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Revision as of 17:28, 29 October 2016 by John Layt (talk | contribs) (Database Abstraction)

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This page details the progress on development of ARK 2.0


The primary aims of ARK2 are:

  • Separate the ARK Database backend from the ARK Web frontend
  • Implement a modern RESTful API to allow other frontends and apps to access and update the ARK Database
  • Simplify the setup and configuration of ARK by moving the config into the database and providing online config tools
  • Improve the overall performance and data integrity of ARK
  • Make it possible to provide an ARK hosting service


Modern frontend

  • HTML5
  • Bootstrap 3 based
  • Twig templates


  • Modern RESTful API to access and update all ARK data

Front Controller model

  • URL paths independent from source code paths for greater security and flexibility
  • Most pages generated using common page layout code from config and data stored in database
  • Page roles allow for switching of generated page based on user role, module, etc
  • Local custom pages separated from core source and configurable by page role

User Authentication

  • Token based
  • Internal Authentication via password
  • External Authentication via OAuth2 providers (Facebook, Google, etc)

User Authorisation

  • Role Based Access Control (RBAC) using hierarchical Roles and Permissions structure


High level design decisions for ARK2.

Technical Standards

ARK will only actively support platforms that are actively supported by their maintainers. ARK may work on earlier versions but this is not guaranteed.

  • HTML5 will be used
  • Browser support restricted to those supported by Bootstrap 3
  • PHP: A minimum of v5.6 will be supported (5.6 is in Security Support, 5.7 in active support, see, v7 will be supported.
  • MySQL/MariaDB v5.5 or later (lowest supported MySQL)
  • PostgreSQL v9.2 or later
  • SQLite 3.7.11 or later (required for multiple inserts)
  • mod_rewrite will be required
  • All files will be UTF8 using UNIX LF

Development Standards

The PHP-FIG standards will be used:

  • PSR-1 and PSR-2 Coding Standards
  • PSR-3 Logging Interface for interchangeable logging objects
  • PSR-4 Auto-Loading Standard
  • PSR-7 HTTP Message Interface for interchangeable Request/Response objects

PSR-3 and PSR-7 allow mixing and matching of component libraries from different vendors, and supports future-proofing by allowing switching between libraries with minimal code changes.

PSR-4 will be used for packaging, namespace and auto-loading of OO code. A good series of articles explaining PSR-4 and modern development and packaging in general can be found at the following:

In consequence:

  • Composer will be required for dependency management and PSR-4 auto-loading
  • All new external libraries will be installed by Composer under vendor/ and not libs/
  • All new OO classes will be namespaced under LPArchaeology\ARK\
  • All new OO code will be under src/ and not php/ (this will also clearly separate new code from old)

Components will be carefully chosen to be well supported, stable, and interchangeable wherever possible.

Database Abstraction

ARK2 will support the use of MySQL, PostgreSQL or SQLite as the database.

In ARK1, PDO is used to directly access only MySQL databases, and DB access statements are widely spread through the code base and manually coded. While PDO abstracts the connection, it doesn't abstract the SQL dialect so adding support for other databases such as Postgres or SQLite would require considerable work. It also makes migration to proper transaction support and performance improvements difficult, and is a security risk due to programmer error.

A Database Abstraction Layer (DAL) can abstract away the differences in SQL between database systems, and also provide Query Builders, Schema Management, and Migration tools to address the other issues. Most are built on PDO and can seamlessly integrate with legacy code to make for an easier migration path. The Doctrine DBAL DAL has been selected due to it's use in Symfony and the ORM extension being a Data Mapping ORM.

More details can be found on the ARK2/Database page.

Multi-Tenancy / Multi-Site / Multi-Config

A number of architectural issues surround Multi-Tenancy, Multi-Site and Multi-Config in an ARK instance. These primarily affect how a hosted ARK service will be run, but also how a standalone organisation will manage their ARK instances.

