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The New Stack Makers: Staying ‘In the Zone’ with the Right Dev Tools

8 Jun 2021 1:14pm, by and

Today’s developer seems to be working with more tools than ever. Building a Node.js-based JavaScript application could require over a dozen tools to get code out into production. It’s easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole and not stay focused. Debugging an application once in production can also be a challenge: You want as much context at your fingertips as needed while maintaining a reasonable signal-to-noise ratio.

Dan O’Brien, a software engineer for feature management platform provider LaunchDarkly, has a personal interest in how to keep from being distracted/staying in the flow when working on a new feature or any piece of code.


The New Stack Makers: Staying “In the Zone” with the Right Dev Tools

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In this very latest episode of The New Stack Makers podcast, we ask O’Brien about the complexities he sees in today’s developer workflow, as well as some tips he has to stay “in the zone” when writing code. We’ll also discuss the tools that LaunchDarkly has that can help expedite application development. TNS founder and publisher Alex Williams, along with TNS managing editor Joab Jackson, hosted this podcast.

“I’m constantly distracted by the shiny new things,” O’Brien admits. To help stay focused on the code, he disables desktop notifications, and, when in VS Code, uses Zen mode, which hides the activity bar, status bar and other editor accouterments.

Another absolute must is GitLens, a VS Code extension for Git.

In GitLens, “I can see if the code has been touched recently, who the last editor was. You can also pull in commit information,” he said. “That to me is such a great thing to have all that context there. The longer I can keep that context I need, the less I jump back and forth between different tools, and get distracted.”

Feature flags should also be in the developer’s toolbox, with their ability to toggle on and off features to observe their effects on the overall application.

The scalable nature of LaunchDarkly’s feature flag tooling was what initially attracted O’Brien to work for the company.

“When I was at IBM, we were looking to write our own feature flagging solution. You quickly learn how you can start it simply but how quickly [complex] it can get. There’s edge cases to everything,” O’Brien said.  “The technology behind LaunchDarkly has been great — all the technical debt management around that to me is huge. Anyone can add a feature flag into the system but to know what is really the state of that feature flag — that’s a big thing.”

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