Proposal: better intermediary means of managing external front-end Javascript dependencies in Infusion-based projects using nom + grunt

Harnum, Alan aharnum at ocadu.ca
Thu Mar 3 15:02:07 UTC 2016


Hi Tony,

I believe there have been some specific concerns about Bower in the last several months raised by others – I don’t have the full history on that but I think it’s part of the general debate in the Javascript community about Bower’s future, especially on these two issues:

  *   a sense of turn in certain parts of the community against relying on Bower in favour of npm + additional tooling where necessary: https://gofore.com/stop-using-bower/
  *   a sense that Bower as a project may be hitting a wall in terms of contributors and becoming legacy: https://github.com/reactjs/redux/issues/944#issuecomment-154858804

I don’t have enough experience with Bower (or front end dependency management in general) to claim a deep understanding – whether this is really where the zeitgeist is going, or if this is one of those perpetual debates that occur in open source.

Here’s the start of two conversations from the #fluid-work channel that may also be relevant to this discussion:

- https://botbot.me/freenode/fluid-work/2016-03-01/?msg=61306744&amp=&page=3
- https://botbot.me/freenode/fluid-work/2016-03-02/?msg=61397389&page=2

My sense of moving forward for my particular use case is that I’ll use straight npm + grunt (if necessary); that said, one of the many nice things about how we work as a community is being able to try different approaches to the same problem when the space is tumultuous or uncertain (as I feel JS front-end dependency management is, and perhaps always will be).

ALAN HARNUM
SENIOR INCLUSIVE DEVELOPER
INCLUSIVE DESIGN RESEARCH CENTRE, OCAD UNIVERSITY

E aharnum at ocadu.ca<mailto://aharnum@ocadu.ca>

OCAD UNIVERSITY
100 McCaul Street, Toronto, Canada, M5T 1W1
www.ocadu.ca<http://ocadu.ca/>

From: fluid-work <fluid-work-bounces at lists.idrc.ocad.ca<mailto:fluid-work-bounces at lists.idrc.ocad.ca>> on behalf of Tony Atkins <tony at raisingthefloor.org<mailto:tony at raisingthefloor.org>>
Date: Thursday, March 3, 2016 at 4:15 AM
To: "fluid-work at lists.idrc.ocad.ca<mailto:fluid-work at lists.idrc.ocad.ca>" <fluid-work at lists.idrc.ocad.ca<mailto:fluid-work at lists.idrc.ocad.ca>>
Subject: Re: Proposal: better intermediary means of managing external front-end Javascript dependencies in Infusion-based projects using nom + grunt

Hi, All:

I did a bit more research this morning.  There are a few libraries that will let you use node to tree through bower dependencies and produce a full list of full file paths.  Here are the two that seem closest to what we need:

https://github.com/ck86/main-bower-files
https://github.com/ksmithut/bower-files

The second has a lot more features and seems a bit more polished, but either would work well as the guts of the "modules" router I'm thinking of.  My idea is that the gpii-express-module router would use one of the above libraries to deliver a content bundle, as follows:

  1.  A request for /modules/that would return the default (javascript) content for the outermost package and its dependencies.
  2.  A request for /modules/that/:extension would return just the content matching an extension, for example, "css".
  3.  A request for /modules/:package would return the javascript content for a specific one of our dependencies.
  4.  A request for /modules/:package/:extension would return just the package content that matches the extension.

This could reduce all client-side dependencies to HTML like:

<script src="/modules/that"></script>
<link rel="stylesheet" href="/modules/that/css"></link>

If this seems crazy or misses glaring problems, please scream in the next few days.    Otherwise, I was thinking of prototyping this for my own next round of client-side coding on the UL as early as next week. I would write up the full specs for the router, share that with the group, and shortly thereafter, build the module out at least enough to start exercising it in my tests.

To use this approach, we would need to create and maintain bower.json files for our packages.  I would also create a PR that adds a bower.json for infusion.

Cheers,


Tony


On Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 9:26 PM, Tony Atkins <tony at raisingthefloor.org<mailto:tony at raisingthefloor.org>> wrote:
Hi, All:

At the risk of offering to address any particular problem with a hammer I happen to be familiar with, I was thinking about making a gpii-express router for something like this earlier.  I already commonly use a wrapper around the express "static" router to serve up content from node_modules, at least in most of my tests.

Instead, we could make a router that handles /modules/:path, where /modules is a static prefix and :path is a string that can be resolved to a filesystem path using fluid.module.resolvePath, as in "%gpii-binder/src/js/binder.js".  That would mirror a lot of the recent server-side work I've done to migrate to using package-relative paths, and does at least simplify things.  This would mean we'd have the same number client-side includes, just with less brittle paths.  However, it's achievable with almost no work.