  • An ARK instance is here defined as a combination of ARK users and the ARK site data they are able to access, usually under a single project/brand/organisation.
  • A database is defined as a combination of a database user and the tables it can access, not the database server instance which can hold multiple database.
  • Multi-tenancy is the ability to have multiple ARK instances in a single ARK install.
  • Multi-site is the ability to have multiple sites within an ARK instance.
  • Mulit-config is the ability to have multiple ARK schemas within an ARK instance, i.e. different sites having a different config.

Choosing an architecture involves a series of trade-offs around ease-of-development versus ease-of-maintenance. The simplest solution is the current structure, where an ARK instance has a single tenant with a single config across multiple sites. There are problems with this however:

  • Each instance requires a separate code install, database and URL
  • If a single organisation wants multiple ARK schemas (say trench-based rural and a full urban SCR) they must run separate ARK instances for each schema, meaning users must remember which instance has which sites and maintain separate user IDs, and the apps using the API must know this as well.
  • Making significant upgrades to an organisation's config requires a separate ARK install
  • Scaling up to 100's of instances creates 100's of installs and 100's of databases which will make support difficult and expensive even with automation

At the opposite extreme is an architecture where a single ARK install supports multiple tenants, sites and configs in a single database. While this solves the above issues by greatly simplifying maintenance there are a number of issues here too:

  • Code and SQL is significantly more complicated, joins especially become difficult
  • Key bloat on all tables as fields required for tenant and site which may affect performance
  • Table bloat with all data being in a single set of tables which may affect performance
  • Back up and archive is an issue as the data for different tenants needs to be separated, probably requiring custom code instead of standard tools
  • Security is an issue with data access control now occurring in the app code
  • A single tenant can overload the server and take all tenants down
  • Distributing load across servers becomes difficult if not impossible
  • Upgrading an install means all site configs must be upgraded too, you cannot leave a site on an old version
  • Existing code and data would make ARK1 migration far more complex

A half-way house model would be to allow a single install to have multiple tenants, but each tenant has its own database instance:

  • A simple key structure is kept, keeping the code simple
  • Each tenants data is kept separate, solving the size, security and backup issues
  • Load can be easily distributed by moving a tenant to another server by simply moving their database and/or redirecting their url
  • Code maintenance is kept simple, but database management becomes more complex again
  • Upgrading an install will still require upgrading all sites

Note: A practical limitation is imposed by MySQL and SQLite support which only allow a single 'namespace' per database, unlike PostgreSQL and others which support multiple 'namespaces' which would allow each tenant to have separate sets of tables within the same database.

The strongest case can be made for supporting Multi-Config, primarily as a a means of allowing larger clients to host all their data inside a single install with a single set of users (including LP ourselves). This has several implications however:

  • It raises Site Code from an attribute of an item in a module, to being a key at a higher level than the modules themselves, i.e the modules available will change depending on the Site Code
  • As a consequence it substantially changes the api to add the site code above the module
  • It may make searching across site codes difficult
  •  ???

The full combination would allow a hosted ARK solution as follows:

  • Lowest price tier (£5) / mass market / community dig type sites are hosted in a single multi-tenant install, only allowed a single site/config, may not allow own domain?
  • Upgrade to lowest tier (£10) still in single multi-tenet install, but allowed say 5 sites/configs, maybe allow own domain?
  • Next tier(s) (£15/£20/£25?) gives separate install, probably in own virtual host, own domain, with unlimited sites/configs?
  • Possible top-tier for large-scale sites with guaranteed support contract

This would keep the maintenance burden on the lowest-profit sites to a minimum, while encouraging up-sells as and when needed.

Install management could be simplified by developing a set of built-in tools.

  • Installs using git, run git pull to upgrade
  • Doctrine migrations enable auto data updates
  • Auto-check function for new releases and notify admin
  • Admin panel to put site into maintenance mode, run code update, run data update

Splitting database roles may assist in this:

  • User database - allows Multi-tenant to choose if shared users for all/some tenants, or any tenant to have own users
  • Config database - The ARK configuration, schemas, forms, etc, allows multi-tenant to share all configs with all/some tenants, or any tenant to have own set
  • Data database - The ARK data, each tenant will have their own database

The framework will manage three separate database connection variables, but where the database roles are shared by a database instance then the connection objects will be the same.


