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A Rust-based comment server using SQLite and an intuitive REST API. https://blog.elnu.com/2022/07/soudan-a-comment-system-built-with-rust/
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A Rust-based comment server using SQLite and an intuitive REST API. Soudan is built with simplicity and static sites in mind.

Soudan is available under the GNU General Public Licenese v3.0. The reference client JavaScript implementation and its associated files under the demo directory is licensed under the MIT license so you can freely integrate it into your website. The server-side Soudan service executable is considered to be a standalone application separate from the website front-end, so it is free to be used in non-free sites.

CLI usage

See soudan --help for help information.

soudan 0.1.0
ElnuDev <elnu@elnu.com>
A Rust-based comment server using SQLite and an intuitive REST API.

    soudan [OPTIONS] [CONFIG]

    <CONFIG>    Set configuration file [default: soudan.yaml]

    -h, --help           Print help information
    -p, --port <PORT>    Set port where HTTP requests will be received [default: 8080]
    -t, --testing        Run in testing mode, with in-memory database(s) and permissive CORS policy
    -V, --version        Print version information

Soudan uses a YAML configuration file for most configuration options. By default, this configuration file is soudan.yaml, but you can override this by passing in the configuration file path to Soudan as an argument.

For example, to run Soudan on port 8081 with test.yaml as the configuration file, use the following command.

soudan -p 8081 test.yaml

In addition, you can add the -t/--testing flag to run Soudan in testing mode. In this mode, Soudan stores all comments in a fresh in-memory database, and all comments will be lost once Soudan is closed. In addition, a permissive CORS policy is used to make testing easier.

Configuration file

Heres an example configuration file:

  file: databases/test.db
  nameRequired: true
  emailRequired: true
"localhost:5000": {}

Here, we have two sites, one hosted locally at port 3000 and one hosted locally at port 5000.

For the first site, we specify that we want the SQLite database file to be stored in databases/test.db, and we want the name and email fields of each comment to be required to prevent anonymous comments. (Keep in mind that the JavaScript in soudan.js assumes that these flags are not set, so you would need to manually add the required flag to the name and email <input> fields respectively.)

For the second site, we can leave all the configuration fields as their defaults by giving an empty YAML object {}. If the database file path isnt provided, it will default to the domain plus the .db extension, so in this case it will be localhost:5000.db in the current directory. Name and email are not required by default.


Soudan does not have any spam filtering or moderation built in. However, going into the database manually to browse and remove comments is very easy. If you need an SQLite database browser, I'd recommend DB Browser for SQLite.

API usage

Fetching comments

Comments can be fetched using a simple GET request to /{content_id}, where content_id is the content ID of the post set in the page's meta tags. (See Site configuration for information about how to set up your site's HTML to use Soudan.) It is important to note that the content ID is not unique across sites. The way the intended site of the request is determined is through the Origin header. Requests without a valid Origin header are rejected. Requests made through the browser will always have this header.

Here is an example API response from real-world usage of Soudan (beautified).

Each comment will have an id, text, and timestamp fields, and optionally an author (if absent, comment is anonymous) and a gravatar field (the MD5 hash of the commenter's email address. https://www.gravatar.com/avatar/{gravatar}). Root level comments will have a replies field if replies exist.

		"id": 1,
		"author": "Elnu",
		"gravatar": "1cfb9e38feea40e5150bc0fa69faf693",
		"text": "Nice post, me!",
		"timestamp": 1658541512,
		"replies": [
				"id": 2,
				"author": "Drago",
				"text": "HELLO ELNU",
				"timestamp": 1658541674
				"id": 3,
				"author": "Elnu",
				"gravatar": "1cfb9e38feea40e5150bc0fa69faf693",
				"text": "HELLO DRAGO",
				"timestamp": 1658541732
				"id": 4,
				"author": "Drago",
				"text": "You should get to drawing ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)",
				"timestamp": 1658541778
				"id": 5,
				"author": "Elnu",
				"gravatar": "1cfb9e38feea40e5150bc0fa69faf693",
				"text": "*soon™*",
				"timestamp": 1658541863

Creating comments

Comments can be likewise created using a simple POST request to / (not /{content_id}).

Here is an example API response from real-world usage of Soudan (beautified).

The request must have a url field which is the current page URL. The comment field must contain contentId, the page content ID (see Site configuration), and text. Optionally, the author, email, and parent (the parent comment ID).

	"url": "http://localhost:3000/a/",
	"comment": {
		"contentId": "a",
		"author": "Elnu",
		"email": "elnu@elnu.com",
		"text": "Test comment",
		"parent": null

Site configuration

Site configuration for Soudan is very straightforward. All you need to do is add the following meta tag to the <head> of all pages you want to enable comments on, where you insert your content ID into the content attribute of the tag:

<meta name="soudan-content-id" content="{content_id}">

The content ID can be pretty much anything, provided it's URL-safe (e.g. there must be no forward slashes (/)). Spaces are okay, as they will be escaped. A good value to use for the content ID is the slug of your page, as this will be unique and will be obvious what page it is associated with in the database. However, one must make sure that if the page is renamed/moved, either this content ID remains constant or the associated comments are manually updated accordingly in the database (see Moderation).

Reference JavaScript client implementation

There is a reference JavaScript client implementation available under demo. It supports Markdown comment rendering via markdown-it (images have been disabled) and human-readable relative timestamps for comments via moment.js. The icons are from Heroicons.

To use it, first add these two dependencies to your page's <head>, here using a CDN. You may want to check if there has been a newer version released on cdnjs since the time of writing. (markdown-it, moment.js)

<script src="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/moment.js/2.29.4/moment.min.js" crossorigin="anonymous" referrerpolicy="no-referrer"></script>
<script src="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/markdown-it/13.0.1/markdown-it.min.js" integrity="sha512-SYfDUYPg5xspsG6OOpXU366G8SZsdHOhqk/icdrYJ2E/WKZxPxze7d2HD3AyXpT7U22PZ5y74xRpqZ6A2bJ+kQ==" crossorigin="anonymous" referrerpolicy="no-referrer"></script>

The demo HTML pages use the Sakura CSS framework/theme in addition to a small stylesheet just for Soudan. Optionally, you can copy this stylesheet into your project. It's pretty theme-agnostic, so it should work fine regardless of your preexisting styles.

<link rel="stylesheet" href="/path/to/style.css">

Next, copy soudan.js into your project. Open it up in your favorite text editor and update the value of url here to URL of your own Soudan server.

Finally, on each page where you want comments (and where the meta tag is present), add the following container <div> and script tag where you want your comment section to be. The comment form, etc. will be automatically generated once your page loads, and will be hidden if there is a critical error (i.e. Soudan server offline). The <script> tag must be after the <div>.

<div id="soudan"></div>
<script src="/path/to/soudan.js"></script>

And... you're done!