MABS status report: Updating MediaWiki::API

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a significant amount of time to spend on Multilateral, Asynchronous, Bidirectional Synchronisation of wikis or MABS for short.

This is all built on the git remote for MediaWiki work that was started almost a decade ago by some students. Since the initial effort there have been some significant changes in the MediaWiki API and, in the meantime, the MediaWiki::API Perl module that is doing a lot of heavy lifting in this project hasn’t seen a lot of work. For example, the last commit on the GitHub repository was to fix a typo in 2015.

So, I’ve been working this past week on updating the Perl module. This has been a lot of fun since I used to be quite the Perl snob—and by that I mean I looked down on people who didn’t love Perl, not that I looked down on Perl. Times have changed for me in the past ten or eleven years, so I’ve acquired some humility and begun doing a lot of work in what I would have considered to be the bottom-of-the-barrel language: PHP. Coming back to Perl is a lot of fun.

That said, Perl has continued to grow while I’ve been gone and I need some advice. I’ve become a huge fan of linters, so one change has been adhering pretty closely to almost every criticism Perl::Critic throws at me. I’ve gone as far as adding “smx” after almost every regular expression and incompatibly changing use constant to Readonly. You might say I’m getting a little carried away.

This and fixing the tests to use a docker instance (if available) rather than just sending every tester to the testwiki, as well as fixing some bugs I found along the way, has helped me understand this vital piece of the MABS project.

Still, coming back to Perl has made me realize just how ad hoc Perl’s object system is. I’ve heard of Moose and Mus (which I’m leaning towards), but I was wondering what best-practices the Perl community has for updating an existing code base.

Update 1: I asked for some feedback on the Perl object system to use and got some great feedback.

Update 2: I contacted the original author (Jools Wills) of the MediaWiki::API module and talked to him about what direction to take with it. I’ll have to do some more work on it to make it work well with for my purposes, but I may end up sending him a bunch of pull requests.

Photo by Roger McLassus [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons