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20040330 Tuesday March 30, 2004

Software Development Team In A Box I was musing yesterday about off-the-shelf tools that, when put together, provide the basic needs to make a software development team productive.

Here's my list:

source control with commit notifications
It might seem obvious but when changes are happening all engineers who have any interaction (direct or indirect) with the altered component may need to know about it. Thankfully, getting emails out of CVS is a piece of cake. Other source control systems usually have hooks for this as well.
bug tracking
Identifying issues and keeping tracking track of them so that narrative descriptions, conversations and related media (screen shots, log files, etc) can be associated with the issues is crucial. Bugzilla is E-Z 'nuf.
reproducable builds
If a lot of steps that have to be manually triggered is required to build a software project then development is going to be intrinsically slow. The build cycles should generate reproducable results and do so in a scripted framework that can ultimately kicked off with one command.
unit testing
I'm a big fan an keeping as much business logic as possible out of the web runtime environment. If a web server,servlet container, EJB container and/or database is required to be running with your code deployed to run the tests, then you've been writing integration tests, not unit tests.
integration tests
Of course, your code has to work in the runtime environment of your application, so "in-container" tests such as Cactus are crucial.
functional tests
Ultimately, an end-to-end test that goes from HTML and HTTP, through the business logic and frameworks and down to the database is important to validate the system as a whole. This is where things like HTTPUnit come in.
If you use something like Cruise Control to take care of updating from source control, kicking off builds, running unit tests, integration tests and functional tests with as high a frequency as possible, you've got a pretty robust development environment.
test coverage calculation
Not everything requires a test but there whenever there are semantics, the business logic should be tested and whenever there are environments to deploy to, there should be a level of integration testing -- I don't know what tools will effectively give you that stuff (send it to me if you know!).
a wiki
It's useful to have a central repository of facts about the project. Best practices, HOWTO do weird things type documents and stuff like that should be kept as authoritative documents.
a blog
A lot of software design decisions are made in face to face conversations and email threads. It's difficult to retrieve the original intentions and the pro's/con's discussed in that way. I've seen email threads pasted into bugzilla reports and wiki pages as a work around. However it seems to me that if the wiki pages and bugzilla reports instead linked to the blog entries where these conversations took place, they would be easier to keep track of, search for and so forth. Of course, a lot of decisions are still going to be the outcome of face to face and email conversations but they can still be synopsized and made into blog entries.
So here's the money shot: if I were the VP of Engineering or the Director of Software Development or the Grand Pooh Bah of Code Artifact Creation at SoftwareCo Incorporated, I'd want easy insight into all of these things. A kind of portal that contained summaries of software development metrics: ...and so on. A lot of pointy-haired-boss metrics like lines of code and code to comment ratios are nice, I suppose for amusement value, but likely uninformative about anything important.

In the end, I think getting all of these parts working together will render a whole greater than the sum its parts. Getting a collaborative environment functioning isn't easy but a lot of these tools are readily available off the shelf to help it along. ( Mar 30 2004, 03:04:12 PM PST ) Permalink