A PHP/Symfony blog engine

A few months ago I started a blog engine project based on Symfony framework. I’ve been adding things and making changes to it from time to time. Since August, I took a longer break in its development because I wanted to focus on other things, but now I’m returning to the project.

Articles

The core feature of each blogging software is the ability to manage and publish articles or blog posts. Each of them should obviously have a title and content.

It is also useful for an article to have a slug that represents it in URL addresses. It will generally be based on the title of an article, but it’s good to be able to replace a generated slug with a custom value so that it would be shorter or work better with search engines.

The following data will also be stored and managed for each article:

  • author
  • comments
  • tags
  • date of publication
  • publication status marking the article as published or not published

Users

The blog engine will support user registration and the following user roles, each with their own privileges:

  • contributor – creating and editing their own articles, but not publishing them
  • author – creating their own articles, editing and publishing them
  • editor – creating, publishing and editing their own articles, publishing and editing articles authored by other users
  • admin – access to all administration features for an installation of the engine
  • moderator – hiding comments made by other users, or publishing them if new comment moderation is turned on

There is also a super admin role provided by an external library, but I probably won’t use it.

The roles are organized in a hierarchy. Its design relies on comment moderation and content creation/blog administration privileges being separate so that, for example, a user could be either an editor or a moderator, or both. The admin role is an exception: each admin is also a moderator.

Other than user roles, the application will store and manage the following data for each user:

  • comments written by them
  • articles authored by them
  • username
  • email address
  • encrypted password

Comments

Most blog engines allow users to publish comments under articles, either by handling all comment-related data storage and management themselves or by using third party commenting services and plugins, like Disqus. For this project, I will implement this feature myself.

The following data will be stored and managed for each comment:

  • publication date
  • publication status – specifying if the comment is currently published (visible) or not
  • article under which the comment was posted
  • data of the author of the comment

Like WordPress and Blogger, my blog engine will allow commenting for both authenticated and non-authenticated users – a user who just wants to post a comment on an article will be able to do so without having to register, log in and remember or store somewhere their password. Still, such a user will have to provide a username and email address to be able to comment.

Storage and representation of entities

For database storage and object mapping I decided to use Doctrine ORM and PostgreSQL database.

Blog articles, tags, users and comments are represented by entity classes that are mapped to rows of their respective tables. Doctrine provides the following options for specifying mapping information:

  • YAML files
  • XML files
  • DocBlock annotations

I chose to use the annotations because I prefer defining metadata as close to entity classes and their mapped properties as possible.

I decided to use FOSUSerBundle as a library providing features related to user registration and authentication, instead of implementing them myself. My own user entity class extends one provided by the library and adds project-specific features: comments and articles properties containing posts authored by a user.

The future of the project

The next steps include:

  • creating form classes for articles, tags and user roles
  • creating voters for authorization based on task type, user role and other criteria
  • adding controller classes and implementing methods for handling HTTP requests

However, there are some decisions I made soon after starting the project which I’m now reconsidering – particularly ones related to the user role hierarchy. I will explain everything in the next article about the project, once I decide on possible changes.

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