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2014/07/23

Name Things Like You, or "Do you ever feel like an idiot?"

I was preparing a talk on developing against the FitBit API yesterday, which lead me to look at the FitBit website, and I found something called "Alertness Checker", which I didn't recognize. The others, like TicTrac and FaceBook and IFTTT, I did, but not "Alertness Checker".

So I revoked access.

And I found that "Alertness Tracker" is the name I put for my "app", by which I mean the connected series of programs I collect as fitbit_tools, which is the topic of the talk I'll be giving in a week and a half.

Of course, I felt like an idiot, once I realized the FitBit tools I had built my life around had stopped working. The key one is called fitbit.today.py, and it checks once an hour to see if I've made more than 100 steps in that hour, and chides me if I haven't. It's lots of small things, but when you realize you broke lots of small things, you feel like an idiot.

The first thing is, anybody could name a thing "Alertness Tracker". The specific thing that caused me to develop fitbit_tools is a point where I wore my FitBit Ultra every day for several weeks without noticing I hadn't charged it recently and it was a dead dead thing. Once I had enough to tell me if it hasn't synced in a few days, I knew enough to have it tell me if the battery level was anything but high. I wrote it in Python because I couldn't find any code (besides the Net::Twitter module) that really handled oAuth in Perl, but I did find the code in Python. After that, I decided that I'd like to know more about my trends than the FitBit dashboard can tell me, then put it out on GitHub, but since I had the App registered with FitBit, I stayed with it.

This is the main thing I want to hit. The secondary point is "Don't wallop things without checking", but the main point is that you have a style, and you should go with that style. Stay within the conventions of your project and team, of course, but you should be able to recognize yours as yours. In the lab, Rick and I are both Perl programmers, but our styles are very different, so we can open up libraries and look at subroutines and say "Hey, I don't know when I wrote that, or why I wrote that, or what stupid thing I was thinking when I wrote that, but I certainly know that I wrote that."

I recall, I faked the registration using FitBit's tools rather than writing a "get client tokens" oAuth script. I think I put that in the "I really should do that" category and forgot it there. Now, as I'm going to talk through it, and as I just re-experienced the issue, I have explained it in the README and have received a "round tuit", and so will have to write something up.