Sending Passbook Push Notifications with Houston and Sidekiq

The Nomad collection of iOS/Ruby tools are a great resource. I recently switched how Goldstar is sending out push notifications from Grocer to Houston.

Grocer has gone unmaintained for most of 2014, and it was obvious how to recover from a problem we were having with it where Apple would close the persistent connection we were using to send notifications, and so any notification sent after that would be lost. So I used Josh Symonds’ technique (with some tweaks I’ll mention later) to send them in a more robust way.

The one thing that Grocer does out of the box that Houston didn’t that we really needed was a way to send Passbook Push Notifications. These just like regular Push Notifications, however they are totally blank, sent to a token the pass registers with your server, and only work against the Production push notification gateway, using a different SSL certificate than your standard cert. This causes some problems because Houston assumes the Rails development environment should send pushes against the dev apple gateway.


Working Software

I’ve been thinking about what the minimum requirement for a programmer is. It’s an interesting topic. No one talks about it, really. What’s the most basic skill a programmer must possess to call themselves a “professional programmer”?

I’d like to think that we could look at some other professions and see how they define it. Doctor’s have the saying “do no harm”, pretty good. Architects, I’d guess, have to be able to design a building that doesn’t implode. Plumbers have to build a system of pipes that doesn’t get backed up and doesn’t leak. Lawyers, at the most basic level, just need to know the laws. They just need to be correct.

If you try to fix your sink, and it starts spraying water all over your kitchen, you might proclaim “I’m no plumber!”. If you gave medical advice to someone, and they got sick, you’d say “I’m no doctor!”. Almost all statements prefaced with IANAL are wrong, because that person doesn’t actually know what the laws say.

I think we could sum this up by saying, the basis of most professions is the ability to not break anything, or be incorrect in what you say.

So, what can we say about programming? How do you define what makes someone a professional? Correctness? All software that I’ve ever used has been incorrect in one way or another, so we’re going to have to throw that one out. Let’s get even more basic.

The minimum attribute of being a profession programmer is that you deliver working programs. Your code works. It does not break. It does not make things worse.

How many programmers do you know that can say that?

I would like to hear more folks would talking about “this”. Software that works. The process of delivering software that doesn’t break, consistently.

Expanding on the Law of Demeter

Recently, my friend Avdi Grim posted a great explanation of the Law of Demeter (LoD). It’s been tweeted and posted all over the web, so hopefully you saw it and read it. I’m totally in agreement with his conclusions in that post, and LoD is a code smell I see in every MVC project I have ever worked in.

I’m going to pick on Avdi’s post just a little, but this is more-so criticism of every LoD explanation I’ve ever read. I think all of these explanations of LoD are actually quite contrite and not addressing the real problem. Avdi (and others) seem to focus on “Structrual Coupling” or exposing the “internal” (actually external*) structure of your objects to other objects that don’t need to know it.

An Example:

def user_info(user) "Name: #{}. Boss: #{user.department.try(:head).try(:name)}" end

Avdi does a beautiful job illustrating why this code is a problem but I want to go a little deeper.

The more insidious LoD violation see in codebases is what I’d call “behavioral” LoD violations, or, when the behavior of a class relies on the behavior of objects that are distant in the object graph.

My example needs a little setup. Lets say you have Vehicles which has_many Platforms which has_many Models which has_many Versions (and Platforms has many Version through models). Pretty simple 4 level deep object graph that a car manufacturer might have. A very common set of objects you might want is to know which Platforms are actually in production. Some our outdated, some are future, but you want all the platforms that are currently in production.

Now, I know how I’d do this, but I commonly see code like this:

class Vehicles
  def current_platforms(options = {})
    platforms = platforms.find(:all,
                        :conditions => 
                          ["platforms.on_date >= ? AND platforms.status IN ('open', 'cancelled') AND platforms.cached_inventory_status != ?",
                        :order => 'on_date asc, time_note asc',
                        :include => {:models => :versions})
    if options[:skip_some_special_case] { |platform| platform.versions.any? { |offer| !version.special_case} }
    elsif options[:skip_some_other_case] { |platform| platform.versions.any?(&:other_case?) }

This code is a great example of my problem with how most folks end up simplifying LoD violations. No where are we chaining methods “too deep” or as it gets simplified to are we “using too many periods”. We’ve only used 1 period (because of a has_many :through =>). However, in our if statements, we are tightly coupling our code to the behavior of a class that is 3 siblings away from the one we’re working in. Nasty. Never should a Platform do operations on, or even know about, a Version.

