Newsmill (aka an excuse to play with shinies)

January 19th, 2013

Newsmill (aka an excuse to play with shinies)

If you are subscribed to the Perl Weekly Newsletter, you probably noticed that I’ve been drafted as a co-editor. As a side-effect, Gabor and I began to discuss at how the newsletters’ data are being stored (right now it’s all JSON, which is handy to parse via scripts, but sucky to edit manually), and how it can be streamlined/improved to allow easy collaborative work.

As a side-effect of that, I began to toy with the generalized problem of newsletter management and, for giggles, began to write a system for that. The result is Newsmill, which is for now only a stubby playground. But it’s a playground full of fun, colorful rides, so I thought you might like to have a tour…

First, Let’s Have a Database

The first step I took was to create a database schema to represent the issues of the newsletter and the various articles. As the perlweekly sources were already JSONified, I thought of using DBIx::NoSQL or DBIx::NoSQL::Store::Manager, but ultimately decided to stay traditional. So DBIx::Class it is, with a generous sprinkling of DBIx::Class::Candy on top, such that the table classes look like:

package Newsmill::Schema::Result::Article;

    use strict;
    use warnings;

    use DBIx::Class::Candy -autotable => v1;


    primary_column article_id => {
        data_type => 'int',
        is_auto_increment => 1,

    column title => {
        data_type => 'varchar',
        size => 200,
        is_nullable => 0,

    column url => {
        data_type => 'varchar',
        size => 200,
        is_nullable => 0,

    column publication_date => {
        data_type => 'date',
        is_nullable => 1,

    column description => {
        data_type => 'text',
        is_nullable => 1,

    has_many article_tags => 'Newsmill::Schema::Result::ArticleTag', 'article_id';
    many_to_many tags => 'article_tag', 'tag';


It also gave me the occasion to look at DBIx::Class::Migration, which provides a very, very nice front-end for the powerful but byzantine DBIx::Class::DeploymentHandler. Of course, this being the first version of the application, I didn’t have a lot of migration stuff to try out, but at least I can do

$ dbic-migration diagram -Ilib --schema_class Newsmill::Schema

and obtain


which is neat.

Then, Let’s Populate It

As the Perl Weekly entries are so nicely JSON formatted, slurping them all into the database is no great hardship with the help of a little script:

That done, we only have to point the script to the right directory and:

$ perl -Ilib ./bin/ 
importing 1
        add section Headlines
                add article Nice progress in the development of MetaCPAN
                add article Rakudo Star 2011.07 released with 10%-30% improvement in compile and execution speed
        add section Articles
                add article Whitepaper from ActiveState: Perl and Python in the Cloud
                add article Padre on OSX
                add article OSCON Perl Unicode Slides
                add article Moose is Perl: A Guide to the New Revolution
                add article YAPC::Europe Preview
                add article GSoC - The Perl 6 podparser branch has landed
        add section Discussions
                add article To Answer, Or Not To Answer....

Show Them What We’ve Got

Eventually, I want Newsmill to be able to take article submission from external peeps, have a voting system, et cetera and so forth, but let’s pace ourselves. For now, we have a database shockful of newsletters, so it might be nice to see them. In consequence, let’s create a web front-end for the newsletters:

Note that by now I’ve left the bleeding edge of technology and boldly jumped into the arterial spray of the future. The web framework? Dancer 2. The templating system? My little pet Template::Caribou. I’ll not bore you with the details of Template::Caribou (that’s coming in my next blog entry), so I’ll just mention that the Entry template class looks like

And the main page template segment is:


Oh, yes, HTML5 Bootstrap has been thrown in the mix too, natch.

And the result:

Newsletter sample

Not bad, I daresay, considering that there is no stylesheet applied beyond the basic Bootstrap stuff.