Mailcoach's (lack of) JavaScript stack

Yee-haw, we released Mailcoach! Mailcoach is a self-hosted newsletter solution. My contributions were on the JavaScript side of things: I helped decide which tech stack to use, and implemented it.

After building apps with almost exclusively Vue and React the past few years, we decided to go with vanilla JavaScript for Mailcoach. There's no frontend framework involved, but we're pulling in some npm packages where needed.

I'm not going to dive into implementation details. I'm going to talk about why we decided on this stack and go in-depth on the structure of the application code, bundle sizes, and choosing external dependencies.

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React's versioning policy

React follows semantic versioning, but with a twist. From their versioning policy:

When releasing critical bug fixes, we make a patch release by changing the z number (ex: 15.6.2 to 15.6.3).

When releasing new features or non-critical fixes, we make a minor release by changing the y number (ex: 15.6.2 to 15.7.0).

When releasing breaking changes, we make a major release by changing the x number (ex: 15.6.2 to 16.0.0).

The twist is subtle: non-critical bugfixes are released as minor releases.

I've often wondered whether three digits really is necessary for versioning. As a package maintainer, deciding between minor and patch is often a gray area.

Two digits would suffice: breaking changes and non-breaking changes. Feature or bugfix doesn't really matter from a technical point of view: upgrading can either break things, or can't.

React reserves the patch number for critical bugfixes, which I believe is a necessary escape hatch in a two digit system. But I like I how they default to simply bumping minor versions.

Live updating Oh Dear! status pages

Last week Oh Dear! launched a new status pages feature. I designed them and implemented their frontend. Here's a live example on

We were originally going to use Vue for the pages, so we could make the entire view reactive so we could easily fetch and update data with AJAX or websockets. I started building the status page view, but quickly became hesitant about the decision to use Vue. It didn't feel like the right tool for the job.

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Forget about component lifecycles and start thinking in effects

React components have always relied on lifecycle methods for side effects. While lifecycle methods get the job done, they're often overly verbose and have large margins for error.

It's easy to forget to "clean up" a side effect when a component unmounts, or update the side effect when props change. As Dan Abramov preaches: Don't stop the data flow.

React recently introduced a new way to deal with side effects: the useEffect hook. Translating lifecycle methods to useEffect calls can be confusing at first. It's confusing because we shouldn't be translating imperative lifecycle methods to declarative useEffect calls in the first place.

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React for Vue developers

For the past three years, I've been using both React and Vue in different projects, ranging from smaller websites to large scale apps.

Last month I wrote a post about why I prefer React over Vue. Shortly after I joined Adam Wathan on Full Stack Radio to talk about React from a Vue developer's perspective.

We covered a lot of ground on the podcast, but most things we talked about could benefit from some code snippets to illustrate their similaraties and differences.

This post is a succinct rundown of most Vue features, and how I would write them with React in 2019 with hooks.

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Full Stack Radio 114: React for Vue developers

I had the honor to be a guest on Full Stack Radio with Adam Wathan.

We talked about why I prefer React over Vue — which I wrote about two weeks ago — and how to implement some patterns that Vue provides out of the box but aren't explicitly available in React. Examples include computed properties, events and slots.

Adam's quote:

In this episode, Adam talks to Sebastian De Deyne about learning React from the perspective of a Vue developer, and how to translate all of the Vue features you're already comfortable with to React code.

Tune in on or on your favorite podcatcher!

Understand React hooks internals with a 28-line React clone

Shawn Wang (@swyx) wrote about how React hooks work internally. The article is a deep dive into JavaScript closures, and builds up to a 28-line React clone with support for the useEffect and useState hooks.

In this article, we reintroduce closures by building a tiny clone of React Hooks. This will serve two purposes – to demonstrate the effective use of closures, and to show how you can build a Hooks clone in just 29 lines of readable JS. Finally, we arrive at how Custom Hooks naturally arise.

Understanding how React deals with hooks internally isn't a required to use them, but it's interesting material nonetheless!

You can read the full article on the Netlify blog.