Company culture and transparency are two important aspects of Atlassian. That’s why we’d like to introduce you to various staff members though the Inside Atlassian Minds series. In this interview, let me introduce you to Brendan Humphreys.
Brendan came on board the development team when Atlassian and Cenqua joined forces last year. He focuses on Crucible and Clover. In this interview Brendan reveals the best dev tool, an underground chat forum at Atlassian, differences between the Cenqua and Atlassian cultures and more. Here’s a snippet:

Clover helps determine what a test is actually testing. What’s the most off-key code you’ve discovered, thanks to Clover?
“Off-key”?? Who wrote these questions? There’s no magic around code coverage. It’s not a silver bullet for software defects. It’s just one of a number of tools a developer can use to improve their testing by getting detailed feedback from a test run. Ultimately you need to treat your test code with equal importance as your application code. Clover’s aim is to provide as much insight into the testing effort as possible, so that writing meaningful tests becomes an easier thing for developers.

And that’s just one question! Continue reading…


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Image_Brendan.png In a nutshell, what’s your job history? Why choose development?
I’ve mowed lawns, sold fridges and worked in a scuba store, but not all at the same time. The first computer I owned was a Commodore 64. poke 770,0. I started playing with Java in 1995 but my first serious job as a Java developer was at Bell Labs in Sydney in 1998.
You joined us when Atlassian and Cenqua joined forces last year. How do the two cultures compare?
We (Cenqua) were a tiny company — just 7 people. That meant most of us were handling lots of stuff way beyond normal development: marketing, support, accounting, general crapola. This was good and bad. It meant we moved slower in some ways (we had limited bandwidth for development) but faster in others (decisions can and were made as needed, without the requirement of determining the “stakeholders”, organsing meetings, getting management approval, etc.).
Overall moving to Atlassian has been a great thing, because we can focus on feature development. The meetings took some time to get used to though. 🙂
Your official job title is “NerdHerder”. What does that entail?
Until we can get the electrodes wired into their seats, I’m forced to pace around my team with a big stick.
What is an example day in your footsteps?
Pacing. Stick.
What’s the most ‘extreme’ programming you’ve ever done?
The groundbreaking work I did on The Commentator was probably my finest hour. All coded while sitting on a PairOn of course.
What would you most like to see in an Atlassian product?
There is still plenty of potential to make our applications share more data, combining it and cross-referencing in clever ways that allow for interesting cross-product reporting and functionality. We’ve made some great progress in this area (the awesome FishEye/Crucible plugin for JIRA is one example), but there are many more opportunities: When the seat electrodes are finally fitted, whoever breaks the Bamboo build will sure know about it!
From the minute you log on in the morning until the end of your workday, you are in a constant chat forum (aka “TeaParty”) with other developers. What do you discuss? Is it more helpful or distracting?
Actually, the chat doesn’t stop outside normal office hours. TeaParty is a little hack we put together back in the Cenqua days to keep the team talking to each other across multiple locations and timezones. It’s a simple, single-room chat server that works over IM. We used to run IRC but people got sick of firing up an IRC client. Is it distracting? I’ll answer that in a second… just gotta join a TeaParty flame war about the link between coding in Java and Global Warming…
Any advice when it comes to commenting in Crucible, the peer review tool?
Peer reviews can become pretty lively, and certainly nerdy. It’s good to remember the goal is to improve the code you’re reviewing, and not to score points off your workmates. On the flip side, it helps to keep in mind when submitting your code for review, that every comment made is a learning opportunity. Still stings a bit when one of the graduates finds a glaring bug in your code. 🙂
Clover helps determine what a test is actually testing. What’s the most off-key code you’ve discovered, thanks to Clover?
“Off-key”?? Who wrote these questions? There’s no magic around code coverage. It’s not a silver bullet for software defects. It’s just one of a number of tools a developer can use to improve their testing by getting detailed feedback from a test run. Ultimately you need to treat your test code with equal importance as your application code. Clover’s aim is to provide as much insight into the testing effort as possible, so that writing meaningful tests becomes an easier thing for developers.
Image_Brendan_sliding.pngWhat application drives you nuts?
I’m sure if I had the time I could write a kick-ass mail client. Pretty much all of them suck with huge volumes of mail. I’ve been driven to using gmail for all my mail now, which is kinda okay, but I think a rich client implemented properly would be superior.
Most detested code error? Why?
I don’t think I have a most-detested bug, but the ones that are hard to reproduce and/or track down are the most frustrating. These include memory leaks, multi-threading bugs and the like. MT bugs are particularly insidious because they can sometimes manifest themselves only on certain platforms or with very specific data conditions, and the very act of trying to debug the problem might make them go away.
Is agile development a benefit or a joke?
Agile processes are fine if adopted in a pragmatic way. Just spare me the dogma.
Speaking of religion, Emacs or vi?
Emacs keybindings are wired in my brain from sleepless nights many years ago whilst finishing my thesis in latex.
Latex!?
Steady on, it’s not what your thinking.
Best dev tool ever? Why?
Aside from Clover? Seriously, if I had to single out a tool, it would be IntelliJ IDEA, a serious productivity booster. Having said that, I still have Emacs running most days on my laptop.
Mac or pc?
With the arrival of OSX, the Mac become the platform of choice for me. A slick interface with the full power of a decent unix implementation under the hood. This might have to change soon if Apple don’t pull their finger out and release Java6 for OSX.
You’ve traveled around a lot. Where to, exactly?
Australia, North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
Many thanks for your participation, Brendan. Keep on herding!

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