Tom Vincent

Essays on hacking, travel and self-improvement

Wintersmith Static Commenting

Following my previous entry on static commenting, this article serves as a step-by-step guide to implementing the “emailed comments” approach in Wintersmith and subsequently, Jade templating.

Note: I’ve generalised and packaged a variant of this project as wintersmith-static-comments on GitHub.

Configure a mailbox

Comments will be sent via email, so first decide on an address to use. A likely candidate is comment@your-domain.com, but any address will do fine.

Next, add it as a variable that can be later accessed in a view/template. Here we’ll be using Wintersmith’s config.json but it could quite happily be set as an environment variable (a la The Twelve-Factor App).

Add a new key — comment_email — within the locals section:

{
  "locals": {
    ...
    "comment_email": "comment@example.com"
  }
}

Create a comments repository

An overarching goal of static commenting is freedom. Here, we’ll be storing comments as plain-text (Markdown formatted) files in a git repository.

Create a new repository within Wintersmith’s contents directory. Files placed here will later be accessible within the global ContentTree object.

cd public/contents
git init comments

The directory structure here should take the form:

.
|-- [post-url]
|   `-- 00.mkd
`-- [post2-url]
    |-- 00.mkd
    |-- 01.mkd
    |-- 02.mkd
    `-- 03.mkd

… where 00.mkd, 01.mkd, etc. are comments in chronological order containing Markdown and some leading metadata (a la Wintersmith’s page plugin):

name: Paul Graham
date: 2011-04-07T19:18:06
url: http://paulgraham.com

An insightful comment.

The only mandatory metadata keys are name and date; arbitrary keys can later be accessed in the view.

An aside for Disqus users

If you’re migrating away from Disqus (or just want a backup), try my disqus2yaml script. Give it an API key and your website’s short url (Disqus ID) and it’ll spit out a directory tree like the one explained above.

Jade includes

With the data source set up, we’ll now create a template to present the comments.

comments.jade

- var url = page.url.substring(page.url.indexOf('/') + 1).replace(/\//g, '-');
- var email = locals.comment_email.split('@');
- var mailto = email[0] + '+' + url + '@' + email[1];

section#comments
  h2 Comments

  if _.has(contents.comments, url)
    - var index = 1;
    for comment in _.keys(contents.comments[url]).sort()
      - comment = contents.comments[url][comment]
      include comment
      - index++;

  p
    | Have something to add? Leave a 
    a(href='mailto:'+mailto+'?subject='+page.title, target='_blank') comment
    | .

In short, this simply loops through comment directories that match a normalised version of the current url and passes their contents to comment.jade.

[mailbox]+[normalised-post-url]@[domain]?subject=[post title]

comment.jade

- var permalink = 'comment' + index;

blockquote(id=permalink,
  class="#{comment._metadata.reply ? 'comment reply' : 'comment'}")
  - var content = marked(comment._content)
  | !{content}
  p
    small
      if comment._metadata.url
        a(href=comment._metadata.url)=comment._metadata.name
      else)
        =comment._metadata.name
      | , 
      a(href='\##{permalink}')=comment._metadata.date

Each comment is then wrapped in a blockquote, given a class for styling and anchored with a permalink. Simple.

As an embellishment to the generalised version, comment are also parsed as Markdown by exposing marked in Wintersmith’s page plugin. You’ll need to use the exposed-marked branch of my fork of Wintersmith if you want to try this.

Integration

Lastly, integrate comments into your main template using an include statement:

article
  header
    h1=page.title
  section#contents
    | !{page.html}
  include comments

You should now see a new comment section like the one below. See my Vim XDG post for an example of how comments themselves are rendered.

When you receive a comment, it’s a simple case of saving it in the comments repository and rebuilding the site. If the repository is hosted publicly (as is the case with mine), commenters could even add their comment via a pull-request or use GitHub’s create file feature directly.