Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Thoughtworks Technology Radar

Free software, free books and Technology Radar. If you've sat any of my classes, you've heard me talk about those three things every time.

I have been reading Martin Fowler's writing for most of my IT training career and have found him practical, in-depth, and current. He also satisfies that craving for a little higher level analysis thinking that developer blogs don't always cover well enough exposing their lack of experience with other technologies and limiting their authority on changing my opinion.

The new edition of TR is out today. It's taken me years to work through some of the recommendations that they've put together in their think tank, ThoughtWorks, that are considered to be the cutting edge worth keeping abreast on. They also don't mind telling you when a technology is not worth your time. Both are worth my time to read and understand.

The trends highlighted in this issue are:

  • Falling boundaries - cloud development, co-location, perimeterless enterprise
  • Proven practices to areas that missed them - CSS frameworks, database migrations for NoSQL, etc.
  • Lightweight analytics
  • Infrastructure as code
The four major areas that are reviewed are
  • Techniques
  • Platforms
  • Tools
  • Languages & Frameworks


For me, being mostly a web developer, I was happy to see that the Adopt recommendations in the Techniques section were for mobile testing on mobile networks moving away from the fake simulators as well as using promises for asynchronous programming, giving assurance of feedback for us JavaScript/AJAX coders.

The next level of recommendation down from the Adopt level is the Trial level which should be approached with a little more thought. You see HTML5 storage replacing cookies and Mobile First here as well as responsive web design. I agree with all those because they're not total solutions to a problem. What's interesting is their lack of concern for exhaustive browser based testing in the Hold level which means don't worry about it.

For Windows and Powershell people, you'll be glad to know that Chef, Puppet and Octopus (automated deployment of ASP.NET apps without PowerShell)  to support infrastructure tasks has made Windows automation a much better choice.


Martin is following the NoSQL movement very closely and has put MongoDB as the choice for his Adopt level. CouchBase, Hadoop and BigQuery are down one level in Trial. Node.js is down there too probably as a technology too green to make it worth our while yet. But I'm waiting for their take on Polymer and Meteor. Also interesting in the next level up from the basement, Assess, is PhoneGap (Apache Cordova) and Zepto.js, the smaller relative to jQuery.

I wasn't surprised to see WS-* holding the bottom place in the platforms with REST taking over web services slowly but surely.


I'm using NuGet for .NET development and was happy to see it in the top level. Check out Chocolatey NuGet as well if you do Windows administration. Maven is on Hold.

I've been searching for that right observer component that Google's Angular.js, Knockout.js  or Ember.js cover but also includes the whole MV* framework thing which I have covered with either a Java or .NET web framework. Reactive extensions for .NET (RxJS) didn't fare too well in the Assess level. My choice here for a solution to the observer pattern could be ReactJS or RxJS. 

The one tool that surprised me was D3. I have been recommending Raphael for JavaScript charting and watching D3 some but it shows up now in the Adopt level due to better complementary libraries such as Rickshaw and Crossfilter.

Languages and Frameworks

CSS frameworks like SASS/SCSS and Compass were staying in the Adopt level. The web apps that are moving away from traditional client/server architecture have much to learn yet but many frameworks are beginning to have business value so that they show up on the Trial level. These are HTML5 for offline applications, JavaScript as a platform and JavaScript MV* frameworks. Twitter Bootstrap also shows up as an Assess. But Backbone.js  and handwritten CSS are as good as last year in the Hold level.

A surprising observation was that Team Foundation Server caused productivity problems as a version control system. ThoughtWorks recommends Git, Perforce, or Subversion instead. It's a good thing that Visual Studio works with Git.

And just when you thought analytics couldn't get any better than Google Analytics, they see great promise in the data set aggregation and AWS/Hadoop management of your billions of web hits with Snowplow Analytics.

I'm sure I've missed some recommendations and packages people are using such as that new fangled language Mel Tillis and Kenny Rogers started about a paralyzed vet's wife going in to town for the evening without him. But read through the assessment and mine the results for some great improvements to your technology stack.