Saturday, 7 September 2019

Mentz - The Story Continues

Mentz - The Story Continues

Introduction

It’s been over three months since I launched Mentz on an unsuspecting Salesforce ecosystem, and the results have far exceeded my expectations. I’d have been quite happy with a couple of people attempting the challenges that I mentored myself, but it’s fair to say we are well past that. At the time of writing (September 2019) we have 90 mentees, 24 mentors and 45 solutions that have been mentored. The standard of mentoring is incredible - a lot of very smart people are putting a lot of effort into helping others in their development journey.

Release, Review, Repeat

  • Creating and maintaining the tooling around Mentz has been an interesting aspect for me, not least because of how wrong I’ve been about some of it. 
  • My original plan was to have two stages in a solution lifecycle - mentoring and publication. A mentee would iterate on their solution based on mentor feedback and when they were completely happy with it, publish it for the wider mentee community to see and comment on. This was pretty much entirely unsuccessful and just caused confusion about where to post solutions. We now have a single place where solutions are published which anyone can access.
  • Solutions were originally uploaded as chatter files until one of the Mentors asked me to turn on "Allow Inclusion of Code Snippets from UI” - now if the solution fits int the 10k chatter message limit it is uploaded as a snippet, which is a lot easier to respond to (thanks Adam Lasek).
  • The challenges typically involved a class with multiple methods to be built out. While I always created my own (unpublished) reference solutions, as I’d come up with the scenario it didn’t take me very long. When a few solutions stacked up and I mentored them on a weekend, it took me almost all day! So I created a couple of short challenges to see what kind of reception they would get.
  • I used to regularly post into the Mentor group to let everyone know if there were any solutions awaiting a response. This always lead to apologetic replies from the Mentors, which wasn’t what I was after at all - I just wanted to avoid them having to poll the org to see if there was anything they could help with. I replaced this with a lightning web component rendered in in the Mentors group home page that listed any unanswered solutions, which seems to have helped.

There have also been some other changes to try to make things easier/more interesting:

  • A Suggestion Box repository for mentees (or anyone really) to suggest challenges they’d like to take
  • The ability to lock a solution to a single mentor. The idea here is that a mentor claims a solution and is the only one (aside from the original author) that can respond to it. I haven’t turned this on yet as AFAIK we’ve only had one instance where two mentors were working on responses to the same solution at the same time.
  • Mentee and Mentor leaderboards - people seem to like these so I’ve added them to the group home pages. I’m at the top of the Mentor leaderboard, but only because I mop up any solutions that haven’t had a response after a few days. I don’t have to do this, but I do feel a sense of responsibility having enticed mentees to join.
  • The Mentz Salesforce CLI plugin now has a challenges topic that lists the available challenges (optionally including those already completed) and clones the repo for the user:
            $ sfdx mentz:publish --targetusername myOrg@example.com --all

              Select a challenge
              1) COLLECTION SIMPLE 1
              2) CONDITIONAL SIMPLE 1 (Completed)
              0) Quit

              Choose a challenge: 1
              Cloning repository = https://github.com/mentzbb/SimpleCollections1
              ...
             Done

What’s Next

As I wrote in my original Mentz blog post:

If things do take off, I don’t want to handle everything out of a single org myself, as that will limit scale. Instead I'll make the code available as a package so that others can host their own instance of Mentz, in their own org. We'll all use a common set of challenges, but the actual mentoring will be distributed.

With 90 mentees it feels like my first org is getting pretty close to as big as I want it to get, so it’s time to test the waters and see if anyone else wants to host Mentz. Here’s a few things to think about before you jump in:

