A blog and website by Peter Bengtsson

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The technology behind You Should Watch

You Should Watch, React, Firebase, JavaScript

I recently launched You Should Watch which is a mobile-friendly web app to have a to-watch list of movies and TV shows as well being able to quickly share the links if you want someone to "you should watch" it.

I'll be honest, much of the motivation of building that web app was to try a couple of newish technologies that I wanted to either improve on or just try for the first time. These are the interesting tech pillars that made it possible to launch this web app in what was maybe 20-30 hours of total time.

All the code for You Should Watch is here:

The Movie Database API

The cornerstone that made this app possible in the first place. The API is free for developers who don't intend to earn revenue on whatever project they build with it. More details in their FAQ.

The search functionality is important. The way it works is that you can do a "multisearch" which means it finds movies, TV shows, or people. Then, when you have each search result's id and media_type you can fetch a lot more information specifically. For example, that's how the page for a person displays things differently than the page for a movie.

Next.js and the new App dir

In Next.js 13 you have a choice between regular pages directory or an app directory where every page (which becomes a URL) has to be called page.tsx.

No judgment here. It was a bit cryptic to rewrap my brain on how this works. In particular, the head.tsx is now different from the page.tsx and since both, in server-side rendering, need some async data I have to duplicate the await getMediaData() instead of being able to fetch it once and share with drop-drilling or context.

Vercel deployment

Wow! This was the most pleasant experience I've experienced in years. So polished and so much "just works". You sign in, with your GitHub auth, click to select the GitHub repo (that has a next.config.js and package.json etc) and you're done. That's it! Now, not only does every merged PR automatically (and fast!) get deployed, but you also get a preview deployment for every PR (which I didn't use).

I'm still using the free hobby tier but god forbid this app gets serious traffic, I'd just bump it up to $20/month which is cheap. Besides, the app is almost entirely CDN cacheable so only the search XHR backend would linearly increase its load with traffic I think.

Well done Vercel!

Playwright and VS Code

Not the first time I used Playwright but it was nice to return and start afresh. It definitely has improved in developer experience.

Previously I used npx and the terminal to run tests, but this time I tried "Playwright Test for VSCode" which was just fantastic! There are some slightly annoying things in that I had to use the mouse cursor more than I'd hoped, but it genuinely helped me be productive. Playwright also has the ability to generate JS code based on me clicking around in a temporary incognito browser window. You do a couple of things in the browser then paste in the generated source code into tests/basics.spec.ts and do some manual tidying up. To run the debugger like that, one simply types pnpm dlx playwright codegen


It seems hip and a lot of people seem to recommend it. Kinda like yarn was hip and often recommended over npm (me included!).

Sure it works and it installs things fast but is it noticeable? Not really. Perhaps it's 4 seconds when it would have been 5 seconds with npm. Apparently pnpm does clever symlinking to avoid a disk-heavy node_modules/ but does it really matter ...much?
It's still large:

 du -sh node_modules
468M    node_modules

A disadvantage with pnpm is that GitHub Dependabot currently doesn't support it :(
An advantage with pnpm is that pnpm up -i --latest is great interactive CLI which works like yarn upgrade-interactive --latest


just is like make but written in Rust. Now I have a justfile in the root of the repo and can type shortcut commands like just dev or just emu[TAB] (to tab autocomplete).

In hindsight, my justfile ended up being just a list of pnpm run ... commands but the idea is that just would be for all and any command under one roof.

End of the day, it becomes a nifty little file of "recipes" of useful commands and you can easily string them together. For example just lint is the combination of typing pnpm run prettier:check and pnpm run tsc and pnpm run lint.


A gorgeously simple looking pure-CSS framework. Yes, it's very limited in components and I don't know how well it "tree shakes" but it's so small and so neat that it had everything I needed.

My favorite React component library is Mantine but I definitely love the piece of mind that Pico.css is just CSS so you're not A) stuck with React forever, and B) not unnecessary JS code that slows things down.


Good old Firebase. The bestest and easiest way to get a reliable and realtime database that is dirt cheap, simple, and has great documentation. I do regret not trying Supabase but I knew that getting the OAuth stuff to work with Google on a custom domain would be tricky so I stayed with Firebase.


A port of Paul Irish's Lite YouTube Embed which makes it easy to display YouTube thumbnails in a web performant way. All you have to do is:

import LiteYouTubeEmbed from "react-lite-youtube-embed";

   title={youtubeVideo.title} />

In conclusion

It's amazing how much time these tools saved compared to just years ago. I could build a fully working side-project with automation and high quality entirely thanks to great open source or well-tuned proprietary components, in just about one day if you sum up the hours.

