Author Archives: csrenz

Craft Over Art

This blog is about another pattern from the Apprenticeship Patterns book. This pattern is about Craft Over Art. Choosing whether to add that extra feature that you think will impress your colleagues rather than focusing on what the customer specifies or want. This problem would occur to you more than you would think. We are not just programmers we are also artists. Creating beautiful, unique and creative applications are all within us, but if you are working for someone else, you might have to forgo of your creativity.

The book suggests focussing on delivering value to the customer rather than advancing your own self-interest. As a craftsman you are primarily building things in terms of the specification, working under someone and not indulging in your creative self. As craftsmen, we work for the customer. You need to do your best work in ways that place the interests of your customers over your desire to display your own skills or pad your resume. The book even says “If your desire to do beautiful work forces you out of professional software development and away from building useful things for real people, then you have left the craft.”  They said that the things we build for customers can be beautiful but it must be useful. That part of the process of maturation is developing the ability to sacrifice beauty in favor of utility when it becomes necessary.

I am split on this pattern. I kind of agree that we should do what the customer has asked us and enhance its quality, making it a software that can do almost everything that they needed. But, I also think that you can still practice art even if you are working for a company. You can inquire on your customer and see if they like what you are trying to do, but then again I see how this can conflict with the other software developers. Since you are not the only person that would be working on a project when you become an apprentice, there are things that others would think is not necessary to the software, so there definitely going to be things that gonna have to be agreed upon.

 

From the blog CS@Worcester – Computer Science by csrenz and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Sprint 4 Retrospective

This blog is about our third Sprint. This sprint is a bit better than the last one. I finally think that we are making some progress towards the Food Pantry project.  During this sprint, we did a lot of organization and more planning. We have decided to put our board into Github.

We created a project board and created issues on github as sprint backlogs or product backlog. This process was not easy since I do not have much experience with creating issues on github. I also find it weird how we create issues and use them as a story, but it is actually pretty efficient when you got a couple groups working on a project. During this sprint, it was a little tough how to separate what is an epic, a story, or a task. We were deciding in the group what is considered a story or a task. Most of the story we made had to be broken into a task so that it is more descriptive.

Another thing that kind of made it hard is that we need to create issues in two github repositories. There is the internal repository for the cs-448 students only which are the two group and there is the LibreFoodPantry which is more for the more serious issues and is available to others. I was not sure what difference is written in the LibreFoodPantry and the cs-448 repository. For now, I think it is mostly tasks that are put on the groups repository and the major stuff like one card scanning are placed into the public repository.

Lastly, we got ourselves a magnetic card reader. We are gonna be using it to get the student or customer’s ID from their OneCard and use it to find their information from the database. It will be stored along with their information. If an ID does not exist in the database, we would prompt them to fill out the intake form. Then we store these attributes into a database. I think we should try to design the database along with the food pantry’s front end. Since it feels like there is not enough task for everybody to do, I would probably try to make a rough draft of database design.

In this sprint, I learned more about agile development. This time we are doing it in github by creating issues. I also learned that I should always try to break down stories that are very vague and making tasks from it. I also learned that the process into creating a project is not as straight forward as it seems, there is a lot of things that have to be considered like which programs to use, what server, and other little things that make up the project. This time, we actually got our hands to a magnetic card reader where we could swipe the OneCard to. We figured out that it takes the ID number that needs to be formatted before it enters the database. Hopefully, we can manage to get it working during the next sprint.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Computer Science by csrenz and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

The Long Road

This week’s blog is gonna be about “The Long Road” pattern. This pattern is all about traveling the long road. No matter how much you try to master anything, it will always be ahead of you. Mastery is a lifetime journey. You got to love whatever it is you are mastering. That is why they said, “Choose a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

The book suggests valuing long term growth opportunities over salary and some sort of leadership or managerial role.  This long journey to become a master will bring you a rich set of skills. You will become skilled at learning, problem-solving, and developing a good relationship with your customers. You will learn to wield these abilities and technologies. If you go through this long road, you will realize and appreciate what being a software developer really is.

This journey would not be short. It will be a long winding road. You should have a goal. Being on this long road, you will be a software developer even when you’re old. This pattern is not gonna make you filthy rich like the other positions, but it will be rewarding. This pattern is not for everybody, there are more people who will take a higher position without blinking an eye. Everyone wants to achieve something big and probably make more money.

