In a year and a half as a lead on a fairly massive software project with a very small and tight team, one axiom sticks out as the key to happiness — always be shipping.
It forces you to look at problems in smaller chunks. (Admittedly much easier said than done!) It gives the team a constant sense of accomplishment, as the thing they are working on is constantly seeing some sort of polish or improvement. For building larger projects, shipping components behind the scenes and letting them bake in production is a really nice and easy way to keep things moving.
Earlier this year my team without the aid of automated unit tests (we had some UI tests that were getting quite a trial by fire!) rattled off an admittedly stressful 33-day streak of shipping at least one thing, whether it be a bug fix, improvement, or new feature. The conditions were that the one thing had to pass QA before it went out — no shortcuts, no releasing for the sake of releasing. As I said, it was stressful, but it was a great exercise. (That being said, do not try this at home.)
I’ve been applying the “just ship” mentality to my weather projects recently and it has helped me overcome a lot of analysis paralysis of how to proceed. As a result, long-standing bugs in the @chswx bot have been fixed and the accompanying website finally got the mobile-first facelift it needed.
Shipping makes me happy. It should make you happy, too.
Just ship, baby.
…and no, I’m not joking, either. The Opera browser is an amazing piece of software; it’s achieved what Mozilla could only dream of — true portability. While Gecko was notable in that it would render largely the same on Mac, Linux, or Windows, Opera takes it a step further and ensures compatibility over a wide variety of devices, including phones, other embedded products, and even the Nintendo Wii. If you visit jaredwsmith.com on a Wii, you’ll see that everything — including the dropdown menus — renders with complete fidelity. This is amazing to me; devices other than Windows PCs used to be a pain to develop for.
It’s not only the portability of Opera that makes it stand out — it’s also the fact that it does not suffer from the performance problems that absolutely dog Firefox in the latest releases. Firefox constantly likes to get on this kick of consuming 100% CPU every five seconds, stalling my typing and general progress in the application. I don’t have many extensions installed, either, so that makes it difficult. Opera just seems snappier, too, and it gives detail about page activity that no browser has given since the days of oldschool Netscape.
It has its downsides — there are far too many Web developers who ignore its presence, so some portions of the Web (particularly those that are not standards-compliant) appear funky. Luckily, though, people have finally embraced the W3C’s standard versus Microsoft’s standard, so this problem is alleviating itself. Opera’s UI also needs some toning down (though that’s easy by switching to the native OS theme).
It’s a great browser. I’d recommend giving it a shot.