If I was doing a project, I would use...

If I wanted to get something done as quickly as possible... I would use Meteor because provides the most complete solution (e.g. "full-stack" framework). It greatly simplifies tedious tasks such as setting up authentication, ensuring real-time updates synchronize properly, deploying to the cloud (Galaxy should soon make it easy even for production deployments), and building for multiple platforms such as Web, iOS, and Android.

If I wanted to make a small-scale application (e.g. internal app)... I would use Meteor because it's relatively well-used in small scale apps. If I don't expect the number of concurrent users to be that high, Meteor could likely work out of the box with relatively few performance tweaks.

If I wanted to make first-class desktop & mobile web apps... I would use React and React Native and share as much of the business logic together (perhaps using a Flux-like architecture like Redux). If performance on mobile web app was less stringent, I would consider evaluating using Meteor. Hansoft X is building a first-class desktop & mobile web app using Meteor and they used a few interesting tricks to ensure the mobile UX was optimal (read their blog post for details).

If I wanted to make a simple / relatively static website... I would avoid coding and use an out of the box solution like Wordpress + template or a full service solution like Squarespace. These tools are really easy to use and the benefit of hand-coding a static site is pretty minimal unless you're looking to create a very unique UI / UX (e.g. April Zero).

If I wanted to create a large-scale (in terms of user, complexity, team) rich web application... I'm not sure what I would use. I would first consider React + Flux + whatever on the backend (probably Node.js + Express unless there was legacy requirements). If there's real-time requirements, (e.g. seeing real-time messages from other users), I think using Meteor and investing in significant resources on scaling / load testing / etc would be the right solution. As Geoff Schmidt, co-founder of Meteor, noted, there's no easy, "off the shelf" way of building an application at "Facebook scale" without a lot of engineers working on the problem. 


Some random thoughts:

I think a year or so from now, when Angular 2 has been released and is used for production apps, it could be an interesting framework to use. For me, the benefit of a framework like Angular 2, is that it's borrowed some of the best ideas from React (e.g. unidirectional data flow) and combines it with a powerful set of supporting tools (e.g. animations, material UI components, testing tooling, etc.).

In general, I think Meteor has a lot of great benefits, many of which I've highlighted above. If I had to pinpoint, my key concerns, it would be around:

  • Integrating with legacy application / services - while Meteor is composed of many components (e.g. build system, packaging, minimongo, etc.) that are in theory swappable, in theory Meteor is almost always used as a full-stack solution and there's not a lot of examples of people using parts of Meteor and integrating it with legacy systems. This isn't to say you couldn't do it, but so much of the community / documentation is focused on using the whole Meteor stack that if you run into issues swapping out the Meteor build system with gulp because the rest of your company has a shared gulpfile for example, then you may have some lonely times debugging problems.
  • High scalability - If you know your application will have "Facebook scale" user requirements (which is highly unlikely, unless you're already working at Facebook / Google / tech company with huge user base, and in that case you probably have an in-house solution you can use anyway), then Meteor's lack of track record with very high scalability may be worrisome. However, to be honest, it's unlikely that your application will reach that scale. And the truth is, any system that you will create initially will need significant rewriting / finetuning to get it highly scalable.
  • Testing - to be honest, I would have expected Meteor to have a core / official testing framework by now. One of the best parts about Angular was that it focused on testability from the get-go and spawned fantastic testing tooling like Protractor and Karma. However, they announced they're going to move Velocity, the official community testing framework, into core, so this will get resolved eventually.
  • Hosting - I think once more information about their Galaxy service comes out, any concerns on this topic will be addressed. For now, I've read anecdotally that it's non-trivial to deploy a Meteor application, especially with scaling it out horizontally.
In short, I think if you're starting a new project, particularly as a startup, I think the benefits of Meteor -- namely, you can move fast and focus on your core domain -- outweigh the disadvantages.

