Starting at WANdisco (part 2)

Part 1

So, that was the majority of my first few months. I can do forums, blogging, writing, all that – that’s fine, but I needed to learn Subversion and Git because I need to be able to answer posts in forums helping people to use it, and arguably more importantly I need to be able to replicate issues that are raised and report them to the developers.

Just as an aside here, this is a fairly important place to be – in between the devs and the customers, understanding the language of both sides and translating from one to the other. I find it extremely satisfying and quite often have a lot of fun with it.

*ahem* training. Subversion was where I started, which is probably the smart move as it’s a fair bit simpler than Git though arguably not as good depending on your point of view. My understanding is that Subversion was written so that non-coders could have some control over what code gets committed or not, whereas Git was written by coders for coders, with the things that coders want in it, hence it’s significantly more complex.

It was good training, in fact the same training that our support engineers are given when they start (and our support engineers are incredible guys). It taught me a lot about Subversion – especially because it was written for Windows and TortoiseSVN and I was following it using SmartSVN on a mixture of OSX and Linux. In all honesty I can totally recommend that approach as you learn so much more in applying instructions for one thing to something fairly similar in a lot of ways but in others fundamentally different.

The svn command line stuff is all the same no matter the operating system – you’re giving commands to the program, so they’re the same whatever platform it’s running on. It’s when you get to the GUI stuff that things are different. TortoiseSVN is not the same as SmartSVN, and when your instructions are to view the repository log or even find the graph version of the log with helpful screenshots of a totally different application there’s a lot of looking up in help files and googling.

And as for setting up a server…well. Windows may have its share of detractors, but tickboxes for ‘start SVN server on startup’ and ‘install as a service’ basically take care of everything you need to worry about for a standard setup so it’s hard to argue. It took several VMs before I had a working SVN over http server running on Linux and (yes, noob, I know) several more before I had one that would still be working after a reboot.

Git…now that took a little longer. The training was a bit more in depth, but also very good in that it’s basically a list of tasks – achievements, if you will – and fairly vague ones at that. It also included a list of resources, although I mostly used the Git book ( which is invaluable, seriously. I’m not sure if it works this way for everyone but I certainly remember a lot more when I’ve had to figure something out for myself.

For example, “Rebase to edit a commit message”. That was it, that’s the full instruction. Not the first one in the training though, so at least when I came to it I definitely knew what committing was and why it would have a message. Rebasing I had to read up on. As I said though, fortunately for me and indeed everyone else, the Git book is brilliant.

So I learned a lot about Git, Gitlab, Gitosis and in the process a fair bit about Ubuntu and CentOS as well (I’d used Ubuntu before – in fact it runs my home server), and come to the conclusion that I like both of them even though installing and configuring Git over http on Linux is not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Throw something like Gitolite with its dependency on Ruby into the mix and you may well spend a fair amount of time following installation guides.

So, training done, let’s hit the forums, but not literally because that would be silly. Forums are the lifeblood of my job and the hub of the WANdisco community, whom I am here to help and grow as much as possible – we’ll leave aside the occasional urge to lmgtfy (which I’ve managed to resist doing so far).

At the moment things are fairly quiet but the spam is cleaned out daily (I make sure of that) so that’s improving things, and now we have someone in there during (UK) business hours as well. At present things aren’t busy enough to warrant them being looked at outside those times, though I’m sure some of our guys in the US look through them from time to time, but if I have my way (and I fully intend to) it’ll get a lot busier.

So, how?

Well, in the first instance, by cleaning up the spam and being present in the forums. Then getting the word out. Social media is very powerful, but I think our best strategy is to be as knowledgeable and helpful as possible. The more that happens and the more we get out there and help with stuff, the more word will spread. Along with our own forums for Subversion, Git and Hadoop there’s StackOverflow and LinkedIn for those more technical queries, Facebook and to some degree LinkedIn again for less techy more human stories, and Twitter to tie things together and also point out new articles, forum threads and with any luck, engage in some banter as well.

The blogs, then – release blogs usually, for a new version of one of our products, but if something interesting happens then we like to talk about it, so we do. Hence this, and other blogs you’ll see shortly. We want to talk about what we’re doing a bit more in the office, whether it’s related to Big Data, improving our working environment, or just plain having fun.

So that’s it, really. Hopefully this has given you some insight into my journey and an idea of what we’re hoping to accomplish in the near future. Beyond that? I dunno. World domination might be nice.


If you want to find me you can on the above forums, I’m on Twitter as @WANdisco_Matt or there’s always my LinkedIn page – give me a shout if I can help with anything, and cheers for reading this far 🙂

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