Monthly Archives: November 2008

Liquid Refreshment

This week I have been experimenting with Liquid.

Not an excuse for boozing at work, but a method of allowing content editors to incorporate dynamic content without having access to all the wonderful and dangerous things that Ruby allows.

In short, you can use tags which look like to output variables or to do simple computations. If you’re interested (and who wouldn’t be?), you can read more about Liquid here.

The object of this investigation was to allow content editors to include polls in their content that users could vote on. Polls are a feature that we’ve been thinking about adding to Glamlife for a while, and it was decided that giving editors the option to add them into Glamlife’s ‘chunks’ would be the ideal way, to give them as much flexibility as possible.

So my first task was to try and dig up as much information about Liquid as I could find. As is so often the case with these cutting-edge technologies, there isn’t much out there. The Liquid developers’ wiki was useful, but not exactly comprehensive. I was also able to find a few blog posts about it, for example this one about custom tags, and this overview of Liquid’s features.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video worth? I found that the most useful resource by far was Ryan Bates’s ‘Railscast’ video tutorial on using Liquid. After watching this and having a little play with it in the Rails console environment, I felt pretty good about Liquid and set about trying to shoehorn the poll form into it.

As many of you will be aware, however, life has a nasty habit of crushing your dreams just when you think they might be coming to fruition. Imagine my despair, then, when I found that the Rails helper methods (which are required for the form) are unavailable in the lib files which you are required to code your custom tags in. As yet, with my relatively limited knowledge of Rails, and despite watching another Railscast video, I have been unable to solve this problem.

An interim solution will be to simply hard-code the form into a view. This is inflexible, and will only show the latest poll created, but it will at least get the feature out into the wild and satisfy the clamour for exciting new features. Keep your eyes peeled on Glamlife (if you have access to it!) to see if we have more success with this!