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Confessions of a new Jazz developer, Part 1: Getting a clue

Being a recent graduate and a new member of the Jazz Foundation and RTC Reporting Team, I have had to learn Jazz from the ground up. In doing so I accumulated several tips and tricks along the way. I have divided these tips into two posts. This first part deals with finding the information that I care about, and the second (coming soon) post revolves around developing in this environment.


At the center of information discovery for me in RTC are work item queries. They are the bread and butter of how I determine what is going on in the world around me and I consume them in a variety of different ways.

Originally I used queries exactly as they were. I created a variety of them, and to view them I would use the Work Items view. While this works great for those quick “one off” searches, I found this wasn’t a flexible way for me to see a large amount of data all at once. I can only run one query at a time!

Then, I was fortunate to have someone point out Feeds to me. Feeds take a query and turn it into a constantly updated Atom feed that you can then consume with your favorite reader. To do this, all you have to do is right-click on a query in the rich client and select Subscribe to Query Feed. To use  an external reader, right click on the newly added feed under the Feeds section and select Copy Feed URL and paste it into your reader of choice. This was a great improvement as I was now seeing multiple streams of targeted information, simultaneously. However, I quickly found out that these feeds require authentication, which isn’t supported by my reader of choice, Google Reader™ feed reader. After a brief and failed experiment with Yahoo Pipes, I was off in search of a reader that worked for me.

After trying out several Windows-based readers that could do authentication, I pleasantly came across Team Central, built right into Rational Team Concert. Team Central gave me a central (pun intended) place to aggregate all of my feeds and queries where I was sure to be all the time: my development environment! Coupled with Eclipse’s ability to let me detach views so even while I was coding I could have it open on a separate monitor, I had a great way to keep track of all the information that was flowing around me.  I was able to aggregate groups of related queries (including ones from different repositories) into bar charts for a quick visual queue that I could hover over for more information. It also had an event log for the queries I’d turned into feeds so I can see at a glance what was going on with things that matter to me. Finally as an added convenience I can see the latest build health of the builds I deal with.

Team Central and User Feed

My Team Central view on the left and my user Feed on the right

Get creative in your query writing, too! I don’t just write work item queries for myself but I also have queries around what my team does so I can see what they’re up to, and even queries on certain words like “must have” or “critical”.

There’s also a great article in the library on this topic: Best practices for using news feeds to track events in Rational Team Concert.

Feed Pages

In the above image, the feed page for my user ID  is also shown on the right. This page gives a nice time specific summary of what I’ve been up too lately. It is highly customizable and shows everything including modifications, comments to work items, and check-ins. This is an excellent way to follow how someone is working on a day to day basis. For new developers like myself, it was invaluable in finding common team practices and discovering how teammates worked and allocated their time which helped me develop good habits of my own.

Subscribing & Email

A nice alternative to Feeds is to subscribe to changes to work items and have them sent to your email. This can be done from both the Web interface and rich client by going to the links tab on any work item and adding yourself (or anyone who you think might or should care) as a subscriber. This will then generate an email any time there is an event on that work item such as an attribute change, comment, or a check-in. I have my email client open on my second screen all day, so for me it works really well with a couple of inbox rules to keep my mail organized. I am able to easily keep tabs on updates to work items even when my Eclipse is closed (which of course is never, but ya never know).

Mailing Lists

Another great source of some higher level information are the mailing lists. They provide great insight into what the development teams are up to and critical information such as server maintenance, so you’re never left in the dark.

Thanks & Further Reading

I would love to say that I discovered all of these great features myself but in reality I was given a lot of helpful advice. In no particular order I want to thank James Moody, Rafik Jaouani, Jean-Michel Lemieux, and Andrew Hoo.

Some more good tips on using plans and tracking can be found in Jean-Michel’s post.

Brent Barkman
Reports team