3 tips to make you a better developer

four20puzzle

introduction

I’m sorry for the clickbait headline, I didn’t have a better idea/name for it.

We (developers) occasionally produce lazy/messy code and from time to time we need to remember the most important rule: “We do code to solve problems but also for human being be able: to use, to maintain and to evolute”. 

TLDR; (a unit can be a: function, var, method, class, parameter and etc)

  1. Naming your units with care and meaning;
  2. Try to see your code as a series of transformation;
  3. When possible make yours units generic.

Keep in mind that these tips are just my opinions and at the best they were based on: excellent books (Refactoring, DDD, Clean Coder and etc ), articles & blog posts,  excellent people I’ve worked/paired with,  presentations,  tweets and experiences.

naming is hard

Name your units with care and meaning. Your code should be easy to understand.

Although naming things is really hard, it is also extremely important. Let’s a see a snippet of code:

Let’s discuss about this code above:

  • the function topComments receives an id but is it the id from the comment, user, article? Let’s say it’s form the user, therefore userId should vanish this doubt.
  • the name of the function is topComments but it looks like it’s getting the top 10 latest comments only thus we could call it top10LatestCommentsFrom.
  • the ajax function accept two callbacks one in case of success (succCB) and otherwise an error (errCB), I believe we can call them: onSuccess and onError for better understanding.
  • all the arguments are using short names and we can have less confusing names just by using the entire name.
  • you got the ideia, naming things to let the code clear!

Although we still have so many problems in this code, now it’s easier to understand and we only named things properly.

For sure there are some cases when short names are just okay, for example: when you’re developing an emulator or virtual machine you often use short names like sp (stack pointer) and pc (program counter) or even doing a very generic unit.

filter -> union -> compact -> kick

Try to see and fit your code as transformations, one after another.

Some say that in computer science almost all the problems can be reduced to only two major problems: sort and count things (plus doing these in a distributed environment), anyway the point is: we usually are coding to make transformation over data.

For instance our function top10LatestCommentsFrom could be summarized in these steps:

  1. fetch comments (all)
  2. sort them (by date)
  3. filter them (only top)
  4. select the first 10

Which are just transformations over an initial list, we can make our function top10LatestCommentsFrom much better with that mindset.

 

By the way this could lead you to easily understand the new kid on the block sometimes referred as Functional Reactive Programming.

<be generic>

Work to make your units generic.

Let’s imagine you are in an interview process and your first task is to code a function which prints the numbers 1, 2 and 3 concatenated with “Hello, “. It should print: “Hello, 1” and then “Hello, 2″…

Now they ask you to print also the letters: “D”, “K” and “C”.

It was the first step toward the “generic”, now the interviewers say you have also to print a list of person’s name but now it’ll be a list of objects [{name: “person”},…].

Things start to get specific again and the interviewers want to test you. They ask you to print a list of car’s brand [{brand: “Ferrari”}, ..] plus a list of game consoles with their architecture [{name: “PS4”, arch: “x86-64”}, …]

Yikes, I suppose you’re not proud of that code and probably your interviewers will be little concerned about your skills with development, let’s list some of the problems with this approach.

  • Naming (we’re calling a person of an item)
  • High coupling (the function print knows too much about each printable)
  • Lots of (inner) conditionals 😦 it’s really hard to read/maintain/evolute this code

What we can do?! Well, it seems that all we need to do is to iterate through an array and prints an item but each item will require a different way of printing.

 

I said naming is important but when you make something very generic you should also make the abstract names not tied to any concrete concept. In fact, in Haskell (let’s pretend I know Haskell) when a concrete type of something may vary we use single letters to take their place.

Bonus round

  1. Make your units of execution to perform a single task.
  2. Use dispatch/pattern matching/protocol something instead of conditionals.
  3. Enforce DRY as much as you can.

Will we only create and use dynamic languages in the future?

