A fork of the original contentdb, codenamed "Okapi".
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Developer Introduction


ContentDB is a Python Flask webservice. There's a PostgreSQL database, manipulated using the SQLAlchemy ORM.

When a user makes a request, Python Flask will direct the request to a route in an blueprint. A blueprint is a Flask construct to hold a set of routes. Routes are implemented using Python, and likely to respond by using database models and rendering HTML templates.

Routes may also use functions in the app/logic/ module, which is a directory containing reusable functions. This allows the API, background tasks, and the front-end to reuse code.

To avoid blocking web requests, background tasks run as Celery tasks.


The App

The app directory contains the Python Flask application.

  • blueprints contains all the Python code behind each endpoint / route.
  • templates contains all the HTML templates used to generate responses. Each directory in here matches a directory in blueprints.
  • models contains all the database table classes. ContentDB uses SQLAlchemy to interact with PostgreSQL.
  • flatpages contains all the markdown user documentation, including /help/.
  • public contains files that should be added to the web server unedited. Examples include CSS libraries, images, and JS scripts.
  • scss contains the stylesheet files, that are compiled into CSS.
  • tasks contains the background tasks executed by Celery.
  • logic is a collection of reusable functions. For example, shared code to create a release or edit a package is here.
  • tests contains the Unit Tests and UI tests.
  • utils contain generic Python utilities, for example common code to manage Flask requests.

There are also a number of Python files in the app directory. The most important one is querybuilder.py, which is used to generate SQLAlachemy queries for packages and topics.

Supporting directories

  • migrations contains code to manage database updates.
  • translations contains user-maintained translations / locales.
  • utils contains bash scripts to aid development and deployment.

How to find stuff

Generally, you want to start by finding the endpoint and then seeing the code it calls.

Endpoints are sensibly organised in app/blueprints.

You can also use a file search. For example, to find the package edit endpoint, search for "/packages/<author>/<name>/edit/".

Users and Permissions

Many routes need to check whether a user can do a particular thing. Rather than hard coding this, models tend to have a checkPerm function which takes a user and a Permission.

A permission may be something like Permission.EDIT_PACKAGE or Permission.DELETE_THREAD.

if not package.checkPerm(current_user, Permission.EDIT_PACKAGE):


ContentDB uses Flask-Babel for translation. All strings need to be tagged using a gettext function.

Translating templates (HTML)

<div class="something" title="{{ _('This is translatable now') }}">
	{{ _("Please remember to do something related to this page or something") }}

With parameters:

	{{ _("Hello %(username)s, you have %(count)d new messages", username=username, count=count) }}

See https://pythonhosted.org/Flask-Babel/#flask.ext.babel.Babel.localeselector and https://blog.miguelgrinberg.com/post/the-flask-mega-tutorial-part-xiv-i18n-and-l10n.

Translating Python

If the text is within a request, then you can use gettext like so:

flash(gettext("Some error message"), "danger")

If the text is global, for example as part of a python class, then you need to use lazy_gettext:

class PackageForm(FlaskForm):
	title            = StringField(lazy_gettext("Title (Human-readable)"), [InputRequired(), Length(1, 100)])