The Bike Shed

The Bike Shed

On The Bike Shed, hosts Joël Quenneville and Stephanie Minn discuss development experiences and challenges at thoughtbot with Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, and whatever else is drawing their attention, admiration, or ire this week.


April 9, 2024 35 mins
Joël conducted a thoughtbot mini-workshop on query plans, which Stephanie found highly effective due to its interactive format. They then discuss the broader value of interactive workshops over traditional talks for deeper learning. Addressing listener questions, Stephanie and Joël explore the strategic use of if and else in programming for clearer code, the importance of thorough documentation in identifying bugs, and the use of P...
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Stephanie revisits the concept of "spiking"—a phase of exploration to determine the feasibility of a technical implementation or to address unknowns in feature requests—sharing her recent experiences with a legacy Rails application. Joël brings a different perspective by discussing his involvement with a client project that heavily utilizes the dry-rb suite of gems, highlighting the learning curve associated with adapting to new pa...
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March 26, 2024 28 mins
Joël shares his recent project challenge with Tailwind CSS, where classes weren't generating as expected due to the dynamic nature of Tailwind's CSS generation and pruning. Stephanie introduces a personal productivity tool, a "thinking cap," to signal her thought process during meetings, which also serves as a physical boundary to separate work from personal life. The conversation shifts to testing methodologies within Rails appli...
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Stephanie introduces her ideal setup for enjoying coffee on a bike ride. Joël describes his afternoon tea ritual. Exciting news from the hosts: both have been accepted to speak at RailsConf! Stephanie's presentation, titled "So, Writing Tests Feels Painful. What now?" aims to tackle the issues developers encounter with testing while offering actionable advice to ease these pains. Joël's session will focus on utilizing Turbo to crea...
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March 12, 2024 42 mins
Joël talks about his difficulties optimizing queries in ActiveRecord, especially with complex scopes and unions, resulting in slow queries. He emphasizes the importance of optimizing subqueries in unions to boost performance despite challenges such as query duplication and difficulty reusing scopes. Stephanie discusses upgrading a client's app to Rails 7, highlighting the importance of patience, detailed attention, and the benefits...
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March 5, 2024 39 mins
Stephanie shares about her vacation at Disney World, particularly emphasizing the technological advancements in the park's mobile app that made her visit remarkably frictionless. Joël had a conversation about a topic he loves: units of measure, and he got to go deep into the idea of dimensional analysis with someone this week. Together, Joël and Stephanie talk about module documentation within software development. Joël shares his ...
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February 27, 2024 39 mins
Joël discusses the challenges he encountered while optimizing slow SQL queries in a non-Rails application. Stephanie shares her experience with canary deploys in a Rails upgrade. Together, Stephanie and Joël address a listener's question about replacing the wkhtml2pdf tool, which is no longer maintained. The episode's main topic revolves around the concept of multidimensional numbers and their applications in software development. ...
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February 6, 2024 30 mins
Stephanie has a delightful and cute Ruby thing to share: Honeybadger, the error monitoring service, has created, where they've illustrated and characterized various common Ruby errors into little monsters, and they're adorable. Meanwhile, Joël encourages folks to submit proposals for RailsConf. Together, Stephanie and Joël delve into the nuances of adapting to and working within new codebases, akin to align...
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January 30, 2024 31 mins
Joël shares his recent experience with Turbo, a JavaScript framework that simplifies adding interactivity to websites without extensive JavaScript coding. Stephanie gives an update on her quest to work from her office more, and the birds have arrived—most notably, chickadees. Stephanie and Joël address a listener question from Edward about the concept of a "spike" in software development. They discuss the nature of spikes, emphasiz...
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January 23, 2024 33 mins
Stephanie shares her task of retiring a small, internally-used link-shortening app. She describes the process as both celebratory and a bit mournful. Meanwhile, Joël discusses his deep dive into ActiveRecord, particularly in the context of debugging. He explores the complexities of ActiveRecord querying schemas and the additional latency this introduces. Together, the hosts discuss the nuances of package management systems and the...
