Category Archives: General

Moving to Lochside Grange – Completion and Handover

Last time I blogged about the new house was prior to completion, now we’re just over a week on from completion so prompted by the round of stories in the press this weekend filled with new build nightmares such as this horrific Bovis story from the BBC and this collection of Charles Church new home owners from the Guardian, I thought I’d continue with our experience with Lovell Homes on Lochside Grange.

Given Lovell’s refusal to allow a pre-completion snagging inspection, the basic plan of action was that I was going to use my last two days of annual leave to drive up to Scotland on the Thursday, complete on the Friday, give the house a good check over to get an idea of what needed doing with the assistance of a professional snagger on the Saturday, then secure the house and head back south on the Sunday. I’d then head back up in December to sort what needed sorting.

In summary, that is pretty well what happened, but what I hadn’t counted on was what happened on the Monday. At lunchtime I got a security alert from the house, and the security camera I left set up in the house got this – an Openreach engineer being let into the house by a Lovell site manager. As we had a handover form from Lovell that said we had all the keys, that then led to me having to take a days unpaid leave to fly up to Scotland and have the locks changed after talking to the insurance company.

So lets roll back to the week before. I went up and stayed at the excellent Cardinal’s Folly guest house in Kinghorn. Talking to the owners, the property was converted from what was the local Catholic church after the Catholic congregation merged with the congregation in the next village at Burntisland. The next morning I had an appointment at the site at 11am for my home demonstration visit, immediately followed by the handover.

The home demonstration visit, starts off with a definite instruction that the visit is not about snagging, and is really just one of the site managers taking you round the house showing you how to open the windows, turn the taps on and off, plus verbally highlighting some of the instructions such as not putting anything in the loft. The assistant site manager doing the demonstration did identify what the pile of cable by the wall was, not anything to do with the TV, but the fibre cable coming from Openreach, and another going into the house to the understairs cupboard.

Ironically after all the emphasis on not snagging, for the completion handover the handover form has you as totally untrained owner doing an inspection of the property, although the sales agent did hurry me up when I started properly looking at stuff. After that, following a phone call from the solicitor saying that they had completed I got the keys, lots and lots of keys. What was curious though was that we only got two front door keys, and whilst we got six keys for one set of french doors we only got five for the other, but this was signed off as all the keys that the developer had. The other thing that was in the house was the internal Lovell Snagging list. The sales agent spotted it and tried to remove it, but I spotted it and asked to see it and found that many of the items on the Lovell list had yet to be completed, and more than that some of the stuff Lovell claimed to have finished hadn’t been done properly, so the lock on the downstairs toilet hadn’t actually been screwed in. The sales agent at this point admitted that her and a colleague had snagged the house earlier in the week, and that many of the items they had spotted then had not been picked up either.

After that the sales agent and site manager left me to it. I started going through the post which was mainly junk, plus a note from Openreach saying they needed access to the property to finish the broadband installation, plus two letters from TV Licensing threatening legal action because the empty house with no TV aerial had no TV license.

From there I headed out to the local Tesco to get some shopping, and set about cooking dinner, and that found snag number one, the cooker hood extractor fan, which doesn’t extract. It sounds like something is stopping the blades of the extractor fan turning as you can hear it try to start, but nothing moving. Then coming to the dishwasher, that hadn’t been fitted correctly so wobbled about.

I’d already booked Michael from MDR Home Inspections for the next morning and he turned up at 9am, I also had AOIDigital booked in to come quote for a TV aerial and security system too.

Michael took the best part of four hours to inspect the house. In general he was pretty positive about the house, certainly he couldn’t find much outside, and a large number of the snags he found inside were finishing issues, so uneven paint finishes, and points where the doors were fouling on the newly installed carpet. The site manager doing the home demonstration the day before had mentioned the same thing and suggested that the carpet would settle over time – Michael laughed at that suggestion. He also highlight some places where the floors and ceilings were uneven in excess of the thresholds that the NHBC allow, and was most intrigued by our staircase, which he said didn’t meet the NHBC accessibility requirements. He put a coloured dot on every issue. Michael also was pretty complimentary over some parts of the house, highlighting that Lovell put covers over the screws on each switch and plug which he liked and some other builders don’t do.

