead. Once people have to "sign off" on changes it is easier to establish a build process and testing and all of the rest of what you need.

      Since we don't know how large your team is, how many projects are involved, how large the codebase is, blah bla

    • I'm assuming that they have some sort of source control already but just make changes and upload them to their website without checking into source control first and making sure it's tested and ready.

      "non source-controlled changes that get uploaded to our website when they aren't ready"

      If that's the case then it's a matter of getting new procedures put in place. Good luck with that!
  • by CowboyBob500 (580695) on Friday November 10, 2006 @07:23AM (#16792112) Homepage
    ...for the first two (non-source controlled changes and lack of comments) is simply to tell all the developers that if they don't start doing this right now then they will be fired. Both of those things are individual problems and are some of the signs of a bad developer. If they're not prepared to improve their own personal precedures, show them the door...

    Bob
  • best practices (Score:5, Interesting)

    by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Friday November 10, 2006 @07:31AM (#16792132) Homepage Journal
    It's a vague and non-specific question.

    You've mentioned some of the practices that can help: have source control, have a build server attached to it.
    Look into why this is a good idea: it automates ad-hoc, lengthy and painful build processes. Why are you getting "changes uploaded to our website when they aren't ready" ? make it so that going via the check-in and automated build is the best way to do this.

    Look into code review methods.

    Get some of your co-workers interested in best practices, and in being agents of change themselves. Are the problems apparent to them, or are they happy with the status quo? Can they get on your side here? Remember what the wise man (Martin Fowler) said: "if you can't change Your Organization, change Your Organization."

    You don't say what tools you are working with, but in the .net world, tools like fxCop and nCover can be used, even integrated into the build process. The build can be set to break if the quality or coverage criteria aren't met. There may be such tools for your environment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Ramses0 (63476)
      There are two ways to motivate people- carrots and sticks. If they don't change when you beat them with a stick then you shove the carrot... wait, what am I saying. :^) ... Stick-like motivation can only go so far, and in many corporate / company cases you personally have very little stick to whack people with. The secret is to find something that "the boss / the owner" is passionate about (it might not be technology, but instead uptime / sales / reliability, etc), and then you work to provide many carro
  • Re: XP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kithraya (34530) on Friday November 10, 2006 @07:33AM (#16792136)
    Maybe Extreme Progamming can help.

    No, Extreme Programming can't help anything except to drive decent/good programmers crazy, support lazy/untalented programmers, and cut everyone's productivity in half (or worse).

    From experience with both, I highly recommend Scrum over XP any day of the week. I still hate Scrum (if I wanted to spend all of my time in meetings, I'd have become an accountant intsead of a programmer), but it's far better than XP.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by chromatic (9471)

      Yeah, all those terrible practices such as testing, refactoring, incremental design, customer involvement, coding standards, and ubiquitous language shared with the customer's business domain really get in the way of coding sometime.

  • by Bragi Ragnarson (949049) on Friday November 10, 2006 @07:34AM (#16792138) Homepage

    Create and enforce simple rules:

    1. Limit access to deployment server - only one or two person can access the server. Even better - create automatic deployment scripts that can be run on the server by those persons.
    2. Create staging server - where you deploy the code from repository. Do not deploy to production until you get a "go" from the client on staged version.
    3. Use Trac - it is a great piece of software that allows sharing information between developers. It provides wiki, ticket handling and repository viewer. And you can subscribe to wiki changes RSS so you can easily publish documentation about your classes.
    4. Use framework - frameworks usually come with a set of coding concepts that ease code reuse.
    5. Communicate findings about bad practices - just talk with your colleagues and tell them how can they write better code, with examples
    6. Introduce unit testing - person that writes unit tests gets a chance to look at own code the second time, which usually means improvements and cleanups.

    And you can always switch to Ruby on Rails. It is a good example of framework that helps doing things the right way and gets in the way when you want to do something wrong.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by oyenstikker (536040)
      Fire bad programmers. They will undermine all your attempts if you let them.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 10, 2006 @10:17AM (#16793136)
      7. Code reviews -- I can't tell you how many times I've caught typos or other problems in my own code as I've been explaining it to my code reviewer. I've also caught other coder's typos/problems when I've been a code reviewer. It also makes it less likely for one programmer to make a change in a dark corner somewhere and put it out there for the world to see without at least someone else's eyes having seen it first.

