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Technological aspects of UU implementation.

Contents

Tech notes

Versioning

Like in Wiki, there are two kinds of edits:

1. Versioned edits
2. Minor edits

Minor edits do not create new versions of the document, but change existing version instead. As such, they are irreversible. Only latest version can be edited.

It is author's decision, wether to designate change as minor or as versioned.

When a new version is created, all objects linking to this one are notified. Their action can be one of the following:

  • Silently use new version
  • Use new version and notify owner
  • Notify owner and keep old version
  • Silently stick with old version

Object References

Shareable object references can be aware of versioning in following ways:

1. Always use latest version of referenced object
2. Always stay at current version
3. Notify author of referenced object updates

In all of these cases, changes to referenced object do _not_ constitute changes to referenceing object.

Object change notifications

There are few ways to notify referrer about change of referenced object. When reference is made, referer choses what he wants.

Email notification

* Each change - an email
* Digest - user gets summary of changes in all objects once in a while

Special page

Special page which provides filtered summary of changes, i.e. for all objects referenced by given course.

Object Edit Flow

Logically object editing follows this pattern:

1. Edit Object action is requested. It creates a temporary copy of an object
2. User edits and saves the copy (it can be saved as many times as needed)
3. When user is satisfied he executes "Release" action. Minor/Versioned edit
   is a required parameter for edit action. Probably will be implemented as
   radio button, that does not have initial value set (to avoid user forgetting
   to decided what kind of edit is it)


Internally object editing translates to following:

1. Edit Object action is requested. It creates a new version of an object in unpublished state (not visible for anyone besides author(s)). 
2. Any child objects connections are copied from the prior version.
3. User edits and saves the copy (it can be saved as many times as needed)
4. When user is satisfied he executes "Publish" action. Object is switched to published state.
5. All the connections to the parent objects are processed. The action on every connection is performed as defined in version_policy field of the connection.

Minor/Versioned edit is a required parameter for edit action. Probably will be implemented as radio button, that does not have initial value set (to avoid user forgetting to decided what kind of edit is it)

Scalability

UU will have clustering capability. It is not 100% clear what kind of clustering support we will have, and how it will be implemented at this point.

Both database and application server need to be scalable in order to maintain flexebility.

There is some rudimentary clustering support in PostgreSQL to the best of my knowledge, but I don't know anything about details, so that needs to be researched.

There is nothing currently built into CPPServ in terms of scalability, but few things are pretty easy to implement. For example, we could add load balancing support to the front-end module, which would allow us to distribute requests between CPPServ instances. It could track which request belongs to which session, and forward it accordingly.

Alternatively we could implement session state sharing, and then use some external load blancer like vserver.

Text Handling

Text in UU will be represented with a safe subset of XHTML for the most part. We might add few extensions, for inserting media, Math formulas (MathML? LaTeX?)

Text Editor

Editing will be done with TinyMCE. We'll have to write a plugin for TinyMCE, to provide simple UI-based access to multimedia objects.

We shall also provide simple plain-text editing ability for non-JS, or pure-text browsers.

On the backend, we will need a filter system, which would verify validity of the text according to the following criteria:

  • Only allowed XHTML tags are used
  • All media references are valid
  • All formulae are compileable

Sets of allowed tags and MM objects will depend on kind of text

Multimedia Objects

Once the validation is passed, list of media references will be extracted, and UMO parent-child relationships with corresponding media objects will be established.

Links to multimedia objects work just like any other umo links (new versions will notify owner or just auto-update. The only question here is if we want to auto-rewrite original object with new IDs when switching to new media object version, or if we want to make separate IDs for such links, which will be permanently preserved.

Cache

Final HTML should be cached. It would make sense to cache it at the time object is published, since published version is immutable.

Implementation

On the back end, any rich text will be represented as XML, which will include subset of allowed HTML tags (perhaps configurable by administrator) and our special tags for embedding media. Whenever such text will be needed for display purposes, the theme will request it, passing in an object which implements ITextRenderer interface, providing functions for turning embedded objects into HTML tags (in fact they'll have to return corresponding sptk::CXmlElements).

Overall procedure will be as follows:

  • get root element of the text to render (does not have to be complete document)
  • call uu::util::parseText(), pass in the root and the renderer
  • parseText will go through all tags, applying the renderer as needed and will throw an exception if invalid tag is encountered.
  • parseText will serialize resulting XML tree into a string and return it.

Embedded media objects (images, flash, etc.) are stored as separate UMOs, and thus must be linked to the UMO being rendered, in order to be used. These objects are referenced in the text through base ID of the embedded UMO. When UMO is published, umo_to_parent_umo ID is supplemented in the text. This way all the normal rules for versioning and relations between UMO versions apply, and at the same time the need to keep track of media UMOs is reduced and the procedure is simplified.

Course sign-up

In order to study a course, student has to sign up for a class, which is signed up to study it.

Course record creation

Currently the study_course record is created when the course UMO is published.

Class creation

Class is created in the following cases:

  • New version of a course object is published

In this case a new class is created and signed up for this course automatically. It is marked as the default class for the course. The person who published the course is set as a teacher and admin of the class.

  • Someone decides they want to teach a class, and creates one

Class operations

Following operations can be performed on a class:

  • Teachers can be assigned
  • Students can request sign-up
  • Teachers can approve student requests
  • Administrators can be assigned

Signing up for a class

Classes have a "sign-up mode" attribute. It determines what is the process flow, in case a student requests to be signed up for a class. Regardless of the sign-up mode teacher may invite a student into a class, and the student will have an option of accepting the invitation.

100% free

In the simplest case student gets signed-up to a class as soon as he requests it.

Free moderated

  • Student requests sign-up
  • One of teachers approves it

Paid

  • Student requests sign-up
  • Student pays the fee

Paid moderated

  • Student requests sign-up
  • Student pays the fee
  • Teacher approves the request
  • In case request wasn't approved, student is credited his money back.

Note: For the time being paid modes will not be implemented. It is unclear how to pass the money on to teachers, and especially unclear how to make sure everyone gets their fair share in case a class is taught by more then one teacher.

Closed course

Student cannot request a sign up. Instead, teacher can send an invitation, which student can accept.

Behind the scenes

Internally, the following sequence of steps happens:

  • (Optional) Sign-up invitation from a teacher (invite_student)
  • Sign-up request: class_subscription_reserve function is called
  • class_subscription_reserve creates a new order (order_create)
  • class_subscription_reserve calls mode-specific handler (see Free, Free Moderated, Paid, Paid Moderated, Closed)
  • UI retrieves order status and amount owed by student
  • If amount is non-zero, UI offers student an option to pay, and, once payment is processed, calls "order_paid" and refreshes order status
  • If order status is "pending", the student gets the indication he should wait for approval from teacher.
  • Teacher gets a list of students who are ready to start studying (their orders are in "pending" state)
  • Teacher approves an order: class_subscription_confirm is called.
  • Student is ready to study.
class_subscribe_free

Signing up class for a course

For the time being any class admin can simply sign up the class for any course. A class can be signed up for any number of courses, even to multiple versions of a same course.