No Time For a REST

Phew, it’s been another red hot, football-filled week here in the UK. I’m sure for some of you, 29ยฐC is positively chilly. But for me, it’s been baking. Not helped by an evil selection of naughty wasps making camp outside my window, forcing me to work without fresh air. Lovely.

Anyway, I’m sure you don’t tune in for weather updates, or for my views on the Sports Ball. Let’s get back to the good stuff.

Do You GraphQL?

One of the most interesting bits of tech about at the moment, in my opinion, is GraphQL.

GraphQL, briefly, is an alternative to REST. The main difference between ‘REST’ and GraphQL being that we – as consumers – can specify exactly which bits of data we want / need, and the server returns just the things we care about, and nothing more.

Also, you only need one endpoint with GraphQL, as often opposed to many with ‘REST’.

Now, I put REST in inverted commas as the typical RESTful API’s that I both create, and work with, are not truly RESTful. Pragmatism, and all that. That’s why I’ve more typically started referring to these types of API’s as JSON APIs.

But I digress.

Like every new piece of tech, there are often a bunch of advocates shouting loudly, particularly on sites like Twitter, about how if you’re not using GraphQL then you’re basically a dinosaur.

how-to-graphqlThen recently – I think maybe a few weeks ago – I came across a really interesting website about GraphQL. It’s called How To GraphQL.

Why I like the site is that there are some generic introduction tutorials, and then some more language specific tutorials. There’s React for the front end, along with Node and Elixir on the back end. No PHP, mind. More on that in a second. I chose the Elixir tutorial, and enjoyed playing around with it.

After playing around with the Elixir back end implementation I’d created, I wondered how this might translate into PHP. I was already aware that the API Platform can support GraphQL so used that as a starting point. I kept my implementation identical (well, as close as) to the setup in the How To GraphQL Elixir tutorial. The idea being that I could switch out the two, and the front end shouldn’t care.

It turned out to be a really interesting exercise. I’d be happy to share my code if anyone has any interest? There’s nothing fancy there, but it was a fun learning experience for me.

What I did find most interesting was in that Dunglas, the creator of the API Platform (and many other cool things – very clever guy, well worth following), isn’t quite the GraphQL advocate I expected. These two tweet threads are interesting reading:

and:

I’d be really interested to hear about your experiences with GraphQL.

Video Update

This week saw three new videos added to the site:

GET’ting Multiple Resources [API Platform]

I mentioned last week that in many ways I’ve been doing the API Platform a disservice.

In taking as many videos as I have to show a single end point API I may have made things look more difficult than they really are.

We’ve used this setup as an excuse to cover some interesting, and useful / commonly needed things such as customisation of your route paths, and defining custom operations (the Health check).

If you don’t need to customise anything, getting an API up and running using the API Platform is really remarkably rapid.

All that said, I stand by this approach. We’ve played around with some cool features. This is all stuff that will help you in the real world.

PUT to Update Existing Data [API Platform]

The API Platform takes an interesting approach to the process of updating existing data.

There’s no implementation of PATCHย , the most controversial / complex HTTP Verb. And that’s fine. Less controversy is always a good thing, imo. Besides which, the more I work with the front end, the less I find any use for PATCHย  anyway. Typically I will have the full resource, so making full updates to that resource is easy enough.

We cover a little potential gotcha in the way that API Platform differs from the Symfony 4 JSON API, and Symfony 4 with FOSRESTBundle approaches. This is in the status code returned by the API Platform, and why they may choose to do this.

DELETE to Remove Data [API Platform]

Adding an implementation for DELETEย  is probably the easiest of the whole lot. This is partly because we’ve done all the hard work already. But also because deleting stuff just works. There’s very little to it.

Now, in the real world you’d probably want to restrict who can and can’t delete, and things get a little more complex. But the underlying operation itself is very straightforward.

There’s just one thing left to do with our API Platform setup, and that’s handle the error paths. We’ll get on to that in the final video in this part of the series.

Live Stream Update

I’ve recorded the first “live stream”. It’s on my laptop, waiting for a touch of editing. I need to mask a few bits of config due to security reasons.

I also hit on a proper issue. The domain I was planning to launch under has expired. And worse, because I let it expire and didn’t renew it, it’s gone into grace period. And now Namecheap want $108 to reactivate it. Silly me.

