I often find myself starting small projects, only to hit some kind of problem, my interest to wane, and progress to eventually grind to a halt; leaving it incomplete. This year I’ve really wanted to start getting things finished, or at least published in whatever state they happen to be, in the hope that it would motivate me to complete them.
There were a number of projects that I wanted to complete this year:
- Complete a tiny python CLI tool I’d written for importing photos into a structured hierarchy based on their EXIF data.
- Publish a Java library I’d written several years ago (for a previous plan to develop this site no less) that generates URL-friendly slugs from Strings.
- Get a personal site online. I’ve wanted somewhere to share things for a long time, and the idea of a statically generated site serverd from AWS particularly appealed.
Let’s review the state of each of these in turn:
This is a really tiny cli command I’d written to help my photo management process. Given a directory full of photos, the tool moves the photos into another directory structure, arranging them into a hierarchy by the date taken from the EXIF metadata.
The project was developed as it was to include a number of “interesting” techniques and technology choices, that I either don’t get to do much in my day-to-day work, or that are becoming an increasingly important part of my company’s work, including:
- GitLab CI - I didn’t want to have to be manually building such a small project, that long-term I’ll hopefully be changing infrequently, and GitLab CI is a continuous integration solution that is used increasingly at work.
- Semantic Release - I liked the idea of using structured commit messages, and also not having to decide what the current version of the application was. For a command that’s installed on user’s machines, I think calver could also be interesting, but for this project I chose semver.
- BDD (Or “Natual Language” scenario testing) - I’ve been aware of tools like Cucumber for a good long while now, but it’s not something I get to use at my job (our scenario testing framework uses tests written in standard Java). Using behave, I get to write tests in Gherkin, and maintain a human-readable collection of documents describing the current functionality.
I may still have plenty of features that I want to add to this tool, but I’ve really enjoyed exploring the Python ecosystem, and I’m proud of managed to at least get this far enough to get the beta published on pypi.
Originally, I was planning on writing my own Java-based static site generator with a web-accessible UI. A small part of that application was this library, that produced the URL-friendly slugs needed. I’ve never really produced a library before, and I wanted to keep this to core Java (at work, whilst we don’t use Spring or anything like that, we do use Guava fairly extensively). This was also the first time I got to experiment with (an at-the-time beta of) JUnit 5, and again, I used Cucumber JVM for BDD-style testing.
The basic functionality of this library is complete, but I really wanted to get it published on Maven central, and have proper CI set up for it. Getting onto Maven central is the current stumbling block (it’s a little more involved than I’d expected, especially if I don’t want to have to manually promote each release into the public repository), but I’m still really hoping to get this completed by the end of the year. The CI is mostly incomplete because I’m using an unfamiliar tool (Travis - chosen because this project is hosted on GitHub rather than GitLab, and also because I wanted to be able to compare a few different CI tools) and I think I’ve been a little bit over-ambitious (building and testing with a huge matrix of runtime versions) for my initial attempt - I’d still like to add some of this in later, but for now I think it’s best to just get something working. Again, this feels achievable before the end of the year.
And so the final thing that I want to finish this year is this site. As mentioned above, I’d originally wanted to write my own static-site builder, but I think that was too big a task in reality (It also wasn’t that interesting a project - a lot of it was gluing together existing libraries for parsing markdown and applying templating, and I kept finding myself getting distracted writing optimisations into caches, when my test-site only contained three or four posts… 🙄).
Eventually, I admitted defeat, and this was really the start of my realisation that just getting something finished was more important than getting something great started.
Using Jekyll isn’t necessarily what I wanted to be doing, and whilst I don’t have any real desire to learn about Ruby, it is at least a popular and widely-used tool, and I’m hoping to still be able to publish to Amazon S3 via some form of automated pipeline.
With any luck, I’ll have all of these projects completed by the end of the year, even if they’re not quite how I originally envisaged.