So why is my example actually worse than something.try(:something_else).try(:a_third)? Well, lets get back to that * I left on “(actually external [structure])”.

Most people seem to classify the active_record generated attribute accessors of Rails model classes as “internal structure” (Avdi doesn’t, I should state for correctness). These are most certainly external structure. You can override them and return whatever you’d like and attributes[:foo] is actually the “internal” accessor for all active_record classes. External structure, in every project I’ve ever worked in, has been the most consistent, least volatile part of the codebases. External structure almost *never* changes, and when it does, it’s typically *very* easy to change (it’s not even a refactoring, it’s just changing the messages exchanged between classes).

My example relies on behavior of a class 3 classes away. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that behavior is always more volatile than structure, and as Avdi points out, LoD really starts hurting as code churns and whatever your LoD relies on changes and becomes more and more complex.

So the big question is, how do we fix this?

It’s actually a theoretically simple fix, and similar to the fixes in Avdi’s post: delegate the behavior down the object graph!

class Vehicle
  def current_platforms(options={})
    if options[:skip_some_special_case]
    elsif options[:skip_some_other_case]

class Platform
  def regular_case
  def special_case?
  def other_case?

class Model
  def special_case?
  def other_case?

class Version
  def special_case?
  def other_case?

Now, Platform knows nothing about versions, versions can easily change what defines the “cases” without any changes to Platform and ironically, when I made this refactoring to the original source I got this derived example from, it’s actually *more* efficient. Removing the explicit find that started the original method means that if we’ve already loaded this object graph, even outside of this method, we can keep reusing it without going to the database.

I hope this helps, and for the love of Demeter, can we stop describing it as “using too many periods”?

Pro Tip: Encapsulate logic in Rails Views for maintainability

A Rails view anti-pattern is that they very quickly turn into a nasty tangle of conditional html blocks.


<% if logged_in? && @user == current_user %>

Simple example, but what is the intention of that code? Why are you really checking for? Give that state a name.

Change that to:

def viewing_own_profile(user)
  logged_in? && user == current_user

<% if viewing_own_profile(@user) %>

Now you can test that helper method without resorting to rendering a view and parsing it to check if elements exist, the state you care about is named and the intention is clear.

From Zero to Rails Hero in 11 Easy Steps (Installing Rails on OS X 10.6.5)

This is the easiest, fastest and best-to-develop-in way to get a rails dev stack up and running on OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

I actually find that it’s pretty easy, if everything is done in the right order.

  1. Install XCode
  2. Install Homebrew
    $ ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"
  3. Install git using homebrew
    $ brew install git
  4. Install mysql using homebrew
    $ brew install mysql
  5. Install rvm (and follow the instructions to set up bash and don’t forget to open a new terminal window)
    $ bash < <( curl )
  6. Install Ruby Enterprise Edition
    $ rvm install ree
  7. Make REE the default Ruby
    $ rvm use ree --default
  8. Tell rubygems to not install rdocs
    Put the following lines in ~/.gemrc

    install: --no-rdoc --no-ri
    update: --no-rdoc --no-ri
  9. Install Passenger
    $ gem install passenger

    Now follow that up by running the install script (and follow the directions)

    $ ./passenger-install-apache2-module

    At the end of the install process it will give you instructions to add 3 lines to the “Apache configuration file”, but it won’t tell you *where* your apache config file is. It’s at /etc/apache2/httpd.conf

  10. Restart Apache
    At this point, if you’re using 10.6.5, you might do a sudo /etc/apachectl restart and run into the following error:
    /usr/sbin/apachectl: line 82: ulimit: open files: cannot modify limit: Invalid argumentTo fix this, edit /usr/sbin/apachectl and change ULIMIT_MAX_FILES to an empty string.

    Now you can restart apache.

  11. Install PassengerPane 1.3

BOOM! Done.

Well, for me, I had to `gem install isolate` and Rubymine and then I was done, but you get the idea. Just load up the Passenger Preference Pane, point at site at a rails project on your hard drive, and load it up in your browser. Assuming your rails app will boot, you should be good to go!

