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A straw man, the benefits of mobbing and a new app beta

A straw man, the benefits of mobbing and a new app beta

Weeknotes for week beginning 21st June 2021

A straw man proposal

We've been preparing for a big piece of new work this week, which will entail building new capabilities and integrating with existing ones, in some cases rethinking how they work today. In order to encourage the discussion, I put together a document reviewing the requirements and proposing one way we could approach our data model ("data model" here being the objects and entities that we will have to flow through the system).

I knew the document had flaws and there were areas I had intentionally left light on details. Thankfully, the straw man did exactly what I wanted, it gave us something to critique, poke holes in and we have ended the week with both a much better (shared!) understanding of the problem space, but also a robust list of next steps for us to tackle in the next couple of weeks!

The benefits of building in mobs

I spent some time this week (and a little last week too!) mobbing on a lightweight implementation of feature flags for our application. Three of us spent a couple of days using VSCode Live Share to collaborate on the design and implementation. This was great fun, and not only did it give the whole group a great understanding of what we'd built (and kept us honest around following proper test driven development), it also gave each individual something new. For me, I spent a lot less time writing code, instead describing my thought process and helping guide the rest of the team through the exercise. This gave me an opportunity to explore the way I talk about engineering concepts, and find some new methods to help land complex ideas.

On the surface, mobbing often feels like it will be time consuming and that it'd be easier to just stick on your headphones and build it yourself, but every time I try it I come away impressed at how much we build, often how few lines of code it is compared to my expectations and how much more rounded and complete the implementation is. Having multiple people on the team involved in the design and initial implementation also makes ongoing maintenance and enhancements easier.

Opening a beta

I've been working on an iPhone and iPad app over the past few months (built entirely in SwiftUI) that displays the latest UK newspaper front pages as soon as they're published, usually from around 10pm the night before. I'm finally ready to show it to a few more people and have launched a wait list for anyone to join the first beta! If you'd like to get involved and help me shape the app ahead of the first public release, head over to the Tomorrows Papers Today app website and register your details – You can also follow the account on Twitter if you want more regular updates. Thanks!