I've also considered making a router that was a bit smarter, that could deliver minified or otherwise compressed bundles with all client-side dependencies in a single go. To make that work, we'd need some way to represent the chain of dependencies.

One way would be to add a new fluid.registerBundle top-level function that associates package names with arrays of resolvable paths.  Another would be to tree through the "main" elements in the bower.json files for each package and its dependencies.  Either strategy would allow us to use a single include, something like:

<script src="/modules/my-module"></script>

With either approach, we would ultimately deliver a single (optionally compressed) bundle with all the relevant content, complete with etags and other trimmings so that it can be cached properly.

Anyway, if that sounds somewhat non-crazy, I would be happy to set up a time with a vikingpad and GoToMeeting and sketch things out with anyone who's interested.

Cheers,


Tony


On Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 3:22 PM, Harnum, Alan <aharnum at ocadu.ca<mailto:aharnum at ocadu.ca>> wrote:
Justin, that would be the case, yes - I’m not sure how I feel about that myself, looking at the size of the node_modules directory produced for the chartAuthoring repo by an ‘npm install’. In the simplest case, we’d be serving a static site with a whole bunch of node_modules directories that aren’t necessary to its functioning in the clear.

I’ve been weighing the simplicity of this approach (which I like) vs. the added additional complexity (which is not huge, but is there) of having ‘grunt copy:frontEndDependencies’ or similar as a second build step for deploying the static build site or setting up for local development, and I think I’m on the side of having grunt in the mix. I worry about the potential security implications of having so many node_modules served in the clear, even statically.

What I mostly want is something to move forward with that doesn’t require investment in build tooling beyond npm and grunt, and is also straightforward to automate for deployment.

Alan

On Mar 2, 2016, at 8:27 AM, Justin Obara <obara.justin at gmail.com<mailto:obara.justin at gmail.com>> wrote:

Does this mean that for something like the build site, we’ll have to server the node_modules repo and/or run it through kettle?

Thanks
Justin



On March 1, 2016 at 2:11:20 PM, Harnum, Alan (aharnum at ocadu.ca<mailto:aharnum at ocadu.ca>) wrote:

Antranig, I do like the idea of the basic use case being “use the front-end packages in the node structure as far as possible” - this would work just fine for the Chart Authoring case or other cases where the goal is basically the production of a classic “static” site. My sense is that the NPM folks are likely to produce some tooling in the short-medium around this, based on this post: http://blog.npmjs.org/post/101775448305/npm-and-front-end-packaging - hence my desire not to wed ourselves too closely to any particular tooling.

The other use case that comes to mind right now is the production of “widget” Javascript files (for lack of a better term) where the goal is to provide a single static Javascript file that can be used by a site to embed Infusion-based components (that might also include external dependencies like D3 or Flocking) without knowing anything about Infusion. This is the situation we’re in approaching the front-end components for the QI, which we want to be straightforwardly embeddable in the (currently Drupal-based, to my knowledge) Dev Space site or in other contexts. Issue at https://issues.gpii.net/browse/GPII-1583 has a bit more detail on this.

Per that use case, I actually wasn’t aware of the Infusion module registration scheme (my knowledge on Infusion is pretty much front-end only at this point) , but this may be relevant to the work that Avtar and I are doing for the QI. Under that approach (if I’m understanding correctly), the QI service could handle the inclusion of any necessary external libraries into an overall JSONP-based payload for the client site after the initial dependency pull via npm. Make sense?

ALAN HARNUM
SENIOR INCLUSIVE DEVELOPER
INCLUSIVE DESIGN RESEARCH CENTRE, OCAD UNIVERSITY

E aharnum at ocadu.ca<mailto://aharnum@ocadu.ca>

On Mar 1, 2016, at 1:49 PM, Antranig Basman <antranig.basman at colorado.edu<mailto:antranig.basman at colorado.edu>> wrote:

Cheers, Alan - this is a really important and strategic issue and I wanted to thank you for organising the discussion in such a clear way.

I think the basic plan here is highly desirable - to move towards npm infrastructure and package.json as our central solution for managing JS dependencies, and to use browserify when we need to build single-file distribution bundles.

I am wondering whether we can simplify the steps in the proposal yet further - that is, whether we can cut out the grunt tasks and ignore structure, and as far as possibly simply use the node modules in place where they are fetched using npm.

You may be aware that every Infusion-aware npm module now participates in its "module registration scheme" kicked off from fluid.module.register - http://docs.fluidproject.org/infusion/development/NodeAPI.html#fluid-module-register-name-basedir-modulerequire- - this makes it easy to resolve paths into foreign modules by simple expressions like "%flocking/src/stuff" etc.

