Emily Stamey

Developer & Human. Finding my voice.

Category: legacy

What Community Means to Me

Ever since I began attending conferences again, there have been several things bugging me.  Primarily it’s that so little has changed since I started college and later attended my first conference in 2001.  I ALWAYS bristled when a speaker would give a long list of their fellow speaker friends held up as community leaders.  There is no way to list every speaker in that list, so it seemed to focus on that person’s friends.  I knew the omitted speakers would feel left out, but I also thought about everyone else in the room who was definitely a member of the community who could feel left out in this type of talk.  It’s taken me a while to put my finger on this, so please bear with me as I tease this idea out.

When did I join the PHP community?

Well, I learned PHP in 1999.  I was a webmaster for a department on campus.  The IT lead, Kevin, said I needed to learn PHP because it was really cool!  It was, and in 2000 I took my first full-time job using PHP to do super cool things on the Internet.  I would say that I became a member of the PHP community when I first took the Webmonkey tutorial and began asking questions and building tools on the Internet.

At conferences, there is this idea that you weren’t a member of the community before you began attending conferences.  This fails to recognize the PHP conference community as a subset of the greater PHP community.  I believe this raises the stage higher than the audience and higher than the developers who use PHP daily.  I believe it puts space between the speaker and the audience.  I don’t like it!

Who is in the PHP community?

The conference community is a much smaller world.  You see a lot of the same people, and friendships form and you can see these people online in between conferences.  It’s fantastic!  And when speakers are traveling from to many conferences, they become even more familiar with each other.  The developer who can only attend a conference each year is less familiar.  This is a tight, supportive community, especially when you are known.  However, I firmly believe:

The PHP community is each one of us who use PHP or supports a PHP tool.  Because when we try to define community as anything less, we’re just forming cliques.

I learned a lot about PHP from 1999 to 2014.  PHP grew and changed A LOT in that time.  When I see the conference community represented as “The PHP Community” it very clearly omits my 15 years of experience.  It leaves out my peers on campus whose bosses don’t value continuing education for their developers.  Being in that space and relying on documentation alone to do your job and bring your skills up is HARD.  People in these legacy spaces are fighting an uphill battle to modernize their applications because the code quality is not valued by the people in charge.

Maybe, after all of this perseverance, they get to attend a conference.  They hear long lists of the new things they should be doing and judgements of how bad it was to do things the old way.  Then a motivating speaker defines community as these other people, and I just think it’s so backwards.

We are Community and So Can You!

I want to hear from the people who inherit these applications.  I want to hear how they’re overcoming challenges!  Because those projects are infinitely more useful to me than a talk about some new tool that isn’t even production stable yet.  I want to see the projects that succeeded and the ones that failed because there is so much learning there.  When we are speaking to people, we should be inspiring them to try something new.  We should be sharing tools they need, empowering them that they are valuable members of our community, and opening the floor to welcome them when they are finally ready to share that big project.

I feel very lucky that there were community members and speakers who encouraged me at conferences.  I know these talks mean to motivate people, and they also include a lot of history and support.  But it always bugs me when anyone labels the PHP Community as anything less than anyone who uses PHP. But I don’t always see that coming from the stage.  And the  stage has a louder voice.  I’d like to see that change a bit!

Bootstrapping Talk

I have been presenting ‘Pulling Up Your Legacy App By Its Bootstraps’ at conferences and user groups.  It’s been a treat for me because I am learning a lot by sharing what I have learned in this project, and it seems helpful to the audience.  I’m meeting people who are in similar work environments and when I get to the tools we used, I usually begin to receive questions.  This is what prompts the most questions after the talk, too.

The first few times I gave the talk, I received a lot of enthusiastic questions about migrations with Phinx.  Some of my audience had either not used a framework with migrations or didn’t know a tool was available outside of a framework, so they were eager to bring those into their projects.  I added code samples of change(), up(), and down() methods to my talk.

I have been improving my description of Dependency Injection and briefly answering the question “what is DDD” and “why did you need it”.  I believe I’ve better illustrated that point, but I feel like I haven’t answered those in the best possible part of my talk outline, and I’m trying to sort out where it may make more sense.

