For over a year now we’ve been releasing onCourse every two weeks. Right through Christmas and every holiday, we’ve kept to our two week milestones. And this has worked incredibly well to speed up our release of new features as well as give us a better QA (testing) process.

But sometimes you just need to take a breath, and that’s what we did for onCourse releases 8.16 and 8.17. For four whole weeks we tried really hard to add not one new feature to onCourse, and we are very proud of the success of this. In software development you tend to accumulate “debt”. Not in the home loan you’ll pay off when you are 70 sort of way, but in the form of code which is old and isn’t how you’d write it if you started again today.

As a product lead for onCourse my job is usually to keep pushing forward; identify customer needs, document them and pass the requirement onto the development team to build. I also work on the technical architecture, and I’d be pretty bad at my job if I hadn’t learnt anything in the last 12 years working on onCourse. So we have better libraries, better techniques and a better understanding of customer needs.

For for the last month I restrained myself and gave the developers plenty of room to document, refactor and tidy up. It also gave Natalie and I a great opportunity to stop and think about longer term plans, free from having to prepare designs for the dev team. And we have some exciting plans for you… but that might be a separate post.

In this last month we’ve also contributed some important fixes back to upstream open source libraries which we use, most importantly Apache Cayenne. Not only is this being a good citizen of the development world, but it helps us by strengthening the open source on which we rely. We’ll be able to roll out HTTP/2 for client-server connections soon, and that will make onCourse faster and more resilient to network outages.

Anyhow, the pause is over and we are back to our regularly scheduled updates. For me, that’s a relief because I’ve got so many new features I want to share with you!