In my previous post this summer about the upcoming revision of the website, I gave an overview of where we were headed and presented a roadmap for OCaml’s online presence.
Since August 2021, we’ve made considerable progress. We’re on track to launch the website in February 2022 (only a couple of months beyond my summer prediction!), and the roadmap after that is becoming clearer thanks to all your feedback.
Let’s dive into it!
Until August 2021, we had been working on the foundations for v3: the user flows, sitemap, and the reusable infrastructure for the data used in ocaml.org. With all the infrastructure and data ready, our efforts since have been focused on completing the frontend.
One of the clearest priorities we had from community feedback was to ensure that the unified package documentation gets to the live site as soon as possible. The build process for this is not trivial, as it involves combining the outputs of 20,000+ opam packages with the rest of the website, while maintaining a reasonable developer experience for the main site. We have therefore merged the various frontend and backend codebases into a single OCaml-based one. We’ve merged the NextJS / ReScript / Tailwind codebase to the backend server that serves the package documentation. This has allowed us to consolidate our technology stack and simplify our continuous deployment story, but also to directly serve the website from a pure OCaml stack (using packages from our own community such as Dream and ocaml-tls). We’re deeply grateful to the ReScript team for the technology that let us prototype the new revision of the website so quickly, and to implement the templates we’re now using.
Here’s an overview of the sitemap and all the pages we’ve implemented.
In addition to the frontend work, here are some backend highlights:
- A global navigation bar on the package documentaion. You can now navigate through all package libraries from the navbar (by @TheLortex in #86)
- A toplevel on the homepage (by @tmattio, @patricoferris and @jonludlam in #106, #135 and #159)
- Added redirections from current ocaml.org URLs
- An internationalisation framework that serves pages in different languages. The framework exists, but the page translations will come later (by @tmattio in #84)
- A code-highlighting library that adds code highlighting in the tutorials (by @patricofferis in #108)
- Handled Let’s Encrypt certificate renewals and HTTPS redirects (by @tmattio and @patricofferis in #182)
See the full changelog here: v3.ocaml.org-server/CHANGES.md at main · ocaml/v3.ocaml.org-server · GitHub.
As mentioned above, we are feature complete, so we will be reviewing the site to get final approval from @xavierleroy and the core development team to launch the new site in a few weeks. We still have some work to do until then, but we’ll dedicate these next few weeks to receive community feedback and make any appropriate changes.
So now is the time to give us the feedback you have! You can do this by replying to this post or opening GitHub issues on the repository ocaml/v3.ocaml.org-server. Mostly, we’re hoping to receive actionable feedback such as:
- Are you able to find all the information you’re expecting to find on the website?
- Do you find the documentation (both the learn section and package documentation) usable?
- Do you find some design elements make the website hard to use (e.g., for color blind folks)?
Also, please don’t hesitate to open a GitHub Issue if you notice any bugs.
As you know, the release of OCaml 5.00.0, including Multicore support, is coming in 2022, so the timing of the v3 website launch is not coincidental. When OCaml 5.00.0 is released, the website will serve as an entry point for people new to OCaml, so we need to be ready with a usuable website, helpful documentation, clear package sites, etc. All your feedback and insights on how we can do better is greatly appreciated.
Launching the website is the first step on our roadmap to improve OCaml’s online presence.
As mentioned above, the immediate goal is to be ready for this OCaml 5.00.0 release. With this in mind, for the next few months, we’ll focus on improving the documentation and ensuring it includes good user pathways to learn about Domains, Effects, and generally how to write concurrent programs in OCaml.
In addition to the documentation, some of the other projects on our roadmap are:
- An online editor integrated in ocaml.org (aka a Playground)
This is an exciting time! Stay tuned!
We need your help!
Until now, the development and design of the new site has been driven by a small team of people from Solvuu, OCaml Labs, Tarides, the University of Cambridge and individual contributors from our community. This was useful to get the momentum we needed to deliver on all the feedback from the community (package documentation, job board, new blog, etc.), but OCaml.org is a community project and needs to be driven by all of us.
In particular, we built what we hope is a good framework to represent the community with pages like:
- A job board
- The OCaml blog
- The meetings and workshops
- The industrial users and academic users
- The success stories
Now that the framework is there, we need your help to contribute to these pages, allowing us to serve great content and make the pages useful.