My plan for Sunday was to get packed up early and head south. Unfortunately I didn’t get out quite as early as I was planning as I ended up bleeding a radiator first thing as the boiler started cutting out reporting that the heating system was over safe pressure. I managed to get the pressure down to safe tolerances, and then turned the thermostat down just in case there was an issue, noting down needing to get the boiler looked at when I was back at the house in December, and off I went south.

That brings us to Monday. I had a spare Netatmo Welcome camera which I set up hooked up to a Zyxel 4G router to just keep an eye on the house. The camera basically triggers when it detects motion, and on Monday lunchtime I got an alert on my phone, went to the app on the phone and could see somebody wandering around in my kitchen. I immediately phoned the sales office and said that there was somebody in the house, which sent the sales agent off to find out what was going on, she phoned back a few minutes later to say it was a site manager who had been on holiday and still had a key, and she would keep it in the office, only for the phone to activate again as people triggered the camera again.

Talking to the insurance company we went through the keys including the inconsistent numbers of keys for the french doors, and then talking to a locksmith at Forth Locks, they said that each lock should have three keys with it, so we’d established there was a third key for the front door, but there was clearly a missing key for the french doors. The locksmith was clear that the builders were taking the mickey in suggesting that there were only ever five keys for the french doors. The insurance company was clear that whilst they appreciated we were a long way away, we needed to take steps to secure the house as soon as possible. As a result I arranged to meet a locksmith at the house on Tuesday lunchtime to change the locks, and booked flights for a day trip to Scotland.

James from the locksmith met me at the house within twenty minutes of me getting there, and only an hour after I landed at Edinburgh airport. He didn’t have quite the right sized locks in the van, but did an emergency fix, and we’ve arranged for them to produce correctly sized locks which will be fitted when I’m back up there in December. When I went up to the sales office after the locks had been changed, the site manager who had let Openreach in was sat there and again said he was on holiday, thought we weren’t moving in until December, and when Openreach asked for access he found a key for the site and just let them in as he didn’t realise we’d taken over the house. It’s not really clear quite what happened, suffice to say there was a third front door key and the site manager used it to let in Openreach.

Looking at what had changed at the house, the main difference was that the pile of cable outside the house had disappeared, and we now had an unconnected Customer Splice Point on the outside wall, which explained the drilling noises that were on the second security video. As I was in town I popped down to the school to finish off registering the children at the local school, and got paper work to register at the local GP, and when I stopped back at the house there was an Openreach engineer who had just put a note through the door asking me to call his boss. Talking to him on the phone he explained what the issue with the fibre installation was.

He explained that the reason there was an issue with the broadband was that they had found a fault in the fibre cable that ran from the outside wall to where the GPON terminal was located in the understairs cupboard. Openreach needed the cable re-run, but he said that Lovell had suggested that they just drill through the wall and move the GPON terminal to the outside wall to bypass the cable. The problem with that idea is that the fibre comes up outside the living room, so that would move the GPON terminal from being hidden away in the understairs cupboad, to being very visible on the wall in the living room. I said I wasn’t happy with having my living room looking like a computer room, and he said he would go back to the developer.

Talking to Michael, who sent his formal report on Wednesday, he said that because the fibre cables are considered pretty tough, they are usually laid as part of first fix electrics, and then the floor slab poured over the top, so it seems the reason for not wanting to pull a new cable is simply that the existing cable is embedded in concrete. Needless to say I’ve added the fibre cable to the snagging list too.

Michael’s report ran to 147 items. He said that an average four bed he’d expect to find about 160 issues, so our house is pretty reasonable. Most are simple issues, and there is nothing in the important items to note, so hopefully all stuff that Lovell can easily sort.

