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Magic in the Browser and the Changing World – DevTalks Fall 2020

Tomi Hiltunen Oct 23, 2020 7:51:00 AM

The 7th edition of Smartly.io DevTalks took place on October 13th, 2020. Just like the previous DevTalks, this event was fully remote. The format was updated slightly from the last edition: instead of running a Q&A through Slido, we had an after-event hangout over Zoom. Our two wonderful speakers for the 7th Smartly.io DevTalks were Eva Ferreira and Mary Poppendieck.

Evangelina Ferreira is a Front-end developer and teacher. She currently works as a Front-end Developer and has been teaching web technologies at the National Technological University of Argentina for more than eight years.

Throughout her career, Evangelina has been deeply involved in the Argentinian web community. She enjoys giving workshops and talks and since 2015 she has been organizing CSSConf Argentina, an international non-profit event that brings experts from all around the globe to speak about web technologies.

In her spare time, she loves reading W3C drafts as much as Harry Potter, creating animations, and playing with her cats.

Mary Poppendieck’s first job was programming the #2 Electronic Switching System at Bell Labs in 1967. She programmed minicomputers to control high energy physics experiments at the University of Wisconsin during the 1970s. Moving to 3M, Mary developed digital systems to control roll-goods processes, spearheaded one of the first Just-in-Time production systems in the company, and led new product development teams that commercialized products ranging from digital controllers to lighting systems.

Upon retiring from 3M in1998, Mary was surprised to discover that the typical software development process was quite different to  the engineering-inspired approach she had found effective with control systems. So she wrote the now-classic book: Lean Software Development: an Agile Toolkit, proposing an approach that focuses on consumers, respects software engineers, concentrates on learning, and leverages flow. 

Mary is a popular writer and speaker. Sequels of her first book include Implementing Lean Software Development: from Concept to Cash, Leading Lean Software Development: Results are Not the Point, and The Lean Mindset: Ask the Right Questions.

Eva Ferrera: Fun with video on the browser 

Eva’s talk opens up the world of endless possibilities with animations in the browser. With just CSS and JavaScript it is possible to add stylistic effects on both static images and videos; all rendered live in the user’s browser. Furthermore, those effects can be interactive! Just take a look at the Firewatch website Eva uses as one of the examples in the talk. The effect works flawlessly in the browser and interacts with the users as they scroll down the page.

Another cool possibility with CSS is the ability to modify blend modes not only for images but for layered videos as well. Those images and videos can also be cut to shape using masking and clipping

One topic that was discussed in the after-event Zoom call was: what has Eva worked on with CSS that in the end required the addition of JavaScript to pull through? Eva talked about a live video manipulation that involved replacing colors in a video to create an invisibility cloak effect. If you are not familiar with the invisibility cloak, see Eva’s talk in NordicJS 2019. For this use-case, pure CSS was simply not enough. For instance, CSS blend-modes do not enable the removal of a single color from a video.

Hopefully, this talk will spark your creativity! Share what you have built with these browser goodies in our DevTalks Slack group.

Mary Poppendieck: It’s not about software anymore

In this talk, Mary makes a strong point on how the change has never been about the software. The global pandemic has simply made it even clearer now. The world changed in a heartbeat and so needed our technology, processes, and business models. A rapidly changing environment renders all overarching plans useless and thus adaptation needs to happen fast. The survivors of this change are the teams that can focus on the essentials and move quickly.

The talk sparked some discussion during the after-event Zoom call. 

The first question was about managing a multi-team project and delivery, which Mary approached using the SpaceX launch as an example: Every team worked towards the same goal of succeeding in the launch, but they all teams had their own areas to own. One constraint for the work was the set launch date, which is what every team knew to work towards. Owning their area of work, the teams had to understand what part they would play in the launch as a whole. With that knowledge, they were fully equipped to prioritize their work: they knew what they needed to do in order to make the launch a success. How do you then know whether the project is still on the right track towards the launch date? By having regular synchronization points along the way you can evaluate whether the project is deliverable on time, and if not, assess which parts of it are.

Since the talk mentioned short buffers of work, the second topic discussed was something software teams are very familiar with: long, long backlogs. Mary explained that there have never been engineering teams with less work than what they can achieve. More work will come in faster than the team can deliver, and there will always be more important work coming that’s going to push the long tail of the backlog even further. Mary suggested adopting the term “never-list” as, in reality, those long backlogs never get worked on. And that’s okay – it is more important for the teams to prioritize their work and keep their eye  on what is actually important.

Finally, we  discussed sprints and their lengths. Sprints began to lose importance with the rise of continuous delivery, and Mary stressed the importance of treating engineering work as a creative process. Fixed length sprints are not necessarily the best way to manage such work. Iterative development should be a way to grind down work agreed upon in the beginning. There are and will always be lots of unknowns, and as the learnings evolve during the process, they will likely change the course of work.

Stay tuned for more

DevTalks will be back with more intriguing talks to boost your learning. Join the meetup group at https://www.meetup.com/Smartly-io-DevTalks/ to stay up to date about upcoming events.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the challenges our engineering is working on in our Engineering blog, YouTube channel, and Engineering Twitter account.

Author
Tomi Hiltunen
Full Stack Developer at Smartly.io

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