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TIPS, INSIGHTS AND THE LATEST FROM THE EXPERTS BEHIND CAKEPHP

RSS Feeds, Fast and Easy

For my first entry, I am going to talk about how to create an RSS Feed on your website. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a format used to publish frequently updated works such as blogs or featured products. RSS defines a set of XML elements that are used to describe a channel or feed of information. An RSS feed is comprised of two parts, first is the metadata describing the channel and second is the records that make up the elements of the feed. RSS feeds allow your sites visitors to access the information on your site using software that reads these feeds. This will allow your site's visitors to stay up-to-date on the information on your site.

CakePHP allows for easy integration of RSS feeds into existing controller actions through the automatic router extension parsing. This allows us to specify what type of response we want from a URL through adding the proper extension to the URL such as http://www.yoursite.com/entries.rss. This alerts the router that your are asking for RSS formatted data in return. In addition, CakePHP has an RssHelper class that can be used to output parts of the metadata and elements in the feed through an easy to use helper.

Preparation

Before we begin making the feed we must alert the router that we want to allow for extensions to be parsed in the URL and that we want it to accept .rss as a valid extension. In your sites router file we add the following:

	Router::parseExtensions('rss');

Also for CakePHP to work it magic we must also have the RequestHandler in our controller's $components array. Now the router knows that we would like to parse urls that end in .rss as requesting RSS formatted responses. The next step of preparation is to add a default layout for rss feeds on your site. When you request a different format response the layout that is rendered will be selected from a sub-folder with the same name as the format. So in this case we would need a folder called /rss in the layouts folder in our CakePHP install. The view class will search for a file that has the same name as the layout that would be rendered if you were just rendering the html. In most cases this is the default.ctp layout file in the main layouts directory, but because we are requesting the response in RSS format we must add a default.ctp layout in the /layouts/rss/ sub-directory. This layout is our default RSS Feed layout.

	echo $rss->header();

	if (!isset($channel)) {
		$channel = array();
	}
	if (!isset($channel['title'])) {
		$channel['title'] = $title_for_layout;
	}

	echo $rss->document($rss->channel(array(), $channel, $content_for_layout));

Here in the layout our RssHelper shines through. We use the method RssHelper::channel() which generates the element and associated metadata elements. The $content_for_layout variable contains the output from the view. These then get passed to the RssHelper::document() method, which wraps the RSS document in the respective elements.

Controller

The controller needs no modification in the case of a simple RSS feed. This is because we are only adding a second view that is xml/rss to the action. The same data is used in both views and because CakePHP automatically sets the correct response type we don't need to tell it to render the correct view and layout for RSS. Here is the action method in the EntriesController for a basic view sorted by a published_date field and showing only if it is published.

	public function index() {
		$this->paginate['Entry'] = array(
			'conditions' => array('Entry.published' => 1),
			'order' => 'Entry.published_date DESC');
		$this->set('entries', $this->paginate());
	}

If you do have code that is specific for only the RSS view you can use the RequestHandler::isRss() to see if the action was called with the request for xml/rss formatting on response. This method returns a boolean value based on if the .rss extension was parsed in the URL.

	if ($this->RequestHandler->isRss()) {
		// RSS feed specific code goes here
	}

Note About Channel Metadata

It may feel right to put your metadata information in the index method in the controller, using Controller::set() to send the information to the views. This is inappropriate and is one of the most common snags that we have seen in the CakePHP community with creating RSS feeds. That information which is passed in the layout file to the RssHelper::channel() method should be set in the view using View::set() which will set the $channel variable for the layout in the view.

Views

As we had to put the layout in a subdirectory of the layouts folder we also need to create a view for the index action for the blogs controller. This is done by creating a directory /views/entries/rss/ which will hold our view file that will generate the RSS to render. You will need to add your RssHelper to the list of helpers in your controller so that it is automatically loaded in the view and the layout.

Our view begins by setting the $channel variable for the layout, this contains all the metadata for our RSS feed.

	$homeUrl = $html->url('/', true);
	$this->set('channel', array(
		'title' => __("Daniel's Recent Articles", true),
		'link' => $homeUrl,
		'description' => __("Most recent articles from Daniel.", true),
		'language' => 'en-us',
		'image' => array(
			'title' => 'Recent Articles from Daniel',
			'url' => FULL_BASE_URL . $this->webroot('/img/rss_feed_image', true),
			'link' => $homeUrl));

First we get the URL link for the website home that we will use for the links. Also we set the title, description and image to use for the RSS feed icon. By setting the channel variable using View::set() we are providing the layout the information to render the RSS feed's metadata elements.

