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COVID-19 Asides

Since it’s been a while since I blogged just share these as asides and look at sharing more detail on these as future longer-form posts.

My failed 4 day work week experiment

At the beginning of COVID-19 my employment (and that of my teammates) was forced to 4 days per week at 80% per pay to deal with looming economic shock. A few months later whilst everyone else in my team went back to five days 100% pay I decided to stay on as 4 days and 80% pay since I liked having an extra day off work (I reasoned it as 50% more leisure time for a 20% pay cut) and to help more around the house whilst my partner looked for work.

Six months later I’ve decided to go to 9 days a fortnight (and 90% pay) since I found that 4 day work weeks only work when everyone is on a 4 day work week – it’s too stressful trying to fit 100% of work into 80% of your usual time. If only I had someone else to do my work on that day off.

Our e2e Tests run faster than building/deploying our web app

It presently takes approx 22 mins to run every single e2e test we have written against our fairly large complex web app in parallel (4 processes). We were looking at improvements to e2e test execution time like increasing parallel execution count but stability drops above 4 processes. I then decided to have a look at other times taken for our build pipelines:

  • Build/unit test web micro-apps approx 45 mins
  • Compose new stack with ~80 micro services and web approx 15 mins
  • Run all e2e tests (in parallel) 22 mins

Total time for new build: 1 hour 22 mins

If we managed to improve execution time for e2e tests by 50% it would still take 1 hour 11 mins to get a production ready artefact – only a ~13.5% improvement on total build time.

We decided to focus on some of those other build stages for quicker wins.

In 2021 is e2e execution time still the slowest part of a microservices based web application?

Technology failed us during COVID-19

I’m a fan of “soap opera scenario” testing for a while now – and it seems like the COVID-19 pandemic the whole world is a real-life soap opera.

Imagine testing Apple’s upcoming FaceID in 2017 and thinking something like:

A pandemic spreads rapidly across the whole world requiring people to wear face masks whilst in any urban environment. If a face mask covers a person’s face how does FaceID work?

Or discovering you’d chosen to a Microsoft Excel file format developed in 1987 to track coronavirus cases in England and realise afterwards you hit a row limit and 16,000 cases went unreported.

Or spending $7 million on advertising alone of a contract tracing app which only manages to identify 17 contacts out of the ~30,000 coronavirus cases in Australia.

The (Australian) Prime Minister said the COVIDSafe app was protection, urging us to “download the app, put your sunscreen on equivalent”. But it has been revealed almost $7 million has been spent on advertising and it has identified 17 contacts.

Did technology help or hinder us during COVID-19?

Working from Home Becomes the New Normal

I didn’t predict how rapidly the work world would shift to WFH. Then again, I didn’t foresee a global pandemic.

Over 12 months later:

  • Pretty much every Google Meet I am on 90% of the participants don’t enable video
  • Pretty much every Google Meet someone starts speaking whilst on mute, followed by an awkward silences until someone else says “You’re on mute” and they apologise and repeat themselves
  • Employees are being “encouraged” to return to the office which is proving a difficult task as once given it’s hard to take something away (giveth and taketh away…)
  • People seem to still be working longer hours from home and still often have trouble separating work from home especially with the new “always on” expectations being planted by WFH
  • We use JIRA to plan our work and looking (and often misinterpreting) at JIRA statuses has replaced real-life conversations about how things are going
  • Working from home is making housing much less affordable in the city I live in due to people moving from other less affordable cities with the ability to work remotely and keeping their salaries and wealth – forcing disadvantaged groups even further away
  • People are slowly realising working from home isn’t a level playing field as everyone has different home environments:

I suffered major stress and depression after three and half years of working in isolation at home so it’s no surprise I’m in the office every day, often by myself 🙃

How are you all doing?

2 replies on “COVID-19 Asides”

You asked whether technology helped or hindered us during the pandemic. My perspective (from the UK) is very much that it wasn’t so much the tech that failed, but instead it was business decisions about technology that failed. The British managerial class (and I include senior Government circles here) has very little knowledge of, or experience in, the daily use of technology and the sort of issues that gives rise to.

Most British MPs have career paths that either have been 100% engaged in politics, or if they have business experience, increasingly now that is via the legal profession, media/public relations or other soft-skill professions. In the old days, you could expect that Conservatives might have had a background in manufacturing or farming, whilst Labour politicians might well have come up through the trade unions. In both cases, they would have a grasp of real-world issues. But now? Not so much.

I look forward to a time when British MPs come to politics after a career working in IT. perhaps then we might see decisions made about tech that actually have some relationship to the real world.

I’m coming to loathe e2e tests because I’ve never been able to make them fast and resilient enough. I started a new job in January and inherited a flaky set of e2e tests and get to try again to make them suck less. It’s so frustrating.

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