Over the past few weeks and months I’ve had to cause to write, update and dust off a number of Elgg plugins that I’ve had kicking about. As a good open source citizen I’ve stuck them up on github so others can have a play.

Here they are, in no particular order:

» H5F 1.8

This is an Elgg wrapper around the H5F HTML5 form compatibility library written by Ryan Seddon.

This plugin lets you use handy HTML 5 form extensions like “required” and “placeholder”, as well as some of the new types like <input type=”email” /> in your forms and have them work in older browsers.

» Input Country

Input country is a wrapper around Ben Werdmuller’s phpCountryDropdown tool, and provides a handy dandy country selector input type.

Install this plugin to be able to take advantage of this in your forms.

» Profile Completeness

This plugin provides a view and a widget that displays the completeness of a profile based on the number of fields in the profile that are populated. This list of fields can be extended and modified based on a plugin hook.

I’ve used various incarnations of this plugin now for a number of clients, and since it keeps coming up I’ve tidied it up a bit and stuck it on github.

» Recaptcha

Lastly, here’s an Elgg 1.8 version of a recaptcha plugin I wrote some time ago.

It hooks into the Elgg captcha engine, providing captcha verification for registration and the “request new password” functionality out of the box. It also replaces the input/captcha view.

There are a couple of other recaptcha plugins, but I couldn’t find one which just provided the captcha and nothing else, so here’s mine.

That’s it for now, enjoy!

Helping out a friend and colleague, as well as stretching my programming muscles with a language I don’t often get to play with these days, I’d like to introduce LoveNote Server.

LoveNote is a simple abstract message queue server which lets you pass an message payload to one of a pool of endpoints and receive a webhook callback with the result. You can specify that this message be delivered ASAP, but crucially you can also specify a date and time for the delivery.

How it works

It works by POSTing a bit of JSON to a webhook provided by the server that contains a delivery time, an array of servers to try, the payload and an optional callback URL.

When received by the server, the message is queued. When the delivery time is reached the list of servers is randomised and the payload POSTed in sequence until all servers fail, or delivery is achieved. If a callback is specified, a report is then POSTed back to the callback as a JSON blob.

Why this is useful

Simply, this provides a common message passing framework with a unified event driven API, simplifying your architecture somewhat. It is especially handy if you wanted a message to be delivered some time in the future, for example for a credit card renewal or email reminder, where beforehand you’d probably have to write a dedicated server process.

All you now have to do is listen to webhook pings.

What still needs to be done

This is an early version and was written to help out a friend with a specific need, and although I’ve gone on to use it in a couple of client projects, there are still a fair amount of enhancements that could be made.

Some obvious ones are:

  • Message IDs: Currently messages in the queue are anonymous. It’d be handy to have message IDs since this would allow more sophisticated process control of scheduled messages.
  • Cancel Control: Basic message control to cancel future queued messages.
  • Make message queues persistent: Currently the queue is held in memory, which is simple and fast, but far from ideal. We should periodically flush the queue to a persistent storage so that no messages are lost if a server goes down.

Get involved and send your pull requests to the usual place!

» Visit the project on Github…

StatsD, created by Etsy, is a simple Node.JS server that provides powerful way to collect numerous statistics about your web application, and to do so simply and quickly.

At Etsy, they graph everything, which they use to great effect.

Collecting statistics is cool because it gives you hard data about how your software is performing. This in turn gives you powerful analytical tools to dig deep into your code, and find out what’s really going on (especially true when combined with a visualisation tool such as Graphite). It let you see the impact of code or infrastructure changes, and to quickly identify problems. Perhaps most importantly, it is only when armed kind of hard data that you can even begin to grasp at the nettles of code optimisation, growth and scalability.

Introducing StatsD for Elgg

With this in mind, and because I needed to collect some stats for a couple of client projects, I’ve put up on Github the first version of an Elgg statsD module. When installed and configured, this module will interface with a statsd server and collect a whole bunch of statistics from your running Elgg site.

Out of the box the current version of the plugin can log:

  • Events & Hooks (which in turn give you things like user signup events and object creation)
  • Exceptions
  • PHP Errors, Notices and Warnings
  • Elgg popups (system messages and error messages)
  • Database calls
  • Script execution time

In addition you can record your own statistics by making a call to wrapper functions contained in the plugin itself.

All data will be logged into a custom “bucket”, which is by default derived from your Elgg site name. This lets you log statistics from multiple different sites to a common statsd server.

Installation is pretty straightforward once you’ve installed the base infrastructure. Follow the instructions for installing graphite, nodeJS and statsd from the various sites around the internet, and then upload the elgg-statsd plugin to your Elgg site’s mod directory.

Once activated, you can specify the statsd server you wish to log to and configure what statistics you want to record.

Have fun!

» Visit the project on Github…

P.S. If you try and set this up and are seeing errors in your graphite log along the lines of “create() takes at most 5 arguments (6 given)“, then you are likely falling foul of this bug.

My solution was to build Whisper from the latest code in master rather than the stable 0.9.x branch. This worked for me, but of course YMMV.