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).
- Olive Oil Sugar Cookies With Pistachios & Lemon Glaze
- thoughtbot’s Blog
- Episode 398: Developing Heuristics For Writing Software
- Episode 374: Discrete Math
- Episode 405: Sandi Metz’s Rules
- Episode 391: Learn with APPL
- Engineering Management for the Rest of Us
- Confident Ruby
- Working with Maybe from Elm Europe
- Sustainable Rails Book
- Episode 368: Sustainable Web Development
- Domain Modeling Made Functional
- Simplifying Tests by Extracting Side Effects
- The Math Every Programmer Needs
- Mermaid.js sequence diagrams
- Sense of Belonging and Software Teams
- Preemptive Pluralization is (Probably) Not Evil
- Digging through the ashes
JOËL: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Joël Quenneville.
STEPHANIE: And I'm Stephanie Minn. And together, we're here to share a bit of what we've learned along the way.
JOËL: So, Stephanie, what's new in your world?
STEPHANIE: I am so excited to talk about this. I'm, like, literally smiling [chuckles] because I'm so pumped. Sometimes, you know, we get on to record, and I'm like, oh, I got to think of something that's new, like, my life is so boring. I have nothing to share. But today, I am excited to tell you about [chuckles] the holiday cookie swap that I'm hosting this Sunday [laughs] that I haven't been able to stop thinking about or just thinking about all the cookies that I'm going to get to eat.
It's going to be my first time throwing this kind of shindig, and I'm so pleased with myself because it's such a great idea. You know, it's like, you get to share cookies, and you get to have all different types of cookies, and then people get to take them home. And I get to see all my friends. And I'm really [chuckles] looking forward to it.
JOËL: I don't think I've ever been to a cookie swap event. How does that work? Everybody shows up with cookies, and then you leave with what you want?
STEPHANIE: That's kind of the plan. I think it's not really a...there's no rules [laughs]. You can make it whatever you want it to be. But I'm asking everyone to bring, like, two dozen cookies. And, you know, I'm hoping for a lot of fun variety. Myself I'm planning on making these pistachio olive oil cookies with a lemon glaze and also, maybe, like, a chewy ginger cookie. I haven't decided if I'm going to go so extra to make two types, but we'll see.
And yeah, we'll, you know, probably have some drinks and be playing Christmas music, and yeah, we'll just hang out. And I'm hoping that everyone can kind of, like, take home a little goodie bag of cookies as well because I don't think we'll be going through all of them.
JOËL: Hearing you talk about this gave me an absolutely terrible idea.
STEPHANIE: Terrible or terribly awesome? [laughs]
JOËL: So, imagine you have the equivalent of, let's say, a LAN party. You all show up with your laptops.
JOËL: You're on a network, and then you swap browser cookies randomly.
STEPHANIE: [laughs] Oh no. That would be really funny. That's a developer's take on a cookie party [laughs] if I've ever heard one.
JOËL: Slightly terrifying. Now I'm just browsing, and all of a sudden, I guess I'm logged into your Facebook or something. Maybe you only swap the tracking cookies. So, I'm not actually logged into your Facebook, but I just get to see the different ad networks it would typically show you, and you would see my ads. That's maybe kind of fun or maybe terrifying, depending on what kind of ads you normally see.
STEPHANIE: That's really funny. I'm thinking about how it would just be probably very misleading and confusing for those [laughs] analytics spenders, but that's totally fine, too. Might I suggest also having real cookies to munch on as well while you are enjoying [laughs] this browser cookie-swapping party?
JOËL: I 100% agree.
JOËL: I'm curious: where do you stand on raisins in oatmeal cookies?
JOËL: This is a divisive question.
STEPHANIE: They're fine. I'll let other people eat them. And occasionally, I will also eat an oatmeal cookie with raisins, but I much prefer if the raisins are chocolate chips [chuckles].
JOËL: That is the correct answer.
STEPHANIE: [laughs] Thank you. You know, I understand that people like them. They're not for me [laughs].
JOËL: It's okay. Fans can send us hate mail about why we're wrong about oatmeal cookies.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, honestly, that's something that I'm okay with being wrong about on the internet [laughs]. So, Joël, what's new in your world?
