Architecture Chat #40

This is the write-up for last weeks Architecture Chat #40 - you may be wondering what happened to #39 from last year - unfortunately the paper I noted all the details down onto mysteriously disappeared during the run up to xmas, we covered a few interesting things in that last session - one conversation I do recall that was focused on monitoring windows services - dealing with falling over (including fail over), ways to engineer windows services so they are both robust and easy to debug/diagnose, and the effect of using MSMQ over say a roll-your-own file or database solution for queued data/messages.  Hopefully at some point I'll track down the notes so I can post the entire write up with all the details.

In the mean time here is the write up for #40...

For our first meeting of the year we didn't talk about much that was on the list of topics, as everyone was just catching up on the general state of the industry - we also saw some old faces, including one who hadn't been to a chat for more then a year!

Here's what we talked about:

  • Fruit packing machines, and the differences between rapid prototyping of machines (i.e. multiple months) verse rapid prototyping of software (a couple of weeks or less).  Also talked about the cost/current state of rapid prototyping machines and devices that can build themselves.
  • Talked about the current financial state - if anyone is seeing a slowdown (the answer in short - yes) but most people were having a busy January, with little idea of what would happen six months from now.
  • Talked about the 1400 (though it's eventually going to be something like 5000, according to the press) Microsoft Staff lay-off's that happened last Thursday and/or were about to take place the following day - and did some musing around what departments were being laid off, why, and if any of our NZ exports into Microsoft would be affected (The Entity Framework and SharePoint teams seemed fairly unscathed).
  • Talked briefly about increased intensity in recruiters cold calling - and the interesting phenomenon of them making explicit enquiries into how business is going, if you think it's going to get worse over the coming months etc.  It seems like recruiters have less idea what's going on then developers in the NZ IT Industry.
  • Talked about the interesting observation that a number of BA's and PM's are rejoining the industry after diverging into other careers such as real estate - and the obvious warnings about checking their recent employment histories, as they are inevitably out of touch with the world of technology.
  • Briefly discussed thoughts on Probative programming, and the fact it seems more of a pipe dream then something that could be a reality... being force to write tests before code can compile seems a sure fire way to encourage the wrong kind of testing practices, and certainly would result in tests being written "just for the sake of coverage".
  • Discussed Lean - most of us agreed strongly with the ideas of reducing wastage, delaying to the last responsible moment to commit to specific design/implementation etc..  But we did wonder if identifying the last responsible moment is the kind of thing that's only identifiable once you've passed it without prior experience.  I think as our understanding of lean grows and we start dabbling in implementing it ourselves a more well-informed follow-up conversation or two will follow.
  • Talked about form-letter document generation, and issues of current tools/solutions - this also branched off into general word/pdf/rich document generation...some points around this were:
    • Current products are clunky or just too expensive (product opportunities exist for smart people).
    • Using the Word COM API vs. directly manipulating the XML in the DOCX package (which is of course just a zip file).
    • Use of 3rd part libraries for document generation (such as Aspose.Words).
    • Replacing content in PDF's, different between text and binary PDF's.
    • The interesting note that for generating rich documents (like product catalogues) the automation API for PowerPoint is a lot easier to use then that of Word (for client apps).

The next chat will be on the 5th of February - Which is the day before Waitangi day - so if anyone can't make it drop me an email and I'll look at rescheduling it to another day that suits everyone.
Written on January 26, 2009