Posts By josterholt

July in Retrospect 🎆

This has been a busy month full of learning and renewing my efforts with this blog and my content creation pursuit.

With learning, I’ll actually break that out over the upcoming weeks to cover some different topics.

Test Driven Development

Testing automation and continuous delivery have been a big theme. They’re something I want to integrate into the SDLC at work with my teams. Ultimately it’s about streamlining deployments so developers can spend their time on what they like to do.

There are many hurdles to get over, many of those being related to knowledge in the quality control space.

International TDD Conf

 July 10 was the first International Test Driven Development Conference. The speakers did a great job at covering different aspects of testing.

I thought I knew what TDD was. You write tests first and then the implementation. Right?

I discovered that description doesn’t really do it justice. The TDD demonstrated in the conference integrated testing into development every step through a cycle known as Red, Green, Refactor.

The talk by Jov Mit does a good job at covering what Red, Green, Refactor is, different styles of TDD, and a live demo walking through TDD.

ZOMBIES

This concept is brought up in Jov’s video. It’s honestly taking a bit more to get my head around. I need to sit down and try my hand at it.

Something that has helped is this illustration showing that the first three parts of ZOMBIES intersect with the last three.

Resting Up

Mid-September marks the end of a peak to work related activities. We hold an annual conference for our users. There’s usually multiple projects that have to be launched right before or the day of the event.

The first week of November is when BlizzCon is usually held, which makes August – November a pretty busy time of the year.

With COVID still here and a danger, there is no BlizzCon this year, which is a bummer. I enjoy being around the community and developers while learning what Blizzard has in the works. I really enjoy the excitement from both fans and developers.

So with no big events coming up and stuff at work settling down, I will have some energy to put towards other things.

Some Downtime

I’ve been recovering from the September conference rush. It was less stressful than previous years, but still took a lot out of me.

I haven’t been feeling like doing much creative-wise, which is unfortunate. Right before the conference I was gathering information about other content creators in software engineering that produce content. I’m hoping to make some progress with content creation soon.

Some Games

I have been catching up on a lot of games, many are titles I’ve been meaning to play for a while.

  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent
  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
  • Assassin’s Creed I & II
  • Borderlands I & II
  • Tomb Raider
  • Bendy and the Ink Machine

Each of these were really good. Hellblade in particular was a very immersive experience, and I loved the puzzles and combat.

I’m currently working through Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and playing Phasmophobia with friends.

Bendy and the Ink Machine

I played through Bendy and the Ink Machine this month. This is a nice indie game with a retro aesthetic.

I will be covering some spoilers here, so don’t read on if you don’t want anything spoiled.

Gameplay

For me, gameplay over all was fun and entertaining. There was a combination of puzzles, action fighting, and scary-monster hiding.

Henry, the character you play, loses his weapon often. So gameplay transitions between puzzle solving, stealth, and fighting. I think this kept game play fresh and enemies interesting.

With that said, there were some moments that didn’t feel so good.

I played on the Switch, which was mostly fine, but there were some moments that it felt like mouse and keyboard were more appropriate. In particular, the corrupt Boris fight was hard because I couldn’t grab the ink globs fast enough and the second phase of the fight where Boris leap-attacks you if you are too far away was pretty unforgiving.

The last chapter, The Last Reel, was rough and in some ways disappointing to me.

Coming from the Boris fight, the experience was taking a bad turn because the gameplay didn’t feel fair. More specifically, the Switch controls didn’t seem to be working for me. (I’m primarily a PC gamer, so maybe that explains a bit too)

Clearing blobs from the wheel of the paddlewheel was a neat mechanic, but unforgiving if you don’t work quickly. Again, with the Switch controls, this was rough. If I spent too much time trying to aim for the control that makes the paddlewheel move forward, I would die.

After the paddlewheel, the onslaught of searchers, lost ones, and Sammy were a bit frustrating because it was too easy to die. I was unable to attack without getting hit. It’s possible my timing was just bad, but I think I was probably suppose to attack, turn around, and run away before the enemy attacked, which was too much on the Switch.

After this, there was the administration offices. I had to dodge the Butcher gang while retrieving blobs to create three pipes. This was a simple stealth sequence. I was tempted to cheese it by just running through the level, but instead I took my time to properly avoid the baddies.

Youtube Creator Research

I want to share some of the content creators I’ve come across while exploring what content and personalities are out there for web development.

Since I’m planning on generating content myself, I thought it was important to see what common practices and structure is out there.

KimComplete

KimComplete has some videos that cover their own experience in web development, as well as what worked for them and answers important questions that someone new to the industry will want to know.

Reading from the comments of this video, I think it’s really cool how inspirational this content was to others. Not only did Kim successfully get into the web development industry, they are also a woman and person of color.

This video helped remind me that everyone learns differently and that it’s very possible to become discouraged in learning something new if the learning style doesn’t fit.

While written examples and how-tos can be helpful, they aren’t very interactive or don’t have the pacing that some learners desire. This is something I have in mind with my tutorials, I would like them to be interactive.

Content Planning

I’ve been working on plans for web development Youtube content this week. I’m hoping to extend it to game development at some point, but I’m focusing on my strengths for now.