JOËL: So, as of this recording, we've just recently done thoughtbot's end-of-the-year hackathon, what we call Ralphapalooza. And this is sort of a time where you kind of get to do pretty much any sort of company or programming-related activity that you want as long as...you have to pitch it and get at least two other colleagues to join you on the project, and then you've got two days to work on it. And then you can share back to the team what you've done.
I was on a project where we were trying to write a lot of blog posts for the thoughtbot blog. And so, we're just kind of getting together and pitching ideas, reviewing each other's articles, writing things at a pretty intense rate for a couple of days, trying to flood the blog with articles for the next few weeks. So, if you're following the blog and as the time this episode gets released, you're like, "Wow, there's been a lot of articles from the thoughtbot blog recently," that's why.
STEPHANIE: Yes, that's awesome. I love how much energy that the blog post-writing party garnered. Like, I was just kind of observing from afar, but it sounds like, you know, people who maybe had started posts, like, throughout the year had dedicated time and a good reason to revisit them, even if they had been, you know, kind of just, like, sitting in a draft for a while. And I think what also seemed really nice was people were just around to support, to review, and were able to make that a priority. And it was really cool to see all the blog posts that are queued up for December as a result.
JOËL: People wrote some great stuff. So, I'm excited to see all of those come out. I think we've got pretty much a blog post every day coming out through almost the end of December. So, it's exciting to see that much content created.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. If our listeners want more thoughtbot content, check out our blog.
JOËL: So, as mentioned, we're recording this at the end of the year. And I thought it might be fun to do a bit of a retrospective on what this year has been like for you and I, Stephanie, both in terms of different work that we've done, the learnings we've had, but maybe also look back a little bit on 2023 for The Bike Shed and what that looked like.
STEPHANIE: Yes. I really enjoyed thinking about my year and kind of just reveling and having been doing this podcast for over a year now. And yeah, I'm excited to look back a little bit on both things we have mentioned on the show before and things maybe we haven't. To start, I'm wondering if you want to talk a little bit about some of our favorite episodes.
JOËL: Favorite episodes, yes. So, I've got a couple that are among my favorites. We did a lot of good episodes this year. I really liked them. But I really appreciated the episode we did on heuristics, that's Episode 398, where we got to talk a little bit about what goes into a good heuristic, how we tend to come up with them. A lot of those, like, guidelines and best practices that you hear people talk about in the software world and how to make your own but then also how to deal with the ones you hear from others in the software community. So, I think that was an episode that the idea, on the surface, seemed really basic, and then we went pretty deep with it. And that was really fun.
I think a second one that I really enjoyed was also the one that I did with Sara Jackson as a guest, talking about discrete math and its relevance to the day-to-day work that we do. That's Episode 374. We just had a lot of fun with that. I think that's a topic that more developers, more web developers, would benefit from just getting a little bit more discrete math in their lives. And also, there's a clip in there where Sara reinterprets a classic marketing jingle with some discrete math terms in there instead. It was a lot of fun. So, we'd recommend people checking that one out.
STEPHANIE: Nice. Yes. I also loved those episodes. The heuristics one was really great. I'm glad you mentioned it because one of my favorite episodes is kind of along a similar vein. It's one of the more recent ones that we did. It's Episode 405, where we did a bit of a retro on Sandi Metz' Rules For Developers. And those essentially are heuristics, right? And we got to kind of be like, hey, these are someone else's heuristics. How do we feel about them? Have we embodied them ourselves? Do we follow them? What parts do we take or leave? And I just remember having a really enjoyable conversation with you about that.
You and I have kind of treated this podcast a little bit like our own two-person book club [laughs]. So, it felt a little bit like that, right? Where we were kind of responding to, you know, something that we both have read up on, or tried, or whatever. So, that was a good one.
Another one of my favorite episodes was Episode 391: Learn with APPL [laughs], in which we basically developed our own learning framework, or actually, credit goes to former Bike Shed host, Steph Viccari, who came up with this fun, little acronym to talk about different things that we all kind of need in our work lives to be fulfilled. Our APPL stands for Adventure, Passion, Profit, and Low risk.
And that one was really fun just because it was, like, the opposite of what I just described where we're not discussing someone else's work but discovered our own thing out of, you know, these conversations that we have on the show, conversations we have with our co-workers. And yeah, I'm trying to make it a thing, so I'm plugging it again [laughs].
