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A short hands-on tour of Nodestack expanded from a presentation I gave at work.
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Picking up Nodestack


picking-up-nodestack is designed to be a self guided tour to explore writing web services based on NodeJS and JSON friendly databases (e.g. MongoDB) or public web APIs (e.g. YQL). It started as a presentation I made for my colleages and has evolved from there.

Credits for Awesome Fonts and YUI3

This website relies on Open Source fonts and JavaScript libraries. YUI3 used under the BSD License and is available at Font Awesome is used under the SIL Open Source license and is available at

What is Node and Nodestack?

Ever wonder what it would be like to build things for the web from server to browser only working with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript? Welcome to NodeJS (usually called Node). Since 2009 Node has been a platform that lets you build networked services using JavaScript (e.g. a web server). In simple terms it is an alternative to vintage web development stacks like LAMP (Linux+Apache+MySQL+PHP/Perl/Python), Apache+Tomcat+Oracle, IIS+ASP/.Net+SQL Server.

Node plus a database gives you Nodestack. Typically the database in one of the popular NoSQL varieties with easy integration with JSON representations (e.g. MongoDB, CouchDB, Redis). Node can also talk to relational databases like MySQL. The bottom line is Node+Database for web development is Nodestack.

The promise of Nodestack

It is trivial to over sell Nodestack. It will not make you sliced toast and coffee when you get up in the morning. It will not bring world peace. It will not gaurantee speed, efficiency, or effortless code. It is a platform that teases with possibilites. It will allows you to use a web native programming language, JavaScript, to build useful services and programs. Here's a list of promises which have developers excited about Node on with sides the http transaction-

  1. Simplicity * HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JSON through the whole stack
  2. Faster/easier development cycle
    • Simple development environment
    • A rapid development cycle
      1. Code a front end with HTML, CSS and JavaScript
      2. Use JSON blobs to mockup API requests (replace with API/DB calls on a later interation)
      3. Map the URLs you need to service your pages in a NodeJS http server
      4. Fire up the http server object, test, then iterate and evolve
    • A growing ecosystem of modules and tools
      • jslint, jscheckstyle, YUI's toolchain, Mojito, Derby, Meteor
      • A large developer community
  3. With work and forethought, Performance and scalability
    • More control with less complexity
      • NodeJS
      • NoSQL databases (e.g. MongoDB, CouchDB, Redis, etc.)
      • A scaling environments (e.g. Heroku, Nodejitsu, EngineYard, etc. )
    • Levage frontend experience through the whole stack
      • You already are experienced with JavaScript
      • You already use/understand an HTTP transaction (e.g. GET, POST, PUT, DELETE)
      • Node shares the same event oriented process model as the Browser
      • Add a basic understanding of NodeJS' module system and you're ready to go

Note that Node doesn't guarantee you'll always be simplier, faster, easier, more performant and scalable. By supporting the same process model as the browser, the same programming language as the browser and by providing a very solid module system it goes a long way to starting you out closer to the goals of simpler, faster, easier, more performant and scalable.

That is the end of the sales pitch. Now onto something more useful.


This is a self guided tour broken down into lessons, exercises and homeworks. The lessons are narrative sprinkled with code, lists and short exercises meant to illustrate a particular point. Homeworks are your jumping off point for exploring Nodestack on your own. Homeworks will require additional independant research on your part to complete (e.g. looking up docs at or a modules' on a website like or

Picking up Nodestack covers three general areas:

  1. The basics of Node
  2. The basics of MongoDB from a Node perspective
  3. Front to back construction with YUI 3
    • prototyping from the browser and a minimal web server
    • YUI under Node
    • building responsive designed and API driven solutoins

the lessons

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