  • This will be a developer edition setup by me that you then take over - this isn’t (only) because I’m a megalomaniac, but more because I want to go through the setup a few times to get it documented before leaving people to face it on their own. The Mentz code will be deployed as unpackaged code  - it might be packaged up in the future, but at present it won’t add much and just adds more work for me :) It does also allow me to keep an eye on the standard of mentoring, as it’s been stellar so far and I’d like to keep it up there.
  • There’s not very much housekeeping - mostly it’s emailing the Mentee/Mentor requestors and then executing a lightning action to convert the request to a user. I usually do half a dozen or so a week.
  • The challenges are the same for every Mentee, all that changes is the org they post solutions to and who mentors.
  • If you host a Mentz instance, be prepared to act as the Mentor of last resort - this doesn’t happen often, but I think it’s quite important to make sure that posts are getting answered. I usually allow about a week for the mentors to dive in and then start picking things up myself, usually over the weekend.
  • Lots of people will register an interest and never even login - remember that this is Mentz where we do what we want, so this is absolutely fine. Never try to make people do anything, although it’s okay to check from time to time to make sure they aren’t trying and struggling/failing.
  • You need to have some reach to attract Mentees/Mentors - I’d imagine it’s a bit dispiriting to announce this is happening and receive zero interest :)

If this sounds like the sort of thing you’d be interested in, fill in the short form at https://bobbuzz.me.uk/MentzHosting - it will almost certainly take me a week or two to do anything so don’t panic if you don’t hear back quickly.

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Sunday, 1 September 2019

Parallel Apex Unit Tests and Salesforce CLI Plugins

Parallel Apex Unit Tests and Salesforce CLI Plugins

 

Introduction

In the Salesforce Winter 20 release notes was something I’ve been looking forward to for a few years - the ability to turn off parallel Apex unit test execution. By default parallel unit test are enabled (somewhat confusingly, by the fact that the Disable Parallel Apex Testing option is not checked):

 

and this typically results in a number of failures in my automated test runner package, as the tests can’t get exclusive access to write to the account others object tables.

This setting is one of the last items that I have to manually turn on when creating a scratch org, and that has been annoying me for a while. I could automate it via Selenium, but that feels like overkill, so I was very pleased to see the new Apex Settings metadata type. Among other features, this has the enableDisableParallelApexTesting field which allows me to check or uncheck the Disable Parallel Apex Testing checkbox, albeit via a metadata API deployment. The release notes also mentioned the to-be-deprecated OrgPreferenceSettings metadata object, and it turns out that this also has a mechanism for turning off parallel testing via the DisableParallelApexTesting setting, so there was no need for me to wait until Winter 20 as long as I could switch between the two mechanisms based on the API version the org is at.

Salesforce CLI Plugin

Regular readers of this blog will know that I’m a huge fan of the Salesforce Cli - I use it all the time and when I’m looking to do anything around developer tooling I always try to create a CLI plugin to host it. This was no different, although it presented a couple of challenges that I hadn’t taken on before:

  • Determining the API version that the org is at. If this is 46 or less (not sure how it would be possible to be on an earlier version of the API than Summer 19, but if Salesforce ever allow it I wanted to be covered) I need to deploy an OrgPreferences metadata type, 47 or higher I need to deploy an ApexSettings.
  • Metadata deployment from inside a plugin. 

After I scaffolded a new bbsfdx plugin and copied the commands/hello/org.ts example command to bb/test/parallel.ts, I set about solving them.

Determine the API Version

Whenever I’m doing anything new with a CLI plugin, my first port of call is the reference documentation for the Salesforce DX Core Library, and I wasn’t disappointed. I can find the API version for the org via the Connection.retrieveMaxAPIVersion function. Getting a Connection object is simple in a CLI plugin - just specify the requiresUsername property as true and a connection comes up with the rations via the org property supplied by the plugin. Getting the target API version is as simple as:

const conn = this.org.getConnection();
const apiVersion = await conn.retrieveMaxApiVersion();

So far so good.

Metadata Deployment

The simplest way to do this is to execute an existing Salesforce CLI deployment command, either force:source:deploy or force:mdapi:deploy, but I’m not a fan of this approach. Spawning a process to execute a Salesforce CLI command from within a CLI plugin seems clunky and inelegant, and it binds me to a command that I don’t control and which may be retired. I should be able replicate anything the standard commands do as I have access to the same underlying libraries.

This time the core library docs weren’t much help - there was a metadata property on the Connection object, but it didn’t have any detail, so time to look elsewhere. The Core library is built on Shinichi Tomita’s JSforce library, so I headed over to the docs for that. The API reference for the Metadata class was exactly what I was looking for, specifically the deploy method.

