Trailing Commas Are Just The Beginning

Trailing commas, also known as dangling commas, are a formatting strategy that’s grown in popularity over time. Only 2 years ago did Prettier (a javascript formatter) start enforcing trailing commas by default, and if you read the associated GitHub issue you’ll see how hard-fought the change was. In this post I’m going to explain why trailing commas fix the problem of order-depedence and how order-dependence gets in our way in a bunch of other contexts too.

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Lessons Learned Revamping Lazygit's Integration Tests

Something I don’t come across enough online is posts where the author walks through a feature they built along with all the dead-ends and refactors along the way. So this post is my attempt to add to that modest corpus with my most recent coding journey.

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Master vs Main

The following is a fictional conversation between two developers of different political persuasions. This is really just my way of thinking out loud about the different perspectives on the topic, and if I’ve done my job properly, you’ll have no idea which of two fictional developers I agree with more. I intend to unlist this post in the future just because of how controversial the topic is.

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Decay Mindset

As I sit here in my bed with something that might be the flu (hopefully not COVID again!) it strikes me that I never used to get sick this frequently. My younger self’s immune system would kick my current immune system’s ass.

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GPT dumped me

Turns out that OpenAI’s GPT playground is now in open beta, so I thought I’d prod it with some questions to see if I could learn something.

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Too Much Wisdom

I wonder if it’s getting easier or harder to be effective in modern times. That is, to be productive and focused and move towards your goals. On one hand, we have endless learning resources at our fingertips thanks to the internet. Nearly every question we can think of has a clear and articulate answer waiting for us on the other side of a google search, and where yahoo answers once held monopoly over the Q&A space online, we now have more mature alternatives like Quora and Stack Overflow.

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Still No Consensus On Testing Private Methods

Yesterday, while running a session at work on Rust, I offhandedly remarked ‘I think we can all agree that when writing unit tests, private methods shouldn’t be directly tested except in some special situations’ and to my suprise, I had thought wrong. A mini-debate erupted where various people argued mutually incompatible viewpoints. We quickly moved on from the debate but I was left a little embarrassed that I had misjudged the developer zeitgeist.

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The Public Intellectual Netflix Special

A while back I was listening to a podcast where a couple of comedians discussed the consequences of doing a Netflix special (as I type this I realise it was almost certainly Joe Rogan’s podcast). The idea is that you spend all this time building an hour of golden comedy material and for any live audience you perform in front of it’s completely novel and hilarious, but it’s also the comedian’s dream to capture that content in a Netflix special and have the whole world give you their attention (and indirectly their money) in return for that content.

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Git Bisect Run: Bug Hunting On Steroids

When you have a newly introduced bug and you don’t know which git commit introduced it, what’s the best way to find that commit? Typically it’s easy enough to find an example of a commit for which the bug is not present (e.g. the last release) but finding the problematic commit between then and now is the hard part. If you have a set of 100 commits, and any commit could have introduced the bug, you could go through one by one, testing to see if the bug is present or not, but that’s inefficient! You’re better off picking the commit in the middle, seeing if it has the bug, and then narrowing down your search by a factor of two! So you’ll have 100 candidate commits, then 50, then 25, etc all the way down to one. Rather than checking 100 commits individually, you only need to check log₂(100) i.e. 7 commits.

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Experiential Ownership

I haven’t posted in a while so I’m going to lower my standards on this one and ramble about some loosely related ideas.

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True Code Reuse In Go

If you google ‘Code Reuse In Go’ and read through the first two pages of results, you’ll see many of the same concepts come up:

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Climbing Towards Correctness

Here’s an idea I’d like to see in the education system: when teaching a new concept, before introducing a formula or equation that models some phenomenon, make the case for some simpler, but incorrect, alternatives first.

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Go'ing Insane Part Three: Imperfect Interfaces

Standard preface: the purpose of this series is to put absolutely everything that bothers me about Go on the table to see who can relate. I’m not in the take-down business, I’m in the nitpicking business. So if you leave a comment saying ‘This is just nitpicking’ I will have no choice but to completely agree with you. I am not suggesting you will run into these issues on a daily basis, I am suggesting that when you do inevitably run into them, it will be frustrating. I don’t expect Go to change and I appreciate why people don’t want it to change.

