chris blogs

April 2005

11apr2005 · Nanoki

Over the weekend, I wrote a Wiki in Ruby called Nanoki, which is named that way because it’s supposed to be small and lightweight.

Now, writing a Wiki is neither hard nor very complex, and many people did it before me already; in many different languages and Ruby too, of course. I wrote Nanoki because I had some special needs related to the rendering and markup of the pages (yeah, I want to use BlueCloth, RubyPants, Vooly, Kashmir and ClothesLines everywhere, I know. You should do too. :-)).

Instead of looking for a Ruby Wiki, I just started to write one. Even the ones supposed to be small, as RubyMiniWiki are spread over multiple files, and not as clean as I wanted them. Others, like Ruwiki probably require far bigger changes than I wanted to do. If there was something like usemod in Ruby (real Ruby), maybe I’d have adapted it.

Nanoki really is nothing special and I don’t want to publicize the code yet, but what’s more interesting is the way creeping featuritis set in, because you think like this: Ok, now I can view and edit pages; damn, I’d really like to keep a history, and whup, I was keeping old pages. Then, oh! I’d like to keep informed about recent changes, let’s add a RecentChanges page. Whup. I don’t want to browse RecentChanges all the time! Whup, RSS feed of RecentChanges. Now, the first users complain: It’s too hard to add images, and I don’t have a server to keep and link to them. Whup, image upload and helpers to refer to them. These images are too large! Whup, thumbnail generation.

It really hit me. And I really tried to keep it all small and clean. Well, now it’s a bit over 400 lines of code, but mind that all the hard jobs were done already… CGI interfacing (rather easy, but I wouldn’t really want to develop multipart encoding on my own), the rendering pipeline (I threw a WikiWords filter in) and my templating engine. Don’t forget the datastore, I use PStore so far, but it may be too inefficient the way I use it. The code is comparatively clean, though I still inline templates and (need to) use lots of regexps for filename twiddling.

Also, although it only runs (and probably only ever will) on CGI, the design of the application is a bit Railish. For example, the main method dispatches this way:

if %w{view edit rss upload source}.include? cgi.query_string
  send @action=cgi.query_string

And I use some instance variables to add messages (and errors) to my pages. Mind that I only use(d) Rails for a few days, there were still some concepts that just sneaked in. :-)

Now, I’m not sure whether to publish Nanoki, as it would probably make the thing even bigger as some stuff is still hardcoded and the code really is nothing special. But then, there may be lots of other people in the situation I was in Saturday morning and who don’t want to spend a weekend throwing out a few hundred LoC…

NP: Pearl Jam—Dissident

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