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West London Coders

On Saturday 5th August 2017 I went to one meetup called "West London Coders" and it was amazing time spent with nice people with similar interest. Here is the link to their meetup page: https://www.meetup.com/West-London-Coders/ I just came across their meetup accidentally and I thought why not attend this tech meetup. Usually on Saturdays I spend time at home with family but I decided to go their and to be honest I was surprised by the event. I usually don't go the meetups now or very rarely but this time I felt good afterwards.

The whole idea of this meetup is to gather in a room and decide the topics that you want to learn around various programming languages. For this meetup there were I think more than 30 people who came. The venue for the meetup was "Net a Porter" office. I never heard about their company. Basically it is a fashion brand with around 5000 employees. Their office is in Westfield shopping complex on the top floor and their office is huge and amazing.

After initial round of introductions the group was divided into 3 separate groups for Front end, Swift and one more group. I chose to go in the Swift group. There were 6 people in the Swift room and we decided to develop an app for their website: www.westlondoncoders.com

The total time for this hackathon was 4.5 hours and we started the actual coding after 1 hours so we were left with 3.5 hours. We ended up creating a simple app with WebView to begin with as the website is responsive but of course in future the plan is to create a native app with connectivity to the website as well and for that the API also needs to be enabled on the site. In those 3.5 hours we mostly spent time understanding the fundamentals of iPhone development and learning about very technical topics like Weak References in Swift and few other topics. There were people with different experience levels but most of us had developed an app in the past, I guess 5 of us so it was a bit smooth.

I really liked the idea of this meetup. Lot of learning that day for me and in the end I felt really really satisfied. Looking forward to more of their meetups in future.

Here is the link to the GitHub Repository: https://github.com/WestLondonCoders/WLC-iOS-App

BTW I came to know that "Net a Porter" also uses JIRA and Atlassian tools in the company. Always good to know that :)

Checklist for JIRA - Add-on review

I came across this new add on called "Checklist for JIRA" and it seems quite interesting add-on. The Overview of this add-on on the marketplace says "Stop using Subtasks for simple tracking. Use Checklist instead. Ideal for Definition of Done, Acceptance Criteria and ToDo lists".

So what I understand is that this add-on aims to repace sub-tasks in JIRA with its checklist feature. I guess it makes sense. Sometimes you don't need to worry too much about the details of the sub-tasks and a scenario when certain tasks just needs to be done without worrying too much about their details. Like recurring activities, to-do or checklist of things for a particular activity.

Let us take a look at this add-on.

1. Install the add-on as you would normally do from the "Find new add-ons".
2. Create a new custom field of type "Checklist". It is like a normal Select list field when creating. I named the field "Simple Checklist".
3. Add this field on the screen.
4. Checklist options can have their own status - "Not Applicable", "In Progress" and "Blocked". The person working on the issue can also add more items in the checklist. I need to check the permissions for this.
5. There is a flag for the options to set them as Mandatory.
6. Once all the options are checked the overall status of the custom field will be displayed as "COMPLETED".
7. Once all the options are checked the overall status of the custom field will be displayed as "ALL MANDATORY"
8. There are some useful JQL functions that can help the user to search for the issues based on the items in the checklist.
a. "Simple Checklist" = allItemsChecked(): Returns all the issues where this custom field has all the options checked.
b. "Simple Checklist" = allMandatoryItemsChecked(): Returns all the issues where this custom field has all the mandatory options checked.
c. "Simple Checklist" = checkedItem("Option 7") : Returns all the issues where this custom field has "Option 7" checked. This function will take only one argument.
d. "Simple Checklist" = uncheckedItem("Option 1"): Returns all the issues where this custom field has "Option 1" unchecked.

Checklist for JIRA

Another observations about this add-on

1. The options set up by the JIRA Administration for the custom field are displayed to the users but the user working on the ticket can add more options only for that specific issue. I could not find permission to control this i.e. stopping users from adding more options on the fly for that specific issue.
2. This custom field can be displayed in the "Issue Navigator" "List View".
3. The link to the documentation of this add-on was broken on the marketplace listing.
4. The new items that are added by the user can be reordered. Only the new items though.
5. Use @username and dd/mm/yyyy in the option and the syntax will be changed for these options. Though the @username will not be a link to the user name. It will just display a user icon in front of the name but the username can be invalid. It think it more for the syntax rather than functionality.
6. I don't think more statuses can be added

Further Configurations

When you configure the custom field there will be some further configurations that can be done on the custom field.