      8. Design reviews -- if you're going to make a major change, after you've done some planning for the change but before you implement it, get other interested parties involved in reviewing your design. They may have other ideas for how to implement the change that may be better/simpler/less expensive/etc. than what you have planned, or they may have questions that will get you thinking about your own design in a new way. The design review process can be formal, in a meeting scheduled for the purpose of reviewing the design, or it can be informal, just you emailing the design to a few people and asking them what they think.
      • Absolutely. Mod parent up.

        I was amazed to learn that reviews often have a higher rate than testing of defects found per hour. It stands to reason that when you test, you have to spend time reasoning from symptom back to cause, and when you review, you detect causes directly. There are good and bad ways to review, though, so it's worth reading about first.

        Some people even call unit testing a crutch, saying that those bugs should be found in reviews, but I'm not one of them.

        A technique that goes a step

        • A technique that goes a step farther than that takes so much institutional discipline that it's rare, but that produces very high quality code: the programmer does not actually compile their code. They write it, and then send it to a QA group that compiles it and reports bugs back to the programmer. It sounds terribly inefficient, but it causes the programmer to thoroughly review the code.

          Reminds me of building large systems on a 286 box (or even older stuff - I've worked on systems on a Vax that took 8

      • Dead right - but the rules that code reviews enforce need to be there for a reason, not just arguments about style. I once had the misfortune to be in a code review meeting where the main topic of discussion seemed to be 8-character tabs vs 4-character ones.
        • That is really unfortunate. My text editor allows me to customize the tabstop length with a single command, and could have rendered that discussion moot.
  • by thrill12 (711899) on Friday November 10, 2006 @07:39AM (#16792154) Journal
    Seems that could be an interesting solution to your problem. More info here:

    http://www.agilealliance.com/ [agilealliance.com] (see the article library and the Agile Manifesto for more info).

    It ofcourse does depend on what type of projects you are in, I would not recommend this if you make critical applications that could endanger lives - but seeing your post I think you don't have that restriction :)
  • by KillerCow (213458) on Friday November 10, 2006 @07:43AM (#16792162)
    How can you do group development without source control? Do you have bug tracking? Automated builds? A deployment policy / methodology / sign-off (or just someone who is responsible for it)?

    It sounds like you've got a group of undisciplined cowboys. Good like imposing structure on them.

    Source control, and comments are absolutely required. The only reason not to do them is due to personalities, and if you have that problem, you don't have good devs.

    Where is the team lead / project manager in all this? Start there. This is a leadership problem that is causing business problems (bad releases, poor quality control, poor communication, no reuse, no reproducibility, no records).

    Look into sucking down some things from XP [extremeprogramming.org]. Daily stand-up meetings, unit testing, and continuous integration would be a good start. They sound bad to cowboys, but they solve these exact problems.
    • It sounds like they have source control, they just don't have proper processes to only take prod code from source control.

      They need leadership, without leadership buy-in, there's no way that's going to change. Until the cost of going down exceeds the costs of changing their ways, don't expect any changes.

      As for XP - bah! It has some sound ideas (test test test) but that's about it. XP is a guaranteed nightmare down the road for maintenance (good for POCs though0. The meetings are actually a detriment in abo
      • by chromatic (9471)
        XP is a guaranteed nightmare down the road for maintenance....

        Precisely why?

        If you require meetings, the team lead should summarize, and then call on anyone needing to supply deeper info, otherwise a small open session for questions, and off to work you go.

        Hm, sort of like an XP meeting then. Hm.

        • by Gr8Apes (679165)

          XP is a guaranteed nightmare down the road for maintenance....

          Precisely why?

          I suppose someone was going to ask that. For anything other than small projects, XP generates generally unmaintainable code unless it's coupled with strict architectural design guidelines. Something not done in those 'XP' projects I've witnessed. Indeed, the XP advocates generally reject anything having to do with formal design architectures. Ergo, true XP as defined by the advocates generates unmaintainable code as projects scale.

          • by chromatic (9471)

            For anything other than small projects, XP generates generally unmaintainable code unless it's coupled with strict architectural design guidelines.

            ... such as refactoring? I'm curious what other XP practices these projects didn't practice.

            XP won't make good coders out of bad coders, or allow bad or moderate coders to generate "good" projects, despite what they want you to believe.

