I’ve just worked 15 days straight, with 12 hours being my minimum work day.
Some days were closer to 14-16 hours.
That’s a minimum 180 working hours in 2 weeks.
(And since I came back from a holiday on the 4th January, I’ve had a total of 3 days without working.)
Those are not figures to be proud of. Working massive hours as a software developer is not a badge of honour. It’s a bad of stupidity (usually).
But in this case it’s been worth it. The time has been spent on a last minute push as a new university year starts and we complete features for the rollout of a new Intranet for one of the local colleges.
It’s a project 2 years and 1 week in the making since first discussion.
And about 18 months in development.
The first 3 months were binned after the requested technology was deemed non-viable.
They specified SharePoint. It would never achieve what they wanted in the long run.
So I said – almost as a joke – “what about WordPress?”
The IT Managers said “evaluate it and let me know”. So I did. And we decided it was a better choice.
That was late November 2017.
I probably could have finished this project 9 months ago with the base WordPress and a collection of existing plug-ins.
And we would have spent the next 12 months fighting fires, hacking together fixes and losing a lot of sleep over security.
Instead, what started as a project evolved into a product and platform – one we plan on taking well into the future.
Over the course of 2018 – while also working full-time until September – I developed the web application platform designed with security, usability, customisation and extensibility in mind. And, of course, ongoing maintenance and support.
During that time I leant WordPress and PHP development. I also went through nearly 2 full evolution builds of the core architecture – effectively jamming 2-3 years of product life into about 3 months prior to initial release.
I don’t believe in traditional MVP (Minimum Viable Product), especially when security is involved.
Most small-team MVP projects are a “hack”.
Through most of the last 12 months of the project I have been at the helm of design, architecture and development. My business partner has been project manager and [a very excellent] chief tester. And our 2 developers progressively took on a growing share of the programming work as other work finished.
The weekend gone was one of last minute development, testing and bug fixes. Nothing that phased us – just the sort of things at usually come up or get left to the time of “launch”.
And in future projects we will even reduce that happening.
Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon I reset and our production environment (which was setup a couple of months ago). It was ready before dinner. We were at that point effectively live.
This morning I sent a message to the project sponsor telling him they can start the 2 week process of creating content.
And that was it.
No stress. No anxiety. No last minute deployments. Just a simple message and we were running.
The story doesn’t end here though. In different ways ways it’s just the start and the middle.
Today, already, there were a couple of inevitable bugs that come from a first-time “real life” use of new software.
We also still have a number of tasks to complete and progressively roll in over the coming 2 weeks.
Then the final phase of the project needs to be run to complete development for another set of workflows and some different types of user.
But, the system is running. And we are proud creators.
The product itself – outside of this particular project – already has a massive backlog of work planned for this year alone.
PWA (Progressive Web Application) optimisation, push notification services, a more responsive SPA-like (Single Page Application) interface, and an accompanying full API. Not to mention plenty of design and UX enhancements.
In a few weeks, as the semester starts and this phase of the project completes, I’ll start setting up fully-functional demo sites people can play with. We don’t have a proper DevOps pipeline yet, but I can still setup a new demo site in under 15 minutes, and most of that is waiting for files to transfer.
And then comes the process of marketing, sales and finding new customers with business needs we can solve.
Regardless of all that, here’s something I can happily take to bed tonight:
We designed, developed and delivered a working product that solves some very real business problems.