In this episode we chat with Toran Billups about Redux and Ember.
Toran Billups @toranb | GitHub | Blog
TORAN: Hey, man. Thanks for having me. I'm really excited to be here.
CHARLES: Toran is with us today and he's going to be talking about a lot of things. He’s going to be talking about today mostly about Redux and his efforts to meld Redux and make it useful within the Ember community. But first, if you have not heard of Toran, I think the first time we'd interacted over email, Slack briefly but then when I really, really saw you for the first time was at EmberConf, I think in 2015 and he just gave the most amazing talk on Test Driven Development and really kind of the focus on you can set up your acceptance tests from the outside into really define that behavior and set out that firm shell and then actually build your application from the outside in.
You’ve really kind of been talking about that message. We like to have people on here who all about walking the walk. That’s certainly the first thing that I've noticed that you were doing in the community but then more recently, you've been playing with Redux. Not playing with Redux, actually making a concerted effort to bring this kind of pattern into Ember. I just wanted to start out, how did you jump onto that track?
TORAN: Some months after EmberConf in 2015, as you mentioned that talk was not only, probably the most well-rehearsed talk I've ever given but definitely the most well-received. I got a lot of people excited and really gave me a lot of opportunities that weren't there before that was also believe in that keynote in 2015 as when Ember 2.0 was announced. The interesting part of Ember 2.0, of course was we were using it, and it was called Ember 1.13, which actually made it really great.
For instance, if I had the tree of components back then in early Ember 1.13 or 2.0 days and I had an Ember model or some kind of Ember object at the bottom of this tree, why would I not just do Ember.set. I remember, actually you may recall conversations you had with people at EmberConf around that time but there was actually varying definitions of what 'data down, actions up' meant to different people and actually never met the same thing to anyone. It was funny enough.
Because of that, it sort of drove this fear in me that I didn't know what I was talking about. I was consulting at the time so I wanted to sound like I knew what I was talking about as you probably should. You guys are in that business so you know what I mean. Because of that doubt, eventually I sort of become apathetic to really trying to understand better what 'data down, actions up' meant or how components should be constructed and really what the wider impacts of Ember 2.0 meant. Because of that, I just found myself, not really loving learning.
I felt like everything else in learning was a hyped up thing that would never happen or a hyped up thing that I didn't really understand or didn't make sense in the context of Ember at that time so I just kind of floated by. Everybody has their ebb and flows in the journey of excitement or not. For me, this was just the down moment.
One of the things, like an analogy to this is when you lose your hunger in real life, you'd be very much like losing your hunger for learning. There's this interesting hormone that your body produces when you're actually physically hungry that kind of gives you the physical symptoms like your stomach cramps that tells your brain probably should eat somewhere. When those things aren't happening or that hormones not being produced, it's often because you've quit eating yourself. If you've ever gone on a fast or something weird like that on day three, your body quits secreting this hormone so you just sort of or not hungry at all, which is kind of weird.
The same sort of thing was happening to me. If you ask a doctor or a physician, "What's the first thing I should do? I'm not hungry anymore." They'll tell you, "You just start eating." But I'm not hungry now so the same thing applied in my life and I think the first step really is just eat anyway. In this case, it was just learn something anyway even if you're not in love with learning right now. Eventually, your body will start producing this hormone, in the hunger example and for me, I just sort of got back in the flow and what came from this was a routine, which is really the second part of how you get your hunger back, not just eating once a day. I was eating three meals a day or more, especially if you haven't been eating. For me, I just set aside an hour a day, in addition to consulting work and things that would get me interested in loving learning again.
The third component to this was trying something different. At the time, of course I was just doing Ember, I pretty much had done Ember since 2012 like some of you guys and I feel like there wasn't a lot of new. There was patterns and ideas but there was anything really challenging me. That’s when I sort of looked around at the React community and I had done some React in the early days when I was super hyped up but I still feel vaguely different. Not that it's jQuery or any way but I didn't feel like this fully encompass single page out framework. The reasons I got into Ember very early on were that I wanted to build rich single page apps.
Through this process, I started looking at React and really just kind of get back into it again, get going again. I wasn't really in love with it but I needed to try something outside of the realm I was used to. As part of that, I noticed there was this talk by Dan Abramov, I think he works for Facebook now, big in the React community, of course and he gave this talk at a conference in Europe that introduced Redux.
What’s funny, if you find out or dive deeper into that story is he actually pitched the talk, not really having built any of this and just thought, "This sounds like a great idea," and then of course the talk was accepted. Like most, he delivered on that promise and made a great talk. There are definitely courage folks to check out and I should link it to you here. We can show noted that, I'm sure.
That got me sort of piqued my interest, in part because I was actually big test driven guy and I thought, "I won't use any of this stuff. It just seems cool. It’s a gimmick. Tester development is how you really build app." If anything I thought to disprove it by getting involved and learning a little bit more but what I instantly found was the simplicity of data changes rerender.