Who should write tests?

The question seems pretty obvious, “Who should be writing the acceptance tests for your software?” I think most people will first answer with “Programmers!”. There might be a few “testers”‘ maybe even a “the customer and programer pair”. These are all fine answers. Unfortunately, I’m starting to think they are wrong.

You are doing BDD right? So you already care about the “b” word: behavior. You care enough to differentiate yourself from the lowly TDD-ers. I’ve got news for you, there is a whole group of folks that care even more about behavior than you do. These people are called Interaction Designers and you probably don’t have one on your team. Don’t get me wrong, everyone that has ever written software has done interaction design, you probably weren’t conscious of it, or if you were, you probably did it poorly (unless you’re an interaction designer, and then you probably don’t read my blog).

Just who is doing IDx in your organization is easy to figure out. When you write a spec, you know, those “it should. . . “, “When” and “Then” statements, who fills in the blank? I’d guess it’s usually the developer (that’s been the case every where I have worked). Sometimes you might ask the customer, product designer, product owner, project manager, designer, or someone else on your team. However, this is where I think we’re doing it wrong. I’m starting to get the feeling that the person that should be filling in these blanks should be the interaction designer (ID). IDs are the people that know your users, they know what your users want, what they need, and what their end goal is. They know where your users sit when they use your app. They know what time of day they use it, they know if they are bored or tired or in a hurry. And most of all, they know what “it should” do and they are right. Do you know this stuff? Do you care? I’ve worked with programmers that were offended to even be in meetings where we talked about personas and end users!

I was recently involved in a little experiment we called “Agile Up To Here” which was (among other things) a 1 week agile bootcamp for Alan Cooper. You might recognize that name if you have ever heard of interaction design because Alan invented the term. He’s written a couple books on the subject, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum and About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design. Anyway, after looking back at the week, I was trying to figure out what we could have done better. We were really agile. We could deploy from day 1, we had CI, we tested the shit out of everything, we paired all the time, we had the customer (Alan) in the room and on the team, it was sweet. But there was still something wrong.

Duh. We had an interaction designer in the room but he wasn’t thinking about IDx, he was learning agile. So who decided what went after “it should” in our app? Programmers, the worse-case choice. And what happened? On Friday, our last day, one of Alan’s IDs paired with Elizabeth Hendrickson and they finally started doing some real interaction design. But it was already too late, the damage was done. We had Interaction Design Debt™.

But why do you need IDx? The job of an ID is to figure out what a user wants to accomplish and the to ensure the application does precisely that. Anything your app does that doesn’t go to this need is waste, and any compromises are mistakes. Programmers, and I say this as someone who has almost solely as a programmer for the last 3-4 years, should be focused solely on figuring out the simplest code that could possibly work and implementing just that. The person that figures out “what could possibly work”, however, should be the ID. This must be a tight loop, and it must take place day in and day out.

Programmers are typically terrible at weighing the needs of the user against all the other things they have to keep in mind. If you don’t believe me, you’re either delusional or a programmer. Which is precisely the problem. This is something most people don’t know they don’t know. Or they don’t know they are actually pretty bad at it. Visual designers can also be pretty bad at IDx. If your designer just hands over Photoshop files with no instructions of how things should behave, thats probably because they are a bad interaction designer.

“Business people” are also usually bad at it, but for almost the opposite reason. Typically I’ve noticed that business people (which usually includes marketing folks) fall into 2 categories. Either they are too solution focused “let’s do it like so and so” without thinking if that’s actually the way it should be done for their users, or they don’t actually care about the implementation. The first group are doing IDx poorly and the second group doesn’t want to write specs. They don’t want to work at the level of thinking required for IDx and programming. They have a business goal. Let’s say it’s that they “want users to be able to sign up for a newsletter”. That’s the level they want to work at. The way the “user does the sign up”, “What happens when they click the “sign up” button?”, “What is written on the button?”, “Does the user have to confirm their sign up?”, and all the 100’s of questions that go along with this feature isn’t the level that most business people want to be involved. And when that is the case, why would  you want them to be involved in writing ATDD tests? If the answer is “because they are the ones that can answer that question” then you’re falling into the same trap that me and a lot of programmers have fallen into, because that just isn’t true. You’re actually looking for an interaction designer, not a business person.

