HTML5 & RDFa-lite semantic templating engines

If you’re writing a webapp using rdfa-lite, It makes sense to consider using rdfa markers in the DOM based template engine.

While working on round-trip html5 <-> Rdfa-lite query and editing, I’ve been struck by the primitive feeling of html template languages. {{mustache}} ,  <%escapes%> <–%ssi escapes %–> all work the same way as C preprocessor macros – string concatenation style – which ignores the underlying structure that we’re working with.

Thankfully, HTML5 is changing everything – it has / will have a template tag

Along the way to finding that, I came across Weld.js (dead?), Transparency or Plates and Pure and not forgetting Knockout.js.

None of them quite goes where I want – as they either use class/id, or their own data- attributes.

What I’m after, is leveraging the already existing semantic annotations of existing (or template tag) elements to add new ones.

For example, I might have the following Link menu, and then want to dynamically add others from a remote query

     <ul id="page-list">
         <template id="page-item-template" style="display:none;">
            <li  typeof="WebPage" resource="/">
                <a property="url" href="/" tabindex="-1" id="index">
                    <span property="name">Home</span></a>
             <li typeof="WebPage" resource="/">
                  <a property="url" href="/" tabindex="-1" id="index">
                    <span property="name">Home</span></a>
             <li  typeof="WebPage" resource="/SvenDowideit.html">
                  <a property="url" href="/SvenDowideit.html" tabindex="-1" id="SvenDowideit">
                    <span property="name">Sven Dowideit</span></a>

The following works for browsers that don’t support the new HTML5 template tag:

var node = document.querySelector('#page-list [typeof=WebPage]').cloneNode(true);
node.querySelector('[property=name]').textContent = 'TODO';
node.querySelector('[property=url]').href = '/TODO.html';

A nice start, but to me, there’s still something not right with the addressing scheme –
which is where some of the above template engines use the @ symbol to denote that the value should be set on the named attribute.

something like this might work

var node = document.querySelector('#page-list [typeof=WebPage]').cloneNode(true);
node.render( {
    '[property=name]@textContent':  'TODO',
    '[property=url]@href': '/TODO.html'
but setting up the relationships beforehand, and making the clone implicit
var template = getTemplate('#page-list [typeof=WebPage]', {
   name: '[property=name]@textContent',
   url:  '[property=url]@href'
 {name: 'Sven Dowideit', url: '/SvenDowideit.html'},
 {name: 'TODO', url: '/TODO.html'}

Which looks an awful lot like Weld.js’ (and the inverse of Pure?) API. And, should be trivial to implement using Transparancy.

in the process of thinking it through, I wrote a simplistic version that deserves replacing when I’m thinking about something else:

        getTemplate: function(templateSelector, map) {
            if (this.Template === undefined) {
                var template = document.querySelector(templateSelector);
                var template_map = {};

                for (var key in map) {
                    var address = map[key].match(/^([^@]*)@?(.*)?$/);
                    template_map[key] = {
                        node: address[1] || '*',
                        attr: address[2] || 'textContent'
                this.Template = function(values) {
                    var new_elements = [];
                    for (var idx in values) {
                        var elem = template.cloneNode(true)                
                        for (var key in values[idx]) {
                            if (template_map[key] !== undefined) {
                                var node =  elem.querySelector(template_map[key].node);
                                //TODO: detect if key is a method, and call it?
                                if (template_map[key].attr === 'textContent') {
                                    node.textContent = values[idx][key];
                                } else {
                                    node.setAttribute(template_map[key].attr, values[idx][key]);
                        //TODO: if it where a real template tag, apparently there would be an elem.content
                    return new_elements;
            return this.Template;

Centos yum install foswiki and Debian apt-get install foswiki

Thats right, on Redhat Enterprise and Centos, its now just as easy to install foswiki and its ~300 plugins as it is to do so on Debian.

