I spoke at LoopConf 2018 on software complexity and how to manage it. This is the companion article that I wrote for it. If you’re just looking for the slides, click here. You can also find a recording of the talk here.
As developers, we spend a lot of time writing code. But we spend even more time maintaining that code. How often do we go back find that that code has become this tangled mess that we almost can’t understand? It’s probably more often than we want to admit!
We wonder, “How did this happen? How did this code get so messy?” Well, the most likely culprit is software complexity. Our code became so complex that it became hard to know what it did.
Now, software complexity isn’t a topic that developers are often familiar with when they start coding. We have other things to worry about. We’re trying to learn a new programming language or a new framework.
We don’t stop and think that software complexity could be making that job harder for us. But it is doing precisely that. We’re creating code that works, but that’s also hard to maintain and understand. That’s why we often come back and ask ourselves, “What was I thinking!? This makes no sense.”
That’s why learning about software complexity is important. It’ll help you increase the quality of your code so that these situations don’t happen as often. And this also has the added benefit of making your code less prone to bugs. (That’s a good thing even if debugging is a great learning tool!)
Continue reading What is software complexity and how can you manage it?
That means that this is still a great excuse to use object-oriented programming with WordPress. (Yay!) In fact, it’s an excellent opportunity to piece different object-oriented concepts together. This will let us design a system to extend the WordPress REST API!
Continue reading Designing a system: WordPress REST API endpoints
2017 is coming to a close and with it comes the shower of yearly retrospectives. Well, I’m no different from everyone else in that regard! I did my first year in review two years ago covering 2012-2015. And I also did one last year for 2016 only.
If this is the first year in review of mine that you read, you should know that I do them for transparency. I want a historical record of what I’ve done that’s as faithful as I can make it. That means writing it down as close to the time that it happened as possible. I don’t keep a journal (nor do I want to) so this is as close as I’ll get to that.
It’s also a way for me to keep track of my progress towards where I’d like to see myself. I don’t keep a yearly goal list or anything like that. But I definitely have a vision of where I’d like to be and whether I made progress towards it or not.
Needless to say, that this article is more for me than for you. But I think there’s always something to learn from other people’s life experiences. (That’s why I love documentaries like “Abstract” and “Chef’s table“.) I hope that me sharing this helps you through your own journey through life.
Continue reading 2017 in review: YOLO
Whether you’re a WordPress developer or not, you’re always looking for ways to improve yourself. That’s the nature of our profession. We’re always looking for ways to improve ourselves.
That said, it’s not uncommon for developers to hate debugging. They’ll get a bug report and cry in exasperation, “I want to build stuff! Not fix bugs!” But that’s not the right attitude to have towards bugs and debugging in general.
That’s because debugging doesn’t only happen when you’re fixing bugs in bug reports. We spend a lot of time debugging when writing brand new code too. How often have you written code that didn’t work on the first try and that you had to debug? (We’ve all had that happen more often than we want to admit!)
That’s why debugging is such an important skill to have as a developer. We spend a ridiculous amount of time debugging. Yet we never think about how getting better at it might also help us write better code.
Continue reading How debugging can make you a better developer
As you use object-oriented programming with WordPress more and more, you’re going to encounter new sets of problems. These problems aren’t as simple as the ones that you encountered when you started. But that’s also good news. It also means that you’re making progress.
One set of problems that you start to encounter as you advance in your use of object-oriented programming deal with scaling. As your code has more and more classes, it becomes a challenge to assemble these classes together. That’s why in the past we looked at how to design a class whose job was to do that.
But there are other problems that come with having a lot of classes in your code. It’s how much your classes depend on other classes. This is what we call coupling in programming. (Not just object-oriented programming.)
To help with coupling, a famous software engineer (Robert C. Martin who’s also known as Uncle Bob) created the dependency inversion principle. It helps you decouple your classes by making dependencies external to them. (There’s more to it than that. But this is one of the core elements of the dependency inversion principle.)
