Friday, 26 February 2016

Making better software with Github

The first time I extracted a library from a private project and open-sourced it to Github was a purely practical decision; the project was simply getting too large for the puny build box I was using to build it with (an OpenShift free node*). The library was Arallon - you can read a bit more about what it does in my blog series about Strongly-Typed Time.

This solved my problem, in that I no longer ran out of PermGen on my build slave. But the repercussions were far-reaching. Any decent public-facing library needs documentation, and Github's is an incredibly convenient place to put it all. I've lost count of the number of times I've found myself reading my own documentation up there on Github; if Arallon was still a hodge-podge of classes within my application, I'd have spent hours trying to deduce my own functionality ...

Of course, a decent open-source library must also have excellent tests and test coverage. Splitting Arallon into its own library gave the tests a new-found focus and similarly the test coverage (measured with JaCoCo) was much more significant.

Since that first library split, I've peeled off many other utility libraries from private projects; almost always things to make Play2 app development a little quicker and/or easier:

As a shameless plug, I use yet another of my own projects (I love my own dogfood!), sbt-skeleton to set up a brand new SBT project with tons of useful defaults like dependencies, repository locations, plugins etc as well as a skeleton directory structure. This helps make the decision to extract a library a no-brainer; I can have a library up-and-building, from scratch, in minutes. This includes having it build and publish to BinTray, which is simply just a matter of cloning an existing Jenkins job and changing the name of the source Github repo.

I've found the implied peer-pressure of having code "out there" for public scrutiny has a strong positive effect on my overall software quality. I'm sure I'm not the only one. I highly recommend going through the process of extracting something re-usable from private code and open-sourcing it into a library you are prepared to stand behind. It will make you a better software developer in many ways.

* This is not a criticism of OpenShift; I love them and would gladly pay them money if they would only take my puny Australian dollars :-(