Supporting IE8 in the OpenTable redesign

We’re really proud to have released last week our redesigned OpenTable site, the culmination of months of hard work from many talented people here in London and in San Francisco.

However despite killing off our old site and its 2004 design, 2.8% of our visitors could have been crying into their keyboard as a far worse filled their screen.

That version of OpenTable was our new responsive site viewed in Internet Explorer 8.

Our redesign before we optimised for IE8

The fundamental issue is that IE8 doesn’t support media queries so the age-old browser would try to stretch our mobile-first responsive design as wide as it could go - not great across a 27” Thunderbolt.

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Proxying Services With Hapi.js

I’ve raved in the past about how awesome hapi.js is, but I’m going to talk about just a specific case today.

We started off with just a couple of hapi.js apis. This was at a time when standing up new infrastructure was still a bit painful, so inevitably those apis ended up having more functionality in them than they should have. Now it’s easy for us to get infrastructure, so we want to do more of it.

Our goal is to have lots of small(er) apis that just look after one specific piece (skillfully avoiding using the buzzword ‘microservices’).

When you want to split out functionality from one api to another, it can be a pain, especially if you have a lot of consumers who aren’t particularly fast-moving or communicative. Or maybe you don’t know all your consumers up front.

You’ve got a couple of options here:

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Hobknob v2.0: A new dimension

Sometimes there is the requirement for more granularity when toggling a feature switch.
Version 2.0 of Hobknob hopes to address this with feature categories.


Hobknob now allows you to define categories of features that have multiple toggles per feature.

For example, you can define the ‘Domain Features’ category which allows you to toggle a feature OFF in, but ON in

Domain Features


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Interacting with ElasticSearch using Hubot

At OpenTable, we use a few ElasticSearch clusters. Our aim was to be able to interact with our ElasticSearch clusters via HipChat so that we could troubleshoot easily and without having to log into our VPN. We already use Hubot as part of our systems workflow, so it made sense to be able to interact with ElasticSearch with it.

Setting a cluster alias

When a pager wakes me at 3am, I really do not want to have to try and type the cluster URL into my mobile hipchat client. So the first thing that was added to the script was the ability to give a cluster an alias.

elasticsearch add alias my-test-alias


This allows us to use that alias for all commands going forward. Please note that you can remove and query aliases as well:

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Coach don't rescue

I recently attended a fascinating and emotionally-charged talk by Samantha Soma at DareConf 2014, ‘How to stop rescuing people’. It strongly mirrored my experience of moving into a leadership role and I’d recommend anyone with a spare 30mins to watch it.

Samantha’s talk made me reflect on how I struggle to coach talented individuals; how I can identify when it’s going wrong and what steps I can take to remedy the situation.

Gold star syndrome

A new concept for me and a recurring theme throughout the sessions at DareConf, ‘Gold Star Syndrome’ is a fixation on finding validation for your work. I feel this is a result of early childhood values spinning the perception of working life away from the actual reality. As a child, especially during our school years, we discovered that when we do good things, good things happen to us. Remember how it felt to get that gold star in your spelling test or that A+ on an English essay?

That was great in school and even through to University but working life is a much more terse environment and getting positive reenforcement is much less common. As professionals, the majority of our work goes unnoticed - until there is a problem or issue to solve. Then we feel open to the stinging criticism but resentful that months of good work went unnoticed.

When we continue to search for a gold star or continually strive for perfectionism we, as individuals, become much more insular and isolated. We tend to avoid showing our work until it is 100% ready and put up a shield to protect us from any feedback, in fear of being made to look stupid or being called a fraud.

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Hobknob v1.0: Now with authorization

We are pleased to announce the version 1.0 release of Hobknob, our open-source feature toggle management system. With it comes a few additions and several improvements.

This post will expand on some of the changes, in particular, authorisation via access control lists.
For an introduction to Hobknob, see our previous post: Introducing Hobknob: Feature toggling with etcd.

Authorisation with ACLs

A much requested feature was the ability to control who can add/update/delete toggles on an application by application basis. We achieve this via the use if an Access Control List for each application. Users that are part of the ACL for an application are known as application owners.

Hobknob Owner List

Application owners can (for an owned application):

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PuppetConf 2014 - Part 3

Day 2

This is our summary of PuppetConf 2014. In our previous post we gave an overview of the first day of the conference. This post will provide an
overview of the final day.

There were even more inspiring keynotes and lots more talks which have given us plenty of ideas to go home and think about.

Key Notes

Animating the Puppet: Creating a Culture of Puppet Adoption - Dan Spurling (@spurling), Getty Images - Slides

Dan Spuring, VP of Tech Services at Getty came out of the gate with a strong message. His GSD t-shirt
giving you a clear understanding of who he is. His talk about creating a culture of Puppet adoption at his company was a great story of how challenging it
can be to move various business units with projects of various ages to a configuration-management (with Puppet) ethos.

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PuppetConf 2014 - Part 2

Day 1

This is our summary of PuppetConf 2014. In our previous post we gave an overview of the contributor summit. This post will provide an overview
of the first day of PuppetConf.

As you might expect there were great keynotes with plenty of announcements and too many talks for us to attend. We have provided an outline for all the talks
we did attend and links to those we didn’t.


Nearly a Decade of Puppet: What We’ve Learned and Where We’re Going Next - Luke Kanies, PuppetLabs - Slides

The big keynote of the event to kick off the first day from the author of Puppet himself. This was obviously going to be a tweet worthy affair full of photos
and big announcements and it did not disappoint.

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PuppetConf 2014 - Part 1

The start of PuppetConf 2014

It has been one week since our attendance at this years PuppetConf and we have just now caught up on all the great talks that were
given and the projects demonstrated over the 3 day period. Here’s our summary of the event (split into 3 parts), hopefully you will
find as much inspiration in the content as we have.

Day 0 - Contributor Summit

For the first time, this years Puppet Contributor Summit was held the day prior to the conference itself and I think this was a great idea.
Most of the Puppetlabs staff and many of the high profile community members were in town for PuppetConf anyway so it made sense. There was
roughly 60-70 people in attendance both senior contributors and people new to the community so it was a great mix that led to some
fantastic discussions.

The day itself had two tracks: a module track for forge modules and a core track for people contributing to puppet and factor.

Those of you who have seen our forge module page will understand why we chose to stay in the module track.
Although I heard there were many great discussions to be had with regards to Puppet 4 in the core track.

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Introducing Hobknob: Feature toggling with etcd

The ability to dynamically turn features on/off in software without the need to redeploy code is extremely beneficial. Whether you are trialing a new feature or using branch by abstraction to avoid creating feature branches, the use of feature toggles can aid continuous delivery and provide a mechanism to reduce mean time to resolution when an issue occurs.

With a relatively large engineering department with multiple teams spread across the US and UK the need to manage feature toggles has evolved to the point whereby individual teams have developed their own implementations. Most of these are simple config files.

We decided to unify this effort by providing a central place to store feature toggles, provide a dashboard to be able to turn these toggles on/off and provide language specific clients to integrate into our software components.

The results of this was Hobknob.

Why etcd?

We made the decision to use etcd. Etcd is “a highly-available key value store for shared configuration” ( It provides a HTTP API to store and retrieve data. This is what makes it perfect for a feature toggling solution used by multiple components. It means that we didn’t have to write an intermediate API on top of a data store for consumers.

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