A Simple Guide to Getting Started with Sprint Retrospectives

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Introduction

A Sprint Retrospective is a time-boxed session that comes at the end of a sprint and examines how the previous Sprint went — what things worked and what didn't. It’s also an opportunity for the team to devise strategies for improving the quality and effectiveness of future sprints.

In this article, I demonstrate how to conduct a Sprint Retrospective using Azure DevOps.

Install the Retrospective Extension

Before beginning, you might want to check my earlier article about getting started with Azure DevOps boards.

In the top right-hand corner of Azure Boards, click the shopping bag icon and select the Browse Marketplace option.


Raise PRs That Everyone Will Thank You For

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Introduction

You might think that NASA astronauts spend most of their time trying to break records for the longest spacewalk. Of course, you’d be wrong. The vacuum of space is fraught with dangers, so astronauts spend most of their time going through checklists — lots and lots of them.

Checklists are essential for mitigating common problems and are used in all kinds of scenarios. For software engineers, a Pull Request (PR) checklist ensures that everybody’s PRs satisfy a standard set of quality assurance rules.

In this article, I discuss my Top 10 checks I do before raising a pull request.

1. Compare Changes

Carefully…


Create Readable Unit Test Cases that PR Reviewers Will Thank You For

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Introduction

Setting up unit test initial conditions can quickly become long, complex, and hard-to-read unless development teams adopt a consistent approach. This article explains why you should consider using builder methods in your unit tests, constructing more understandable business scenarios.

The Problem

Let’s assume we’re writing software for an online sandwich shop, allowing customers to choose their fillings and dressings to build up their ideal sandwich.

Create these enums to represent the kinds of fillings you can have:

    enum TomatoType
{
CHERRY,
ROMA
}
enum LettuceType
{
CRISPHEAD,
BUTTERHEAD,
ROMAINE,
LOOSELEAF
}
enum BaconType
{
REGULAR,
SMOKED
}
enum ChickenType
{
REGULAR,
BBQ…


Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Introduction

Before we cover Planning Poker and the PlanITPoker application, let’s first recap how a sprint planning meeting works in a typical development team.

In an Agile project, a sprint planning meeting is held to discuss backlog items that have been prioritized by the business. The backlog can have just about anything in it, such as bugs reported by application users or new features that are queued to be developed.

The team has a Scrum Master — or moderator — who introduces each user story to the group, providing a high-level summary of the requirements. This is an opportunity for the…


Get the Rush of Running Great Presentations

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Introduction

Don’t get nervous at the thought of delivering a presentation, particularly these days when talks are increasingly delivered over webinars and within the comforts of our home.

There’s no magic 🔮 involved — all you need is a single document to read from and the ability to sound confident, using your voice as your instrument.

In this article, I share how I prepared a careers webinar that I’ve given to students at colleges and universities. I’ll take you through the delivery and follow-up process, setting up visual aids, and circumventing obstacles.

Part I — Creation

Create your presentation

I use Google Slides for my presentation.

A well-crafted…


Use This Simple Technique to Paint Inside the Lines

Every evening it seems these days, I’m looking forward to getting my work done then learning some more painting. I promise you — I will get back to software blogging sometime after summer 😂.

In this article, I’ll share with you how I painted a rainbow canvas in acrylics with the help of masking tape.

Materials

  • Acrylic paints (or spray paints)
  • Board (Winsor & Newton 10" x 8")
  • Masking tape
  • Palette knife
  • An old newspaper
  • Satin spray varnish (optional — for an excellent finish)

Laying the Foundations

Place the board on paper (ideally an old newspaper if you can find one) and place six…


A Reference to Prevent Hiccups in SQL Scripts

Photo by Sid Suratia on Unsplash

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Table
  • Column
  • Constraint
  • Stored Procedure
  • View

Introduction

A re-runnable — or idempotent — SQL script means that no matter how many times you run it, you always get the same outcome. This means, for example, that you won’t get an error when you attempt to add the same table or drop a column that no longer exists.

This article will show you how to put checks in place to ensure you’re re-runnable SQL scripts are executed without hiccups.

n.b. Indexes are coming shortly!

Data

You can use the EXISTS operator to find out if a record exists.

IF EXISTS (SELECT 1…

Let Go, Painting Abstracts with Acrylics on Canvas

Materials

For this painting, I used the following:

  • Winsor & Newton Artists’ Canvas Board, 10" x 8"
  • Chalkola Acrylic Paint Set for Canvas painting, Wood, Rocks & Crafts (various colors)
  • Cass Art 19–5SC — 8.5cm blade (no brushes!)
  • Yesterday’s newspaper

Before You Start

Before you start, make sure you’re painting away from laptops and other valuable things; acrylic paints are still stuck to my fingers as I write this blog!

Make sure your canvas board is on top of a newspaper to make sure paint doesn’t mark your desk.

Painting

I began by squeezing out acrylic paints from tubes onto the canvas in lines, as…


Ensure Bugs Have All the Details For Developers to Reproduce

Photo by Michal Mrozek on Unsplash

Introduction

When attempting to resolve bugs, we sometimes don’t always have all the information we need, especially when dealing with urgent production issues. In these cases, we often clarify missing bug details through phone conversations or instant messaging, and helpdesk email channels.

However, in all other cases, you should raise bugs detailing as much as you can, including:

  • How to replicate the issue, step-by-step.
  • What the expected result is.
  • Browsers/devices that have this bug.
  • Branches affected.
  • Screenshots.

In this article, I explain how you can enforce those best practices in Azure DevOps using Templates.

Create a Template

To create a template:

  • Click the Project…

A Five-Step Process to Organize your Skills

Photo by Dion Beetson on Unsplash

Introduction

Sometimes what matters is not what you know but how fast you can retrieve what you need to know at short notice.

This short article shows you how to mine for knowledge, understanding, and best practices using a personal repository instead of keeping everything in browser bookmarks.

Step 1 — Build a Foundation

Set up a personal repository in GitHub that will act as a store of knowledge. Follow these instructions to build your foundation.

George Marklow

George is a software engineer, author, blogger, and tech enthusiast who believes in helping others to make us happier and healthier.

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