Now that I’ve, I hope, changed your mind about just who should be writing these “tests”, let me get into the part that I’m not quite so confident about. Maybe what I’m talking about shouldn’t actually be expressed as “acceptance tests”. I mean, what happens and what a users sees when they sign up for a newsletter may not really be “business rules” or “business logic”, but isn’t it just as or more important? It’s important enough to me that I’d like to test it and make sure that what I think my code is doing is actually doing what I think it should. In fact, in most of my experience, these types of things are usually much more important and a much larger part of the application than the “business logic”. If you look at something like Facebook, where is there any business logic in that application (is there even any business, I don’t know)? I guess there could be some  in the privacy/permissions area. However, wouldn’t you want to test the multitude of things that happens when someone “likes” something? An interaction designer should be specifying what happens and a developer needs a way to be sure that their code does just that. What do we call those tests? How should we be doing that testing?

Rubymine – A Love Story

I started writing code in Flash 5. I actually learned OOP in ActionScript, but that’s another post all together. My point is, my first code editor was Flash. Then I moved to Dreamweaver + Homesite. Then I used BBEdit for a while. Then I found Rails and Textmate and I was in love. I’ve never done Java or ASP so I had no need for an IDE, or so I thought.

Anyway, about 6-8 months ago, I looked into Rubymine. I knew Pivotal Labs used Jetbrain’s IdeaJ IDE with a ruby plugin for a long time, so I thought a Rails specific version might be pretty interesting. I’ve used it full time, every day, since I tried it out and I really love it. I find it super productive and it has all the tools that I use my development flow all in one app.

First of all, I’ll state for the record that Rubymine is not a text editor. I still use Textmate every day. You won’t open up random files in Rubymine to edit them. Second, I don’t edit CSS in Rubymine. I use CSSEdit from MacRabbit. So I have no idea how it does with CSS. I also don’t really use Rubymine on my laptop. Most of the win I get from Rubymine is that it’s SUPER efficient

Here’s what my Rubymine setup looks like:

Rubymine setup

Things to note:

  1. Close the file browser and use split windows. Get rid of the toolbar, you don’t need that.
  2. Open up the Run tab on the bottom and move that out to a different window. Then fire up a Rails console and it will be out in that window also. Move this window over to your other monitor (stop reading if you don’t have one, you’re dead to me) and make the editor full screen.
  3. If you open up the preferences go to Editor => Editor Tabs and check “Show Tabs in a single row”
  4. I’ll leave this up to the reader, but figuring out how to get Spork up and running is all kinds of win.
  5. I use a modified version of the Mavenlink theme. I’m using Menlo in 14pt and 1.4 line spacing for my font.
  6. I have loads of my own tab expansions, which are called Live Templates in Rubymine. (‘%=’ + tab outputs <%=  %>). The default ones are lacking, I should package some of mine up, but since I created tons of my own in Textmate, most won’t make sense to you. Suffice to say, I don’t like haml, I like erb + live templates. That’s how many I have. 🙂

My favorite Rubymine features:

  1. Command + B with your cursor on any Ruby/Rails method will take you to where that method is defined. This is way better than any documentation because I CAN READ RUBY CODE. I have been known to write out code just to command+b it and remember if it’s the method I want.
  2. Control + H on any Ruby/Rails method shows you inline documentation. Win.
  3. Control + Spacebar in .feature files will let you ‘live complete’ Cucumber scenarios you’ve already written, including the substitution regex in them. If you don’t understand how much win this is, I can’t help you. 🙂
  4. Refactor => Rename is fucking awesome. Rubymine 2.0.2 will even rename “some_message” in SomeModel.should_receive(:some_message). Rubymine is pretty smart about this stuff, and when it isn’t they’ll fix it (I requested the should_receive stuff and they made it happen).
  5. Item #4 reminds me of my favorite feature over all. Jetbrains is actively developing Rubymine, so if you have a feature request, or you find a bug, or something annoys you, THEY WILL FIX IT. I don’t know about you, but I am morally against Textmate at this point because I don’t think the creator is working on it anymore. He won’t open source it though, because it still makes him money (and I’ve heard the internals are a nightmare). Rubymine’s developers use Cucumber to test it, and I think I even heard they use Rubymine to build Rubymine. They are committed to the product, to making it better, and to listening to the Rails community. I’m willing to bet, if the community were to put it’s weight behind it, we’d see even greater support.

