Microservices Matters

February 16, 2016  4:41 PM

Why mix data analytics with BPM and SOA?

Jan Stafford Jan Stafford Profile: Jan Stafford
BPM, Cloud analytics, Data Analytics, SOA

Virtualization and the cloud have enabled organizations to process staggering amounts of data by unbuckling server-side limitations. Today, companies handle billions of pieces of data per day, intensifying the challenge of analyzing that data. Experts predict organizations that integrate data analytics technologies with business processes and enterprise architectures will gain a competitive advantage in 2016 through the use of statistics-backed user and market information. Continued »

February 1, 2016  2:23 AM

How Zendesk sidesteps Silicon Valley’s tech talent crunch

Jan Stafford Jan Stafford Profile: Jan Stafford
Application development, Software developer

How hard is it to recruit tech talent in the San Francisco Bay Area? “Ridiculously hard when compared with other parts of the world,” according to Jason Smale, director of product for San Francisco-based Zendesk. While researching the challenges of hiring IT pros for our recent developer shortage survival guide, I talked with Smale, an Australian native, about his experiences with recruiting tech pros in various global markets and Zendesk’s distributed development team approach.

“San Francisco is a very different hiring landscape from Australia, Dublin, Copenhagen, Singapore or anywhere,” Smale said. “It’s always going to be competitive, because you’ve got some of the best minds in the technology space here.” This concentration of talent fosters an abundance of tech start-ups. The 2015 Startup Genome Project surveys put Silicon Valley first in number of startups, and the area has been number one for years.

Competition for software developers and engineers is intense for another reason: the number of product-oriented technology companies in the San Francisco-Silicon Valley area is also greater than in other tech hubs. “It’s a very different mix from different regions around the world,” said Smale.

In Copenhagen, Melbourne and Dublin, for example, Zendesk competes for tech talent against banks and large telecommunication companies. “There technology is a supporting function rather than the core business, which is the opposite from San Francisco,” he said. It’s easier for a technology company to recruit software engineers there, because “technologists want to come to organizations where they’re going to have the best impact.”

The tough competition for talent in Silicon Valley led Zendesk to move to distributed engineering teams. “We committed to having engineering resources outside of San Francisco,” he said. Today, 50% of its developers reside outside of San Francisco.

The benefits of the distributed team model outweigh the negative of not having face-to-face interaction. “Having a global presence has really increased the diversity inside our organization, which is really powerful to the culture,” Smale said. “Also, it removes the groupthink in many ways and has people challenge each other with alternative technical solutions. It has led to our building better product.”

Time zone issues are the biggest barrier to making distributed development work well. Teams at Zendesk had to be organized so that people working on the same piece of a project have a two-to-three hour time zone overlap.

To illustrate the problem, Smale noted that 8 a.m. in San Francisco is 9:30 p.m. in India, but 1 p.m. in San Francisco is 8 a.m. in Australia. Obviously, teaming engineers in the two latter locations makes sense.

Organizing distributed teams so that no developers have to work “crazy hours” is an example of Zendesk’s focus on retaining employees. Another example is the company’s move to offering 16 weeks of paid leave for both mothers and fathers of newborns.  “We think about what policies will help our teams remain sustainable to do long-term,” said Smale.

Zendesk’s approaches to thriving during the tech talent shortage are similar to others our editors and reporters have uncovered while reporting on this topic. For more information, check out articles on worldwide developer pay trends, improving developers’ quality of life as a hiring and retention strategy and how the shortage has forced IT firms to lower new-hire requirements.

January 29, 2016  8:22 PM

APIs: Making your robot dreams a reality

Fred Churchville Fred Churchville Profile: Fred Churchville
API, API development, RESTful API, Robotics

As tech writer George Lawton points out in a recent article, robotics is quickly moving from the realm of science fiction into business fact. But how hard is it for your everyday programmer to create their own robot software? Thanks to open source initiatives, it may not be so difficult. Here’s some stuff you can make. Continued »

January 29, 2016  2:39 AM

Why eye tracking isn’t part of Indiegogo UX pro’s user tests

Jan Stafford Jan Stafford Profile: Jan Stafford
Agile development, Mobile Application Development, UI, User experience, User Interface, UX

I was in for a surprise when I sat down to interview Aga Bojko, the author of the first how-to book on using eye tracking for user experience (UX) research.  Bojko immediately said that she doesn’t use eye tracking in her work as Indiegogo user research director, so much of our conversation focused on the effective, low-cost user testing approaches and tools she does use.

Eye or gaze tracking, the act of using a device to see where on the screen the user is looking, is an accepted user research method, but it’s not a practical one in a fast-paced product development environment, said Bojko. Although the prices of eye tracking tools are decreasing – consider The Eye Tribe’s $199 device – it’s not just about the tool, but the time and skills needed to use it and analyze and interpret the eye movement data correctly.  “I’d never ask for an eye tracker, even though I wrote the book, and that should tell you something.”

The rise of mobile devices and Agile development also make eye tracking  impractical for many businesses.