To deploy metadata, I need a zip file containing a manifest (package.xml) and the metadata files themselves in the directory structure mandated by the metadata API. In order to achieve this, I create a temporary directory and write the appropriate information depending on the API version (stored as a float value in the fltVersion variable):

let packageFile=join(targetDir, 'package.xml');
let packageContents='<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>\n' + 
    '<Package xmlns="http://soap.sforce.com/2006/04/metadata">\n' +
    ' <types>\n' + 
    '   <name>Settings</name>\n';

let fltVersion=parseFloat(apiVersion);

if (fltVersion>46) {
  packageContents+='    <members>Apex</members>\n' + 
                   '  </types>\n' +
                   '  <version>47.0</version>\n' + 
                   '</Package>';
  let apex=join(settingsDir, 'Apex.settings');
  writeFileSync(apex, 
        '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>\n' + 
        '<ApexSettings xmlns="http://soap.sforce.com/2006/04/metadata">\n' +
        '  <enableDisableParallelApexTesting>' + attr + '</enableDisableParallelApexTesting>\n' +
        '</ApexSettings>\n'
          );
}
else {
  packageContents+='    <members>OrgPreference</members>\n' + 
                   '  </types>\n' +
                   '  <version>46.0</version>\n' + 
                   '</Package>';
  let orgPref=join(settingsDir, 'OrgPreference.settings');
  writeFileSync(orgPref, 
    '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>\n' + 
    '<OrgPreferenceSettings xmlns="http://soap.sforce.com/2006/04/metadata">\n' + 
    '  <preferences>\n' + 
    '     <settingName>DisableParallelApexTesting</settingName>\n' + 
    '     <settingValue>' + attr + '</settingValue>\n' + 
    '  </preferences>\n' + 
    '</OrgPreferenceSettings>\n'
  );
}

writeFileSync(packageFile, packageContents);

Now I have my directory structure, I need to zip it. Searching on npm for zip packages returns a lot of results, so how to choose? I bounced around sites like stack exchange to see what others were using and eventually settled on compressing for a couple of reasons. First, it supports other compression files than zip, and I might need that flexibility in the future, and second it has a really simple API and is already promisified. After installing it into my plugin node modules and importing it into the parallel.ts file, generating a zip file is a couple of lines:

const zipFile=join(tmpDir, 'pkg.zip');
await compressing.zip.compressDir(targetDir, zipFile);

Getting there. Back to the docs for the metadata deploy function, it wants a zip stream rather than a filename, so I create one of those and add the code to deploy the metadata;

let zipStream=createReadStream(zipFile);
let result=await conn.metadata.deploy(zipStream, {});

The deploy function returns information about the deployment job, so I then enter a loop to poll for the status until it is finished:

let done=false;

let deployResult:DeployResult;
while (!done) {
  deployResult=await conn.metadata.checkDeployStatus(result.id);
  done=deployResult.done;
  if (!done) {
    this.ux.log(deployResult.status + messages.getMessage('sleeping'));
    await new Promise(sleep => setTimeout(sleep, 5000));
  }
}

and there it is - a plugin to enable or disable parallel Apex unit testing in under a couple of hundred lines of Typescript (and obviously a ton of existing node modules that allow me to stand on the shoulders of giants). 

Where’s the Code?

The full code for the plugin can be found in the Github repository at : https://github.com/keirbowden/bbsfdx 

The plugin itself is published on npm at : https://www.npmjs.com/package/bbsfdx - it has been tested on MacOS.

To install the plugin into your version of sfdx, execute:

sfdx plugins:install bbsfdx

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Monday, 26 August 2019

Salesforce Unlocked Packages and Supplementary Code

Salesforce Unlocked Packages and Supplementary Code

Introduction

Unlocked packages have been Generally Available since the Winter 19 release, so almost a year at the time of writing (August 2019). Unlike 1.0 packaging, source of truth is the version controlled source, rather than the contents of a packaging org. In fact the only time you need anything other than a scratch org is if you are namespacing your package, in which case you’ll have to create a developer edition to annex the namespace. In packaging 2.0 the contents are determined by the code on the filesystem where you run the packaging commands and the Salesforce DX project configuration file (sfdx-project.json).

I’m not going to go into the detail of creating and publishing packages - the Trailhead module does a pretty good job of introducing the concepts, and if you want a deep dive then check out Fabien Taillon’s blog post about how Texei moved to unlocked packages (they were called Developer Controlled Packages back then, but the principles apply even if the commands have changed slightly.