Since I’ve playing with some dynamic languages (Ruby and Clojure), I have been thinking about why would anybody create a new static typed language?! And I didn’t get the answer.

I started programming in Visual Basic and I taste its roots, which are almost all full of procedure commands (bunch of do, goto and end), then I moved to C#, sharper it changes the end’s for }’s and give us a little more power based on some premises: we can treat two different things in the same way, polymorphism. The last static language, but not the least, I used (and I use it) Java, abusing of his new way of treating a set of things equality, the interfaces and using its “powers” on reflections.

Although when I started to use Ruby I saw that I could treat a group of things equality without doing any extra work. I still need to code models and composed types, even though we can create or change them dynamically using “real power” of metaprogramming.

When I start to study and apply the Clojure and its principles, my first reaction was the rejection, how can I go on without my formal objects, how can I design software without a model in the head and so on. I wasn’t thinking about how actually I do software, currently I use TDD to design software and I don’t think what models I need to have, I do think in terms of “what I want”. At minimum, Clojure make me think about, do we really need object to design software?! .  A three days ago I saw an amazing video about similar thoughts: Some thoughts on Ruby after 18 months of Clojure.

Summarising: With my limited knowledge of theses languages, let’s suppose we use a function (which we don’t have source code) and we want to do something before that function is executed (intercept) using: VB I’ll need to check every single piece of code which we call this function and call another one, in Java we can use a AOP framework, in Ruby we can use the spells of metaprogramming. It seems that some frameworks, patterns and extra work aren’t needed more because of this dynamic language evolution.

My conclusions using dynamic languages (Clojure/Ruby) for now it’s: I write less code and reuse them more easy, so I don’t see any reason to create/use a new static typed language, would you see any motivation to do that?

PS: When I use C# (.Net Framework 1.3 – 2.0) it was not so super cool as today.

Testing JavaScript with Jasmine and Jessie and node.js

Testing
Testing JS, can you imagine?

Javascript

JavaScript is a prototype-based, object-oriented scripting language that is dynamic, weakly typed and has first-class functions. It is also considered a functional programming language like Scheme and OCaml because it has closures and supports higher-order functions. Cool language isn’t? A new feeling inside me tells me that everything (related to I.T.) I would like to learn I should start writing a tests. However I thought that JavaScript test was stucked on Alert windows and then I found out Jasmine framework.

How could we write tests to JavaScript?

Using Jasmine in a BDD style.

describe("Jasmine", function() {
  it("makes testing JavaScript awesome!", function() {
    expect(yourCode).toBeLotsBetter();
  });
});

To run it and get feedback you have some options whose I take two: seeing the html file on browser and seeing the terminal result as rspec way. We will do the second way. For that we will use: node.js, npm and jessie.

node.jsevented i/o server (and also you can use it as an interpreter) for javascript vm (specifically v8)
Installing node.js

git clone --depth 1 git://github.com/joyent/node.git
cd node
git checkout v0.4.11 #opt, note that master is unstable.
export JOBS=2 #opt, sets number of parallel commands.
mkdir ~/local
./configure --prefix=$HOME/local/node
make
make install
echo 'export PATH=$HOME/local/node/bin:$PATH' >> ~/.profile
echo 'export NODE_PATH=$HOME/local/node:$HOME/local/node/lib/node_modules' >> ~/.profile
source ~/.profile

npm – node package manager, as its own name suggest. You can use it to install and publish your node programs. It manages dependencies and does other cool stuff.
Installing npm.

curl http://npmjs.org/install.sh | sh

jessie – Jessie is a Node runner for Jasmine. It was created to provide better reporting on failures, more modular design, easier creation of formatters and optional syntactic sugar.
Installing jessie.

npm install jessie

With all these binaries on your path you can just run your tests from terminal typing:

jessie folder_with_specs/ -f nested

In fact I’ve been using the gitub and jessie to learn and apply javascript.

