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Doctrine 2 contribution touch

One of my goals for 2016 is to be a par excellence open source contributor. The project I’m aiming to focus my work is on the Doctrine 2, for lots of reasons. Firstly because it’s an excellent project with lots of the top PHP developers. Did you know that @ocramius is the most assiduous contributor on Github? Secondly I use it on a daily basis at work, so the more I’m proficient at it, the better asset am I for Compufácil.

But the purpose of this post is to elaborate on some experience I got from collaborating to it till now. I have almost a year in front of me to be an impactful Doctrine 2 developer, so for now don’t expect great achievements.

The majority of the results worth noting are on myself. Firstly I read the docs. Not all of it till now, but all of the Common, DBAL, and the major part of the ORM. This rendered me some nice insights on Doctrine that I didn’t have previously.

Some examples of things I learned thought the documentation are described below. For the more experienced developers some of the things I found where might not be any news, but I’m currently on my first project using doctrine ORM, so I got some surprises on the docs.

Debugging Doctrine Entities

Each doctrine entity have lots of things appended to it, so a simple var_dump on them will probably overflow your memory. Thinking on that, the Commom package provides a debug function that can be used as showed below:

Doctrine\Common\Util\Debug::dump()

Don’t call persist on managed entities

After a find, for example, you don’t need to call persist to flush the entity state since the entity is already on Doctrine map of managed entities.

<?php
$user = $entityManager->find("Person", 1);
$user->setName("Guilherme");
$entityManager->flush();

Know the size of your UnitOfWork

A too big UnitOfWork will result in high writing times. So is good for the developer to keep in mind it’s current size. To do so the developer can use the method described below.

$uowSize = $em->getUnitOfWork()->size();

Use abbreviations on CLI

Doctrine’s CLI interface supports abbreviations. Finally I understood the why of those ugly separators on the words.

An example:

doctirne-bin o:v

To mean:

doctirne-bin orm:validate-schema

So this are some tips I got from reading the docs. There’s a lot more there than what I registered here, certainly worth reading. From reading the docs I found some mistakes there, basically broken links. So I fixed those, in the ORM and on DBAL. It was not as simple as you might think, the docs uses Sphinx to compile the Web and an PDF version. So I had to learn how to setup Spinx and a little bit of it’s syntax. These fixes rendered me two pull requests, so from it forward I’m a real contributor of Doctrine project \0/.

After the docs I started studying the code. Mainly the ORM’s one. From it I got lots of insights as well. A major one is related to the tests suite performance. Doctrine ORM has about 3k tests and runs on 10s, on Compufácil we have 800 tests which take 40 seconds. Really there’s room for improvement. Mainly related to the use of mocks based on interfaces instead of testing directly on the implementations.

Another tip I got, probably an obvious one, but i didn’t know anyway, is the use of phpunit’s fail.

Use fail

Fail as the name suggests is an API for the developer to say that an test failed. Before knowing it used to write:

static::assertTrue(false);

But with it the code seems much more elegant, and supports an argument with the failure reason.

static::fail("Optionally with the reason of the failure");

Exception collections

From code inspection I also get an insight about how to organize exceptions. Doctrine uses a single class for many related exceptions instead of using a single one for for a single exception like I used to do.

An example of this pattern is the file lib/Doctrine/ORM/ORMException.php. They use static functions to tweak the message and code of the returning instance. Like a factory method.

Inspecting some pull requests I found this link explaining better this pattern usage.

After some code inspection I started to look on something to code. Firstly I looked at the issues, but the majority of them seemed to much for me to take as a first code contact. So I went to check the pull requests, and there I found a mine of gold. There’s lots of pull requests with the tag missing tests, this is a good opportunity for guys like me trying to enter Doctrine’s development.

I looked for some older pull requests with missing tests (so I’m almost sure that developers will not bother if I stared adding code in their pull requests, since they probably already forgot about them). And I found some, like an pull request about the criteria API not working on not owning sides. I added a test to it and, after some time of wait it was accepted without any complains. So for this point on I’m actually an developer contributor of Doctirne’s 2 \0/.

After that I added another test about an exception that is yet to be approved but probably will. Inspecting pull requests I found a PR relating to a problem that where already fixed, so I commented on it and it was removed from the list of open pull requests as well.

It’s too early for me to consider this journey a successful one but I already learned a lot about open source, about Doctrine, about the rigorous git workflow of it. An I’ve been able to help Doctrine, even if on a small scale. I hope that in a near future I’ll be able to do even greater improvements on this wonderful project.

So if I could give an council, even if I’m not a too successful example, for people expecting to enter open source development. Start small, probably by the documentation. And follow to the pull requests, look if there are some old (probably abandoned one’s) which you can do a simple improvement. After that follow to the simple issues, and keep going.

That’s it. Thanks for your attention.