JOËL: I did really like that episode. One, I think, you know, this APPL framework is a little bit playful, which makes it fun. But also, I think digging into it really gives some insight on the different aspects that are relevant when planning out further growth or where you want to invest your sort of professional development time. And so, breaking down those four elements led to some really insightful conversation around where do I want to invest time learning in the next year?
STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely.
JOËL: By the way, we're mentioning a bunch of our favorite things, some past episodes, and we'll be talking about a lot of other types of resources. We will be linking all of these in the show notes. So, for any of our listeners who are like, "Oh, I wonder what is that thing they mentioned," there's going to be a giant list that you can check out.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. I love whenever we are able to put out an episode with a long list of things [laughs].
JOËL: It's one of the fun things that we get to do is like, oh yeah, we referenced all these things. And there is this sort of, like, further reading, more threads to pull on for people who might be interested.
So, you'd mentioned, Stephanie, that, you know, sometimes we kind of treat this as our own little mini, like, two-person book club. I know that you're a voracious reader, and you've mentioned so many books over the course of the year. Do you have maybe one or two books that have been kind of your favorites or that have stood out to you over 2023?
STEPHANIE: I do. I went back through my reading list in preparation for this episode and wanted to call out the couple of books that I finished. And I think I have, you know, I mentioned I was reading them along the way. But now I get to kind of see how having read them influenced my work life this past year, which is pretty cool.
So, one of them is Engineering Management for the Rest of Us by Sarah Drasner. And that's actually one that really stuck with me, even though I'm not a manager; I don't have any plans to become a manager. But one thing that she talks about early on is this idea of having a shared value system. And you can have that at the company level, right? You have your kind of corporate values. You can have that at the team level with this smaller group of people that you get to know better and kind of form relationships with. And then also, part of that is, like, knowing your individual values.
And having alignment in all three of those tiers is really important in being a functioning and fulfilled team, I think. And that is something that I don't think was really spelled out very explicitly for me before, but it was helpful in framing, like, past work experiences, where maybe I, like, didn't have that alignment and now identify why. And it has helped me this year as I think about my client work, too, and kind of where I sit from that perspective and helps me realize like, oh, like, this is why I'm feeling this way, and this is why it's not quite working. And, like, what do I do about it now? So, I really enjoyed that.
JOËL: Would you recommend this book to others who are maybe not considering a management path?
JOËL: So, even if you're staying in the IC track, at least for now, you think that's a really powerful book for other people.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, I would say so. You know, maybe not, like, all of it, but there's definitely parts that, you know, she's writing for the rest of us, like, all of us maybe not necessarily natural born leaders who knew that that's kind of what we wanted. And so, I can see how people, you know, who are uncertain or maybe even, like, really clearly, like, "I don't think that's for me," being able to get something out of, like, either those lessons in leadership or just to feel a bit, like, validated [laughs] about the type of work that they aren't interested in.
Another book that I want to plug real quick is Confident Ruby by Avdi Grimm. That one was one I referenced a lot this year, working with newer developers especially. And it actually provided a good heuristic [laughs] for me to talk about areas that we could improve code during code review. I think that wasn't really vocabulary that I'd used, you know, saying, like, "Hey, how confident is this code? How confident is this method and what it will receive and what it's returning?" And I remember, like, several conversations that I ended up having on my teams about, like, return types as a result and them having learned, like, a new way to view their code, and I thought that was really cool.
JOËL: I mean, learning to deal with uncertainty and nil in Ruby or maybe even, like, error states is just such a core part of writing software. I feel like this is something that I almost wish everyone was sort of assigned maybe, like, a year into their programming career because, you know, I think the first year there's just so many things you've got to learn, right? Like basic programming and, like, all these things.
But, like, you're looking maybe I can start going a little bit deeper into some topic. I think that some topic, like, pretty high up, would be building a mental model for how to deal with uncertainty because it's such a source of bugs. And Avdi Grimm's book, Confident Ruby, is...I would put that, yeah, definitely on a recommended reading list for everybody.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, I agree. And I think that's why I found myself, you know, then recommending it to other people on my team and kind of having something I can point to. And that was really helpful in the kind of mentorship that I wanted to offer.