My gripes:

  1. Rubymine is buggy. It just is. But I’m over it. They’ll fix them. If you find a bug in Textmate (like I don’t know, search), you’re never going to see a fix. Never.
  2. Rubymine will sometimes need to re-index your project. This usually isn’t convenient, but if you want all those cool features I just spoke about, and search that’s fast, and lots of the other things that make Rubymine awesome, then suck it up and take it. You need a break anyway.
  3. Rubymine can’t keep up with Yehuda. That’s just the facts. Rubymine has to know alot about Rails, Gems, Bundler, Cucumber, etc and changes in all those underlying libraries will sometimes make it painful to upgrade them and have Rubymine’s awesome features. That’s just life in the fast paced world. Having said that, Rubymine does a GREAT job trying to keep up. For example, it already supports bundler 0.7. Rubymine 2.0.2 will support bundler 0.8 and most of Rails 3.0. It’s got support for haml and sass and spork and lots of cutting edge stuff. And again, they are actively keeping it up to date (can I mention that enough?!?).
  4. Rubymine is a resource hog, but then again, it’s not like I have a lot of other stuff going on my laptop, so it’s not usually a big deal. Also, I’m sure others see this more as I have a SSD drive and it makes this not a big deal.

Chris Bailey prompted me to write this post, and he’s got some stuff on his post about Rubymine I’d like to clear up:

Doesn’t work (well) with MacOS X Spaces – prevents switching to another space when you select another app

I have no idea if this is true or not. I don’t use Spaces, sorry. However, I will say, I don’t switch away from the app much through out the day. Also, submit a bug! They’ll fix it if they can.

File tabs:

  • They go to multiple rows too easily.
  • They just don’t look right/good.  I’m not sure if it’s because they’re non-native tabs or what.
  • I understand, but don’t like how the rows swap when you change to a different tabs.  You lose track of where a file is in the tabs.

I address this above, but I’ll re-iterate. Making tabs into a single line in the preferences will make Rubymine majorly better.

Find in project is nowhere near as fast, or presented as usefully as Ack in Project for TextMate.  It does provide more options, such as filtering files by directory or type and so on, but the speed is generally far more important.

This is puzzling because I have found find to be very fast. And yes, it has MASSIVELY more and better options than Textmate. I haven’t used Ack in project much, so I can’t comment.

Also seems to crash enough that it bothers me.  I can tolerate an occasional crash, although with TextMate I’ve run it for weeks on end with no crash, using it constantly.  I’ve had several either hangs or crashes with RubyMine in the short couple weeks I’ve been trying it out.

I know Pat Maddox has seen his share of crashes. I never see crashes. I don’t know why, but Rubymine is actually more stable for me than Textmate. Even on big projects.

The refactoring bits were just ok.  This is a really hard feature in general though.  Simple refactorings I used, like renaming a method worked fine.  But, changing the name of a model class did about 1/4 of the work needed and was questionable as to whether it was an advantage over just doing it all myself.  It got all the obvious, low-hanging fruit, but it seemed to completely ignore Rails helpers and views.  It misses a bunch of things that I’m not surprised at of course, such as table names in SQL conditions (e.g. in named_scopes), model name used anywhere in JavaScript or CSS (which isn’t uncommon in Rails code), and then the one that I’d like to see it do a better job on, but that is hard of course is on associations.  So, in my application, I was refactoring our “Deal” model to be “HotelDeal”.  We have a “Hotel” model and it has_many deals.  Thus in the code you’d routinely see things like “” to reference that association.  It didn’t handle any of those.  Not surprising, but starts to devalue the refactoring feature.

I’d submit bugs for these things. Also, I don’t know what version Chris was using, but this stuff has been getting better with recent versions.

At the end of the day, there are probably specialized tools that do each of the things that Rubymine does just a little bit better. GitX is definitely a better git/diff reader. Textmate is better for just plain editing files. CSSEdit is better for CSS. Terminal is a better shell. But for me, being able to have all of these things in one tool, and the few Rails specific things that Rubymine does provide, make up for the small things it doesn’t get right. If you give Rubymine 10 minutes, I’m sure you’ll always go back to what you were using before. However I gave Rubymine a month, and now that it’s 8-9 months later, I wouldn’t ever consider going back to Textmate.