I don’t really agree with this pattern. I think that taking the promotion would be a better path. It is not every day that a promotion would happen or a better position would be available. So why not grab the opportunity. It will also teach you more skills since it would it is a different role, it will also have different responsibilities. You will also learn how everything is run in the company and not get stuck at just creating software. They do talk about in the solution, that this long road does not only apply to being a software developer but for any position.

This pattern is good if you see yourself doing the same thing 10 years from now. Although, in my opinion, that is not a good thing to do. I think we need a bit of variety so that we do not get tired of it.

From the blog cs-wsu – Computer Science by csrenz and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Sprint 3 Retrospective

In this sprint, our group was divided into the Food Pantry project and the Foodsaver REST API project. Joshua was mainly working on hosting the Foodsaver REST API in Heroku. While the others were focused mainly on the Food Pantry software. I, on the other hand, was kind of in between both projects, trying to help out on the Foodsaver and at the same time help with planning the Food Pantry project. Our first meeting was pretty much figuring out what are some stuff that we are going to need to proceed on building software for the Food Pantry. We have decided that we are going to need the forms that they were using. This form is the one students would fill out during their first visit in the pantry. Since they were using Google Sheet to store all the information about a student that visits the pantry, we have also decided to take a look at a way to use Google Sheet API to connect to the software we are going to make. We have also decided to make our own Google Form mock just to see if that was all the information that we needed.

In our second meeting, it got a bit interesting. Remember how we were waiting for them to send the Google sheet mock with the attributes they want to collect? Well, we never received it before the break, and then they probably forgot about it during the spring break. After the break, I got occupied with trying to run the Foodsaver API and helping Joshua dealing with Heroku. Since Andy was the one who wrote the code for it, we weren’t quite sure how he set it up, but the Heroku hosting seems to be working. The Foodsaver API would appear when you go to the address Heroku gives, but when you click on the API, it does not return anything.

This sprint was somewhat uneventful for us I might say. There was a lot of waiting for the client, and a bit of miscommunication. This sprint was about patience. I learned that communication is really key to working on successful projects. There are going to be times when you would have to wait for the client to get back to you since they keep on forgetting to send things that you need to even get started. There was a lot of wait time for us, and we just kept on planning, trying to figure out ways to proceed with the food pantry project. If something like this ever happened again, I would probably not stop bothering the customers until we get what we want so that they can get what they want, and hopefully come to an agreement.

From the blog cs-wsu – Computer Science by csrenz and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Retreat into Competence

For this week’s blog, I am going to be talking about “Retreat into Competence” pattern from the Apprenticeship Pattern book. This pattern is about realizing how little you know, or when the new challenges that you have taken are not working out so well.  As you work, there are going to be many projects and challenges that are gonna be assigned or you are going to take. Sometimes, these challenges can be something you have never done before, or it might be a roadblock that you are gonna have to clear and these challenges are making you realize how little you know.

The book’s solution to this pattern is to “Pull back, then launch forward like a stone from a catapult.” They said that you should retreat briefly into what your confident on doing and regain composure. Take some time to build something that you know how then use that experience to see how far you’ve really come and measure what else you are capable of. Being an apprentice there is going to be a lot of ups and downs. You will experience learning new technologies and use it to leverage your knowledge that would deliver value to your customers. But you will also experience terror, roadblocks that seem impossible to pass through. These challenges can be overwhelming at times but it is to be expected if you want to progress.

I totally agree with this pattern. There are going to be times when you will encounter problems that seem to be unsolvable or problems that will show you just how much you actually know. In life there are going to be problems that seem impossible to solve, we get overwhelmed and try to forget about it, which becomes a bigger problem. I like how the pattern suggests that you look back on what you know how to do first.  It will show you how far you’ve really come. This process might give you hope that no challenge is impossible, you just gotta go through all the learning again.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Computer Science by csrenz and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

The Deep End

For this week’s blog, I am going to be talking about The Deep End pattern from the Apprenticeship Pattern book. The Deep End was about taking that big step in your career. Grow your skills, your confidence, and your portfolio. Challenging yourself with bigger projects. This may involve new tasks, new teams, and new places.

The book suggests that you dive into the deep end. Waiting for opportunities until you’re ready will only set you back and be stuck doing mediocre work. So, if offered a high-profile role, take it. Growth only happens when you do something. But of course, there are risks involved in taking on bigger projects or high-profile roles. If you get it wrong, instead of growing, you might shrink. It might destroy your career as a software developer. But the risk is also the only thing that can help you grow, so take the risk with caution. They also suggest that you list down all the projects that you have done. What is the biggest successful project you have worked on, and the biggest codebase you have built on your own. After writing them down, use them as metrics to measure if you are going to be ready to take on a bigger project with more responsibility.