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Go'ing Insane Part Two: Partial Privacy

Before we start, let me make something clear on the back of the comments from the first post: this series is my attempt to put absolutely everything on the table that frustrates me when using Go. As such, I’ll be doing some extreme nitpicking, much of which people will consider overblown or shortsighted. But my goal is not to do a take-down of the language (I’m stuck writing in it for now anyway), I really just want to get a feel for how many Go devs there are who share my grievances. If none of my grievances bother you, that’s fine: we probably differ on values (or I’ve missed something obvious).

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Backpedal of the Day: Type Keys

Recently I wrote a post on type keys which a reader of the blog posted to Reddit where it was generally well-received, but garnered enough feedback for me to promote type keys from ‘anti-pattern’ to ‘code-smell’, and include a counter-example where type keys were the lesser of all evils. The post to Hacker News gained no traction but I was satisfied enough with the feedback from Reddit.

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Go'ing Insane Part One: Endless Error Handling

I’ve been using Go for a few years now, mostly in my open source project Lazygit. In my day job I use Ruby and Typescript, and I’ve also spent some time with Rust. Each of those languages have design quirks that can grind a developer’s gears, and although my own precious gears have been ground by every language I’ve used, Go is the only language that has made me feel indignant.

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Seeing Selection

A couple times somebody has told me about the latest COVID super-spreader and then asked the question ‘how come it’s always somebody who visits 5 different places in a single day. Who the hell are these people?’. Recent examples aren’t hard to find: so-called super-spreaders do get around. But when you think about it, this question has an obvious answer: highly mobile people are more likely to contract COVID in the first place. If they happen to also be mobile on the day they infect a bunch of other people, their super-spreading isn’t super-surprising.

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A Language To Make Programming Magical Again

Do you remember when you wrote your first program? I do: back in primary school my dad gave me a copy of ‘The Games Factory’: a GUI for building 2D games with raster graphics. I didn’t write a single line of code: it was just a matter of checking a bunch of options and arranging objects on a screens. But from day one I was hooked, and now years later I’ve made programming my career.

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Four Approaches to Implicit State in Compound Components, Ranked

Say we wanted to create an Accordion component that lets us expand and collapse sections within the Accordion, such that only one section can be expanded at a time. This is a good candidate for a Compound Component. Let’s first create an Accordion with three sections, without trying to abstract out any logic.

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Gaining Ground Without Generics In Go

Recently I’ve been working on a feature in my open-source pride and joy, Lazygit, that allows viewing your modified files as a tree rather than a flat list. This allows you to get a better feel for which areas of the codebase have been changed, and has some perks like easy navigation with folder collapsing, and the ability to stage/unstage whole directories.

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React Bedtime Stories Episode 1: The Form Of Death

What you are about to hear is a tale full of danger, excitement, and personal growth. You will come across the evil Dragon Of New Requirements, and the Serpent Of Typescript’s Lacking Type Inference. Polymorphism spells will be cast, Abstractions will rise and fall, and chests of various colours will explode. Although this tale requires no advanced knowledge, it will require courage and persistence, because it is a terrifying tale of twists and turns that, in real life, spanned weeks.

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How Not to Develop a Ruby Gem

Over the last couple of days I’ve been working on LazyMigrate, a gem which provides a little UI for handling migrations in rails. Because it’s a gem that depends on your Rails app’s code, it can’t really be tested in isolation (unless I went and mocked out a heap of stuff which would erode my confidence that things were working correctly). I was vaguely aware that I could have made a Rails plugin, which sets you up with a mock rails app for testing, but I wanted to be able to run the gem from outside rails as well.

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Beginner's Guide To Abstraction

In The Pragmatic Programmer, Andrew Hunt and David Thomas introduced the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle. The rationale being that if you see the same code copy+pasted 10 times you should probably factor that code into its own method/class.

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In React, The Wrong Abstraction Kills Efficiency

As a software developer I like to think of myself as intelligent and discerning, but if I’m being completely honest with myself most of the decisions I make around code structure are governed by fairly low-resolution heuristics like ‘Don’t Repeat Yourself’ and ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’. My stylistic intuitions all too often get priority over intuitions about long term maintenance and extensibility, in part because there are always arguments available that sound very serious and programmery but really just cover for the stylistic bias.

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