Saturday 28 August 2021

The certificate associated with the consumer key has expired

This week a couple of my continuous integration builds started failing. This in itself isn't unusual - these are typically end to end builds that create scratch orgs, set up standing data, run a bunch of tests, so it doesn't take much to tip the odd one over.  I didn't find anything helpful about the error message online though, so I'm writing this post so that it will appear as a match for the next person that is trying to find out more!

The error was something I hadn't seen before - "The certificate associated with the consumer key has expired.".  Googling didn't bring up much, one person had reported it before and they had got around it by removing their CLI installation and starting again. Not an option for me as the CLI setup on my CI machine would take a fair amount of effort to recreate. Time to start digging.

The first place I looked was the CLI itself - I typically don't update this much on my CI machine, as it hasn't been the most stable tool in terms of working new releases over the last year or so. It seemed entirely plausible that something embedded in the CLI had expired, so I updated everything and waited. Sadly this didn't fix my scratch builds, but it did break one of my static code analysis jobs, as a rule had switched from Java to XPath, and I had references to the Java class in one of my custom configurations. That was a relatively quick fix, so shortly I was no worse than the day before.

Next was the JWT grant for the org that I'm using as a dev hub for these builds. I was able to query data from the org without any problem, so it didn't seem to be that. Then I tried creating a scratch org and got the same error, so it seemed likely that it was related, but not as obviously as it might have been. 

Once I'd remembered how to access a connected app's configuration, I could see that the self-signed certificate for the app had expired about 9 hours before the build started failing.  Clearly I had found the problem.  

My next thought was that I would have to go through the whole JWT grant again - not something I look forward to, mainly because I don't do it that often and I always remember it being worse than it is. The first thing I needed to do though, was create a new self-signed certificate for the connected app, which I duly did. I was tempted to make the certificate last 10 years (apparently openssl self-signed certs can go out for around 75 years), but that felt like trading security for convenience, which is never a good thing to do. Once I'd updated the cert I decided I'd have a quick go at creating a new scratch org and it worked! No need to generate a new grant, I was off to the races. I then encountered a problem deleting scratch orgs, but this is something I'm also seeing on another machine that is authorised to a different dev hub via web login, so it feels like that is a different issue. I can also work around it with some scheduled Apex, so I'm happy to wait and see if it goes away!

Saturday 21 August 2021

The Public Nature of Modern Programming


When I got my first programming job, way back in 1987, it was a quite a private and solitary occupation. The Design Authority for my project gave me a detailed design for a procedure, including explicit definitions of the interfaces that I would use to interact with the rest of the system. I would then write the code for the procedure, test it locally and check it into version control. If I didn't need any clarification, I wouldn't speak to anyone as part of this process. I'd chat to my colleagues that I shared an office with, but in terms of doing my work it would be me and a screen. 

My code wouldn't be looked at by anyone else unless there was an issue when the next build took place, which there always was, as there were hundreds of new procedures that had never been slammed together before. The build team would take the first stab at fixing the issues, and if they were successful then I wouldn't know anything about this. If they were unsuccessful we would then enter a period of confusion as they typically wanted help with their fix rather than the underlying problem, and I would wonder where this code they were talking about had come from. 

My working life was spent solving problems that others were probably spending time solving, but it would never have occurred to me to share information about what I was doing, nor would I have had the first clue about how to go about sharing it. 

Outside of work, I would almost never talk to anyone about programming unless I was catching up with someone I'd been at college with, but it would be very superficial and typically about which languages and business areas we were working in, before getting down to the serious business of talking about sport. I'd also rarely do any programming outside of work. I might fiddle around a bit with some Basic, Pascal or 6502 assembler on my BBC Model B, but nothing serious. And certainly nothing that I'd consider telling anyone else about.  Some people wrote games and sent the source into magazines that might print it, but as a professional programmer I already got paid to write code so didn't need this outlet. 

Programming was a job like any other - I went to an office, worked there for a set number of hours a day, then went home and did whatever else I was interested in at the time. Unless you were a close friend or family member, you wouldn't have known that I programmed computers for a living, and unless you were a programmer yourself, it was hard for me to communicate exactly what I did every day.

