The Bike Shed

About the show

On The Bike Shed, hosts Joël Quenneville and Stephanie Minn discuss development experiences and challenges at thoughtbot with Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, and whatever else is drawing their attention, admiration, or ire this week.

The Bike Shed on social media


  • 415: Codebase Calibration

    February 6th, 2024  |  30 mins 54 secs

    Stephanie has a delightful and cute Ruby thing to share: Honeybadger, the error monitoring service, has created, where they've illustrated and characterized various common Ruby errors into little monsters, and they're adorable. Meanwhile, Joël encourages folks to submit proposals for RailsConf.

    Together, Stephanie and Joël delve into the nuances of adapting to and working within new codebases, akin to aligning with a shared mental model or vision. They ponder several vital questions that every developer faces when encountering a new project: the balance between exploring a codebase to understand its structure and diving straight into tasks, the decision-making process behind adopting new patterns versus adhering to established ones, and the strategies teams can employ to assist developers who are familiarizing themselves with a new environment.

  • 414: Spike Tasks

    January 30th, 2024  |  31 mins 46 secs

    Joël shares his recent experience with Turbo, a JavaScript framework that simplifies adding interactivity to websites without extensive JavaScript coding. Stephanie gives an update on her quest to work from her office more, and the birds have arrived—most notably, chickadees.

    Stephanie and Joël address a listener question from Edward about the concept of a "spike" in software development. They discuss the nature of spikes, emphasizing that they are typically throwaway work aimed at learning and de-risking rather than producing final code, and explore how spikes can lead to better decision-making and prioritization in software development, especially in complex codebases.

  • 413: Developer Tales of Package Management

    January 23rd, 2024  |  33 mins 33 secs

    Stephanie shares her task of retiring a small, internally-used link-shortening app. She describes the process as both celebratory and a bit mournful. Meanwhile, Joël discusses his deep dive into ActiveRecord, particularly in the context of debugging. He explores the complexities of ActiveRecord querying schemas and the additional latency this introduces.

    Together, the hosts discuss the nuances of package management systems and their implications for developers. They touch upon the differences between system packages and language packages, sharing personal experiences with tools like Homebrew, RubyGems, and Docker.

  • 412: Vertical Slices

    January 16th, 2024  |  32 mins 23 secs

    Joël shares a unique, time-specific bug he encountered, which causes a page to crash only in January. This bug has been fixed in previous years, only to reemerge due to subsequent changes. Stephanie talks about her efforts to bring more structure to her work-from-home environment. She describes how setting up a bird feeder near her desk and keeping chocolates at her desk serve as incentives to work more from her desk.

    Together, Stephanie and Joël take a deep dive into the challenges of breaking down software development tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. They explore the concept of 'vertical slice' development, where features are implemented in thin, fully functional segments, contrasting it with the more traditional 'horizontal slice' approach. This discussion leads to insights on collaborative work, the importance of iterative development, and strategies for efficient and effective software engineering.

  • 411: Celebrating and Recapping 2023!

    December 19th, 2023  |  38 mins 40 secs

    Stephanie is hosting a holiday cookie swap. Joël talks about participating in thoughtbot's end-of-the-year hackathon, Ralphapalooza.

    We had a great year on the show! The hosts wrap up the year and discuss their favorite episodes, the articles, books, and blog posts they’ve read and loved, and other highlights of 2023 (projects, conferences, etc).

  • 410: All About Documentation

    December 12th, 2023  |  32 mins 2 secs

    Joël shares his experiences with handling JSON in a Postgres database. He talks about his challenges with ActiveRecord and JSONB columns, particularly the unexpected behavior of storing and retrieving JSON data. Stephanie shares her recent discovery of bookmarklets and highlights a bookmarklet named "Check This Out," which streamlines searching for books on Libby, an ebook and audiobook lending app.

    The conversation shifts to using constants in code as a form of documentation. Stephanie and Joël discuss how constants might not always accurately reflect current system behavior or logic, leading to potential misunderstandings and the importance of maintaining accurate documentation.

  • 409: Support & Maintenance and Rotating Developers

    December 5th, 2023  |  28 mins 7 secs

    Stephanie recommends "Blue Eye Samurai" and a new ceramic pot (donabe) for cooking. Joël talks about the joy of holding a warm beverage in a unique mug.

    Stephanie discusses her shift to a part-time support and maintenance role at thoughtbot, contrasting it with her full-time development work. She highlights the importance of communication, documentation, and workplace flexibility in this role. Stephanie appreciates the professional growth opportunities and aligns this flexible work style with her long-term career goals.

  • 408: Work Device Management

    November 28th, 2023  |  32 mins 57 secs

    Joël recaps his time at RubyConf! He shares insights from his talk about different aspects of time in software development, emphasizing the interaction with the audience and the importance of post-talk discussions. Stephanie talks about wrapping up a long-term client project, the benefits of change and variety in consulting, and maintaining a balance between project engagement and avoiding burnout.