Getting standard UX research done fast enough in Agile iterations is hard, and adding eye tracking would make it harder. “It adds to the setup time, and … there’s time spent in analysis,” Bojko said. “In quick, iterative user testing, you learn just a bit more with eye tracking. Is it worth it? Not with the speed that we’re moving here.”

As for its use in mobile user interfaces (UIs), “it’s hard to do eye tracking on small screens, because eye trackers still suffer from accuracy issues,” Bojko told me. “It works much better on larger interfaces.”

Tracking users’ eye movements may not be a regular practice for Bojko and her research team, but personal contact with users is. Indiegogo’s researchers meet with customers in the headquarters in San Francisco and also go to customers’ and potential customers’ businesses and homes.

When a face-to-face meeting isn’t possible, Bojko uses remote UX testing services, like Validately and UserTesting. Such services provide videos of people using products and offer a very quick turnaround time.

Overall, Bojko enjoys the moments of revelation that come from seeing people use the product features she helps create. “There’s nothing that beats watching people achieve their goals using our product and getting their feedback on the spot,” she said. “That’s why I was glad to get a job not specifically for my eye tracking expertise, but for my user experience research expertise in general.”

January 22, 2016  8:37 PM

There’s something about HTML5…

Fred Churchville Fred Churchville Profile: Fred Churchville
Custom Web applications, HTML5, Mobile Application Development, Scripting languages, Web application development, Web applications

This past October, HTML5 celebrated its official one-year anniversary since the standard was declared “complete” by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Now we can expect HTML5 to power ads and media playback, forcefully kicking Flash right out the door it was already heading towards.

But what is it about HTML that makes developers want to jump on board? Continued »

December 11, 2015  3:32 PM

Microservices: The new documentation nightmare?

Fred Churchville Fred Churchville Profile: Fred Churchville
Application development, DevOps, Microservices

Recently I wrote a post on the issues surrounding development documentation and product specifications. At this year’s JavaOne Conference in San Francisco, I attended a session on building microservices and asked presenter Reza Rahman, Java EE Evangelist for Oracle, how microservices will impact the documentation issue.

“It’s going to get worse and worse…depending on how fine-tuned the services are,” Rahman said. “These APIs don’t simply document themselves.” The problem is exacerbated even more by the use of REST as opposed to traditional SOAP, since documentation will have to be updated to coordinate with this potentially unfamiliar language.

Continued »

November 6, 2015  12:43 PM

Session Coverage: Building Microservices with Daniel Bryant

Fred Churchville Fred Churchville Profile: Fred Churchville
Application development, Microservices

This is part of a series covering sessions at Oracle OpenWorld and JavaOne, 2015

After giving a brief description of what microservices are (using the words of James Lewis: “Applications that fit in your hand”), Daniel Bryant of the software and DevOps consultancy OpenCredo kicked off his instruction on building microservices by explaining some of the core decisions development teams will need to make up front.

The first “up-front decision,” Bryant explained, is picking your deployment platform. Will you use CloudFoundry? Amazon ECS? Kubernetes? Or do it yourself?

Continued »

November 5, 2015  7:32 PM

Session Coverage: Mobile App Integration – Why is it Different?

Fred Churchville Fred Churchville Profile: Fred Churchville
Creating mobile app, Mobile Application Development, Mobile development, REST, RESTful API, SOAP

This is part of a series covering sessions at Oracle OpenWorld and JavaOne, 2015

Any mobile app needs to integrate with back-end services, as pointed out by Joe Huang, a solution architect at Oracle, at the beginning of this Oracle OpenWorld 2015 session on integrating mobile applications. These are hardly shocking words to any seasoned developer, of course, but the manner in how they approach this integration is essential to success with mobile apps.

According to Lyudmil Pelov, product manager at Oracle, the key to integrating mobile apps successfully is learning to create Representational State Transfer (REST) APIs.

“REST rules the cloud,” said Peylov. “Today there is not modern cloud without REST.”

Continued »

November 5, 2015  2:08 PM

Session Coverage: Best Practices for Maintaining Oracle Fusion Middleware

Fred Churchville Fred Churchville Profile: Fred Churchville
Application development, Application testing, Oracle

This is part of a series covering sessions at Oracle OpenWorld and JavaOne, 2015

This was a good session for new or intermediate users of Oracle’s Fusion middleware. One of the first things Ramirez stressed during his presentation is the importance of a maintenance strategy. This can help you stay within Oracle’s support guidelines, maintain security and proactively fix any already known issues. Ramirez also cautioned app managers to pay attention to lifetime support policy dates and to closely examine their error correction policy.

Continued »

November 2, 2015  10:29 PM

Oracle’s OpenWorld Announcements: What should we be excited about?

Fred Churchville Fred Churchville Profile: Fred Churchville
Application development, DevOps, Java, Oracle, Oracle OpenWorld

From Oracle OpenWorld, October 2015

“The world is changing,” said Abid Ali Neemuchwala, group president and COO at Wipro Technologies at the Tuesday morning Oracle OpenWorld keynote session.

Of course, it’s true that the world is always changing, but this statement seemed to be a very appropriate way to preface the announcements made during the keynote. Continued »

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