Preprint Lunacy - Post 4

29/10/2023 - Jim Barrett

This post relates to my preprint lunacy project. You can find the introduction post here. This post covers my progress up to commit #534f2a0.

For the next step in building this thing, I want to sure up the repo a bit with some better practises, since I've been playing pretty fast and loose with coding style so far. I'm starting to get pretty excited about the prospect of getting recommended papers. There are a few steps between now and then, the rough plan is;

  • Add functionality for favouriting papers
  • Build a simple model or heuristic to find papers close to a set of papers
  • Decide on some heuristic for papers being "close enough" to warrant a recommendation
  • A page to present the recommendations

But, before all that fun stuff, time to eat my vegetables. My usual setup for quality control on a repo is formatting, linting and tests. I set up a CI/CD pipeline to run these for every pull request, and not allow merging without them passing. I also forbid pushing directly to the main branch.

Backend stylechecks

In Python, I have typically used isort, black and pylint. Since I'm using this project to learn some new stuff, I also want to try another code quality tool, namely mypy.

Fortunately, I already have quite a bit of code and config I can reuse for this from other repos, so I can directly steal the .isort.cfg and .pylintrc files from other projects. Running isort and black just rearranges what's already there, so they were easy. Pylint throws up a bunch of complaints though, so I went through and fixed those one by one. Mypy was also reasonably straightforward to use, so I configured that, and added the various stub files it was asking for. I then set up a google coud build trigger to run all of these tests on PRs, and merged in my lovely clean codebase to check everything was working.

Frontend stylechecks

Stylechecking the frontend ended up being a bit more of a rabbit-hole. I started by trying to configure eslint for my existing code. I got a bunch of suggestions from the linter, but whern I googled to figure out exactly what they were talking about, it appeared that many of them are deprecated in favour of using typescript + react, rather than straight javascript. This is the push I needed to finally start learning and using typescript, since most of the professional JS practicioners that I know use typescript. I thus spent a couple of hours figuring out how best to translate my frontend to typescript.

Since I don't have too much code, the translation wasn't too painful. The main issue I ran into was figuring out the correct way of typing props as arguments to React components. For example, starting from my original function signature for the SearchField component;

function SearchField({setPapersInView}) {

I ended up having to write something like;

type Paper = {
  title: string,
  publicationDate: string,
  authorList: string,
  abstract: string


function SearchField({setPapersInView}: {setPapersInView : (papers: Paper[]) => void}) {

whilst also changing my usage of the useState declaration in my entrypoint component;

// before
const [papersInView, setPapersInView] = useState([]);

// after
const [papersInView, setPapersInView] = useState<Paper[]>([]);

finding the write combination of changes, and figuring out what types of brackets to use and where was the biggest challenge, but once it was all sorted, I'm prettyb pleased with how the code looks. Of course, the code still isn't really stylechecked. To do that, I used ESlint. It was a massive pain to install, but once I managed it, it gave me a bunch suggestions to improve things. I fixed those, and added the linting steps to my build pipeline for the repo.


I always get a good feeling doing work like this, kind of like how I imagine craftsmen get from cleaning and organising all of their tools in their workshop. But, now that that's done, on to the really fun stuff.