1. On the main Configure Custom Field there will an option to set "Discretionary Options". Basically all the Options that are added in the custom field will be mandatory but here you can check which Option (Value) you want to be Optional. (little weird english here :))
2. Click on Edit Parameters to change more configurations. These will allow you to change the number of Options to be displayed on the issue, emphasize mandatory items and few more helpful configurations. You can also specify which Project Roles can edit this field.

Conclusion: Overall I like this add-on. Although the use cases are not convincing in some scenario where this can checklist thing can be achieved by just using a Custom Field. The JQL functions are quite useful and bring value to this add-on. The add-on works both on JIRA Cloud and Server. There is also a Data Center and JIRA Service Desk compatibility.

Checklist for JIRA version: 3.1.13
JIRA: 7.4.0

Missing Drupal - will try Drupal 8 now!

I think I have not installed any fresh Drupal setup in the past 2 years. What a shame! I used to love Drupal. For the past 2 years I am 100% focused on Atlassian tool set, which I thought is a wise decision. You can't do everything at the same time and it is nearly impossible to get really good in one thing without letting go the other. I like JIRA as well, it is amazing tool and the Atlassian ecosystem is amazing. I first got the opportunity to work on JIRA when I was working for Alcatel-Lucent. It has been 8 years I think when I first worked on JIRA. I was given a task to manage users in JIRA. I used to hate it and the the interface was not really great. At that time I was totally into Drupal and I was making comparisons. Of course both are for different purposes but when you have a decent level of expertise working on a web based tool that can be configured, you draw comparisons. My initial work was just to manage users and nothing much. Later on I was given some tasks to make some configuration changes in JIRA. Like creating new custom fields, adding them on screens, attaching it to the projects. At that time I was managing www.ggsipu.info which was one of the biggest and only source of information for students seeking information about IP University Delhi. I used to spend hours making that site better and more useful. I learned working on Drupal on that site and when I started diving more into JIRA world I realised that JIRA is actually a very smart tool. The way things are configured in it is really powerful.

I love building solutions. When I used to work on Drupal I was not really making websites. I was building a solution around it. I understood the architecture of Drupal and how it works. That knowledge along with my passion to build solutions was my plus point. After few months of working JIRA I was liking it. In the year 2009 - 2010, JIRA was not that mature as it is now but I think the fundamentals and the concepts were same as today. I have to admit that I tried JIRA only because it was part of my job, otherwise I was mostly into open source tools. I tried several open source applications and could never find one that can satisfy my needs. Project Management has always been my core interest. I used to work as Project Coordinator in Alcatel-Lucent and also in Kaplan, my company prior to Alcatel-Lucent. I am a certified Microsoft Project Server Administrator, I set it in the company, then I also build a very powerful tool in Excel with the help of VBA to do some project management. Later in the company with the help of 6 interns we build a custom project management and competency management tool. Later I was also managing my own projects in Sparxsys. At the time when I was learning JIRA I was well versed with what is expected from any project management tool.

I loved the way JIRA can be customized and any process can be mapped on top of it. The idea of add-ons was something that excited me. Just like Drupal. The only bad thing was that everything was paid but I realized later in life that you can't always get the best things for free.

In the past 2 years I have been doing more and more Atlassian Consultation work and I will be honest. Money wise it is far better than Drupal. However I do miss working on it. Just because of Drupal all of it was possible, even before Drupal I was doing freelancing services on various things but none of it was good enough to give me enough leverage and courage to start your own company from absolute zero. I am little biased towards Drupal and these days my bread, butter and beer is coming only from Atlassian tool but I have decided to get back to Drupal. To start with I will probably upgrade this site to Drupal 8. In fact most of my sites are still running. I will make it my weekend project to upgrade them to Drupal 8 or to the latest Drupal 7 at least.

Weekend is almost here and I will surely work on it.