I found this pattern very interesting. Not because it is something new but it is something that I can relate to. I am usually the kid in the back of the room. I usually only do what is expected from us and do the minimal thing to pass or get a good grade. Whenever there is group work, I almost never volunteer to be the leader. I do not like having to bear that responsibility. I am scared that I would do something wrong and let down the team. Scared that I would not be able to do my role as a leader. Now, I am trying to change that. I am trying to get more involved when it comes to team projects. I am now trying to lead everyone when they do not know what to do. I try to make a decision that everyone can agree to. This pattern did not really change the way I work, but it reminds me that I still need to improve with being a leader.

From the blog cs-wsu – Computer Science by csrenz and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Sprint 2 Retrospective

For this week’s blog, I will be talking about our second sprint working on the open source food pantry project. This sprint was a bit unique as to the first one since it is mostly about communicating with the customer.

In this sprint, I learned a lot about the communication between us, the developers, and the customer. I learned that it is not a simple process. At first, I thought that it would just be a simple interaction, they give us what they want or how it should look like, and then we try to create it and meet their demands. But that is not how it goes at all. There was a lot of interaction that we needed to do since the customer does not know what they really wanted. There is also the issue of communication. Most of the time, it is hard to get hold of the customer and we have to wait for them to respond to us before we could even move on with what we are doing. I also learned that starting a new project is like an open-ended question. while planning on this project and asking the customer questions as to what they want, it just seems like they do not really know what they want.

During this sprint, we have decided to change our focus from making the foodsaver REST API onto making the food pantry software since the other team has already made it. This sprint was mostly about communicating with our customers. The first meeting with the customer is with Serena. Serena works on Thea’s food pantry and knows how the pantry operates.  During the interview, we asked how the pantry operates. They have a google form that is filled out once by every student that goes there. It asks about the number of people in their household, their income level( whether they qualify or not), and what kind of help or services they are already receiving. If they already filled out the form, they only need to swipe their card preferably but for now, they just take note of the student’s ID number. Then they weigh the items that are being taken by the student and record it. They only keep track of how much weight is taken and how much weight is left on the pantry. 

The second meeting that we had was with Joanne, she has been helping guide the student-led-food-pantry initiative. Before our meeting with her, we tried to come up with questions to ask. Most of the questions we came up with was just a clarification on the information we got on the first meeting. In our meeting with Joanne, we asked her again about the forms and what kind of information they are storing. Since they cannot give us private information, we asked if she could just blur out the pieces of information and leave the column headers. This meeting was mostly trying to learn what the food pantry does and how they get food in and out. This meeting also opened the topic with the one card system and how they want it to show information about the student once they swipe.

From the blog cs-wsu – Computer Science by csrenz and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Confront Your Ignorance

For this week’s blog, we will talk about confronting your ignorance from the Apprenticeship Pattern book. This will be a continuation from the last blog Exposing Your Ignorance.

Now that you have let your teammates know that you are lacking in some skills, it is now time to deal with your ignorance. There are tools and techniques that you need to master but you do not know where to begin. Some of them are things that are expected knowledge from you that everyone around you already knows.

So what should you do?

The book’s solution is to pick one skill or tool and actively fill in the gaps in your knowledge about it. How should you do it is up to you. Whatever works best for you. For some, the best approach is reading all the introductory articles. Others find that looking at the code is a better way to understand it. They also recommended asking around if anyone is also trying to master these skills or ask a mentor that already have these skills and if they are willing to share what they learned.

I find this chapter interesting since it was tied to Exposing Your Ignorance chapter. To do this pattern, you will need to expose your ignorance first. Using this pattern in isolation might lead to a culture where failure and learning are unacceptable and everybody just keeps to themselves. Also, your employer has certain expectations from you and might not be understanding of your educational needs that would get in the way of the successful delivery of its project.

Confronting your ignorance is probably one of the things that you will be doing over and over again in your workplace. Most likely, your first few months in the job would be a learning curve for you. Figuring out what tools they use, how it works, and how you could use them would be the first challenge you will face.