JOËL: I did a deep dive into uncertainty and edge cases in programs several years back when I was getting into Elm. And I was giving a talk at Elm Europe about how Elm handles uncertainty, which is a little bit different than how Ruby does it. But a lot of the underlying concepts are very similar in terms of quarantining uncertainty and pushing it to the edges and things like that. Trying to write code that is more confident that is definitely a term that I used. And so Confident Ruby ended up being a little bit of an inspiration for my own journey there, and then, eventually, the talk that I gave that summarized my learnings there.
STEPHANIE: Nice. Do you have any reading recommendations or books that stood out to you this year?
JOËL: So, I've been reading two technical books kind of in tandem this year. I have not finished either of them, but I have been enjoying them. One is Sustainable Rails by David Bryant Copeland. We had an episode at the beginning of this year where we talked a little bit about our initial impressions from, I think, the first chapter of the book. But I really love that vocabulary of writing Ruby and Rails code, in particular, in a way that is sustainable for a team. And that premise, I think, just gives a really powerful mindset to approach structuring Rails apps.
And the other book that I've been reading is Domain Modeling Made Functional, so kind of looking at some domain-driven design ideas. But most of the literature is typically written to an object-oriented audience, so taking a look at it from more of a functional programming perspective has been really interesting. And then I've been, weirdly enough, taking some of those ideas and translating back into the object-oriented world to apply to code I'm writing in Ruby. I think that has been a very useful exercise.
STEPHANIE: That's awesome. And it's weird and cool how all those things end up converging, right? And exploring different paradigms really just lets you develop more insight into wherever you're working.
JOËL: Sometimes the sort of conversion step that you have to do, that translation, can be a good tool for kind of solidifying learnings or better understanding. So, I'm doing this sort of deep learning thing where I'm taking notes as I go along. And those notes are typically around, what other concepts can I connect ideas in the book?
So, I'll be reading and say, okay, on page 150, he mentioned this concept. This reminds me of this idea from TDD. I could see this applying in a different way in an object-oriented world. And interestingly, if you apply this, it sort of converges on maybe single responsibility or whatever other OO principle. And that's a really interesting connection. I always love it when you do see sort of two or three different angles converging together on the same idea.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely.
JOËL: I've written a blog post, I think, two years ago around how some theory from functional programming sort of OO best practices and then TDD all kind of converge on sort of the same approach to designing software. So, you can sort of go from either direction, and you kind of end in the same place or sort of end up rediscovering principles from the other two. We'll link that in the show notes. But that's something that I found was really exciting. It didn't directly come from this book because, again, I wrote this a couple of years ago. But it is always fun when you're exploring two or three different paradigms, and you find a convergence. It really deepens your understanding of what's happening.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, absolutely. I like what you said about how this book is different because it is making that connection between things that maybe seem less related on the surface. Like you're saying, there's other literature written about how domain modeling and object-oriented programming make more sense a little bit more together. But it is that, like, bringing in of different schools of thought that can lead to a lot of really interesting discovery about those foundational concepts.
JOËL: I feel like dabbling in other paradigms and in other languages has made me a better Ruby developer and a better OO programmer, a lot of the work I've done in Elm. This book that I'm reading is written in F#. And all these things I can kind of bring back, and I think, have made me a better Ruby developer. Have you had any experiences like that?
STEPHANIE: Yeah. I think I've talked a little bit about it on the show before, but I can't exactly recall. There were times when my exploration in static typing ended up giving me that different mindset in terms of the next time I was coding in Ruby after being in TypeScript for a while, I was, like, thinking in types a lot more, and I think maybe swung a little bit towards, like, not wanting to metaprogram as much [laughs]. But I think that it was a useful, like you said, exercise sometimes, too, and just, like, doing that conversion or translating in your head to see more options available to you, and then deciding where to go from there.
So, we've talked a bit about technical books that we've read. And now I kind of want to get into some in-person highlights for the year because you and I are both on the conference circuit and had some fun trips this year.
JOËL: Yeah. So, I spoke at RailsConf this spring. I gave a talk on discrete math and how it is relevant in day-to-day work for developers, actually inspired by that Bike Shed episode that I mentioned earlier. So, that was kind of fun, turning a Bike Shed episode into a conference talk.