That’s right, on Redhat Enterprise and Centos, it’s now just as easy to install foswiki and its ~300 plugins as it is on Debian.

This means that you can now manage your Enterprise Foswiki using the same package management tools as the rest of the operating system.

For example, I just installed a demo system with:

yum install foswiki-jhotdrawplugin foswiki-ldapcontrib foswiki-newuserplugin foswiki-glueplugin foswiki-ldapngplugin foswiki-calendarplugin foswiki-edittableplugin foswiki-interwikiplugin foswiki-renderlistplugin foswiki-smiliesplugin foswiki-tableplugin foswiki-directedgraphplugin

and when yum finished, I browse to http://server/foswiki/ and its up and running.

These packages are built by a script that downloads the latest packages from, generates an EPM manifest and then builds rpm packages – every night. I have not yet tested them with Redhat Enterprise 6 or fedora


To try it out, you’ll need to add the EPEL repository, and then this one to your yum config:


rpm -Uvh
cd /etc/yum.repo.d/

and then run

yum makecache


To see what foswiki extensions are available, run
yum search foswiki

To install foswiki, and some plugins:

yum install foswiki foswiki-workflowplugin foswiki-jscalendarcontrib foswiki-ldapcontrib

then browse to http://servername/foswiki/bin/configure to enable the plugin and configure settings.


Last few months foswiki

It seems that I’ve been busy with family things, so have forgotten to blog.

Before we left for Zurich in August, I delivered a foswiki that was an amalgam of TWiki, MediaWiki and Sharepoint Wiki topics.

Sharepoint was the most surprising – technically, its got so much potential, but so little support for endusers. It has federated search, data types, and views, but pretty much all of it needs to be written by someone as a compiled component, and installed on the server.

Seems to me there’s an oportunity for someone to build a compatibility layer allowing users to write applications as in TWiki and Foswiki.

After getting settled in, I was persuaded to start work on foswiki store2 for foswiki 2.0 – bringing together all of the learning and performance work from my Database and MongoDB backends – its happening in my github repository at the moment, as its going to take a month or 2 before its passes all the tests.

And last week, I was distracted by Ward Cunningham’s Federated Wiki – we’ll see how I get myself back on foswiki track – all while looking after the 2 girls (just turned 2.5) while we’re in Zurich.

The foswiki General assembly and FoswikiCamp is probably going to be in CERN, on the weekend of November 19 – hope to see everyone there!

fastest foswiki (and TWiki) ever – MongoDB for foswiki milestone 4

When the foswiki on MongoDB project started, this query would take 5.4 seconds to provide the html to the client (pure CGI), now it takes 0.7seconds (with mod_fcgid).

Thats a speedup of over 7 times.

I realised today that I’ve not written up a progress post for foswiki on MongoDB for a bit – and so did a few benchmarks again.

The benchmarks given (at ) are for a structured query on a DataForm based web containing 25,000 topics, and are run on a desktop system running a 1.8GHz core2duo with 2G RAM.

When the foswiki on MongoDB project started, this query would take 5.4 seconds to provide the html to the client (pure CGI), now it takes 0.7seconds (with mod_fcgid).

That’s a speed-up of over 7 times.

Many other large web queries, like a WebIndex on a large web couldn’t even complete before, and now run in a usable fashion.

This milestone we’re separating out each web into its own database, and I’ll be adding in the topic revision information to the database too – that way it won’t matter if you have 10,000 webs, or 1,000,000 – the speed should be essentially constant (so long as you have the server resources to match your loads).


If noSQL isn’t suitable, and you would like to see a similar back-end developed using an SQL engine – contact me – WikiRing and fosiki are looking for interested companies with foswiki (and TWiki) scaling issues – without real life testing, examples and stakeholders, its extremely difficult find the many corner cases that our complex engine can allow.

Sharepoint 2007 to foswiki migration project part 1

I’ve spent the last few days working on getting data out of Sharepoint Wiki, and its shocking. If you read the webservices API and believe it, things would be simple.

