Summer hiatus is (almost) over. What happened...

Summer hiatus is (almost) over. What happened...

Alex Schiessl's photo
Alex Schiessl
·Aug 27, 2022·

9 min read

Private life

Well, Summer was hot, dry and sometimes very wet, and of course very busy for me. As the summer winds down, I wanted to give a short update what happened in my summer hiatus and before autumn starts and I plan to blog regularly again.

Of course I did all the summer stuff you normally do. Hang out with friends and family. Do BBQ’ing, traveling, doing Outdoor stuff, gardening and of course some home crafting (more like fixing broken stuff, then creating new things).

Most of my time this summer I spent helping my local (American) football team the Munich Cowboys stream their home games to sportdeutschland.tv/gfl, this years home of all GFL’s (German Football League) football games. So if you want to see what American football looks in Germany, have a peek over there.

And football summer isn't over, yet. We still have at least two more games to stream, before the „streaming“ season is over. The Cowboys currently on 2nd place in the South division, will have one more Home game, today the 27th of August at 16:00 o’clock against the Frankfurt Universe. This will most likely a will be a win, cause the Universe, lost the mojo, when most of the team players went to a different team in a different league.

With that last game, the regular season is over and the playoff starts, which ultimately end in the German Bowl. For the Cowboys this means, we have to host at least one more home game on the 10th of September. This quarter final game is against the 3rd placed team in the North division. Currently this would be the Cologne Crocodiles, but in football everything is possible, even a different team or place or game outcome. ;-) So let's wait and see, what the outcome of this weekend will be.

Also in case the 1st seated Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns (in the South division) would loose their quarter final, the Cowboys, would have another home game against the winning team. But I doubt that, since the Unicorns are unbeaten this year as the year, before, and before...

Btw. there is a great documentation from Nick Alfieri available about the Unicorns, called Unicorn Town. And this documentary was co-produced by Christian McCaffrey, RB at the NFL team Carolina Panthers. Have a look at the trailer and also have a look at the sportdeutschland.tv/gfl page to see what games are streamed this Saturday and Sunday. And of course the playoffs, later in September.

Anyway back to Developer topics. So as I mentioned, I helped stream the Cowboys home games. Here btw. is a look at our setup:

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As you see on the screen there is a window which controls the Scoreboard for the Live Stream. This Scoreboard software was written by my friend in Visual Basic, with NDI output support. As you might also see, the interface looks kinda old, but I can ensure you, it is practical and does it’s job very well. And my friend and I improved it over two seasons, so you can work with it very efficiently.

That was only the foreplay for the real story I want to tell. Originally I didn’t wanted to do any programming work over the summer, but since I worked with this Scoreboard software over the years so intensively, I got the Idea, I could write my own Scoreboard, just in case I’m ever able to live stream my simulated robot football games on YouTube and I'm in need for such software. As a good old saying goes: "Better have, then need!"

So I thought, it would be nice to have my own software at hand, without relying on the over complicated Scoreboard software of my friend, with technology I don't have or need. Don't get me wrong, my friends solution is almost perfect for the live football games at the Dante Stadion, but I doubt it would help me much in my streaming setup at home.

So on a hot summer evening with a beer in my hand, I thought to start a little side project, for the few hours of spare time I have during summer. I cooked up a small design, based upon two web pages, a control page with all the control elements, and an overlay page for all the overlay displays. Bound together with a simple REST API server. As technology I decided to use Javascript, p5.js, json-server with node.js.

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Here is a sneak peek of my current WIP prototype. As I said, it is a side project, which I work on only on my rare spare time. So it is far away from being finished. But I plan to finish it up and release it as open source along side of my football field generator.

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Work life

Of course I had to work in these 3 month, also. And work life wasn’t so interesting and satisfying as my private life, but a few things happened worth mentioning. And they will affect my life in the fall.

As usual in summer velocity at work goes down, since each and everyone goes on vacation has days off or doesn't want to stay late so often. And of course our customer has factory vacations, which results that the IT departments are also not fully available. Anyway, so we tried to fulfill the requests from our customer during this vacation challenge. It was hard, but despite of all the obstacles, with Developer-, Administrator-, Management- and sometimes even Hardware-Resources shortages, We delivered. We released new features, new bug-fixes and hot-fixes, as fast as we could, but in the end all this stress didn’t paid out. We won somehow the release battle, but also lost a lot during this period.

