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Large software components - content management systems, workflow engines, ERP systems, CRM tools - promise much, but often seem to deliver less and with great difficulty. There sometimes seems to be some distance between what the product claims to do, and what it actually does. Sometimes it almost does what you need, but not quite. It may present a myriad of possibilities, but give no guidance as to the best path. Alternatively, it may promote one true way and punish those who need to take the highways and byways. However, all these types of systems have one thing in common - you have no choice but to use what's in front of you.
Recently, we (that's the corporate we) have replaced a large web application developed in-house over many years with an equivalent system developed atop a 3rd-party content management system of precisely the category described above. The project went live on 6 September, having slipped 5 weeks on a 9 month plan.
This talk is not about how wonderful our CMS is or how wonderful we are. Nor can it examine the reasons why the previous application was obsoleted, or how the substrate for the new development was chosen. Instead, we want to look at the obstacles presented by our content management system and of our own devising, and how we overcame them. From that we'll try to draw lessons that implementors on and (this may be wishful thinking) vendors of large software systems might do well to learn.
The "we" doing the presenting here is myself and m'water-polo-playing colleague James. The "we" who actually did stuff is everyone we work with. Working with large lumps of other people's code is something that lots of programmers have to deal with at some point in their career. After a bit of a wobbly start, we did eventually start to motor, and our new system did go live pretty much on time. We learned stuff. Lots of stuff. Hopefully we'll get a chance to describe and discuss some of it at the ACCU Conference 2010 next April.
Just don't let them schedule it on the Wednesday 'cos I won't be there.
Back in the last millennium, when you had a bit of silly idea you might mention it in passing over a couple of beers with your chums, wouldn't it be a great if .... You might follow through if it was late, your idea involved eating a kebab or putting a road cone on your head, but generally you'd have a bit of a chuckle and that was the end of the matter. We live in the future now, modulo flying cars and jetpacks and these days we don't joke about with mates in the pub, we broadcast to the world via the miracle of the internet. So when I wondered will people think I'm taking the mickey I turn up to do an audax on my 8 Freight with my son in the back, it turned out the answer was no. And when I turned up last weekend to do an audax on my 8 Freight with my son in the back, that was indeed the case.
I'd signed up for the 50km Welland Wonder, a gentle looking circuit round south Leicestershire and north Northamptonshire.
We didn't go without comment though and a lively discussion about unusual and inappropriate bikes ensued, without anyone using the words "unusual" or "inappropriate". Apparently somebody rode this year's London-Edinburgh-London on a Brompton and those are exactly the words that come to mind.
As before I was underprepared having done virtually nothing on a bike all summer. Consequently, I'd anticipated that we'd do most of the ride alone with everybody zooming on ahead. As it turned out, we fell in with a little group, and rode probably two-thirds of the way with them. They cheerfully indulged Harry in conversation as he took their photos, make me look good kid, hang on while I suck my stomach in, but we eventually dropped off the back, where have the team gone as we crawled up a pretty stiff hill. Hill climbing is not my or the 8 Freight's forte and I just couldn't keep the pedals turning. Harry initially refused to get out, can't you just cycle so I had to push the loaded bike. We'd just passed the event photographer too (at cycle events, photographers prefer to shoot people climbing up hills, presumably its easier), but hopefully he did the decent thing and pretended not to notice. I recovered pretty quickly though, and the ride back in was lovely. We rolled in just gone midday, giving us a time of 3 hours and 2 minutes. Harry's not getting any smaller, so I'm declaring that a result and retiring from this particular form of audax.
Two days later, found myself toying with the idea of getting a tandem. Gah!
I availed myself of a Peugeot tandem last year, from freecycle. It's got kiddy cranks at the back, but hey! it's going to be a few years yet before the Benster can haul his own weight. Just as well, it'll take me that long to restore the thing ;)
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