Monday, December 13, 2010

... beyond Programming (and Development)

Quite some time ago, I'd written about the difference between Coding and Programming. That idea has been long over due for update, so here goes.

Coding is about how you should write,
Programming is about how you shouldn't;
Development is about bringing it all together,
Solving is about putting it out there!
Coding as about the Language and Syntax,
Programming is about the Paradigm, the Thought Process;
Development is about Dependencies and Integration,
Solving is about Understanding and Reacting.
Coding is represented by the 'Writing' metaphor,
Programming is epitomized by the 'Construction' metaphor;
Development is idealized by the 'Evolution' metaphor,
Solving aims to bring 'Satisfaction' all over!
Coding defines the Solution,
Programming defines the Problem too;
Development defines who will solve it,
Solving actually does it!
Coding creates the Implementation,
Programming creates the Interface;
Development creates the Framework,
Solving creates the Application.
Coding is about "Getting it in place",
Programming is about "Getting to know it!";
Developing is about "Getting it across",
Solving is about "Getting it done!"
Coding gets you Paid,
Programming makes you Employed;
Development makes you Engaged,
Solving makes you Satisfied.
Coding is what we HAVE to do,
Programming is what we SHOULD be doing;
Development is what we LIKE to do,
Solving is what we MUST do!

Customer Care

Otherwise entitled...

How big boutique shops get away with crappy products that their primary customers don't use anyway!
Let's just get it out of the way, Standard Chartered Bank sucks! Leave aside the fact that they have a next to useless netbanking experience that starts off by making you set a password you'll probably NEVER remember because they have the most non-standard password requirements. Then, if you forget your password, you're only respite is to have a temporary password SMS'd to you once you've given them your ATM/Debit card number and... (wait for it) PIN! But it's not over yet, 'cause the temporary password just let's you create a new login. Yup, you read that right, not reset your password, but create an entirely NEW login; new username and password!

Oh, and did I mention that once you do manage to get in, you can only see transactions upto 3 months ago. Yes, your transactions... transactions you effected through your account beyond 90 days are only available to you on requesting a statement from a branch; and even they're not authorized to pull statements beyond 6 months! (insert face-slap here)

But that's just the online experience. On the ground it gets even better. Did you know that StanChart has less than 6 ATMs in all of Pune? To top it off, almost all are in reasonably remote areas; and the cherry is that you can never find parking spaces near any of them! Even though 3 of them are in branch offices. I'm not kidding, the last time I went to the ATM in Kalyani Nagar, I was instructed by security to park in front of the adjacent building! Following which I had to sign in at security and (surprise, surprise) walk up the drive-in on ramp that led to their office, where lay an ATM so that I could change the PIN on my ATM card. Thank you StanChart for turning a 5 minute activity into a 15 minute ordeal, we feel so blessed to be banking with you.

But here's where it gets really interesting. Because I ran up quite a bit of a balance in my account, they bumped me up to Preferred Customer. What that basically meant was that they assigned me a nanny to nag me every other day about 'investing' all that balance. And when I calmly informed her that I was looking at investing through other avenues, she actually got mad at me!

So, here's the question, how is it possible that big banks (at least in India) can get away with really bad basic services? My guess is that because we're not really their target group. We're just the sideshow they run to absorb spare capacity. The people they're really looking for a large corporate accounts and big ticket investors who want babysitters at their beckon call to run the bank errands for them. Let's face it, that's where they're probably making most of their money.

But then, that's just my opinion... who cares? I don't! I get much better service from my IDBI account; even if their netbanking site has horrible UX, at least you can do stuff on it!

Gettin' Groovy at the IndicThreads Conference On Java

This weekend I presented at the 5th IndicThreads Conference On Java here in Pune. This would be the second time I attended this conference and the first time I presented at it. I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out to be a whole lot more informative and entertaining than I expected.

Harshad Oak kicked off with the keynote on recent changes in the Java ecosystem. It touched on topics such as Oracle's purchase of Sun, new language features, other languages on the JVM and potential avenues for the growth of Java (viz, cloud computing and mobile development). He concluded with the interesting viewpoint that Java devs would do well to wait, watch and ride the change.

Having landed the first slot of the very first day of the conference, I was pretty nervous about setting the pace right for the event with my DSLs in Groovy talk. I think I did pretty well , especially considering I hadn't gotten any time to practice the deck... at all!

The presentation spun up quite a few interesting discussions such as:

A bunch of people asked me if there were any real world examples of Grails apps; I think the Testimonials page on should answer that sufficiently.

It was also nice to be followed by another presentation relating to Groovy. Aniket Shaligram of Talentica demonstrated the benefits and caveats of the flex-scaffold Grails plugin by quickly building an app from scratch within a matter of minutes. And I must say, I was very impressed by the Flex view scaffolding, much as I always have been by the HTML scaffolding in Grails. The one concern that I did raise was around this technique landing the team with two MVC apps that need to keep their models in sync; while Aniket assured me that they faced no major hurdles there, experience forces me to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism.

Another talk that was met with particular enthusiasm was Shekhar Gulati's demonstration of Spring Roo. Shekhar also live-coded a Spring MVC app with various bells and whistles (persistence, relationships, security, deployment to GAE, et al). The productivity accelerating qualities of Roo were intriguing, but I've always been a little reserved about it and about Spring MVC in general. I'll leave that argument to a whole other post. :)

The Unconference hour in the middle of day 2 was another highlight of the event. The group discussed various interesting issues such as:
  • technology conferences should present more code and less kool-aid
  • potential Spring Roo addons
  • application profiling tools (JProfiler, VisualVM, IBM Health Center) and their shortcomings
  • with Spring gaining traction, would enterprises look to Java EE6?
  • should enterprises look at tools/frameworks beyond Spring MVC and Java EE?
In contrast to the rest of the event, the two presentations from event sponsor IBM were mostly J9 pitches- thoroughly passable.

The Sun (ok, ok Oracle) presentation on new features in Java EE6 was a welcome refresher. Considering I've been out of touch with that community for quite some time, it served to reintroduce me to a lot of tech as well as bring me up to speed with what's hot there. CDI's cute use of annotation based qualified DI caught my eye in particular.

The networking and open spaces weren't bad either. I got to catch up with a few old acquaintances, make some new introductions, add a few twitter followers and earn some cool hashcred! In hindsight, I actually regretted not getting business cards printed, but the second slide in my presentation pretty much made up for that.

The ThoughtWorks brand carried me well throughout the event even though I did absolutely nothing to indicate I was a ThoughtWorker (big shout out to good ole' TW!) A lot of people wanted to know how ThoughtWorks operates, why I left and what I'm doing now, why others have left and what they end up doing after ThoughtWorks- a somewhat muted (from my end) set of discussions, but very interesting all the same. People were usually pretty surprised when I told that that I actually quit ThoughtWorks to figure out what I want to do next and that I was currently voluntarily unemployed! :)

Well, since this is a fairly contrarian blog, here's what I wish would have gone better:
  • better gender distribution; we ended up with just 1 girl in the audience on day 2 :(
  • the turnout was pretty low at under 50; is Java as a technology really over the bump?
  • demo'ing CRUD apps and then engaging in RDBMS-bashing in a NoSQL plug
  • Enterprise still looking at dynamic languages with skepticism
  • Harshad calling Scala a scripting language :P
All in all, it was a weekend well spent. Kudos to Harshad, Sangeeta and the rest of the Rightrix team for another well organized event in the city. And thanks for keeping it eco-friendly!

Oh, and before I forget IndicThread Java celebrated it's 5th consecutive year this time, so we got to have cake!