Ok, so this may delay the launch of the thing in the real world. It’s not going to stop me writing the code. I wanted to get this video out this week. It will slip into next week. Fortunately (depending on how you look at it), I have a couple of long train journeys on Monday and Tuesday evening next week. The perfect time to edit videos – even if it does draw a few funny looks.

As a reminder, the live stream stuff will not be getting a write up. These will be video only, but you’re more than welcome to raise questions, or ask to see more detail etc. I’ll share all that via the forum.

Ok, that about wraps it up from me this. As ever, have a great weekend, and happy coding.

Chris

Not Once, Not Twice, But Thrice

We’re apparently in for a lovely weekend of sunshine here in the UK. Perfect weather for sitting indoors coding ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s been a busy week for me. I’ve had a long stint of travel, followed by busy days on a contract. In the evenings I’ve been fighting GitLab CI, which seems to have gone haywire. Builds are now taking hours to finish. I’ve unfortunately still not resolved this. There’s always some fun challenge to tackle.

On the plus side, thanks to the travel I did managed to see the Flying Scotsman here in Preston earlier this week:

Ok, enough ramble, on with the show…

Thrice Weekly

Over the last 4+ years of creating content for CodeReviewVideos.com I’ve tried a whole bunch of different approaches. I’m always trying to optimise my process and make things that touch more efficient, with the ultimate aim of delivering the most interesting and useful software development tutorials for you.

A number of people have asked why I “drip” out content. Typically, at least until the start of this year, I would release three videos a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

This approach worked well for me.

But, I got those emails frequently enough, asking why I didn’t either:

  • Release more videos, or;
  • Upload loads at once, rather than a few at a time

I had a definitive answer to the first question:

I can typically only get three videos done per week. Each video takes a lot of effort, from planning, to creating the initial code, to writing up that process, then recording, editing, uploading, and finally publishing. On average, for any minute you see on screen, it’s taken me about ~30 minutes to create.

The second question, however, I wasn’t sure on. The only way to find out would be to test the system.

As such, at the start of this year I decided I would switch to releasing blocks of content – an entire course at once, when it was done.

There’s a bunch of reasons why I don’t think this approach has worked. Probably the most disappointing for me, personally, is having had a number of subscribers cancel with feedback that I appeared to have abandoned the site. Heartbreaking.

Rather than dwell on this as a negative, I choose to take it as an experiment that didn’t work out. I’ve learned some lessons, and I know – more definitively, rather than just “gut feel” – that this is not the right process, for me.

As such, I have, in recent weeks, switched back to regular video updates. From now on, the previous approach of three videos per week will return.

Livestreams?

Something I’m considering at the moment is livestreaming things that I am working on. If you’ve ever watched Twitch, you’ll know the sort of thing I’m on about.

The main reason for this is to capture the thought process that I go through when writing code. I think this would be incredibly interesting to share. I do try to capture this when creating the more traditional content.

But even so, sometimes that exploratory stage holds big reasons as to why the code ended up as it did. This is much harder to cover in the traditional video approach.

For each of these livestreaming sessions I would record the screen as normal, along with the audio. I’m not sure how to capture chat as of yet, as the screen real estate is already extremely limited. I record at 1280×720, which is great for clarity of font etc, but severely limiting for real world dev. These things will need to be addressed.

This idea stemmed from this tweet:

There would also be no formal, written notes created for these videos. And each video would likely be ~1 hour long. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I’d be really grateful to hear your feedback on this idea.

Video Updates

This week saw three new videos added to the site:

Defining A Custom POST Route [API Platform]

One thing that I found initially confusing when working with the API Platform was in the creation of custom routes. In particular, in this video we address the issue of using a URI that differs from auto-generated route name / path that’s based off our underlying entity.

This is really useful, and I use this concept in every API Platform project I’ve created.

Finishing POST [API Platform]

In this video we finish up the POST implementation for our API Platform setup.

The number of videos required to get a POST endpoint working is a little misleading. We could have done this much quicker, but the Behat tests “dogfood” our API, and as such are making use of the POST endpoint also.

This is all about killing multiple birds with a single stone.

GET’ting One Resource [API Platform]

A major selling point, for me, of the API Platform is the rapid application development potential.

As mentioned above, the POST videos make this look a lot less rapid than it really can be. We had to take a care of a lot of setup / boilerplate for our testing in the previous few videos. Now we can spread our wings a little, and leverage a lot of the benefits that the API Platform provides in getting a brilliant API up and running, fast.