My initial idea with this series of blogs, was given that most of the coverage of new builds is from massively unhappy customers with big problems, blogging an average move into a new build might redress the balance. I wasn’t expecting the developers to let themselves into the house with a key they hadn’t handed over of course. What is perhaps interesting is considering what would have happened if I didn’t have the camera, would they have just carried on working on the house, and I would have turned up in December to find the GPON terminal moved into the living room?

Playing the New Build Game Again

So we’re playing the New Build game again. Seventeen years after we bought our current house off plan, and seven years after we last tried to buy a new build at the Milford Grange development in Winnersh, and the solicitor advised us to pull out when it transpired one of the two spaces they were selling us with the property was designated as a visitor space and we weren’t actually getting ownership of, we’re buying a new build at a development from Lovell Homes called Lochside Grange in the village of Kinghorn in Scotland.

The driver this time is that back in September I was offered a new job with Australian company Computershare who are setting up a global development centre in Edinburgh. Computershare were kind enough to give me three months to sort out somewhere to live, so the new build route seemed like the most straightforward way to relocate, especially given the somewhat different conveyancing systems north and south of the border.

Kinghorn ticked a lot of our boxes for a place to live in that we were looking for another village community such as we have in Arborfield. It also needed good transport links to Edinburgh – Kinghorn has a railway station ten minutes walk from the house with a direct rail service into Edinburgh Waverley. It also needed some places to go walking, so I’ll have the choice between heading up into the hills, or down to the beach when I go walking there.

It also ticked another major box in that it had a four bedroom house pretty well ready to move into, that was supposed to have been occupied back in June/July but the original sale had fallen through. Properties like this are always a bit unattractive as you lose one of the main advantages of a new build in that somebody else has already picked most things such as the bathroom tiles and so on, but we did at least get some choice of carpet albeit between beige and grey. The price of course is also attractive as the developer is really keen to shift the house.

The big issue with new builds is as always the pretty dreadful reputation the whole industry have for quality control. Even though the NHBC are well known to get claimants to sign gagging orders when claims are settled it doesn’t take much to find plenty of upset new build owners having long drawn out battles with their builders or the NHBC over their new homes. It’s a discussion for another post, but the simplest explanation seems to be the classic project triangle – new house builders try build as quickly as possible, and they want to make the maximum profit, so the quality slips. The British building industry has been doing it for years, and until government grasps the nettle it’s really not going to change. You do in theory have better protection than buying a second hand house with the NHBC ten year warranty, but that really only covers you for significant structural defects. Certainly the best bit of advice I’ve come across with regards to a new build is from the HomeOwners Alliance:

Never fail to apply a common sense test. For small problems, such as badly-painted walls or minor cracks, it might be better to give up pursuing your builder, get out a paint brush or some filler and sort out the problem yourself, rather than spend time and energy fighting your builder – even if it leaves you dissatisfied with the service you had expected.

So it’s fair to say we’re going in with our eyes rather more open than previously, but we’re trading flexibility over fixtures and fittings for having a pretty well finished house before we commit to the purchase. Certainly looking at the house there were some obvious snags – check out the slightly differently coloured tiles on the porch that suggest some of them have been changed. There is also a coil of cable that you can see on the left hand side where somebody has just put the cable from the TV/Satellite/Radio wall plate straight through the wall rather than where it should be up to the loft box. I also found the usual selection of minor quality control issues such as badly attached drain pipes and things not screwed together quite as they should be. Having said that compared to the nightmare new homes where builders seem to have struggled to properly lay bricks, it actually looked pretty reasonable.

We passed on the developers pet solicitor and got our own who confirmed that unlike in England, in Scotland developer management companies are rather more under control thanks to the intervention of the Scottish Government, and also that there weren’t any issues such as we had at Milford Grange with parking spaces – indeed we have a totally rectangular plot that contains our house, garage and space on the drive for cars.