            I agree with the problem of bad coders, but I'm not aware of any development process that can generate good results fr

  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Friday November 10, 2006 @07:55AM (#16792186) Journal
    It sounds to me you first need to get a few simple processes in place: building, reviewing, testing, releasing. This is no rocket science; you can probably come up with a simple, workable process yourself with a few hours effort. The real challenge is getting the rest of the team to follow your rules. You are probably not in a position to force the others to work to procedures, so talk to the other devs and the team leader, put a few ideas on paper, and convince the team leader or PM to implement those ideas together with the team.

    I would not go with anything like XP or any other far-reaching methodology. No better way to make your programmers hate you and their jobs is to force them to do things completely different. Instead, once you got the basics right, get a few guys interested in XP (or whatever), ask them to do a pilot, and get them to share their experiences. Once you've shown that it works and you have a few others championing the methodology, convincing the rest will be a lot easier.
  • by mr.hawk (222616)
    And you can always switch to Ruby on Rails. It is a good example of framework that helps doing things the right way and gets in the way when you want to do something wrong.

    In my experience people will often go out of their way to do things the wrong way. Not saying having a platform that encourages/discourages certain practices is a bad thing but without a strong leadership setting and enforcing standards I believe the impact would be minimal.
  • by Brainix (748988) <brainix@gmail.com> on Friday November 10, 2006 @07:58AM (#16792196) Homepage
    I firmly believe that social problems require social solutions, business problems require business solutions, technical problems require technical solutions, etc.

    Two of the issues that you mention are poor code reuse and a lack of code comments. These sound like human problems. Don't try to solve them with technology.

    Your company may benefit from a different project management style. As many people have mentioned, you may be interested in Agile [wikipedia.org] (specifically Scrum [wikipedia.org] and XP [wikipedia.org]). Lightweight management, lightweight processes, and lightweight tools can breathe new life into a company.

    Good luck!
    • Ironically, I've found a lack of comments to be fairly easy to resolve with a technical solution. Checkstyle is very handy for reminding people they forgot comments. Periodically, you still have to remind people that writing nonsensical text to get it past the automated tools is a really good way irritate the crap out of your co-workers.

      Generally I've found most everyone has started to comment reasonable well once Javadocs starting getting generated regularly and people found them useful.

      Kirby

  • by QuestorTapes (663783) on Friday November 10, 2006 @08:09AM (#16792220)
    Sometimes I've found management to be an obstacle in enforcing some of these types of rules. If that happens, a few ideas for coping:

    > 1. Limit access to deployment server - only one or two person can access the server.

    Sometimes managers insist on either retaining their own access to production boxes or delgating that authority to the 'village idiot'. See below.

    > Even better - create automatic deployment scripts that can be run on the server by those persons.

    If the wrong people are given access to the production boxes, try to limit everyone's access to running a limited set of scripts that log all operations performed, along with who did them, and let you easily roll back the last change. Don't let anyone access the box directly. Then put together an automated failure report that tracks what changes occurred before the box broke. This information can be useful in the uphill battles to stop the idiots from breaking the server.

    If the question "why did the server go down?" comes up every month, it's useful to have a printout ready that says that each time it happened was immediately after Jimmy moved untested code into production, along with details.

    > @. Create staging server - where you deploy the code from repository. Do not deploy to
    > production until you get a "go" from the client on staged version.

    Also, if the validation process becomes subverted by pushes to "get it out the door", set things up so it can be easily rolled back.

    > 3. Use Trac - ...

    Never used it, but it sounds like the kind of thing you definitely want.

    > 4. Use framework - frameworks usually come with a set of coding concepts that ease code reuse.

    Maybe; some are good, some are bad. I've had the misfortune of helping developers select the right framework, only to have management scrap the recommendations and buy overpriced crap that's "oooh, shiny!". If you adopt frameworks, treat them as "on probation". Review and be prepared to get rid of them if they aren't supporting you.

    > 5. Communicate findings about bad practices - just talk with your colleagues and tell
    > them how can they write better code, with examples

    Don't preach. Write it down (Wikis are good for that), and reinforce it in a non-threatening environment like peer code reviews/stand-up meetings.

    > 6. Introduce unit testing - ....

    Agreed.
  • Relax (Score:2, Funny)

    by Dr. Hok (702268)
    Your problem is that you've been there only 4 months. Wait another 4 months and you're as much sedated as the others and you won't notice it anymore. Works perfectly...
  • Good book (Score:3, Informative)

    by Scarblac (122480) <slashdot@gerlich.nl> on Friday November 10, 2006 @08:30AM (#16792270) Homepage

    Buy a copy of The Pragmatic Programmer [pragmaticprogrammer.com] for everyone in your team, and make people read it. It's a treasure.