First we lost 3 java developers (2 senior and one junior), cause they had enough from this overcomplicated, stressing and less satisfying „scrum“ project and of course they got better paid offers from other IT companies. Then our customer was not satisfied of the quality of the software (again, waterfall testing at the end, not agile testing as you would do in a good scrum project), the amount of features we delivered (well, bad user stories and lack of good communication - no speaking englisch, only german, in an english speaking dev team setup) and the pace we deliver (Only old fashioned snowflake environments were provided by the customer, no cloud setup whatsoever, effecting in HW outages and delays, until the snowflake environments where no longer blocked or were fixed).

In addition our management was displeased, that we burn so much money with so little profit. Anyway, with all these factors, it is obviously clear, that a major change has to come, to improve or at least change the situation.

First we have to reshuffle our Devs into two new teams, so we do not have a very small team and a very big team for development. This will be challenging, since the small team is located all over Europe, and the big team is located in a single Eastern Europe country. And they are used to work together in an Office. Now they have to work in different teams and only remote. That will be interesting to see how this new teams will perform. Of course after they go through the "Forming", "Storming", "Norming" and "Performing" steps.

Then the customer wants changes in the process how and what we deliver. The process, which was designed many years before we came on board, was never adjusted. So our way to work (e.g. we using heavily Jira statuses to regulate the work flow) wasn't very compatible with the waterfall based approach the customer uses. So we used Jira Tags instead of statuses and that caused problems with the customer workflow. So they want us to change our processes to fit in their "agile" waterfall system.

Also they want us to abandon the complete Feature Epics approach. They want us to focus more on their weekly changed prioritized User Stories. So we deliver the features and bug-fixes they promised to their stakeholders. Even this causes chaos in delivering releases and leaves unfinished features hanging in the backlog. But that's what they want. Politics first, Features second.

At last our management wants us to be more productive and efficient in our work and the communication with the customer, so we loose so much time for extra work, communication and organizing releases, and we make more profit in the end. Which basically means that we have to make sure in each dev team there are at least two german speaking devs, so they can translate between Devs and product stakeholders.

Anyhow, this will be interesting times in the fall, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out at the end. And how it will affect me and my work at this project and this company. My prediction is as good as yours, but I speculate, that there will be either the end of the project for our company, soon, or that the customer reduces our contract and get a competitor on board, and starts a performance battle. And the winner get the renewed contract for next year. Anyway I’ll see.

On the positive side there was another change in my work life. I became a permanent member of our local work council. When I was elected in November 21 into the work council I was on 14th place on the election list. This ment with 9 permanent members (because of the employee count on our location), I was only a spare member, just in case someone is not available, but since there where 4 spare members before me, my chances to become a permanent member where not none, but very small, so I assumed. But as life goes, 5 permanent members left till May'22 and on early June I got the call, you’re now a permanent member of our local work council, reserve some time for your duties.

So I had an interesting time during my work summer because of that. I'd to learn all the new things about workers rights, work council duties and rights and how to deal with the upper company management, lawyers and other work council members in negotiations, meetings and talks.

And on top, since our company has a somewhat complex company structure, I’m now also a member of a joint work council, and a spare member in different other work groups of the different work councils. And as I learned in the short period since I’m permanent, the work for a work council can eat away quite some daily work time, very fast. Cause you have to read a lot of documents, emails, laws, have a ton of extra meetings and talks. And of course as result I have less time I can spend on my project and time I can spend with my teams. I assume this will also affects how and what I work in the fall and so it will not get boring till the end of the year.

Ok, guess that was enough to read for a "short" summer blogging hiatus update :-)

Oh, btw. if you like the look of my title image, I made this with a story telling tool you can find under (wps.de/modeler). It is free and [open source|(github.com/WPS/domain-story-modeler).

As always apply this rule: "Questions, feel free to ask. If you have ideas or find errors, mistakes, problems or other things which bother or enjoy you, use your common sense and be a self-reliant human being."

Have a good one. Alex

 
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