James Mead by James Mead

Week 204

On Monday Harmonia decreed that this week’s notes were to be brought to you by Chris, but since he’s been down-under all week, you’re stuck with me. Since I seem to have been writing for most of the week, you’d have thought I’d have got quicker at it, but it seems not.

Unlike Tom did last week, I’m not going to cheat by telling you about the new features we’ve added to Harmonia. Suffice it to say, you can now keep up with developments on Harmonia on her very own blog. Check it out!

Nor am I going to tell you how great it is that our friends at the Government Digital Service got big departments like the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office migrated onto the Inside Government platform. Well, perhaps I am a bit!

We wish the Inside Government team hearty congratulations for managing a successful release despite the after-effects of their Xmas party and glare from their Hawaiian shirts.


Strictly speaking this was last week’s news, but I thought I ought to briefly mention that we had an informal and internal retrospective about GFR’s involvement on the Inside Government project. Obviously it would have been better to have done it when Chris was back, but we decided to strike while the iron was hot and before we all go our separate ways for Xmas.

Although there were plenty of positives to take away, part of the point of a retrospective is to figure out what we’d do differently another time. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know we worked a 2-people-on, 2-people-off rotation pattern during the 2nd phase of the project.

It’s pretty clear to us that although we fought hard to make this work for the client (and we think they were happy), in so doing we compromised our ability to make good progress on GFR projects. We think this was down to the amount of context-switching and the lack of time together as a team. From one of our metaphorical yellow sticky notes:

Context switching doesn’t work for these four people

Given that the main point of adopting the rotation pattern was to give ourselves time to focus on GFR work, this realisation is a bit of a disappointment. However, I think it’s good for us to accept this, learn from it and move on.

It does have some implications for the types of project we’re likely to take on in the future – there was a sense that from now on we want to work as a complete team. Increasing the size of the team also feels like a sensible option if we can find the right person.

Automated testing

We took a bit of time out this week to chat about automated testing and whether we could achieve a bit more convergence in our thinking. There are many areas where we agree, but still some areas where we differ.

We had a useful discussion which touched on the approach we took on our work for GDS and James A took time to explain in more detail the rationale behind his approach in the early stages of the current incarnation of Harmonia. Since we’re all very bought into test-driven development, we quickly realised that discussing approaches to automated testing in the abstract didn’t really make sense without also discussing different design approaches.

In any case, we’ve agreed that I will take responsibility for finding a way to make further progress on this topic. I hope we’ll have something we can share with you in the not to distant future.

In other news

Budding author and office comrade, Tom Stuart, very kindly presented us all with Xmas chocolates. Nom nom!

After a small mishap on our Linode VPS on Friday, James & Tom gallantly migrated Harmonia onto her own VPS where we hope she’ll be much happier. As far as I could tell, it all seemed to go without a hitch!

We’ve also been ordering in supplies for the office Xmas party next Wednesday – apparently we have enough wine to mull a battleship. So do come along!

– James M

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