The main issue so far has been a bit of a discussion with the developers head office over completion. As I said at the beginning, the developer is really keen to get rid of the house as soon as possible. They’ve really been pushing for 16th November, which is fine, aside from the fact that I’m still working down here until 30th November, and with only limited annual leave I can’t keep going up and down to Scotland. The recommended NHBC process is that buyers should have a visit to their house a week or so before they get the keys, and this is the ideal opportunity to spot and report any snags to allow the developer to sort them out before completion, as it’s a lot easier for the developer to do it before people move in. In Lovell terms they refer to this as a “home demonstration” visit. Given that Lovell were insisting on the 16th November, I asked if we could appoint a professional snagger to do the pre-completion visit, the sales staff noted that down, and all seemed well until twenty-four hours later when the sales agent phoned us whilst we were driving back to Reading saying that her site manager had been in and said it was company policy and they absolutely would not allow snagging inspections prior to completion.

It’s not unusual – Taylor Wimpey are well known for operating the same policy. The argument is that given that the developer is supposed to fix all snags raised in the first two years, snagging it before anybody moves in is unnecessary. Given it was company policy we then raised it up via the solicitor, who spent the best part of this last week arguing with Lovell that this was prejudicing the sale because we couldn’t be expected to attend for the week ahead “home demonstration”, and that we should be able to nominate whomever we like to attend the demonstration in our place. Not surprisingly they were having none of it, but it was worth a try. The advice I’ve seen says that if the developer won’t play ball to get a snagger in as soon as possible, and certainly before you move in.

As I said, there isn’t really anything in the house that leads me to think there is anything wrong with it, we’ve also talked to the neighbours who said they’ve only had minor issues and Lovell were quick to rectify anything that was raised, it’s just generally good practice, indeed the NHBC themselves publish their own snagging checklist of things to check.

Anyway, at the moment it looks like completion will be on 16th November, and I’ve got a snagging inspector coming to give the house the once over on the 17th, then we have a few weeks to organise all the essentials like broadband, phone lines, TV aerials and so on before we actually move. Hopefully that should mean that when the kids finish the school term and move up the house is at least vaguely sorted – although when we moved into this house we had boxes from moving in at the back of the garage for years afterwards.

DDD South-West 2018

Following on from my trip to Glasgow for DDD Scotland, on Saturday 21st April I took a much shorter trip along the Great Western to Bristol for this years DDD South West. Here after a couple of weeks is my write up of the sessions I attended. There was no need for an overnight stay, but I did get to experience an almost deserted Reading Station very early on a Saturday morning!

First off I went along to Callum Whyte’s session on how his team took a Monolithic Monster and are currently turning it into a Majestic Microservice App.

As Callum told the story of how his company picked up this project, there were lots of knowing laughs from the audience – seems like a good number of us had experienced similar, when our non-technical directors had taken on nightmare projects. In this case it was a favour for a friend who had paid a Lithuanian outsourcing company a grand total of seven thousand pounds to produce an app for the the NHS and had delivered it with a couple of bugs that needed sorting before it went live in a couple of months time. Callum’s team had opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box and discovered a horrific mess, and so far his company have burned through the equivalent of half a million pounds worth of time and resources getting it in a fit state. The app is currently live, and is now being improved.

When they originally took on the project the source code they received appeared to be six months out of date, and wouldn’t even build, even when they got the apparently latest code it was still different from what was on production. There were major security bugs and holes, for example certain bugs would reveal a complete list of all the patients registered on the application. It was also running on the free tier of Amazon Web Services, and was totally unable to scale.

It was quickly decided that there wasn’t the time or money for a complete re-write, so they made a plan for what their ideal architecture would be – a micro service architecture based on Azure – and then looked at how to get there. They also then modelled how the system actually worked, and identified the critical areas that needed to be addressed first.

In opting for a micro service architecture they effectively treated the existing monolith as just another micro service. They then used the Strangler Pattern to start to replace the monolith, creating new micro services to replace parts of the existing application.

The key aspect of the strangler pattern is that as far as possibly you don’t work on the monolith, you’re creating a total replacement alongside and then connecting into that new replacement leaving the old monolith behind. Eventually you will have totally replaced the old code. The only work on the monolith is to reroute to the new micro services.