Please post a comment if you have thoughts or questions.

How to change the current query string URL in NextJS v13 with next/navigation

React, JavaScript

At the time of writing, I don't know if this is the optimal way, but after some trial and error, I got it working.

This example demonstrates a hook that gives you the current value of the ?view=... (or a default) and a function you can call to change it so that ?view=before becomes ?view=after.

In NextJS v13 with the pages directory:

import { useRouter } from "next/router";

export function useNamesView() {
    const KEY = "view";
    const DEFAULT_NAMES_VIEW = "buttons";
    const router = useRouter();

    let namesView: Options = DEFAULT_NAMES_VIEW;
    const raw = router.query[KEY];
    const value = Array.isArray(raw) ? raw[0] : raw;
    if (value === "buttons" || value === "table") {
        namesView = value;

    function setNamesView(value: Options) {
        const [asPathRoot, asPathQuery = ""] = router.asPath.split("?");
        const params = new URLSearchParams(asPathQuery);
        params.set(KEY, value);
        const asPath = `${asPathRoot}?${params.toString()}`;
        router.replace(asPath, asPath, { shallow: true });

    return { namesView, setNamesView };

In NextJS v13 with the app directory.

import { useRouter, useSearchParams, usePathname } from "next/navigation";

type Options = "buttons" | "table";

export function useNamesView() {
    const KEY = "view";
    const DEFAULT_NAMES_VIEW = "buttons";
    const router = useRouter();
    const searchParams = useSearchParams();
    const pathname = usePathname();

    let namesView: Options = DEFAULT_NAMES_VIEW;
    const value = searchParams.get(KEY);
    if (value === "buttons" || value === "table") {
        namesView = value;

    function setNamesView(value: Options) {
        const params = new URLSearchParams(searchParams);
        params.set(KEY, value);

    return { namesView, setNamesView };

The trick is that you only want to change 1 query string value and respect whatever was there before. So if the existing URL was /page?foo=bar and you want that to become /page?foo=bar&and=also you have to consume the existing query string and you do that with:

const searchParams = useSearchParams();
const params = new URLSearchParams(searchParams);
params.set('and', 'also')

Please post a comment if you have thoughts or questions.

How much faster is Cheerio at parsing depending on xmlMode?

Node, JavaScript

Cheerio is a fantastic Node library for parsing HTML and then being able to manipulate and serialize it. But you can also just use it for parsing HTML and plucking out what you need. We use that to prepare the text that goes into our search index for our site. It basically works like this:

const body = await getBody('http://localhost:4002' + eachPage.path)
const $ = cheerio.load(body)
const title = $('h1').text()
const intro = $('p.intro').text()

But it hit me, can we speed that up? cheerio actually ships with two different parsers:

  1. parse5
  2. htmlparser2

One is faster and one is more strict.
But I wanted to see this in a real-world example.

So I made two runs where I used:

const $ = cheerio.load(body)

in one run, and:

const $ = cheerio.load(body, { xmlMode: true })

in another.

After having parsed 1,635 pages of HTML of various sizes the results are:

FILE: load.txt
MEAN:   13.19457640586797
MEDIAN: 10.5975

FILE: load-xmlmode.txt
MEAN:   3.9020372860635697
MEDIAN: 3.1020000000000003

So, using {xmlMode:true} leads to roughly a 3x speedup.

I think it pretty much confirms the original benchmark, but now I know based on a real application.

Please post a comment if you have thoughts or questions.

First impressions trying out Rome to format/lint my TypeScript and JavaScript

Node, JavaScript

Rome is a new contender to compete with Prettier and eslint, combined. It's fast and its suggestions are much easier to understand.

I have a project that uses .js, .ts, and .tsx files. At first, I thought, I'd just use rome to do formatting but the linter part was feeling nice as I was experimenting so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone.

Things that worked well

It is fast

My little project only has 28 files, but time rome check lib scripts components *.ts consistently takes 0.08 seconds.

The CLI looks great

You get this nice prompt after running npx rome init the first time:

rome init

Suggestions just look great

Easy to understand and needs no explanation because the suggested fix tells a story that means it's immediately easy to understand what the warning is trying to say.


It is smaller

If I run npx create-next-app@latest, say yes to Eslint, and then run npm I -D prettier, the node_modules becomes 275.3 MiB.
Whereas if I run npx create-next-app@latest, say no to Eslint, and then run npm I -D rome, the node_modules becomes 200.4 MiB.

