Recent Reading

17 Feb 2021

It has been a while since I wrote a post on this site. I have a few ideas for topics to write about in the future but I shall let them percolate for the time being.

Meanwhile, I thought I would write a brief post to share what I have been reading lately that relates to my work.

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash


Retrospective Antipatterns

By Aino Vonge Corry

Aino is a long-time facilitator of retrospectives. Whilst she hails from Denmark, I recall hearing her speak at a YOW! conference in Sydney several years ago.

As someone who has facilitated and participated in retrospectives for many years, I’m keen to learn how to make them more effective. So I’m grateful to Aino for sharing the knowledge she has gained from her experience.

Somewhat ironically, Retrospective Antipatterns is arranged in a pattern. Aino presents 24 antipatterns, divided into three parts: structural, planning and people. Each part contains eight antipatterns. Is it a coincidence that there is a picture of an octopus on the cover of the book?

Anyway, I’ve read the first three chapters and am keen to work my way through the remainder of the book. Unfortunately I haven’t had the opportunity to be involved in any retrospectives for a while but hopefully that will change soon.

The Culture Code

By Daniel Coyle

Whilst I haven’t read Daniel Coyle’s The Talent Code, I recall hearing it recommended in a conference talk a few years ago. So, when I was curious to find a good book about what makes for a successful organisation, I was attracted to reading what Daniel had to say about culture.

Throughout my career as a software developer, which now spans 37 years, I have firmly been of the opinion that people are more challenging than technology. Moreover, I have thrived when I’ve worked within a well-functioning team. However, that has not always been the case. I can recall some stages in my career where, to me, there were significant problems with the organisation’s culture.

Daniel lays out advice about how a group can develop three crucial skills: building safety, sharing vulnerability and establishing purpose. I’ve nearly finished reading the chapters in the first section and am impressed by what I have read so far. Once I’ve finished the book, I anticipate delving back into it to refresh my memory on Daniel’s advice about building a healthy culture. It’s a vital topic for any workplace.

Succeeding with OKRs in Agile

By Allan Kelly

We’ve been attempting to use Objectives and Key Results at work recently. I must admit I have been somewhat skeptical about how effective they have been. However, a few days ago I became aware of this book, which has been recently published in electronic form.

Having read Allan’s books Project Myopia and Continuous Digital, I was interested to learn that he had been moved to write a book about OKRs. I’ve only just started reading it but, knowing that it is based on Allan’s experience of how to create and deliver OKRs, I’m interested to read the rest of the book. Maybe then I’ll be more convinced of how helpful OKRs can be.


Elixir in Action, Second Edition

By Saša Jurić

I’ve been maintaining and enhancing an Elixir application at work for the last 18 months or so.

As I have built my knowledge about the application I have also found myself needing to delve into understanding the fundamentals of Elixir. This has been over and above understanding how Elixir implements functional programming. When needing to become more acquainted with the intricacies of Elixir’s GenServers, supervisors and fault-tolerance, for example, Elixir in Action has been an invaluable resource.

Adopting Elixir

By Ben Marx, José Valim and Bruce Tate

Whilst I haven’t got far into this book, I am sure that it is contains much good advice. The authors of Adopting Elixir, published in 2018, wrote the book to share their experiences and provide details “that are typically difficult to find for an emerging language”.

The book is divided into three parts, following adoption from concept to development and, finally, to production. I’ve been dipping into different chapters in the book, mostly concerned with production. Despite the fact that it’s three years since this book was written, I’m finding it valuable. For example, given that we are in the process of shifting the deployment platform for our application from Heroku to AWS, the book provides helpful explanations of the details of how a release is built, how the application is configured, and how it can be deployed using blue-green deployments.

Craft GraphQL APIs in Elixir with Absinthe

By Bruce Williams and Ben Wilson

Not so long ago at work I needed to develop a Proof of Concept API in our Elixir application. Given that we have used GraphQL elsewhere in our platform, I chose to develop an Elixir GraphQL API. This book proved to be extremely helpful.

Whilst the book goes into more detail than I needed, I appreciated how it guided me through the process of creating a schema module and a GraphQL query so that I could then demonstrate the API via GraphiQL.

In Closing

So there you have it. I’ve always valued reading books as a way of learning and this post gives you, dear reader, an idea of what I’ve been reading lately.

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