The stereotype of a programmer was someone sitting in a darkened basement, being fed written requirements, and spending their days staring at a screen and typing. Which was pretty accurate.


Programming in 2021 has changed beyond all recognition. It's now a collaborative and very public occupation. Requirements are rarely written down, and if they are it is often the programmers doing that after speaking to "the business" to find out exactly what is needed. Outside of integrating with external systems, integrating with the rest of the code in the project involves collaboration with the other programmers and the interfaces change when it becomes apparent they need to. Code is reviewed before being added to version control and continuous integration flags up problems as soon as they occur. The idea that a team of humans would need to kick off a build and triage the problems seems quaint and incredibly inefficient now. 

For me, the biggest change is that programmers expect, and are expected, to have a public profile. 

When we solve a problem, we write a blog post about it, redacting any detail that might expose which customer this impacted. We cross post on Substack and Medium. There might be a Github repository with the sample code for the blog post - there will almost certainly be other Github repositories to showcase our work, sometimes complete applications that anyone is welcome to copy. 

We also perform for audiences now, as we share what we've been doing at meet ups, conferences (both community and vendor organised), podcasts, webinars and recorded sessions. I'm pretty sure for the first 5-10 years of my career I didn't even show a customer what I'd built for them, it just got rolled into demos and training carried out by others. Now I show complete strangers from around the world and it seems perfectly normal.

Which is Better?

From the point of view of solving problems and producing solutions, it's almost unrecognisable now. If you hit a problem with anything other than bleeding edge technology, it's incredibly likely that someone else has already hit it and fixed it. And blogged about the fix. And spoken at a conference about it. And maybe created a Github repository with all the code you could possibly need going forward. 

The flip side is that programming is now more of a lifestyle choice than a job. There is an expectation that you will be working on side projects, writing posts and presenting at conferences. Often this will be on top of your actual job, which means that your social life is merely an extension of your professional life and often indistinguishable. Going to the office and working a set number of hours is typically only part of the programmer life these days, which can bring a lot of pressure, especially if you don't see it as a calling.  It can also be a full time job keeping up with the latest developments - frameworks rise and fall, platforms come in and out of favour, or the baddies get a new CEO and become the goodies so you grudgingly have to skill up on their products.

Personally I find it a lot better now that it was when I started, but very I'm lucky in that (a) I enjoy what I do, and (b) I can dedicate large chunks of my own time to all the extra-curricular activities without making my personal life difficult. I'm sure nobody wants to go back to the days when the helpful information was silo'd or didn't exist, but I'd imagine there are some out there who would quite like a return to the days when programming was something you did in private.

Saturday 14 August 2021

Salesforce++ Top Picks

Salesforce++ is the new streaming service that marries up the excitement of enterprise software with the creativity and spontaneity of reality TV, showcasing exclusive original content that other services can only dream about. 

We've watched them all so you don't have to, so read on for our pick of bunch of August's programming.

90 Day Licenseé

In this show, Salesforce Account Executives are paired up with real life prospects and have 90 days to turn them into paying customers.

As we catch up with the couples in August, Malcolm introduces Clare to his family for the first time. Malcolm's sister, Evelyn, question Clare's intentions, feeling that she is leading Malcolm on to get access to his first call deck.

If you enjoy this show, watch out for 90 Day License√© : Happy Ever After? to find out more about previous prospects - did they get the agreement they were looking for, and are they still together with their AE?

American Picklists

Following Salesforce Admins Becky and Taylor from coast to coast as they track down weird and wonderful picklists, and talk to the admins responsible for creating and maintaining them.

August - Becky and Taylor head to rural Iowa to meet solo admin Herman, who works for a local non-profit. While clearing out some old applications that hadn't been opened for years, Herman stumbled across a mint-condition picklist produced for training purposes in 2012, made up of the names of Disney characters. 

Miami ISVs

Drama featuring Sonny Crackit and Rico Tabs, two software engineers based in Miami who spend their weeks helping ISVs fine tune their app exchange offerings, and their weekends on sun-drenched beaches.

In this month's episode, Crackit suffers a concussion after crashing his jet-ski and believes himself to be Sonny Crocket from the Miami Vice TV series. Tabs faces a race against time to stop his colleague from blowing the profits from their last engagement by renting a Ferrari Daytona Spyder.

