I have been advised by people I trust that it’s not a good idea to talk about how you got serious female representation at your conference until after it’s over. However the shameful RubyConf “binders full of men” debacle and the Neanderthal level of discussion around it has wound me up enough to write this account somewhat prematurely. So here is how we achieved >40% female representation on our speaker roster at FlowCon.
One of the concepts that will feature in the new book I am working on is “risk management theatre”. This is the name I coined for the commonly-encountered control apparatus, imposed in a top-down way, which makes life painful for the innocent but can be circumvented by the guilty (the name comes by analogy with security theatre.) Risk management theatre is the outcome of optimizing processes for the case that somebody will do something stupid or bad, because (to quote Bjarte Bogsnes talking about management), “there might be someone who who cannot be trusted. The strategy seems to be preventative control on everybody instead of damage control on those few.”
Unfortunately risk management theatre is everywhere in large organizations, and reflects the continuing dominance of the Theory X management paradigm. The alternative to the top-down control approach is what I have called adaptive risk management, informed by human-centred management theories (for example the work of Ohno, Deming, Drucker, Denning and Dweck) and the study of how complex systems behave, particularly when they drift into failure. Adaptive risk management is based on systems thinking, transparency, experimentation, and fast feedback loops.
At last year’s QCon San Francisco I got to curate a track on continuous delivery. One of the goals of the QCon conferences is “information Robin Hood” – finding ways to get out into public the secret sauce of high performing organizations. So I set out to find talks that would answer the questions I frequently get asked: can continuous integration, automated testing, and trunk-based development scale? How does continuous delivery affect the way we do product management? What’s the business case for continuous delivery? How do you grow a culture that enables it?
You’ll find the all these questions answered in the talks below, from the leaders who have been at the forefront of continuous delivery at Amazon, Facebook, Google and Etsy. They also discuss the tools they built and the and practices they use to enable continuous delivery. Finally, you get me talking about how you can adopt continuous delivery at your organization.
Thanks so much to Jesse Robbins, Frank Harris, Nell Thomas, John Penix and Chuck Rossi for these great talks, and to the folks behind QCon SF for an awesome conference.
If you’re interested in more of this, check out FlowCon in San Francisco on 1 November (co-presented by ThoughtWorks, my employer, and Trifork). If you have experiences to share from adopting continuous delivery in your organization, please submit a proposal.
I spend quite a lot of time at conferences, and it consistently bothers me that they are so often focused on one particular function: development, testing, UX, systems administration. The point of continuous delivery is to accelerate the rate at which we can learn from each other – and from our customers. That requires everyone involved in the delivery process (including users, product owners and entrepreneurs) to collaborate throughout. So why isn’t there a conference which focuses on flow – the emergent property of great teams?
I am not going to do a ton of book reviews on this blog (I have one more planned for next month). I’ll only bother posting reviews of books that I believe are both excellent and relevant to Continuous Delivery. This book easily satisfies both criteria. Full disclosure: Gene gave me a draft of this book for free for reviewing purposes.
Told from the perspective of newly-minted VP of IT Operations Bill Palmer, it describes the turnaround of failing auto parts company Parts Unlimited. This is to be achieved through the delivery of the eponymous Phoenix Project, a classic “too big to fail” software project designed to build a system which will revive the fortunes of the company.
In his new book, Antifragile, Nassim Taleb discusses the behaviour of complex systems and distinguishes three kinds: those that are fragile, those that are robust or resilient, and those that are antifragile. These types of systems differ in how they respond to volatility: “The fragile wants tranquility, the antifragile grows from disorder, and the robust doesn’t care too much.” (p20) Taleb argues that we want to create systems that are antifragile – that are designed to take advantage of volatility. I think this concept is incredibly powerful when applied to systems and organizational architecture.
“it’s possible for good people, in perversely designed systems, to casually perpetrate acts of great harm on strangers, sometimes without ever realising it.” — Ben Goldacre, Bad Pharma, p. xi
In a fit of rage caused by reading yet another email in which one of our customers proposed creating a “devops team” so as to “implement” devops, I tweeted that “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A DEVOPS TEAM.” Like all slogans, there’s plenty of heat to go with the light, so here’s the scoop: the Devops movement addresses the dysfunction that results from organizations composed of functional silos. Thus, creating another functional silo that sits between dev and ops is clearly a poor (and ironic) way to try and solve these problems. Devops proposes instead strategies to create better collaboration between functional silos, or doing away with the functional silos altogether and creating cross-functional teams (or some combination of these approaches).