The last time I gave this talk, I received some comments that composer seemed awkward or was frustrating to use.  As I asked questions, I learned that the pain area was actually about wanting to exclude the vendor folder from their project’s repo.  I was able to share that we commit our composer.json and composer.lock files to the repo but ignore the vendor folder.  This seemed to solve that issue, but I am curious if there will be other composer questions in the future.

Now that I have been able to add more code and explanation of the tools we are using, I am reorganizing my outline and optimizing the talk based on the feedback I have received.  I really enjoy giving this talk and helping people.  I hope I’ll get to share it more.

Speaking at Peers Conference

In April, I presented for the first time at Peers Conference.  ‘Pulling Up Your Legacy App By Its Bootstraps!’ was my talk title.  I was super excited and honored and humbled by the experience.  It was a very different conference in the best possible ways!  Even now, I don’t think I have unpacked the many ways the experience has changed me.  I’m going to try to share them here.

Submitting

I had never been to Peers Conference before.  I submitted because several speakers whom I admire recommended the conference, and I finally had an abstract I felt good about submitting.  I had tried to figure out how to share the useful pieces of this legacy project that had dominated my work life.  But the project was HUGE and difficult to put into pieces.

Getting Accepted

Peers selects talks using a blind approval process.  I did not pay attention to this before submitting because I was new and using a shotgun submission approach to becoming a Conference Speaker.  What I mean is that I felt my odds were pretty low and didn’t expect to win this opportunity.  But I did!  Peers featured almost 50% women speaking in its sessions.  The Developer track was dominated by women (75%)!  The lone male speaker on the Dev track was Matt Stauffer (but this isn’t about him).  It’s about me.  😛

I found out I was chosen, not by a form email but a phone call.  We talked about the conference, its community, and about the abstract I had submitted about bootstrapping.  I received advice for how my talk would be most helpful to the community I would be meeting.  It was wonderful and helpful as a new speaker to get this advice and support!

Preparing the Talk

I was offered so much support for preparing this talk!  I organized my first draft and gave it as a google hangout to speakers I admire (Elizabeth Naramore and Beth Tucker Long), and they gave wonderful advice.  I presented again to my supportive user group TrianglePHP.  They asked so many questions throughout my talk, which helped guide me toward the interesting parts and highlighted areas I could explain better.  This was a couple of months before the conference.

I consolidated a lot of those questions and added more code samples into the presentation.  A week before Peers, I organized a small group of developers at work to come listen.  I was really selective of who I picked because I wanted them to know me and to be comfortable giving me helpful feedback.  Unfortunately, I had a really hard time with the order of my slides.  I was saying things ahead of the slides and skipping over some details.  It was really frustrating because my talk ended early, and I had a bit of work to fill in gaps.  Luckily, these people were patient and kind.  They gave me some great advice for some structure to my talk and feedback for filling out the talk. Mitch Amiano and Dustin Wheeler, my teammates on the project, were so helpful, too.  They gave great advice for details I could explain better and corrected some technical details.

I continued revising my slides for the entire week, refining the flow and improving my speaker notes, hoping to keep myself on the current slide’s content!  And I camped in the hotel room on Tuesday, feeling unsure and making my notes cleaner and easier to read.  I was so relieved to only have one talk to give because I couldn’t imagine preparing two.  But I did finally have my talk ready on Wednesday morning and practiced it several times after.

Presenting

Thursday, my presentation was after the keynote.  It was one I was excited to see, Gregg Pollack from Code School (a learning site with interactive tutorials).  He shared so many great experiences of his team’s growing and how they were able to put their team needs first and grow together.  I wasn’t sure if I would be too nervous to watch his talk, but my nerves weren’t too bad, and I enjoyed his presentation.

I had about 30 minutes before my own talk, so there was plenty of time to get settled!  The A/V guy was super helpful and adjusted the lights to keep them out of my eyes.  He got me set up on the podium and microphone.  I was a bit nervous, but not terribly so.  It was just enough that I felt like I needed the podium and to stay close to my notes.  I chose the fixed microphone, which I later regretted because as I felt more comfortable, I couldn’t move away from the podium.  Also, the microphone drooped a bit, and I was shrinking to stay in range.

