Noel Rappin Writes Here

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Books That Made Me Happy: 2021

Welcome. Because of the exact kind of person I am, it’s always bugged me when people put out year’s best lists in early December – the year isn’t over, what if you read or see something on, like, December 29th that changes your whole list. (I realize this is a very silly thing to be bugged by.) I traditionally get around this by putting out my favorite book lists sometime around the Ides of March.

Redundancy, Terseness, and Code

Most human communication, text or written, is wordier and more redundant than it needs to be, strictly speaking. That previous sentence, for example, would still communicate its point in about a third of the words with “Most human communication is too wordy”. You’d likely still get the idea if I used about half the characters and wrote: “hmn comms too wrdy”. There are certainly reasons why you might include words when speaking or writing that are technically not needed:

TypeScript and jsbundling and Rails 7

This is a quick bit of service journalism about one thing that seemed less than obvious about converting the code in Modern Front-End Development For Rails to Rails 7.0, namely how to integrate TypeScript with the new tools. Specifically, the Rails 7.0 version of the code ditches Webpacker in favor of the new jsbundling-rails and cssbundling-rails gems and uses esbuild instead of webpack. See here for an only-slightly out-of-date description of the new tools.

Bell Curves and Developer Teams

Jessica Kerr wrote a very interesting post on bell curves and engineering teams. Jessica’s point is that bell curves are for random distributions, and that when teams share information and learn from each other, they no longer can be modeled by a random distribution. I think this as true, and a valuable insight. It reminded me of a different, related observation about teams and bell curves. Back in the 1980s, when he was applying analytics to baseball teams, Bill James argued that a common feature of the decisions made by poorly performing organizations was the assumption that baseball talent was normally distributed and could be modeled with a bell curve.

Another Refactoring Story: ActiveRecord Lists

I’ve now tried to write this post like three times, and one thing that’s clear to me again is why you don’t see more write-ups of even moderately complicated real-ish problems. It’s hard to get enough of the context across to make the code sensible without being overwhelming. But there’s a Rails and ActiveRecord structure that this example gets to that I think is useful, so I’m going to try again.

More Ruby Magic

Hey, if you like this post, you might like my recent books: “Modern Front-End Development for Rails” (Ebook) (Amazon) and “Modern CSS With Tailwind” (Ebook) (Amazon). If you’ve read and enjoyed either book, I would greatly appreciate your help by giving a rating on Amazon. Thanks! When last I talked about the Elmer project tracker, I was talking about Ruby magic and singing the praises of StringInquirer. I was expecting some pushback on the Ruby Magic™, but didn’t get any, so I threatened to do something really weird, like implementing an API for getting project history with something metaprogrammy and dynamic, like project.

Rails 7 and JavaScript

Or: Rails and JavaScript, Part 5 A quick program note: If you like this newsletter, you might like my recent books: “Modern Front-End Development for Rails” (Ebook) (Amazon) and “Modern CSS With Tailwind” (Ebook) (Amazon). If you’ve already read and enjoyed either book, I would greatly appreciate your help by giving a rating on Amazon. Thanks! If you are really interested in how we got here, I wrote about the history of Rails and JavaScript, read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Refactoring, Part Two: In Defense of Magic

A quick program note: If you like this newsletter, you might like my recent books: “Modern Front-End Development for Rails” (Ebook) (Amazon) and “Modern CSS With Tailwind” (Ebook) (Amazon). If you’ve already read and enjoyed either book, I would greatly appreciate your help by giving a rating on Amazon. Thanks! In my last post, I refactored the status field for cards in my project tracker to a more object-oriented representation that used value objects and classes to replace conditionals throughout the code.

An Object-Oriented Example

If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you’ve may have noticed there are two patterns I talk about all the time: We’re doing something because everybody does it but we don’t know why. We’re doing something, but we don’t really believe in it so we’re doing it halfway and not getting any benefit. Object-Oriented Design often hits both those patterns – teams use OO languages for various reasons without thinking about what OO can do for them, and then teams don’t use OO design or programming tools in a way that can help them achieve their goals.

Databases and Validation and Uncertainty

A long time ago, I studied research on what makes successful engineering teams. (Not programmers, other engineering fields). I don’t remember a lot of it, but one phrase stands out: “preserving ambiguity”. Successful teams don’t make decisions that aren’t needed, and they don’t get themselves locked in too early. One fact about the beginning of a project is that you know less about the project than you ever will. And yet teams are often asked to provide estimates, do architecture, and make long-ranging plans at the beginning of the project when it is guaranteed that some of the assumptions will be wrong.

Copyright 2022 Noel Rappin