just do something already

Along the lines of Joel’s Fire and Motion article, the guys at 37signals are on the right track:

If you find yourself talking more than walking, shut up, cut the vision in half, and launch it. You can always fill in the gaps later. In fact, you’ll know more about what gaps need to be filled after you’ve launched “half a feature” than if you tried to fill them in before launching anything.

Too much thinking can lead to analysis paralysis. Just start the ball rolling, get forward motion and momentum on your project. Obviously some degree of planning is required, but a customer won’t pay you for pages and pages of design documents and fancy flow diagrams. You get paid for a working product. Frequent iterations, tweaking along the way will get you where you need to go. Mind you, this applies well to web applications and smaller teams projects. I could never apply this to a larger project like at my work. The teams are much larger, the release cycles need to be longer and the product is much more complex. Planning is required, but we tend to keep it to a minimum where possible.

first day riding this season

I got an early start to the snowboard season this year. On Sunday, Dec 18 I went riding with my bro Ben (of course), and friends Betty, John & Luq to Blue Mountain in Collingwood. Ontario ski hills aren’t something I’m happy with nor challenged by, but a day riding anywhere is better than a day sitting on the couch. But I was actually surprised by Blue Mountain. It’s much better than Moonstone where we went last year. The trails are somewhat longer and there’s some steeper pitches to the hill. It’s definitely somewhere I’d consider going again for a couple of times this year.

It was a good warmup to get the legs going (the first day of the season is always the worst). The snow was very good as we’d just gotten a storm earlier in the week. We even found some small areas of untouched snow. We did a few runs in the half pipe as well. I was a lot more confident this year after practising last year. The pipe wasn’t as icy, there was sun keeping the snow soft on one wall. I even spun an accidental backside 360 at the end of my first run. I was only going for a 180 but I had overcorked myself and the flex in my board spun me around more than expected. All of a sudden I was all the way around 540 degrees and let out a “whooo” of surprise. I took 5 runs in the half that day and my legs got more tired after each run. I’d like to spend a few more days this year practising the half.

A fun and tiring day overall. A few more days like that will get me prepped for our big trip in March.

Rails gets official


Rails 1.0: Party like it’s one oh oh!

Ruby on Rails goes 1.0 finally and even gets a 37signals visual overhaul. Upgrade now.


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stomach flu

Nasty. I felt like I was getting sick as I was going to sleep last night. But I thought I was just tired and needed some sleep. By the time I got to bed, I knew something wasn’t right. An hour into my sleep I was up running to the washroom. I hate getting sick. I didn’t sleep at all last night. Which made today mighty difficult trying to work. I’ve just finally got some soup in my belly, hopefully I’m better for tomorrow. It’s an important work week.

Ruby on Rails book review and cheatsheet

Along with many software coders, I’ve become a Ruby on Rails fan as well. I’ve had an interest in it for a while after reading so many websites talking about productivity gains. Its simplicity and speed of getting an application moving amazed me. Now I want to give back by helping to increase the RoR knowledge base by providing a Ruby On Rails cheatsheet.

When coding in Java, I’d get an idea in my head, start brainstorming about how it would work then I’d start setting up my work environment at home.

  • Create a new directory structure for the project.
  • I’m going to need logging – get the latest log4j jars.
  • Get JUnit for unit testing and include in project.
  • Get Hibernate for database persistence. Configure the hibernate files.
  • Get a templating project (Spring/Velocity/etc – take time to decide on which one) and add to project.
  • Do I want to use Struts for this too?
  • Assemble all the other jars I’ll need.
  • Setup a new project and configuration in my IDE.
  • Setup database connections and test that out.
  • Etc, etc, etc.

By the time I even start to write one line of code, it’s usually taken me until 2 evenings later, as I’ve got a day job and these ideas are meant as fun nighttime projects. By this point, the excitement of the idea is lost and the project gets shelved along with the others as something more important has usually come along or interrupted me enough to get in my way.

With Ruby On Rails, it’s a much different story. Within 5 minutes of sitting at my computer, I can be up and running with a complete environment, database configuration and blank template pages already showing me some results. Hours vs minutes makes a lot of difference. Just getting the project started is much faster, not to mention the amount of code required to do comparable tasks.

After trying out mostly all of the tutorials available on the internet, I ordered “Agile Web Development with Rails” from Chapters (Canada’s version of Barnes & Noble). I dug in, skipping to the appendix to review the Ruby syntax chapter so I’d understand the Rails code better. The book is a very easy read, written like a teacher is talking to you. I find this much easier to follow along than a heavily technical book. The book walks you through a tutorial as though you’ve been hired to create a storefront application for your customer who you consult with frequently (the Agile part of the book). And the tutorial gives you just enough information to keep you working along, rather than overloading you with everything on that subject in the chapter. If you want further in-depth knowledge of a subject, that comes in the next section of the book after the tutorial is completed.

I flew through the tutorial reading while commuting back and forth from work, then typing up the code when I arrived home at night. I stopped after the tutorial section, but haven’t jumped into the more in-depth content yet. I think I may review that section as I get stuck and need more information on a specific topic.

For now, I’m happy to try building some simple applications I’ve had floating around in my head for a while. And it won’t take me 8 hours before I type a single line of code.

Don’t get me wrong, I still really like Java and I know I will still use it (my day job is all Java based). There’s certain things I would choose Java for over Ruby on Rails and vice-versa. Use the right tool for the job. And now I have an extra tool in my toolbox.

Also, as part of my Ruby on Rails learning process I took a lot of notes (I’m a visual learner), so writing notes helps me to remember better, along with retyping out all the code in detail. Inspired by the PDF cheatsheets Amy Hoy produced, I’ve created my own set of notes and general cheatsheet as a reference to keep next to my desk when I need to jog my brain.

The document is at 14 pages so far and I’ll probably update it as I continue to learn more on RoR.
Continue on to download the Ruby On Rails cheatsheet.

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