A learning tool and code editor
 designed for Brazilian students, free and open to all
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Latest commit 7d9cb41 Oct 12, 2018


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A React application based on canon that provides a framework for teaching high school students how to code.

Getting Started

Required Software

  • PostgreSQL (database)
  • Node (serverside runtime env)
  • NPM (node package manager, comes with most node installations)
  • xvfb (for screenshots)


Database Initialization

Codelife runs on a Postgres Database, already set up and running at codelife.com, so additional setup/configuration steps should not be required. Connecting to the database for development is accomplished by setting canon environment variables (below). This should be all you need to get started.

Should it be necessary to recreate the database from scratch, its configuration is represented via the Sequelize models contained in the db folder. A schema dump is also made available here.

Local Development Setup

  1. Clone the repo
git clone https://github.com/Datawheel/codelife.git
  1. Install dependencies
cd codelife
npm i
  1. Set environment variables (more info)
export CANON_LANGUAGES=en,pt
export CANON_LOGINS=true
export CANON_DB_USER=dbUser
export CANON_DB_NAME=codelife
export CANON_DB_PW=MyPassWerd
export CANON_LOGREDUX=false
export CANON_LOGLOCALE=false
export CANON_API=http://localhost:3300
  1. Edit local hosts (/etc/hosts on a mac) file to add the following language subdomains en.localhost pt.localhost
  1. Run dev version of site
npm run dev
  1. Visit the Page


The production build of codelife.com always points to the master branch. To deploy the latest version on the production server:

  1. git pull origin master in the codelife directory to pull the latest updates from the repo
  2. npm run build to create the build
  3. sudo systemctl restart codelife to restart the codelife service

Additional Technical Information

About the choice of canon as a Framework

The canon project is an open-source framework developed and maintained in-house at Datawheel. It was created to assist in the rapid scaffolding of React websites. Its design is intended to handle commonly repeated configuration steps (such as ES6 Babel Transpiling) and to standardize reusable features (such as user management, social logins, and API requests).

The canon framework was chosen for Codelife due to its ease of setup, simple feature set, and its familiarity and expertise among the development team. As feature requests and site-specific improvements were added to Codelife during its development, this could be accomplished quickly and easily.

Datawheel has launched almost ten sites into Production using canon, and its continued development, maintenance, and improvement remain a top priority for the team. As longtime supporters of open-source software (including maintaining the popular d3plus library), Datawheel remains open to collaboration and improvement of the canon library over time.

More information about canon

A great deal of Codelife's functionality and structure, including its user management, API configuration, page routing, and social media integration are all handled through Datawheel framework known as canon. It is highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with the canon documentation, as it provides reasoning behind much of the file structure of codelife. These sections of the README are of particular importance:

  • User Management Explains how users are added and authenticated, as well as the concept of "roles".
  • Custom API Routes Explains the purpose of the /api folder, and how canon automatically scans for routes.
  • Custom Database Models Explains the purpose of the /db folder, and how canon automatically builds and associates models.

Explanation of Env Vars

All environment variables prepended with CANON_ are documented in the canon repo here.

Codelife has two additional admin-specific env vars, FLAG_COUNT_HIDE and FLAG_COUNT_BAN, which set the number of user reports on a piece of content required to hide the content (remove from listings/profiles) and ban it automatically, respectively.

Remote Rendering

Codelife contains a CodeEditor that students may use to make websites in the browser. The code that students write is executed on another domain (codelife.tech) to improve security. The student code is passed to a landing page on codelife.tech via postMessage and injected into an iframe on that page. A deeper documentation of how this process works is included in the CodeEditor file itself.

The landing pages themselves (source-controlled here in /sandbox, but hosted on codelife.tech) are named such that the origin of the postMessage can be automatically routed to an appropriately named page (e.g. en.codelife.com makes requests to codelife.tech/en-codelife-com.html). This is to ensure that ONLY codelife.com and its whitelisted language subdomains can send code to be executed.

The landing page makes use of loop-protect to prevent students from crashing their page session with infinite loops.


Codelife makes use of the electron-screenshot-service module, which requires that xvfb be installed on the ubuntu server.

Search Trigrams

Codelife search makes use of trigrams. More information is available here:


This enables search operations with the SQL command LIKE to be more performant.

First, enable the trigram extension:


Then, create an index on the column. Here are the two columns that Codelife currently searches:

CREATE INDEX users_on_username_idx ON users USING GIN(username gin_trgm_ops);
CREATE INDEX projects_on_name_idx ON projects USING GIN(name gin_trgm_ops);


See also the list of contributors who participated in this project.


This project is licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License v3.0 - see the LICENSE file for details