And then just recently, I was at RubyConf in San Diego, and I gave a talk there around time. We often talk about time as a single quantity, but there's some subtle distinctions, so the difference between a moment in time versus a duration and some of the math that happens around that. And I gave a few sort of visual mental models to help people keep track of that. As of this recording, the talk is not out yet, so we're not going to be able to link to it. But if you're listening to this later in 2024, you can probably just Google RubyConf "Which Time Is It?" That's the name of the talk. And you'll be able to find it.
STEPHANIE: Awesome. So, as someone who is giving talks and attending conferences every year, I'm wondering, was this year particularly different in any way? Was there something that you've, like, experienced or felt differently community-wise in 2023?
JOËL: Conferences still feel a little bit smaller than they were pre-COVID. I think they are still bouncing back. But there's definitely an energy that's there that's nice to have on the conference scene. I don't know, have you experienced something similar?
STEPHANIE: I think I know what you're talking about where, you know, there was that time when we weren't really meeting in person. And so, now we're still kind of riding that wave of, like, getting together again and being able to celebrate and have fun in that way. I, this year, got to speak at Blue Ridge Ruby in June. And that was a first-time regional conference. And so, that was, I think, something I had noticed, too, is the emergence of regional conferences as being more viable options after not having conferences for a few years.
And as a regional conference, it was even smaller than the bigger national Ruby Central conferences. I really enjoyed the intimacy of that, where it was just a single track. So, everyone was watching talks together and then was on breaks together, so you could mingle. There was no FOMO of like, oh, like, I can't make this talk because I want to watch this other one. And that was kind of nice because I could, like, ask anyone, "What did you think of, like, X talk or like the one that we just kind of came out of and had that shared experience?" That was really great.
And I got to go tubing for the first time [laughs] in Asheville. That's a memory, but I am still thinking about that as we get into winter. I'm like, oh yeah, the glorious days of summer [laughs] when I was getting to float down a lazy river.
JOËL: Nice. I wasn't sure if this was floating down a lazy river on an inner tube or if this was someone takes you out on a lake with a speed boat, and you're getting pulled.
STEPHANIE: [laughs] That's true. As a person who likes to relax [laughs], I definitely prefer that kind of tubing over a speed boat [laughs].
JOËL: What was the topic of your talk?
STEPHANIE: So, I got to give my talk about nonviolent communication in pair programming for a second time. And that was also my first time giving a talk for a second time [laughs]. That was cool, too, because I got to revisit something and go deeper and kind of integrate even more experiences I had. I just kind of realized that even if you produce content once, like, there's always ways to deepen it or shape it a little better, kind of, you know, just continually improving it and as you learn more and as you get more experience and change.
JOËL: Yeah. I've never given a talk twice, and now you've got me wondering if that's something I should do. Because making a bespoke talk for every conference is a lot of work, and it might be nice to be able to use it more than once. Especially I think for some of the regional conferences, there might be some value there in people who might not be able to go to a big national conference but would still like to see your talk live. Having a mix of maybe original content and then content that is sort of being reshared is probably a great combo for a regional conference.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, definitely. That's actually a really good idea, yeah, to just be able to have more people see that content and access it. I like that a lot. And I think it could be really cool for you because we were just talking about all the ways that our mental models evolve the more stuff that we read and consume. And I think there's a lot of value there.
One other conference that I went to this year that I just want to highlight because it was really cool that I got to do this: I went to RubyKaigi in Japan [laughs] back in the spring. And I had never gone to an international conference before, and now I'm itching to do more of that. So, it would be remiss not to mention it [laughs]. I'm definitely inspired to maybe check out some of the conferences outside of the U.S. in 2024.
I think I had always been a little intimidated. I was like, oh, like, it's so far [laughs]. Do I really have, like, that good of a reason to make a trip out there? But being able to meet Rubyists from different countries and seeing how it's being used in other parts of the world, I think, made me realize that like, oh yeah, like, beyond my little bubble, there's so many cool things happening and people out there who, again, like, have that shared love of Ruby. And connecting with them was, yeah, just so new and something that I would want to do more of.
So, another thing that we haven't yet gotten into is our actual work-work or our client work [laughs] that we do at thoughtbot for this year. Joël, I'm wondering, was there anything especially fun or anything that really stood out to you in terms of client work that you had to do this year?
