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Automated snapshots of ARIA specs

From: Michael Cooper <cooper@w3.org>
Date: Tue, 3 May 2016 10:52:50 -0400
To: ARIA Editors <public-aria-editors@w3.org>
Message-ID: <5728BB42.80202@w3.org>
I've spent the past couple weeks figuring out how to get automated 
snapshots of specs posted to the gh-pages branch. I finally have it 
mostly figured out, though there's room for improvement. My 
understanding is it's desirable to have this working when we split the 
repositories so we can set them all up with source versions in the 
master branch and up-to-date editors' drafts without respec code running 
in the gh-pages branch.

The snapshots are generated by a continuous integration service called 


The service has to be enabled for each repository, and then whenever 
there is a push to GitHub it does a build based on a configuration file 
called travis.yml stored at the top level of the repository. I've been 
testing this in a working branch of the aria-practices repository, so 
you can see what the travis.yml file looks like:


The basic process right now is that whenever there is a push to GitHub, 
Travis runs the spec through the W3C spec generator:


It checks out the gh-pages branch (it's using gh-pages_test for now), 
saves the generated file in that branch, then commits and pushes the 
result. This process basically works and the gh-pages snapshot is 
updated within a couple minutes of pushing edits.

This works well enough now to demonstrate that it's a viable solution to 
the long-standing problem of out-of-date snapshots. But there are a few 
problems and items for further work:

  * Currently this depends on a web service nominally run by W3C. My
    experience is that service is down at least 50% of the time. If the
    service is down when the script runs, it will return no result and
    not push to gh-pages. It won't attempt to run again, so there won't
    be another attempt to publish a snapshot until somebody pushes
    commits again.
  * To work around this, I want to have the script run a local copy of
    the spec generator. This should be possible but the procedure is
    undocumented, so I haven't yet figured it out. Perhaps Shane knows
    how? If we get that working we'll have a reliable snapshot
    mechanism. That could be a later upgrade though if necessary, the
    version using the often-down web service will still be better than
    what we've had until now.
  * This script only attempts to build the spec file itself, it doesn't
    attempt to ensure that images, css, etc. are present as needed in
    the gh-pages branch. So we'd manually have to put those in whenever
    they're created or updated. We could also have the script do that it
    we wanted, but would need some sort of manifest file for each spec I
    think so it knows what to copy. That said we may need that manifest
    to use the automated publication system, so perhaps this is an
    enhancement we want.
  * At the moment, commits to gh-pages are made using my GitHub account.
    It took me literally years to figure out how to get Travis-CI to
    commit to GitHub using any account, so I tested on mine. However,
    best practice is to use an account that is used just for automation,
    to separate commits made by a human from one made by a bot. One has
    to know authentication credentials for the account so can't just use
    one that already exists; we might want to create an "aria-github"
    account for this purpose.
  * Before I merge this .travis.yml into the master branch, I will need
    to add a restriction to it saying the build should only run if the
    push was made to the master branch. This is so if people branch off
    master to do something, and they end up with the .travis.yml in the
    branch, Travis knows not to run even though the config is present.
    Only edits made in, or merged into, master should be used to
    generate snapshots I believe.

I didn't do this in the main aria repository because I didn't know if it 
is possible to build only the file to which updates were made, so right 
now a commit to one spec would cause all of them to be rebuilt. There 
are worse things, but still. But when we split the repositories I think 
it will make sense to put versions of this in each repository. I 
provided all these details, beyond because I'm a word guy, so you all 
would have complete information to decide on that. This is on the agenda 
for tomorrow's meeting.

Received on Tuesday, 3 May 2016 14:52:51 UTC

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