Vacations + a new job

I am officialy on vacations !

I've just finished my time at Alterway / Ingeniweb, where I was CTO for the last two years. Well CTO was a translation for "Directeur technique" in French, which is more like "head of developments". So I was like some kind of lead developer, but without a code project :)

These two years were a great time for me. It's time for me to summarize what I have done, what went right, and what went wrong.

Summary of my work at Ingeniweb

I won't talk about customer projects, but about what I did that served both for our projects and for the community. Ingeniweb is a company that does (did in fact) Plone websites.

I was hired at Ingeniweb with some clear goals (I had more, but these are the most interesting):
1. improve the release process 2. help Ingeniweb get back into the community 3. QA work

Improve the release process : when I started, Ingeniweb was not using zc.buildout, the de-facto Plone standard, so one of the biggest task I achieved was to make them switch to zc.buildout, and eventually make some minor contributions in zc.buildout. That was a hard work because the average developer was against such a big change in his habits. I eventually succeeded.

I've also worked on side to make it "pypi compatible" and eventually became a Python commiter to improve distutils, the mother of all packaging tools in Python. That was very positive for me and for the community, I think. And I am now involved in Python development for the future, trying to write some useful PEPs and so on. This is going to be one of the major community task I'll be working on for the upcoming years I think.

Help Ingeniweb get "back into the Plone community": this was quite an interesting task. The people that hired me were frustrated because their developers were not (besides a few exceptions) part of the Plone community. So I worked on this by trying to understand why it happened. It's quite simple in fact : that's because of the lack of communication : people in our company were not talking enough with the community and were trying to solve and work on their problems on their side. No judgment or disrespect on this : this is mainly because of the language barrier I think. And also because the people in charge were not sending our developers in conferences anymore. Being part of an OSS community requires from the company managers to send their developers in conferences from time to time.

The output of this task was not positive for Ingeniweb, but in the meantime very positive for me : I was able to become part of the Plone community and meet great people. Although I was unable to push my co-workers to follow me in this, neither to make the company contribute more on this. We organized one sprint, but given the size of the company at that time (20+) this was not enough in my opinion.

The worst part I think is were I realized that the people that asked me to do it, didn't care much about it anymore. The boss left us, and the "second" left right after :)

QA in customer projects : The third main task was to raise the QA in all projects, starting from scratch : beside a very few exceptions, people were not making tests neither buying the Test-Driven approach. The problem with TDD is that it cannot work if it's not done everywhere by everyone in the company. When this is the case, someone who doesn't practice TDD looks like he's trying to break a window of the house we are all building together.

But when you are working with developers that don't practice TDD, you need to first convince the project managers that it's better, otherwise it doesn't take. I have convinced some co-workers, but at the end, TDD didn't work out because some managers were just telling their developers to drop TDD to go "faster" in the customer projects. (faster... into troubles for big applications)

At the end, I think it's very hard to raise the QA in companies that sells development services, because it implies a lot of commitment from all people involved, from sells to managment. In an software editor company it's easier because you can put some guards around your software code base and keep the QA high.

But along the way I did some interesting projects to set up continuous integration. collective.buildbot is one of those. It allows you to set up automatically a buildbot into a zc.buildout-based project.

Don't get me wrong if you feel that this is a pessimistic summary : everything else was just great !

What's next ?

When I am back from my vacation, I am starting a new work in a startup in Paris, providing a Saas in the cloud fully written in Python.

I'll blog about it when I am back :)