Great software delivery newsletters

I currently subscribe to a number of great newsletters around technology and software delivery. While the Fediverse is also a great place to pick up news and gossip I have found that there is something really valuable in having a regular curated round up of interesting articles. It may be no surprise that the consistently great newsletters are produced by people who are engaged in consultancy. I think they inevitably get exposed to trends and concerns in the industry and also can commit the time to writing up their thoughts and reflecting on their chosen content.

Pat Kua‘s Level Up focuses on technical leadership and tends to have good pieces around human factors, managing yourself and creating good systems for delivery. It also often has advice pieces for people coming into technical management or leadership.

John Cutler’s The Beautiful Mess focuses on Product but is also great on strategy and importantly is always focused on getting to a better product process by emphasising collaboration and breaking down barriers between functional silos. I also enjoy reading how he approaches putting together alternatives to roadmaps and strategy documents. I think he has the best sense on how to use things like metrics and North Stars.

Emily Weber writes Posts from Awesome Folk has a focus on management, leadership, consensus building and healthy organisation cultures. As the title suggests it offers a carefully curated selection of posts that are often longer form and are generally from expert practitioners.

Michael Brunton-Spall‘s Cyber Weekly is your one stop shop for news on security and analysis of the key issues of the day.

Simon Willison‘s newsletter is more recent and feels more like a very long blog that is getting pushed into the newsletter format. Despite this Simon is one of the most creative and independent developers you could read and he was early into the LLM and generative AI and has lots of interesting insight into what you can do with these models and what works and what doesn’t. He’s also an (intimidating) role model for what independent, solo devs can achieve.

I have a lot of other subscriptions (and indeed a lot of people seem to be starting newsletters currently) so I will probably need to do a follow up to this post in a couple of months if I see that people are posting consistently useful things. One general thing to point out is that if I’m working on a particular technology (like Django, Go or React) I’ll often subscribe to the weekly community news roundups to get a feel for what’s happening. However I find the volume of links and items is overwhelming if you don’t have a specific interest or purpose in reading through them so I relegate them to RSS when I’m not actively working with them and have a more occasional catchup.


Control expressions are functions too

I am kind of simultaneously learning Clojure and Scala, the former through the London Clojure Dojo (come and join us) and the latter through work. It is an interesting experience but I am very glad that Clojure is part of the mix as it helps understand a lot of things that are seem strange in Scala.

In Clojure everything is essentially either a function or a sequence. It is therefore not surprising to see that an if statement works like a function.

(if false 1 2)

Evaluating the above in a Clojure REPL results in the answer 2: if is a function that evaluates its first argument returning the second parameter if the evaluation is true, the third if false.

The same is true of Scala, with the additional wrinkle that if the different clauses evaluate to different types you could be in type hell. Despite its superficial similarity to Java syntax it is in fact quite different and you can compose it just as you would any other function.

1 + (if(true) 2 else 3)

Evaluated in a Scala REPL gives the result 3.

Scala 2.8 seems much better about making everything return a value (and hence act like a function), val and for will both now return Unit, which is not useful but prevents the compiler moaning.

This kind of thing is much easier to appreciate and learn in a pure functional language than in Scala where you never really know whether something is going to operate in a functional or object-orientated way.


Discovering Scala

Over the last two days I have been giving Scala a quick whirl and I have to say out of all the new languages (functional and otherwise) I have been looking at recently only Erlang is anywhere near as exciting. There is a small fifteen page tutorial and after finishing it I immediately thought: “I want to see more of that”.

I can’t put my finger on it at the moment but I imagine its the fact that it seems perhaps more familiar due to the Java background. The functional syntax is as confusing as any other functional language.

P.S. if you go through the short 15 page tutorial then there is a slight blip in the tutorial when case classes are introduced. All the code for the calculator example should be wrapped in an object block if you want it to work. I.e.

object Calculator {
... tutorial code