What Mario Kart has to do with mob programming

Proudly written by team UNO

This is how we do at UNO!

We can proudly announce that de Volkskrant is the first DPG Media brand to use our new content planner! Wait, what? UNO, de Volkskrant, content planner …? Okay, we hear ya! A small introduction:

  • UNO is our squad name, we’re 5 software engineers working at DPG Media
  • de Volkskrant is a DPG Media brand and well-known Dutch newspaper
  • The content planner is a tool used by all editors at DPG Media to schedule their editorial content. At UNO, we are responsible for this tool and the past year we’ve been building a new content planner which we are rolling out gradually.

De Volkskrant was the first editorial staff to use our new content planner. With the launch, we decided to go to Amsterdam (our HQ is Antwerp) to co-work with the editors of de Volkskrant. Just by being there and listening to their needs, 13 improvements instantly went into production without any user noticing it. This was possible thanks to:

  • Our way of working: mob programming
  • Our DevOps approach: the fastest way to production

In this article we want to share a small recap of our way of working and some tips! Hopefully, you’ll enjoy this short read 😉

The fastest way to production

At UNO, we don’t work individually in sprints. We practice mob programming and work together on the issue that’s been labeled prio. In short, we’ve got five pairs of eyes looking at one issue to solve. Every one of us has his own specialization (front-end, back-end, Quality Assurance (QA), …) and we combine our expertise by working linear and simultaneously. This is where we differ from other development teams.

By working individually and asynchronously on different issues, a circular effect can emerge. A developer has to wait for QA and vice versa, has to switch context when working on several issues, which eventually slows down the process to production.

In our way of working, QA is done from the moment a JIRA-ticket enters the in progress lane, we have one focus and are always aware of the full context of the issue we’re working on. In team, we decide whether our solution has the right quality for production. In addition, we’ve taken our deployment process into account from the first moment we started building the new content planner.

All our apps run in the cloud, more specifically AWS. Diving deeper into the technical side of our continuous delivery on AWS would take us too far of topic, but if you want to know more about our DevOps approach, feel free to comment or contact us!

But bottom line, going to prod is daily business for us, so when the editors of de Volkskrant actually started using the new content planner, it felt like just another day at the office 😀

Of course it wasn’t, because they were the first actual users, so we went camping for two days at the editorial office of de Volkskrant to make sure everything went well.

Camping at de Volkskrant

Seeing our brand new content planner on all the computer screens was pretty cool. But watching all editors just doing their job and using the new tool without complaining or protesting, was really awesome! It meant we did a good job, but improvements are always right around the corner and the reason we went there was to help the editors with their questions and needs concerning the new content planner. In just one day we made 13 changes without any active user noticing the push to production.

That’s a huge improvement for the editorial staff: before they had to wait 3 or 4 days to get things done, now it’s almost instant. This is the result of us mob programming and our efficient deployment process.

Now, we know our way of working isn’t the holy grail and will not work for everyone and every type of job. But if you do want to start mob programming, we’d like to round-up with some useful tips!

11:30 a.m. is the only deadline we know

  • The ideal mob team is 4 to 5 people
  • Trust and an open mind are crucial to creating a productive team dynamic
  • Take enough time to get to know each other and adapt to this new way of working, for us it took almost 3 weeks to get the routine down
  • Make sure you change regularly the one behind the keyboard
  • Don’t let the specialist code the part (s)he is specialized in, but let him/her guide and support the team member who wants to learn or improve his/her skills on that matter
  • When you’re working full time on one issue, don’t forget to get a break. At UNO, 11:30 a.m. is the only deadline we know … it’s our daily Mario Kart time!

Hopefully our insights and tips were useful to you. If you have any questions on our way of working, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Greets, team UNO !

We may look like a media group, but we are really a tech company. We are the tech team behind the digital products of all DPG Media’s brands and internal apps!

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