Kettle's "static middleware" could host these directories using these symbolic references directly - or even automatically, if we add extra directives to package.json or elsewhere -
https://github.com/amb26/kettle/tree/KETTLE-32#built-in-standard-middleware-bundled-with-kettle

Other points in our future roadmap might include BRFS or something like it to bridge the gap between the view of static assets from the point of view of node and the browser - https://github.com/substack/brfs - or little things like "staticify" https://github.com/petehunt/staticify - of which there seem to be a dozen.

Does this make sense/fit in with the use cases and road map you imagine? I'm keen to have something that involves us in as little build faff and boilerplate as possible, based on the npm infrastructure but with as many of the affordances of bower as possible - what do you think? Are there some "hard core use cases" that we can't easily meet with the files in their "native position" inside node_modules directories?

Cheers,

Antranig

On 01/03/2016 18:33, Harnum, Alan wrote:
*Background*
*
*
The Chart Authoring Tool (https://github.com/fluid-project/chartAuthoring) is built with Infusion, the D3
data visualization library, and the Flocking audio synthesis framework (created by the Fluid community's own
Colin Clark).

At the moment the non-Infusion dependencies are directly included as files in the project repository. This
is simple, but bad in various other ways in terms of keeping things up to date, keeping the repo clean, etc.

There has been an outstanding issue since last August to improve this situation
(https://issues.fluidproject.org/browse/FLOE-405?jql=text%20~%20%22bower%22
<https://issues.fluidproject.org/browse/FLOE-405?jql=text ~ "bower">).

Originally the thought was to use Bower, but Bower seems to be facing some challenges as a project
(https://www.reddit.com/r/javascript/comments/3th4v6/bower_vs_npm_3_frontend_package_management/) and the
general direction of many other projects seems to be towards using straight npm (sometimes with a tool like
browserify) to manage front-end dependencies.

Infusion itself is moving in this direction as NPM becomes a more viable for front-end management, as
evidenced by this issue: https://issues.fluidproject.org/browse/FLUID-5745?jql=text%20~%20%22bower%22
<https://issues.fluidproject.org/browse/FLUID-5745?jql=text ~ "bower">

*My Immediate Goal / Challenge*

I'm starting work on front-end Infusion-based components for the GPII Quality Infrastructure where I would
like to be able to reuse some code from the Chart Authoring repo itself, so rather than replicate the
problem again I’d like to have an approach that does the following:

- works with the existing toolstack for builds (npm + grunt) without other tool dependencies such as
browserify, webpack, etc
- produces a suitable static “package" for serving publicly, as is used currently by
http://build.fluidproject.org/
- has minimal development overhead but improves the current situation
- can be replaced easily enough in the future when we align on a better means of managing front-end dependencies

*What I Propose*
*
*
Examples here are in the context of the Chart Authoring Tool project in my fork at
https://github.com/waharnum/chartAuthoring/blob/FLOE-405/ but I’d like the general shape of this to be
applicable to other cases:

- front-end dependencies should be managed using NPM’s /package.json/ format and installed via a standard
‘npm install’ (https://github.com/waharnum/chartAuthoring/blob/FLOE-405/package.json)
- one or more grunt tasks should then be used to copy these dependencies into an appropriate structure for
use by the front end project (https://github.com/waharnum/chartAuthoring/blob/FLOE-405/Gruntfile.js)
- a .gitignore definition should be used to make sure this external dependency directory is not versioned
(https://github.com/waharnum/chartAuthoring/blob/FLOE-405/.gitignore)

Basically, a front-end project will pull in its dependencies via NPM and then distribute them as needed via
grunt to create the necessary “product"; the specifics of this will depend on the particular project. We
already use both npm and grunt in other contexts, they’re familiar to us, and they avoid the need (which we
have, but longer term) to adopt a specific additional piece of tooling for front-end dependency management,
which is a space that seems in heavy churn right now in the Javascript community.

We talked about this approach briefly at the Floe planning meeting yesterday and people seemed receptive,
but the broader community should weigh in and give their opinion.

*Questions*
*
*
1) Do we feel OK with this approach to front-end dependency management in the short term?
2) If we don’t feel OK about it, what should we do instead?

*ALAN HARNUM*
SENIOR INCLUSIVE DEVELOPER
INCLUSIVE DESIGN RESEARCH CENTRE, OCAD UNIVERSITY

*E *aharnum at ocadu.ca<mailto:aharnum at ocadu.ca> <mailto://aharnum@ocadu.ca<mailto:aharnum@ocadu.ca>>



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