Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

Development -> Production

I’ve been working very hard to get my site ready for release. The first version isn’t much, just a self-hosted version of the static site I have on SquareSpace right now, but with a working “contact” button. So, it’s been a while–why isn’t it done?

It seems that I’ve had many ideas on how to manage development, testing and production code and much of my code has some concept of this. But, not all. And, getting from most to all and getting it consistent is taking much longer than I anticipated.

My code is all on GitHub and I’ve really fallen in love with using “git push” and “git pull” on all my various machines (servers, laptop, home computer). I’m always in sync, have multiple backups and it is very quick. But, I’ve also been keeping all the site configuration data in the same place. So, now, if I make some setting changes for production, they appear everywhere. Not good!

I’ve figured out ways around most of this. I’m still keeping the configuration information in the repository, but I differentiate based on hostname. There really aren’t that many configuration files, so I have a mapping files that says where they all go, then I (am about to) write a script that goes through and puts links in the right places back to these files. This way, I have a 100% up-to-date picture of my configuration on every machine stored in the repository.

The next piece I’ve tested out, but not used for real yet is Amazon’s CloudFront. I create my bucket, turn on CloudFont, make a CNAME so the URL looks nice, inject this as a “prefix” to all of the image/css/js paths in my code and I’m done. Well, not quite.

First, I didn’t set the permissions explicitly, so everything was private. Then, I forgot the mime type, so everything was binary. Finally, I noticed that I’d missed adding the prefix in a few places. Nothing huge or that I haven’t dealt with before, but it is hard to test because only unique file propagate quickly. I guess I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to try again!

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oDesk

I’ve been using oDesk quite a bit recently and am having great luck. I’ve hired a few people and am able to get them productive right away. And, if I can’t, I can simply end the contract.

Having the ability to limit hours makes the decision much less of a risk. And, having oDesk handle all the billing, etc. is great.

Being able to look at screenshots from people doing work for you is a little creepy. But, still interesting! And, I guess the people working are fully aware of this and can even label the screenshots. It actually helped me a couple of times, because I can see what kind of system they are using and don’t have to waste time giving multiple instructions (Windows? Linux? Mac?).

The tests seem to be a pretty good indicator. From what I’ve heard/read, they are tough. And, my experience has tracked pretty well against how well they do on the tests. Obviously, this wouldn’t be too hard to cheat on, and so will never be iron-clad. But, it’s nice to have *something* to go on.

The web interface is not great. It looks nice, but there are some usability challenges. The separation of buyers and providers needs to be greater, I think. Also, it takes way too many screens for me to figure out what everyone is doing. Maybe this would improve if I was doing multiple projects at once or had more people; I can’t tell yet.

Did oDesk pay me to write this? Do they give me a discount? No. If they did, would I take it? Yes. I’m trying to bootstrap a startup, after all. To the FTC and everyone involved in trying to marginalize bloggers with laws to “protect” the public: (well, I probably should use words like that; they might be illegal too).