Remote Pair-Programming

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Seems like Pair Programming is “all the rage” lately in my circles. I haven’t exactly done it before but after hearing about the success and rapid knowledge growth amongst those that pair program…I was almost dying to try it! Especially after i saw David Chelimsky and Corey Haines at WindyCityRails in Sept 2009. I saw them pair and do BDD with Rspec/Cucumber and it was so fascinating, It was like I was watching a ballet as they hopped from RSpec to Cucumber and back and forth. I was like, wow…I wish I was that good! I would have paid good money for a recording of that so I could watch it again and again! I see Corey Haines traveling around pairing with people too. Some people get together and play cards, but Corey gets together to code!

So ok, I like code, I like people, I want to try it! I live a little south of Chicago so its a long commute and it seemed everyone was so busy to pair in person when I asked. I asked on Devchix mailing list for suggestions on how to do pairing online. I had found a few, and the group had some good suggestions. I even had a volunteer to try it with me! This week aimee and I set a few hours aside to try it and see if we could do it!

This article was also sort of “paired” as it was written from my perspective with input and suggestions from aimee!

We asked on Devchix mailing list for suggestions on how to do pairing online. I had found a few, and the group had some good suggestions. I even had a volunteer to try it with me! This week aimee and I set a few hours aside to try it and see if we could do it!

After introductions on Skype we set about getting a shared environment in which to code together. Ideally, we wanted some kind of desktop sharing so we could run tests, console and editor.

We had heard of a few tools and got suggestions from the devchix list:

IChat desktop sharing – we couldn’t get this to work, we did different things and it would appear to connect but then it failed. I tried to mess with settings for Sharing on mac, but nothing doing.

Rio seems to be a library to make collaborative apps, not to use in a pair programming environment.

BeSpin was hard to use.. we couldn’t figure out exactly how to use it. It almost seemed to offer to import the git repository we were working on, but then it said it only supports Subversion and Mercurial, not git.

SubEthaEdit worked but we would have to open each file individually and share each file… unless I was missing something. This would be fine for collaborating on a single file but then we could not share the test runs, terminal commands or view the browser together.

Etherpad – we didn’t end up trying this but I have used it before to debug some code or try out ideas with a friend. They recently got bought by Google, so it would be interesting to see what they do with it. This would suffer the same limitations as SubEthaEdit in that it’s just a text editor.

GoToMeeting (which is $40-50/month) its a little steep for the open source work I want to do. But people say it works really well.

VNC and Unix Screenaimee had used this successfully before but since we weren’t on the same network, just our laptops at home, we weren’t sure it how we could make it work easily.

Then we came to TeamViewer which worked brilliantly! We shared desktop and I could type in aimee’s console window, see the tests running and type in textmate. Even with aimee on her Dvorak keyboard and I on Qwerty! I could type fine but couldn’t copy/paste with keyboard shortcuts so I used the mouse to copy/paste and it worked fine.

All in all, it was an awesome experience and I picked up on a few tidbits of knowledge from aimee on git, and rake! I had some bits of code from another project i was able to quickly copy/paste and get us rolling. We had a few discussions about coding style as we went.

Since aimee was more familiar with the codebase, she mainly wrote the behavioral specs and I wrote the code to satisfy them. We plan to switch around next time, when we pair on a different project that I’ve been developing for a while.

She's Geeky 2010 Bay Area, Jan 29-31


She’s Geeky is my favorite stateside women’s tech event. It is a great opportunity to network, learn about other women’s projects and ideas, and test the viability of some of these ideas against receptive VCs. It’s also a great un-conference environment. It is low-key, entirely attendee-drivien, and will be whatever you all make it. I was thoroughly impressed with this conference, now hosted multiple times a year throughout the country, each with it’s own regional twist. It can be a great place to find your next job, start your next dream project, or simply be inspired by others who are doing so.

Early registration ends Friday. Go here for details.


How rails has changed how I seek for a job

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For nine years, I have developed for the web. Over the years I’ve programmed in C, C++, Python, Java, ASP, PHP, Perl, and most recently, Ruby.
Since my first job as a developer, I’ve never looked for a new job: all of my job transitions have come through friends or co-workers.

In mid 2007 I was happy working with Perl. One day a friend told me about a Ruby on Rails job. Back in 2007, Rails developers in Brazil were rare. Because of that, the employer was seeking someone who fit the company instead of someone with Rails experience. That was great for me!

After a pleasant summer, the new job’s charm wore off and I decided that I wanted to move on but continue to program with Rails. Finally, I left my job.

When I started to send out resumes I soon realized that Rails’ culture fundamentally changed the way that a Rails job search functioned. In addition to the traditional resume or CV, Rails jobs demanded to know about Working With Rails, LinkedIn, GitHub, Twitter, personal blogs and sites, discussion forum posts, participation in open source projects, and a multitude of other online presences. These new demands made me realize that I hadn’t been cultivating a comprehensive web presence, which is not uncommon for female programmers, in my experience.