In the next few videos we will continue on with GET ‘ting multiple resources in one API call, PUT for updating existing resources, and DELETE for, well, I’m sure you can figure that one out yourself.

Have a Great Weekend!

Ok, that about wraps it up from me this week.

If you haven’t yet done so, please do come and say hi on the forum. It’s early days on there, but the discussions I’ve been involved with so far have been good fun. Here’s to more of them ๐Ÿ™‚

Until next time, have a great weekend, and happy coding.

Chris

The 2018 Beginners Guide to Back End (JSON API) + Front End Development

It’s been a few weeks in the making, but I am happy now to reveal my latest course here on CodeReviewVideos:

The 2018 Beginners Guide to Back End (JSON API) + Front End Development.

This course will cover building a JSON-based API with the following back-end stacks:

  1. ‘raw’ Symfony 4 (PHP)
  2. Symfony 4 with FOSRESTBundle (PHP)
  3. API Platform (PHP)
  4. Koa JS (JavaScript / node)

Behat will be used to test all of these APIs. One Behat project, four different API implementations – in two different languages (PHP and JS).

We’re going to be covering the happy paths of GETย , POSTย , PUTย , (optionally) PATCHย , and DELETE.

We’ll also be covering the unhappy paths. Error handling and display is just as important.

Where possible we’re going to try and use just one Behat feature file. It’s not always possible – the various implementations don’t always want to behave identically.

There’s a ton of good stuff covered in these videos. But the back end is only half the battle.

Whether you want to “catch them all”, or you’re working with a dedicated front-end dev, it’s definitely useful to know the basics of both.

With that in mind, you can pick and choose whether to implement the back-end, or front-end, or both.

If you don’t want to implement a back-end yourself, cloning any of the projects and getting an environment up and running is made as easy as possible by way of Docker. But you don’t need to use Docker. You can bring-your-own database, and do it that way, too.

The Front End

Whatever back end you decide to spin up, the front end should play nicely.

We’re going to implement a few different front-ends. The two I’m revealing today are:

  1. ‘raw’ JavaScript
  2. React

I have plans for a few others, but each implementation is a fair amount of work and I don’t want to over promise at this stage. There’s definitely at least two more coming, but let me first get these two on the site ๐Ÿ™‚

The raw JavaScript approach aims to show how things were in the ‘bad old days‘. The days before your package managerย  would take up ~7gb of your hard disk with its cacheย  directory.

The benefit of working this way is that there’s really no extra ‘stuff’ to get in the way. We can focus on making requests, and working with responses.

But that said, this is 2018 and the many modern JavaScript libraries and frameworks are fairly awesome. You’ll definitely get a renewed sense of appreciation for how much easier your life is once you’re comfortable using a library like React, after having done things the hard way.

Again, as mentioned we will cover more than just raw JS and React. Currently each implementation is between ten and fifteen videos. Each video takes a couple of hours to write up, and another couple of hours to record on average. I’m going as fast as I can, and will upload and publish as quickly as possible.

You can watch them as they drop right here.

Site Update

Behind the scenes over the past 10 weeks I have been working on integrating CodeReviewVideos with Braintree.

This is to enable support for PayPal.

I tried to create a ticket for everything I could think of ahead of starting development.

And I added a new ticket for any issue I hit during development. I’m not convinced I tracked absolutely everything, but even so I completely underestimated just how much work would be involved in this feature.

Being completely honest, I have never been more envious of Laravel’s Spark offering. For $99 they get Stripe and Braintree integration, and a whole bunch more. Staggering.

There’s a bunch of other new and interesting features in this release.

I’ve taken the opportunity to migrate from Symfony 3 to Symfony 4 for the API. There’s a bunch of new issues that arose during this transition – I hadn’t given it much prior thought, but with the new front controller ( public/index.php) totally broke my Behat ( app_acceptance.php) setup.

This work is also enabling the next major feature which I will start work on, once PayPal is live. More on that in my next update.

I appreciate that from the outside looking in, there doesn’t seem to have been a great deal of activity on the site over the last few weeks. I can assure you that behind the scenes, there has never been more activity.

Have A Great Weekend

Ok, that’s about it from me for the moment.

As ever, have a great weekend, and happy coding.

p. s. – I would be extremely grateful if you could help me spread the word by clicking here to tweet about the new course.