Forms, querstrings and Json Objects

I was going to write a long rant on jQuery’s github issues (specifically this one). However, I think I’ve been in the the programming world enough to realize a few things

  • Everyone wants a feature, no one wants to code it
  • Dismissal comes from lack of assertiveness
  • The open source world runs on voluntary slavery 😉

As a result, I don’t blame the guy for dismissing the person so easily. But I also think it’s a bit heart breaking. So much so I was going to write a big angry letter. However, instead of doing it there, I’ll do it here…

jQuery’s interactions with form’s are quite lackluster. They are so bad that in my eyes its a reasonable question why serialize and seralizeArray havn’t been deprecated. A cynical and confrontational perspective would say it’s only there for backwards compatability. But `jQuery(form).serialize()` sticks around for a better reason, it’s an easy to use useful feature to developers. jQuery in fact is not necessary at all, except for the fact: jQuery is easy to use and useful. You don’t have to think up an algorithm, it’s already there. Theres something to be said though that most of these things are just wrappers. And they are, they are just wrappers. However, there is a big difference between an easy to use .width vs an unstandardized implementation of validation. One is a very useful plugin, the other feels like it should have been done this way all along.

QueryString <-> Form

We all know about Jquery’s serialize() function (and if you don’t, it’s useful for submitting a form over ajax) which does it’s job effectively. However, what about deserialize? Theres some interesting history here, in particular I’m going to talk about this repo. About four years ago from today in 2010, the maintainer created a ticket for jQuery. As you can see, it was refused. One could say they have valid arguments. So let’s look at them.

  • Too Large – sitting at 1.4 kb, it is far from large for what it does
  • We don’t need it in core – Is jQuery’s effects needed in core? What about data? It would seem to me that jQuery should be about manipualting the dom in a simple manner
  • Not Used Everyday – This is something that is arguable. Unfortunately I could only come up with one reason since queries are only in urls. Search forms should populate based off the current query. That being said, that is an excellent reason.

JSON Object <-> Form

So who believes that form->Json would be useful?

This “serializeObject” business isn’t just some fad that will go away. It has been a problem for as long as people wanted to interact with the form before it gets submitted. They have tried to circumvent it with serializeArray and this is arguably far more efficient than serializing to a Json Object. However, there starts to arize some issues.

  • The serialized array doesn’t have any of the attributes, as a result you must then make an additional query for the input to see the what validations it has. But at that point you may be better off validating based by querying for inputs.
  • If you are looking for a specific input type, you must iterate over the objects until you find the one with the name you’re looking for. they are most likely in the same order as they were in the dom so you may be able to select it by the number. However, since disabled control’s will not be included the programmer is better off iterating

Now, going one way is possible in plugins and even without them (technically). However, how do you apply a JSON Object as form values? There is no function in jQuery that will do this. However, our deserialize plugin from before kicks ass in another area. This would have far more uses than applying a get query to a from including:

  • Setting defaults to a form
  • Setting the form based off an ajax source
  • Allowing a form to have a two way binding mechanism – this can be used in physics similations where the form would be updated based off the position, velocity, etc. However, updating the form will as a result update the physics.

JSON Object <-> QueryString

If you commonly parse query strings to json objects (which would likely only be used when applying the url to a search), you can use something along the lines of

var formobj = require("querystring")
  .parse(jQuery(form).serialize());

So long as you have browserify or an amd available. This module will also allow you to implement

var windowobj = require("querystring")
  .parse(window.location.search);

However, if you’re going to go down this route, I highly suggest you use qs. The team that backs it is funded by walmart and supports alot more than query string does.

Will change ever come?

The First thing we should ask ourselves is: Why is change necessary? The idea of it being a plugin has not perked enough ears to warrent anyone else to get fussed up over it.

Finding plugin’s waste’s time

Serialize doesn’t have a good antonym. Is it Unserialize? Is it Deserialize? It does it matter… And yet it does.

As you can see, deserialize produced the best results. Unserialize pointed toward PHP unserialize and jQuery deserialize in stack overflow and Query Forms produced the worst however I included it in as a newer developer example. Hopefully, people look for deserialize quickly. That being said, people may end up looking for a non-plugin solution…

When a 10,000 developer’s recreate the wheel…

However, I think theres something to be said for this comment here. If theres something not available in jQuery, people will generally avoid plugins if they can. This can be associated to:

  • Plugin’s are not held to the jQuery code standard
  • Plugin’s may be poorly coded
  • Plugin’s may not offer everything the developer needs

In addition, some things are simple enough that there is no need to use a plugin for them. As a result, instead of people spending 5 hours to implement 5 features, they spending 5 hours perfecting loops and queries. And even after that 5 hours, it may not be perfect. What’s more is, writing this may take a day or may take a week. As a result we lose out on valuable time for developers to solve real world problems, instead they are solving development problems. We can also look at this time wasted at scale.

  • If 1000 people rewrite “deserialize” or “serialize to Object”
  • if on average it takes a person 4 hours
  • 1000*4 = 4000 hours lost from our precious developers lives.
Is Change Necessary?

I think there is food for thought: Are form’s common to interact with or are they just better off ignoring? Do you build only the simplest tools or do you build a full fledged form handler? Why should the jQuery team Care? Supply and Demand.

What are jQueries Competitors?
  • Zepto – equalivalent form support
  • Cash – less form support
  • Minified – No form support
  • Snack – No form support
  • $dom – No form support
  • xui – No documentation, I’m not about to start looking at their code. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • dojo – Their documentation is hell.
  • ExtJS – Their documentation isn’t much better
  • Mootools – no form support
  • YUI – this has no form support
  • Medley – I’m not suprised
  • Perhaps you don’t need it – Don’t get crazy, I don’t feel like looking at crazy looking code.

So it would seem much more of development for developers comes from either providing a wrapper for everysingle function, following jQueries lead or making it smaller. Ok, so using different tools would be too frustrating or not provide us what we need.

Are there enough vocal demanders?

I find programmer school’s of thought interesting

  • The cool request – People requesting something because it would be a cool feature but do little to no work.
  • Not Made Here – People that write stuff just because they want to make everything in house
  • Part of the team – Once you get on a successful team, it means funding. It means everyone carries their weight. It also means a hive mind mentality where your voice will generally try to agree with others. And theres no reason to fight with other successful teams.
  • Too Bad of a programmer to have a say – Everyone else is so advanced, why should I say anything?
  • Think they are god’s gift to the earth – Think their opinion hold’s the most weight.
  • Something Else – Which you may fit in to.

2.5/5 of these people will likely not make requests. Teams will ask other teams for requests, as a result those features may be implemented because a successful team holds more weight than a single person.

However, if you think that these features should be implemented, say something. But generally death by a thousand cuts is a bad plan as it causes disorganization. If you think it should be included, search for the issue and post there. Heres a link to what I found.

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