"Development" Posts

The winding path to server roles

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development Bullet_white Comments Comments

roles timeline

We're overjoyed with the reaction to server roles, our new feature that makes monitoring many servers as easy as monitoring a few. The end result hits our favorite sweet spot: it makes something that used to be painful into something fun.

Server Roles was the biggest release since the launch of Scout and the path to the release was anything but a smooth, rolling path. It's a story of fast-changing deployment environments, tangents, a failed experiment, listening, first-hand experience, and finally, something we were happy with.

Here's the story of Scout's evolution to roles.

Oct 2007: Before AWS

first account

Scout started as an internal tool at Highgroove Studios (now Big Nerd Ranch) in 2007, or, roughly one year before AWS exited Beta status. For you young chicks out there, this was a time when you couldn't click a button to provision a server.

Since it wasn't as easy to provision servers, there was less churn in the size of environments. When you wanted to monitor a new server in Scout, you'd create it in our UI and then use the provided locally in your Crontab entry. The manual step of copying the key to to the server didn't feel tedious (and was way easier than configuring Nagios, Munin, etc) since our customers weren't provisioning servers frequently.

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Our DIY Homepage Process

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development Bullet_white Comments Comments

We recently decided it was time for a major update to the public side of Scout. We’d start with a more polished homepage. Since we’re both developers, the obvious next step seemed like hiring a designer. However, working with an outside designer isn’t a hire-and-forget experience:

  • Good designers are difficult to find. Design doesn’t scale like a product business.
  • Good designers are busy. It could take 30-60 days to start work, then another 30 days for it to come together. This means we could be looking at a 90 day timeline. We wanted to launch it faster.

Instead of starting work with a designer on a blank slate, we decided to start firming up what we wanted the homepage to look like. We’d end up with one of the following outcomes:

  • We’re terrible at design, but we’ve at least thought it through. Hire a designer.
  • We can get 80% of the way there, but we’ll need a designer for touchups.
  • If we iterate enough, we can launch something we’ll be happy with.

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Team BFF

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development Bullet_white Comments Comments

Startup Lessions from CCP - EVE Online Style:

Another great example was the formation of “Team Best Friends Forever” (“BFF” is an inside EVE joke). This team is a group of CCP developers whose sole mission is not to work on major features and improvements, but rather to fix all those annoying “little things” that bother their customers. Too many times, product managers and development teams are focused on the big-ticket items – and that’s fine, but TBFF is a great approach that again proves that CCP listens to their customers.

Removing deadweight - cleaning up our Rails app

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development Bullet_white Comments Comments

Every man has their breaking point when it comes to deadweight code. Andre and I hit ours recently and decided to spend all of last week focusing soley on cleaning up Scout (a Rails app). Our goals:

  • Faster tests – our tests took 8 minutes to complete. While it’s the perfect amount of time to catchup on Daily Show clips, it really tested our patience making application-wide changes.
  • Removing deadweight – unused CSS rules, database tables + columns, views, and assets. It’s good having certainty that modifying code will change something in the application.

Here’s how we went about it:

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Giving into reasonableness (acqui-hires)

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development, Business Bullet_white Comments Comments

Last week, Sparrow became the latest poster boy for talent acquisitions (Google gets the team, kills the product). Paying customers complain (I supported it!). Indie devs get depressed as one of their rank sells out.

I disagree with Matt Gemmell that these are a good thing – this is not a feel-good rags-to-riches story. It’s about brilliant developers giving into reasonableness because they didn’t have the runway to be foolish.

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The nuts and bolts of our Ruby-based realtime charts solution

By Derek Bullet_white Posted in Development, HowTo Bullet_white Comments Comments

Scout’s realtime charts have been a big hit. Once you start using them for major deploys or performance incidents, going back to ten terminal windows running “top” feels like the dark ages.

Realtime was a lot of fun to implement and it’s been rock-solid so far. A big reason it was so much fun? We were able to implement all of it in Ruby (outside the Javascript used to handle websockets in the browser) and didn’t need to deploy any infrastructure .

So, how did we go about it?

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