JOËL: So, two things come to mind that were novel for me. One is I did a Rails integration against Snowflake, the data warehouse, using an ODBC connection. We're not going through an API; we're going through this DB connection. And I never had to do that before. I also got to work with the new-ish Rails multi-database support, which actually worked quite nice. That was, I think, a great learning experience.
Definitely ran into some weird edge cases, or some days, I was really frustrated. Some days, I was actually, like, digging into the source code of the C bindings of the ODBC gem. Those were not the best days. But definitely, I think, that kind of integration and then Snowflake as a technology was really interesting to explore.
The other one that's been really interesting, I think, has been going much deeper into the single sign-on world. I've been doing an integration against a kind of enterprise SAML server that wants to initiate sign-in requests from their portal. And this is a bit of an alphabet soup, but the term here is IdP-initiated SSO.
And so, I've been working with...it's a combination of this third-party kind of corporate SAML system, our application, which is a Rails app, and then Auth0 kind of sitting in the middle and getting all of them to talk to each other. There's a ridiculous number of redirects because we're talking SAML on one side and OIDC on the other and getting everything to line up correctly. But that's been a really fun, new set of things to learn.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, that does sound complicated [laughs] just based on what you shared with me, but very cool. And I was excited to hear that you had had a good experience with the Rails multi-database part because that was another thing that I remember being...it had piqued my interest when it first came out. I hope I get to, you know, utilize that feature on a project soon because that sounds really fun.
JOËL: One thing I've had to do for this SSO project is lean a lot on sequence diagrams, which are those diagrams that sort of show you, like, being redirected from different places, and, like, okay, server one talks to server two talks, to the browser. And so, when I've got so many different actors and sort of controllers being passed around everywhere, it's been hard to keep track of it in my head. And so, I've been doing a lot of these diagrams, both for myself to help understand it during development, and then also as documentation to share back with the team.
And I found that Mermaid.js supports sequence diagrams as a diagram type. Long-term listeners of the show will know that I am a sucker for a good diagram. I love using Mermaid for a lot of things because it's supported. You can embed it in a lot of places, including in GitHub comments, pull requests. You can use it in various note systems like Notion or Obsidian. And you can also just generate your own on mermaid.live.
And so, that's been really helpful to communicate with the rest of the team, like, "Hey, we've got this whole process where we've got 14 redirects across four different servers. Here's what it looks like. And here, like, we're getting a bug on, you know, redirect number 8 of 14. I wonder why," and then you can start a conversation around debugging that.
STEPHANIE: Cool. I was just about to ask what tool you're using to generate your sequence diagrams. I didn't know that Mermaid supported them. So, that's really neat.
JOËL: So, last year, when we kind of looked back over 2022, one thing that was really interesting that we did is we talked about what are articles that you find yourself linking to a lot that are just kind of things that maybe were on your mind or that were a big part of conversations that happened over the year? So, maybe for you, Stephanie, in 2023, what are one or two articles that you find yourself sort of constantly linking to other people?
STEPHANIE: Yes. I'm excited you asked about this. One of them is an article by a person named Cat Hicks, who has a PhD in experimental psychology. She's a data scientist and social scientist. And lately, she's been doing a lot of research into the sense of belonging on software teams. And I think that's a theme that I am personally really interested in, and I think has kind of been something more people are talking about in the last few years. And she is kind of taking that maybe more squishy idea and getting numbers for it and getting statistics, and I think that's really cool.
She points out belonging as, like, a different experience from just, like, happiness and fulfillment, and that really having an impact on how well a team is functioning. I got to share this with a few people who were, you know, just in that same boat of, like, trying to figure out, what are the behaviors kind of on my team that make me feel supported or not supported?
And there were a lot of interesting discussions that came out of sharing this article and kind of talking about, especially in software, where we can be a little bit dogmatic. And we've kind of actually joked about it on the podcast [chuckles] before about, like, we TDD or don't TDD, or, you know, we use X tool, and that's just like what we have to do here. She writes a little bit about how that can end up, you know, not encouraging people offering, like, differing opinions and being able to feel like they have a say in kind of, like, the team's direction. And yeah, I just really enjoyed a different way of thinking about it. Joël, what about you? What are some articles you got bookmarked? [chuckles]
JOËL: This year, I started using a bookmark manager, Raindrop.io. That's been nice because, for this episode, I could just look back on, what are some of my bookmarks this year? And be like, oh yeah, this is the thing that I have been using a lot.