Editing the rome.json's JSON schema works in VS Code

I don't know how this magically worked, but I'm guessing it just does when you install the Rome VS Code extension. Neat with autocomplete!

editing the rome.json file

Things that didn't work so well

Almost all things that I'm going to "complain" about is down to usability. I might look back at this in a year (or tomorrow!) and laugh at myself for being dim, but it nevertheless was part of my experience so it's worth pointing out.

Lint, check, or format?

It's confusing what is what. If lint means checking without modifying, what is check then? I'm guessing rome format means run the lint but with permission to edit my files.

What is rome format compared to rome check --apply then??

I guess rome check --apply doesn't just complain but actually applies the things it spots. So what is rome check --apply-suggested?? (if you're reading this and feel eager to educate me with a comment, please do, but I'm trying to point out that it's not user-friendly)

How do I specify wildcards?

Unfortunately, in this project, not all files are in one single directory (e.g. rome check src/ is not an option). How do I specify a wildcard expression?

▶ rome check *.ts
Checked 3 files in 942µs

Cool, but how do I do all .ts files throughout the project?

▶ rome check "**/*.ts"
**/*.ts internalError/io ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━

  ✖ No such file or directory (os error 2)

Checked 0 files in 66µs

Clearly, it's not this:

▶ rome check **/*.ts


The number of diagnostics exceeds the number allowed by Rome.
Diagnostics not shown: 1018.
Checked 2534 files in 1387ms
Skipped 1 files
Error: errors where emitted while running checks

...because bash will include all the files from node_modules/**/*.ts.

In the end, I ended up with this (in my package.json):

"scripts": {
    "code:lint": "rome check lib scripts components *.ts",

There's no documentation about how to ignore certain rules

Yes, I can contribute this back to the documentation, but today's not the day to do that.

It took me a long time to find out how to disable certain rules (in the rome.json file) and finally I landed on this:

  "linter": {
    "enabled": true,
    "rules": {
      "recommended": true,
      "style": {
        "recommended": true,
        "noImplicitBoolean": "off"
      "a11y": {
        "useKeyWithClickEvents": "off",
        "useValidAnchor": "warn"

Much better than having to write inline code comments with the source files themselves.

However, it's still not clear to me what "recommended": true means. Is it shorthand for listing all the default rules all set to true? If I remove that, are no rules activated?

The rome.json file is JSON

JSON is cool for many things, but writing comments is not one of them.

For example, I don't know what would be better, Yaml or Toml, but it would be nice to write something like:

"a11y": {
    # Disabled because of issue #1234
    # Consider putting this back in December after the refactor launch
    "useKeyWithClickEvents": "off",

Nextjs and rome needs to talk

When create-react-app first came onto the scene, the coolest thing was the zero-config webpack. But, if you remember, it also came with a really nice zero-config eslint configuration for React apps. It would even print warnings when the dev server was running. Now it's many years later and good linting config is something you depend/rely on in a framework. Like it or not, there are specific things in Nextjs that is exclusive to that framework. It's obviously not an easy people-problem to solve but it would be nice if Nextjs and rome could be best friends so you get all the good linting ideas from the code Nextjs framework but all done using rome instead.

Please post a comment if you have thoughts or questions.

Spot the JavaScript bug with recursion and incrementing


What will this print?

function doSomething(iterations = 0) {
  if (iterations < 10) {
    console.log("Let's do this again!")

The answer is it will print

Let's do this again!
Let's do this again!
Let's do this again!
Let's do this again!
Let's do this again!
Let's do this again!
Let's do this again!
Let's do this again!

The bug is the use of a "postfix increment" which is a bug I had in some production code (almost, it never shipped).

The solution is simple:

     console.log("Let's do this again!")
-    doSomething(iterations++)
+    doSomething(++iterations)    

That's called "prefix increment" which means it not only changes the variable but returns what the value became rather than what it was before increment.

The beautiful solution is actually the simplest solution:

     console.log("Let's do this again!")
-    doSomething(iterations++)
+    doSomething(iterations + 1)    

Now, you don't even mutate the value of the iterations variable but create a new one for the recursion call.

All in all, pretty simple mistake but it can easily happen. Particular if you feel inclined to look cool by using the spiffy ++ shorthand because it looks neater or something.

Please post a comment if you have thoughts or questions.

