working remotely

Joey Imlay

The Return of Northcoders News

The Return of Northcoders News

"Maybe one day I'll be back with Northcoders News v3!" Remember when I said that?


I do love when a prophecy comes to pass. Yes, my third iteration of Northcoders News is now live. The data is still the same, but the code is very different.

Plus ça change

It makes sense that a few things on the course have changed since my time on the bootcamp. Not only has the stack changed - SQL instead of MongoDB on the back end, and hooks replacing Redux on the React side - but the sprint now offers a choice of datasets. NC News still exists, but now there is also NC Games - still very Reddit-clone-y, but with a focus on board game reviews. My primary motivation in building first House of Games, then my third iteration of Northcoders News, was to brush up on my SQL knowledge so I can be as supportive to current Northcoders students as possible. But that's not to say I didn't have some fun with it too.

SQL in the API

I'm back to using two separate repos for back end and front end, as it is on the bootcamp, and building out the API comes first. I haven't touched MongoDB since building NC News v2, and not at all in my work at LADbible, but I'd done a little bit of SQL so picking up the syntax again wasn't a struggle. I love how easy it is to host a small Postgres database on Heroku too - there's an addon called Heroku Postgres that has a free sandbox tier, which is perfect for my (and our students') needs. Seeding the database and getting the Express server up and running was smooth sailing. Maybe I'm alright with back end code after all.

The prophecy mentioned hooks

But you know where my heart lies. The front end is where the real fun is. And for me, getting rid of Redux was the best part of the whole experience. As prophesied in my earlier post, I did indeed use a lot of useState and useEffect hooks to fetch the data from my new API via an Axios layer, and I harnessed the Context API alongside localStorage to handle the current user functionality. (It's not "login" in the truest sense, but you can change the active user so that you can post comments under different usernames.)

I also had fun with a CSS-in-JS library that I'd not used before. Stitches turns out to be the nicest library I've ever used for building out a theme. It's so simple! And it feels a lot quicker than styled-components and Emotion. Style-wise in NC News, I kept the original gradient in the header, but expanded the colour scheme with a little help from and added in some gold accents. If you're thinking that the header now resembles that of The Guardian, you'd be right.

From experience comes wisdom

Having spent three years working on news websites, it felt much easier to choose the routes to build in both the API and the client for the best user experience, and my design choices had a lot more purpose behind them. It turns out I can build a decent, fully-tested API from scratch after all - I just needed to refresh my skills. I also made it very easy on myself to do a lift-and-shift from House of Games to NC News v3 - the APIs are identical, apart from the datasets and the resulting variable names - which made me really happy when I got the new NC News API created, tested and deployed inside of an afternoon.

So what will the inevitable version 4 look like? Maybe I'll combine the two into one repo and Dockerise the whole thing again. Maybe I'll find another CSS-in-JS tool to play with. Maybe I'll throw out the designs and start again. (I'm already thinking of revisiting House of Games; it looks too similar to NC News!) Maybe I'll create my own dataset and start a Whole New Flavour of this sprint.

Never underestimate the power of revisiting old projects and rebuilding them. It's not just about the nostalgia hit, but it's good practice for both old and new skills, and it's a huge confidence booster to boot.

See you in Northcoders News v4: Endgame...

Further reading

thanks for reading! Joey x

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"When people call people nerds, mostly what they're saying is 'you like stuff', which is not a good insult at all."
-- John Green