November 6 2009

i’m back.

for the last two weeks, i’ve been staying in the lovely city of Amsterdam, working for a customer of my dutch colleagues. challenging, amusing, funny and resource-consuming, here’s a brief recap of my last 15 days.

first of all, thanks from the deep of my heart to Maurizio “daje forte” Mao Pillitu, for hosting me in his nice and comfortable home, just outside the city town. he’s been very kind and friendly, i hope i had in some way paid back with my italian-style cousine.

so, i’ve been working for Hippo, a young and energetic open-source company born around their CMS product: it’s a nice building down-town, just 15 walking minutes far from Dam square (yep, i loved walking through the city lanes after a full day of working). guys at Hippo are friendly and passionate, devoted to open-source; they also organize forge-fridays, sort of coding dojos with the focus on releasing working plugins (for Hippo CMS, of course) at the end of the afternoon.

Hippo CMS is having a lot of popularity among public institutions in the Netherlands, something my dutch colleagues have been working on hard also. but even if Hippo 7 is getting popular, there are still a lot of projects done with the older product version, Hippo 6. And that’s were my story begins.

i’ve been working for the municipality of Schijndel, a little dutch town, helping its IT management improve and automate meeting’s agenda and reports publishing. yeah, you heard it right: they record and publish (with a little delay, of course) audio and text content for every council’s meeting. being an italian citizen, all that transparency and devotion sounds strange, but is really laudable.

the first challenge i faced was, of course, translating all documentations from dutch to english, from analysis PDF to past emails with customer. i didn’t had everything clear at first, but thanks to double-checking with dutch colleagues i finally got it. (anyway, it’s funny almost every translation from dutch gets verb in the very last part of sentences. it really reminded my latin classes, while at college).

then i finally entered the dark tunnel: technology viscosity and indecent web of dependencies, also known as Maven 1. gosh, i really had to work hard to have a successful build on top of Java 1.4, Axis2 and Cocoon 2.1, which turned out to be classpath monkey-patching, using ant tasks, jelly scripts and maven postGoals. damn!

add lack of support from webservice’s developers and consultants, and the soup is ready to be served! in fact, i just had a working test environment (i mean, representative of customer’s one, with valid data) almost 3 days before the project scheduled end. that’s awesome, isn’t it? how did the hell i managed to get the work done?

applying what i later called the “abstract and adapt” strategy: understand the domain, abstract from implementation details, then adapt code when things get clearer. well, that’s the hexagonal architecture (but, you know, we like coining sexy names). so, i spent the whole first week coding the application logic decoupled from real system behaviour, which in fact was unknown. Agenda and its Repository, Content and Storage, Indexer and Importer, these are all roles i’ve been writing, test-driven, from day one. that’s not easy, and of course it’s risky; but it was the best i could do.

reading webservice specifications and WSDL, i could also guess how that slimmy layer should behave, but i really got it wrong at first! then, i had an ah-ah moment during the first weekend, and changed the webservice adapter in order reflect my new thoughts, without the need to modify domain logic so much (in fact, i also improved my domain knowledge). i changed unit tests, and added sort of spikes: tests with no assertions, just logging actual parsed responses, so that i could “see” with my eyes current webservice behaviour, at each test run.

and i was right! i clearly remember how shocking was reading in the console log some parsed data, when they finally were set up on test environment! you know, i was going for lunch, i ran all tests one more time, before locking down workstation, and i saw that: “parsed 6 agenda”, following by a so-nice full toString(). that was awesome, really: my tests told me setup was done before receiving a confirmation email by consultants, 30 minutes later!

than, i had my journey to Schijndel, to discuss deployment and testing on customer’s network. trip took 2 hours, i also had a 30 minutes stop in ‘s-Hertogenbosch which i spent walking down-town, among nice gothic buildings and golden dragons.

it’s shocking how efficient dutch national transports website is, with its door-to-door journey planner, really. well, it’s a shame it’s not updated with temporarily moved bus stops, which could have saved me one hour in the late evening!

anyway, that’s it, a recap of techy stuff mixed with journey reports. thanks to the whole dutch office for the opportunity and drinks, looking forward to next works together!


One Response to “Amsterdamned”

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by rogier: Jacopo writes about adventures in Amsterdam at #sourcesense and #hippo

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