SalesforceDX Project File

To generate an unlocked package, you need to define where the code lives in your SalesforceDX project file. Here’s the key part of the file for an example package:

"packageDirectories": [
        {
            "path": "force-app",
            "default": true,
            "package": "bbexample",
            "versionName": "Version 1.0",
            "versionNumber": "1.0.0.NEXT"
        }
    ]

When I run the Salesforce CLI commands to generate a package version, everything under the

force-app

directory will be added to the package and uploaded. And this to my mind is a key difference between 1.0 and 2.0 packaging. In 1.0 I create the package from the packaging org and I get to choose which components get added. In 2.0 not so much - everything that I have under the packaging directory goes in.

Supplementary Code

When I create a package there is typically a bunch of supplementary code that helps the development and test process, but I don’t want going into the package. If the package contains Lightning Web Components for example, I might have a flexipage with a  number of instances of the component showing various aspects of the functionality, allowing me to see at a glance that everything is working correctly. If the package works against generic sobjects, I might have some sample sobjects to execute tests against that I don’t want ending up in the subscriber org. I want these items available in the scratch o rgs where I’m developiing the package, but I don’t want to release them. In 1.0 I could just avoid adding them to the package, but in 2.0 I need a way to separate them from the packaged code. I could keep it in a separate repo, but that adds complexity to the development setup, and it’s always best to keep things as simple as possible.

Multiple Package Directories

The SalesforceDX project file can define multiple package directories for a single project. When you execute force:source:push, the contents of all of these directories are pushed to the scratch org, so i can store my supplementary code in another subdirectory and have it included in the development process. 

"packageDirectories": [
        {
            "path": "force-app",
            "default": true,
            "package": "bbexample",
            "versionName": "Version 1.0",
            "versionNumber": "1.0.0.NEXT"
        },
        {
            "path": “supplementary",
            "default": false
        }
    ]

When I push to my scratch org, the contents of both the force-app and supplementary subdirectories will be deployed, but when I generate a package version, only the directory with the package attribute gets included. All of my supplementary code stays out of the package and by extension the subscriber org.

There is one wrinkle to this - if I make some changes in the scratch org, when I execute force:source:pull to retrieve them, they will go into the package directory with the default attribute set to true - in this case force-app. If I don’t want these items in the package, I have to manually move them over to the supplementary subdirectory. Not a huge amount of effort but easy to forget.

Bonus - Installations via the CLI

If you haven’t used packaging in conjunction with the CLI yet, there’s one killer feature. Anyone who has worked with packaging 1.0 knows the fun and games around uploading a package, receiving the email that it has been published, then trying and failing to install it as it turns out not to be available after all. There’s a perfectly sound explanation for this - the emails means it was successfully uploaded to wherever packages live, but after that it has to be propagated around Salesforce infrastructure world, and until it’s made it to the instance you are trying to install in, you’ll get failures.

When you install via the CLI force:package:install subcommand, you can specify two wait times. The --wait switch that, like many other commands, specifies how long to wait for the command (installation) to complete, and the —publishwait that specifies how long to wait for the package to become available to the subscriber org. I typically specify big numbers for both of these switches and then fire and forget the installation. It’s a far less stressful user experience!

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Saturday, 3 August 2019

Mentz - Where We Do What We Want!

Mentz - Where We Do What We Want!

Introduction

In the TV adaptation of David Peace’sRed Riding" quartert of books, there’s a great scene where a group of corrupt West Yorkshire policemen are toasting their success in moving towards controlled vice : "Off the streets and out the shop windows, under our wing and in our pocket”. The final line of the toast is “To the North - where we do what we want!”.

An unusual introduction to a tech blog post, I’m sure you’ll agree, but there is a link, however tennis. Doing what we want is the ethos behind the Mentz community initiative (and I’ve always loved that scene).

Moar Developers

One reason I started Mentz is that we need more developers in the Salesforce ecosystem, and by developers I mean people that can write code to solve complex business problems, understanding the fine details of the Apex language and the pros and cons to specific approaches. There are plenty of initiatives around to get started learning Apex, but not too many where a more experienced developer casts an eye over your code and gives you feedback, about things both good and bad, and pointing you to resources where you can learn more.

