28 January, 2011

My unbreakable rule of software releases

A company that I follow (unnamed, to protect the hard working!) posted this tweet on Friday lunchtime:
v3 is very close to being released, before the end of today, just not sure which time zone ;)

This reminded me of my own unbreakable rule of software releases, which those that I have worked with will tell you, I have broken on occassions:
Never after 3pm and never on a Friday and never, ever after 3pm on Friday.

Towards the end of any work day, then emotionally, there's a huge push to get this d*mn release out the door. This is the time when you slack off: you turn a blind eye to some bug-ette which (you know in your heart of hearts) could be a show-stopper; or you skip over a technical check during the launch process - the type of check that has never previously been a concern, but today, because someone else took a little shortcut elsewhere, this issue just catches you.

Friday is even worse, because you just don't want the prospect of release hell hanging over the weekend and to really drain morale on Monday morning.

My advice: JUST DON'T DO IT - it can most probably wait until the morning / Monday, when:
  • everyone is refreshed
  • everyone has had some time to mentally run through some scenarios that may have gotchas in them and to validate one last time.
My own scars
Yep, I have the scars of Friday release at 4pm. It was a stressful release that got pushed from the previous day. We were hard at it and finally released the shiny new version in the late afternoon. We hung around and checked and validated until 6.30pm. Then we went home. I checked on it again at 8pm that evening. Checked on it on Saturday late afternoon - all appeared fine, but the stats looked a little out of whack. Hmm, I thought, well, perhaps the boys changed something - I'll ask 'em on Monday.

Monday morning rolls around. The CTO has noticed the stats immediately, digs around and discovers the registration server had run out of disk space and had fallen over: no user could register for our service over the weekend. UGH!!!

Footnote
Another big disadvantage of doing a release out of office hours is that within your partners and hosting providers etc, etc, you run into the 'second line' problem. The weekend / overnight staff aren't generally as skilled or as quick (nice, big, sweeping statement here!) when you really need their 'first line' players (an ice hockey term) to sort out the problem quickly for you.

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