The blog of Rahoul Baruah from 3hv Ltd

What's going on?

My name is Rahoul Baruah (aka Baz) and I'm a software developer in Leeds (England).

This is a log of things I've discovered while writing software in Ruby on Rails. In other words, geek stuff.

However, I've decided to put this blog on ice - I would ask you to check out my business blog here (or subscribe here).

17 April, 2007

Stay Beautiful

Mr Hansson has been winding people up recently, with his Twitter Controversy. But one of his more polite recent posts is about Seaside - a Smalltalk web framework that uses stateful objects on the server to allow a modal-style flow of control within your web application. One component receives a callback as the user clicks a link, it calls into another component and sits and waits until the second component returns control to the first - just like calling a subroutine.

I've made no secret of my love of Smalltalk - it's what attracted me to Ruby and Rails in the first place. There's a beauty about Smalltalk code (although please forgive any typos in the code below as I've not done any for a while) that you rarely see anywhere else, although Rails has it in places. I could go on for hours about:


under21s:= people collect: [ person | person under21 ].


Is that better than:


under_21s = people.collect do | person |
person.under_21?
end


Not much in it. Ruby has the question mark - I like that as it makes the code read better. But Smalltalk has less superflous punctuation to make it read better still. And I love the full-stop to finish the sentence.

How about:


nail needsHitting ifTrue: [ nail hitOn: #TheHead with: aHammer ].


Versus:


nail.hit(:on => :the_head, :with => hammer) if nail.needs_hitting?


Ruby has the if at the end of the sentence, which I really like - and it's even better when using unless. And Smalltalk has its slightly weird "everything is an object or message" ifTrue: method on the true and false instance variables that lead to something that is a bit less readable than the Ruby. But Smalltalk doesn't need the parenthesis. And blocks are passed as normal objects (not weird add-ons that may or may not be tacked on to the end and sometimes implicitly converted to Procs). And if is not a reserved word.

Recently I've noticed the Smalltalk creeping into my Ruby style. Things like:


validate(course, :against => template, :on => this_date)


Which is reasonable. But the brackets just kill me.

And then I had to write this:


form_for(:course_template,
:url => course_template_path(@course_template),
:html => {:method => :put} do | form |
# form.stuff
end


It's awful (yeah, yeah, I need SimplyHelpful).

What about, in config/routes.rb:


map.resources(:course_templates,
:member => {:build_courses => :get, :do_build_courses => :post}) do | course_template |
course_template.resources(:course_details)
end


They really ought to read:


courseTemplates:= map resourcesCalled: #CourseTemplates;
withAnAdditional: #GetMethod :called #BuildCourses :on #Members;
withAnAdditional: #PostMethod :called #DoBuildCourses :on #Members;
nesting: (map resourcesCalled: #CourseDetails).


Note: the nested call to resourcesCalled is actually sent to map, not to a nested object as in the Ruby original.

A literal translation would be:


map.resources_called(:course_templates).with_an_additional(
:get_method, :called => :build_courses, :on => :members).with_an_additional(
:post_method, :called => :do_build_courses, :on => :members).nesting(
map.resources_called(:course_details)
)


The semi-colon chains method calls together (assuming each call returns the original return value from map.resources_called. But it's really really ugly in Ruby.

The closest I can think of for this is:


map.resources_called(:course_templates,
:adding => [
GetMethod.called(:build_courses, :on => :members),
PostMethod.called(:do_build_courses, :on => :members)
],
:nesting => map.resources_called(:course_details)
)


which is a lot better but still pretty ugly (nested brackets - urgh).

Of course, map.resources is probably an instance of DHH's syntactic vinegar - I'm sure that in his mind you should never add extra calls as it breaks the nice clean REST architecture. Well tough. I think myserver.com/course_templates/23;build_courses describes what I want very succinctly.

It's definitely something that's on my radar now ... I want my Ruby and Rails code to be beautiful. Otherwise I may just be looking at Seaside in more depth.

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