As far as I could tell, the talk went well!  I had a pretty attentive audience, and they asked great questions at the end.  Some of them were consistent with what I’d been asked before.  I was glad to have the code samples to use to explain in more detail.

I felt GREAT after giving the presentation!!!  It wasn’t like feeling relief after a test or something I dreaded.  I felt accomplished!  I felt like I had something neat to share and people appreciated it.  I felt like I had contributed something to the conference community I had joined!  I immediately knew I wanted to do it again.

Achievement Unlocked!

Speaking at Peers was incredible!  I met people who were encouraging and supportive who made me feel so welcome.  I never once felt like I needed to spout a list of my tech trivia to prove I belonged there or linger on the outside of a group.  I attended knowing only 2 people that I knew would be there.  I re-met two people, one from [php]tek 2014, and another from our old Laravel group back home! I made so many other new (old) friends while there.  It was an amazing experience!

I’ll be getting the opportunity to speak again soon at Open Source Bridge in June!  And I had the pleasure of speaking to DaytonPHP over Google Hangouts.  I’m feeling pretty great about it!  I’m so grateful for the chances to share this legacy project and the lessons we learned.  I’m enjoying the brief breaks from work to revel in an accomplishment.  I’m exploring new ideas and things I want to teach and share.  It’s awesome!  I can’t wait to do it again!

Bootstrapping the CodeIgniter App, Part Two

Acceptance Testing

At the end of Part One, we were creating a lot of acceptance tests.  We had a pretty antiquated HTML form for the students to fill in a lot of data, some of which we didn’t need to collect from them.  We knew the templates would be changed and had a designer’s help making those look better and sensible.  We knew what data we needed to keep collecting in the application, so our Codeception tests checked that imaginary student’s application had the same information.  We planned knowing that the User Interface was changing and tried to ensure the data integrity.  Codeception tests are pretty brittle when you have to link to a specific DOM element, but we did the best we could to ensure that data wasn’t left off the Student’s Application for Scholarships.

Bindings

As we began writing the new code, we needed to bind those namespaces to the CodeIgniter application, so the new code could be linked within the application.

We created /app/bindings.php

<?php

use ScholarshipsSelectionInfrastructureStorageHybridSourcedScholarshipRepository;

$container['ScholarshipsSelectionDomainScholarshipScholarshipRepository'] = function($c) {
    return new HybridSourcedScholarshipRepository(
        $c['ScholarshipsSupportEventsEventStore'],
        $c['database'],
        $c['ScholarshipsCommonServicesDepartmentsService'],
        $c['ScholarshipsCommonServicesResidenciesService'],
        $c['ScholarshipsCommonServicesAcademicPlansService'],
        $c['ScholarshipsSelectionDomainCollaborationsService']
); };

The bindings file is used for most of our new functionality in the /src path.  For example, the HybridSourcedScholarshipRepository builds all the current Scholarships with information from our database tables and our Events.  The constructor requires objects of type EventStore, Database, DepartmentsService, ResidenciesService, AcademicPlansService, and CollaborationsService.  We give the paths to these in the bindings for the container ScholarshipRepository.  The container can then be included in the Selection controller.

In /app/services.php, we included the bindings and facades:

/**
 * Facade registration.
 */
Facade::setFacadeContainer($container);
class_alias('ScholarshipsSupportFacadesRequest', 'Request');
class_alias('ScholarshipsSupportFacadesDB', 'DB');
class_alias('ScholarshipsSupportFacadesLog', 'Log');

// Bring in application-specific bindings require_once('bindings.php');

Then we created a new file called /src/CowboyBridge.php, which was used to initialize the Pimple Container.

