Templates, makefiles, and YAML, oh my!

When I first started programming, it was simple to just fire up an editor and start typing away. Scripts usually wound large procedural monstrosities. If I managed to get anything working it usually was such a mess that it quickly became unmanageable. Now days, there’s so much setup that needs to be done before I can even get to work: setting up a git repo and Python virtual environment; external repo; databases, setting up my IDE. I suppose it must be indicative of the progress I’ve made as a programmer.

One of my final classes is a multi-semester group project. We spent last semester building out a the design docs, and are spending the first few weeks of this one refining those docs individually before coming back together and deploying a prototype. I’m the old man on the team, about twice as old as the rest, and I’ve been doing this long enough to have very strong opinions about a lot of things, so I’ve been trying to guide the team toward these standards.

I’m not going to get into the use case around our app yet, but convinced the team that we would use Django for the backend. Now, while we could use it for the front end as well, I figured that since Django was giving us most of what we needed for the core functionality, we could spend some resources trying out some cutting edge tech that would give the team some experience with GraphQL and React Native. I’ve got no idea whether that will make it in the final approach. Even though we’ve got a team of six people and I’m handling all of the infrastructure stuff, I’m starting to wonder whether the others are going to be able to implement those new features in time.

I’ve got a few more passes through my individual paper to make, then I’ll start focusing on the prototype presentation. My professor made a comment during last week’s recitation that these applications did not have ‘cookie cutter’ approaches, and I almost laughed out loud cause we’re literally using Cookie Cutter Django as the basis of our project. I’m debating whether I want to try a live demo of deploying one or do it offline and record screenshots or something.

Being able to use something like Cookiecutter to setup a Python package, with all the unit testing, CI, and documentation setup via make make commands, out of the box, is amazing once you understand what all of that stuff actually does. It can lead to a bit of choice paralysis at first, trying to figure out testing frameworks, code coverage tools, linters and all that. I’m still getting there. But once found, it makes rapid prototyping easy.

It’s almost maddening thinking about how many different ways there are to setup your workflow. I’m currently using Pipenv as my tool of choice, but recently read about Poetry, which seems to be a step up in many ways. For now though, I’m not chasing it down. Instead, I’m going to focus on delivering something using the tools I already have, instead of getting caught up in what’s new. It’s lesson that continues to be more and more relevant as I mature in my abilities.

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