Tapping into Top Talent

Another reason I started Mentz is that I felt we were missing out on accessing a lot of top talent by insisting on commitments to a set number of weeks, or a fixed set of hours (duration and/or fixed start/end times). People at the very top of our profession often can’t make those type of commitments - they don’t have that many hours to spare, they can’t commit to specific hours every week, or they are subject to the whims of a project or customer which means that plans have to change at the last minute. These people are often running companies so they can’t step away when the pressure is on. The upshot of all this is that they may not be participating as much as they want to, because they don’t want to let others down. This is a crying shame, as these are often extremely experienced and talented developer who have a lot to share.

Fear of Commitment

When you join Mentz, as a mentor or mentee, you commit to absolutely nothing. Nada. Zip. When you register an interest, you’ll receive a chatter login and if you never sign in, that’s fine. Mentors don’t get assigned mentees, and vice versa. Mentors and mentees aren’t assigned to each other, it’s much more relaxed than that. If a mentee feels like taking a challenge, they do so and upload their solution to the challenge chatter group. If a mentor feels like looking at someone’s work and giving feedback, they pick any unanswered solution (there’s a lightning web component that shows these, because we don’t want mentors wasting their valuable time scouring chatter groups). There are no programs, timelines, schedules, courses. Just people who take challenges and people who review the solutions, doing what they want when they want to. I’m not the boss of you, and nor is anyone else.

Dipping a Toe

If you’ve been put off signing up for Mentz because you think you might disappoint your assigned mentor or mentees, don’t be. If you want to try the challenges without signing up you can, just take a look at the Github organisation - you won’t be able to submit your solution until you sign up for Mentz, but it will give you an idea of what is involved. If you want to sign up for Mentz, head over to the home page and follow the appropriate signup link. It might take a while for your request to be approved, as I also do what I want with regard to Mentz, but it will happen eventually.

And Finally

Please join me in raising a glass to Mentz - where we do what we want!

 

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Sunday, 23 June 2019

Mentz - The Mentee Workflow

Mentz - The Mentee Workflow

This post was updated on 03/08/2019 to remove the concept of separate mentoring and solutions chatter groups for a single challenge - this turned out to be confusing so we now have a single chatter group per challenge.

 

Introduction

Mentz has been around for a couple of weeks now and we’ve had our first solutions published from Jesse Twum-Boafo that received some great mentoring from Clara Perez. The one key thing that this tells me is that the process works - up until now it was only me that had been through this so I had no idea if it would work on anyone else’s setup. Now that I know it does I’ll start adding the rest of those people that have registered an interest in being a Mentor or Mentee, so if you have registered, look out for an email. 

I’m also getting rid of the ask that anybody registering be in the same timezone. I originally added this because I had some weird idea that people could only register for a single Mentz login, but I’ve since realised that this is bonkers - there’s no reason why someone can’t cut their teeth in my instance and then start/join another instance to leverage that experience. There’s also no reason why someone couldn’t have a login to every Mentz instance there is, although I’d be rather suprised if that was the case as Mentz is aimed at those that don’t necessarily have a huge amount of time. I guess we’ll see what happens.

Mentees

One area I don’t think I’ve done a fantastic job on so far is explaining the Mentee process, so a blog post dedicated to this seemed an appropriate next step.

Mentz Login

The first thing a Mentee needs is a login to a Mentz instance. Without one of these you are still free to work on the challenges, but you won’t be able to publish your solutions and receive mentoring. To sign up for a login, visit the Candidate Signup page. (I’ve also not been very consistent about what to call Mentees, but I hope to improve upon that!).

Git and Github

The Mentz challenges are hosted on Github and you need to use Git to create your local copy. If you haven’t used Git before, complete the Git and Github Basics Trailhead module.

Salesforce CLI Plugin

The next thing a Mentee needs to do is install the Mentz Salesforce CLI Plugin. This provides the solution publishing capability, ensuring that the solution is published to the correct chatter group in the appropriate format. 

If you don’t have the Salesforce CLI installed, head over to the Home Page and follow the instructions.