<?php

namespace CodeceptionModule;

use CodeceptionModule;

class CowboyBridge extends Module
{
    /**
     * @var PimpleContainer
     */
    private $container;

    public function _initialize()
    {
        require_once(__DIR__ . '/../app/services.php');
        $this->container = $container;
        $this->debug("Loaded container.");
    }

    public function getContainer()
    {
        return $this->container;
    }
}

Controllers

Now we needed to be able to see the new code in our controllers.  This means, for example, ,being able to pass our collection of available Scholarships to the Selection controller, and from the controller into the views.  We named our new selection controller Selectionnext in order to leave the old Selection controller intact.

class Selectionnext extends BaseController
{
    public function Selectionnext()
    {
        parent::BaseController();

        $this->scholarshipRepository = $this->container['ScholarshipsSelectionDomainScholarshipScholarshipRepository'];
    }
protected function scholarshipsDashboard($scholarshipId)
{
    $committeeMember = $this->getCommitteeMember();

    $scholDetails = $this->getScholarshipDashboard($scholarshipId);

    $this->render('pages/scholarship-details.twig', array("scholarship" => $scholDetails)));
}


private function getScholarshipDashboard($scholarshipId,$keepItLight=false)
{
 $committeeMember = $this->getCommitteeMember();

 $presenter = new ScholarshipDashboardPresenter(
 $committeeMember,
 ScholarshipId::fromString($scholarshipId),
 $this->events,
 $this->scholarshipRepository,
 $this->container['ScholarshipsSelectionDomainApplicantQueryService']
 );

 $scholDetails = $presenter->asArrayForJson();
 $scholDetails['json_string'] = json_encode($scholDetails);

 return $scholDetails;
}

I have tried to remove some of the complexity of this part and hopefully not removed anything critical.  We compiled a lot more information into our $scholDetails and sent many more variables to our views.  But this should show a bit of how we mapped the information into the Controllers of CodeIgniter.

Views

Lastly, we changed our views.  Leaving the old views in the /app/views directory as they were in CodeIgniter, we opted to use Twig views for our new interfaces, and we put those files in the /app/templates directory.    We set these paths in our app/config.php

return array( 
  ...
 'twig' => array(
   'template_path' => array(
     __DIR__ . '/templates',
     __DIR__ . '/templates/dashboard',
   )
 ),

  ...
)

In the file app/services.php we pick up these configured paths and pull them into CodeIgniter.

$container['twig'] = function ($c) {
    $loader = new Twig_Loader_Filesystem($c['config']['twig']['template_path']);

    $inDevelopment = $_SERVER['APP_ENV'] === 'development';

    $twig = new Twig_Environment($loader, array('debug' => $inDevelopment));

    $app = $c['config']['app'];
    if ($inDevelopment) {
        $app['debug'] = TRUE;
    }

    $twig->addGlobal('app', $app);
    $twig->addGlobal('notice', $c['config']['notice']);

    $twig->addFunction(new Twig_SimpleFunction('route', function($path) {
        return site_url($path);
    }));

    $twig->addFunction(new Twig_SimpleFunction('asset', function($path) {
        return base_url() . 'public/' . $path;
    }));

    $twig->addFunction( new Twig_SimpleFunction('flash_notice', function() {
        if (isset($_SESSION['flash_notice'])) {
            $_SESSION['old_flash_notice'] = $_SESSION['flash_notice'];
            unset($_SESSION['flash_notice']);
        }

        return isset($_SESSION['old_flash_notice']) ? $_SESSION['old_flash_notice'] : array();
    }));

    if ($inDevelopment) {
        $twig->addExtension(new Twig_Extension_Debug());
    }

    $twig->addFunction( new Twig_SimpleFunction('flash_exists', function() {
        return !empty($_SESSION['flash_notice']);
    }));

    return $twig;
};

The $_SERVER['APP_ENV'] variable was set in our .htaccess file.  This Twig configuration allows us to get debug information in our development environments.  We added two simple functions to build our asset path and our route path.  This meant we could use route() and asset() in our templates to correct paths across environments.  There are also simple functions to determine whether there are existing flash messages to pass into the template.

Conclusion

This code grew over a long period along with the new functionality of our application.  If you have questions about something that seems missing, please feel free to ask in comments.  I may be able to include a little more code to clarify the details.  Our Scholarships application is pretty complicated, and I’ve tried to skim a lot of that detail out of the code examples in order to simplify and focus on the bootstrapping.  I hope that it has been useful to you because it was really useful for me to re-examine how this all ended up working together.