That sounds very high level, of course but it was almost just that simple, instead of being like how does this change to an object in my array, bubble out through notifications on the Ember side and notify the Ember change detection to rerender. Well, I'm not entirely sure so when I was start debugging that, I noticed a lot of framework code between me and the rerender. It's that's how Ember is, right? When I boiled that down in jQuery with vanilla Redux, not even using React at all, I was like, "Wow, there's just a call back. I wonder why I haven't been doing this."
CHARLES: As a single callback for a global state?
CHARLES: So there's no call back for every single path in your tree. You just used that one call back?
If you're just feeding your templates from some high level service, it's a very similar idea in that Redux is just a single service. In the Ember case, especially you can talk about the add-on, I maintain later, but really it's just a service with a single object that will help you populate all of your components.
ROBERT: Yeah, I love Redux. I actually sort of coming into the Redux world, probably to about six to eight months ago and it was around the same thing like exploring React stuff. I share similar opinions to you as nobody really can define 'data down, actions up'. I also think that 'data down, actions up' cannot just live in the component.
In a lot of the Ember apps I worked on, there's times where I'll be looking up to get a new state and it comes in from the side and something's mutating, something that I have no idea why and where it was mutated and Redux does a really good job at helping you manage what changes and why it changed.
CHARLES: I have a question too. When you're actually using Redux, you said you got a single tree that you used to hydrate your templates. In the context of Ember, where do you maintain that single object? I assume you have one store, one instance of your Redux state per application?
TORAN: Correct. There's just a service like you imagine in the Ember data service and that holds on to really just an identity map or a single graph object that will let you pass or pull that in by injecting the service into your components if you want to do that or your route then just asking for that state.
CHARLES: Because I think that for a lot of people in the Ember community certainly, when I was kind of grappling with these ideas, the idea of having a single global object as your state seems so counterintuitive, so going to go against everything that we learned, that you have to decompose a problem into its component parts.
Obviously, Redux has an answer for that so how does that work? How do you decompose that state into saying, "I'm just interested in this kind of local state." How does local state work in Redux?
TORAN: I should define local state is state specific to the component. It doesn't need to bleed up and has no value at the global level.
CHARLES: Usually, I got two components. Let's say, I want to store both of their states in the Redux store. Obviously, component one is not interested in seeing any state that's not related to it so it's only interested in its own state and it's not interested in any of the surrounding context. How does that work? How do you connect a single component or connect a route to the store?
TORAN: There's really just a simple method on Redux -- the Redux store itself, which it says, "Give me the state." What may not sound great at first is that it say, "I will give you all the state and that is your job to pull from that or map three attributes from that whole tree into my component." Then by side effect if you're using our add-on or if you don't React-Redux, you actually subscribe then to call backs on any of those changes so if something were to be bumped, then your component is given the opportunity to rerender during that call back.
CHARLES: Now, in terms of Ember-Redux, that kind plumbing is hidden from you. You don't actually have to explicitly map that state. You can say, "I want to connect this component into the Redux store," and you're just off to the races.
ROBERT: Is there a mapStateToProps or... I don't know what that would be called in Ember-land.
TORAN: That brings about interesting point. I literally copied this API that you guys are probably looked at from the readme from this very popular project in React called React-Redux. The word that you're using, Charles is this word connect. Actually, I like that word because that's how I think about it. I want to connect the components to the single source of truth and then respond by rerendering when something changes.
The API is actually very similar on what you said, Rob. In fact, the set of mapStateToProps is just map states to computed, which is very much the same idea so instead of really defining the component like you might normally, this is where it gets a little weird for your classic Ember developer, you actually just write two functions and really only one is require.
The first one is what you're hinting at Charles, which is I want to pull from the state a set of properties and as you mentioned, the plumbing is sort of hidden, magically those are actually created as CPs or Computed Properties on your component so you can go to your HPS file, your handlebars template and say, "Oh, I took number from the global state and I'm just going to map it in this function and now I can go to my handlebars template and number," and there it is. Every time you bump number up or down, you'll get a rerun in your callback and the HPS will update.
The other function, as sort of glossed over is really just for your closure actions. If you would like to ask the store to do something and saying, "I would actually like to increment the number," then you can fire an action and the second block just does also additional magic, which just maps a closure action by letting you get this dispatched keyword.
ROBERT: It makes its way to reducer then from there, right?
TORAN: Correct. We haven't talked too much about that process. The reducer really says, "I'm going to be given a state or the initial state, if you haven't done this yet," which would be maybe in the number scenario. I'm going to start with zero as a sensible default and then I'm going to have an action, whether that's add or subtract in this simple example and in add, I'm just going to take the state coming in, even if it starts out at zero and then do something, transform it to a new state.
Actually the important word here is that -- I know you guys are big in the functional world, functional programming and that's the word actually got me interested and really excited about programming again as well, in the most perfect sense -- a pure function, which just means that there are no side effects. There's no mutation or changing of the state that comes in when you do it correctly.
In this case, actually instead of mutating something I'm actually returning to number two or to number one and you're like, "Now, we have both zero and one in kind of a timeline." If you think about this almost as the realistic stories, we're just kind of kicking a pointer to a new block of state. Every single time you come to reducer, we still have the old state and we can still walk backwards, which is how the time travel debugging works as we just flip the pointer back in time.
