22. May 2009, 14:09, by Leo Büttiker

From the for loop to the generator in JavaScript

I recently spent some time writing JavaScript code and do reviews of JavaScript features. JavaScript has some nice language features that make it easy to write short and readable code. (On the other hand it is also quite easy to write horrible code with it.) In this article I try to show you how you can refactor your code to something more readable.

We may start with this non-fictional example:

* Returns array of uids of selected items
getSelected:function() {
	var returnArray = new Array();
	var modelFriendListItems = this.modelFriendListItems.getSelected();

	for (var index = 0 ; index < modelFriendListItems.length ; ++index) {

	return returnArray;

It’s just one function out of a class that does quite something typical. This function goes over a list of items (iterate) and builds an array out of some of this items (filter). A friend of mine does some ruby coding and in ruby this would look something like this:

this.modelFriendListItems.getSelected().select{|item| !item.isFacebookUser}.collect {|item| item[:id]}

This is quite short and still yet readable. In JavaScript you can go as well in the direction of more functional programming. So let us refactor the JavaScript example above over some iterations. The following examples use prototype.js because this framework extends the JavaScript array with some fancy functions.

Filed under: PHP,Programming
31. March 2009, 21:41, by Silvan Mühlemann

Job opening: Web developer (PHP / AJAX)

Are you enthusiastic about web technologies? Do you have strong PHP, Javascript and SQL skills? Would you like to work with a team of smart and passionate people? Are you open to advanced development methodologies like Scrum or Test Driven Development? Would you like help further develop one of the biggest Swiss website?

Then you should apply for a job at tilllate.com: Our team is looking for dedicated web developers. You’ll find more information in our job ad:

Filed under: Arbeit,PHP,Web Development
17. March 2009, 23:33, by Silvan Mühlemann

Scrum: How we do Sprint Retrospectives

Four weeks have passed since the last sprint planning meeting. Sprint number two has come to an end. It’s time for the sprint retrospective.

The motivation for the sprint retrospective is:

  • Visualize the accomplishment – important for the team morale
  • Review any impediments and discuss measures on how to avoid them in the next sprint

Here’s how we are structuring the sprint retrospecives:

The set up

The team and the product owner are allocating one hour in the meeting room. We’re looking at the wall with the task board showing the user stories, the burn down chart and the impediment backlog. This is a big paper with a post it for every impediment encountered during the sprint. We collected the impediments during the bi-weekly scrum meetings (aka daily scrum).

Visualize the achievements

First, I go through all done user stories and say a few words about every story. Time for praising the team. Developers often think “we haven’t achieved anything”. So it’s important to visualize the finished user stories.


16. February 2009, 23:14, by Silvan Mühlemann

Implementing scrum at tilllate.com

The first sprint is done! Yes we finally started doing Scrum at tilllate.com*. Well, it’s not exactly how Schwaber and Sutherland would expect it. But our way fits our team. And the acceptance in both the IT team and the rest of the organization is high. It improves motivation and therewith the performance of the team. And that’s what matters.

Sprint planning meeting

Sprint planning meeting


14. November 2008, 16:57, by Leo Büttiker

Clientside Cache Control

Users hate your cache

Users don’t like caching! They want to see the changes immediately. Otherwise they get confused and write you bug tickets or flame mails. But if you do not use caching the user comes and make your CPU’s burning. If your site is down you not only get mails from your users, but also from your management.

We worked hard on the right caching strategy over months now. But there are still caches that do not get invalidated right or are cached too long and we still get complaints from our users. So we decided to integrate a feature that allows certain users to invalidate the cache on the server side. The first idea was to add a link to every page that will append a GET-parameter to the site and then avoid the cache.