It is proposed to implement a new RESTful Request/Route/Response skeleton using a Front Controller model and token-based security, based on an external micro-framework and components adhering to the PSR standards and managed via Composer. This will reduce the amount of code maintained internally, update the code-base to modern web-app design principals, and provide a degree of future-proofing by allowing switching of components.

Choosing a full framework such as Symfony or Zend at this point would force refactoring all of the model and view code at the same time, but by initially building our own light-weight controller framework using PSR-compliant components we can migrate the model and view later. Once all parts are migrated, a full framework could be considered if required. A full framework would also impose a heavy overhead and steeper learning curve, albeit with less code required to be written.

The ARK root folder will contain only the index.php file which will act as a dispatcher, receiving all Requests, matching the Route and dispatching them to the correct Controller. Each ARK page type and the api will have a Controller to read the model and construct the view before returning the Response. This will allow future flexibility for new request formats while still being able to support persistent legacy links. It will also allow for database config and user auth driven routing, e.g. one install may only expose the RESTful API, while others may only expose read-only pages.

A number of criteria will be applied in selection:

  • Must be standards compliant
  • Must be well supported with a solid development history
  • Must be well documented
  • Must be widely used and supported
  • Must have a strong community, small one-person efforts will only be considered if they are the de-facto standard
  • Any database access must use Doctrine DBAL or ORM

Options for micro-frameworks or component eco-systems include:

  • Slim - PSR7 based with minimal features, requires integrating more external components, but more flexible and future-proof
  • Silex - HTTPFoundation based and built on Symphony components, far less work to start with but less flexible as a result
  • Zend Expressive or components joined by Zend Stratigility - PSR7 based, falls between other two in terms of effort, but limited in choice of components currently integrated

Frameworks or User Management skeletons considered but rejected include:

  • Zend APIgility - Automated API generation built on Zend2
  • Lumen based on Laravel components - requires an Active Record ORM
  • UserCake - Very basic user management skeleton, no repo, not worth looking at
  • User Apple Pie - a UserCake fork using own Nova Framework, probably support issues
  • User frosting, a UserCake fork with RBAC user management, using Slim2, SBAdmin2, use for ideas

Significant and reliable sources of components include:


ARK currently uses PEAR LiveUser for user authentication and authorisation, but this hasn't been updated since 2010. It is a security risk, and also lacks many features like federated login. The ARK API currently uses plain text user and password in the request URL which is insecure. ARK2 will require a new security solution, especially for the API calls from client apps.


  • User Authentication
    • Token-based
    • Local user database for stand-alone/internal use
    • Via OAuth and OpenID authentication services (Google, Facebook, etc)
  • User Authorisation
    • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) model based on Users/Roles/Permissions
  • API authentication via token and secure login
    • HTTPS will be required
    • Use LetsEncrypt to obtain SSL certificates
  • Anonymous/Unauthenticated User access as optional Role for both Web and API
  • A migration path from LiveUser must be provided.

Any solution chosen will work best when integrated with the other framework components chosen and should be implemented in parallel as it is highly dependent on the Request/Response/Routing/Session components used.

The Symfony Framework provides a very powerful Security component, but not a simple all-in-one solution meeting our requirements. Combining a number of external components may be able to meet our requirements, at the cost of more custom code required.

  • Use Symfony\Security\Guard to manage the Authentication process
  • Use League\OAuth2-Client or Opauth or HWIOAuthBundle for external OAuth2 authentication
  • Use League\OAuth2-Server or FOSOAuthServerBundle for OAuth2 server for API
  • Use Sylius\RBAC or FOSUserBundle for User/Role management

The combination of HWIOAuthBundle / FOSOAuthServerBundle / FOSUserBundle is widely supported and more 'native' to Symfony, but requires the use of the full framework, bundles, Doctrine ORM, and YAML-based config. The alternatives are built as stand-alone interoperable PSR components and will provide greater future flexibility and a gentler migration path, but will require more work to integrate.

