RESTful Routes

What are REST, Routes, CRUD?

Representation State Transfer or REST is a pattern/convention for defining our routes. Routes are the code that listens and receives requests then figures out what to send back. CRUD stands for Create, Read, Update, and Delete. These are the 4 basic functions we have when building an API.

So why do we want any of this? Mostly it’s just about keeping things simple and repeatable when building apps. By following a convention we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we make an app and other developers will quickly figure out what’s going on.

The Magnificent 7

REST is made up of 7 standard routes:

NameURLHTTP VerbDescription
Index/teamsGETDisplays a list of all teams
New/teams/newGETDisplays a new team form
Create/teamsPOSTAdds new team to the database then redirects
Show/teams/:idGETShows a particular team
Edit/teams/edit/:idGETShows an edit form for a particular team
Update/teams/:idPUTUpdates a particular team in the database then redirects
Destroy/teams/:idDELETERemoves a particular team from the database then redirects

Installing MongoDB on macOS

The course I’m doing uses Cloud 9 (C9) as cloud-based IDE. I’ve basically ignored that side of things and done everything locally on my Mac as that feels more real world to me. Turns out this was a good decision as C9 has recently announced it’s shutting down. Anyway, at times this has made things more difficult though. A good example is when I need to follow instructions to get a particular part of the development environment setup. Because all the instructions are specific to C9 it means I more or less have to figure out how to do it myself on macOS.

This morning I had an example of this exact thing when I needed to install MongoDB. I’m finally at the point that I’m starting to work with a database (hallelujah!) and I needed to get things going on my Mac. Thankfully there’s Google and I quickly found this treehouse article that gave me some clear steps to follow.

Of course it’s never quite that easy. Different machines are set up in different ways, so a guide like this doesn’t always allow for edge cases. So here’s what worked for me:

  • Open terminal and use the command brew update to update Homebrew itself to the latest version
  • Now install MongoDB using brew install mongodb. This will install the latest version
  • Next we need to create a folder to house our MongoDB data files. Use the command sudo mkdir -p /data/db. The instructions I first followed didn’t include sudo and so didn’t work for me. Your milage may vary
  • We should now have a place for our data but we need to set the folder permissions using sudo chown -R `id -un` /data/db

That’s basically it, you should now have a functional install of MongoDB. Open up two terminal windows in the first start the server with the mongod command. In the second terminal run mongo to launch the mongo shell for accessing data.

YelpCamp

I’ve now reached a turning point in my web dev course. This morning I started writing code on my first meaty project, YelpCamp.

As the name implies the YelpCamp project is Yelp but for campsites. The idea isn’t to release this as a service that people will actually use. The intent is to combine what I’ve learnt from the past few months and use these skills to make a cohesive project that could be released.

I’m quite excited to have finally reached this point. As much as I’ve enjoyed developing specific skills, the parts of the course I’ve enjoyed so far is the work with a visible output. I have a feeling YelpCamp will be a big learning experience and something I’ll likely look back on as a reference in any future developments I do. A library of learnings if you will.

As with other parts of the course I intend to share my progress and code here as a form of public note-taking. I’ll create a specific public GitHub repo so you can follow along and see how the code changes over time. I expect this part of the course will likely take me about 6-8 weeks and will make up the vast majority of posts here over that time. Exciting!

JSON

I’ve worked with JSON data before when I was learning Swift and iOS development. At the time I didn’t really know much of JavaScript or its object syntax. Back then, I made my version of a weather app callClima“. That app pulled down weather information based on your current location using JSON data from a third party API.

Having worked with JavaScript for the past few months JSON seems a lot more obvious now. This morning I made a simple IMDB like web app pulling data from http://omdbapi.com/. I still don’t know how to deploying these node.js apps to a server somewhere. As soon as I do I’ll update posts like this linking to my work.

It’s amazing to me how easy it is to get something quite functional up and running with node.js. A few NPM packages, access to a good source of data from a third party API and you’re away.

Even finding details on APIs for basically anything is really easy thanks to services like https://www.programmableweb.com/. It’s basically just a giant directory of anything and everything you might want to know about publically available APIs.

Learning all this kind of makes me feel like I’m discovering coding superpowers. It’s so easy it feels like cheating.

Express snippets

Since I’m playing with Express at the moment I’ve updated my collection of snippets to include a few things I seem to be doing regularly:

Express setup

I use the shortcut “myExpressSetup” to kick off all my new Express projects. It has basically all the parts I need to get the project underway, and means I dont have to remeber each bit. This is more or less the Express equivalent of the HTML boilerplate I’ve mentioned in the past.

  'Express Setup':
    'prefix': 'myExpressSetup'
    'body': """
    "use strict"

    var express = require( "express" );
    var app = express();
    var bodyParser = require( "body-parser" );

    app.use( bodyParser.urlencoded( {
      extended: true;
    } ) );

    app.set( "view engine", "ejs" );

    app.get( "/", function( request, response ) {
      response.render( "home" );
    } )

    $1

    app.get( "*", function( request, response ) {
      response.send( "404 page not found );
    } )

    // Tells express to listen for requests (Start server)

    app.listen( 3000, function() {
      console.log( "The server started on http://localhost:3000/" );
    } );
    """

Get route

Shocking no one, if there’s one thing I seem to be doing a lot it’s displaying content on an HTML page. Using the shortcut “myGetRoute” this one basically says if the URL fits this pattern take it and display it using the “project” template.