Bundler: Oh the fail I know.

First, a disclaimer: I don’t want to be negative. I am only writing this because I feel it deserves attention by the community and because I love Rails so much that the fact that something is making me lose faith in it truly makes me a little sad.

I first started using Bundler 0.7.6 in December ’09 in a Rails 2.3.5 project. We also use Bundler (not sure what version we started with) in our main Rails 2.3.x app that powers In the 3+ months that we have been using bundler, it has, by far, been the largest pain point and time sink of any part of our toolset to the point that today, I proclaimed on twitter, than in it’s current state, I can’t recommend Rails 3.0 to anyone starting or upgrading a product.

Now, if you know me, you know that this is pretty out-of-left-field. I’m a HUGE Rails evangelist. And I truly believe that it’s right for many projects in all kinds of scenarios.

Anyway, on to the fail. . .

Bundler 0.7.x had lots of issues, too numerous to count. However, it did have the option to pass a yaml file to it via –build-options that would allow you to pass a few arguments into the various gems it needed to build. This was good enough for us, and we followed the convention we use with database.yml to have all the correct options in the various environments we use to dev/deploy our rails apps.

Builder 0.8 soon followed suit (I believe in January) and messed us up by changing the path inside the bundler folder that all the gems where kept at to be name-spaced to what version of ruby you were using. I’m not sure what this was meant to fix, but it broke a few things for us and it broke Rubymine (my personal editor of choice). But hey, we upgraded.

I’m going to leave out all the pain that was causes by upgrading to 0.8 and just say that we are currently using Bundler 0.8 in dev and production, except that a bug, where older version of already cached gems won’t upgrade unless you rm -rf the bundler directory (json-pure-1.2.2 to json-pure-1.2.4 fwiw) is breaking our deploys to production. This means that every deploy to production, we can’t be sure the bug isn’t going to break it, so we must rebuild every gem in the app (of which there are MANY) every time we deploy. This just isn’t going to work for us.

Now, we’d like to move to Bundler 0.9 because it promises to fix our issue (bundle install correctly updates gems as required). However, –build-options has been removed from 0.9. Because –build-options was removed, bundler has moved to a don’t-vendor-some-of-your-gems solution where it will use gems from the system if they aren’t in the bundle. This allows you to pass different incantations to `gem install` for different gems (mysql, pg, etc) and it will use those already built gems when you later do `bundle install`. But that means we’re back to managing gem installs on all of our different systems in different ways, which was one of the few things that Bundler did significantly better than config.gem!

Our systems developer, Steven Baker, is currently working on re-implimenting a solution to the –build-options issue, which he first ran by “Carlhuda” in hopes that they might include it and we’re not going down a road that will just end in us playing by ourselves and having to re-impliment our Gemfile or build_options.yml file for whatever solution is, but this brings me to my point:

Rails 3.0, because it relies on Bundler, is not in anyway stable/useable/suggested unless you want to pretty continuously fix/re-impliment/cry yourself to sleep because of Bundler. Carl L. has posted a roadmap which shows at least 2 more revisions as well as closing 20+ currently open issues. I have no idea what the issue velocity is on the project, but to me, it looks like it’s in the months and not days or weeks before Bundler is going to be stable. And, as with every version before it, there have been major downsides to the implementation, that have forced pretty major breaking changes. In other words, every version of bundler is a new experiment (not to mention the various gem management techniques that merb used which were also a source of headaches), and I have little confidence that just slapping 0.9 or 0.10 is going to change that.

Bottom line: A significant piece of Rails 3 is still in the “spike” phase, and shows little to no promise that it will become solid enough to trust for _months_.

Please skip the “Patches are accepted” (we’re working on one kthxbye) and “Why are you even using bundler?” (troll). I’m not here to indict or blame anyone, just to report our experience and clarify why I’ve lost significant confidence in Rails because numerous people have asked.