Alternatives such as Sentinal which provides all the required features in a single integrated component would require choosing a different component ecosystem, such as Laravel.

Possible packages:

OAuth2 Servers:



Chosen components:

User Manager modifications needed:

  • Silex2 port
  • Admin settings
  • Add user screen
  • Invite emails
  • Guard?
  • Console add user optional role
  • Console enable/disable user


  • Service provider
  • Voter
  • Forms
  • User Manager override classes


  •  ???

Defined Roles:

  • System Admin - Admin rights for system install, i.e. config, etc. Not inherited.
  • ARK Admin - Admin rights for ARK instance, i.e. users, etc. Inherits Supervisor, User.
  • ARK Supervisor - Site supervisor rights, i.e. checking, mod changes, etc.
  • ARK User - General user rights, i.e. data entry.
  • Anon User

REST / HATEOAS / Hypermedia

An evolution of the ARK data model and API to try realise the full ARK vision will be based arround the Hypermedia concepts of REST and HATEOAS as developed by Roy Fielding in his doctoral thesis in 2000. These concepts include resources, relationships, state, and discoverability, and are closely related to the Semantic Web. ARK modules will evolve to represent Resources that can be linked in together in the current flat relationship structure, or organised into configurable hierarchies such as the default Site/Module/Item mostly used by ARK instances. These concepts will be most easily exposed through a RESTful API.

A RESTful API will be implemented using best practices which are outlined in the following articles:

In particular, the following rules will be applied:

  • Full level 4 HATEOAS REST implementation
  • JSON will be the only format supported
  • The JSON API standard will be used to construct the response body, with JSON Schema standard defining the structure of the data payload.
  • API versioning will be used to version the resource path structure, error messaging, and other API infrastructure. The actual data formats will be controlled by the JSON schema which will be available via a standard end-point.
  • Authenticated access will only be available using HTTPS, API tokens, and OAuth2
  • Read-only unauthenticated unencrypted access will be supported only if explicitly enabled
  • Translation keys will be used, with the client downloading a translation catalogue for their required language

The general API URL structure will be as follows:

  • /api/v2/sites/<site>/<module>/<item>

e.g. for Context MNO12_1 the resource will be

A question remains over the structure for hosted ARK installs:

  • - Allows easy exposure of all instances for LD consumption
  • - Easier for migration to stand-alone ARK, more 'private'
  • - As for 2.

The following HTTP actions will be supported:

  • GET - fetch resource
  • POST - insert new resource with next available id, i.e. insert a new item with next item number
  • PUT - insert or update resource with a specified id, i.e. insert a new item or update an existing item with a set item number
  • PATCH - update part of a resource, i.e. update a single field or group
  • DELETE - delete a resource
  • OPTIONS - What HTTP verbs the current authenticated API user can perform on a resource

The following other endpoints will be supported:

  • /filters - The global saved filters
  • /filters/123 - The filter definition
  • /filters/123/items - The filter result set
  • /users - The users
  • /users/jlayt - The user details
  • /users/jlayt/filters - returns the the list of user filters, etc as per filters endpoint
  • /actors - The global actors
  • /actors/123 - The actor details

The following query values will be supported:

  •  ?field1=value1&field2=value2 - basic search in fields (use /filters for advanced search)
  •  ?sort=field1,field2 - sorts results by fields
  •  ?fields=field1,field2 - return selected fields
  •  ?page=3&per_page=100 - pagination of results
  •  ?q=text - free-text search


  • Updating a resource will require some kind of timestamp or last update key to prevent overwriting subsequent changes
  • All security / OPTIONS / anon access will be controlled by user roles

JSO Schema Implementations:

  • JSON Schema validation via PHP League (simple, complete, extendable) or Justin Rainbow (most widely used)

JSON-API Implementations:

Not considered:


The frontend will be migrated to Bootstrap, jQuery, and Twig, the most popular and well-supported frontend ui component and template systems. This will allow for easier customisation of ARK's appearance by third parties.