Filed under: PHP,Programming
14. August 2008, 09:07, by Maarten Manders

Webtuesday Lightning Talk Slides

This week, there was another webtuesday with lightning talks in Zürich. Leo and I each did a little talk:

“StubidDB” by Leo

Leo still dreaming about dumber databases. His own creation StupidDB might sound familiar to you…

“I’m in Ur Browzerz…” by Maarten

Harry had the idea to locate your users based on their history. I tried it out, giving another 8 minutes of fame to an old and well-known hack. The slides can be found here.

7. August 2008, 18:42, by Maarten Manders

Static + Unit Tests = Arrrghhh!

All I needed to do was renaming Trevi_Auth to Tilllate_Auth. Sure, it affected some 41 files, but that’s nothing a little bit of search & replace can’t do. The big headache started when I ran the unit tests.

Shuffle Unit Tests = Fail.

It’s absolutely amazing how much you can mess up unit tests just by changing their order! (Trevi_* comes after Tilllate_*) Everyone knows that tests are supposed to be independent. But we all know how it is. People get lazy, mocks are complicated and testing is boring anyway. And don’t forget about that cool pattern called “Singleton” that we’ve all read about in an inflight magazine!

Punish Me!

Obviously we can’t do testing right without getting beaten with a stick. So where’s that stick? Is there a way to reset all static variables in PHP? Is there a PHPUnit hack that forks a separate PHP process for each test?

What is your solution to keep your tests from sticking together like spit ? I’m happy to learn about it!

20. July 2008, 18:41, by Silvan Mühlemann

Nine ways to obfuscate e-mail addresses compared

When displaying an e-mail address on a website you obviously want to obfuscate it to avoid it getting harvested by spammers. But which obfuscation method is the best one? I drove a test to find out. Here are the results:

In 2006 I opened nine different e-mail addresses. On this page I published the nine e-mail addresses. But every address has been obfuscated by a different method. I made sure it’s getting indexed by Google by putting a link to that page on the tilllate.com homepage.

Then I waited 1.5 years (see the original post).

For each e-mail address I counted the amount of spam I received. The amount of spam received started by 21MB (for no obfuscation and a total of over 1800 spam mails) and went down to absolutely no spam.

The following three methods are absolutely rock-solid and keep your addresses safe from the harvesters.

Filed under: PHP,Web Development
22. June 2008, 21:03, by Silvan Mühlemann

Round Robin Data Storage in MySQL

If you want to store large amount of volatile data (e.g. log file entries) in a database with a constant storage memory footprint and no maintenance to purge the old entries, a round robin database is the best solution. But how to implement it in MySQL?

Some of the heaviest tables in our database are tables which do some event logging. Let’s look at a table which log the most recent visitors on a member profile. Look at that ugly output:

mysql> SHOW TABLE STATUS like "profile_visits_log" \G;
*************************** 1. row **********************
           Name: profile_visits_log
           Rows: 6'226'066
 Avg_row_length: 21
    Data_length: 130'747'386
   Index_length: 393'205'760

It grows and grows… And the queries get slower and slower.

This is the case because we are keeping a lot of old, unused data. For example, on my member profile there’s data back to September 2007:

Profile visitor list on tilllate.com

So we have to get rid of that old data. For example we can do it like Xing and store the n most recent entries for each user. Drop the rest:

Profile visitors in Xing

Now, how do we do that in the most elegant way?


Filed under: Database,PHP
10. June 2008, 15:48, by Leo Büttiker

PHP @ OpenExpo

OpenExpoAt 24./25. of September 2008 there will be the OpenExpo in Winterthur. I will be in charge of the PHP booth. I am looking for PHP-Developers, -Evangelists and -Fanboys (and girls) to help me out.

It’s a great opportunity to help spread PHP, meet open source guys or just hang out with other cool PHP guys. Already on the boat are Harry Fuecks (webtuesday organizer, local-hero and PHP-Book-Author), Lukas Smith (PHP Core Dev and Database Expert), Chregu Stocker (PHP Core Dev, liip CEO and Founder), Silvan Mühlemann (PHP-Evangelist, tilllate CTO and Founder) and, well, me.

Filed under: PHP
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