Whilst the original monolith had no tests, the new code was developed with a full test suite. They made extensive use of Azure Functions, but kept them small – don’t create a new monolith with giant Azure Functions!

They also made use of Azure APU Gateways which allowed them to reroute parts of a single API either to the old monolith or new functions.

Callum particularly recommended Aram Koukia’s series of blogs on A Microservices Implementation Journey as a good introduction to developing micro services, and said this was something they used to onboard new developers onto their team.

For session number two I had a total change of gear, and went along to hear Dan Clarke talk about Developer Productivity.

Dan’s session was a good selection of hints and tips, reinforcing some things I do already, and pointing me towards tools to try. Even better I later found out that for giving feedback on Dan’s talk I won a license for LinqPad a tool I’ve used previously and that Dan demonstrated during the talk.

Dan started off talking about the importance of taking notes and snippets. He stressed the importance, especially for a contractor of keeping the notes in a place that goes with you, not one which stays at your company, as it is a personal goldmine. For a long while I’ve kept a notebook at work where I write down notes during the day (and at DDD events), more recently I’ve taken to keeping a daily work journal of key events during the day, and have already used that to refer back to work I’ve done previously. The key thing is to record anything that you think might be useful in the future.

Dan then talked about focus, recommending the use of headphones to filter out distractions – to be fair I’ve often found using headphones annoying in themselves. He also talked about the Pomodoro Technique as something he has found valuable. Dan has written his own desktop application for keeping track of his time called Tomatoad. He also recommended Music to Flow By a set of Pomodoro length tracks designed to have the right tempo and style to both stimulate the brain to perform their best, but not be too interesting that you end up listening to the music rather than focusing.

Dan then moved on to some tool recommendations.

He kicked off with LinqPad, which I had seen as a result of having bought Joseph Albahari’s excellent C# in a Nutshell book and updated to a number of subsequent revisions. As an aside if you want an excellent book on C# this is my number one recommendation – whilst you could get much the same from the MSDN documentation, this book covers it in a much more readable format, and before I switched largely to e-Books, this was the book I had to hand on my desk. Back to LinqPad, the tool has grown massively from when I had originally looked at it, and it was great to be win the prize of a free license. It is already installed on my PC at work as a handy scratchpad for working with LINQ, and also querying databases.

Dan then moved on to talking about Resharper, a tool that I and lots of other developers have installed, but one which many of us fail to use completely. Whilst Dan showed some parts of the tool I was already aware of, I was still able to pick up some good tips, and realise that I was only using parts of some other features.

Dan also talked about the resurgence of the Command Line. He conceded that the Windows Command Line is still a bit rubbish, but highlighted that Powershell is a lot better. He recommended some useful tools.

Firstly he pointed me towards PoshGit a Powershell extension that helps when working with Git in Powershell. The most obvious improvement is that it changes the Powershell prompt to give a compact summary if the current directory is within a Git repository. This again is now installed on my PC at work.

For working better with multiple console windows he recommended ConEmu a console window that wraps any other console application be that any of the Windows consoles like the regular command line or Powershell, or any of the Unix variants.

For better clipboard handling he recommended Ditto a clipboard extension that significantly extends the functionality of the standard clipboard.

Moving on Dan then recommended the use of mind mapping, a technique I’ve used quite frequently for recording subject areas when modelling systems. He also talked about how to be more organised using to-do lists and GTD techniques. He also talked about techniques for achieving Zero Inbox which were pretty similar to the process I’ve used for many years on my Mac at home using MailActOn and MailTags.

He finished off with a look at keeping your brain healthy, stressing the importance of not multi-tasking, and also eating and drinking to keep your brain healthy – quite the opposite from traditional developer food, but again something that I’ve been trying to stick to for a while already.

Next I moved on to a Git Deep Dive presented by James World. I’ve been using Git for a while, and I certainly agree with James’ opening point that Git is a tool that it takes most people three to six months to start to get their heads around. As he said that underlying concept of Git is beautifully simple, built around the commit. However built around it is a truly hideous user experience, and the documentation really doesn’t help by using multiple terms for the same thing.