Bye

Atlassian Certified JIRA Administrator - Ravi Sagar

So yesterday I cleared the JIRA Administration Certification. Honestly I feel good about it but I don’t think we need a piece of paper to prove that you have expertise on a particular tool. JIRA is just a tool and I have been working on it for several years, implementing it for companies of different sizes. Having this certification might help in getting more business but I know that clients usually look for your experience in similar deployment. They will feel convinced if you have done something like that in a different company of similar domain. It makes them feel good and comfortable in hiring you. Atlassian started this certification because there was a request from the market and there is no harm in that.

Clearing Atlassian Certified JIRA Admininstration exam is not easy. I think only those people who have been working 100% on JIRA as part of their job for the last 2-3 years can clear it, of course there are exceptions but this is just my feeling. So if you are totally new to JIRA and just started learning it, so don’t bother about this certification. You won’t be able to clear it easily and waster money, it is a costly certificaiton. There are exceptions but still it is quite difficult. This test is meant to test your experience and how you would handle a situation in the best possible way. There could be more than one correct answer to some question but you need to select the one which is most efficient and requires least amount of configuration. There are questions on almost every aspect related to JIRA Administration and you can start reading the official documentation to get started or you can also read my boo - Mastering JIRA 7 (self promotion)

Lot of people contact me for trainings and they just want to clear the test. Well first of all they should not bother about the test but if you are confident that you have enough JIRA knowledge and you really want to get certified then I will start a separate blog post on that sharing the tips and topics that will help you for the test. I just cleared the test yesterday and I was anyways never planning to do it but since I have done it now so now I don’t mind sharing my experience. In fact for someone who is already working on JIRA for couple of years, it should be just 2 days of additional effort going through the exam topics and reading the official Atlassian JIRA documentation.

Atlassian Certified JIRA Administrator

This is my official badge with a link to my certificate.

What else, well lot of work these days, I don't like it really. Sometimes I like doing nothing for many days in a row. I miss those days when I did nothing for many weeks. It is good to just relax sometimes. Not sure when will I be able to do that again. I haven't cycle at all recently. I haven't ran at all and I have not worked out as well. Winters are almost over now. It is officially spring time and sun has been really considerate for the past two days.

Sunshine after many many days
Sunshine in London

I hope it stays sunny and clear like.

Why you should bootstrap your startup

These days everyone is talking about startups and entrepreneurship. It is quite cool to start a company, build a product and get funded. I am writing this blog based on my own experiences that how I am able to run a company successfully for several years and why you too don't need a funding.

So you have decided that you want to start a company, it is a topic of another discussion and I will write more about it but you should always think twice, thrice and ten time before starting a company and you should have solid reasons for that. Now coming back to the topic why you should not take any funding and why you don't even need it in first place. One thing I feel is very important for all the wannabee entrepreneurs is to answer whether they are starting a company to gain something for themselves or to give back something to the community and society as a whole. In my case I had very strong reasons to start something on my own. I never got satisfaction (technical) in any company work wise. Except my last company my managers and colleagues in previous companies were not technically sound as I am and I never really enjoyed working in company of non intelligent/smart people. May be I am little harsh here but this is just the fact for me and I always wanted to do something cutting edge or at least do something were I have control over my work so eventually I know where my effort is going and the money that you earn working for someone is good and decent but there is always a saturation after few years. More than anything else I always wanted to do something on my own. May it is the way you are brought up. Money was never really the concern for me. I was earning decent salary and but I could never give my 101% on my job. For me starting a company was always about myself and personal gains. I never really wanted to do something for the world. I have always been quite selfish person. I do everything for myself. I could not imagine even now how people can spend 12 hours in traveling and working for years and they don't get much in return. They miss out time with their family and they sacrifice major part of their lives. I knew from the very beginning that I will eventually do everything for myself only.

So before you even think about getting funded you should have the reason to start a company very clear because getting funded depends on that reason.

Now why people seek funding. This is my opinion.

1. It is cool to get funded.
2. You will get respect from other after getting funded.
3. You need money to sustain your company.
4. You want to hire more people to work in your company.
5. You will get rich after getting funded.
6. You and your company will get famous

Technically all these seem like valid reason to seek funds but you should keep in mind that someone will give you money in return of control/stake of your company. You will not be free to do whatever you want. You will loose authority over your company.

