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Yahoo's Engineers Move to Coding Without a Net

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Engineers at work at Yahoo!

After some small changes in development processes in 2013, and a larger push from mid-2014 to the first quarter of 2015, software engineering at Yahoo underwent a sea change.

Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Software engineering at Yahoo has undergone a transformation resulting in fewer errors and a much faster development cycle. The effort is part of Warp Drive, a program that seeks to shift from batch releases of code to a system of continuous delivery.

Yahoo no longer permits software engineers to hand off completed code to another team for checking, as code now goes live as is and if there are problems it will fail and shut down systems, which would directly affect customers. Yahoo's Jay Rossiter says the move has led to a paradigm shift in how engineers thought about problems, and has forced them to develop tools to automate the kinds of checks previously handled by humans. "It turns out that when you have humans everywhere, checking this, checking that, they add so much human error into the chain that, when you take them out, even if you fail sometimes, overall you are doing better," he says.

Rossiter acknowledges the transition was difficult. "People would come in and say I'm special, I'm working in UI, I'm on the back end, I'm this, I'm that," he notes. But the refusal to give away any concessions forced a rethink. "We said, 'No more training wheels,' and it made a huge difference," Rossiter says. "We forced excellence into the process."

From IEEE Spectrum
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