As you guys have talked about and I think, Charles you mentioned last year in EmberConf, the immutability story has of course a whole slew of great properties that come with it and those we haven't even obviously talked about. But hopefully I gave people a broad overview of what the reducer does. In its most simplest form, state comes and action returns a new state.
ROBERT: Yeah, in Charles's talk and his research, I got to sit next to him and watched him do that actually kind of shaped a lot of my thinking and hunger, if we want to keep that going towards doing like something that's immutable and state management in Ember. I would like to thank you, Toran for building that add-on and spearheading Redux because Redux is pretty awesome for state management.
CHARLES: By the way, you did in that call out the analogy for hunger. I really, really, really like that. It's an important tidbit not to miss is that when you are feeling those kind of doldrums of development. I know I was actually ironically feeling that about the same time in 2015, feeling of in a funk because I feel like there was a lot of stuff coming down the pipe like with 'data down, actions up' but no good examples of where we've actually seen this in practice.
I think Redux is an actual implementation of 'data down, actions up' so I think it's fantastic that you were able to go and seek inspiration there like, "We've got this message of the way things that ought to be doing with the applications ought to be built." But we don't actually have any concrete examples that we can look to. I think the Redux actually is almost the most pure version of that 'data down, actions up'.
I guess my next question is given that you've got this global store, you've got a way to connect components. I assume there are other ways to dispatch actions from within your Ember application like what are the patterns that you're seeing emerge around this? We've talked about how you would use them in components. Suppose my tree of components gets pretty complex, how do I manage that to kind of the passing of data down? Do parent components play any role in the data that their subcomponents see? Is each component connecting directly to the store? I'm just kind of curious where that balance lies and how things are kind of playing out?
TORAN: There's really two points in your bigger question. One that I was going to try out of you but then you kept going. That was really around side effects. How do you actually dispatch or make changes, requests changes and see the flow and we could talk about that really starts out briefly with a Promise based approach.
With Redux, most people don't know but it's basically like asynchronous flow. Dispatch would normally be like asynchronous action where you're sort of blocking and then doing, transform and getting it back. In the simplest ways, you see there is this tool or this add-on, Redux-thunk, which you can use Promises now and async will still work as if it were synchronous essentially by firing dispatch up and letting your reducer do the work.
I think that is a great introductory because especially as Ember developers, we've got a lot of experience with Promises so this is just the same thing. In most of the demos I've done and if you check out the read me, there's like a full Yelp Clone example. It’s using this approach because it's a little bit more familiar to most folks.
CHARLES: Just to clarify what would happen there is you're essentially getting a new state transition when every Promise resolves or rejects. If it's rejects, that's a state transition. If it resolves, that's a state transition. The next Promise that resolves is another state transition. Is that fair to say?
TORAN: Assuming you want to alter and use that top level state, of course you could reject or resolve and just not even bother with the top level store. We kind of skipped over some of the benefits and we could just roll back to that briefly. Why would you use top level stores at all? You mentioned earlier and it kind of seems counterintuitive. This is basic global variable. That’s what we're talking about.
In the Ember example, I think it's actually sort of not weird because if you guys, your Ember data in its earlier form or even today, it really very much is that. We have this one cache of objects related or otherwise and we pass those around. They are a global object or almost like a global variable. The downside of that in my experience has been that is truly mutable and actually everything is driven by mutating those and then having callbacks or denotify property change drive your template updates. That is not the process with Redux, of course. It feels more explicit, where I can actually go look up kind of a tree or look up table of actions and see exactly what's going to happen.
Then also to your second half of the question, which is like how was the components wired up? How do they map? I actually uses an interesting pattern which isn't specific to Ember-Redux or Redux, which is to create a seam in my components now where I have truly HTML CSS components. Separating those from the components and know about the data and the closure action story. Forgetting Redux for a moment and all of this actually made my regular Ember much better because I started to produce this component that would connect to a Ember data store, provide closure actions to send up in the most pure 'data down, actions up' sense and then I would connect it using the yield block, which credits to you and other folks at EmberConf that you, Charles kind of talked me into this because I was a espousing this idea but I didn't really understand that I would actually nest within this parent, the HTML component that would just be handed the properties to render.
When we do this, again it still is I think a better pattern even if you're not using Redux but when we did it and I when I started with Redux, the only thing that really gets me in hot water is when people see this and they're like, "Oh, so this is the first thing that comes down from the routed controllers template. Then there's always this brief moment of like, "I'm not sure what to say. I don't want to predict the future and I'm not trying to be Mr Routable Components here."
But for me, most of my controller templates are just a landing page for the component tree to begin. Again, that's not me trying to hacking the route or anything to say, "I want to use this controller as a routed to component. I think eventually when that RFC lands, this will look different, anyway so I'm not trying to have people do things really outside of the Ember ecosystem or outside of the norm." But from there, I feel like still just landing into a component, allows you this composition which is supposed is the real value of the components structure. They are too primitive to build pages and then eventually full apps.
ROBERT: So if we want to drop parallel, it's container versus presentation components, right?
