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.

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  • 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.

  • 399: Scaling Code Ownership and Accountability

    August 29th, 2023  |  34 mins 16 secs

    Stephanie experienced bike camping. Joël describes his experience during a week when he's in between projects.

    Stephanie and Joël discuss the concept of code ownership, the mechanisms to enforce it, and the balance between bureaucracy and collaboration. They highlight the challenges and benefits of these systems in large codebases and emphasize that scaling a team is as much a social challenge as it is a technical one.

  • 398: Developing Heuristics For Writing Software

    August 22nd, 2023  |  34 mins 7 secs

    Want a cool cucumber salad? Joël's got you covered. Stephanie has evolved and found some pickles she enjoys.

    Experienced programmers use a lot of heuristics or "rules of thumb" about what makes their code better. These aren't always true, but they work in most situations. Stephanie and Joël discuss a range of heuristics, how to use them, how to come up with them, how to know when to break them, and how to teach them to more junior devs.

  • 397: Dependency Graphs

    August 15th, 2023  |  42 mins 53 secs

    Stephanie is consciously trying to make meetings better for herself by limiting distractions. A few episodes ago, Joël talked about a frustrating bug he was chasing down and couldn't get closure on, so he had to move on. This week, that bug popped up again and he chased it down! AND he got to use binary search to find its source–which was pretty cool!

    Together, Stephanie and Joël discuss dependency graphs as a mental model, and while they apply to code, they also help when it comes to planning tasks and systems. They talk about coupling, cycles, re-structuring, and visualizations.

  • 396: Build vs. Buy

    August 8th, 2023  |  33 mins 57 secs

    Joël has been fighting a frustrating bug where he's integrating with a third-party database, and some queries just crash. Stephanie shares her own debugging story about a leaky stub that caused flaky tests.

    Additionally, they discuss the build vs. buy decision when integrating with third-party systems. They consider the time and cost implications of building their own integration versus using off-the-shelf components and conclude that the decision often depends on the specific needs and priorities of the project, including how quickly a solution is needed and whether the integration is core to the business's value proposition.

  • 395: Human Connection in a Virtual (Work) World

    August 1st, 2023  |  30 mins 59 secs

    Stephanie had a small consulting win: saying no to a client. GeoGuessr is all the rage for thoughtbot's remote working culture, which leads to today's topic of forming human connections in a virtual (work) environment.

  • 394: Submitting a Conference Talk Proposal from Start to Finish

    July 25th, 2023  |  38 mins 53 secs

    Joël recently had a fascinating conversation with some friends about the power of celebrating and highlighting small wins in their lives. He talks about bringing this into his work life. May Stephanie interest you in a secret she learned regarding homemade pizza?

    RubyConf is coming! Who's submitting talks?! It's hekkin scary. Don't fret! Joël and Stephannie are here to help. Today, they discussed submitting a conference talk proposal from start to finish.

  • 393: Is REST the Best? APIs and Domain Modeling

    July 18th, 2023  |  33 mins 49 secs

    It's updates on the work front today! Stephanie was tasked with removing a six-year-old feature flag from a codebase. Joël's been doing a lot of small database migrations.

    A listener question sparked today's main discussion on gerunds' interesting relationship to data modeling.

  • 392: Managing Changing Business Requirements

    July 11th, 2023  |  39 mins 14 secs

    Joël has a fascinating discovery! He learned a new nuance around working with dependency graphs. Stephanie just finished playing a 100-hour video game on Nintendo Switch: a Japanese role-playing game called Octopath Traveler II. On the work front, she is struggling with a lot of churn in acceptance criteria and ideas about how features should work.

    • How do these get documented?
    • What happens when they change?
    • What happens when people lose this context over time?