Bootstrap 3 supports both Less and Sass templates to generate the Bootstrap CSS. Customising the appearance of Bootstrap (such as colour) usually requires modifying template variables and rebuilding the CSS. Bootstrap 4 (currently in alpha) switches to only using SASS for its templates. We should therefore choose to use the SASS version of Bootstrap 3 when building our own custom version of Bootstrap. Build tools will be provided to automate the customisation process.

The use of Twig templates for page layout will help separate the model and view code and allow third parties to easily modify the layout without having to alter the core code. Each Twig template will document the API contract it has with the data model, i.e. what variables are available to be used in the template.

The use of the Silex/Symfony Forms module will be considered. This provides dynamic form generation and validation with a Bootstrap theme.

There will be separation between the ARK Admin frontend and the ARK Web frontend. The required ARK Admin frontend will be static and consistent across all ARKs, but can be modified for site specific requirements if needed (i.e. adding extra user data fields). The optional ARK Web frontend will be the dynamic generated data-driven side, configurable for every ARK. This separation will allow for ARK to run as a pure database/API backend server with basic admin and auth frontend provided without the user having to configure or enable any of the web frontend.

The ARK Admin frontend will provide the core UI elements for the site, i.e. the Nav Bar and Nav Menu. An initial template will be inspired by SB Admin 2 (Test here) and AdminLTE (Test here), but greatly simplified and converted to Twig templates.


A migration process from ARK 1 to ARK 2 will be provided.

Data migration. Existing tables will need to change from MyISAM to InnoDB. Change in place carries a degree of risk of data loss if the migration fails part way. Attempting to restart failed migrations is also prone to error. To protect users data, a new database will be created with new tables and the data copied across. Should migration fail users will easily be able to roll back to their old install, or keep retrying the migration until it does succeed. In effect the ARK init script will be run, followed by the migration script.

User migration. Users will be migrated from LiveUser to the new RBAC system. This will require a compatible default user config.

Config migration. A config migration script will be provided, but may require adapting for individual ARKs.

Build Tooling

Build tooling is required for a number of reasons:

  • Bootstrap can be customised most easily by changing variables used in the Sass templates, which then requires a build step to compile them into CSS
  • Production deployment is more efficient if CSS and JS is stripped, merged and minified, while development is easier if a map is generated for the original code
  • Bower component management downloads the entire package, not just the assets required, an extra step is required to copy just the required assets into the web root folder
  • All the steps required for packaging and release management can be automated, e.g. clean, compile, tag, package, etc
  • The build tooling for the default ARK bootstrap and twig theme can be generalised to allow clients to build and deploy their own customised themes with minimal effort

The build tooling will be as follows:

  • All build tooling will be isolated in the /build/ folder and will be excluded from any release packages or production deployments
  • Nothing in the /build/ folder may be depended on by any code outside the /build/ folder or required for running ARK itself
  • Node, npm, Bower and Gulp will be used to run the tooling (Bower requires Node/npm to be installed, so we may as well use its full power)
  • Tooling should be cross-platform (Gulp provides this as opposed to bash scripts)
  • Gulp will not be required as a global install, instead tasks will be aliased through Node scripts, e.g. 'npm run build' will call 'gulp build'
  • Running tasks will only work inside the /build/ folder, trying to run outside the build folder should fail gracefully

Sysadmin Console

An sysadmin console will be provided for use on the command line. This will provide a number of tools:

  • Database administration, such as creation, migration, backup, etc
  • MultiArk installs
  • ARK wide alerts
  • Maintenance mode (immediate and schedule)
  • Upgrade tools
  • etc

Equivalents for some of these functions will be provided in an ARK Sysadmin panel (separate to the ARK Admin panel):

  • ARK wide alerts
  • Maintenance mode (immediate and schedule)
  • etc

File Structure

The following file structure will be used, based on the default Silex and Composer structure.

