No More Loners!

Read and heed the latest from Clay Loveless: Stop Writing Loner Applications.

After nearly a decade in web application development, I continue to be dumbfounded by how many applications are built and released by the open-source community that apparently believe that they’ll be the only complex, user-database application I’ll will want to run.

In nearly every case, these loners have been built with no apparent concern for the fact that the person or company involved may already have a database of users, or that one of the other applications may be installed alongside it. Hard to believe, but true.

The result is that the guys in the trenches trying to put together a cohesive whole have to spend a great deal of their cycles writing and maintaining “bridge code” to allow site visitors to register and authenticate against all of the chosen applications at once. …

Right on, Clay. Authentication and user-profile support in particular are a real burden to bear. I’ve tried very hard to make my apps (such as YaWiki) authentication-system agnostic, and the user-info related classes in Solar are read-only for exactly that reason.

One of the nice things about Solar-based authentication is that it is adapter based: you can change the backend from an LDAP server to an email server, or to a .htaccess file, and you never need to change your application code. (PEAR Auth also provides decent tools for this if you need PHP4 support.)

I have one other major criticism of most public code: classes are not generally namespaced properly. It’s as if project managers think theirs is the only “User” or “Member” class in the world. All classes need, at a minimum, a project-name or vendor-name prefix. (Consistency in naming is a related issue, but I’ll save that for another time.)

This is one thing the Zend Framework gets right, although it was against their will for a very long time. (All Zend classes are prefixed with “Zend_” so they automatically deconflict with all other userland classes.) That’s one thing I’m glad I kept yammering about while I was at Zend; it took months to get the managers to accept that as a naming convention, and even then it was only through the combined efforts of numerous developers to push it through.

Are you stuck with a legacy PHP application? You should buy my book because it gives you a step-by-step guide to improving your codebase, all while keeping it running the whole time.

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