All entries for Tuesday 02 January 2007

January 02, 2007

More work resolutions

Follow-up to Work resolutions from Autology: John Dale's blog

At the beginning of 2006 and of 2005 I wrote about what I thought the landscape might look like for our web development in the coming year. My 2005 predictions were, as I confessed at the start of 2006, largely wrong. Were my 2006 predictions any better? Happily, yes. I predicted that we would:-

  • Make it easier to deploy our web applications, especially SiteBuilder, and this has come true in spades; in the second half of 2006 we released dozens of versions of our applications, with new features galore. We’re now at the point where all our applications are largely painless to deploy, so there is no reason not to push a new release out even if it’s only a small change, or one which affects only a sub-set of users. This is largely thanks to Chris’s sterling efforts and determination to make it come true.
  • Introduce more Ajax into the user interface of our applications. This is true-ish. There still aren’t many places where you can do genuine edit-in-place or dragging to sort items or what-have-you. But we’re gradually making more things work in-place and introducing more elements such as the flyout and auto-suggest in the standard web template. And we know a lot more about how to make UI elements which work in this way than we did a year ago. So good progress, but more to do.
  • Reduce the burden of application support on developers. Again, there’s been good progress in this even if we’re not all the way there. But there are lots of areas in SiteBuilder and Blogs and Forums now where sysadmin tasks can be performed through a web interface, and our newer applications, such as Files.Warwick, are being designed to work that way from day one.
  • Lose the Java WYSIWYG editor. Done. Tick. Sorted. We now use a javascript editor instead (tinyMCE if you’re interested) and while it’s not perfect it has at least removed the dependence on the user having a suitable java run-time library on their PC and therefore saved us lots of support aggro.

So what’s on the horizon in 2007? In process terms, I think we’re in pretty good shape; there’s a great mix of skills in the team, and the development cycle seems pretty mature to me, with everyone comfortably plugged in to the tools and processes we use to define and manage changes, write and test code, and deploy applications. Will there be more stuff done outside of Java this year, perhaps? The Flash media server stuff that Steve Carpenter is working on is pretty cool, if we can find a way to integrate and support it properly. And there have been a few simple usages of Ruby in the team recently; could 2007 be the year where we take the plunge and have a non-trivial production-grade application running in Ruby?

One thing’s for sure, though: XP icons are out and Vista icons are in. So at least one person is going to have a busy year.

XP vs Vista icons


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