  • The web root will be in /web/
  • The ARK source code will be in /src/ organised by source type (php, js)
  • Composer installs external PHP packages into /vendor/
  • NPM installs Node packages into /build/node_packages/
  • Bower will be configured to install external packages into /build/vendor/
  • The ARK and custom theme assets will be in /build/themes/<name>/ organised by source type (js, sass, etc)
  • Compiled theme bundles will be written into /web/themes/<name>/
  • Custom code will be in ???
  • Packaging for release will not include the /build/ or /test/ directories
|- .gitignore
|- composer.json
|- composer.lock
|- .git/
|- arks/
  |- arks.json
  |- <ark>/
    |- config/
      |- database.json
    |- data/
    |- schema/
      |- data-schema.json
    |- themes/ ???
|- bin/
|- build/
  |- .bowerrc
  |- bower.json
  |- gulpfile.js
  |- packages.json
  |- assets/
    |- <name>/
      |- css/
      |- fonts/
      |- img/
      |- js/
      |- less/
      |- scss/
      |- twig/
  |- node_packages/
  |- schema/
     |- conf.xml
     |- core.xml
     |- spatial.xml
     |- user.xml
     |- <data-schema>.json
  |- vendor/
|- l10n/
|- src/
  |- js/
  |- php/
|- vendor/
|- tests/
|- var/
  |- cache/
  |- logs/
|- web/
  |- index.php
  |- fonts/
  |- themes/
    |- <name>/
      |- styles/
      |- images/
      |- scripts/
      |- templates/

Translations / Localisation

A key to providing Ark-As-A-Service will be translating the user interface and schemas into as many languages as possible to maximise the potential user base. ARK1 does not have the tools to make this process easy to perform or manage, and it would be a waste of resources to build them. It is recommended to use one of the existing online open-source translation projects to crowd-source the translations. This will allow interested parties and potential clients to translate ARK for themselves and to grow a local community to support ARK in their country.

Changes will be made to the translation process to bring ARK into line with industry best practices and tooling, allowing for common features such as correct plural forms. This will be based on the Symfony Translation componant.

More details can be found on the ARK2/Localization page.


Chains are a technique in ARK for storing hierarchical tree data in relation form. This is done using an adjacency table method. This is a problem in ARK2 for a number of reasons:

  • Knowledge of when data is stored in chains is held solely in the subform code that creates or reads the chain, which causes issues when the schema will need to represent the data structure without the subform
  • Chains are an internal implementation detail, their existence should not 'leak' into the schema or api for external clients, they must be free to choose their own storage solution
  • Access to chains can be slow and inefficient, especially walking down a tree when you don't know how 'wide' it is (i.e. what data fragments it has as descendants).

The data schema will not represent data as chains, trees or graphs. Instead the schema will merely represent the inherent hierarchical structure of the data using groups/objects/lists. The data persistence layer will know to persist those repeating groups in its model. In the case of the current ARK SQL database this means repeating groups will need to be stored as chains.

A number of other techniques exist to make reading/writing of trees faster, such as Nested Sets. The Closure Table technique has been chosen for a number of reasons:

  • Is a simple extension to the existing Adjacency Table method
  • Is fast to both read and write
  • An entire tree can be read with a single SQL query
  • Supports storing DAGs, i.e. Harris Matrix

The proposed implementation will be:

  • Chains may be renamed as Graphs?
  • Nodes and Edges are stored separately
  • The Nodes in a Graph are either Items or Fragments, but not both
  • The Nodes continue to be stored in their current tables
  • Edges are stored in a new ark_data_graph table
  • Item Graphs store their itemkey/itemvalue Edges in the ark_data_graph table
  • Fragment Graphs store their table/id Edges in the ark_data_graph table
  • Descendent Fragment Nodes will no longer be keyed by their direct parent table/id, but will instead be keyed by their root itemkey/itemvalue. This allows faster access to all nodes, and means the nodes never need to be updated whenever the graph is altered.
  • Root Fragment Nodes may need to carry a flag to indicate they are a root, otherwise a lookup is required every time on the graph table.

New code will be needed to create and maintain graphs in place of the current chain code. Migration code will be required to build the graph for existing data and update the nodes.