The second part of the view generates the elements for the actual records of the feed. This is accomplished by looping through the data that has been passed to the view and using the RssHelper::item() method. The other method you can use, RssHelper::items() which takes a callback and an array of items for the feed. (The method I have seen used for the callback has always been called transformRss(). There is one downfall to this method, which is that you cannot use any of the other helper classes to prepare your data inside the callback method because the scope inside the method does not include anything that is not passed inside, thus not giving access to the TimeHelper or any other helper that you may need. The RssHelper::item() transforms the associative array into an element for each key value pair.

	foreach ($entries as $entry) {
		$postTime = strtotime($entry['Entry']['created']);

		$entryLink = array(
			'controller' => 'entries',
			'action' => 'view',
			'year' => date('Y', $postTime),
			'month' => date('m', $postTime),
			'day' => date('d', $postTime),
			$entry['Entry']['slug']);

		// This is the part where we clean the body text for output as the description 
		// of the rss item, this needs to have only text to make sure the feed validates
		$bodyText = preg_replace('=\(.*?)\=is', '', $entry['Entry']['body']);
		$bodyText = $text->stripLinks($bodyText);
		$bodyText = Sanitize::stripAll($bodyText);
		$bodyText = $text->truncate($bodyText, 400, '...', true, true);

		echo  $rss->item(array(), array(
			'title' => $entry['Entry']['title'],
			'link' => $entryLink,
			'guid' => array('url' => $entryLink, 'isPermaLink' => 'true'),
			'description' =>  $bodyText,
			'dc:creator' => $entry['Entry']['author'],
			'pubDate' => $entry['Entry']['created']));
	}

You can see above that we can use the loop to prepare the data to be transformed into XML elements. It is important to filter out any non-plain text charictars out of the description, especially if you are using a rich text editor for the body of your blog. In the code above we use the TextHelper::stripLinks() method and a few methods from the Sanitize class, but we recommend writing a comprehensive text cleaning helper to really scrub the text clean. Once we have set up the data for the feed, we can then use the RssHelper::item() method to create the XML in RSS format. Once you have all this setup, you can test your RSS feed by going to your site /entries/index.rss and you will see your new feed. It is always important that you validate your RSS feed before making it live. This can be done by visiting sites that validate the XML such as Feed Validator or the w3c site at http://validator.w3.org/feed/.

Latest articles

CakeFest 2021 Decisions

Well… 2021 is already feeling a little 2020ish to me, what about you? While I had high hopes of things being back to normal as far as travel, events, etc. It seems as though we still have a ways to go in that department.  

Difficult Decisions

Our events are no exception to this. While virtual CakeFest was a great success, I think that the CakePHP team, as well as the community had hoped for an in-person event… sooner, rather than later. Everyone is missing the adventures and camaraderie that physical meet-ups bring. Unfortunately, we may be waiting a little longer. The team couldn’t stand to make the tough call on the event alone, without consulting with the community.  

The Community Has Spoken

So, CakePHP took to the polls. The question was posted via social media, and included in the January newsletter: Should CakeFest be virtual or in-person (Los Angeles, specifically)? The consensus was no surprise, and 85%+ of bakers voted for a virtual event this year. One follower mentioned that he “wasn’t ready to risk the event not happening at all, so a virtual event is better than no event”. I couldn’t agree more.    A virtual conference was uncharted territory for CakeFest planners and attendees, but in my opinion.. it came together so wonderfully, that it is hard to be disappointed that it will be happening again. So here’s to gathering once again from the comfort of your own space, and hoping that everyone remembers to have their cake ready! Mark Story can even (virtually) cut it for you if you prefer.   The call for sponsors and speakers will be opening soon, so make sure to contact the CakePHP / CakeFest team with any questions you may have ahead of time.  Planning on attending? We would love to hear from you! What are some topics that you would like covered in the workshops or talks? EMAIL US HERE.   *Digital hug*  

Baking Smarter, Not Harder in 2021

After the year we had… our new motto should be work smarter, not harder, in 2021? Am I right? Luckily, CakePHP community and core members are extremely helpful and constantly working to make baking easier. Here are some things that will assist you with your CakePHP projects….

Plugins:

I recently wrote a blog featuring some of the best (voted by the community) CakePHP plugins - you can see it HERE. A full catalogue of CakePHP plugins is available at https://plugins.cakephp.org. It is no secret that plugins are essential for developers. CakeDC has a few of our own as well, you can get details at:  https://www.cakedc.com/plugins. The good news is, if you don’t see one, but have a great idea, you can build and release your own! To learn more about this process, Jose Gonzalez explains it in his CakeFest 2021 Talk.     Lots of other videos / talks / tutorials are located in the CakePHP Youtube channel as well.
 