Programmatically render a NextJS page without a server in Node

Web development, Node, JavaScript

If you use getServerSideProps() in Next you can render a page by visiting it. E.g. GET http://localhost:3000/mypages/page1
Or if you use getStaticProps() with getStaticPaths(), you can use npm run build to generate the HTML file (e.g. .next/server/pages directory).
But what if you don't want to start a server. What if you have a particular page/URL in mind that you want to generate but without starting a server and sending an HTTP GET request to it? This blog post shows a way to do this with a plain Node script.

Here's a solution to programmatically render a page:

#!/usr/bin/env node

import http from "http";

import next from "next";

async function main(uris) {
  const nextApp = next({});
  const nextHandleRequest = nextApp.getRequestHandler();
  await nextApp.prepare();

  const htmls = Object.fromEntries(
    await Promise.all( => {
        try {
          // If it's a fully qualified URL, make it its pathname
          uri = new URL(uri).pathname;
        } catch {}
        return renderPage(nextHandleRequest, uri);

async function renderPage(handler, url) {
  const req = new http.IncomingMessage(null);
  const res = new http.ServerResponse(req);
  req.method = "GET";
  req.url = url;
  req.path = url;
  req.cookies = {};
  req.headers = {};
  await handler(req, res);
  if (res.statusCode !== 200) {
    throw new Error(`${res.statusCode} on rendering ${req.url}`);
  for (const { data } of res.outputData) {
    const [, body] = data.split("\r\n\r\n");
    if (body) return [url, body];
  throw new Error("No output data has a body");

main(process.argv.slice(2)).catch((err) => {

To demonstrate I created this sample repo:

Note, that you need to run npm run build first so Next can have all the static assets ready.

In conclusion

The alternative, in automation, would be run something like this:

▶ npm run build && npm run start &
▶ sleep 5  # give the server a chance to start
▶ xh http://localhost:3000/aboutus
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Connection: keep-alive
Content-Encoding: gzip
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
Date: Tue, 06 Sep 2022 12:23:42 GMT
Etag: "m8ff9sdduo1hk"
Keep-Alive: timeout=5
Transfer-Encoding: chunked
Vary: Accept-Encoding
X-Powered-By: Next.js

<!DOCTYPE html><html><head><meta charSet="utf-8"/><meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width"/><title>About Us page</title><meta name="description" content="We do things. I hope."/><link rel="icon" href="/favicon.ico"/><meta name="next-head-count" content="5"/><link rel="preload" href="/_next/static/css/ab44ce7add5c3d11.css" as="style"/><link rel="stylesheet" href="/_next/static/css/ab44ce7add5c3d11.css" data-n-g=""/><link rel="preload" href="/_next/static/css/ae0e3e027412e072.css" as="style"/><link rel="stylesheet" href="/_next/static/css/ae0e3e027412e072.css" data-n-p=""/><noscript data-n-css=""></noscript><script defer="" nomodule="" src="/_next/static/chunks/polyfills-c67a75d1b6f99dc8.js"></script><script src="/_next/static/chunks/webpack-7ee66019f7f6d30f.js" defer=""></script><script src="/_next/static/chunks/framework-db825bd0b4ae01ef.js" defer=""></script><script src="/_next/static/chunks/main-3123a443c688934f.js" defer=""></script><script src="/_next/static/chunks/pages/_app-deb173bd80cbaa92.js" defer=""></script><script src="/_next/static/chunks/996-f1475101e84cf548.js" defer=""></script><script src="/_next/static/chunks/pages/aboutus-41b1f037d974ef60.js" defer=""></script><script src="/_next/static/REJUWXI26y-lp9JVmzJB5/_buildManifest.js" defer=""></script><script src="/_next/static/REJUWXI26y-lp9JVmzJB5/_ssgManifest.js" defer=""></script></head><body><div id="__next"><div class="Home_container__bCOhY"><main class="Home_main__nLjiQ"><h1 class="Home_title__T09hD">About Use page</h1><p class="Home_description__41Owk"><a href="/">Go to the <b>Home</b> page</a></p></main><footer class="Home_footer____T7K"><a href="/">Home page</a></footer></div></div><script id="__NEXT_DATA__" type="application/json">{"props":{"pageProps":{}},"page":"/aboutus","query":{},"buildId":"REJUWXI26y-lp9JVmzJB5","nextExport":true,"autoExport":true,"isFallback":false,"scriptLoader":[]}</script></body></html>

There are probably many great ideas that this can be used for. At work we use getServerSideProps() and we have too many pages to build them all statically. We need a solution like this to do custom analysis of the rendered HTML to check for broken links by analyzing every generated <a href> tag.

Please post a comment if you have thoughts or questions.