TORAN: Yes and that of course, again stolen from, not me probably stolen from someone else in the 70s. But you know, Dan Abramov is accredited to bringing that idea about in React. Actually I like the idea because let's pretend I had done this pattern in 2013. Now, it's using Ember data or simple store or Erik Bryn's Ember model, something like that. Then eventually, the community start shifting to something else. It could be MobX, it could be Redux and whatever the case, I could just very easily swap out those connected components that have no HTML CSS. The data source changes and all the presentation components do not know. They do not change.
There is actually an iterable story to refactor through, an update like that normally is kind of a [inaudible]. If you have ever done PHP in the early days or at least my PHP experience in 1999 -- no offense to PHP today -- was that everything was so stuck together or so couple that I could never refactor anything out of it. Of course, you probably do this in a consulting space as I have, where he first thing on a messy project is actually making those scenes in the application anyway to allow you to upgrade incrementally. This process is just more of an upfront thought and I don't think it's really taken hold than it needs to in the Ember community. It's just something I was experimenting with and I'm finding a lot of value because I think the connection of the data source is a different activity than HTML.
ROBERT: I think it also holds a lot of value.
CHARLES: I think it holds a lot of value. I think there's a dawning awareness of this. In your comment, I actually thought of two blog posts for EmberMap, which I was just reading this morning. One was talking about kind of the safety of the herd and don't worry so much about controllers versus radical components like use your controllers, use your components. Don’t worry about it too much. It’ll get sorted out. I definitely agree with that. Although, you definitely want to experiment when you're experiencing particular pain around something.
But then, the next thing which I think came out yesterday was talking about basically components for managing side effects, which I think is an unfortunate name because I think side effects is a tainted word. But basically, the idea is having presentation components and container components and the container components are responsible for managing the state. I think that idea is valuable in of itself and I hope that it takes root. I think that's something that you're doing, something that we're doing and as people kind of realize it, it does take root, just kind of by virtue of its own value.
Let me summarize if I understand it correctly. As part of these job, you've got these container components and their job is, I like the term that you used, creating a seam. Their job in the Redux world is to take a slice of that global state. You have these components whose responsibility is taking a slice of that global state and presenting that global state to HTML CSS aka presentation components that lie underneath them. Is that a fair assessment?
Then if that's so, I've got a second part to that. I just want to make sure I'm understanding it correctly. For components that are further downstream on that tree, do you ever switch back to data containers like you switch between data components and presentation components and then back to data components and then to presentation components and kind of back and forth and back and forth on down the tree? Or do you mostly see it as one-kind of container component on top and then presentation components all the way down?
TORAN: It's a great question. I think that still needs a fair bit of experience in the Ember community because the patterns I pulled from the source code I read a lot is mostly from the React ecosystem. Because of that, there's a very split view or a different view in that community on routing. We may share some of those views in Ember but I think for the most part, we assume routing actually and that's one of the tricky part to answer your question.
This is a broad statement so I'm likely wrong in every context but I don't love to be creating these data components that don't get routed to if I can help it. I'm sure there are situations that have been really complex, places where you just have to make, no route here because I don't want change the URL for instance and I'm just going to make this thing like a routed to component with no URL to get me here.
But for the most part, I treat the entry point to this route and when I land on this route at this time, it's appropriate to ask for the data likely coming from the model hook in the route. In fact, all that's still the same. That’s also where it's a little weird. If you've ever seen a full component tree in a React app, they may not have a router at all. In that situation I think, Redux was in particular even better because you don't have to pass from the top app component, the same props or the same data all the way down that tree. In fact, if you read documentation about why Redux in the React ecosystem they'll say, "It gives you this place where we can create a little shim and then ask for the data down here in the [inaudible] mode. You don't have to pass it from the app to that, to that."
I see those benefits but in Ember we don't really get as much from that. In fact, they still tell people who challenged the global state idea that not everything maybe should be a global state but you give up some things by doing that. The first one I would say, which I think is the most valuable for anyone doing vanilla Ember with Ember data or someone experimenting with React or Redux. Or the case I'm most interested in, the audience I'm after which is Redux in Ember, which is do you actually need to have that state in one place.
The prime example of this that is the greatest use case is master detail. What I mean by that is you have a list of things and when someone drills into one of those, you can also see that at the same time. There’s really two choices you can make here. One is I'm going to have two separate data sources to feed two separate components so the list will go get its data and then the detail won't even use that data at all. Just go get its own data.
In that case, you may up against a problem where you need to synchronize at some point and here's the tradeoff. Either synchronize the two separate states or you have a single source of truth. That’s a real benefit I think of Redux for the most part. It’s like the broad, "Do I want deterministic rendering?" We've all heard the joke about the Facebook nav bar that's like, "You have one message," and you're like, "No, I just answered it down here." Well, that's a different component so the joke is like, "Oh, Redux must be working. We have one up here but I've already read the message." You know? Someone obviously is in charge of synchronizing in those sort of examples. Maybe not just doing it well or they run up against an issue synchronizing that.