'Express Get':
    'prefix': 'myGetRoute'
    'body': """
    app.get( "/project/:thing", function( request, response ) {
      let thing = request.params.thing
      response.render( "project", {
        thingVar: thing
      } );
    } );
    """

So, for example, I could have a URL like geekpulp.co.nz/project/banana and have it populate the project templates H1 with “banana”. If the URL was then geekpulp.co.nz/project/apple it would populate the project template H1 with Apple. Obviously later in the course, I’ll start populating things from a database and this will all make a lot more sense.

Post route

This one’s all about collecting data from a form and adding it back to the page. Again this sort of thing will make a lot more sense when I’m actually posting the data to a database. At the moment if you refresh the page everything will just return to defaut values because nothing is being saved to the backend.

'Express Push':
    'prefix': 'myPushRoute'
    'body': """
    app.post( "/addteam", function( request, response ) {
      let newTeam = request.body.newTeam;
      teams.push( newTeam );
      response.redirect( "/teams" );
    } );
    """

These new snippets are certain to change in the next week or so as I expand to doing things that are actually useful. At this stage, a lot of this stuff is just code that facilities learning. Having said that, I find making snippets for repetitive tasks a good habit to form. Ultimately the whole point is being as efficient as possible.

I made a thing: Aroha generator

So I made another thing. The only reason I’m really even talking about it is because what’s going on in Christchurch is so awful I can hardly bear it. Making new things (even simple things like this) is a good distraction.

So in an effort to cheer myself up I made a web thing that says Aroha (and basically anything else I choose) as many times as I ask it to. I did this in node.js, which I’ve never used before, so this is a good learning experience. I have no idea how to deploy anything in node yet, but once I learn I’ll put it up somewhere.

Obviously this is not something I expect to be used in anyway, but learning new things always puts my mind in a good place. It makes me think about the good things in life like change, growth and the new. Something we all need to be thinking more about, especially in dark times. I’m certainly not a perfect person, but I try hard to be a better one every day. We owe that to ourselves, we owe it to each other.

Aroha Generator in all its glory!

If you’re interested in this very random project, check it out on GitHub. If you feel like escaping for a bit then you’re welcome to add to it, or create your own, or help someone else to create one. Just remember to be kind to one another.

Aroha.

Constantly letting down my variables

As it turns out I’ve been doing everything wrong. Well, maybe not everything, but at the very least I’ve been declaring variables incorrectly.

There are actually three different variable types in JavaScript, var, let, and const. I’ve been using var exclusively and it’s actually bad practice. So what’s the difference between each and which should I be using when?

const

Where at all possible you should use const. Unsurprisingly const is short for constant and without going into to much detail that means it’s something you know will not change. You won’t be able to use this all the time obviously because a lot of the time you need to vary the content of variables. It’s always good pratice to minimise mutability in your code and const is the ultimate example of that.

let

This is how most of your variables should be declared the majority of the time. The strength of let variables is their scope is limited to the block level. For example:

let numberOfPowers = 1;

if (numberOfPowers === 1) {
  let numberOfPowers = "1 more power than Batman"
  console.log(numberOfPowers);
}

console.log(numberOfPowers);

In this example we have two variables named the same thing, but because we are using let their scope is limited to different parts of the code so they don’t collide. So in the console, we’d see both “1” and “1 more power than Batman”.

var

This is the option you should use least often and that’s because of its scope. Unlike let, var has a very wide scope. This is either the function it’s inside of, or if it’s declared outside any function, global. Obviously, that’s not ideal because it creates a greater opportunity to have your variables collide, especially as your projects grow in size. So to revisit our example with var instead of let:

var numberOfPowers = 1;

if (numberOfPowers === 1) {
  var numberOfPowers = "1 more power than Batman"
  console.log(numberOfPowers);
}

console.log(numberOfPowers);

This time the console will only read 2x “1 more power than Batman”. This is because having a global scope means we are writing over a single global variable rather than creating two different variables with different scopes but the same name.

I can see when you’re learning why this concept might be more of an intermediate level concept. Scope can be a bit tricky to get your head around. At the early stages of learning it’s probably better to focus on core concepts rather than nuances like this, but as your skills grow I think this is an important practice to do with variable declaration.

How to write modern JS

So you’re learning JavaScript (JS), cool. Putting all this effort in, you’ll want to be learning the modern usage of the language right? Time to get strict.

“use strict” is something I recently stumbled across, and it seems like a really important thing to be using. So much so that I’m a bit surprised it hasn’t been mentioned in the course I’m doing. As it turns out, JS is full of legacy thinking. In an effort to keep new versions of the language compatible with older versions, much of this legacy thinking was/is retained. Obviously this limits JavaScripts ability to overcome its past and improve as time goes on.

