Programming in the pandemic - Perforce: In open source, ‘crowd’ is a positive

The Computer Weekly Developer Network examines the impact of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) on the software application development community.

With only a proportion of developers classified as key workers (where their responsibilities perhaps included the operations-side of keeping mission-critical and life-critical systems up and online), the majority of programmers will have been forced to work remotely, often in solitude. 

So how have the fallout effects of this played out?

This post comes from Justin Reock in his role as chief evangelist for open source software (OSS) & Application Programming Interface (API) management at Perforce Software.

Reock reflects upon the use of open source platforms, languages and related technologie in general in light of the Covid-19 global crisis and writes as follows…

In OSS, crowd is a positive

On the whole, I would argue that open source software has been invaluable during the pandemic.

Crowd-sourced software initiatives and hackathons, protein-folding peer-to-peer networks and foundation sponsorship have all been in play throughout the contagion… and many of these initiatives continue forwards.

GitHub has shown us that ‘commits’ held steady — or even increased — suggesting (if it is fair to measure that in terms of raw commits without considering quality) that developer productivity has held steady or even gone up.

For many developers, having a shared project and sense of community during a very isolating time for humanity has been uplifting and good for their spirits.  It’s a reminder that coding together is in fact a social activity, no different than any other collaborative and creative endeavour.

DevOps: reawaking & renaissance

Perhaps the biggest impact and fallout from this whole period of experiences (for programmers, operations staff and the wider software engineering community) will be the acceleration of transformation and DevOps initiatives within businesses.

So many have witnessed the resilience of businesses that have already undergone the DevOps transition (and even watched their profits soar) as we moved to online ordering, contactless delivery and more.

The CI/CD part of the DevOps makeover has always been about dealing with constant change. The mantra of ‘releases are hard, so release often’ embraces the notion that change is difficult, so organisations should make themselves really good at dealing with it.  That meant when the pandemic hit, the seams of our global digital twin were tested. Companies that were capable of quickly refactoring to online experiences, digital goods and other ‘conveniences’ have now become essential to carrying on a reasonable quality of life in the physical world. 

It is one thing to expect the unexpected, and it is quite another to design systems that thrive in unexpected conditions. Whatever requisite effort may need to be invested to achieve DevOps maturity in an organisation, the positive impact it can have to business longevity is now indisputable. 

Game (not quite) over

However, especially in segments of the industry that are highly collaborative such as gaming, quality and deadlines have suffered drastically…  and development teams have blamed it squarely on moving to a remote work model. 

NOTE: As a software change management specialist, Perforce has a particularly acute proximity with and close understanding of how games programmers work.

Even enabling employees to work from home was a challenge, as the hardware supply chain which we rely on to deliver our webcams, tablets, and laptops and other tech gear suffered major disruptions: so, all in all, there is no question that organisations, including open source communities, which had already taken steps towards transformation and remote work were able to continue operations smoothly, though not completely without impact. 

That said, the overall industry picture is not all rosy, with many segments that rely heavily on peer collaboration taking a hit in quality and productivity.

We hope, of course, for brighter future times for all.

Reock: Commit to commit dear developers, you know you want to.

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