My experience doing back end development, colors this for me. What I rather have three databases and they kind of synchronize the state across them or I rather have the one postgres or SQL server database that is the source of truth so that when I render something to a customer, I can guarantee that it's not in a transition to be synchronized. It is the source of truth.
CHARLES: Right, I really like that and I think the point that I take from that is that, and again this speaks to people who might be internally reacting to this idea of a global state is that you actually do have a global state always in your UI, whether you acknowledge it or not. It's composed of all the other distributed states that are sprinkled around your application so if you take an approach like Redux, you're kind of acknowledging that upfront that at any given time, I do in fact have a global state. I might as well deal with that explicitly. That’s kind of a key innovation.
I also like what you said too about kind of treating the router in Ember really leaning on the router as a good way to partition your data or drill down into a sub-piece of that global state. Inside Ember-Redux, are there explicit hooks for dealing with the Redux store inside your routes?
TORAN: Yeah, that's that one that gets me the most trouble. When I see a blog post and memes that are all about the herd lately, can't help but feel like they're pointed directly at me because of some of these new ideas.
CHARLES: Toran, I'm just telling you. This is a safe space. We believe in innovation here. You’re okay.
CHARLES: Let me add-on that. I didn't mean that as a knock to you. I do think they call this out of the end of the blog post. I think acting in concert with the community for the most part, actually fosters innovations and an innovative journeys like the one on which you're currently embarked because you don't have to worry about CLI tools and you don't have to worry about this. You can focus on the problem of like how does an Ember application work with a global atom as its state.
TORAN: That is the idea. I mean the route is interesting. I have a little helper to your point, Charles if you've seen some of the docs or any of the examples. There is a little helper for routes and all it really does is provide dispatch as an argument. For instance, a lot of times I just want a model to be a regular function and dispatch to be an argument so I can return a Promise or do some Generator stuff as a side effect. In that way, I sort of create a shorthand which is just really simple. It allows me to say [inaudible] model and then have dispatch as an argument and run my code then just providing that to this special little helper. It’s a functional type helper called route and what it does behind the scenes is it injects the Redux service for me, which is again something you can do by hand. If you really just don't like that or you want to be more in the herd, you can just have a regular route, inject the service and then get dispatched from that service and use it.
ROBERT: It looks like you just dropped the version 2.0, like three hours ago. I would like to ask, we heard about your journey like you were feeling like you weren't hungry for learning. I want to know more about where you actually sat down and wanted to write this add-on on and why you chose to clone the React-Redux API and what took you on that path?
TORAN: Yeah, that's a good question. Back to benefits or the reasons I got excited about, of course I mentioned during the talk that Dan Abramov did. There was some interesting dev tools. First of which was this thing Time Travel Debugging which it allows you to sort of move backwards in time and pretend as if actions and mutations or what looked like mutations that never occurred. That was very interesting. I wasn't really sure of the value, especially at the time. I told you guys around 2015, I was consulting which lucky me, I was doing Greenfield. Thankfully, I was working with a really great team and some great people, built an amazing product.
I don't really understand the pain of this. For the most part Ember-set was doing its job and I didn't really have a lot of interest in learning this. But as I got more into it, also started a full time job last year, I pretty much just fix bugs for a year. Anyone who's been on one side of the fence or the other knows that the bug fixing side will sort of expose, maybe the weaknesses of the application or patterns or choices made. For me, that was really mutation or shared mutable stake aka the root of all evil.
If you've ever looked at your Elm ClojureScript, Elm next is the same vein where immutability is very much there. Charles, of course gave his talk on immutability and trying to get people interested in that or more interested in the Ember community. That was really all I wanted to do to your point, Rob was provide really an outlet for people to use this and I wanted to keep the messaging away from the things I didn't like, which I think was actually something I screwed up to be fair early on.
I think I was very vocal in the microcosm that I would talk to people about like, "These are the things I don't like about Ember," or I would use the word 'Ember the good parts' plus 'Ember the bad parts' and I was told not to say that anymore on the Slack channel. Once I started getting too much needed feedback -- I don't want to be negative about it -- I changed my messaging and as part of that, you mentioned Rob I basically cargo-culted or copied this API from React-Redux called connect and excluding the brief route helper that I mentioned, Charles a minute ago, the real idea here is you just call disconnect function with two other functions: mapping state and closure actions.
I'm actually not a super type friendly person. I sort of left Objective C and C# and Java in my background and have like this Vietnam experience when people ask me about types. But I do understand one very critical fact that I can't dispute about types is that there are more information for the next programmer than you have without them. Again, my experience this last 12 months has been, as a maintenance programmer, I need more information.
Tests are great when they're there but they also don't provide the interface or all the information about those and certainly the compiler may help as well. I don't know yet. I'm not doing any TypeScript. What I started notice is also more functional programming and maybe just not in our core yet but also things I wanted to steal from other ecosystems because I also found is very interesting. I started to study functional programming. I know like nothing about it, of course. I don't think anyone does because I can't describe a monad without getting in trouble or being wrong.