Evidently, in 2009 a decision was made to start to modernise JS with the release of ECMAScript 5 (ES5). This meant breaking compatibility with older version of JS if you decided that was what you wanted to do. This is where “use strict” comes in. To enable this “modernisation” you include “use strict” at the top of your JS files like this:

"use strict";
// code below this will be implemented the modern way
...

Since it’s been 10 years since that decision was made, all modern browsers now support ES5. So unless you need to support browsers before the dawn of IE10 then you should be turning strict mode on for all of your JS development.

This of course begs the question, why? Well, aside from staying current with the language, there are also a number of practical benefits:

  1. Modern JS throws errors on things that where previously ignored. This helps you write better, more secure code
  2. It can improve the performance of your code, sometime significantly. Sometimes the code itself is identical and you just get a free performance boost, nice!
  3. It prevents some syntax being use that future version of the language are likely to use. AKA it future proofs your code

So from here on in, I’m going to be using strict mode exclusively and only avoid it when a situation presents itself that I can’t.

As always MDN is a good source of information on both strict and sloppy mode. Now go forth and write strict code!

Pastebot

The more time I spend coding the more time I find myself researching solutions to workflow problems I’ve never had before. Copy and paste is a good example of this.

Sharpening my coding skills I find myself copying and pasting a lot more than normal. Maybe a better way to say it is coping and pasting in specific ways a lot more. For example, when I’m writing CSS I tend to copy and paste a small set of different colour codes over and over. Another example would be copying lists of items from a document one at a time to populate a list in an HTML document.

I had never considered that there might be a better way of doing these things until I stumbled on Pastebot. Pastebot is like copying and pasting on steroids. At a basic level, it keeps a history of everything you copy and paste. Even this simple function makes it incredibly useful when coding. Need to paste that colour code you copied 30 mins ago? Bam there it is in your clipboard history.

Once you’ve got used to having clipboard history you’ll never go back to your old ways. As a developer though that’s not even the best part. Where Pastebot really shines is its filters. Want to copy of a list of items then paste them as an HTML list? Want to copy some text and pasted it wrapped it in <p> tags? Pastebot can take care of all of that for you.

Do yourself a favour and at the very least investigate a clipboard manager, and if you’re on a Mac make sure you try Pastebot. It really is worth your time.

on() click()

Today I learnt the different between the on(“click”) and click() methods in jQuery.

click() only adds listeners for existing elements, so it will completely ignore any dynamically added items. So in the example below only the <li> declared in the html file will be clickable. All of the new <li> elements added to the todo list won’t be clickable:

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">

<head>
  <meta charset="UTF-8">
  <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">
  <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="ie=edge">
  <title></title>
  <link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen" href="assets/css/style.css" />
  <link rel="stylesheet" href="https://use.fontawesome.com/releases/v5.7.2/css/all.css" integrity="sha384-fnmOCqbTlWIlj8LyTjo7mOUStjsKC4pOpQbqyi7RrhN7udi9RwhKkMHpvLbHG9Sr"
    crossorigin="anonymous">
  <script src="https://code.jquery.com/jquery-3.3.1.min.js" integrity="sha256-FgpCb/KJQlLNfOu91ta32o/NMZxltwRo8QtmkMRdAu8="
    crossorigin="anonymous"></script>
</head>

<body>
  <div id="container">
    <h1>To-Do List</h1>
    <input type="text" name="" id="">
    <ul>
      <li><span>X</span> Go to potions class</li>
      <li><span>X</span> Buy a new broom</li>
      <li><span>X</span> Visit Hagrid</li>
    </ul>
  </div>
  <script type="text/javascript" src="assets/js/script.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
</body>

</html>
// check off specific todos by clicking
$( "li" ).click( function () {
  $( this ).toggleClass( "completed" );
} );

// click on x to delete todo item
$( "span" ).click( function ( event ) {
  $( this ).parent().fadeOut( 300, function () {
    $( this ).remove();
  } );
  event.stopPropagation();
} );

// add new item to todo list on keypress
$( "input[type='text']" ).keypress( function ( event ) {
  if ( event.which === 13 ) {
    var todoItem = $( this ).val();
    $( this ).val( "" );
    $( "ul" ).append( "<li><span>X</span> " + todoItem + "</li>" );
  }
} );

To get around this, instead of using click() we use on(“click”). Unlike click() on(“click”) will add listeners for all potential future elements on the page. This makes all the dynamic content, like the new items in our todo list app, work flawlessly. So the updated code would look like this:

// check off specific todos by clicking
$( "ul" ).on( "click", "li", function () {
  $( this ).toggleClass( "completed" );
} );

// click on x to delete todo item
$( "ul" ).on( "click", "span", function ( event ) {
  $( this ).parent().fadeOut( 300, function () {
    $( this ).remove();
  } );
  event.stopPropagation();
} );

// add new item to todo list on keypress
$( "input[type='text']" ).keypress( function ( event ) {
  if ( event.which === 13 ) {
    var todoItem = $( this ).val();
    $( this ).val( "" );
    $( "ul" ).append( "<li><span>X</span> " + todoItem + "</li>" );
  }
} );

jQuery has some excellent documentation. So if you need to drill into the specifics of any particular method (like on() or click()) be sure to RTFM.