This is the third in a series of interviews on continuous delivery, this time with Elisabeth Hendrickson. You can see the first one, with Jesse Robbins, on the ThoughtWorks Studios Blog, and the second, with John Allspaw, here. These interviews will eventually be put together – along with some additional exclusive material – into a set of LiveLessons, with the royalties going to Black Girls Code. If you want to be notified when the final product is released, please sign up for my newsletter.
Elisabeth has held positions as a tester, developer, manager, and quality engineering director in a variety of companies ranging from small startups to multi-national enterprises. She has been a member of the Agile community since 2003, served on the board of directors of the Agile Alliance in 2007/2008, and is currently one of the co-organizers of the Agile Alliance Functional Testing Tools program. Elisabeth won the prestigious Gordon Pask award in 2010 and is the author of two books: There’s Always a Duck and the forthcoming Explore It! Reduce Risk and Increase Confidence with Exploratory Testing published by the Pragmatic Programmers. She is the founder of Quality Tree Software, runs Agilistry Studio, and is the creator of entaggle.com. You can find her at testobsessed.com and @testobsessed
In the video, Elisabeth answers the following questions:
What’s been your experience of the evolution of the testing and QA role in the IT industry?
Why doesn’t separation of duties between engineers and testers work? (01:49)
What are the problems with the hierarchies you sometimes see within testing organizations? (04:30)
What’s wrong with the approach of writing and executing manual test scripts? (07:53)
Does record and playback help to solve some of these problems? (08:48)
So the current paradigm for building quality in to software is acceptance-test driven development. Talk us through ATDD. (10:04)
What does what in ATDD? (11:19)
What proportion of time is spent on production code vs test code? (14:15)
How do you get from a typical “enterprise” testing strategy to ATDD? (17:30)
When implementing automated acceptance tests, where do you start? (21:31)
How has continuous deployment changed the way you approach software delivery? (23:43)
How do you go from releasing once every 3-6 months to releasing once a day? (26:36)
Brilliant and unwavering product vision from a few amazing folks going to market infrequently with huge ceremony.
That seems to be the exact opposite of what both lean startup and continuous delivery preach. It’s hard to know what happens behind the scenes at Apple because of their notorious secrecy about their product development process. Furthermore, there’s no way of knowing if the information we do have accurately represents what really goes on there. But if we look at Apple’s history, there are a couple of examples that strongly suggest that the principles behind continuous delivery and the lean startup were very much in play in Apple’s early years.
This is the second in a series of interviews on continuous delivery, this time with John Allspaw, one of my co-authors on the Devops Cookbook. You can see the first one, with Jesse Robbins, on the ThoughtWorks Studios Blog. These interviews will eventually be put together – along with some additional exclusive material – into a set of LiveLessons, with the royalties going to Black Girls Code. If you want to be notified when the final product is released, please sign up for my newsletter.
John Allspaw has worked in systems operations for over fourteen years in biotech, government and online media. He started out tuning parallel clusters running vehicle crash simulations for the U.S. government, and then moved on to the Internet in 1997. He built the backing infrastructures at Salon, InfoWorld, Friendster, and Flickr. He is now SVP of Tech Operations at Etsy, and is the author of The Art of Capacity Planning and Web Operations published by O’Reilly. He blogs at kitchensoap.com
In the video, John answers the following questions:
What is devops? Why now?
What did Flickr do differently that worked? How did you apply that at Etsy?
How did you take Etsy from painful releases to continuous deployment?
How about larger organizations? Does continuous delivery impose more risk?
What’s the role of operations in an organization that wants to practice devops?
Is there still room for specialization in the devops model?
What advice would you give developers who want to do continuous deployment?
How do you reduce the risk of releases?
How do you create resilient systems on the web?
How do you deal with databases in the world of continuous delivery?