At first, this realization was disturbing.¬†Though¬†it’s still possible to get a Rails job without a vast web presence, I was upset to realize that I hadn’t been adhering to this best practice. It was particularly jarring the first time I was unable to answer these questions to potential employer.
The practice of software development as a craft is constantly reinventing itself and this includes the processes around job seeking and reputation building. Despite all of the hours, projects, languages, and jobs I’ve previously invested in, I now realize that I need to adapt to this new developer reality of being social and visible with my work in order to win back my standing as a desirable developer and potential candidate for a Rails position. The details of how I’ll implement that strategy will be the subject of an upcoming post, but I look forward to the possibilities ahead.

To read in portuguese.

PyCon 2010 Financial Assistance Grant for Women


I am happy as hell to announce that this grant exists. The deadline is Dec. 18th, and I strongly encourage you to apply.

This conference gets a bit bigger each year, but the organizers make a great effort to keep the small conference feel. It also has many level-100 tutorials, and is both socially and technically welcoming for py-newbies.

Open space sessions (everything from software development to Settlers) and poster sessions happen every night, tutorials run two days prior, and code sprints run for a few days after the conference. It promises to be a great learning and social experience you should not miss.

I am reserving a room and sharing it:
I’ll room with as many as possible, to cut costs for everyone. Bring a sleeping bag :)

See you there,


Google Web Toolkit, 2.0


Our life basically lives on the web, the web is the platform! One of the advantages of creating your web application in GWT is it is pure html/javascript/css and the user doesn’t need to install a plugin to use your app! It is easily viewed on most smart phones as well. It compiles to each browser making it more efficient than using alot of if/else statments to build code for the particular browser you are using. It standardizes the method you use to make your app, no more studying the nuances and ripping your hair out over tiny browsers quirks. GWT 2.0 which is scheduled for release this fall has some great new features that I am finding to make GWT more flexible and easy to maintain.

Get GWT Trunk
The 2.0 features talked about here are in trunk and building it yourself is fairly straight forward.

  1. If you don’t already have it, get the latest version of eclipse – Galileo, with the Google plugin.

  2. Checkout the source code
    Follow the instructions on the GWT homepage, its pretty good.
    Make sure you have ant installed. It takes awhile, i think maybe 20 mins or so on my macbook.

  3. Setup the API directory in the Preferences for GWT
    In eclipse, add the new version of GWT library.

    Go to Eclipse > Preferences.
    Find the Google Web Toolkit on the left. Click add, add the path to the compile files like so:
    I named it “trunk”

  4. Create project
    Create a new Web Application Project, select “trunk” (or whatever you named it in the previous step) as the version of GWT to use.

The most interesting things in 2.0 is the UiBinder and UiHandler.

Using UiBinder
Usually for each element on the page you need to do something like this

CheckBox box = new CheckBox("this is the label for the checkbox");
box.setFormValue = "3";

Panel verticalPanel = new VerticalPanel();

If you have alot of elements on the page, that comes out to alot of java code. And you might start wondering if you are writing a Swing app or a web app?!?

in UiBinder, we can can put it in a XML file like:

<ui:UiBinder xmlns:ui=''
    <g:CheckBox ui:field="rubyCheck" formValue="ruby">Ruby</g:CheckBox>

Typically any attribute you can use in the java code like setName, setFormValue, setStyleName you can add right in the xml as attribute=”"

You can reference your objects from the xml like so:

public class LanguageList extends Composite {
  interface MyUiBinder extends UiBinder<Widget, LanguageList> {}
  private static MyUiBinder uiBinder = GWT.create(MyUiBinder.class);
  @UiField CheckBox rubyCheck;
  public LanguageList() {
      // bind XML file of same name to this class
      // use rubyCheck as if you had defined it already with new

Note you have to bind the xml to the java code with:

  interface MyUiBinder extends UiBinder<Widget, LanguageList> {}
  private static MyUiBinder uiBinder = GWT.create(MyUiBinder.class);

This process is called deferred binding. This may be familar to java programmers already but My background is LAM(P|P|R) programming so I am still trying to fully understand it myself! GWT homepage explains it here:

Using UiHandler

Typically, event handlers are written as such:

// add button and handler to alert the values of checkboxes
button.addClickHandler(new ClickHandler() {
   public void onClick(ClickEvent event) {
     String output = "";
     for(CheckBox box : boxes) {
       if (box.getValue()) {
           output += box.getFormValue() + ", ";
     Window.alert("You checked: "+ output);

Instead of having the click handler specified in the java method, you can attach it via an annotation:

  void doClick(ClickEvent event) {
      String output = "";
         for(CheckBox box : boxes) {
          if (box.getValue()) {
              output += box.getFormValue() + ", ";
      Window.alert("You checked: "+ output);

Sweet, huh? I think it cleans up the code nicely and gets the job done!

Go compile the Trunk version of GWT and give it a try!

If you want to see the full source for a simple gwt app before and after UI Binder, I have a write up here with links to sources on github here.

Resources for learning gwt that I found helpful:

GWT Homepage

GWT Can Help You Create Amazing Web Apps

GWT Best Practices

OnGWT – various blog posts about GWT