End of 2015 learning plan

With the last four months of 2015, I'd like to do the following:

  • Write many small applications in Go
  • One big JS application
  • One dev tool (hotspot analysis)
  • Read more paper books
  • Read the following kindle ebooks
    • How to solve it
    • How Linux works
    • An introduction to the programming through lambda calculus

Specific example ideas:

  • Simple Go web scraper
  • BART real-time estimator Go App
  • Relay app - measure daily activities

Tutorials:

  • https://egghead.io/series/mastering-asynchronous-programming-the-end-of-the-loop

Hammock Driven Development

Rich Hickey gave a very interesting talk on problem solving titled "Hammock Driven Development". Rich took a much more personal (experiential) angle with this talk, so while it was sparse on academic research references it does seem to fit into at least some of what the research on brain science says. Still, while it may not wholly scientific, it was still a very thought provoking talk.

Takeaways:

  • Don't code right away. Instead, start with...
  1. Identify the problem you are solving. The purpose of software engineering is to solve problems, and incidentally build features to solve them. Rich advocates stating the problem out loud with your team, or even better write it down (which is pretty much applicable to every step after this as well).
  2. Understand the problem fully.
    1. Facts - what do you know about this problem? (e.g. what are the business requirements?)
    2. Context - relevant background information. (e.g. your team uses these OS / frameworks, and there will be less friction to using something similar)
    3. Constraints - implicit hard requirements (e.g. must be able to scale to 10,000 concurrent users; must be 99.99% available)
    4. Are there things you know you don't know? (e.g. where is the data coming from? what happens when this API service goes down?)
    5. Are there solutions to similar problems? (e.g. an open source library addresses a related use case)
  3. Deeply explore potential solutions
    1. What are the problems in your potential solution?
    2. What are the trade-offs? (everything has a tradeoff)
    3. Question marks (what do you not know yet?)
  4. Flip between consuming lots of input and no input
    1. Feed your Background mind: Consume lots of input (read articles, look up related problems, and critique their solutions)
    2. Let your Background mind absorb: No input, just meditate, and focus on what you were feeding your mind
  5. Get plenty of sleep - your brain is doing important work!
    1. Get at least a night of sleep before you make an important decision
  • Take the time to focus on things. You will inevitably "drop the ball" on certain things, which is OK, but tell the people important to you that you are focusing on something.
  • Don't lean on the Feedback loop during development (e.g. TDD) - it's important and you will iterate it, but rely on it instead of focusing on the previous steps.
  • Don't be afraid to make mistakes, requirements will change, you will come up with a better idea... it's OK

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f84n5oFoZBc

    What I don't know

    Improvement areas:

    • Domain modeling - Improve OO programming
      • Understand the requirements of a domain before starting
      • Create the lowest-level (smallest, least powerful) domain model and start defining its properties and characteristics
      • Work you way up (solving the main problems of the domain) and pushing the abstractions to the lowest layer possible
      • Understanding tradeoffs of instance lifecycles - e.g. using a singleton vs. creating new instances
    • Back-end development - Become familiar with Go, Java, and Python
      • Understand backpressure
      • Multithreaded vs. single threaded
        • Mutex (mutual exclusion)
    • Security & Auth -
      • Learn more about OAuth
      • Tokens - when do they expire? How do you revalidate / get new tokens once the old ones expire?
      • Common security loopholes in webapp
        • XSS (cross-site scripting)
        • CSRF (cross site request forgery)
        • DDOS (distributed denial of service)
    • Low-level development
      • Memory management
        • GC (ref. counting vs. mark and sweep)
        • Heap vs. stack
      • Javascript VM in the browser
        • JIT, inline optimization
    • Fundamentals of CSS / Sass - Understanding basic CSS / Sass concepts and being able to figure out advanced issues on my own:
      • Box sizing model (e.g. border box)
      • Floats (when you use them, why it's a hack)
      • Specificity (is it !important, ID, class, element?)
      • Inline styles are prioritized over linked stylesheets? Does last linked stylesheets win when the specificity is tied?
    • Production monitoring & health
      • Understand what Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana do
      • Creating dashboards in Kibana / Grafana