Tools:

If you follow us on social media, we highlight a lot of tools released from the community.  One of the most popular is the debugging tool: https://book.cakephp.org/4/en/development/debugging.html A commonly used one is to help updating your composer.json while upgrading https://toolbox.dereuromark.de/utilities/upgrade   You can see more on THIS cakePHP tools list from Dereuromark!
 

Support:

I talk about support channels a lot… because well… what is open source without them? Every time I take a virtual stroll to the slack channels, I am amazed at the participation and interaction between community members. It’s like having your own development team available anytime you need them. Rest assured that if you have an issue that's causing a blocker, someone in the chat will (most likely) have a solution. A full list of support channels was listed in our last blog, but if you missed it, here you go: Discourse forum: https://discourse.cakephp.org Stack Overflow: https://stackoverflow.com/tags/cakephp IRC: https://kiwiirc.com/nextclient/irc.freenode.net#cakephp Slack: https://cakesf.herokuapp.com
 

The Book:

If you’re a veteran baker, you already know this. However, this wouldn't be a helpful blog without mentioning the all mighty book… The CakePHP bookThis is where you should start on your cake journey… read it… read it again. Then, reference back to it when you need it. There is an average of 46k users utilizing the book monthly (184k sessions). That should speak for itself.
 

Newsletter:

The CakePHP team releases a newsletter each month. This is a good resource if you’re looking to catch up on a month’s worth of news in one place.  Usually included is: releases, helpful tools, training/event dates, specials, surveys, and more.  You can see previous newsletters & subscribe HERE.   I will close this with a shameless plug: if you want to work a whole lot smarter this year, let someone else do the work for you. Check out all of the CakeDC services offered at cakedc.com/services.    Here’s to 2021 being a lot easier… more peaceful… and tasty!  

Saying Goodbye To 2020 Is A Piece of Cake

I never thought that I would be so excited to say… the year is coming to an end. What a year it has been. Let’s focus on some good things that happened for us this year.

CakePHP Community

Our team worked as closely as ever with the CakePHP community. We have hosted training sessions and multiple online meetups - for which we had consistent attendance and involvement. We have enjoyed getting to know each baker that attends and interacts with us. It was a great year for releases, too. If you follow the social media pages, you’re up to date with all of the new features and tools that are released in real time. Not to mention new and updated plugins. You can see all of the latest releases in the BAKERY.  

CakeFest

While we usually get to travel to some amazing city in the world and meet with the attendees in person, clearly that was not going to be an option this year. For the first time ever, the event was held virtually. Being so involved, and responsible for the success of the event, was stressful and frightening to say the least, but alas…it came together wonderfully.  We were able to have attendees that may not have been able to join us otherwise, and the participation was unprecedented. I am so thankful for the wonderful sponsors, speakers, attendees, and contributors that made the event possible.  In case you didn’t know, all of the CakeFest 2020 videos have been released. You can view them in the CakeFest archive, or on the CakePHP Youtube channel. Don’t forget to subscribe to the channel, and I will tell you why later.    Now… what can be expected in 2021? LOTS!

Increased Involvement

We want to expand the kitchen, if you will. We have an amazing group of core developers, and they would love to have more involvement from the community. If you’ve ever thought about contributing and getting involved, there are many options, you can check out details HERE.   

More documentation / blogs

Speaking of getting more people involved, this will include blogging. We have so many great plugins, but maybe not enough documentation to support the training on them. The core team is on board and we will all be working hard to provide more documentation for the framework. In fact, we even some some community members that have already volunteered to provide more blog contributions to the bakery. Maybe you’d like to as well?!  

Video Tutorials

One suggestion that we get consistently is that we need more video tutorials. We agree! We are going to be updating our YouTube channel and will hopefully be adding more video tutorials as soon as Q1. We will also make sure that training sessions / meetups will be available to subscribers for playback. We would love to hear your suggestions for content, you can email us at community@cakephp.org and let us know what you’d like to see. 
 

Support

As always, CakePHP has many support channels, and this will not change in the new year. In fact, we plan to make it even easier to connect with other bakers.   Here are some current available support options: Discourse forum: https://discourse.cakephp.org Stack Overflow: https://stackoverflow.com/tags/cakephp IRC: https://kiwiirc.com/nextclient/irc.freenode.net#cakephp Slack: https://cakesf.herokuapp.com
  Want to have your opinion heard? The core team wants to know what you want for CakePHP 5. Please take a moment and fill out a quick SURVEY to let them know.    We can’t wait to bake with you in 2021. Wishing you all a happy holiday season and a very happy new year!  

We Bake with CakePHP