Growing Rails Applications in Practice
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Growing Rails Applications in Practice

Structure large Ruby on Rails apps with the tools you already know and love

About the Book

  • "Never has a tech book spoken so clearly and in a timely manner to acute pains I've been having at work" — Ethan Garofolo
  • "Nice to witness a new generation of Rails authors" — Obie Fernandez
  • #1 bestselling book on Leanpub during launch week!

How we got here

When you started working with Rails some years ago, it all seemed so easy. You saw the blog-in-ten-minutes video. You reproduced the result. ActiveRecord felt great and everything had its place.

Fast forward two years. Your blog is now a full-blown CMS with a hundred models and controllers. Your team has grown to four developers. Every change to the application is a pain. Your code feels like a house of cards.

You turn to the internet for assistance, and find it filled with silver bullets. You should move away from fat controllers, it says. But do avoid fat models. And use DCI. Or CQRS. Or SOA. As you cycle through patterns, your application is becoming a patchwork of different coding techniques. New team members are having a hard time catching up. And you're beginning to question if all those new techniques actually help, or if you're just adding layers of indirection.

You start missing the early days, when everything had seemed so easy and every new piece of code had its place. You actually liked ActiveRecord before it drowned you in a sea of callbacks. If only there was a way to do things "the Rails way" without having it fall apart as your application grows.

The myth of the infinitely scalable architecture

We'd like to show you one path to write Rails apps that are a joy to understand and change, even as your team and codebase grows. This book describes a complete toolbox that has served us well for all requirements that we have encountered.

But before we do that, we need to let you in on an inconvenient secret: Large applications are large. The optimal implementation of a large application will always be more complex than the optimal representation of a smaller app. We cannot make this go away. What we can do is to organize a codebase in a way that "scales logarithmically". Twice as many models should not mean twice as many problems.

To accomplish this, you don't necessarily need to change the entire way your application is built. You don't necessarily need to introduce revolutionary architectures to your code. You can probably make it with the tools built into Rails, if you use them in a smarter way.

Compare this to sorting algorithms. When a sorting function is too slow, our first thought is not "install a Hadoop cluster". Instead we simply look for an algorithm that scales better. In a similar fashion this book is not about revolutionary design patterns or magic gems that make all your problems go away. Instead we will show how to use discipline, consistency and organization to make your application grow more gently.

How we structured this book

We divided the book into three parts:

Part I: New rules for Rails

In this part we unlearn bad Rails habits and introduce design conventions for controllers and user-facing models. By being consistent in our design decisions we can make it asier to navigate and understand our application even as its codebase grows.

The first part contains the following chapters:

  • Beautiful controllers
  • Relearning ActiveRecord
  • User interactions without a database

Part II: Creating a system for growth

As we implement more and more requirements, all that code has to go somewhere. If all we do is add more lines to existing classes and methods, we end up with an unmaintainable mess.

In this part we show how to organize code in a way that encourages the creation of new classes which in turn enhances comprehensibility and maintainability. We also lean to contain the side effects that code can have on unrelated parts of our application.

The second part discusses the following topics:

  • Dealing with fat models
  • A home for interaction-specific code
  • Extracting service objects
  • Organizing large codebases with namespaces
  • Taming stylesheets
Part III: Building applications to last

We show how to think about future maintenance when making decisions today. We make a case for adopting new technologies and patterns with care, and for taking full responsibility for those techniques and technologies that you do choose to adopt.

The last part contains the following chapters:

  • On following fashions
  • Surviving the upgrade pace of Rails
  • Owning your stack
  • The value of tests

About the Authors

Henning Koch
Henning Koch

Henning Koch is the co-founder and CTO of makandra, a large Ruby on Rails consultancy in Germany. In the rest of world, makandra is mostly known for Rails LTS, a commercially supported fork of Rails.

After increasingly failing to stay out of a management at makandra, Henning secretly moonlights as a developer for Holly.

Thomas Eisenbarth
Thomas Eisenbarth

Thomas spent a decade building and operating things for the Web in multiple languages and frameworks. Thomas is co-founder and CEO of makandra, a Ruby on Rails consultancy from Germany. makandra developed, maintains and operates a plenty of web applications today. At makandra, Thomas was actively involved in multiple large projects over the past years.

Table of Contents

    • I Introduction
      • 1. How we got here
      • 2. The myth of the infinitely scalable architecture
      • 3. How we structured this book
  • New rules for Rails
    • III Beautiful controllers
      • 4. The case for consistent controller design
      • 5. Normalizing user interactions
      • 6. A better controller implementation
      • 7. Why have controllers at all?
    • IV Relearning ActiveRecord
      • 8. Understanding the ActiveRecord lifecycle
      • 9. The true API of ActiveRecord models
    • V User interactions without a database
      • 10. Writing a better sign in form
      • 11. Building PlainModel
      • 12. Refactoring controllers from hell
  • Creating a system for growth
    • VII Dealing with fat models
      • 13. Why models grow fat
      • 14. The case of the missing classes
      • 15. Getting into a habit of organizing
    • VIII A home for interaction-specific code
      • 16. A modest approach to form models
      • 17. More convenience for form models
    • IX Extracting service objects
      • 18. Example
      • 19. Did we just move code around?
    • X Organizing large codebases with namespaces
      • 20. Real-world example
      • 21. Use the same structure everywhere
    • XI Taming stylesheets
      • 22. How CSS grows out of control
      • 23. An API for your stylesheets
      • 24. The BEM prime directive
      • 25. Full BEM layout example
      • 26. Organizing stylesheets
      • 27. BEM anti-patterns
      • 28. Living style guides
      • 29. Pragmatic BEM
  • Building applications to last
    • XIII On following fashions
      • 30. Before/after code comparisons
      • 31. Understanding trade-offs
      • 32. The value of consistency
    • XIV Surviving the upgrade pace of Rails
      • 33. Gems increase the cost of upgrades
      • 34. Upgrades are when you pay for monkey patches
      • 35. Don’t live on the bleeding edge
    • XV Owning your stack
      • 36. Accepting storage services into your stack
      • 37. Maxing out your current toolbox
    • XVI The value of tests
      • 38. Choosing test types effectively
      • 39. How many tests are too many?
      • 40. When to repeat yourself in tests - and when not to
      • 41. Better design guided by tests
      • 42. Getting started with tests in legacy applications
      • 43. Overcoming resistance to testing in your team
    • XVII Closing thoughts
  • Notes

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