2007-06-15

SASAG Meeting for June

Last night was the monthly SASAG (Seattle Area System Administrators Guild) and was the first I had been to. As I'm not a system administrator but a software engineer, I wasn't sure what I would gain from going but it turns out a lot. Last nights topic of discussion was, "Project Success: Science, Magic or Luck?" and was presented by Leeland Artra who is currently a PM at Qpass. Essentially, Leeland was suggesting applying software development techniques to system administration. For example, he suggested using test first development methodologies (I always knew them as TDD, Test Driven Design) to works towards a functional system. He also recommended using scrum to manage projects. My experience with systems engineers is that their programming experience is limited to systems programming, and things like functional and unit tests are foreign to them. If this isn't true, by all means let me know. So the suggestion for non-programmers to write programs to validate systems seemed counter intuitive to me. However, I liked the idea of using TDD to move forward on a project. I'm not sure why Leeland didn't suggest simply using Nagios or another monitoring system as your test platform. You can imagine going and writing all your monitors for Nagios which all start off red, or non-functional initially and as parts of the system come online and become functional monitors go to green. This seems like a much more straightforward, and intuitive way to use TDD for non-development projects. Regardless, the idea of applying agile methodologies to non-development projects is an interesting one and one I hadn't seriously considered before. I'm not sure how well it would apply to projects with serious capital expenditures such as hardware acquisitions, but the ideas should apply pretty well for any project. Leeland also showed off an interface he had developed for testing complex systems, which just seems unfair since I know it's not open source. On another note, I had my all time longest interview today. 7 hours and 8 people including the CTO, the hiring manager, two developers, one system programmer, one system engineer, the ops manager and the HR person. I really enjoy interviews that are challenging because you know you're going to be working with other good people. I mentally collapsed in my last technical interview though, so who knows what they thought. Updates ahead.

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