    Then you'll at least know what the goal is; how you can get people to change their ways and habits is a problem I haven't found an easy answer to yet.

  • You need to move to the new discussion system.
  • "I have no easy way of telling everyone about it" You can send one email, and cc everyone you want to see it! Doesn't get much easier than that. Make a common classes namespace or folder or something and put very reusable stuff in there.
  • Source control is a must. And a hitting lazy employers with a big stick also helps.
  • Real advice (Score:4, Informative)

    by s31523 (926314) on Friday November 10, 2006 @10:03AM (#16793002)
    Sounds like your organization is either relatively new to the software engineering game or just plain incompetent. The fact that you at least recognize the problem is a good thing. First, find out if there are others like you that find the current practices inefficient. If there are some others, band together and come up with an attack plan focusing on small progressive steps. You can't change the big machine overnight, so you will have to be patient.

    "Practices that we need to start changing are things like: non source-controlled changes that get uploaded to our website when they aren't ready;
    Build a better practice then show it to people. Hopefully you do have some sort of CM tool for your source code and you have a couple of cowboys just uploading source code. IF you don't, check out Subversion (http://subversion.tigris.org/). To deal with the cowboys, gather some stats on the problems causes by cowboy code being uploaded and then present the hard evidence (this unapproved code cost us $5000 dollars in man-hours) to a manager. The kicker is you MUST have a plan ready to present that will cure the problem. For instance, make the server only accessable by a software librarian/integrator and only he/she can put stuff up on the server which requires code be at least built and run against the current development tip.

    poor code commenting;
    I am a proponent of well written code. If code is too complicated or hard to understand such that is needs commenting, I say re-write it. Of course there are exceptions. A good ol' fashion code review process could fix this. And I am not talking about a heavy weight CMMI process here.. Simply print out the damn code and hand it to a seasoned developer who owns a red pen.

    and very little in the way of code reuse (if I write a class that could be useful to others, I have no easy way of telling everyone about it).
    This happens a lot, especially with teams that haven't melded together and don't communicate well. Simple weekly stand-up meetings can help (short, 10 minute meetings in a room with no chairs) just to communicate issues and announce cool things like your nifty new class. It also helps to have a group website or message board so you can say "I did xyz, and I think everyone might benefit. See my blog/post on the group site". Don't have a site or anyone with IT skills to get one up? Try Joomla, it is an easy site content management system that is great for this sort of thing (http://www.joomla.org/)

    Good luck! If you play your cards right you could be the hero, or the zero, so watch out!
    • poor code commenting;
      I am a proponent of well written code. If code is too complicated or hard to understand such that is needs commenting, I say re-write it. Of course there are exceptions. A good ol' fashion code review process could fix this. And I am not talking about a heavy weight CMMI process here.. Simply print out the damn code and hand it to a seasoned developer who owns a red pen.


      You are soooo wrong. I deal with code every day that is well written but uncommented and therefore unmaintainable and
      • by Ihlosi (895663)
        You are soooo wrong. I deal with code every day that is well written but uncommented and therefore unmaintainable and in my mind it should be thrown way.

        Well ... an issue here is what exactly should go into the comments.

        Well written code should not need comments about what it is doing, unless there's absolutely no way of doing something in a non-obvious manner.

        However, any code needs comments about what it should do (debugging is a lot easier if you have defined that function X should do Y, but it is real

      • by s31523 (926314) on Friday November 10, 2006 @11:33AM (#16793996)
        Well, we can agree to disagree. I hope I didn't imply "don't comment" your code, because that is not what I propose. I propose smart, effective commenting. I like McConnell's book Code Complete, or Kernighan and Plauger's book The Elements of Programing Style. I merely agree with Kernighan/McConnell, et. al. on "Don't comment tricky code . . . Comments can't rescue difficult code" And as emphasized in The Elements of Programming Style, "Don't document bad code - rewrite it".

        And for what it is worth, McConnell references a study done by Lind and Vairavan that shows code with large numbers of comments also tended to have the most defects and tended to consume the most development effort.

