The technology behind You Should Watch

January 28, 2023
0 comments 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.

Announcing: You Should Watch

January 27, 2023
3 comments You Should Watch

tl;dr You Should Watch is a mobile-friendly web app for remembering and sharing movies and TV shows you should watch. Like a to-do list to open when you finally sit down with the remote in your hand.

I built this in the holidays in some spare afternoons and evenings around the 2022 new years. The idea wasn't new in my head because it's an actual itch I've often had: what on earth should I watch now tonight?! Oftentimes you read or hear about great movies or TV shows but a lot of those memories are long gone by the time the kids have been put to sleep and you have control of the remote.

It's not rocket science. It's a neat little app that works great on your phone browser but also works as a website on your computer. You don't have to sign in but if you do, your list outlives the memory of your device. I.e. your selections get saved in the cloud and you can pick back up whenever you're on a different device. If you do decide to sign in, it currently uses Google for that. Your list is anonymized and even I, the owner of the database, can't tell which movies and TV shows you select.

If you do sign in to save your list, every time you check a movie or TV show off it goes into your archive. That can be useful for your next dinner party or date or cookout when you're scrambling to answer "Seen any good shows recently?".

One feature that I've personally enjoyed is the list of recommendations that each TV show or movie has. It's not a perfect list but it's fun and useful. Suppose you can't even think of what to watch and just want inspiration, start off by finding a movie like (but don't want to watch right now), then click on it and scroll down to the "Recommendations". Even if your next movie or TV show isn't on that list, perhaps clicking on something similar will take you to the next page where the right inspiration might be found. Try it.

It's free and will always be free. It was fun to build and thankfully free to run so it won't go away. I hope you enjoy it and get value from it. Please please share your thoughts and constructive criticism.

Try it on

Some pictures

Your Watch list (mobile)

home page (mobile)

Search results


Navigating by "Recommendations"

Related information

"Add to Home Screen" on iOS Safari

Add to Home Screen

First impressions of Meilisearch and how it compares to Elasticsearch

January 26, 2023
1 comment Elasticsearch

tl;dr Meilisearch is like Elasticsearch but simpler. Decent parity in functionality and performance, but definitely intriguing if you don't already know Elasticsearch or want to run with fewer resources.

Meilisearch is a full-text search solution that you can use to power a really good site-search solution. My personal blog uses Elasticsearch but I wanted to experiment with switching to Meilisearch. This blog post is about some impressions based on this experiment.

Here are some of my observations:

Memory usage

When I start Elasticsearch and index all my blog posts and all comments, on the Activity Monitor that java process uses 1.3GB. The meilisearch process peaks at 290MB.

Indexing performance

In my case, it doesn't matter. When you constantly update the index (Elasticsearch) the time is unimportantly small when the dataset is small.
If you do a mass-reindexing you do that, in Elasticsearch, by creating a new index with a timestamp (e.g. blogpost-20230126134512) and then swap the alias with which you send your search queries. In that strategy, it doesn't matter how many seconds it takes because nobody's waiting for it to finish fast.

At the moment I don't even know how to append more to a Meilisearch index. I only know how to index everything all at once.

Note with the Elasticseach SDK (in Python) you can pass a generator to the parallel_bulk helper function meaning you can kinda "stream" in all the documents without loading them all into memory. I.e. I can't do queued = index.add_documents(get_docs_iterator()) so I have to instead do queued = index.add_documents(list(get_docs_iterator())).

Complex relevancy is easier, but more magic

Ranking search results by "matchness" is easy. I.e. when the search terms are "more present" it's likely to be more relevant. Elasticsearch sorts by _score by default. So does Meilisearch. In reality, you want to control that more. In my use case, I want the ranking to be a function of "matchness" and popularity (which is a number I derive from pageview metrics). In Elasticsearch you have the power writing a "Function score query" which gives you lots of flexibility to control exactly how. E.g. multiply or sum or an average or combination where you write a log function.

With Meilisearch you can only control the sort order of relevancy "algorithms". An example is:

+ "popularity:desc",

I can't exactly phrase myself how I'd exactly prefer it but it feels a bit like magic. The lack of functionality also speaks to a strength of Meilisearch in that it's easy to get something to incorporate it.