Once the CLI is in place, install the Mentz plugin by executing the following command:

sfdx plugins:install mentz

You can verify that the installation was successful by executing:

sfdx mentz -h

and confirming that you see the following output:

Mentz commands

USAGE
  $ sfdx mentz:COMMAND

COMMANDS
  mentz:publish publishes a solution, optionally asking for mentor feedback

Finally, authorise the Salesforce CLI to use your Mentz login:

sfdx force:auth:web:login -a MENTZ

when the browser opens, login using your Mentz instance credentials. The ‘-a MENTZ’ switch creates a shortcut alias of ‘MENTZ’ which you can use when submitting challenges - use anything you like here, but remember to replace any instances of ‘MENTZ’ in the examples below with your chosen alias.

And that’s it - you are now all set to take on a challenge.

Challenges

All Mentz challenges live at the mentzbb organisation on Github - each challenge has a brief description of what it covers:

Click into a challenge to see the underlying details and code. If you want to take a challenge you need to clone the repository and change some of the code. For the purposes of this post I’ll be using the SimpleConditional challenge as an example, but all challenges follow the same pattern.

First step is to clone the repository - there’s a helpful button on the challenge main page to steer you in the right direction

Click the ‘Clone or Download’ dropdown button and you can copy the URL you need to clone. 

I use Git from the command line, so from my home directory I execute:

$ git clone https://github.com/mentzbb/SimpleConditional1.git

which does its thing and produces the following output:

Cloning into 'SimpleConditional1'...
remote: Enumerating objects: 25, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (25/25), done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (17/17), done.
remote: Total 25 (delta 7), reused 19 (delta 4), pack-reused 0
Unpacking objects: 100% (25/25), done.

The contents of the repository are as follows:

Where:

  • CHALLENGE is a file that the Salesforce CLI plugin uses to determine which challenge this is.
  • force-app contains the source format version of the challenge.
  • README.md is the home page for the challenge repository on Github.
  • src contains the metadata format of the challenge.

Completing a Challenge

To complete a challenge, you build out the sample class so that all the tests in the associated test class pass.

In the case of the SimpleConditional1 challenge, the sample class to be built out is SimpleConditional1.cls, and the tests from SimpleConditional1_Test.cls need to pass to complete the challenge. It doesn’t matter which of the source or metadata format classes you build out, and you only need to build out one of them.

Each method in the sample class has a comment that explains what processing it needs to carry out, e.g.

public static Boolean IsPositive(Integer num)
{
    // change this method to return true when
    // the number is greater than zero and false otherwise
    return null;
}

In order to run the unit tests, you need to send the code to a Salesforce instance. There are several ways of doing this, detailed in the following sections.

Scratch Org Development

If you want to develop against a scratch org, you’ll work on the source format code. Edit the code under the force-app directory and send to the scratch org using the command:

sfdx force:source:push

You can execute the tests in the org using the developer console, or the Salesforce CLI command:

sfdx force:apex:test:run -t SimpleConditional1_Test

Once you are happy with your code, you can request mentoring using the command:

sfdx mentz:publish -c "<comment>" -u MENTZ -m
-f ./force-app/main/default/classes/SimpleConditional1.cls

Where ‘<comment>’ is anything you wish to say to draw the mentor’s attention too.

Developer Edition Development

If you want to work against a developer edition, you’ll work on the metadata format code. You will need to authenticate the Salesforce CLI against the developer edition instance using the same approach as you did to authenticate against Mentz - don’t forget to set up a different alias!

Edit the code under the src directory and deploy to the developer edition using the command:

sfdx force:mdapi:deploy -d src -w 10 -u <username>

Where <username> is the alias for this org.

You can execute the tests in the org using the developer console, or the Salesforce CLI command:

sfdx force:apex:test:run -t SimpleConditional1_Test -u <username>

If you don’t want to actually deploy the code anywhere, but just run the tests, you can add the -c switch and ask the deploy command to run the tests using the following command:

sfdx force:mdapi:deploy -d src -w 10 -u <username> -c
-t SimpleConditional1_Test

Once you are happy with your code, you can request mentoring using the command:

sfdx mentz:publish -c "<comment>" -u MENTZ -m
-f ./src/classes/SimpleConditional1.cls

Where ‘<comment>’ is anything you wish to say to draw the mentor’s attention too.