For a moment lets go back to the reason why you want to start a company and for whom you want to do it and think again about these points above. Getting funded is sometimes really need because you may want to scale up your already running successful business but these days I see people think that will build something after getting funded. I think it is stupid to jump in the funding process with just an idea or prototype. Recently I also came across people who want to be like serial entrepreneurs, they want to start with an idea, develop prototype, launch and seek funding all within a span of few months and if that doesn't work, do everything again with a new idea. I think this is again very stupid. One should spent sometime in the market, at least few years. Nothing really happens in few months. When I met these people I ask them again the reason why they want to start the company in first place and they could not convince myself or even themselves. They just want to look cool.

I realised this a little late in my career that earning money is probably the easiest thing that one can do. If you have the skill then you will find a market for it. I think everyone who is working for someone as an employee and frustrated in life can do something outside their job to earn money and which is again starting a business only but you need a good reason to start a company. It is not like you wake up one day and start a business. Your reason to do something on your own should be very solid. In case you are not happy with your job then you probably need another job.

There is no shortcut
Do you know that I have worked in 10 companies in my career? I changed many jobs until I found the one that was somehow not bad for me and I stayed their for my last 6.5 years. I have been freelancing since my college days. I started taking small projects back in 2002, so when I started my company in 2010, I had already worked in the market for 8 years. I started with Visual Basic projects then Linux consultation and training and then I started doing Excel VBA work before moving to web development. I started working in 2003 and did job for almost 12 years. Starting from 2002 till 2015 for almost 13 years I was working almost 7 days a week, After my job hours, I would work on my projects and I got married, had kid and also managed to live a normal life but it required lot of discipline and extreme hard work. I had very strong reason to work hard continuously for 12 years. I sacrificed a lot, I hardly took family vacations and spent time with my friends but it was all worth it now. I did all this because I just wanted to reach a point where I can easily leave my job. May be in your case you need to give at least 5 years but I do not understand why people expect magic to happen in few months. There are no shortcuts. If you do not have the determination to work hard then you are probably better with your job. I did all this and gained a lot now. At this point of time I am of course generating more revenue, I have regular clients, big clients and we are the best in what we do. It took us 12+ years, so what. If I include my freelancing time then I am in the market for 14 years now. That is a lot of time.

Seeking funds in the very beginning is for losers who don't know what they want in life and they just want to follow others. You should first start a business, start generating revenues and seek funding only when you want to scale up. By the time you are running a company successfully you will probably not worry about getting funds. You will find ways to scale up yourself without external inflow of money. I am by no means highly successful business but being a 6 people company we are making quite an impact in the market, we are one of the most sought after Atlassian consultants in India and whole Asia pacific for that matter. We have been into Drupal development since the beginning and have developed expertise for Non Profit Organizations. All this is done by just 6 people. We do not have a fancy turnover to showcase to other but we are quite content and happy about our work. We are growing steadily revenue wise, client wise and we hire more people only when we really need to, not for the sake of it.

In the past I did have low time and thought of winding up everything and going back to comfortable job but I never could do that, not because I am emotionally attached to the company but because I am used to earning a lot more money in less time now. No job could pay me the money that I am earning now. I worked hard for it and I want to grow more from here now. I live a pretty humble life but I enjoy earning money. It gives me high and I feel good and happy. I may have become greedy but we have developed a skill set and people need us. So why not get the most out of it.

So coming back to the topic that you should think first about the reason to start a company and for whom you are doing it - yourself or for the society. One should take funds only after you are running a successful company but not in the beginning. You will loose the focus right in the very beginning. One should start with the ambition to learn something, one should focus on earning money from the very first year and stay in the market for few years then decide that do you really need more money or not. May be someone will give you money based on just an idea and a stupid prototype but it is like begging someone to support you. Why should you take money from someone when you don't exist anywhere in the market. I think one should stay in the market and run the company for at least 3-5 years before even thinking about getting funds. In Sparxsys we are primarily into services and we have had few successful products in the market, we will probably build more products this year too and based on my experience I don't think I will ever think about seeking funds. There is no fun in it for me. I find it shameful asking someone to give me money and finally one should learn about running a company. You run a company for 5 years and you will learn far more than any graduate from A grad business school.

If you want to get in touch with me to share your experiences then you can write to me at ravi [at] sparxsys [dot] com. May be we can learn from each other.

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