Friday, November 28, 2008

Why I'm begining to dislike frameworks

I've been having discussions with David and Dr Pep over the last few days about the pros and cons of development frameworks. This is probably a measure a my increasing level of cynisium but I found myself looking at a framework that T4 was looking at and thought to myself "what is this framework going to stop me doing?"

David raises the point of the productivity curve; in most cases when picking up a new library or framework doing the 'hello world' stuff is easy and your productivity is high. As you come across issues or want to solve more complicated puzzles your productivity drops as you struggle with the design choices of others.

I think one way in which these frameworks can be assessed is asking how much will it cost you to remove it? We're currently using Symfony, a PHP MVC framework, and it follows this pattern exactly. It's easy to get started, and doing easy things is easy, but when we want to stray off the beaten path, we get beaten ourselves. The documentation is sparce, and if we decided to use something other that Symfony, we might as well re-write our project.

Now, I'm not trying to start a Symfony bashing dialog, I'm just using it as an example. In fact, Milan makes the point that this particular framework is Open Source, and if we have problems, we should commit something back to the project. Which is the right way to view this.

It still doesn't stop me from having second thoughts about using a framework again. Give me swapable libraries everytime.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How Sainsburys are Coming into the 21st Century

I was in my local Sainsburys the other day, doing my shopping (what else?). As I was at the checkout I noticed a few things.

First, you've probably noticed at the checkout gift cards for iTunes, or something similar, however what I'd noticed this time was what I want to call a "student food card". This is a two part card, one for topping up the account, one for using credit from the account. This is plainly aimed at the concerned parent who wants to make sure their kids are eating properly whilst at university. Those parents who do not want to put money into their kids account so they can spend it on nights out and pot noddles for dinner (though the flaw here being that Sainsburys sell booze too, but we'll brush over that). I did think though that this could be used the other way round too, what about someone with an aging parent or perhaps a lowly paid sibling. Wouldn't you want to make sure they were eating properly too?

So, I thought that was cool, but there was a little more to come.

Second, there were no bags at the checkout, I told the cashier who told me they'd stopped putting bags out. She pointed me to a sign which I'd ignored as an 'out of bags' sign, saying as much. Sainsburys in environmental awareness are trying to get their customers to reuse their bags, so you now have to ask for carrier bags. They've given store points away for ages for reusing bags but obviously isn't having the desired affect.

One of the things they're doing to help their customers is providing a free SMS reminder service. You send a message saying when you usually go shopping and it sends you a reminder a few hours before, saying not to forget your bags.

This could be a tentative first step, but I can see much more here. They're only providing this until the end of the year, but how about linking this to my store points card and instead of charging me for SMS, remove some of those points. Also, by combining your mobile to your store card just think of the data mining possibilities. You wouldn't have to tell them when you go shopping they have that data. Also, what better direct marketing would you like? Sainsburys have about ten years data on me, they have a pretty good idea what I buy and when and could send me special offers just for me, with some kind of code that a cashier could enter.

We'll see what happens. It's an odd combination of convenience and scariness.