Using the Developer Console

If you don’t want to deploy the code, you can use the developer console as follows:

  1. Open the developer console
  2. Click the File menu and select New -> Apex Class
  3. Name the Apex class SimpleConditional1
  4. Copy the contents of the force-app/main/default/classes/SimpleConditional1.cls and paste this into the new apex class.
  5. Save the class
  6. Click the File menu and select New -> Apex Class
  7. Name the Apex class SimpleConditional1_Test
  8. Copy the contents of the force-app/main/default/classes/SimpleConditional1_Test.cls and paste this into the new apex class.
  9. Save the class
  10. Work on the SimpleConditional1 apex class as you usually would until all the tests in SimpleConditional1_Test pass.
  11. Copy the contents of the SimpleConditional1 class from the developer console and paste this into force-app/main/default/classes/SimpleConditional1.cls in your local filesystem.

You can then publish a solution, optionally requesting mentoring using the command:

sfdx mentz:publish -c "<comment>" -u MENTZ -m
-f ./force-app/main/default/classes/SimpleConditional1.cls

Where ‘<comment>’ is anything you wish to draw the mentor’s attention to and the ‘-m’ switch adds a comment requesting mentoring.

Discussion

Once you have published your solution, a Mentor will pick this up when one is available. As the idea behind Mentz is that people dip in when they have time, it may take a few days before anyone responds. It will be worth the wait.  The discussion takes place in a chatter group dedicated to the specific challenge, so you just login with your Mentz credentials and start talking.

Still in Beta

Mentz is still in beta, so things are likely to change, for example:

  • Now that Summer 19 is live and deployment from source format to non-scratch orgs is GA, the metadata format version of the challenges will be going away
  • Separate commands and chatter groups for mentoring and publishing solutions may be merged.

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Sunday, 26 May 2019

Introducing Mentz - Salesforce Developer Mentoring

Introducing Mentz - Developer Mentoring

This post was updated on 03/08/2019 to remove the concept of separate mentoring and solutions chatter groups for a single challenge - this turned out to be confusing so we now have a single chatter group per challenge.

Introduction

Mentz is something I've been putting together over the last few months that is now ready to take it's first faltering steps on jelly legs into the wider world. It will allow me and others like me to share our experience with the next generation of Apex developers.

 What Mentz Is Not

Mentz is not Trailhead-like, as it there's no learning. badges or characters associated with it. There's plenty of that around already., It's more about digging deeply into various aspects of (currently) the Apex programming language to really understand it, rather than a follow-along copy/paste type of exercise, or one that sends you down a specific route without explaining why. If you just want to be able to understand enough Apex to skim read a class and figure out roughly what it does, Mentz isn't for you.

Mentz also isn't a scheduled course of sessions, as that is really hard to scale, and again there are also a number of existing options out there.

What Mentz Is

Mentz allows me to dip in and help people when I have some time, whenever that is. It allows fledgeling developers to get feedback from experienced professionals without formal sessions.

 The key drivers for me are:

  • I want to encourage and assist more people to become Salesforce developers
  • I can't commit to a set number of hours a week
  • I can’t commit to being available at specific times

The first round of exercises are aimed at beginners, as they take a bit of time to write and I'm only one man. Hopefully others will get involved and help with this. A Mentz challenge currently consists of a stub class and a bunch of associated unit tests. You clone a repository, build out the stubbed methods and get
the tests to pass.

So far, so good, but nothing ground breaking here.

The interesting aspect is what happens next - having finished your class and passed the unit tests, using a Salesforce CLI plugin, you can then upload it to a Salesforce org and request mentoring. The class and your request then get posted to a chatter group specific to the challenge, and some point (hopefully not too much) later a mentor claims it. The mentor then takes a look at your class and comes back with some useful advice which can evolve into a discussion.

The benefits of this approach are:

  • There are always going to be multiple ways to solve the same problem. Receiving guidance from a seasoned developer will help you understand the pros and cons of your approach, and what the other options are.
  • As it's chatter, mentors and mentees can interact with each other wherever they are and on any supported device.
  • It will be relatively straightforward to scale if there is interest - it's just a case of adding chatter users
  • I can run it in a Developer Edition, as chatter posts don't consume storage and the files are very small. Obviously when my Ohana Edition idea becomes reality I'll run it out of one of those and make things a bit slicker, but for now this works fine.