For me, the real value is the separation of the data structure and the function. I'm preaching to the choir here but that was so much like an interesting idea to me and actually spurred on some of the further patterns or adoption of those in my work in Ember-Redux because this presentation and container component idea was really that I was separating the data structure from the function of the view. I think you mentioned this in your talk at EmberConf where the actual HTMLbars template is really just a function that has data in, HTML out. I started to internalize that and think about that and what were the properties I got from that, as well as I enjoyed functional programming.
Some other great benefits that we've already touched on briefly are just how much more of this I felt explicit, not that Ember-set is inherently implicit but when you do a Ember-set for mutation to chase down every single place in a complex system to determine why they something render this way? It does feel a little more implicit than something like React-Redux with this connect function where I was like, "Wow," when I was doing React. Especially, I was like, "I bet I could just put a breakpoint at every connection so when that callback happens, I can know exactly what action spurred on this new callback to rerender," and that was something that was very new and interesting.
Then of course, falling out of all this was another hyped tooling thing that I thought was really cool, not explicit to Redux, again but it got me interested because that's hot reloading. All hot reloading of CSS and Ember CLI, which I've never done design work which I'm not good at. But I do write some CSS or hack-on it when friends show me what to write. Then writing HTML was a separate experience. Once you wrote the CSS, you would hot reload in that course, what do you do every time you change CSS, you also change HTML, which would incur a full-page reload with a live reload tool, if you're familiar with that in Ember CLI.
This tooling allowed the Redux store itself because it's stored the state, allow me to really throw the component away in the page without refreshing it and then providing a new one and just go rerender because the state was instantly mapped in and then rerendered. I actually did a demo sometime last year and like, "I'm going to build a star rating component and here it is with live reload. Here it is with hot reload. I'm not going to make a decision about which one is better. You decide," and overwhelmingly people were like, "This is a much nicer feedback loop to make HTML and CSS changes in real time."
ROBERT: Agreed. Let's pedal back the hot module reloading because that is pure awesomeness. But that has a little bit of setup they have to do and changing your application. I remember we were talking about this. When you did that demo, I remember this. But there's a little bit they have to do to make your components stateless. They have to come down from the Redux store.
TORAN: Correct and this actually still applies if you are, I think using Ember data as well, as you just can't pull the state to reload it anything local, which may go against what you're trying to do with your component.
ROBERT: Right. That's cool but I do want to highlight a little bit something that was cool about the Redux dev tools as with all the state that you have since it's in a centrally managed place, you can take your state and then play it back over the top of something like if it did live reload and it'll just pop you right back down to where you were when you were debugging.
When that page refresh happens, if you're not doing hot module reloading, you still won't lose all your state which is really cool. You just play it right back down on top and you're exactly where you were before. It's almost like you would throw a specific test that puts you into that state that you're trying to debug.
TORAN: Yes, it's like git rebase. It lets me pull off my state, replay the new component function and then drop my changes on top of it and see it all viewed together.
ROBERT: Yeah, I think that's massively powerful.
CHARLES: Yeah, it is fantastic and that's where you get into that power. I can get on my immutability soapbox. But it turns out that as programmers, we deal in information and not throwing information away, not just flushing it down the toilet is hugely powerful. I think the thing that's so fantastic is that Redux takes this concept and then all of the tools to leverage it are there for you.
I think that it is something that is missing from the Ember development story and people don't realize that it's missing, that we have all these wonderful tools, we have this conventional way of building our applications, of deploying our applications, of rendering our applications, of marshalling the data in our applications in the form of routes. But what we're lacking is this unified atomically based state management solution. I think that, Toran it's been fantastic that you have pioneered this and trying to bring what I see as a glaring gap in the developer experience to the community.
I'm curious then to ask you what do you see as the future. You know, 2.0 just dropped and there's this need. I feel very strongly that Ember 3.0, 4.0 or Ember 'dot future' at some point should have a unified state management solution. How do you see the road that you're on intersecting with that future if it does in fact exist?
ROBERT: Also how can I help or how can we help?
TORAN: Just real brief before I dive into some of those questions. I just want to mention that 2.0, as awesome as that sounds, of course I dropped that this morning just so we could say that on podcast, really. We’ve had a beta in the works for Ember. The only change really, if you're like, "I just got into an Ember-Redux last week. Is it all garbage?"
No, this isn't Ryan Florence 2.0 -- it was a joke for any [inaudible] router folks in here. Actually, just us removing Browserify because if you are familiar with Browserify in the Ember ecosystem, talk to Robert Jackson or Stef Penner, folks familiar with that in Broccoli, they'll tell you that one of the harder things to optimize and although, it created a great entry point to how do I use Redux? Boom! Ember Browserify, install Redux, I'm done.
If you've ever seen an [inaudible] in Ember that has 'npm:', you're using Ember Browserify to pull in, either a common JS module or some kind of node module and use that in the Ember ecosystem without an additional shim. Now, what we found or learned was that bigger teams that are using this, paid a little bit of a cost and not just cold rebuilds. I'm talking hot rebuilds because Browserify just isn't friendly to get those to be optimized, I guess is the word, so we removed it completely or just use some smaller simpler shims. You actually get the performance improvements hopefully --
ROBERT: That is awesome.
