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static-comments

A Probot based NodeJS application that enables comments for "Static Site Generated" websites hosted on GitHub

Install

You can either host your own static-comments instance (for example on Heroku) then install it in your GitHub account, or just install the public application directly which make use of the instance I maintain (i.e. feel free to use but at your own risk).

Install your own static-comments Probot application

git clone https://github.com/shaftoe/static-comments
cd static-comments
npm install
npm run start

then open http://localhost:3000/ in your browser and follow the instructions to install your own application in your GitHub account.

You can also have a look at the Ansible playbook file that I use do deploy my instance on a Debian Buster server for hints on how to host it yourself. It should be fairly easy to deploy on something like Heroku but I've not tried yet.

Install the public static-comments Probot application

Log into your GitHub account and install the app from its public page.

At some point you should be able to see something like this: screenshot of GitHub install page

WARNING: at the moment this is to be considered as experimental software so I give no guarantees whatsoever that this instance will be available and/or work as expected, use at your own risk.

Architecture

The application itself is very simple: Probot takes care of all the heavy lifting required to install, authenticate and interact with GitHub. static-comments simply listen for HTTP requests, parses the content of any new POST /static-comments/new request (for example one sent from an HTML url encoded form submission) and finally creates a new pull request on the repository specified in the POST data payload with the user-generated (form) content.

The comment content and configuration sent via POST are parsed and saved (with useful metadata like creation time and unique id) in a json file blob in a path specified in the configuration payload, making it available for code review. When merged to the website codebase it can be read by any static site generator (for my blog I use Hugo for example) to display comments as HTML.

The relevant comment parsing implementation is in the comment module and everything needed to create a Pull Request with a comment object is in the github-utils module.

Here you can see a real example used to enable comments for my Hugo website.

POST content

The absolute minimum configuration in the POST payload is the following:

  • config[repo]: the GitHub repository where to open the pull requests, e.g. shaftoe/personal-website
  • config[path]: the base folder where to create the file for the pull request, e.g. data/blog/my-blog-entry-title
  • content: any arbitrary (nested or not) data with comment content, e.g. my simple comment

If you want to add spam filtering support via Akismet you need to populate the akismet key with some parameters, e.g:

  • akismet[key]: the Akismet developer API key
  • akismet[blog]: the blog address

Refer to the official Akismet documentation for all the non-mandatory parameters you can add to the akismet config key.

NOTE: support for MD5 hashing is offered out of the box (any content key ending in #md5 will have its content hashed in the pull request), which is useful for example if you'd like to store an email address' MD5 hash that can be used to display a Gravatar image: content[email#md5]=some@email.here. Check the provided Hugo example for more details.

Example

This is how a pull request file (data/somefolder/1599834191610-460f0afb-a0f9-40c0-94e6-e072d66d5a49.json) content looks like:

{
    "id": "460f0afb-a0f9-40c0-94e6-e072d66d5a49",
    "created": "2020-09-11T14:23:11.610Z",
    "comment": {
        "body": "static-comments is awesome",
        "name": "Alex",
        "email#md5": "0a74859ec2d68811668fc44bb32b53e5"
    }
}

The following command has been used to create the pull request:

time http --form POST https://comments.l3x.in/new \
    comment[body]="static-comments is awesome" \
    comment[name]="Alex" \
    comment[email#md5]="<my@real.email>" \
    config[path]="data/somefolder" \
    config[repo]="shaftoe/testing-pr" \
    config[redirect]="https://a.l3x.in/"

HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Connection: keep-alive
Content-Length: 52
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8
Date: Fri, 11 Sep 2020 14:23:20 GMT
Keep-Alive: timeout=5
Location: https://a.l3x.in/
Vary: Accept
X-Powered-By: Express

Moved Permanently. Redirecting to https://a.l3x.in/

real 0m10.336s
user 0m0.561s
sys 0m0.173s

Credits

This project has been heavily inspired by Staticman. static-comments is basically a very simple version of Staticman without many of its features and available as GitHub application. The main benefit of using static-comments over Staticman is that you don't need to create any dedicated GitHub user nor generate Oauth tokens to let static-comments interact with your GitHub repositories and you can select which ones it has read/write access to (at install time it asks for the very minimum permissions needed to create a pull request).

Contributions / Contacts

Pull requests are welcome.

You can also send me a message from my contact page or probably find me hanging out in the Probot Slack channel.

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A Probot application to enable comments for static websites

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