What Happens Next

In the first instance I'm looking for a small number of volunteers to be mentors and mentees. If you want to mentor, you must be PD2 certified or have a solid and public track record of Salesforce development expertise. If you want to be a mentee then ideally you’ll just have started to learn to program and have chosen Apex. That will change over time as the challenges get more complex, but for now they would be trivial for an experienced developer to solve.

It will also help if you are a Mac user - I use this exclusively so I haven't tested the Salesforce CLI extension outside of MacOS. Although if you are on another OS and have experience of Salesforce CLI plugins, feel free to sign up but expect to be asked to test/fix the extension.

An additional requirement is that I'd like these people to be in much the same timezone as me if possible. It make sense to me that mentees in other timezones receive mentoring from developers reasonably local to them. If things do take off, I don’t want to handle everything out of a single org myself, as that will limit scale. Instead I'll make the code available as a package so that others can host their own instance of Mentz, in their own org. We'll all use a common set of challenges, but the actual mentoring will be distributed.

If you are interested in getting involved, then head over to the Mentz home page and follow the appropriate signup link. As I mentioned earlier, I'm looking for a small amount of volunteers to start with, so if you don't get accepted right away, don't fret, you’ll be on the list!

 

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Custom Notifications in Summer 19 Part 2 - Apex

Custom Notifications in Summer 19 Part 2 - Apex

Introduction

In Part 1 of this post I covered sending a custom notification from Process Builder when a record was created or edited with a specific attribute - a High Priority case to be exact. In this post I’ll cover sending a custom notification from Apex, although the notification is still actually sent from a Process Builder process, the logic around whether to send it lives in Apex.

To Code or Not to Code

The first question to ask yourself in these situations is do I actually need to go the Apex route. A process can send a notification when a record is created or edited to match a specific set of criteria, which coves a multitude of use cases. A couple of reasons why you might consider Apex are:

  • You want to send notifications for a large number of sObject typed and don’t want to create hundreds of processes. Not the greatest reason, but it would keep the process count down and thus remove some of the burden on your admins.
  • Separation of duties - if you are a developer and need a mechanism to send a notification without creating a new process, as you aren’t allowed to and the admins have a backlog of work. Again, not a great reason, as the governance is driving the solution, but this kind of thing does happen so we shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t.
  • When you want to send a notification only in specific circumstances, not every single time a record is created or edited. This is the most appropriate reason in my opinion - while you could create attributes to represent the circumstances in the record, you would be polluting your actual data with metadata to trigger functionality.

Platform Events

A process can be started in response to a number of things happening, but the one that can be used from Apex that isn’t changing a record is in response to a Platform Event. For the purposes of this post I’m reusing the Demo Event that I created for my Lightning Emp API in Winter 19 blog post.

Message sObject

In Part 1 of this post I mentioned in passing that the mechanism for generating notifications is better but not perfect, and this is a big reason why. As a process cannot use the payload of a platform event in decisions or actions, only as part of the entry criteria and choosing the record to use, I have to burn a custom object to hold details of the messages that I want to send. Not a huge deal, but it does add a certain clunkiness to the solution.

Custom Notification and Process Builder

As in Part 1, I need a custom notification type, Message in this case, to dovetail with the sObject name. I can then create a process builder that is started when a platform event is received and accesses a Message sObject whose ID is the platform event payload:

The notify action is trigged in all cases, as the logic is applied by Apex before the platform event is published, and sends a notification based on the contents of the associated Message record:

The Apex Code

Again from my my Lightning Emp API in Winter 19 post, I’m using the PlatformEventsDemo class to send the platform event after creating the Message record with details of the notification message and the user I want to send it to (there’s a link to the full solution at the end of this post):

Message__c message=new Message__c(Name='Demo Message',
                                  Message__c='Hello Bob!', 
                                  User__c='005B00000015moV');
insert message;
PlatformEventsDemo.PublishDemoEvent(message.Id);

Executing this code causes the red bell to display on the desktop and mobile, and the notification contains the message I sent:

Sharing is Caring

You can find the objects/events/code for this and the Part 1 post in my Summer 19 Samples repository.

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