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2021 Books

Some short reviews of some of the books I read in 2021…

“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”

― Sir Francis Bacon


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Webinar summary: How to write job postings that actually work.

The following are some of the key points I took from this “How to write job postings that actually work” webinar, from Katrina Kibben, the Founder & CEO of Three Ears Media.


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Blog post summary: We need to talk about testing

I liked this “We need to talk about testing” post from Dan North. It’s about what testing actually means and how programmers and testers can work together. A summary (or copy & paste of the parts that I found most interesting, with some comments) below…

The purpose of testing is to increase confidence for stakeholders through evidence.


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Blog post summary: Shipping fast and safe by Kesha Mykhailov at Intercom

I like this “Shipping fast and safe: Building a culture of low-risk learning” article by Kesha Mykhailov at Intercom.

Some highlights…


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Modern Software Testing

As a follow on from my last post about Martin Fowlers article on Testing Shapes e.g. Pyramid and Trophy), Tim Bray‘s post on modern software testing (or, “Testing in the Twenties” as he titled it) caught my eye. Bray believes that these Testing Shapes are “misshapen blobs” that are all “seriously wrong in important ways”. I do like people with opinions 🙂


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Searching in Twitter

I’ve lost count of the number of times when I have read a tweet, and later wanted to refer back to it but struggled to find it. So, mainly for own benefit, I am adding some notes here on how to search Twitter.

The best starting place is usually

But you can also search directly in the main Twitter app using syntax like this

“good read” (from:shaunabram)

to return all tweets (from me, in this case) with the exact phrase, “good read”


good read (from:shaunabram)

to return all tweets from me with either the words “good” or “read” in them.


How much is your slow lead time costing you?

In a previous blog post, I discussed slow build times and estimated the associated costs. The build process is only one part of getting software out the door however.

Lead time is the time it takes to go from code committed to successfully running in production. This will include the build time we covered in the previous blog post, as well as all the other things required to get your code into users hands such as testing & deployments. This article focuses on the costs of that lead time.

Using the example of a team of 10 engineers, I estimate that the costs of a slow (one week) lead time could be the approximate equivalent of more than 3 engineers, or $400,000 per year. And I think it’s entirely possible that is on the low side since there are other costs that are just difficult to estimate. Imagine how much more you could achieve with 3+ extra engineers on the team.

Charity Majors goes further (discussed below) and suggests that reducing the lead time to hours could save the cost of 5 engineers on such a team. I was initially skeptical on that claim, but after trying out these estimates, she think may well be more accurate that my possibly over-conservative math.


A big thank you to my former colleagues Dave Taubler, Abhijit Karpe, Josh Outwater and Steve Mauro for providing feedback and input on this article.

Most of the feedback took issue with some aspect of the estimates, which is fair, but the common theme seemed to be that everyone agreed that there is a very real cost to slow lead times, that it is high, and that using data where you can and estimates where needed is a good way to surface and highlight that cost.



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How much is your slow build costing you?

Slow builds are a pain, but how much do they really cost? How do you compare the benefits of reducing your build times against a new user-facing feature that generates real revenue, for example?

Your slow build could be costing you up to $1 per minute per build per engineer, based on the estimates shown below. So, even before you factor in CI infrastructure costs, slow build times can very quickly add up. In the example below, a team size of 10, each doing 5 builds a day, and each with a 30 minute build time, we calculate the cost could be up to $375,000 per year in waste.

This post and the calculations used in it are based on the approach taken by “Prioritizing with Cost of Delay” by Jeff Palmer. “Quantifying the Costs of Builds“, by Hans Dockter @ Gradle, also covers some of the same ground in similar and more comprehensive ways.


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Book summary: Shape Up

Shape Up: Stop Running in Circles and Ship Work that Matters” is a book from Ryan Singer about how Basecamp do product development.

The following is mostly just copy & pastes of the parts I found most interesting. Typically, the more detailed the notes, the more useful I found the chapter. The original book itself though isn’t a difficult read (and it’s free online), so I recommend checking it out directly.


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Blog post summary: Prioritizing with Cost of Delay

Prioritizing with Cost of Delay is an article by Jeff Palmer (web, twitter, linkedin).

This article had me engrossed with the opening paragraph. It is a short article (6 minute) read, so I suggest reading it directly, but find a summary below, mainly for my own benefit.


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Git Branching Strategies

Some quick notes on different Git Branching strategies.

I am covering the 3 main strategies, and discussing them in increasing order of complexity: GitHub Flow, GitLab Flow and Git Flow.


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How to create a password protected zip file

Because I forget every single time…

$ zip -rP yourpassword foldername

Book chapter summary: Managing Incidents

This is a slight abridged version of Chapter 14, “Managing Incidents, by Andrew Stribblehill from the excellent “SRE Book“. (Original is 2200 words, this is 1200)


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An introduction to OKRs

Some quick notes on OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). Much of this is taken from these (better!) sources, so I’d recommend checking these out first:



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Book Summary: Accelerate

Accelerate: Building and Scaling High Performing Technology Organizations is a book by by Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim. It is a follow on from the State of DevOps Reports that Forsgren and Humble used to publish (and which I wrote about before in Development and delivery practices for team success). I highly recommend buying the book, but here are some chapter summaries for the highlights.



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