My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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This is a story about my journey as a programmer, the major highs and lows I've had along the way, and how this post came to be. It's not about how ecstasy made me a better programmer, so I apologize if that's why you came.

In any case, we'll start at the end, jump to the beginning, and move along back to today. It's long, but I hope the read is as rewarding as the write.

A while back, Reg Braithwaite challenged programing bloggers with three posts he'd love to read (and one that he wouldn't). I loved the idea so much that I've been thinking about all my experiences as a programmer off and on for the last several months, trying to find the links between what I learned from certain languages that made me a better programmer in others, and how they made me better overall. That's how this post came to be. More...

Hey! Why don't you make your life easier and subscribe to the full post or short blurb RSS feed? I'm so confident you'll love my smelly pasta plate wisdom that I'm offering a no-strings-attached, lifetime money back guarantee!

If you don't care about the background behind this, the reasons why you might want to use rules based programming, or a bit of theory, you can skip straight the Drools tutorial.

One of the concepts I love to think about (and do) is raising the level of abstraction in a system. The more often you are telling the computer what, and not how, the better.

Of course, somewhere someone is doing imperative programming (telling it how), but I like to try to hide much of that somewhere and focus more on declarative programming (telling it what). Many times, that's the result of abstraction in general and DSLs and rules-based programming more specifically. More...

A couple of evenings ago, after I wrote about how I got involved in programming and helped a friend with some C++ (he's a historian), I got inspired to start writing a scripting engine for a text-based adventure game. Maybe it will evolve into something, but I wanted to share it in its infancy right now.

My goal was to easily create different types of objects in the game without needing to know much about programming. In other words, I needed a declarative way to create objects in the game. I could just go the easy route and create new types of weapons like this: More...

We could all stand to be better at what we do - especially those of us who write software. Although many of these ideas were not news to me, and may not be for you either, you'd be surprised at how you start to slack off and what a memory refresh will do for you.

Here are (briefly) 10 ways to improve your code from the NFJS session I attended with Neal Ford. Which do you follow? More...

It's no big secret that I'm not a huge fan of XML. But, when I posted about Bob Martin's revolt against XML, it was half-jokingly. I use XML when I find it useful, and certainly I wouldn't go so far as to say (quoting Bob Martin)
What is the matter with these people? How, after all the experience we've had with XSLT, Ant, WSDL, etc., etc., could they create YET ANOTHER XML language. Are they dolts? Are they idiots?
But when Peter posted a comment asking "how quickly can you write a parser...," I revisited the post from Bob, and dug into it a little. More...

About a month ago, Robert Martin posted what has to be the funniest critique on using XML I've ever read. More...

This one refers to the 40+ minute presentation by Obie Fernandez on Agile DSL Development in Ruby. (Is InfoQ not one of the greatest resources ever?)

You should really view the video for better details, but I'll give a little rundown of the talk here. Obie starts out talking about how you should design the language first with the domain expert, constantly refining it until it is good - and only then should you worry about implementing it (this is about the same procedure you'd follow if you were building an expert system as well). That's where most of the Agility comes into play. More...

Lot's of stuff on DSLs today (though most of it is old news). First, we have chromatic a little peeved that DSL doesn't seem to mean much, asking isn't it just an API? Probably so (but does that mean it can't be viewed as a DSL?). More...

Something I haven't thought much about, but am beginning to (want to) get into is the auto-generation of reports. Autogenerating forms, validation, and operations for CRUD is quite simple - the approach I've used simply gets what metadata it can from the database, and dynamically builds around it. So, NOT NULL fields become required, datetimes build different form fields from nvarchars, and validate as such (as do other types), and field maxlengths are honored on the HTML side based on the DB metadata (among other things). That is incredibly useful by itself, but not useful enough for a real, production quality application (should the user really be required to remember the categoryID?) More...

Peter Bell's presentation on LightWire generated some comments I found very interesting and thought provoking. (Perhaps Peter is not simply into application generation, but comment generation as well.)

The one I find most interesting is brought up by several people whose opinions I value - Joe Rinehart, Sean Corfield, Jared Rypka-Hauer, and others during and after the presentation. That is: what is the distinction between code and data, and specifically, is XML code or data (assuming there is a difference)? More...

There are a couple of drawbacks (or some incompleteness) to scaffolding being truly useful. The one that seems to be most often cited is that normally (at least in Ruby on Rails, which seems to have popularized it) it looks like crap (it is only scaffolding though). Of course, most who make that complaint also recognize that it is only a starting point from which you should build.

Django has been generating (what I feel is) production-quality "admin" scaffolding since I first heard about it. It looks clean and professional. Compare that to the bare-bones you get by default in Rails, and you're left wondering, "why didn't they do that?" Well, as it happens, it has been done. In particular, there are at least 4 such products for use with Rails: Rails AutoAdmin (which professes to be "heavily inspired by the Django administration system"), ActiveScaffold (which is just entering RC2 status), Hobo, and Streamlined (whose site is down for me at the moment). More...


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