TORAN: -- Which is big win. Back to your question, Charles. The audience that's intended, of course is a little different than most people like me to talk about. In fact, the API itself, I think was a bit rejected. You’re sort of asking like, "What does this mean in the future?" I don't really feel that the traditional Ember audience has picked up around with it because of something that's missing. You said the 'C word' earlier so convention is certainly still missing from this and even in the React ecosystem, they're just barely thinking about, "Look at all this great stuff we can do with one-way data flow and immutability and functional programming," but guess what we're giving up.
No one's really come around with this perfect pattern and conventionalized it as Ember did in its early days so there's a lot of churn, I wouldn't say overly so much that you're not going to getting work done but more than the average Ember developer is aware of. My audience is actually not the average Ember developer, which may be bad for what you're asking about, Charles.
Instead, it's actually the person who maybe has done React and maybe Redux or Backbone in the last two years. They love some of those patterns. They're not in love with the Ember-object because of getting set. Maybe they love TypeScript and they say, "I want to use this in Ember." They joined a new company that's a little larger than the startup they'd been on the last two years and they are using Ember. They love a lot of Ember but they would also like to use some of the predictable state patterns that you get with Redux. As well as maybe the dev tooling, things like that so they have adopted this. I feel like that really is the new audience that I aim to please or I'm falling in line with, which is a little bit outside.
I feel like there's room for some fragmentation and a good beat up on me for that because when the realities of this herd conversation that we're kind of talking around a little bit is that the herd is great until something innovative needs to happen. Innovation, obviously takes some risk and I feel like that's sort of what I did last year and said, "Here's some interesting ideas. I have not shipped Facebook with it yet so let's just check this out." Of course, Ember add-ons are a great way to enable someone to try a new idea. But I think most people got into it, saw this funky connect thing and they're like, "What the heck is this?" It's a function and returns a component. All right, that's not doing that so most people bailed out.
But I do hope people still and I know great folks at LinkedIn, Chris [inaudible], of course. We chat occasionally. Mostly he just tells me what I'm doing wrong. Shout out for Chris. But he knows a lot more about some of the stuff than I do and I think he is fully aware of the values that are in Redux that are great and then working hard, of course during his full time gig to apply these to Ember data and hopefully these do make their way in naturally. I just wanted to be a bit more radical. I don't want to wait around and I wasn't really involved in the Ember data project. My own fault there but I think if nothing else, the ideas will come out of it because the developers want this. Whether you're the audience I'm talking about, which is a React developer from two years ago, you're in Ember, you're eventually going to really understand and want this and then those 'data down, action up' ideas that were pretty unclear to me in 2015, will be very clear.
In fact, if anyone seen or heard of this Project MobX, which is like an alternative in a way, popularity-wise to React ecosystem. It kind of looks like Ember in a way where you get sort of some more magic and what I found quickly in playing around MobX is that you can very much fall into the shared mutable state problems. The interesting part about MobX is you can opt into a strict 'data down, actions up' approach. But if you don't have the Ember battle scars like we do, you're just going to come in and say, "What's less work?" Just like in Ember when I can do a set in the [inaudible] node, why would I do 'data down, actions up' and that's the transition I want to see folks make. Hopefully they learn something from that.
CHARLES: Right, I agree with you. Although, I think the time has definitely come, I think the term 'herd-mentality' is an unfortunate one. I prefer to think of it as like a pack. If you travel as a pack, you can bring down moose that are bigger than you are individually. But every once in a while, like a gigantic moose with laser horns shows up and then what are you going to do? If you're hunting as a pack, you have to introduce new things because I like that analogy a little bit better than a herd because the job of the herd is just to not get eaten, where is the pack has this idea of these entities that have to stick together. They’re hunting and they're tackling different problems as they come but sharing in the benefits.
But I think that there has to be room for innovation inside that herd/pack-mentality, whatever you choose. I do think this idea needs to be introduced so what I would say is that if you're listening to this podcast, you should actually go and you should try and use Toran's add-on and you should try and build something with it so that if you have opinions about how it should fit into Ember, then we can hear them.
It sounds like you're taking a minimalist approach, you're emulating patterns that are proven to work in the React community so kind of enabling that seed cross-pollination right there. I would say go build something with it, experience what it's like to have your state as a single atom, experience what it's like to have incredible development tools that come along with that.
I think that if you're in the Ember community today, you need to go build something with React, you need to go build something with Redux and you actually have made it one step easier to do. You don't even have to leave Ember to do that. You can build something of node with production quality code using Redux and you can experience what it's like. That’s my challenge, I think to the Ember community. Go try it, go experience it because you'll come back, I think like I did. You'll come back with superpowers just from having tried that.
ROBERT: Managing state becomes so easy.
TORAN: Yes. I want to jump in briefly and just cover one point that we haven't talked about that's very controversial so why not drop it at the end here. I think, Rob you might have asked about it earlier and I just didn't feel brave enough to talk about it at that time. But you guys keep going back to this idea and I have to talk about a little bit too.