Ruby overview

Introduction

Take a look at this, there is two classes: a person and a teacher. The person (originally) just know how to speak English and then teacher teach him speak other language, it can show you how powerful and beautiful ruby is.

class Person
 attr_accessor :name
 def speak_english
  puts "Hi people!"
 end
end

class BrPortugueseTeacher
 def teach(person)
  def person.speak_portuguese
   puts "Ola pessoal!"
  end
 end
end

bill_gates = Person.new
bill_gates.nome = "Bill Gates"
pasquale = Teacher.new
pasquale.teach bill_gates
#now bill gates knows portuguese
bill_gates.speak_portuguese

The intent here is just show a quick overview of ruby from a newbie.

Code’s comment

#one line comment
=begin
Multiply lines comment.
Given that ...
=end

String

String in ruby is mutable (but when you use the operator method + it creates another string, so to concatenate strings you should use the operator <<) and just a little tip avoid the concatenation by using + instead prefer use interpolation, a way to handle string very similar to expression language, and it’s faster than normal concatenation.

ran = 34434
who = "Leandro Moreira"
puts "#{who} generates this #{ran} number"

Conventions

Yet on mutability, when you write a method that can affect the internal state, you should use the bang operator (!) on method’s name.

old_source_name = "angeline"
puts old_source_name.capitalize
puts old_source_name.capitalize!

Another cool convention to Boolean methods is end them with ?

if account.cancelled?
 puts "Run Forest, run!"
end

Range object

In ruby you can use a type Range to describe ranges and its use is very easy.

zero_to_ten = (0..10) #inclusive
one_to_seven = (0...8) #exclusive
alphabetic = ('a'..'z') #you also can omit the (

It’s all object and quick tips

– Hey, language prints I win three times.

puts "I win " * 3

You can use anything on if statement and it can ben true or false (and nil which is false too).

A weird thing is one way of handle the regular expressions.

/myexp/ =~ "sentence"
#"sentence" matches myexp?

Another weird operator is or equals.

list ||= flights
#the list will just receive the flights if list is nil.

The classes are really open

One of the main features of ruby is Open Class, this is cool, you just can grab a class and write a new feature for it.

class String
 def do_nothing
  puts "doing nothig"
 end
end

And then you just call it.

"number".do_nothing

Let’s trick the addition operations on number.

class Fixnum
 def +(other)
  self - other
 end
end
puts 2+1
#and it will prints 1. (~:

Variable arguments

Sometimes you need to use this kind of flexibility.

user.buy computer
user.buy computer, mouse, monitor

To achieve this you just use the syntax. The splat operator how it is known.

def buy(*products)
 #buy logic
end

Hash enhancements

There is a lot of people which claims to use hash as parameter.

e_account.transfer :to_account => my, :value => 4800

def transfer (parameters)
 dest_account = parameters[:to_account]
 #...
end

Declarations

class Anything
 @field #object field
 @@field #class field
end

Singleton in Ruby

Singleton pattern is a design pattern used to implement the mathematical concept of a singleton, by restricting the instantiation of a class to one object. This is useful when exactly one object is needed to coordinate actions across the system. The concept is sometimes generalized to systems that operate more efficiently when only one object exists, or that restrict the instantiation to a certain number of objects (say, five). Some consider it an anti-pattern, judging that it is overused, introduces unnecessary limitations in situations where a sole instance of a class is not actually required, and introduces global state into an application.  (From wikipedia)

class HyperDao
@@instance = HyperDao.new
def self.instance
return @@instance
end
private_class_method :new
end

But we’re talking about ruby, don’t we?

