What good software looks like at REA

Introduction

Over the years we have created a lot of software at REA ranging from internal tools used by our customer experience team, to mobile apps used by millions of users each month, to data processing engines that crunch hundreds of gigabytes of data. While each piece of software has different functional and non-functional requirements we still have consistent expectations of that software as well as alignment on architectural principles. By taking this general consensus floating in the ether and capturing it using succinct language within high-level categories we have formed a foundation for discussion to ensure we can keep producing good software regardless of team, technology, and timeframe. Additionally, we routinely use this framework to assess all new and existing software to ensure our software continues to meet expectations and, where concerns are detected, to drive change.

The categories – overview

When considering the qualities of good software we use the following lenses:

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Use the decorator pattern for clean I/O boundaries

There’s a pattern that I keep recommending to teams over and over again, because it helps separate concerns around I/O; sending and receiving things over a network, interacting with AWS, saving and loading things from data stores. It’s an old idea; you’ll find it filed under “Decorator” in your Gang of Four book.

For our purposes here, this is a compositional pattern that allows us to stack onion-rings of concern around an I/O boundary; strings on the wire, transfer protocols (eg HTTP) , formats (eg JSON), business concepts. There is no code in existence that should be concerned about more than one of these at once; they can be structured as stackable layers, and other modules can pick which level of detail they wish to talk to.

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Making Scala and functional programming more accessible in REA

In REA, we have a list of highly sought after internal courses available on various topics including AWS, Docker and Elasticsearch. On 7th and 8th May 2018, we added Scala to the list, with over 20 people attending!

How did this all start?

Scala and functional programming have always had some mystique surrounding it. There is this idea that it is too hard or not pragmatic enough. Existing courses are very technical and many people including myself have struggled to complete them.

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Do we need QAs/testers?

 

“Do we (still) need QAs?”

… and flavours thereof, is a question I have been hearing for years now.

The same has been asked of Tech Leads, Operations Engineers, “Front End” devs, “Back End” devs, Security, Iteration Managers/Scrum Masters, Business Analysts, etc. Anything that is not a full-stack dev. The #NoOps conversation is interesting research material.

It seems to me that this question stems from a misinterpretation of agile and lean startup materials.

Idealistic hopes of cutting costs, removing waste (and blindly classifying some roles as such), delivering faster, etc., have caused some to think that role specialisations can all be generalised into being “Engineers” and that we can all self-organise and just do it all.

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Using Elasticsearch field collapsing to group related search results

Realestate “Developer Projects” are an important feature offered by REA to our customers (i.e. realestate agencies and property developers). An agency is able to use projects to group related listings so that they are displayed together as a group in our search results.  To implement this feature, we have chosen to use Elasticsearch’s support for  “field collapsing”.

The remainder of this article includes a summary of the problem, the approaches considered, and a bit more detail on the chosen approach.
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DevOpsGirls becomes a community

DevOpsGirls started a year ago with a bunch of enthusiastic REA people who wanted to make a difference in diversity in Tech, particularly with women who are interested in DevOps.

After running two highly engaging bootcamps we have been discussing a lot about what’s next for this initiative. REA has been an amazing incubator of the idea and has provided everything that we needed so far to kick-start the movement, but among the organisers we had a feeling that if we wanted to reach the next level we needed bigger support from other individuals and organisations. That’s difficult to do if it’s attached to a single sponsor. With the great response we have had from the industry and the beautiful experience of having external coaches joining the previous boot camp has help us determine the next step.

And so — I am super happy to announce that DevOpsGirls will become part of DevOps Australia – an organisation well know for running conferences like DevOps Down Under! Thanks to Matt Jones for the support and we really believe this is a step in the right direction and would help DevOpsGirls operate in a more effective way.

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