There’s something really powerful about that but the tradeoff being there are not a lot of strong conventions, Charles that I have adopted. That's kind of what I'm cautioning here a little bit is that I'm still also just watching the other communities to see what eventually turns out not. This is going to be am Ember add-on and I don't care what everyone else is doing. This is my vision because really my vision was to make a drop in for anyone already doing Redux on any platform.
CHARLES: You know, to the point, there's a pack that extends beyond the Ember community and it sounds like you're also leveraging and being a part of that.
TORAN: There's an interesting idea about the hunger thing, which just tied us in and there's where the fourth thing that a doctor will tell you to get your hunger back is go experience eating with other people. There’s actually a statistic that when you sit down to eat with someone else or many people, you're likely going to eat 44% more food than you did on your own. That’s just, I guess a statistic that's true. I just made it up for this podcast. No, I think it's true.
ROBERT: I think we're walking on this very similar path. I'm following your footsteps right now, it sounds like.
TORAN: My last point which was that third bullet about building component trees, it didn't sound like either of you guys really contest that and I'm friends with, obviously Chris Freeman, formerly The Frontside and Chris tells me, "You're trying to build full component trees once you're injected at the route level and you're not doing like a ton of HTML in your controller HPS files." Is that true?
CHARLES: We treat our controller basically as a component. Sometimes, we'll be like, "This is the controller and if we ever use it in more than one place, we'll take out its component." We're not super dogmatic but we definitely see the clear separation of the route is for maintaining the data and everything else is just one tree of components just below that.
ROBERT: The more I think about it though, I'm so conflicted because I really like routes in Ember and they do a lot for you. I like having the data be maintained in one spot but I don't know a single store with Redux maintaining that and using like Redux-thunk or Redux-saga. I got some exploring to do.
CHARLES: I don't think those are mutually exclusive propositions. That's what you were saying at the beginning, right Toran? You still do all of your data munching in the route. There's two kind of subjects that I wanted to broach briefly, although I don't think brief is possible with them is actions, like how we talked about data down, we talked about where you draw the seams in your application, where you're loading your data, where you're mapping it to your components and having that separation into your presentation components.
We didn't get to talk about reducers so much and how you map. You touched on it like the mechanics but suppose I have a to-do list and I want to delete an item and I've got some button to delete an item, that's down my component tree. How do I map that action back up to the store? I don't know if we actually have time to cover that because it is meaty-meaty subject.
ROBERT: Redux part two?
TORAN: Yeah, we have to follow up because really that is a little bit more of an advanced segment not that folks shouldn't hear about it. But one thing that's a radical shift, Charles that we would have to go into and talk about, which is controversial as well as most folks want to operate in one structure, one dictionary not in the array. Then immediately, everything flips to being a Lodash operation. I didn't really use Lodash at all until I got into this. You guys probably actually are smart folks to do.
But for me, this store is not in array now. When I'm doing array operations like remove or filter, I'm actually operating with Lodash on an object to produce those new states and most of it is just learning the Lodash operators because I didn't actually know them so the Yelp Clone that I have out there is a very simplistic look at using Lodash with Ember. But it accomplishes some of that.
Then also, the secondary piece that would also consume a ton of time that we should go into but maybe not today is switching from Thunk to Generators with Saga and then maybe even observables with RxJS, which seems like possibly the future. Those all sounds cool but I think they're going to blow the heck out of scope on this thing.
CHARLES: All right. Well, thank you so much for coming by Toran. As always, our conversations are too big to fit into a single podcast. I really want to have you on again. There are so many things that we haven't even touched on. We haven't touched on the subtleties of how action dispatching works. We haven't touched on using Ember-data -- I'm just [inaudible] out there and say it.
With Redux, we haven't open that can of worms and who doesn't want to just sift through a can of worms on a podcast? We are going to have you on again. I am positive of that.
ROBERT: We're going to paint that bike shed.
CHARLES: Yeah, we're going to paint that bike shed. It’s a bike shed that needs to be painted. It’s something that the community, I think needs to face head on. Thank you so much for coming by and talking with us about Ember-Redux. Everybody, go and check it out. Toran, you've got some talks coming up, if you want to mention those real quick.
TORAN: Yeah, I just wanted to plug. There's possibly going to be a talk, we're still lining up the official date with the Washington DC Ember Meetup sometime in April. I planning out to fly out there actually and give this talk on Ember-Redux. I want to thank just publicly the RSA team for kind of helping sponsor me to fly out and check it out. As well as give a more in-depth talk on Ember-Redux in the Meetup setting.
CHARLES: Fantastic. If you're in the area, be sure to go check that out. If not, watch it on video and then unrelated Ember-Redux, if you haven't watched Toran's EmberConf talk on Outside-In development.
TORAN: That's out actually global Ember Meetup, I think.
CHARLES: Okay, that one. Actually, just go watch all Toran's talks. The thing that I didn't mention at the beginning of the podcast is that you do a lot of live coding, which is just makes my bowels freeze when I think about doing it. You just pull it off so effortlessly so it's definitely, definitely worth a watch.
With that we, will take it out. We'll see you guys later. That's it from The Frontside. Remember to get in touch with us at Frontside.io. If you're interested in UI, that's engineered to make UX dreams come true.