        I stand by my advise to re-write code that is clunky and awkward and requires a 100 page essay to describe it.
      • by Bill Dog (726542)
        I see the level of commenting advocated by people as a bell curve plotted over their time and experience with programming, and with a particular language:
        • The noob to programming cannot yet completely appreciate the need for comments, so uses little to none of them.
        • The experienced programmer but new to a particular language understands the need for comments, but the language and its common usages has not become second nature yet, so things all over the place appear to not be completely clear and thus requi
        • by Ihlosi (895663)
          I see the level of commenting advocated by people as a bell curve plotted over their time and experience with programming, and with a particular language:

          Uh. Comments should have very little (ideally: zero) to do with the programming language used. Ideally, the comments should allow to re-create the functionality in any language, without looking at the actual code.

          If I don't understand a particular construct in a particular language, I can simply look it up in a textbook.

          If I don't understand why the

          • by Bill Dog (726542)
            Comments should have very little (ideally: zero) to do with the programming language used.

            Agreed. I think it was a bad placement of a comma that gave you that impression. Distribute "experience with" across "programming" and "a particular language" to get the correct read which was "experience with programming and experience with a particular language".

            Ideally, the comments should allow to re-create the functionality in any language, without looking at the actual code.

            Ugh. No. For the same reason you don't
            • by Ihlosi (895663)
              Ugh. No. For the same reason you don't copy and paste code, but rather modularize it into one place, so the two can't get out of sync, you don't try to duplicate the functionality of the code in comments. Redundant and hazardous.

              That's why I wrote "functionality" instead of "function". The comment of a function should say what the function is supposed to do (unless it's so trivial that the name of the function is description enough), i.e. "// Function returns square root of input argument". That's differ

              • by Bill Dog (726542)
                The comment of a function should say what the function is supposed to do (unless it's so trivial that the name of the function is description enough),...

                But we need to be able to read code where functions are being called, without having to look each one of them up to see what they all do. Comments are not the answer, the function name is. And if what the function performs is too "non-trivial" to fit all in its name, I would suggest that it probably needs to be broken down further. I take high cohesion seri
    • Watch out, regarding code comments. They are important, even given the best written code in the world.
      Why?
      Well, a well-written code -- which is also a mandatory thing, to me -- will make it very clear WHAT is being done.
      A comment's purpose is different: comments should tell you WHY it's being done this way.

      Example of a typical bad comment:

      buf[BUF_SIZE-1] = 0; /* set last byte to 0 */

      And a better comment:

      buf[BUF_SIZE-1] = 0; /* fill_my_buffer() sometimes fails to 0-end the buffer, making it incompatible w

      • by s31523 (926314)
        I agree with your commenting example. As McConnell puts it, "The only two kinds of comments that are acceptable for completed code are intent and summary comments".

        Self documenting code, albeit a bit verbose CAN alleviate the need for many comments, even in your example. One side-note, the example provided looks like the fill_my_buffer() should be fixed rather than commenting the initialization. The code be written:

        #define LAST_VALID_BUFFER_INDEX (BUF_SIZE-1)
        #define NULL_TERMINATOR_TO_ENSURE_STR_FU
  • Replies... (Score:2, Informative)

    by iamdjsamba (1024979)
    So many things to answer.

    1) Just to give context to who I am; I am a placement student in the third year of my degree (UK based), therefore holding no power.

    2)XP is for some and not others. Having researched into it a while a go, I wasn't taken by it. And to get people to change their practices is always difficult. 3) I work in the IT department for a company that offers careers advice for students; the stuff I work on is web based: Written in java and jsps.

    4) We are gradually transitioning to a CVS; a

    • 8) As for emailing everyone to tell them about re-usable code, what about people joining the team at a later point? And what about when someone comes to work on something that could find the code useful, but doesn't remember the email?

      I am starting a new development group at my company, and had a similar question. Most of my work is done in C#, and I use NDoc to build class documentation. I can generate html docs, post them to an intranet site we use, and other developers can search the documentation fo

  • Speaking as someone who works in the same department as iamdjsamba, I can offer some insights. He asked me to review this thread and provide some background information.

    1. It's a 30-year old publishing company, out of which the current 20-strong IT department has evolved. The IT department was born around 15 years ago when someone had the idea of "putting some of our stuff on that new Internet thing".

    2. Historically everyone has worked on small 1-person projects, hence teamwork and sharing and re-use ar

  • PRIMARY: Make development technique a priority in your group. Add a biweekly meeting where you discuss how your present processes are working and find out one thing to change per meeting. And DO hold the meeting, religiously.