I’ve spent the last few days working on getting data out of Sharepoint Wiki, and its shocking. If you read the webservices API and believe it, things would be simple. Sadly, its got some pretty major bugs, and some pretty woeful architecture too.

The worst finding is that although Sharepoint lists have a webservice API to get versioned data, its broken – all versions of the MetaInfo return the text of the last revision. So I had to resort to brute force html GET’s and parsing the html to try to get the historical info.

Still, data gathered and saved – next week I’ll start trying to extract the valuable user written text from the masses of shoddy html (like in MS Word to html, every line is surrounded by the same 100 character css styles, setting font to Verdana etc.

Google’s DataWiki experiment

Google Labs has just added DataWiki – it looks like one of the features Foswiki (and its parent) have been doing for 10 years…

Google Labs has just added a GoogleAppEngine based Java application called – DataWiki.

So far, project information is very minimal, but it looks like one of the features Foswiki (and its parent) have been doing for 10 years…

The timing is excellent, as I’ve been working with others in the Foswiki Community to improve Foswiki’s mashup-ability:

enable easy input/output from a variety of endpoints, e.g. via Twitter, ODK or SMS from a remote location

Right now we’re working on a proper REST API for foswiki data – enabling us to retrieve and save changes to datasets in formats that are convenient to the external endpoints – and to simplify the development to dynamic visualisation and editing tools for complex data.

Perhaps what we’re looking at is a combination of the acquired and shut down JotSpot, and a response to Yahoo Pipes 🙂

Foswiki is an extremely mature (10 years) DataWiki capable enterprise wiki, with significant traction in workplaces around the world, and a strong, motivated developer and user community.

Edit foswiki files in Microsoft Office

Using the WebDAV for foswiki Extension, you can seamlessly edit Microsoft Office files in Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and then save directly back into the Wiki.

editing is easy
Kontextwork WebDAV

Using the WebDAV for foswiki Extension, you can seamlessly edit Microsoft Office files in Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and then save directly back into the Wiki.

Using WebDAV, users can get direct access to Wiki topics and attachments, via the WebDAV URL – making it possible to attach documents by drag and dropping them directly in Windows Explorer.

Some technical details

WebDAV for foswiki requires advanced libraries on the server – including Apache 2 mod_perl support. For full integration mode, some trust settings need to be changed in Internet Explorer, or an extension installed to Firefox.

Required Perl modules and extensions
  • APR::Table
  • Apache2::Access
  • Apache2::Const
  • Apache2::Module
  • Apache2::RequestIO
  • Apache2::RequestRec
  • Data::Dumper
  • Encode
  • File::Find::Rule::Filesys::Virtual
  • File::Spec
  • URI
  • URI::Escape
  • XML::LibXML => than 1.64 (declaredPrefix function is needed)
  • XML::Simple
  • Filesys::Virtual
  • File::Path
  • JSON


New Dynamic jquery mb.Menus for foswiki

I’ve just started work adding Matteo Bicocchi’s rather stunning mb.Components – starting with mb.Menu. Along the way, adding foswiki Macro’s to make it simpler for us to use, I’ve also made some changes to the code (which hopefully I can get integrated into an mb.Menu release) that I have attached to the live demo.

Here’s the all important Screenie:

foswiki for windows updated to version 1.0.8

foswiki 1.0.8 and windows installer released

I built and uploaded foswiki 1.0.8 installer for windows last night – hope you like it, cos i’ll be on holidays for a few days 🙂

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been working on an SAP connector for foswiki – I can display most SAP Tables, and call most SAP functions – all via ‘RFC’ – right now we’re working towards a proactive system healthcheck report, but it pretty much will allow us to build any SAP process right into foswiki. Cool huh.

and for fun I’ve been working on making a replacement DocumentGraphics icon set based on FamFamFamContrib for foswiki – the 10 year old hand drawn one really is dated.