Bootstrapping the CodeIgniter App, Part One

I have worked on this Scholarships project for about two and a half years.  It’s going to be replaced by another application, so I have reviewed how we did this and what I’ve learned in the process.  Modernizing a CodeIgniter Application – The Problems discusses the problems we were trying to solve (TLDR; we had a legacy CodeIgniter application with a giant App model full of functions making DB calls).  This post shares how we bootstrapped the CodeIgniter application to allow us to bring new code online without breaking the pre-existing application.  The reason we had to do this is also described in the previous post.

It’s important to me that I mention my coworker, Dustin Wheeler, figured out how to do most of this, and I have also learned a lot from Mitch Amiano during this project.  I am trying to document the ways that we modernized this Application to make sure that I am able to do it again.  Most of my development life has involved taking on existing applications, so this seems like a useful bit of information.

Screen Shot of Early Scholarships Working Tree

Screen Shot of Early Scholarships Working Tree

This is what the tree basically looked like at the beginning:

The directories /_data/app, /dinner, and /public already existed.  The bulk of the Application existed in the app directory.  Dinner was another little application on the side.

The first steps included creating a composer.json file that named the application, set the default namespace and mapped that to a new directory called /src.

The initial composer.json configuration file.

Initial composer.json file

 

 

 

Next we installed Phinx for database migrations and PHPUnit and Codeception for tests.  After the bootstrapping process, we used Codeception acceptance tests to verify that the data displayed on the Student Application stayed the same when we built entirely new views and changed the workflow around how the students applied for Scholarships.

Configuration

In index.php, we turned on error_reporting and required the composer autoloader.

If no file_exists vendor/autoload.php, throw an exception. Otherwise require vendor/autoload.php

Adding composer autoloader to index.php

Next we had a few fixes to CodeIgniter bugs.  We removed a call to set_magic_quotes_runtime() in the file /_data/system/codeigniter/CodeIgniter.php.  In another file /_data/system/codeigniter/Common.php we removed the & from the following statement: $objects[$class] =& new $name();

We built two .sql files for the two databases used by our application.  In these files we saved the create schemas for each of the databases from Production. These files were later populated with anonymized test data, since we couldn’t use anything personally identifiable about our students or faculty.  We kept most of the scholarship data the same, so we could test against real scholarship matching criteria, but we anonymized the contact info in those as well.

We created a debug controller that later went away.  I’ll come back to note its purpose.  I believe it was to test new code from /src being pulled in.

The database configuration had persistent connections turned on, and we set them false:

$db['default']['pconnect'] = false;

$db['default']['db_debug'] = false;

$db['default']['cache_on'] = false;

A base database configuration script became pretty useful for three developers.  It began as a deploy script, but later evolved into a fully incorporated configuration file.  In the same file as above, the /app/config/database.php, we anonymized the hostname, username, password, and database to things like DB_HOST,  DB_USERNAME, DB_PASSWORD,  and DB_NAME.  The deploy script let us set these to something real in our development environment.  I have pasted the bulk of that script, but this script will only configure one database.  It seemed more readable and shorter this way.

#!/bin/bash

########################################################
# Start Application Configuration
########################################################
if [[-f app/config/config.php ]]
then
        echo "Existing Application Config:"
        GREP "APP_" app.config.config.php
fi

APP_BASE_URL="http://localhost:8080/"
APP_INDEX_PAGE="index.php"

echo "Configure Application Config (1/1):"
read -p "Application Base URL ($APP_BASE_URL): " base_url
read -p "Application Index Page ($APP_INDEX_PAGE): " app_index_page

APP_BASE_URL=${base_url:-$APP_BASE_URL}
APP_INDEX_PAGE=${app_index_page:-$APP_INDEX_PAGE}

sed "
    s/APP_BASE_URL/$APP_BASE_URL/g;
    s/APP_INDEX_PAGE/$APP_INDEX_PAGE/g;
" app/config/config.default.php > app/config/config.php

echo "Rewrote app/config/config.php"

########################################################
# Start Database Configuration
########################################################

if [[ -f app/config/database.php ]]
then
    echo "Existing Config:"
    grep "$db" app/config/database.php
fi

