Building Blocks, Part 2

Pivotal/Tanzu Labs

This article is the fourth in a five-part series.

A healthy Developer Rhythm starts with a disciplined workflow. The only way you can successfully achieve this type of workflow is to learn how to use modern developer tools much in the same way that a carpenter has to learn how to use the tools of their trade.

Developers who implement features or fixes in software like to move quickly, safely, and sustainably. The methods, techniques and tools in this article ensure that new developers are also able to accomplish these goals.

Methods, Tools, Techniques

What You Will Learn

In this article, you will learn to:

  • List and describe techniques and methods that facilitate the developer flow.
  • List and describe general tools that facilitate the developer flow.

Methods and Techniques

Private Branch Method

Distributed Source Code Version Systems like Git or Mercurial allow you to work independently from the team source control repository.

To get started, copy the complete repository, including the full commit history to your workstation.

Next, create a new local history. Update the local history, then merge it back to the team source control repository.

Now, create private (local) branches using the distributed source control local branching feature.

Private branches make it easy for you to track new and updated work in feedback loops that are not yet merged in your team source control repository.

If there is a file in your local branch that you do not want to keep, you can remove it. For example, you can take out an experiment that did not work from the local branch, before merging the local branch to the team source control repository.

Update the version history at the end of the feedback loop phase of the workflow so that it is a single, curated, well described commit that specifies the purpose of the change, that is merged to the team source control repository.

Refactoring Technique

As previously mentioned, a main principle of software development is making code easy to change. As a codebase becomes more complex, developers will have to restructure it to accommodate new features.

Refactoring is the process of changing the structure of a codebase without changing its behavior. Refactoring is a technique that is straightforward but also extremely complex.

Mikado Method

The Mikado Method is a formal implementation of a feedback loop that is well-suited for complex work requiring discovery of the next step. It contains a distinct process of setting a goal, performing experiments, visualizing the goal, and achieving the goal. It also includes the steps for undoing or reverting from failed experiments.

The Mikado Method is commonly used in combination with refactoring and test-first practices.

Rubber Duck Debugging Technique

If you work on a remote team or in an organization where you cannot pair, you might be lonely, especially when you get stuck. Sometimes, you will get stuck in a problem, with no other developers to consult.

Should this happen to you, try using the Rubber Duck Debugging method to see if you can get unstuck.

Middleware, Databases, Platforms

You need a place to run your software applications, and a place to store the software applications data. This is necessary for your production apps, but not necessary for your development environments.

As of the authoring of this article, there are two popular learning trends that support the modern platforms where most new applications run today.

  • Virtualization technologies
  • Container technologies (like Docker)

Developer Tools

These are the class of tools developers can choose that best fit their projects and work. Notice that there are no specific tools recommended. You will need to figure that out based on your team needs.

One suggestion is to start with the most minimal possible toolset, and add more sophisticated tools, as needed.

It’s always a good idea to start with a minimal developer toolset because:

  • It is more important for you to focus on solving problems than on using tools. It’s up to you to keep the tools you are not using out of the way.

  • More complex tools may hide key details that you are unaware of, but need to know as a developer.

Languages, Compilers, Build tools

These tools are the root, technical, building blocks upon which your software is built.

You may work in an organization that lets you pick the technologies for your products. If not, your choice could be restricted by:

  • The platforms where your software is run.
  • The tools your organization chooses for you.


*Software Frameworks* are common tools in a developer’s toolkit that sheds some of the burden of software development. When you use a framework, it is important to understand the mechanics and workings of the framework during software runtime. One area to be aware of is a particular framework hiding implementation or software runtime details.

See Spring Framework for an example in the Java ecosystem.

Interactive Development Environment

Interactive Development Environment (IDE) is a popular developer tool for writing software that you can also use to.

  • Debug software.
  • Integrate source control system clients.
  • Write documentation.
  • Orchestrate a developer’s workflow (in some cases).

Some IDEs are modular, meaning they can be extended and customized for a particular developer workflow. As a developer, always keep your development environments streamlined and clean. Take the time to understand how the IDEs work, and how they interact with the language interpreters, compilers and build systems.

Visual Studio Code is an example of a lightweight, cross language IDE, but there are many best-in-breed tools to choose from in your language ecosystem.


Accelerators are specialized tools used at specific points in the development workflow, typically at the beginning of a new project.

Accelerators provide cross-cutting concerns to codebases that are standards for your organization, frameworks you choose, or perhaps to facilitate working in a secure path to production.

See Spring Initializr and Application Accelerator for VMware Tanzu are examples of a new project accelerators in the Java/Spring and Tanzu ecosystems.

Code Katas

If you are a new software developer, and have gotten this far in the article, you might be apprehensive about everything you’ll have to learn to become a proficient and competent modern app developer.

The good news is that you can practice on your own to gain efficiency and proficiency, even before working on a real project.

You can use Code Kata as a technique for focused practice on methods or techniques in an isolated or sandbox environment.

This is especially useful for gaining proficiency with test-driven development, refactoring or the Mikado Method.

Or, you can use it to become proficient with the features of your IDEs, source control or other tooling.


After reading this article, you can now:

  • List and describe techniques and methods that facilitate the developer flow.
  • List and describe general tools that facilitate the developer flow.

If you have followed the Modern Application Development series this far, you now have a high level idea of what a daily developer workflow might look like, as well as the types of principles, practices, methods and tools a developer might use.

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