James showed something similar to the techniques we are using at work to smooth out the sometimes quite disjointed path developers take to get to a solution into presenting a more straightforward story.

He also highlighted a number of important Git concepts that are sometimes missed.

First off he used the git hash-object command to compute the unique and immutable hash value which is at the heart of how Git operates. A key concept is that the actual filename is separate from that hash.

When looking at merges James highlighted that Git is able to do an octopus merge where it merges from multiple branches. James also said that we really shouldn’t try it!

Another useful tip which explains some behaviour I’ve seen from Git is that Git remembers how you resolved a conflict in the past and will reuse the technique if a similar problem comes up in future. This certainly explains some weird merge problems I’ve come across where Git has automatically done some strange things because it has actually been reusing a merge it had seen me do previously.

James also demonstrated rebasing, and the use of an interactive rebase, something we use extensively at work when working with multiple branches.

He also talked about various different branching strategies and how we can use them with Git.

James finished off with a look at the libgit2sharp package on Nuget which allows us to manipulate and analyse at Git repository from C# – this allows us to do some powerful analysis of commits and the commit messages to take a look at our projects in useful ways.

At lunchtime there were some Grok talks which I went along to. The first that I came into towards the end was a whistle stop tour of server less. Following that we had an interesting demo of the power of the new Linux Subsystem in Windows 10, including demonstrating it running on a pretty low spec Microsoft Surface. It finished off with a talk on the potentially pretty philosophical question of exactly how big a Microservice should be.

My first session after lunch was one which I had wanted to attend at DDD Scotland, but had been unable to as it clashed with another session I was interested in. It was great to be able to get to see it here, Ismail Mayat talking about Teaching and Old Dog New Tricks.

The session had grown out of Ismail having attended training given by Uncle Bob Martin himself, someone whose evangelical zeal for clean code I have been following too.

Ismail made liberal use of quotes throughout his talk, including this gem, known as Weinberg’s Second Law:

If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilisation.

He started off with an exploration of why developers write lousy code, highlighting that awful code is most often written by reasonable developers but in awful circumstances.

Often developers are under time pressures and cut corners planning to go back and sort out the mess, but they never do, and the mess grows and festers. He also highlighted the problems of working with the latest hipster framework or tool, and the problems that can be produced by trying to learn a new framework whilst solving a complex problem, again this can produce lousy code. He also highlighted that often when developers start on something they do not fully understand the problem – more often than not a developers understanding of the problem is growing and forming as we are coding the solution.

He came up with a good analogy of working with lousy code – you’re working on your house and you have to do a simple job like change the doorbell, but in changing that doorbell the oven explodes. This is just the kind of thing we experience with difficult to maintain code.

He then went through a number of techniques that Uncle Bob covers in his books about using descriptive variable names, using nouns to name classes and verbs to name methods, limiting function length, the Single Responsibility Principle for for functions and not using booleans as control parameters on functions.

He also highlighted the importance of keeping functions pure – they shouldn’t mutate state and should have no side effects. It is important that if you repeatedly send the same inputs to a function, you repeatedly get the same outputs.

Inside every large program is a small program trying to get out.

He suggested that the software industry is currently similar to the medicine in the Victorian era – we are making great strides with techniques and are starting to learn about the problems, but we’re not there yet, and patients are still dying on the table!

He suggested that Test Driven Development is one way we are starting to apply engineering rigour to software development, and that Test Driven Development is an important technique because of the well established difficulty adding tests to an existing system after the event.

Alongside the Uncle Bob books he also recommended a couple of others that are on my read list: The Art of Unit Testing and Growing Object Oriented Software Guided by Tests.

I finished off with Joseph Woodward talking about Patterns and Practices for Building a Better Web Architecture.

The basic purpose of the talk was to look at Josephs experience exploring whether it was possible to improve on Web API – not surprisingly given he was presenting on it he was clear that he was able to.