require 'singleton'
class God
include Singleton
end

It’s done! 😀

Equals

If you want or need to rewrite the equals…

def ==(other)
 self.id = other.id
end

Duck typing – good-bye interface

Duck typing is a style of dynamic typing in which an object’s current set of methods and properties determines the valid semantics, rather than its inheritance from a particular class or implementation of a specific interface. The name of the concept refers to the duck test, attributed to James Whitcomb Riley (see History below), which may be phrased as follows:”When I see a bird that walks like a duck and swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, I call that bird a duck.” (From Wikipedia)

class PremiumAccount
 def saldo
   #
 end
end

class CommonAccount
 def saldo
  #
 end
end

The bank manager will accept that.

class BankManager
 def total_debt(accounts)
  for account in accounts do
   debt += account.saldo
  end
 end
end

Mixin

Mixin is a class that provides a certain functionality to be inherited or just reused by a subclass, while not meant for instantiation (the generation of objects of that class). Inheriting from a mixin is not a form of specialization but is rather a means of collecting functionality. A class may inherit most or all of its functionality from one or more mixins through multiple inheritance. (Again, from Wikipedia)

module Logging
 def log(message)
  puts message
 end
end

class Anything
 include Logging
  #...
end

any = Anything.new
any.log "It started now!"

Metaprogramming

Metaprogramming is the writing of computer programs that write or manipulate other programs (or themselves) as their data, or that do part of the work at compile time that would otherwise be done at runtime. In many cases, this allows programmers to get more done in the same amount of time as they would take to write all the code manually, or it gives programs greater flexibility to efficiently handle new situations without recompilation.

class Person
 attr_accessor :name
 def speak_english
  puts "Hi people!"
 end
end

class BrPortugueseTeacher
 def teach(person)
  def person.speak_portuguese
   puts "Ola pessoal!"
  end
 end
end

bill_gates = Person.new
bill_gates.nome = "Bill Gates"
pasquale = Teacher.new
pasquale.teach bill_gates
#now bill gates knows portuguese
bill_gates.speak_portuguese

Highly influenced by ruby on rails from Caelum.

ThoughtWorks Brazilian hiring process

The hiring process

My intend here is to explain my personal view of the hiring process (which I was submitted) of Brazilian ThoughtWorks. In fact the ThoughtWorks hiring process is already explained, see a brief view of it:

“Hiring is our signature process, so as you might expect, we’ve thought hard about how we access your suitability for a career with us. We believe we’ve created a process that is fun, that shows you what being a ThoughtWorker is all about and challenges your abilities. Many hiring processes consist of a couple of interviews and perhaps a chance to meet your new boss. We reject that. We want to find out what work environment suits you, what you value and how you do your job, so we don’t just sit and ask you questions. We get you to show us what you can do.”

The steps (Dev role)

The TW talent scout sent me a message telling me about the open positions at TW (Porto Alegre) and then I answer her asking how to apply, she informed everything I need to do. Then I’ve applied to dev position (03/20/2011) and the First Step: a informal phone interview, that first interview it’s very easy and weightless 🙂 just to know you a little bit. The Informal Phone Interview is designed to help tw get to know each other beyond CVs and web pages.

Second Step was the code submission: they will send you two problems, you must choose only one, to solve. On this part they are trying to access a number of things, these include the design aspect of your solution, but mostly we are looking for good coding practices and your object-oriented programming skills. Good tip here is: use your primary programming language (I do love and want to learn ruby but Java was my main tool that moment).

Then if you have passed on this phase you will be on Third Step: the tech phone interview that consists of one ThoughtWorker interviewing you more technically, in my case Rodrigo Wolschick (A.K.A. Patrola) did the interview and despite his nickname he was fine with me.

So after that you will be on Fourth Step: Office Interview (here the real fun will start), they ask me to schedule two days to be at office. At the office you will pass through several interviews (culture values, programming pairing…) and logical assessments, I can tell you it’s very tiring BUT IT’S SURPRISINGLY FUN. After this long process I started to work at June 21.

PS: I should write this before I’ve posted ThoughtWorks POA.

Ohh, one last note we’re hiring, so if you are interested :

Open positions at ThoughtWorks Brazil