I’ve also started streaming developer sessions again, which will continue and cover both web and game development.

📆 Note: I've locked in a streaming schedule. Sundays at 3:00 - 5:00 PM and Wednesdays at 7:00 - 9:00 PM. 

JS Tutorial Planning

I’m working on putting together a basics series on Javascript programming.

My planning so far has involved breaking out topics and scripting the dialogue/narration. So far there are four higher-level topics: Variables, Control Flow, Functions, and Scope.

I’m happy with what I’ve broken out so far, but there’s still a ways to go to make the content unique from what’s already out there (the web development topic on Youtube is pretty saturated).

The most challenging of things to figure out is actually how I want to present the content. I still don’t have a clear idea of the approach and style I want to take.

Presentation is especially going to be difficult for me, I tend to be very mono-tone and over-complicate my explanations. This is actually one of the reasons I want to create this content, so I can improve how I present information.

The Journey

Lately I’ve been thinking more about a narrative for my life and how I can encapsulate my interests and experiences so that I can share and also reference them in the future.

To help with that, I created this journey section, to separate posts meant for sharing knowledge and other posts that are, well, focused on me as a person and my interests.

That may end up being a ton of cat pics 😻 and some technical articles on software engineering 🤓.

The Bigger Picture

There’s a lot of directions I want to go in –a lot to learn and master– which has made it difficult to focus on any particular path or feel dedicated to any one track.

I have a list of skills or hobbies I would like to keep and some I want to expand. To put it simply, I want to be creative and I want to lead teams.

A short list of what I want to do:

  • continue my software engineering journey
  • work on games
  • be creative with art and music
  • lead and organize my teams
  • become a better teacher and mentor
  • do some streaming

The Pull

Do you remember that feeling when something you’re interested and passionate about pulls you in and keeps you motivated?

With some things, I’m not feeling the pull of interest and enthusiasm that I did a few years ago.

This could be because I had a pretty rough year in 2019 that zapped all my focus and energy, and more recently a big personal change this year while in the midsts of a pandemic.

Turmoil and uncertainty aren’t good motivators.

Scheduled Maintenance: April Edition

In February I wrote my first scheduled maintenance piece. It’s my chance to reflect and plan on career goals.

In February I was concerned about keeping my skills sharp. I spend a good chunk of my day talking to people, coordinating on projects, and gathering business requirements. This leaves little time for actual coding.

To be honest, one of the biggest challenges I have been running into for the last year is staying on top of changes and new trends in the stacks we work with.

React and state management tools in particular have been challenging to keep up on because those libraries are evolving quite rapidly and in some cases like React hooks, very dramatically from a design perspective.

Building Tools

I found a nice middle ground here, thanks to some coaching advice. I can use my my spare time to develop tools that help me in my role as a manager while staying in touch with changes in technology.

This inspired me to fix up a custom burndown chart and get it working again. As well as adding a new tab with Github activity stats.

I’m using the burndown chart in our standups and retrospectives, it has been really useful.

The Github activity report is pretty early in development, but it helped me become aware of a SASS file that was refactored (nice improvement) and another file that probably needs to be broken up.

Learning

As I mentioned, my progress was inspired by a coaching session. I feel very motivated and have several more things I want to try now.

In addition to the coaching session, I finished the book The Phoenix Project. This has me thinking about continuous deployment and streamlining our development process.

I also virtually-attended Failover Conf, which exposed me to the dev-ops world a bit. There are many takeaways I got from that too.

What’s Next?

So what’s next? Work-life balance.

My goal this month (May) is to work my leisure and hobbies back into my routine. This past week I was really focused on the burndown chart and Github reports and didn’t give myself enough time to relax. I felt this towards the end of the week.

In addition, I want to see how I can cut down on meeting. These days I hold and attend LOTS of meeting. I need to have some time for engineering.

Some learning I plan on picking up Testing Javascript by Kent C. Dodds.

What is this Docker Nonsense?

This last week I’ve been working on getting Drupal running through NGINX so I can test out a page builder feature. I was getting a weird error with the dev-server built into PHP.

I didn’t want to have NGINX running on Windows, so I spun up a VM. Setting up an environment can be time consuming and sharing content between host and client is a bit of a pain.

The last two weeks has had a theme: environment/tools setup. So my mind has been on “how do we improve this process?”

Documenting the process helped a little, but it is still a time consuming process. It also seems like there’s always some new gotchas that eat up time. If only there was a way to automate this…

Here is where Docker enters the picture and where it’s suppose to shine. We can create a group of containers that run a web server, database, and other needed services. This setup can be shared across workstations so we maintain a consistent work environment. We can also use Docker in production too with Amazon’s ECS (Elastic Container Service).

It sounds like a smart move and everyone is on board.

Great, now let’s tear down this idea and look at use cases and scenarios, starting with security.

But in order to feel out security we need to know what Docker is. That can be a little confusing. To be honest, I’m still a bit fuzzy.

My understanding is a Docker container is a very thin layer that can have libs and executables. When you run the container the processes run in their own isolated namespaces.

This diagram is the most helpful of everything I’ve come across.