Feedback from my mini review board

A few weeks ago, I had a mini review board to look over the code I contributed to the pair project that I worked on with a fellow apprentice. After she rolled off the project, I spent an additional two weeks working on it solo, finishing up some stories in the backlog and adding some minor features. Then a group of six crafters, including my two mentors, as well as the two mentors of the apprentice with whom I paired, reviewed my code and gave me feedback on the project as well as on the status of my apprenticeship overall. It's called a "mini" review board because it's a much smaller preview of the review board that will ultimately review the work I do during the last two weeks of my apprenticeship to decide whether I will move on to be a software crafter.

Most of the feedback focused around object-oriented design. The app we built more or less followed the architecture of a traditional Rails app, with the accompanying weaknesses. In particular, there was a lot of refactoring that I could do on the controllers, extracting out the logic into interactors or service objects that could then be tested in isolation. Some of the logic in the views could be put in interactors as well, which sounded like a good move since there's a fair bit of functionality there that is currently only really being covered in acceptance tests, rather than in unit tests.

My mentor paired with me later to show me how to safely refactor and extract interactors from my controllers. Another advantage of this approach is that it also allows me to do a bit of dependency inversion and not require manipulation of ActiveRecord models in my unit tests. It's not quite the same as the Repository pattern, but it achieves a similar goal.

On similar lines, the Javascript in our app currently barely qualifies as "object-oriented". There are constructors and objects are initialized, but in reality, the classes are really just namespaces for related functions. One of the key suggestions I received was to refactor the Javascript to use encapsulation and implement some of the object-oriented design principles that I've spent the past several months reading about.

To be honest, we hadn't spent much time discussing the app's architecture while building the project. We made decisions about the database schema and briefly discussed whether to implement the Repository pattern (which we attempted then abandoned because we ran out of time), but otherwise, we unquestioningly followed the architecture that Rails sets out by default. But of course, when one is a professional consultant, one doesn't want to simply demonstrate the ability to follow Rails tutorials to the letter. As one of the crafters on my review board put it, this app doesn't really show anything of my personality as a developer. So my task is to work on refactoring the code, focusing particularly on one of the controllers and the Javascript, to get practice in making those design decisions about the architecture of the app. I've found this blog post, which my mentor sent to me, particularly useful for thinking about the bigger picture: Clean Architecture.

I would like to say that I've made a lot of progress on this task in the weeks since my mini review board was held, but alas, I've had my time taken up with a client project instead. I'm quite excited about this project actually, which involves data science and machine learning, but it's left me with no opportunities to wrap up loose ends. But I'm going to try to set aside a little time every day to work on implementing the suggestions I received.

The pair project was my introduction to Ruby and Rails. I have to admit that I'm not particularly thrilled by Ruby, and Rails is such a behemoth of a framework that it makes Django look quite small by comparison. Ruby looks deceptively similar to Python at first, but its underlying philosophy is almost the antithetical to the Pythonic style of coding. Nonetheless, so many modern web applications are built in Ruby and Rails that I appreciate the chance to gain experience with these tools, even if they wouldn't be my first choice on a personal project. I think it would be worthwhile to fiddle around with Ruby outside the Rails context. I mean, Ruby will still be Ruby, with its apparent belief that having multiple ways of saying the same thing actually makes developers "happy", but at least it might give me a chance to see the charms of the language beyond the limited scope of a Rails project.

This pair project also introduced me to Javascript and all the pains of trying to test user interactions. I can't say that I enjoyed writing Javascript, but I did find it interesting to try to get it under test. One of the stories that I worked on solo after my fellow apprentice left the project was to do a timeboxed spike to see if I could get an estimate on how much work it would be to build an Ionic hybrid mobile app to work with the Rails backend. Building an API for the app in Rails didn't seem too difficult actually, but Ionic is built on top of Angular, which in turn uses Typescript, which posed quite a learning curve. (It didn't help that there was a major breaking change between Ionic 1 and 2, to match the difference between Angular 1 and 2!) I barely managed to get a Google login screen working before I ran out of time on my spike. Nonetheless, that's definitely an area that I would like to explore further in the future. I haven't built a single mobile app yet, and that's something I would like to learn how to do.

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