The Longest Tunnels

By the time I went back to work at the beginning of 2023, I'd decided to do what I regularly do with seemingly intractable problems in life, the universe, and coding: I broke the problem down into (a lot of) smaller steps.

Step 1 : Set up a new ASP.NET MVC project with Windows Authentication

Step 2: Wire up Entity Framework

Step 3: Set up a home page

Step 4: Implement some kind of Security


Step 13: Migrate all Finance Department code to .NET


Step 32 Migrate all Property Department code to .NET

In the end I had about 48 discrete steps so I thought to myself, hey, why not make this a one-year challenge and manufacture 4 more steps to give me a 52 week plan!

And so it began, the hardest year of my working life. Of course, I had to convince senior management that I could maintain my existing codebase, keep up-to-date with my normal workload, and execute my 52-week plan all at the same time. And then, on top of all that, my line manager decided to retire and leave me to subsume his remaining three 1990s Access Databases into my currently volatile codebase.

So, in January 2023, I began, slowly but steadily, chipping away at this seemingly insurmountable problem. By the end of the month, I had a clean working website, with access to a miniscule subset of our data. But it was a working website! And although there was no visible light at the end of the tunnel, I started to feel that maybe I could plod on.

As the months went by, I was able to set up a hybrid system where some users were able to use parts of the new codebase. Then a month or so later, other users were able to make the new code their entry point and switch seamlessly through to the old code where necessary. And then, soon after that, a few users were only using the new code. I couldn't quite believe it was happening! And then, by late summer, I could finally see the light at the end of that long, long tunnel.

This reminds me of when I lived in Japan in my twenties. I stayed with a host family who I called 'okāsan' (mother) and 'otōsan' (father). Every day I kept a diary about Japanese life in general and, in particular, the courses I was taking at Niigata University Law School. One day I wrote "I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel but, as otōsan keeps reminding me, Japan has the longest tunnels in the world".

I couldn't quite believe that this immense journey might actually have a final destination but as the final few weeks went by it seemed that everything was just slotting into place. The 52 week project was now a 6 week plan, and then a 4 week plan. By the end of the year, I started wondering what still needed to be done, and how I would go about making the final switch to move everyone from the old Intranet to the new but, as it turned out, the only thing I needed to do was turn off the old code - everyone was already using the new one!

I was astounded by my own achievement; I had somehow managed to abstract away the complexities of the big picture into manageable chunks and complete all the chunks without really realising what I was doing.

By January 2024, the old Intranet and all the back end code had been archived off and somehow the new Intranet was live. I'd like to go into more detail about this epic solo adventure and, hopefully, I will be able to do so over the next few posts but, for now, ...

Over and out.