We had our Tech Brek 00000001 reboot last fortnight and it was great to be starting Tech Breks up again!

Tech Breks are something Mayfly run every fortnight. One of the team shows and tell something technical, and you get a break(fast)... egg sandwiches, bacon sandwiches, whatever takes your fancy. We've changed the format slightly, so instead of individual blog posts on each tool, we'll be combining one post for all topics covered. I chaired the last Tech Brek, and once our breakfast from Philpotts had arrived I kicked off with a quick insight and demo of the recently released Umbraco as a Service (UAAS).

 Umbraco

UAAS is a relatively new offering designed for Umbraco CMS builders who want Umbraco to handle the installation, upgrade and deploying of their Umbraco changes. UAAS has two pricing tiers, a Standard and a Support Plan. Every UAAS project includes team management, automated upgrades, best-practice deployment workflows and more. 

We've used it, and we really like it. It means less maintenance, always running the latest and most secure version of Umbraco (as it automatically handles upgrades to the latest patch version), and single-click releases. Deployments become a dream, and the beauty is that everything is source-controlled from code to content. UAAS also enables us to collaborate more easily between teams. One use case is to be able to have the front-end devs working on the HTML, CSS and JS changes whilst the back-end dev team are busy updating the code and CMS content modelling. All of the devs can then push changes via git and then quickly see the changes on the Umbraco dev environment.

 Twitter

Next up, Jon Richards demoed a Twitter tool he wrote to follow and tweet people. It used the previous Twitter API so he needs to rewire it but it helps him to manage his followers for viral campaigns. The new version uses the LinqToTwitter API.

 pa11y.org

After this, Mike showed us an automated accessibility testing tool pa11y.org. There are numerous tools out there that help with accessibility testing, but many of these look at things in the perspective of code. The problem with this is that there are often instances where the code can be fine, but a screen reader or other factors could interpret valid code in a strange way. Pa11y.org is an automated accessibility testing tool that runs several accessibility checks over your page to check for common issues with both valid and invalid code. Happily, it is free, open source and self-hosted. You can monitor as many sites as you need, and run tests automatically every day. Graphs and CSVs are possible, and we're going to have a play with this on some of our current builds. 

 StyleCop

For the last few weeks, whilst simultaneously on project work, James has been experimenting with how we can most productively use StyleCop within our projects. StyleCop is a tool to analyse C# source code in order to enforce a set of style and consistency rules within the project. It can be run from inside Visual Studio or integrated into an MSBuild project. ​James is using the StyleCop MSBuild nuget package in order to use StyleCop within the project itself. 

The cons of this approach are:

  • No GUI/Visual Studio Integration
    Cannot edit the settings easily (this may be considered a positive depending on your point of view.)
  • You have to build to check the code

These cons are easily solved by installing the Visual StyleCop extension for Visual Studio.

Pros:

  • Same StyleCop settings for everyone
  • StyleCopy settings are version controlled
  • No need to install any extensions for Visual Studio
  • No configuration is needed. New developers can just pull down the code and get started​

Using this within the project means that we can build up our own set of "Mayfly rules" and update the file to keep it within source control, to ensure we are all consistently following the same set of rules across the team and our code reviews and pull requests. 

Stories on Board

Had was up next with her demo of the beta software tool, StoriesOnBoard. This is a free tool that enables you to map user stories. We've tried it with the agency Sift Digital on a project we're collaborating with them on, and we've found it very helpful to quickly add stories to a product backlog. At first we added the stories physically, and afterwards we can quickly and easily import them into Stories on Board. It then enables you to export to CSV and very quickly and simply view, amend and understand the entire product backlog before the work is synced in real-time with your project management tool of choice (ours is JIRA, but it also allows Trello or Pivotal Tracker). 

 

StoriesOnBoard

It is free, and really livens up a flat product backlog from a spreadsheet (can be tiring to look at) into a User Story Map. You can also maintain multiple story boards and edit them as and when you need to. 

 Confluence

And finally, with just minutes of our half hour to go, Dean showed us the Atlassian tool, Confluence. The beauty of this tool is that it integrates with JIRA and Bitbucket, two of our key development tools in Mayfly. Confluence is a Team Collaboration software tool to enable us to create and organise with our team. We can use this to create company templates and ultimately develop a company Intranet or "wiki". We have templates for release notes, meeting notes and holiday handovers. The tool allows us to raise and track tasks, produce reports and centralise all our documentation into one accessible portal. We can implement security measures, produce PDF's for clients. The eventual idea is for us to be able to trace all of our requirements right the way through to our initial scoping documentation.

 

I'll be passing the baton to our resident Mike Bull next time, so stay tuned!