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January 16, 2024 32 mins
Joël shares a unique, time-specific bug he encountered, which causes a page to crash only in January. This bug has been fixed in previous years, only to reemerge due to subsequent changes. Stephanie talks about her efforts to bring more structure to her work-from-home environment. She describes how setting up a bird feeder near her desk and keeping chocolates at her desk serve as incentives to work more from her desk. Together, St...
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December 19, 2023 38 mins
Stephanie is hosting a holiday cookie swap. Joël talks about participating in thoughtbot's end-of-the-year hackathon, Ralphapalooza. We had a great year on the show! The hosts wrap up the year and discuss their favorite episodes, the articles, books, and blog posts they’ve read and loved, and other highlights of 2023 (projects, conferences, etc). Olive Oil Sugar Cookies With Pistachios & Lemon Glaze (
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December 12, 2023 32 mins
Joël shares his experiences with handling JSON in a Postgres database. He talks about his challenges with ActiveRecord and JSONB columns, particularly the unexpected behavior of storing and retrieving JSON data. Stephanie shares her recent discovery of bookmarklets and highlights a bookmarklet named "Check This Out," which streamlines searching for books on Libby, an ebook and audiobook lending app. The conversation shifts to usin...
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Stephanie recommends "Blue Eye Samurai" and a new ceramic pot (donabe) for cooking. Joël talks about the joy of holding a warm beverage in a unique mug. Stephanie discusses her shift to a part-time support and maintenance role at thoughtbot, contrasting it with her full-time development work. She highlights the importance of communication, documentation, and workplace flexibility in this role. Stephanie appreciates the professional...
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November 28, 2023 32 mins
Joël recaps his time at RubyConf! He shares insights from his talk about different aspects of time in software development, emphasizing the interaction with the audience and the importance of post-talk discussions. Stephanie talks about wrapping up a long-term client project, the benefits of change and variety in consulting, and maintaining a balance between project engagement and avoiding burnout. They also discuss strategies for ...
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Stephanie interviews Edward Loveall, a former thoughtbotter, now software developer at Relevant Healthcare. Part of their discussion centers around Edward's blog post on the tech industry's over-reliance on GitHub. He argues for the importance of exploring alternatives to avoid dependency on a single platform and encourages readers to make informed technological choices. The conversation broadens to include how to form opinions on...
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November 14, 2023 32 mins
Joël got to do some pretty fancy single sign-on work. And when it came time to commit, he documented the ridiculous number of redirects to give people a sense of what was happening. Stephanie has been exploring Rails callbacks and Ruby debugging tools, using methods like save_callbacks and Kernel.caller, and creating a function call graph to better understand and manage complex code dependencies. Stephanie is also engaged in an in...
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November 7, 2023 31 mins
Stephanie discovered a new book: The Staff Engineer's Path! Joël's got some D&D goodness. Together, they revisit a decade-old blog post initially published in 2013, which discussed the application of Sandi Metz's coding guidelines and whether these rules remain relevant and practiced among developers today. The Manager’s Path ( The Staff Engineer’s Path (
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October 17, 2023 22 mins
Joël was selected to speak at RubyConf in San Diego! After spending a month testing out living in Upstate New York, Stephanie is back in Chicago. Stephanie reflects on a recent experience where she had to provide an estimate for a project, even though she didn't have enough information to do so accurately. In this episode, Stephanie and Joël explore the challenges of providing estimates, the importance of acknowledging uncertainty,...
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September 26, 2023 37 mins
Stephanie is engrossed in Kent Beck's Substack newsletter, which she appreciates for its "working thoughts" format. Unlike traditional media that undergo rigorous editing, Kent's content is more of a work-in-progress, focusing on thought processes and evolving ideas. Joël has been putting a lot of thought into various tools and techniques and realized that they all fall under one umbrella term: analysis. From there, Stephanie and J...
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