Firstly he talked about the the Command Query Responsibility Separation pattern, more commonly known as CQRS. The pattern was first described by Greg Young and separates the usual design of Web API controllers into two, one consisting of commands that write, and the other of queries that read. The commands mutate the state, queries do not.

There are a number of reasons for doing this, most importantly it allows us to use different models for reading and writing. Trying to construct a single model that works for both reading and writing is complicated, and results in most services violating the single responsibility principle.

Also we have different requirements for when we might use the commands to write, and queries to read, often we will be reading much more than writing, so having the two separate gives us more flexibility over our architecture.

Next he moved onto techniques for loosening the coupling between our services using the Command Dispatcher Pattern, and the Mediator Pattern, in particular making use of MediatR a .NET library that allows us to decouple dependencies between services in a micro service environment.

Joseph also showed a useful extension for VSCode called Rest Client that I’ve taken to using for testing API through REST – although in our system a lot of the API have Swagger, in particular the parts built from Azure Functions do not have that option, and Rest Client is useful for testing those parts.

Joseph gave a number of good tips for how to design our Web API projects, removing business logic from controllers, and decoupling the domain from the UI framework.

He also highlighted that often we are putting validation logic in two places, and are restricted by the way ASP.Net puts validation as attributes on fields. He recommended using Jeremy Skinners Fluent Validation library which allows for more complex validation rules to be constructed, and for us to encapsulate validation in validation objects derived from the AbstractValidator class. This allows us to reuse custom validation across different objects, and offers a much more flexible and reusable way to validate.

Another library he recommended was The Polly Project which again helps us with separating out our system into micro services by implementing important Circuit Breaker, Isolation and other patterns in a fluent and thread safe manner. We’re not currently using these patterns in our systems at work, but we probably should be as the system grows.

Joseph finished off talking about how we structure our projects. The way Visual Studio often encourages us to arrange them is grouped by technical concern, so we put all our controllers together in one folder, all our views in another and so on. Instead Joseph recommended arranging by domain concern, so all the related objects are together, and developers only have to look in one place for everything needed for a particular feature.

Joseph also recommended a couple of videos that helped him with how to construct his controllers better: Slices Not Layers by Jimmy Bogard and Fat Controller CQRS Diet by Derek Comartin.

One final note was that Joseph was the first person I’ve seen at DDD using Jetbrains Rider under MacOS X – I’ve experimented with it, but ultimately I still use VS2017 as that is what we have at work. However on a Mac I can actually get Rider to work, whereas the Mac version of Visual Studio has never worked for me.

So that is an overview of my day at DDD South West. As with all the other DDD events, my thanks to all the volunteers who put it together and spoke, as always I learned loads during the day, and it is great to have people in the community willing to share their expertise for free like this. With so many companies with limited training budgets and resources it is great for us as developers to be able to keep our skills updated and relevant without breaking the bank!

Signing Up with the “Parasites”

So we’ve finally gone and done it, we’ve signed up with an agent to put our house on the market. It’s almost exactly three years since we pulled out of our last experience with the joys of the property market, so hopefully this time around will be less frustrating. We’ve had one hiccup so far which is that our local solicitor who spotted the issue over the parking at the Bewley Homes development last time has now retired so we’re scouting around for a new solicitor, however at this point we’ve been running the gauntlet of the local estate agents.

Talking to those who have moved recently we haven’t come across any ringing endorsements of any of the local agents, most people seem to regard dealing with them as a necessary evil. So we’re starting from a pretty blank sheet of paper.

My thoughts coming to selling the house have been that online exposure is paramount, so any local agent that is not putting properties on both the major property portals – Rightmove and Zoopla – is instantly off the list. Rightmove is the bigger of the two portals, however I’ve always much preferred the Zoopla site, in particular the level of detail you can get on a potential property, and the area.

