If you recall, last year, at roughly the same date, I had a few days worth of free time and, on a whim, decided to hack together a quick prototype of a CPAN voting web service. The result wasn’t too shabby (or so I like to think), but as it often happens, the tide of tuits ebbed away and the prototype remained such.
Fast-forward to last December and Olaf Alders’ blog entry about search.metacpan.org. That blog entry caught my eye, not only because the project looked slick as hell, but because an upvoting/downvoting system was on its roadmap. Never the one to turn my back to shameless self-promotion, I mentioned my blog entry and mini-project in the comment section. As luck would have it, my views were very much in line with what the metacpan cabal was envisioning, and I was told that, if I was willing, I was welcome to give it a try.
As a subsequent update from Olaf hinted at, that’s an offer I couldn’t let pass. So, in the last two months, I’ve been a busy bee.
A Quick Recap: Mission Statement
cpanvote‘s core goal is to make trivially easy for people to vote on Perl distributions. To achieve that, I decided to build the application around the two precepts:
- Simple rating mechanism. The voting is reduced to a ternary choice: yea, nay or meh. Optional details will be grafted unto it — like recommending an alternative distribution — but the basic question is “do you like/recommend this distribution?”.
- Symbiotic existence. Voting and accessing voting information must be possible without having to visit a special site. The information must be provided via a web service, so that anyone can build applications/widgets/whatever to interact with it, and the end-goal is have the whole thing visible from the CPAN searching sites.
Where Are We, Now?
As of this morning,
cpanvote.metacpan.org is live! It’s extremely alpha, will doubtlessly experience API changes, go up and down like a kangaroo on a pogo stick and drop all its data a few times, but it’s there and can be played with.
For now, I’ll not discuss the back-end web service.
First thing first. The interaction with
search.cpan.org is done via a Greasemonkey script, which is available at cpanvote.metacpan.org.
If you install it, next time you access a distribution page on
search.cpan.org, the headers should have a new ‘CPAN Votes’ row:
As we are not authenticated, we can only see the yea/meh/nay tallies. Following our symbiotic approach, we are delegating authentication to what’s already out there. For the time being, we are using Twitter, but the system is designed such that we can add expand to other services (openid, Bitcard, Facebook, etc) as well.
Anyway, back to the current state of affairs. If we click on the authentication link, we are brought to the usual Twitter authorization webpage:
cpanvote is only interested in having credentials. Nothing will be done with your Twitter account. Clicking on ‘allow’ redirects us back to the
search.cpan.org page we were at, but with a big difference: now we can vote!
Voting is done by clicking on the smileys. The ‘instead of’ field is for recommending an alternative to the current distribution. At the moment, no validation is made to ensure the suggestion is a valid module, but it’ll come soon.
Of course, all interactions are ajaxy and appear immediately:
What’s Coming Down the Pipe
Looots of things.
On the front-end side, there is obviously some work to be done to make the GreaseMonkey interface slicker. A
metacpan variant of the GMscript should also be available soon.
On the back-end side, documenting the current minimal RESTful interface is at the forefront. When this is done, we can begin to build on it and provide all kind of ways to access the voting statistics.
So expect a lot of fun stuff in the near future. If you want to casually help, install the Greasemonkey script, give the voting system a whirl and provide feedback as to how you find it, and what you’d like to see it do next. And if you want to roll up your sleeves and pitch in, the CPAN API mailing list is where it’s at — don’t be shy to come on in and join the fray!