Site Module

A new core module for Sites will be added to support recording of metadata about a site. The data schema will be configurable the same as other modules, but certain default fields will be enforced. This will be a special case module that does not appear in the modules for a site.

Address Book / Actors / Users

Currently actors are allocated at a site level. This may not scale very well to a major corporate install, for example LP or WCC, with a staff of 30-50 and hundreds of sites. Repeatedly allocating new actor IDs for each site could result in a user possibly having hundreds of actor IDs which could make reporting harder, site creation more effort, and is not very RESTful.

It is proposed instead to to rename the Address Book module as the Actors module and add a new global level of actors in addition to site-specific actors. Users will be in the global list, and allocated to sites with roles. Choice can be made between global level roles across all sites, or site specific roles. Non-user global actors can also be defined, can be referred to without allocation. Local site actors can be created.

It is also proposed to have the Actors module be the only source of actors for the Action dataclass, simplifying the storage and access.

Action Logging / Activity Streams / Gamification

All user actions and events in ARK will be logged, enabling an standard Activity Stream at user level that can support gamification. The actual gamification is considered outside of the scope of core ARK2. Some inspiration for the implementation can be taken from Event Sourcing, but a full implementation will not be attempted.

Command Bus Architecture / Application Services

A Command Bus / Event Bus architecture will be implemented to support execution or queuing of synchronous and asynchronous Commands and Events. Console Commands will be wrappers around Commands that parse input from the command line.

Workflow Management

Stretch goal. Needed for Avalon. Packages exist to define workflows using state machines.

Possible workflow scenarios:

  • Post-ex
  • Sample taking
  • Avalon jobs and documents
  • Data checking

Document Management

Stretch goal. Needed for Avalon. Management of documents and versions a la Sharepoint. Try use CMIS standard as used in LibreOffice.

CMS / Blog / Project Websites

Either provide an OoB Wordpress integration and host client websites, or add features to ARK to provide the basic project website features (home page, blog, contact us, calendar).


Standardised error codes will be used, based on the JSON API standard format. Error codes will be stored in a database table and exported via the API, with actual error messages translated via the standard methods, with detailed debug/help available on the ARK wiki via standardised links. Fatal errors will be thrown as exceptions, with the Controller responsible for catching the error and reporting it in the appropriate manner, i.e. via web or api. Non-fatal errors such as validation errors can be batched before return. While numeric error codes are convenient, they make code hard to read and debugging tracebacks harder, so all error conditions should be explicitly commented in the code, and error codes should be as unique as possible..

Matrix / Graph


Branding / Community

Two potential issues suggest an evolution of the ARK brand is required

  • Building a development and support community may be easier if ARK is branded as a stand-alone project, rather than seen as owned/controlled by LP Archaeology
  • Extending use of ARK and Hosted ARK to areas outside archaeology may be held back by emphasising the archaeology aspect in the branding

Branding as something like 'The ARK Project, sponsored by LP Archaeology', and coining a bacronym like 'ARK Recording Kit' might solve these issues.

The Hosted ARK would need a separate identity to the development project to keep the Open Source / Commercial split clear. A simple .com vs .org difference is probably not clear enough. Examples include:

  • vs
  • Mediawiki vs Wikia
  • Wordpress .com vs .org

Branding would thus consist of three parts:

  • The project
  • The products
  • The service

The branding would need to be distinctive but consistent to make it clear they are part of a cohesive whole.

Words with Ark / Arc in them (but not arch) for possible project or theme names:

  • Archive / ARKhive
  • Arctic (very white/light theme?)
  • Arcadia
  • Arkose (type of sediment)
  • Arkaeology (available in .com, .org, .net!)
  • Arcade
  • Archaic / Arcane / Arcanum / Arcana (more apt for ARK v1 ;-)
  • Arcuate / Arcuated (Arc/bow shaped)
  • Architrave
  • Architect
  • Archipeligo
  • Archosaur
  • Arktivity...

