Licky wiki news

Just a quick update on licky, my little wiki apprenticeship task i’m doing. I realise that time has gone on and i haven’t talked about it as much as i might, plus i actually have some quite encouraging news to report now!

Last time i wrote, i was just starting to work on Pages and a PageFactory to find them or create them as necessary. Since then i’ve added a persistence strategy which saves wiki pages to the filesystem. I pass the desired directory to the strategy so that test pages can be kept separate from real pages. This was necessary as i wanted to clear out the test directory every time after use and i didn’t want to accidentally delete real pages.

After that little burst of progress i stalled for a long time as i knew i needed to start writing the web interface and i didn’t know where to begin. James gave me a good idea which was to set up a simple Webserver class that would wrap around the web server of my choice. I have chosen WEBrick for the time being, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to swap in another one later, probably with another strategy pattern. James suggested i start by visiting a page and looking for the text ‘Hello world’. I thought this was a good idea and so i started finding out about WEBrick servlets.

With that start i was suddenly able to leap ahead, testing and implementing everything i need so that my wiki is now able to create, show and edit pages through the web interface. I feel as if i am very close now. Possibly the only thing left to do is add a way to link between pages and then i can truly call it a wiki.

Test driving the development of this whole project has been extremely educational. I know i started off getting too involved in writing a test framework, so Enrique pulled me back and made me think of the simplest thing that could possibly work. I began with one method: assert_equal. That was enough in the beginning. As time went on i added two more methods: assert_true and assert_contains. When necessary i added useful debugging information to report failures. At the appropriate time i refactored the testing framework into a module that could be included into multiple test classes.

I know i also started thinking about the web server too early. I started off trying to work with ERB and templates, as i am familiar with Rails, and in the end all i needed was a few servlets. As Enrique made me realise, the most important part of a wiki is not that it runs on a web server. The most important thing is content. Pages, with content, saved to a file system. Having focussed on that and got a real solid, well tested mechanism for saving and retrieving pages, i knew that the WEBrick servlets could rely on the underlying framework, and when the time came, it did not let me down.

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