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Kiri Crequer

Digital Services Architect

Repetition sucks! Help your digital team move towards automation

Repetition happens on a daily basis. 

  • We repeat ourselves when people don’t listen
  • We repeat ourselves when people listen but don’t want to change
  • We repeat ourselves in everyday tasks, because that’s how our systems (and our minds) work

But why do we work this way?

When we experience something, a neural pathway is created in our brain. When we repeat that action or experience again, the pathway is reinforced and we feel a little buzz of familiarity. On one level, this is great because it helps us to learn. But on the other hand, this becomes our go-to option, and we stop thinking about doing things differently.

If you want to read more about this, here’s an old, but still very good blog post about how our minds are geared away from creativity – with some techniques about how to trick ourselves out of this.

 

If you’ve built something once, you shouldn’t have to do it again. The code already exists. 

Repetition can be damaging

In addition to a lack of creativity, repetition means you:

  • lose time
  • get bored
  • become demotivated
  • lose focus
  • make errors
  • feel unhappy

Repetition in tech

It’s easy to see how repetition happens in tech. We think ‘I’ve solved this problem before. I’ll just do the same thing again here.’ 

Stop!

If you’ve built something once, you shouldn’t have to do it again. The code already exists. 

As a digital service, being open and sharing our code is one of our core principles. The more we offer solutions to our team members and contemporaries, the more we learn from each other and make things better.

If we avoid repetition, we save time, and that means more time to create other amazing things.

WordPress is used by 25% of websites around the world

When automation is needed – an example using WordPress

In 2017, we created a website for LGSS shared services with WordPress as our Content Management System (CMS).

WordPress is used by 25% of websites globally, and for good reason. It’s easy to use and has flexible and high-powered functionality.

But WordPress is still primarily a self-hosted blogging tool. It can get stubborn when catering for large amounts of web traffic – exactly what we needed it to do on the LGSS website.

One way to get round this would be to command WordPress to use multiple servers during periods of high traffic. But this isn’t as easy as it should be.

WordPress hosts your web images in an internal gallery. So, when replicating itself across two servers, all images are duplicated and carried over to the new server. By hosting a duplicate set of images, each new server is wasting space and processing power.

The solution?

We found it would be much more efficient to host images on a cloud storage platform like Google Cloud or Dropbox. Then ask WordPress to collect the data from this platform when it needs to show the images.

It’s a solid work around but a pain to implement every time we want to create a high traffic website supported by WordPress (of which there may be many)

We wanted a version of WordPress that will do the work around by itself, every time we use it. A perfect case for automation.

Support your team with automation

While repetition wastes time we often – ironically – are too pressed for time to justify automation. Maybe we’re in the middle of a sprint and just want to solve the problem at hand. Maybe we’re juggling more than one project and don’t have the headspace to deal with it.

At LGSS Digital, we empowered one of our developers, James Pickett, to become our Development Operations Engineer.

James’ job is basically to have free time.

While this sounds a little crazy, James supports the team by automating anything that will help the team to work more efficiently. If he does his job well, everything that can be automated will be, and he won’t need to do anything other than be available for the next need.

This means that the rest of the team – caffeinated up to their eyeballs, tapping away furiously in the darkness of codeland – can continue their flow without ever repeating themselves or losing vital project time.

Committing a staff member to automation might sound excessive to you, but things have been running a lot smoother since James has been around.

We’d love to hear about your own ideas and experiences with automation. Join the conversation by email or twitter.