I’ve also been taking a look at how each of the agents promote the houses on their books. So do they get the basic facts right? I can show you several examples of local agents who can’t get the basic information on Rightmove correct which means the properties they’re selling get categorised in the wrong place – four bedroom properties listed as three bedroom for example. Next what are the pictures of the property like – are they good pictures or do they look like quick snaps somebody has taken on their phone? Another local agent pads their adverts out with a whole load of pictures of the local area rather than the property they’re supposed to be selling. Also what is the floor plan like? There is quite some variation amongst the agents with pretty good quality plans from some, whilst another local agent has a number of properties where the measurements don’t add up and there are rooms with doors missing altogether, for example a bedroom that has no door at all, just walls. Then finally there is the wording on the advert, does it tell you about the property? Some agents do a traditional room by room tour, others a straightforward bullet point list, whilst another you get a little essay that doesn’t really tell you that much about the house. Even then are there basic factual errors in the text – I can show you several examples of local agents who get basic local details wrong, stating the house is in a different estate from where it actually is being a big one I’ve seen before.

Having gone through all of those we’ve had a couple of local agents out to value the house with a view to putting it on the market. Both valuations were around the same sort of ballpark, and both agents seem to be offering a similar service and both of them were looking to charge around the same sort of percentage commission which would work out as about £4000 to sell the house. The contracts are littered with the usual lock-ins, and clauses that result in the agents getting paid their commission if you trade your house in for a new build property as we’ve looked to doing before, plus the usual sole agent stuff.

However do you really need to spend £4000 to sell a house, or is the money partly going to pay for flashy cars painted in the estate agents colours, or a chain of high street offices that in some cases look like wine bars? Given that the primary way of looking for property these days seems to be online, do you really need to be funding a chain of high street offices anyway? I’ve been aware of eMoov, the biggest of the online estate agents for a while. They have a few houses up for sale locally, and I’ve actually had online chats with them on Twitter several times over the past few years. There was a good introduction to the company and how it was founded published last year in the Telegraph. More recently they have also done a more general overview of the online options, complete with a video with a traditional and an online estate agent discussing the relative merits of the two routes. The bottom line though is that the cheapest package eMoov offer is ten times less than the local agents were proposing to charge – is what they are offering seriously worth ten times more than going online, or is this another industry where online is shaking things up?

I did a bit more digging and there really isn’t any tangible evidence that the local agents can justify a tenfold price difference. Certainly with some of the online options you’re paying in advance, but if you’re serious about selling that doesn’t matter. If you’re not a serious seller then eMoov have a traditional pricing option too, but even that is a quarter of what the local agents were proposing. Indeed if you look at how the traditional estate agents are reacting, they’re basically name calling – in this article they refer to the online agents as parasites. They also seem to be reacting by setting up a protectionist market, as of the end of January they are launching their own property portal which has banned the online agents from posting, banned their own members from promoting on both Rightmove and Zoopla (participating agents have to pick one), and are encouraging their members to only post to the new portal first, holding back posting the new instructions to the better known portals like Rightmove and Zoopla. Essentially unable to compete with the online options they are trying to close them out of the market and giving their customers a worse service in the process.

Where does that leave us then? I have to say I was always leaning towards selling online – I bank online, buy groceries online, do pretty well everything else online, and I can find no overwhelming evidence that the local agents are doing anything to justify charging ten times as much as their online competition. The real clincher though was that the local agents are resorting to setting up a protectionist market and calling the online sellers “parasites” rather than stepping up and actually competing, so last night we set the process in motion, and had confirmation via e-mail first thing this morning. I’ll post more as we work through the process.

Why the #Rotherham #UKIP scandal is almost certainly a load of codswallop

See on Scoop.itNews and Current Affairs
This Thursday there is a by-election in Rotherham. Rotherham is a pretty safe Labour seat, but with the previous MP forced to stand down in controversial circumstances and UKIP campaigning hard, the splashing of Rotherham’s Labour run council moving three ethnic minority children on from a couple who were known UKIP supporters seems a massive coincidence, especially breaking on a Saturday when most of the council would be off for the weekend.

This is a great post asking a few pertinent questions about whether this story is all it seems, or whether we’re being played for political gain…
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