Highlighting is easy

What I want is that the title to be highlighted. In full. For the text I'd rather have snippets that focus where the highlights appear within the text. This was a breeze! Here's how you do it:

res = client.index("blogitems").search(
        "attributesToHighlight": ["title", "text"],
        "highlightPreTag": "<mark>",
        "highlightPostTag": "</mark>",
        "attributesToCrop": ["text"],
        "cropLength": 30,

Relevancy in between fields is too basic

In Elasticsearch you use a boost multiplier to specify, that the title is more important than the body. For example:

from elasticsearch_dsl import Q


title_match = Q("match", title={"query": word, "boost": 3.5}) 
body_match = Q("match", body={"query": word, "boost": 1.0})
match = title_match | body_match

That means you can express that the title is 3.5 times more important than the match on body.

With Meilisearch you have no such functionality (as far as I can see) but you can say that title > body and the way you do that is a bit odd. It's the order with which you define the searchable fields.

Search performance

My dataset is small. About 2,000 documents. I wasn't able to measure a significant difference. In both my search query implementations the time it takes is between 10 and 30 milliseconds. Both are fast enough. The time that matters is the networking overheads. The networking to and fro the database probably matters more but if the network is localhost the search time is irrelevant.

In conclusion

When you're already comfortable and versed in the more powerful beast that is Elasticsearch, it's less relevant. However, Meilisearch feels like a nicer experience in its simplicity if you're confronted with a choice on your next full-text search project.

You could say that in terms of core search functionality, to me, Meilisearch sits between PostgreSQL's full-text and Elasticsearch.

What often matters more, if the project is a team effort that involves many people that might outlast you, the operational side matters more. I.e. do you install it yourself or do you use a proprietary cloud provider (which both Elastic and Meilisearch Cloud are) then that's what needs to be more carefully considered? It's good to know though that Meilisearch has most of the core functionality, including great documentation, to build something really great. - a script to compare with the output of pip list --outdated

December 22, 2022
0 comments Python

Simply by posting this, there's a big chance you'll say "Hey! Didn't you know there's already a well-known script that does this? Better." Or you'll say "Hey! That'll save me hundreds of seconds per year!"

The problem

Suppose you have a file that is used, by pip-compile to generate the requirements.txt that you actually install in your Dockerfile or whatever server deployment. The is meant to be the human-readable file and the requirements.txt is for the computers. You manually edit the version numbers in the and then run pip-compile --generate-hashes to generate a new requirements.txt. But the "first-class" packages in the aren't the only packages that get installed. For example:

▶ cat | rg '==' | wc -l

▶ cat requirements.txt | rg '==' | wc -l

In other words, in this particular example, there are 76 "second-class" packages that get installed. There might actually be more stuff installed that you didn't describe. That's why pip list | wc -l can be even higher. For example, you might have locally and manually done pip install ipython for a nicer interactive prompt.

The solution

The command pip list --outdated will list packages based on the requirements.txt not the To mitigate that, I wrote a quick Python CLI script that combines the output of pip list --outdated with the packages mentioned in

#!/usr/bin/env python

import subprocess

def main(*args):
    if not args:
        requirements_in = ""
        requirements_in = args[0]
    required = {}
    with open(requirements_in) as f:
        for line in f:
            if "==" in line:
                package, version = line.strip().split("==")
                package = package.split("[")[0]
                required[package] = version

    res =["pip", "list", "--outdated"], capture_output=True)
    if res.returncode:
        raise Exception(res.stderr)

    lines = res.stdout.decode("utf-8").splitlines()
    relevant = [line for line in lines if line.split()[0] in required]

    longest_package_name = max([len(x.split()[0]) for x in relevant]) if relevant else 0

    for line in relevant:
        p, installed, possible, *_ = line.split()
        if p in required:
                p.ljust(longest_package_name + 2),

if __name__ == "__main__":
    import sys



To install this, you can just download the script and run it in any directory that contains a file.

Or you can install it like this:

curl -L > ~/bin/
chmod +x ~/bin/

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

December 9, 2022
3 comments 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')

How much faster is Cheerio at parsing depending on xmlMode?

December 5, 2022
0 comments 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.