The job board is an experiment. We’re hoping that we’ll get enough content on it so it’s useful for people looking for OCaml positions.
To do this, we need more job posts.
If you are hiring OCaml developers, you can add your job posts here: v3.ocaml.org-server/jobs.yml at main · ocaml/v3.ocaml.org-server · GitHub
The previous blog contained a lot of articles that had nothing to do with OCaml, as it was an unmonitored RSS/Atom aggregator.
A long term project is to build a decentralised RSS feed for the OCaml community to publish blog posts about OCaml. In the interim, we can keep using those RSS feeds but also list the article IDs we want to display.
If you have a blog about OCaml, you can add your RSS feed and list of articles here: v3.ocaml.org-server/rss-sources.yml at main · ocaml/v3.ocaml.org-server · GitHub
At the moment, the Events pages lists the OCaml workshops and the Meetups.
If you’re organising events, don’t hesitate to put them here: v3.ocaml.org-server/meetups.yml at main · ocaml/v3.ocaml.org-server · GitHub
Perhaps we can advertise new events from the website, if that helps organising your events.
In the new website, we’ve revamped the success stories to contain detailed company descriptions and the way they use OCaml, including which challenges their business faced and how OCaml helped overcome them.
If you’re using OCaml, you can write a success story for your business here: v3.ocaml.org-server/data/success_stories/en at main · ocaml/v3.ocaml.org-server · GitHub
As mentioned above, we’ll be revamping the documentation in the next few months. This is a large project with a lot of content to write, so we’ll need the community’s help. If you’re interesting in contributing, don’t hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org to @tmattio.
The OCaml manual in particular is rendered using the old style, and we are planning to port it to odoc in order to fit in with the new style and also to cross-reference into the API documentation. (this requires more discussions with the core development team, and @octachron has begun looking at it).
Now that we have a great package site with documentation, it’s time to write great documentation for your packages!
odoc maintainers worked on some guidelines on how to write
odoc files: odoc_for_authors (odoc.odoc_for_authors)
We’ll also be integrating toplevels for the packages you publish on Opam. It will use js_of_ocaml, so if you’ve published packages that should be compatible with js_of_ocaml, you can start making sure they are before we roll out the toplevels in the package documentation.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the development of this new version of the website!
- Ashish Agarwal (Solvuu)
- Kanishka Azimi (Solvuu)
- Richard Davison (Solvuu)
- Patrick Ferris (OCaml Labs)
- Gemma Gordon (OCaml Labs)
- Isabella Leandersson (OCaml Labs)
- Thibaut Mattio (Tarides)
- Anil Madhavapeddy (University of Cambridge)
For the groundwork on rethinking the sitemap, user flows, new content, design, and frontend and package docs!
- Jon Ludlam (OCaml Labs)
- Jules Aguillon (Tarides)
- Lucas Pluvinage (Tarides)
For the work on the package site infrastructure and UI!
- Paul-Elliot Anglès d’Auriac (Tarides)
For meticulously going through the website to find issues.
- Isabella Leandersson (OCaml Labs)
- Asaad Mahmood (Tarides)
For the work on the designs and bringing them to life on the frontend!
- Christine Rose (Tarides)
- Isabella Leandersson (OCaml Labs)
For the work on the new content and reviewing the existing one!
We’d also like to thank the major funders who supported work on revamping the website: grants from the Tezos Foundation and Jane Street facilitated the bulk of the work. Thank you, and if anyone else wishes to help support it on an ongoing basis then donations to the OCaml Software Foundation and grants to the maintenance teams mentioned above are always welcomed.
Moving forward, updates on the v3 website will be taken over by @tmattio, who has kindly volunteered to run a community video chat “AMA” about how you can get involved and contribute, and to give your feedback directly. He will post here with more details when timezones are all worked out. We would, of course, be delighted to also use other community channels / podcasts / Twitch / Discords / etc to reach out and get feedback and ideas.
On a personal note, it’s incredible to see this stream of hard work combine with the recent multicore OCaml merge to provide a modern, welcoming interface to the new users who will appear. I’m most excited about the future of OCaml we are embarking on with 5.0 – thank you to all who have been involved for being such wonderful collaborators.