Deadliest Batch

(Documentary series following the real-life experience of several teams of hard-bitten Apex developers who make a living writing batch jobs for demanding customers)

In August, there's trouble at the family operations. At Munchausen the Slopestring brothers fall out over whether to use Database.Stateful or write information back to the database at the end of each execute method. Meanwhile, at Winter Cove, Calamity Jane Hitchcoski's development team grind around the clock to fill their record quota before tax season ends.

Say Yes to the Apex

Reality series following events at Grossmeadow Software, where the developers try to find the perfect Apex solutions for a different admin and their entourage every week.

August : Can Team Leader Jackie design the perfect Apex for newly single admin Roberto? Roberto has dreamt about replacing his ageing workflow rules with a stylish Apex solution, and is keen to make it happen this year as a tribute to his step-uncle, who died 15 years before Roberto was born. He'll be deploying the code from Honolulu, so is keen that it has a Hawaiian feel to it.

Film of the Month: Bad Multi-Tenant

[While it might not feel like it, streaming services aren't all about reality shows. Salesforce++ features a mix of new and classic movies]

August gets off to a blistering start with a hard hitting classic from the early 90s. Harry Cortez stars as MT, a Salesforce Architect who delights in exploiting loopholes to use more than his fair share of Salesforce resources.  As he closes in on rock bottom, he is given a shot at redemption when he stumbles across a post on Stack Exchange asking for help writing the unit tests for an Apex trigger.

Contains scenes of limit abuse and unbounded SOQL queries.

Sunday 8 August 2021

Avoiding Returnaggedon

How a company has treated its staff over the last 18 months, and how they treat them over the next few months as traditional workplaces open up, will have a huge impact on their future. Forcing teams back into the office is likely to result in Returnaggedon, where they come back just long enough to hand in their notice.

Now that most legal restrictions in the UK around COVID-19 have been lifted, thoughts are inevitably turning to what happens next in terms of remote work. Many of us are drifting back in for the odd day here and there for meetings, while some CEOs seem determined to revert back to how things were before. Apparently working from home doesn't work for those who want to hustle, and if you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come to the office. Although most of the time, the impending switch back to the old normal was immediately pushed back as the delta variant proved to be no respecter of desires or plans - a couple of days ago Amazon were the latest to push back from a September 2021 to January 2022.

Expecting everything to go back to how it was because that's how you liked it seems rather short sighted to me. While many reasons may be given for why everyone needs to be in the same physical location to get their work done, a lot of this will come down to trust, or lack thereof. The pandemic forced many managers to trust that their people were working even when they couldn't stand over them and, while they paid lip service to how well it was all going, that trust really wasn't there. Hence some can't wait to get everyone back in the office where their every move can be watched. Trust begets trust, however, and many employees report not trusting their leadership to manage the return to work safely - last September a survey found only 14% trusted their CEOs and senior leaders to make the correct call, which is pretty shocking. 

It's not just about safety though. People have adjusted to the benefits of part or full time remote working and are reluctant to put the genie back in the bottle.  No commute and saving money are the main reasons that most people want to stay remote, and they won't give that up easily, especially if they can avoid it by simply changing jobs. And people are changing jobs. A lot. So much that it's being called the Great Resignation. A Microsoft survey of 30,000 workers around the world found that 41% of them were considering quitting or changing profession. Imagine losing 41% of your workforce - it's hard to see that as anything other than catastrophic, given how long it takes to fully onboard new employees. While most executives say they don't want things to go back to how they are, around 70% of them want people in the office 3+ days a week, so it's clear that many want it to look an awful lot like it did before, with a few bones thrown to pretend they embrace remote work.

In Salesforce world, the competition for talent has always been intense, and somehow gets hotter every year. Companies need to offer people what they are looking for, or they will miss out to those that do. A survey of 1,000 US office workers in May said 39% would consider quitting if their employer didn't show flex. If you add in to that how easily people can walk into another Salesforce job, it's clear that if employees want to continue with this way of working, an accommodation must be found.  If plans aren't in place to offer remote/hybrid working going forward, it's going to be a bumpy ride!