This pattern changed the way I think about confronting my ignorance. Usually, I do everything alone and try to solve things alone. But that seems like a band-aid solution to the problem. It is better to ask people who have mastery of such skill and see if you are doing it the right way, so in the future, you will be more knowledgable and can be a master of this skill as well.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Computer Science by csrenz and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Expose Your Ignorance

This week’s blog is going to be about Exposing Your Ignorance from the Apprenticeship Patterns book. This pattern tackles the problem of not knowing other technologies in the workplace. The people that are paying you are expecting you to know what you are doing at the very least. Your managers and team members need confidence that you can do the job, but you are unfamiliar with other technologies. It happens to everyone. Especially if you are a new hire.

This pattern is very interesting to read. Normally, we do not show our weaknesses to others. We tend to keep it in even when we are having a hard time dealing with something. I would assume it also happens in the software development industry. No one wants to be seen as ignorant and be looked down upon that is why sometimes you try to hide these weaknesses. But this pattern is different.

This pattern suggests that you show what you are lacking.  Telling people what they want to hear is not a good way of building relationships and them having an impression on you. Tell people the truth. Let them know that you are getting the hang of it and are still in the process of learning. Reassure them with your ability to learn and not by lying to them that you know how to do it.

The most effective way to do this is by asking questions. There are no stupid questions. That is what every teacher would tell you. But it is not easy. Sometimes, people have expectations from you and it can be hard to ask “stupid” questions. There is also a sense of pride when asking a question. Sometimes you would look around you to see if you are the only one who did not understand.

I personally have this problem. I almost never ask a question. I always thought that I do not want to bother the whole class asking a question that seems like only I have a problem with. I would usually just tell myself that I would just look it up online and answer the question myself. After reading this pattern, I would definitely try to change that habit of mine.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Computer Science by csrenz and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Sprint 1 Retrospective

In this blog, I will be talking about our first sprint retrospective. My team is working on making free food pantry software.  In the first few days of class, we were doing research on different food pantry software. There was not much we could find that is open source and free which kinda sucks since food pantries are not for profit. Since these softwares are not free, we could not even demo them, therefore it was hard to get an idea on what this software should look like and what functionalities it should have.

After getting assigned into teams, our first sprint started. The first day we all sat together, there was some initial set up that we had to do so that we could communicate with each other and have tasks assigned to each of the members. We set up a task board using trello, joined the slack group for our team, and shared everyone’s contacts and git usernames. In our second meeting, we were trying to figure out where to start. We know that we were working on a food pantry software but we were not sure as to what we should actually be doing since other colleges are working on the same software as well. Then I saw on the slack channel that the other channel that they needed a REST API. So we started planning.

The first thing that we talked about is what functionality this REST API would have. The only thing we know is that we need this API to read a JSON file from the USDA’s website. After looking through the file, there was a lot of information about food and their expiration and some other stuff like tips on cooking or if they need to be refrigerated. Since we know that we are gonna be hosting this API we discussed on where to host it. There were a couple of options but we settled with Heroku since there is a free tier option although it might be a slower service since it has a thirty seconds time out when your API is not being used. Then we talked about which language we are gonna use. Researching about reading a JSON file, most of the tutorials were in Java and since we all have experience using Java, we have settled on it. The next thing was setting up an initial commit on gitlab for our project. Most of it was done by Sean and he was handling most of the task board as well. While the others work on figuring out how to host our API on Heroku.

To host a Java application on Heroku you need three things:

  1. Java 8* 
  2. Maven 3*
  3. Heroku CLI and an Account

After that, we researched how to read and write a JSON file. We are using JSON.simple to parse the foodkeeper.json file.

Steps I took:

  1. Download JSON.simple jar file
  2. Import the jar file into Eclipse by adding it to your project’s build path
  3. Added json.simple dependency into the pom.xml file
    1. <dependency>
          <groupId>com.googlecode.json-simple</groupId>
          <artifactId>json-simple</artifactId>
          <version>1.1.1</version>
      </dependency>

There are a few tips on reading the JSON file.  JSON file consists of array and objects so you just have to create an object or an array depending on what you are trying to get.

ex. Array [], Object {}

A JSON file might have something like this:

“sheets”: [
{
“name”: “Version”,

“data”: [

That means that there is an array called sheets, and an object inside the array called “name”. You can get to it by creating a JSON object first and then creating a JSON array like this:

Object obj = new JSONParser().parse(new FileReader(“foodkeeper.json”));

JSONObject jo = (JSONObject) obj;
JSONArray sheets = (JSONArray) jo.get(“sheets”);

We still have a lot to do, so hopefully, on the next sprint we could implement and get all the necessary information from the JSON file and have methods to return them as an object or as a JSON file.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Computer Science by csrenz and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.