“To such an extent does nature delight and abound in variety that among her trees there is not one plant to be found which is exactly like another; and not only among the plants, but among the boughs, the leaves and the fruits, you will not find one which is exactly similar to another. “
~ Leonardo DaVinci
DaVinci never stepped inside the produce section of a modern grocery store. The food we get today is horribly consistent. The store may have five kinds of apples, but any two of the same kind seem cloned from a mother apple locked in a factory vault somewhere.
A tradition from my childhood my family has recently adopted is the summer peach run. Growing up in south west Georgia we’d regularly stop at random road side stands and buy whatever produce they were selling. Regular fruits and vegetables like corn and peaches but other more colloquial varieties like butter beans and zipper peas as well.
Since I moved to Atlanta it’s become less frequent. We go to the farmers’ markets and occasionally we will find a road side stand in the north west suburbs where I reside, but the quality just isn’t the same. I’m starting to think that many of the road side stands up here are just reselling stuff they bought at the grocery store down the street.
A couple of summers ago my wife and I decided our kids were old enough to start visiting historical landmarks, as we both endured long summers of being educated against our will under the ruse of a road trip ourselves. Our first trip was to Andersonville, near Montezuma, GA. While there’s not much left of Andersonville itself, the story and the national POW museum (which is an international account throughout history) are worth stopping by should you be through middle Georgia.
When we passed a produce stand while driving home on some two lane back road I insisted we turn around. I new we were in the height of peach season and close to the orchards. Being close matters because the best peaches do not ship well.
The peaches they send off elsewhere are uniform in size and at a ripeness where they can survive the truck ride and some time on the shelf before they’re bought. We don’t have to worry so much about them going bad before we eat them because of this particular ripeness. In pursuit of this portability we have sacrificed taste. They won’t get ripe enough to rot but they won’t get ripe enough to really taste like a peach either.
This year we bought 75 pounds of peaches (those are my kids with the actual peaches in the picture). At this volume they end up being pretty cheap, which is good given the high rate of attrition. They’re late off the tree and inconsistent in age and size more than ripeness. Some have rotten pits and must be thrown away immediately. Others are lost in transit. I carefully brought 30 peaches to work with me and ended up tossing the 10 that were on the bottom of the box. They were bruised just from the weight of the fruit on top of them.
Most the folks that come to my daily stand-up told me the peaches they picked had some bruising, but they trimmed it off and the rest was juicy and sweet. I gave one to a VP that stopped by my desk. I hope it was good but haven’t had a chance to ask. A few other co-workers, however, had the best peach of their entire life. I have confirmations that the peaches they selected from the box ruined store bought peaches for them, rendering them oddly disappointing since they tried the fruit I brought from middle Georgia.
Food is meant to be eaten and enjoyed, not shipped. Some time ago taste played a huge part in what seeds were planted the following season. Instead of being shipped across the country produce was bought local and could afford to be tender. It didn’t have the greatest shelf life, but that’s why things like canning, pickling, and preserving are popular in agrarian societies. Preserves made with these peaches (along with muffins, cobblers, and ice cream) taste that much better too.
Software is best served fresh as well
Our users are more concerned with their experience than how the software was developed or how the infrastructure was provisioned. It stands to reason that our innovation should strive to continuously improve their experience as users more than ours as technology professionals. For us that innovation will be an arduous task. DevOps needs the enthusiastic rejection of any yield that is not up to standards. it’s how we get to the juicy sweet quality on the right side of the curve. It’s how you find the changes that redefine how you operate.
The ability to make changes quickly and painlessly tightens our feedback loops, but it is only an intermediate step towards improving our user experience. It allows us to take the energy we spend on deploys and apply it elsewhere so we can continue to raise our standards every time we push code. This is not light work and it is not for the lazy or the faint of heart, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.