Building a Ruby Gem
I’m currently going through the Flatiron School’s Learn Verified program for full stack web development. To wrap up the section on object-oriented Ruby, we’re supposed to build a gem that provides a CLI interface for an external data source. (Basically: scrape an existing website, wrap up the data in a CLI, package as a gem installable by anyone.)
I was pretty excited to work on a project of my own design and implementation, as opposed to the labs with their tight requirements featured so far in the curriculum.
Being a nerd - specifically, a member of two Star Wars costuming organizations - I came up with an idea pretty quickly: make a CLI to view the membership standards for a costume. What pieces of Luke Skywalker’s Tatooine outfit would you need to create in order to join the Rebel Legion? My gem has the answer! (Or rather, rebellegion.com has the answer, and I have awkwardly borrowed it.)
Check it out, or install via “gem install rebel_legion”. There are some messy parts, I will freely admit, and I look forward to refactoring someday. The scraper only nabs the first page of costumes in each costume category - the Rebel Legion accepts a starting number of characters, as it includes many well-sourced Expanded Universe (now Legends) costumes. And unfortunately, the Rebel Legion is a bit inconsistent in how they display details and requirements for each individual costume, so my data sometimes looks a bit inconsistently messy too. I’m sure there’s more I could have done to rectify this. On the whole, though, the code logic itself came together very smoothly.
The code itself was, surprisingly, the easiest part. I suppose the Learn.co curriculum has done a good job preparing us for this sort of project. HTML scraping, object relationships, all that good stuff.
There were a few places where I spent a lot of time googling and researching: directory and file structure (aka where does everything go, how does it relate, what are all these files and folders for, and how do I make sure everything loads properly?), and how to build and release the gem after everything’s finished.
Most sources differed in how to publish the gem, interestingly: some suggested using “gem push”, some suggested rake commands, and others a combination to first build the gem, test it, and release it into the wild. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as a Ruby philosophy is “there are many ways to do the same thing; do what you like best”.
Although the project solidified my understanding of what the Learn curriculum has taught up to this point, my biggest takeaways were what weren’t explicitly taught: How gems are used on a deeper level, load paths, dependencies, versioning standards… I even picked up a bit about Rake (and Jekyll, this blog platform!).