Gibe and the "Joel Test"

One of the things I really want to make sure we do at Gibe is make sure we're writing great code. I don't want any buggy as hell, written by developers a couple of weeks before go live who are doing 14 hour days, barely tested, held together by blind luck and duct tape, we'll fix in the mythical "phase 2" code.

One of the things I really want to make sure we do at Gibe is make sure we're writing great code. I don't want any buggy as hell, written by developers a couple of weeks before go live who are doing 14 hour days, barely tested, held together by blind luck and duct tape, we'll fix in the mythical "phase 2" code. A quick indicator of the likely quality of code a team is putting together is where that team's company scores on the Joel Test (if you've never read anything on that site have a browse, he writes some great stuff). Over the next few months I plan on keeping a log of where we are on the test with an aim of getting 10 points covered pretty quickly, and then working on the next couple as we grow. Our main objective is to come up with a great place to work, and an environment that is condusive to getting things done. Something that is hard to actually achieve based on previous places I've worked. Basically trying to be the opposite of Initech in Office Space.

Office Space

This may seem silly as our development team consists of me and a loose knit group of freelancer/contractors. That might be true but we plan on adding at least one developer to the team fairly soon. I think as the team grows it'll be easier if most of these things are in place so that's just the way it is rather than letting them get used to one way of working and gradually switching it over the next couple of months.

So where are we on the test currently? Lets have a run through

1. Do you use source control?

Definately one of the most important items on the test, if you are writing software you must have source control. We use Subversion, and I've used CVS it's not as good but works reliably. I've also heard good things about Mercurial.

So that's 1 point.

2. Can you make a build in one step?

I'm going to put Finalbuilder and the Finalbuilder server in place to do this. Finalbuilder is great, it comes with tons of built in task support for doing stuff like checking out of source control, copying, uploading, testing, and pretty much anything you can think of. And the server lets you trigger these builds through a website. The plan is to be able to deploy any site we've developed in pretty much one click and it'll make sure the right web.config goes up etc. Basically it'll eliminate most of the chances of someone forgetting a step when uploading and breaking a live site.

Not yet, but is coming, 0 points.

3. Do you make daily builds?

Nope, 0 points.

4. Do you have a bug database?

Yes, we're using Jira. I've tried Fogbugz and Bugzilla and always come back to Jira; it's got a nice interface and does everything we need. Our clients get access to Jira so they can report issues straight in and then see what's happening with their issues.

1 point.

5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?

Yes we definately make sure we're getting the bugs out of way before we start adding new features, seems crazy to build on top of known buggy code.

1 point.

6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?

Yes, definately, 1 point

7. Do you have a spec?

Yes, We write specs for pretty much everything we do, even if it's just being used internally.

1 Point

8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?

I'd say yes - we keep the office mostly quiet with just a little background music.

1 Point

9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?

This one is tricky, we definately get the best kit we can afford, but it's not quite the best money can buy. I think quad core, 8Gb of RAM and dual widescreen monitors is pretty close to the best you can buy.

The plan is to get the best we can afford, we're a startup and not made of money. That said, on Joel's point about not torturing your employees, I've worked for fairly large agency where there was a fortnightly email that went round complaining about the quantity of milk being consumed, and that someone is using the office milk for their cereal. This was never going to aid morale or give anyone that feeling of being valued, when you get moaned at about an additional £5 of milk each week.This was particularly demoralising when the suspected cause of the additional milk usage was that half the employees had been donating an additional 3 hours plus each night for the last couple of weeks to get a new site out of the door!

1 Point

10. Do you have testers?

Not full time - we swap code internally and test as thoroughly as we can, but we don't have dedicated testers yet.

0 Points.

11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?

Yes, candidates will have to write code in their interviews - I've also been looking at doing an online test to send to potential candidates to screen them initially. Think I'd have to make the time quite tight for the test as they'll have access to Google.

1 Point.

12. Do you do hallway usability testing?

At the minute I'd say no, although we do work with usability experts for some of our sites. It should be as simple as mailing round a link and getting everyones feedback so this is something we'll definately implement pretty quickly.

0 Points.

So that's 8 points so far, not bad. I think we should be able to add a couple of points on pretty quickly.

About the Author

Steve Temple, Technical Director and co-founder of Gibe

Steve is the super brain behind the development of our major projects. With over 20 years of commercial experience, Steve is an expert in .NET, Umbraco and Microsoft technologies. Steve is also an Umbraco Certified Master and Microsoft MCSD