Happy, Sad, Evil, Weird: Driving Feature Development With Feature Planning

Feature planning has to be done early and often. But it can be a complicated process due to all of the stakeholders involved, each with different viewpoints and goals.

What's more, it's easy to overlook key behaviors of a feature, which can lead to expensive and rushed code later. It's usually intuitive to figure what should happen when everything goes according to plan, but what about edge cases? What should happen when a user supplies bad data? A hacker launches a malicious attack on our application? What about when chaos makes the whole system unstable?

In the first post of this miniseries, we'll take a look at one way to get everyone's voice heard in the planning process, including the product owner, developer, designer, and QA engineer. Using this approach, teams can draw on their diverse perspectives to tease out a detailed blueprint of a feature that costs less and performs better.

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Linux Isolation Basics

In the complex world of modern app deployment solutions, containers have been gaining traction as a popular distribution method. But what are they, and why are people so excited about them? This two part series will look into some of the benefits offered.

First, we’ll look at how isolation is generally used to solve a whole class of problems. Next we’ll look at how containers, specifically, makes isolation more manageable. An intermediate familiarity with UNIX-like systems is assumed throughout.

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ZF2 Modules, Services, and Events

In this post, we are going to explore a few design patterns and architectures that reach into the heart of any ZF2 based application: The ServiceManager, the EventManager, and the Module architecture.

When it comes to building an application with ZF2, your application will be constructed with one or more modules, each of them providing services for other modules to consume. Likewise, these modules can trigger events which allow additional modules to react to things happening within the application at large.

To get started, we will begin with an introduction to the ServiceManager in ZF2.

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Actually MVP

Introduction

In the startup world, there is a lot of talk about building Minimum Viable Products (MVPs). At this point, the concept has become so well-accepted that it has almost become a kind of unquestioned dogma. Yet there is a lot of disagreement about what MVP is exactly, and how to carry it out. Many people in the software industry assume that they know what MVP means, and claim to be using the process, but their production workflow tells a different story.

When it comes to building software, it is often tempting to take an approach akin to building a skyscraper: write the blueprints, obtain the necessary prerequisites, then build it to spec. But software is a quickly shifting market. A businessperson may think she knows what the market wants, and plan and begin a project to meet that desire. But by the time the product is built, the needs of consumers have often morphed in a direction that she could never have foreseen.

In this post, we'll take explore some common misconceptions about MVP, some different ways to approach building one with software, and how to best use this tool if you're the CEO or CTO of a startup, a product manager for an established company, or a consultant.

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Testing async emails, the Rails 4.2+ way

Say you're building an app that needs to send emails. We all agree that we should never block the controller, so async delivery is the way to go. To achieve this, we'll move our email sending code outside the original request/response cycle with the help of an asynchronous processing library that can handle jobs in the background.

How can we be confident that our code behaves as expected upon making this change? In this blog post, we'll look at a way to test it. And we'll use MiniTest (since it ships with Rails) but the concepts presented here can be easily translated to RSpec.

The good news is that since Rails 4.2, sending emails asynchronously is easier than ever before. We'll use Sidekiq as the queuing system in our example, but since ActionMailer#deliver_later is built on top of ActiveJob, the interface is clean and agnostic of the asynchronous processing library used. This means that if I hadn't just mentioned it, you wouldn't be able to tell, as a developer or a user. Setting up a queuing system is a topic on it's own, you can read more on getting started with Active Job here.

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