Sprint Retrospective – 4 April 2018

This sprint was easily our best one yet. We were highly productive, completing a range of tasks concerning design, merging with other teams and test-driven development. Where the previous few sprints have illuminated the pitfalls and obstacles of Agile development to our team, this sprint gave us a feel for what it’s like when Agile development is running like a well-oiled machine.

Not long after the beginning of the sprint, we identified a design dilemma that had us scratching our heads. We noted that if we had the patient data encrypted with an algorithm that made use of the active user’s password (as all groups seemed to agree upon), then we would run into a problem:

Suppose Doctor A is logged into a machine, making use of the offline data module. He does his work, no problems, everything is fine; all patient data is encrypted with respect in some capacity to his password. Suppose, then, that Doctor B comes along and tries logging into the same device. In spite of having provided perfectly valid login credentials, Doctor B will be unable to access the patient data, due to the patient data being encrypted with respect to Doctor A’s password. We spent a few days trying to figure out exactly how to solve this predicament, but our ideas kept coming up unsatisfactorily for a number of reasons.

I take some pride in being the one to figure out the answer, and consider it one of my two major contributions to the team this sprint. It turns out that the way to both satisfy the specification (which lists that the login must feature encryption using the user’s password + a salt) and the dilemma we encountered was a split in what we were storing. Rather than a single offline database, we would have two. One of these would be responsible for storing the patient data – encrypted with its own algorithm, irrespective of the user’s login credentials. The second database, however, would consist of only strings. Specifically, each string would be the result of running the encryption algorithm with respect to the user’s password on their user ID. For login, the method would therefore be:

  1. User enters username/password
  2. Run the encryption service on the username provided, using the password provided
  3. Perform a database lookup for the result in database 2
  4. If there is a match, successful login. If there is not a match, unsuccessful.

This information was spread to the other groups and has been accepted as the plan for all encryption service use moving forward.

In addition to this important design step, my other major contribution this sprint was in writing test cases for the create, addDoc, and getDoc methods. In class, we were able to get tests to pass with the code written by other members of the team, and observed in browser that a PouchDB database had successfully been created, added to and read from.

The biggest takeaway from this sprint was easily that having specific roles in the group is a powerful motivational force. When it was determined that I would fall into the role of test writer, and the other members of the group picked their specific methods to focus on, it was clear that we had each found the direction we needed in order to get the ball rolling. Going forward, I hope we will continue this practice of providing concrete roles for one another, to make the project feel less like a behemoth and more like a set of separate goals to be achieved.

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