This reduces coupling but creates a new problem as well. That problem is that you can’t initialize objects inside your class anymore. You have to pass them to your own object through its constructor or some other method like a setter method.
This makes it even harder to assemble your classes together. This is why software engineers created dependency injection. It’s a programming technique that helps solve this problem.
Most web application frameworks use it in some form or another. But that’s not the case with WordPress since a lot of its code isn’t object-oriented. That said, if you want to build an object-oriented plugin for WordPress, it’s pretty much mandatory. Lucky for us, it’s not that hard to use dependency injection in your own code!
Continue reading Using dependency injection with WordPress
A WordPress plugin can have a lot of different components. For example, some might need to use shortcodes to achieve their purpose. While others might need to create custom post types.
But one component that almost every plugin needs is an admin page. (Or they might even need more than one!) That said, designing an admin page using object-oriented programming isn’t that straightforward. There are a lot of different moving pieces that you have to take in consideration in your design.
A well-designed admin page class will combine these different moving pieces into a cohesive class. The key to achieving this is to understand the role of these different moving pieces in the larger picture of an admin page. We’ll do that by analyzing what makes up an admin page in the first place.
Continue reading Designing a class representing a WordPress admin page
Have you ever worked on localization with other web frameworks? If so, you might be familiar with the idea of using keys to identify translation strings. These keys are how your translation system finds the localized text to use inside your application.
If you’ve been doing localization with WordPress, you know that it doesn’t work that way. With WordPress, you use the original (usually English) content string as your translation key. This can be convenient because you always know what the original string was.
That said, it’s still possible to do WordPress localization using keys instead content strings. This can be useful if you come from these different programming backgrounds. You might like to keep working the way you’re used to. Let’s look at how you can do that!
Continue reading How to use placeholders for WordPress translations
No programming concept frightens programmers more than regular expressions. For a lot of us, seeing code with regular expressions in it can bring a sense of dread and anxiety. We often have no idea what’s going on or how a regular expression does what it does.
That said, regular expressions are a really powerful tool. (That’s why they’re used so much.) There’s always a problem that you can solve with a regular expression around the corner. (Or you can always imagine one!) On top of that, you can use them almost anywhere.
The good news is that you can get over that fear of regular expressions! Learning the basics is often enough to solve a wide range of problems. So let’s go over them together!
Continue reading Beginner’s guide to regular expressions
Much like the plugin API, it’s almost impossible to build a plugin without using the options API. This can be a problem if you’re trying to learn object-oriented programming with WordPress. You need a way to build a class around it.
Lucky for us, this is a lot less complicated to do than with the plugin API. The options API is really nothing more than an API around a data store. Our job as designers is simple. We need to design a class that mirrors this API.
That said, we don’t have to limit ourselves to just copying the options API as is. We can also push things further by adding some extra functionality around it. This is what makes designing a class around the options API so interesting.
Continue reading Designing classes for the WordPress options API
If you use object-oriented programming, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the constructor. It’s this special method that an object-oriented programming language uses to initialize a new object. In PHP (and a lot of other object-oriented programming languages), the
__construct method is a special method reserved for the role of constructor.
The role of the constructor isn’t always well understood. This is especially true when you’re new to object-oriented programming. You know the method exists, but you’re not too sure how to use it.
This can lead to some less than ideal practices around constructors. This is especially true in the WordPress world where two such practices are popular. First, there’s the habit of putting hooks in the constructor. And, because of that habit, WordPress developers tend to overuse the singleton pattern.
These two practices show a misunderstanding of the role that a constructor plays inside a class. This isn’t how object-oriented programming wants you to use constructors. There are other ways to solve those problems without sacrificing the role of a constructor.
Now, this isn’t to say that constructors don’t have any problems either. They do! In fact, that’s why we’re looking at the static factory method pattern. It solves one common problem that constructors have in PHP.
Continue reading Using the static factory method pattern with WordPress