    I have two important specific methodologies that I've had good experience with:

    Get everybody in your group on a single IRC channel and make them talk about code there, instead of face to face. This change the dynamic and tend to make things more transparent.

    Make everybody revie

  • Source control is a must. If you're working with a large team, source control technologies that include PVCS, Merant VM, or Microsoft Visual Source Safe won't work. The check in / check out features in these technologies place locks on particular files. If team members ever leave work without checking code back in, this will cause major headaches. Also, developers don't have the ability to work on the same source and merge the code back in. I'm a big fan of Subversion (SVN) or CVS. Developers are free to w
  • Sounds like you need to hold more meetings to get everyone on the same page. You should make it so that at the meeting, each person gets a few minutes to talk about what they have done in the past week or time period since the last meeting and get to talk about what they will be working on during the next week. Also, use the first meeting to lay down some guidelines and talk of implementing some source control.
  • Similar experience (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kell_pt (789485) on Friday November 10, 2006 @12:36PM (#16794770) Homepage
    We've gone through a similar experience when we grew from a team of 2 to a team of 8 in 3 months. Things we learned to be helpful in the way of tools:

    - A Subversion [tigris.org] repository for every project, and one repository per person, to host "private" projects. Also, TortoiseSVN [tortoisesvn.net] for a windows shell integration with Subversion.

    - Install Trac [edgewall.org] for every subversion project. Use it for writing documentation, and for following up on issues by posting Tickets. Tickets help a lot in maintaining the focus on problems and future developments. The integration with Subversion changesets and milestones is bliss.

    - Install the appropriate modules for Trac for permission management, and allow your customers and testers to post tickets themselves. Eases up a LOT in the way of issue tracking and fixing bugs fast. It's a great way to have other people build your to-do list dynamically.

    - Use frameworks for development. If you're programming with PHP use Symfony [symfony-project.com] for real programming (and not just random code bits).

    - Have a shared folder for files.

    - Use an appropriate database backend and install common tools for database access (phpMyAdmin, pgpPgAdmin).

    - Use the right tools for the job. As an example, remmember that MySQL works well as a fast database backend. But if you stick to MySQL for real applications where integrity and object mapping is relevant, you won't be doing real DB development unless you use views, functions and stored procedures. If you don't have these features, you'll never use them. If you use them, use PostgresSQL.

    - Buy a billboard, a big one, and have a handy set of markers available. Do not underestimate the power of a billboard.

    These are just things that worked and still work for us. There are plenty more things you can do, but first step is realizing the NEED for change, and getting everyone to work towards that.
  • by spinkham (56603) on Friday November 10, 2006 @01:22PM (#16795442)
    Joel Spolsky is somewhat of a blow hard, but he has some excellent articles. The Joel Test: 12 Steps to Better Code [joelonsoftware.com] is one of them. It's the absolute bare minimum list of things you REALLY need in a development project.

    The Joel Test

    1. Do you use source control?
    2. Can you make a build in one step?
    3. Do you make daily builds?
    4. Do you have a bug database?
    5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
    6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
    7. Do you have a spec?
    8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
    9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?
    10. Do you have testers?
    11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?
    12. Do you do hallway usability testing?
    Read the article for details

  • I've spent the last six years developing CGI code. For the first four of those years, we had no real testing system and no source control; for the most part, we basically just made changes on the server and tested them quickly, hoping they worked. We did have a testing tree on the same server, but it wasn't an exact mirror because pie-in-the-sky development was going on there as well. There were 2 to 4 developers total (including my boss), and most of our changes were in response to frantic requests from
  • .NET is an ideal codeing, however you need to get your ducks in a row befor you start changeing thigs. you process my be great, but you need to chack your technology and also it could be a USER error, rather than a you error....of corse is ever REALLY a user error?lol.
  • Try a cat o'nine tails-- they built the damn pyramids with them!
  • We have a couple of practices that we have put into place at my job. These are examples that are specific to the tools we use (subversion, bugzilla) but there is no reason they couldn't be generalized:

    1. General release bug
    1.a When any new feature or bug is found it is set as a blocker on this bug if it is to be done for the next release, if it isn't going to be done for the next release, it is set to a milestone value of future.
    1.b When a release is given a date/version number we create a specific release

The world is not octal despite DEC.

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