Development Environment

To develop ARK requires the following tools to be installed:

You will also require PHP, a web server (Apache/PHP), a database server (MySQL/PostreSQL/SQLite), and a web browser (Chrome/Firefox).

The following tools are recommend to adhere to ARK code quality standards:

  • php-cs-fixer
  • PHP CodeSniffer
  • PHP MD

Git / Github

Development is hosted on Github, so you will need a free Github account to contribute code.

If you are new to Git, you may find the Github desktop application easier to use. Alternatives are SourceTree and GitKraken.

We will use a simplifed version of the Qt git workflow.

  • dev branch is the semi-stable development branch for the next release
  • New feature or bugfix branches are branched off dev with the name of the author/group/client and the feature or bug number, e.g. jlayt/linked-data
  • Once a new feature is finished and passes testing, it is rebased onto the current dev and merged via a Github merge request with review
  • Alpha and Beta testing releases will be tagged on dev and not branched
  • Once dev is deemed feature complete and stable enough for a Release Candidate then a release branch will be branched off dev with the minor release number, e.g. release/2.0, release/2.1, etc
  • Further testing will take place on the release branch, with fixes applied to to the release branch as required
  • Once ready for release, the release will be tagged with the point release number (e.g. 2.0.0) and all bugfixes merged back into dev
  • Any bugfixes for the stable release will be made in the earliest release branch they apply to and then merged forward through each release then eventually into dev (merges may be immediate or periodic depending on the volume)


On macOS, while you can install the requirements via standalone packages, we recommend using HomeBrew as it makes installing and updating all the tools used easier.

  • Install XCode
  • Install the Command Line Tools (includes Git)
  • Download and install HomeBrew
  • brew install node tidy-html5 homebrew/php/composer homebrew/completions/composer-completion homebrew/php/php-cs-fixer homebrew/php/php-code-sniffer homebrew/php/phpmd homebrew/php/sqlformat homebrew/php/phplint
  • npm install -g bootlint csscomb csslint eslint js-beautify jsonlint prettydiff remark-lint sass-lint tidy-markdown
  • (Optional) Modify your .profile to enable command-line auto-complete
source /Library/Developer/CommandLineTools/usr/share/git-core/git-completion.bash
source /Library/Developer/CommandLineTools/usr/share/git-core/
PS1='\u@\h \W$(__git_ps1 " (%s)") \$ '
export PATH=/Users/odysseus/.bin:$PATH

The easiest way to run a webserver and database server is using MAMP. Simply install MAMP and create a soft-link from the MAMP webroot to the location of your ARK git repository. The alternative is to use HomeBrew to configure and run your own install. The HomeBrew method is recommended for developing with PostgreSQL (TODO).

  • brew install homebrew/php/php70 homebrew/php/php70-tidy homebrew/php/php70-xdebug

For QGIS Python:

  • 'brew install python qt pyqt'
  • 'pip install pep8 autopep8 jedi pb_tool '


  • xdebug setup
  • apache / php /mysql / mamp
  • linter/fixer rulesets

Atom Editor

While text editors and IDEs are a deeply personal choice, we recommend using Atom as it is a cross-platform Open Source editor with powerful plugins to support the tools used by ARK. Using Atom ensures you have an environment consistent with the core ARK developers and ARK development standards.

After installing Atom, check the commandline tools have been installed.

Recommended Atom Packages:

  • 'apm install atom-autocomplete-php atom-beautify atom-bootstrap3 atom-symfony2 autocomplete-sass doctrine linter-bootlint linter-csslint linter-eslint linter-jsonlint linter-markdown linter-php linter-phpcs linter-phpmd linter-sass-lint linter-tidy linter-twig php-composer-completion php-cs-fixer php-debug php-twig symfony-snippets'

Useful Atom Packages:

  • sublime-style-column-selection
  • autoclose-html
  • browser-plus
  • docblockr
  • git-plus
  • highlight-line
  • highlight-selected
  • minimap
  • open-recent
  • pigments
  • platformio-ide-terminal
  • project-manager
  • sort-lines
  • sync-settings