Smoke Testing Plans

June 08, 2022

Committing to realistic work is a cornerstone of contributing reliably.

Over-committing is a real problem. It’s hard to say no, particularly to good ideas. To counter this tendency, I have been deliberately walking through implicit commitments. I think of this like a smoke test — a quick check that our plans sound reasonable.

This is on a team that does not otherwise model its capacity.

Some capacity is reserved

A quarter is 12 weeks. That sounds like a lot of time. Enough time to commit to grand ideas. Unfortunately we do not have 12 weeks.

My team has an on-call rotation of 4 people. I’m going to be on-call for 3 weeks in a quarter. Many of our on-call weeks are completely dedicated to support. That’s 9 weeks.

Our build tool averages one major release per year. We have over 50 repositories using this build tool. A major release is expected to land this quarter. Upgrading all repositories will usually take someone a week. That’s 8 weeks.

Our platform averages 14 releases per quarter. We have four services built on the platform. A minor release is expected to happen this quarter. Minor upgrades have historically taken a week for all services to land in prod. That’s 7 weeks.

Summer is here. It’s important to get out there and have fun. Vacations should be a part of every quarter. That’s 6 weeks.

12 weeks isn’t 6 weeks. Did the plans seem reasonable at 12 weeks? Do they still at 6 weeks?


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Written by @sghill, who works on build, automated change, and continuous integration systems.

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