Sidenote: I’m putting this at the bottom, because it’s secondary to the point of the post, but why, precisely, do we *have* to use Bundler to make Rails 3 work? Who made this decision? If it was the same people that wrote Bundler, doesn’t anyone see a problem with that (NIH)? I’m assuming there were discussions in the rails-high-council private campfire room at some point, but obviously us peons aren’t privy to those. Config.gem wasn’t the easiest thing to use, but I’ve successfully used it for close to a year with very few issues and had it’s eccentricities worked out pretty well. To have it completely removed from Rails 3, and replaced by an experiment, seems a bit premature.

Writing “Scaleable” JQuery – Shu

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to do really great front end development (HTML, Javascript, CSS). And, one of the key issues things I keep hitting upon is writing “scaleable” front end code. I use the word scaleable in a couple ways:

  1. Writing code well in a way that you could keep adding developers and they could each increase productivity linearly.
  2. Writing code that will work for increasingly larger sites.
  3. Writing code that is maintainable, testable, and extendable.

I know others have thought about this, some people call it “best practices”, some people call it frameworks, Yahoo even went as far as to create the YUI family of libraries. I think deep down, most people were trying to think about how to “scale” whatever it was they were doing.  This entry is the first in a series of writing jQuery code that “scales”.

Another thing I probably need to address before we get started is “Shu”. It comes from the Japanese phrase “Shuhari“, which I learned from Alistair Cockburn and is common in the Agile circles, and “describes the stages of learning to mastery”. Once you’re aware that there are certain levels of mastery of something, you start asking yourself which level you’re at and what level others are.

JQuery is awesome, and I love it. For along time, I treated javascript as a 2nd class citizen, but I’ve recently been really digging into it and making it “scaleable”.

In Dan Cederholm’s recent book, he introduces some jQuery that I’m lumping into the “Shu” box (ba-da ching!).

$("#loc-adv a").click(function(){
return false;

Now don’t get me wrong, this code is perfectly acceptable, especially for the situation it’s presented in (a small, static site, built by 1-2 developers). I’m all for not complicating things if they don’t need to be. This code is the simplest thing that could possibly work, and that’s awesome. However, we’re talking about scaling javascript up to larger sites, more developers, and maintainable in legacy applications, and there are some things about this code which don’t make it very scaleable.

First, it’s not really re-useable. Sure, you could include it in any page that has the `#loc-adv` a link and a map, and it’s going to work, but what if  you needed multiple maps in one page or had multiple links. All of a sudden, you’re going to need to repeat yourself, and we don’t do that.

Second, if you put this right in your page, as it’s presented in the book, you can’t use it on other pages without repeating yourself. Maintaining this code could be painful if you put it in more than one page.

Third, the only way this code is going to fire is if you click the link. There’s no way to call it from other code, or test it, and you’ll have to attach it to multiple elements if you add another link or some other element that needs to reveal the map.

What if you want to link to the page with the map open? This code won’t account for that.

I’m not going to address all these issues in this post. I’m going to leave that up for the “Ha” and “Ri” posts. Look for them in a couple days.

NoSQL isn’t a movement

Today there’s been a tweet going around that says:

@programmingjoy: Help pick a better name for NoSQL Movement at NoSQL East Conference #programming

This tweet really drives me nuts. In fact, I tweeted back:

@robotdeathsquad: NoSQL isn’t a movement, and when people say stuff like that, it makes them sound like idiots and I laugh at them.

So what’s so wrong with this tweet? It’s not the “NoSQL” part of it. I’m perfectly fine calling all the key/value, document oriented, and column centric DBs “NoSQL” as a short hand. That’s perfectly fine by me. My whole problem is with the “movement” part of this. Lets look at the definition of “movement”:

A group of people with a common ideology who try together to achieve certain general goals. (via

What exactly is a “NoSQL movement”? What is the common ideology? That you hate relational dbs? Hopefully that’s not it because that makes you sound like a child. Who hates software? Certainly not professionals. A professional doesn’t arbitrarily hate something, they apply the appropriate technique at the appropriate time.

What exactly is the goal of a NoSQL movement? To rid the world of SQL? Really? Really?

If it is to work together to build some great databases that perform much better in certain situations, then why not come up with a name that means that. I’m not sure that meets the definition of a “movement”.

Just as I mentioned in my post NoSQL: If only it were that easy, having new and different databases, which have new and different uses cases is great, but they are just one technique. Another tool in the shed, if you must. Trying to hype them, and elevate them some sort of “movement” status, is juvenile at best, and certainly misplaced.