Backchat

Written on May 03 2008 at 14:20 and updated on May 08 2008 at 19:31

Much as I love github, it’s unlikely that we’re going to switch to git at Reevoo in the near future. We use subversion and trac to manage our development - a typical combination, I’ve no doubt.

One thing we miss - that github really does well - is the ability to comment on changesets. You can see an example from the engines plugin here. It’s really useful to be able to discuss a change in the application directly next to the representation of that change.

Alas, trac doesn’t have this feature (or at least it’s not installed or activated as default, and I couldn’t find anything on trac hacks). So in 30 minutes on a Thursday afternoon, I threw together a simple solution that I thought might be useful for other people (and other projects).

One file, one hundred lines (and no trickery to make the file smaller either!), one super-simple app: backchat.

Using Backchat

For trac, you just need to edit the changeset.cs template, and add something like the following snippet wherever in the page you want the comments to appear:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://your-backchat-server/<?cs var:changeset.new_rev ?>.js"></script>

This will embed a form in the page for entering comments keyed against that changeset. Add “?css=true” to the end of the URL if you want to include my feeble attempts at prettification.

I suppose in theory you could use backchat to comment against any site, so long as you can extract a valid ‘reference’ parameter for the current page. Perhaps the reference could just be the URL, and a bookmarklet could insert the form and comments into the page?

This sounds familiar…

Yup - it’s all very much like _why’s Hoodwink’d. The big difference is that you own the comments, so nobody can eaves-drop unless they have access to the backchat server; this is what makes it appropriate for commenting on sensitive things like Reevoo’s codebase. Retrospectively, I realise that I could’ve just used the hoodwink’d codebase, but then that wouldn’t have been as fun.

Anyway - let me know what you think about it - either here, or on the github project page. Cheers!


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