# Default Configuration Values
DB_HOST="localhost"
DB_NAME="scholarship"
DB_USERNAME="root"
DB_PASSWORD=""

echo "Configuring Scholarship Database (1/2):"
read -p "DB Username ($DB_USERNAME):" username
read -p "DB Password ($DB_PASSWORD):" password
read -p "DB HOST ($DB_HOST):" dbhost
read -p "DB Name ($DB_NAME):" dbname

DB_USERNAME=${username:-$DB_USERNAME}
DB_PASSWORD=${password:-$DB_PASSWORD}
DB_HOST=${dbhost:-$DB_HOST}
DB_NAME=${dbname:-$DB_NAME}


sed "
    s/DB_USERNAME/$DB_USERNAME/g;
    s/DB_PASSWORD/$DB_PASSWORD/g;
    s/DB_HOST/$DB_HOST/g;
    s/DB_NAME/$DB_NAME/g;

" app/config/database.default.php > app/config/database.php

echo "Rewrote app/config/database.php"
sed -i "
    s/DB_USERNAME/$DB_USERNAME/g;
    s/DB_PASSWORD/$DB_PASSWORD/g;
    s/DB_HOST/$DB_HOST/g;
    s/DB_NAME/$DB_NAME/g;
" app/config/config.php

echo "Updated app/config/config.php because stupid junk."

########################################################
# Import base schemas for databases.
# Should kick of migrations in future.
########################################################

# Import schema for default database.
mysql -u ${DB_USERNAME} -p${DB_PASSWORD} -h ${DB_HOST} < database/seeds/default.sql

Modifying CodeIgniter to Allow Testing

In the file /_data/system/libraries/Loader.php, we removed the line from function CI_Loader():

global $OUT;

with the following line:

$OUT =& load_class('Output');

In the file /app/config/config.php we set $config[‘enable_hooks’] to TRUE.

In the file /app/config/hooks.php we added this hook:

$hook['display_override'] = array(
    'class' => 'DisplayHook',
    'function' => 'captureOutput',
    'filename' => 'DisplayHook.php',
    'filepath' => 'hooks'
);

I’m pretty sure that hook is for Codeception to capture output using PhantomJS.  At this point, we began with a new Codeception test suite for the Student Application.  This part of our Application was mostly changing visually.  When a student completed their application and submitted the information, we created a StudentSubmittedApplication event instead of saving an entire set of data in a database row, as the previous application was working.  But this is getting a little ahead of the game.  We’re bootstrapping here.

In the file /app/hooks/DisplayHook.php, we told it to get the APP_ENV variable

<?php
// application/hooks/DisplayHook.php
class DisplayHook {
    public function captureOutput() {
        $this->CI =& get_instance();

        $output = $this->CI->output->get_output();

        if (getenv('APP_ENV') != 'testing') {
            echo $output;

            if(getenv('APP_ENV') != 'production') {
                if ($this->requestIsNotAjax()) {
                    echo sprintf(
                        '<img id="debug-overlay" src="%spublic/images/debug-overlay.png" /><style>#debug-overlay { position:fixed; top:0; left:0; z-index:-1; width:900px; opacity:0.25; }</style>',
                        base_url()
                    );
                }
            }
        }
    }

    private function requestIsNotAjax()
    {
        return  !(isset($_SERVER['HTTP_X_REQUESTED_WITH']) && $_SERVER['HTTP_X_REQUESTED_WITH'] == "XMLHttpRequest");
    }
}

We set this value in a .htaccess file for Apache:

SetEnv APP_ENV development

At this point, we were writing a lot of tests because the existing application had none, and the student application was being redesigned.  There is a lot more to describe here, but I’ve got to parse through a lot of UI changes to find the useful bits.  I’m going post this as a Part One.  Part Two will include Pimple containers and bindings, controller actions to reach new code in /src, and other fun stuff.  Please feel free to post questions.  I would like to keep this as useful as possible.

Modernizing a CodeIgniter Application – The Problems

When I took my current job, I was assigned a specific project that supported the College’s distribution of Scholarship money to students.  This application had many errors and needed additional functionality.  Primarily, it needed to:

  1. handle students with more than one major
  2. reliably match students to Scholarship criteria
  3. allow the selection committee to give awards within in the application

This was a pretty tall order because the application was fairly large.  The bulk of functionality was within a single App model with functions that made SQL queries to the database.

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