    They also discuss strategies for maintaining work-life balance, such as physical separation and device management, particularly in a remote work environment.

  • 407: Tech Opinions Online with Edward Loveall

    November 21st, 2023  |  36 mins 44 secs

    Stephanie interviews Edward Loveall, a former thoughtbotter, now software developer at Relevant Healthcare.

    Part of their discussion centers around Edward's blog post on the tech industry's over-reliance on GitHub. He argues for the importance of exploring alternatives to avoid dependency on a single platform and encourages readers to make informed technological choices. The conversation broadens to include how to form opinions on technology, the balance between personal preferences and team decisions, and the importance of empathy and nuance in professional interactions. Both Stephanie and Edward highlight the value of considering various perspectives and tools in software development, advocating for a flexible, open-minded approach to technology and problem-solving in the tech industry.

  • 406: Working Solo

    November 14th, 2023  |  32 mins 27 secs

    Joël got to do some pretty fancy single sign-on work. And when it came time to commit, he documented the ridiculous number of redirects to give people a sense of what was happening. Stephanie has been exploring Rails callbacks and Ruby debugging tools, using methods like save_callbacks and Kernel.caller, and creating a function call graph to better understand and manage complex code dependencies.

    Stephanie is also engaged in an independent project and seeking strategies to navigate the challenges of solo work. She and Joël explore how to find external support and combat isolation, consider ways to stimulate creativity, and obtain feedback on her work without a direct team. Additionally, they ponder succession planning to ensure project continuity after her involvement ends. They also reflect on the unique benefits of solo work, such as personal growth and flexibility. Stephanie's focus is on balancing the demands of working independently while maintaining a connected and sustainable professional approach.

  • 405: Retro: Sandi Metz Rules

    November 7th, 2023  |  31 mins 58 secs

    Stephanie discovered a new book: The Staff Engineer's Path! Joël's got some D&D goodness.

    Together, they revisit a decade-old blog post initially published in 2013, which discussed the application of Sandi Metz's coding guidelines and whether these rules remain relevant and practiced among developers today.

  • 404: Estimation

    October 17th, 2023  |  22 mins 49 secs

    Joël was selected to speak at RubyConf in San Diego! After spending a month testing out living in Upstate New York, Stephanie is back in Chicago.

    Stephanie reflects on a recent experience where she had to provide an estimate for a project, even though she didn't have enough information to do so accurately. In this episode, Stephanie and Joël explore the challenges of providing estimates, the importance of acknowledging uncertainty, and the need for clear communication and transparency when dealing with project timelines and scope.

  • 403: Productivity Tricks

    September 26th, 2023  |  37 mins 49 secs

    Stephanie is engrossed in Kent Beck's Substack newsletter, which she appreciates for its "working thoughts" format. Unlike traditional media that undergo rigorous editing, Kent's content is more of a work-in-progress, focusing on thought processes and evolving ideas. Joël has been putting a lot of thought into various tools and techniques and realized that they all fall under one umbrella term: analysis.

    From there, Stephanie and Joël discuss all the productivity tricks they like to use in their daily workflows. Do you have some keyboard shortcuts you like? Are you an Alfred wizard? What are some tools or mindsets around productivity that make YOUR life better?

  • 402: Musings on Mentorship

    September 19th, 2023  |  37 mins 56 secs

    Joël describes an old-school object orientation exercise that involves circling nouns in a business problem description. The purpose is determining which nouns could become entities or objects in a system. Stephanie shares she's working from the Hudson Valley in New York as a trial run for potentially relocating there. She enjoys the rail trails for biking and contrasts it with urban biking in Chicago.

    The conversation between Joël and Stephanie revolves around mentorship, both one-on-one and within a group setting. They introduce a new initiative at thoughbot where team members pair up with principal developers for weekly sessions, emphasizing sharing perspectives and experiences.

  • 401: Making the Right Thing Easy

    September 12th, 2023  |  31 mins 24 secs

    Stephanie has another debugging mystery to share. Earlier this year, Joël mentioned that he was experimenting with a bookmark manager to keep track of helpful and interesting articles. He's happy to report that it's working very well for him!

    Together, they discuss tactics to ensure the easiest route also upholds app health and aids fellow developers. They explore streamlining test fixes over mere re-runs and how to motivate desired actions across teams and individuals.

  • 400: How To Search

    September 5th, 2023  |  36 mins 2 secs

    Joël shares he has been getting more into long-form reading. Stephanie talks about the challenges she faced in a new project that required integrating with another company's system.

    Together, they delve into the importance of search techniques for developers, covering various approaches to finding information online.