Wednesday, May 23, 2007

RailsConf 2007 - Day 3

By the time we got to RailsConf Day 3, only the most hard core remained. In other words, almost everyone. And we were glad to have stuck around, because some of the best content of the entire conference was yet to come. David Black, introduced two integral members of the Ruby on Rails team, Jamis Buck and Michael "Koz" Koziarski, the co-authors of the seminal "Rails Way" blog.

The Rails Way
Jamis and Koz and both written and read a lot of Ruby on Rails code. The Rails Way is not just what could be done, but what should be; the best way to build a Rails application. Their knowledge of best practices is second to no one, and they shared a whole bunch of great information. I can't really do their tag team code review justice, but here are the highlights:

Fat controller is anti-pattern
*hard to test
*break apart into a model object

A model is anything that encapsulates data and logic, not just an object that talks to a database.
*one benefit of this encapsulation is testing
*another advantage is the form_for handle can easily use a model

When to use with_scope
*move the logic to the parent class, so as to freely get the scoping with no extra work
*do not go crazy with DRY

ActiveSupport has helpers to make some code self-documenting for dates/times

*People make associations, but then fail to use them throughout the rest of the application
*this helps keep code from breaking in the case where database keys change, for example

Cargo culting
*He hates !! (not-not) idiom.
*Ternary operator...likes it sometimes
*Explain exactly why you need boolean returned, again?

Model helpers
*use associations in views instead of instance variables

*simplifying non restful routes - map.with_options

Override to_param to make nice looking URL

Returning method

returning new do |booking|

The session was really great. Pretty much everyone in the room, no matter how advanced their level, got something good out of it. We could have stayed there all day, with different people bringing up pieces of code for these guys to refactor. If you can, hire them.

Javascript - Fu
Dan Webb is the author of the LowPro extensions to the Prototype JavaScript library. He had a really nice tight Takahashi style presentation. He was also extremely funny, and the information incredibly useful. Once again, the last day of RailsConf really had a lot of good stuff!

JavaScript is the language we all love to hate. A peasant language, meaning that "lower-level" programmer have to work on the JavaScript code while "higher-level" ones get to work on the "architecture".

JavaScript - fu is not easy to master. Developers are forced into refuge by using frameworks and libraries.

The Ancient Manuals of JavaScript-Fu
* The Tao Of The Event Handler (Events)
* Five Method of DOM Fist (DOM)
* Lightning Script Style (Optimization)
* Iron AJAX Technique (Progressive enhancement)

There are big differences in browser implementation of JavaScript.

Two main techniques: inline vs. scripted event handlers

Inline - applied as soon as browser loads

What happen when more than a little bit of inline code

Scripted event handlers
*problem in they attach after the element is loaded

LowPro library is an extension library for Prototype, but Prototype library trunk now has a similar thing.

// Prototype 1.5+ and LowPro
Event.onReady(function() {
$('item').observe('click', function() {...});

// Prototype trunk
Event.observe(window, 'DOMContentLoaded', function() {
$('item').observe('click', function() {...});

// Basic onload
Event.observe(window, 'load', function() {
$('item').observe('click', function() {...});

Attach handler from script to each object you want, in order to stay DRY

Separate your JavaScript out of your pages, just like you separate CSS

Large number of event handlers can choke browser performance

* use script based by default
* in bug page try event delegation
* if all else fails use inline

Event delegation - yahoo tehnique
* event bubbling

Better inline handlers
*a tag needs an actual HREF
*do as little as possible, for example:

return view(this);
function delete(elemtn)
new Ajax.Request(element.href), {
method: 'delete'

return false ;

5 methods of DOM fist
*3 oficial W3C methods to modify the DOM
- appendChild
- insertBefore
- replaceChild
*1 non-standard (from IE)
- innerHTML

DOM methods insert with precision - have to create nodes first
InnerHTML shifts large bulk amounts of HTML, but with little control

Really easy to use innerhtml from Rails with Ajax

The bastard son - unholy marriage of DOM methods and HTML

Element.fromHTML = function(html) {
var root = document.createElement('div');
root.innerHTML = html;
return root.firstChild;

var node = Element.fromHTML('<div>');
element.insertBefore(thing, node);

Lightning Script Style
* making things as fast as possible
* do not use javascript_include_tag :defaults cause it downloads 5 big files
* browsers take time both to download AND evaluate a script
* the less JS the better
* mooeffects smaller than scriptaculous, but less powerful
* browsers can only load 2 resource at once
* combine js files
* Use gzip instead of JS based minification.

Make sure everything is cacheable

Faster loops

for(var i - 0, enemy;
enemy = enemies[i]; i++) {

Be careful with selectors
$$('.anything'); slower
$$('span.anything'); slow
$$('#item .anything'); // css xpath selector

Iron Ajax Technique
* rule #1: browsers suck
* main browsers are getting better quickly
* but what about the others?
* Corporate security blocks Javascript at firewall
* the traditional rails opin: f* you!
* but why turn away users if you don't have to

Progressive Enhancement
1. start with plain HTML
2. test if necessary brwt features are there (XMLHTTPreq, canvas, etc)
3. If present, then apply xtra JS features

Tt's easy to apply to ajax
* JS

Try progressinve enhancement first

Lastly, Dan recommended a few books on Javascript he said are better than all the others:
* Professional JavaScript Techniques
* Bulletproof Ajax
* DTHML Utopia: Modern Web Design Using Javascript and DOM

Dan's session was full of good stuff. Even the people who thought they knew it all were scribbling down a couple things before the end. And thank you, Dan, for making it really fun as well as informative.

Dave Thomas
Dave's speech was unconventional, in that he doesn't say what people expect him to. I consider that a good thing. Many people in the crowd were perplexed for long moments as he spoke. For those people who need a simple explanation of Dave's speech, the two recurring themes for RailsConf were "give", and "don't get stuck".

"Just to set the record straight, the first RubyConf was 3 people and a dog, and the speaking was in between sips of beer"

Orthodoxy - do what is expected
Orthopraxy - do the "right thing"

It's called Object oriented programming, not class oriented programming. Challenge: write next next program with objects instead of classes

What Are Your Cargo Cults?

Dave is a real thinker, and I hope that our community can rise to the challenge and keep progressing. Embrace Orthopraxy!

1 comment:

initgraf said...

I was at RailsConf (both years :)) and I agree with your thoughts on Dave Thomas' unorthodox speeches. Although at the Portland airport, there were some people from the conference there (surprise, surprise) who said he had given pretty much the same speech at another conference. But that's OK with me, it was the first time I heard it, and I liked the speech very much.

It would be nice if there was a way to get a transcript of his speeches, kind of like Paul Graham does. You can go to his site and read the speech he gave at the first RailsConf last year (which was also good).