So, an article that I've been linking is an article called Preemptive Pluralization is (Probably) Not Evil. And it kind of talks a little bit about how going from code that works over a collection of two items to a collection of, you know, 20 items is very easy. But sometimes, going from one to two can be really challenging. And when are the times where you might want to preemptively make something more than one item? So, maybe using it has many association rather than it has one or making an attribute a collection rather than a single item.
Controversial is not the word for it, but I think challenges a little bit of the way people typically like to write code. But across this year, I've run into multiple projects where they have been transitioning from one to many. That's been an interesting article to surface as part of those conversations. Whether your team wants to do this preemptively or whether they want to put it off and say in classic YAGNI (You Aren't Gonna Need It) form, "We'll make it single for now, and then we'll go plural," that's a conversation for your team. But I think this article is a great way to maybe frame the conversation.
STEPHANIE: Cool. Yeah, I really like that almost, like, a counterpoint to YAGNI [laughs], which I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that out loud [laughs] before. But as soon as you said preemptive pluralization is not evil, I thought about all the times that I've had to, like, write code, text in which a thing, a variable could be either one or many [laughs] things. And I was like, ooh, maybe this will solve that problem for me [laughs].
JOËL: Speaking of pluralization, I'm sure you've been linking to more than just one article this year. Do you have another one that you find yourself coming up in conversations where you've always kind of like, "Hey, dropping this link," where it's almost like your thing?
STEPHANIE: Yes. And that is basically everything written by Mandy Brown [laughs], who is a work coach that I actually started working with this year. And one of the articles that really inspired me or really has been a topic of conversation among my friends and co-workers is she has a blog post called Digging Through the Ashes. And it's kind of a meditation on, like, post burnout or, like, what's next, and how we have used this word as kind of a catch-all to describe, you know, this collective sense of being just really tired or demoralized or just, like, in need of a break.
And what she offers in that post is kind of, like, some suggestions about, like, how can we be more specific here and really, you know, identify what it is that you're needing so that you can change how you engage with work? Because burnout can mean just that you are bored. It can mean that you are overworked. It can mean a lot of things for different people, right?
And so, I definitely don't think I'm alone [laughs] in kind of having to realize that, like, oh, these are the ways that my work is or isn't changing and, like, where do I want to go next so that I might feel more sustainable? I know that's, like, a keyword that we talked about earlier, too. And that, on one hand, is both personal but also technical, right? It, like, informs the kinds of decisions that we make around our codebase and what we are optimizing for. And yeah, it is both technical and cultural. And it's been a big theme for me this year [laughs].
JOËL: Yeah. Would you say it's safe to say that sustainability would be, if you want to, like, put a single word on your theme for the year? Would that be a fair word to put there?
STEPHANIE: Yeah, I think so. Definitely discovering what that means for me and helping other people discover what that means for them, too.
JOËL: I feel like we kicked off the year 2023 by having that discussion of Sustainable Rails and how different technical practices can make the work there feel sustainable. So, I think that seems to have really carried through as a theme through the year for you. So, that's really cool to have seen that. And I'm sure listeners throughout the year have heard you mention these different books and articles. Maybe you've also been able to pick up a little bit on that.
So, I'm glad that we do this show because you get a little bit of, like, all the bits and pieces in the day-to-day, and then we aggregate it over a year, and you can look back. You can be like, "Oh yeah, I definitely see that theme in your work."
STEPHANIE: Yeah, I'm glad you pointed that out. It is actually really interesting to see how something that we had talked about early, early on just had that thread throughout the year. And speaking of sustainability, we are taking a little break from the show to enjoy the holidays. We'll be off for a few weeks, and we will be back with a new Bike Shed in January.
JOËL: Cheers to a new year.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, cheers to a new year. Wrapping up 2023. And we will see you all in 2024.
JOËL: On that note, shall we wrap up the whole year?
STEPHANIE: Let's wrap up. Show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm.
JOËL: This show has been produced and edited by Mandy Moore.
STEPHANIE: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes. It really helps other folks find the show.
JOËL: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us @_bikeshed, or you can reach me @joelquen on Twitter.
STEPHANIE: Or reach both of us at email@example.com via email.
JOËL: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week.
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