Sprint 3 Retrospective: Offline Services Development Stage

We started off this sprint with two primary objectives in mind. Soon I will discuss a bit about our sub-tasks to complement these objectives; i.e. Collaboration, research, complete tutorials, research some more, rinse and repeat…

But first, I want to elaborate on our primary objectives:
1.  Refactor online-tracker component to include a service.
2. 
Begin the implementation of an offline capture data service.

Our first goal, refactoring the online tracker component, proved to be a lot more simplistic than the second. For the most part, it only took moving around code from one file to another. The end result is the online-tracker-component now calls functions from the new online-tracker-service to determine whether there is an internet connection. Though a simple refactoring modification, this change should be beneficial to all teams in the near future. We can now use our new online tracker service to call functions to check for connectivity status. Since all teams are working towards an offline module for AMRS, we feel this is essential for any of us to go forward.

The good news is the AMPATH development team will likely accept the pull request for our online-tracker modification once we make the tests pass. I should get this done by the end of this weekend, if not later today. In the meantime, if anyone wants to checkout our refactored online tracker implementation, the commit is available on my forked repository here.

Implementing an offline data capture service ultimately proved to be our greatest endeavor. We chose to approach this situation by first evaluating various techniques to achieve an offline capturing ability. PouchDB appeared to be the most promising tool from the start. Our reasoning was that other teams seem to anticipate using PouchDB themselves. We thought it would be best to do the same so our future implementations would be compatible with other teams.

I initially hit a roadblock understanding the functionality of PouchDB. It appeared that PouchDB tutorials specifically aimed at Angular implementation were either scarce or low quality. Not only that, the AMPATH app seemed to fail every time we would try to import PouchDB directly into it. But other teams report to have had success using PouchDB’s TypeScript installation instructions. I will attempt this installation within the next couple of days, and will ask for feedback if I have any problems.

Fortunately through collaboration, my teammates and others were able to bring me up to speed. Originally I tried to follow the Getting Started guide on PouchDB, but the tutorial seemed not to be geared towards Angular implementation at all. But the Guides page is actually very helpful. The API page is also a great resource for an overview of PouchDB capabilities and syntax.

I had a chance to go through all the mini-chapters last night; PouchDB is making a lot more sense to me now. I will attempt to implement synchronization measures between PouchDB and AMPATH’s OpenMRS data during Spring Break.

It is worth noting that we began to look for alternatives to PouchDB. I actually found an informative tutorial regarding LocalStorage. This seems to be a JavaScript functionality that allows storage of data directly into the user’s browser. With the help of a tutorial geared towards the subject, I put together a simple Angular application implementing the LocalStorage functionality:

captured-objects-todo-app-sm

It’s a simple little ‘breakable toy’ I’ve conjured up with the help of following the aforementioned tutorial. I put it up on GitHub if anyone is interested in looking at it. Ultimately, it looks like we’re going to move forward with PouchDB rather than using LocalStorage. PouchDB just seems like the logical choice; it appears very powerful, flexible and stable, especially in comparison to other alternatives such as LocalStorage. But it was fun experimenting with the functionality. And honestly, exploring all these various Angular capabilities is making me a lot more comfortable working with the framework. It seems like everything I’ve researched thus far regarding Angular has helped me understand the AMPATH application more, either indirectly or directly. So even though we likely won’t be moving forward with LocalStorage implementation, it’s great to know the functionality is there if we ever need it in the future! Knowledge is power.

Overall, this sprint was quite eventful. Our collaboration as a team went well; communication is probably the best it’s ever been. We also had some cross-team communication, and all teams seem to be making great progress in enabling offline capabilities for the AMPATH application.

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