The Amazing Toon-o-Matic
The Amazing Toon-o-Matic is the pile of disorganized Perl code I've been using since 2000 to compile episodes of Toonbots. As I once famously said, the point of that exercise was the Toon-o-Matic, and the cartoon itself was a by-product. Like hot dogs. I grew fond of its wacky memes, but over the years it got less fun, because the Toon-o-Matic got less manageable, and so eventually it slid into a series of ever-longer hiati.

Lately, with the advent of my site-wide and eclectic Wiki system, which includes code organizational facilities, I've found myself to be increasingly interested in the idea of revamping the Toon-o-Matic (again) and opening it to the public (for the first time). This is where that is now happening. As you can well imagine, I'm terrified of the idea of some jackass abusing the system, which is composed of a bunch of Perl code running on my server. For now, I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope none of you are jerks of that caliber (I'm sure I'll be disappointed, but as long as it's just spam, I can handle it -- no, what worries me is that I'm sure there are plenty of security holes; I can see a couple even from where I'm sitting. If you find one, don't be a jerk -- just tell me, or even better, propose an improvement and arrange a test with me in advance, and get your name in lights as a contributor instead of a jerk.)

The procedure is pretty straightforward. You click on "new toon!", and fill in a new toon, with your name, a title, and a blurb. The tricky part is the actual filling in of a new toon. There is zero documentation right now, not even a tiny little bit. I don't even remember half the stuff I've done, and over the eight years of Toon-o-Matic history, there have been many false starts, much duplication of effort, and plenty of inconsistency and incompatibility. So you'll have to try working from examples, and maybe sacrifice a chicken.

Once you've submitted a toon script, the system creates a directory just for your toon. It copies the current version of the Perl into the directory, and writes a Makefile (at some point, it may be possible to specify older versions or variants, as well, but not yet.) Then it invokes make on the result. The Toon-o-Matic then lurches into action, slicing and dicing your script, making lots of intermediate results, and if all goes well, a final graphical result. That result is then available from your original submission page, which is itself a Wiki topic. The entire detailed results of the Toon-o-Matic run are likewise documented in a log page, because there will be debugging, I promise you. Oh, how there will be debugging.

Note, 4 February 2009: If you've dropped by recently, you may have noted that there was a teensy-weensy spam problem here. That should now be a thing of the past, as I have now built the modbot right into the processing machinery of the Toon-o-Matic. The result is that your own effort may be flagged as spam. It shouldn't be -- it should show up as requiring human decision, and I'll see it, eventually -- but if the modbot eats your submission, email me and I'll slap the modbot into submission. He's really just a big fluffy bunny, even though his teeth can sometimes frighten the unwary.

Note, 17 February 2009: Huh. Unicode would be a good idea, at that -- it displays great in the code, doesn't it? It just doesn't render. Lenin's name should be all lower-case, but I suppose a better character lookup would figure that out for you. I'm working on data-access code this month, so perhaps there will be a little movement on that front later. Certainly the Toon-o-Matic has always been one of the motivating case studies for my thinking about the wftk.

So. Let's get started tooning, shall we?

Start a new toon!

Or, look at the list of existing ones that have survived the depredations of the modbot:

(unresolved tag list toons order=created-desc mode=static) (unresolved tag repeat color=eeeeee/ffffff) (unresolved tag /repeat)
(unresolved tag id) (unresolved tag author) The Amazing Toon-o-Matic (unresolved tag created)
(unresolved tag empty) There are no actual toons yet. Gimme a bit. (unresolved tag /list)

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