Automatic Rails Model Notification Concerns

This ActiveRecord Concern is a module I am particularly proud of. It was developed for an application that had the need for an advanced notification system on a whole slew of database changes. Rather than just wire up a basic notification job to each controller action that triggered each model change, I elected to write a model concern that automatically triggered the notification system on different ActiveRecord changes.

The concerns worked amazingly well, and assisted in not only keeping our controllers very light, but also meant that database changes could not escape notifying users of the change.

# This concerns allows you to directly hookup ActiveRecord model changes
# directly into a system-wide notification system using ActiveSupport
# Callbacks. Jobs can be created to reflect the exact work you want done
# when a specific event occurs in the lifecycle of the model you want
# to be notified on.
# ==== Example
#   class MyModel < ApplicationRecord
#     include Notifyable
#     notify :on_create, :handler_job
module Notifyable
  # Make this module a concerns and include the ActiveSupport callbacks module
  extend ActiveSupport::Concern
  include ActiveSupport::Callbacks

  included do
    # Add a has_many model association for the notifications events.
    has_many :notification_events, as: :item

    # This code opens up the parent class and generates several methods
    # directly into it providing the core foundation of the
    # Notifyable concerns. It declares the available callbacks
    # and runs the associated callback when the custom defined
    # calback is triggered.
    %w(on_initialize on_update on_save on_create on_commit on_destroy on_find).each {|name|
      module_eval <<-RUBY, __FILE__, __LINE__ + 1
        define_callbacks :#{name}
        #{name.gsub('on', 'after')} :notify_#{name}
        def notify_#{name.to_s}
          run_callbacks :#{name} do
            @invocation = :#{name}

    # Opens up the calling class so methods can be redefined on
    # the current object. We need to add the +notify+ method so
    # that we can define what callbacks should be watched to
    # trigger notifications.
    # FIXME: Class variables for handlers are bugged if
    # FIXME: different models use different handlers. I
    # FIXME: would love to refactor this so that you can 
    # FIXME: provide a &block instead of just a handler
    # FIXME: name/symbol.
    # Callbacks are always appended *after* the source event
    # declared; so that +:on_save+ will actually declare itself
    # as a +:after_save+ on the parent ActiveRecord class.
    class << self
      def notify(name, *handlers)
        @@handlers ||=, handlers)
        set_callback(name, :after, :handler_callback)



  # Execute the callback for each handler invocation. It
  # is expected that there will be a corresponding ActiveJob
  # to handle the notification within a +Notification+
  # namespace with the same name as the invocation class,
  # followed by the handler name.
  # Example:
  #   +Notification::MyClassHandlerJob+
  def handler_callback
    @@handlers[@invocation].each do |handler|
      eval "Notification::#{}#{handler.to_s.classify}.perform_later(self, '#{@invocation}')"


As directed in the comments of the concerns, the only thing needed to make this work is a method call in your model telling the module when the handler should be notified of the change, and what trigger should it attach. For example, lets assume you have a TodoItem model:

class TodoItem < ApplicationRecord
# Include the Notifyable concerns
include Notifyable

# Instruct Notifyable on which callback and handler should be used.
notify :on_create, :handler_job

Lastly, as you can see from the concerns, you now need to create an ActiveJob class called: Notification::TodoItemHandlerJob which will be enqueued whenever a ‘TodoItem’ database record is created. This job can do whatever you need to do in order to notify the relevant stakeholders of a new TodoItem record.

Whats more, this will be done asynchronously to the main thread of your application which should make your application more performant.

There are a few improvements I would eventually like to make to this:

  1. I’d like to package it as a gem and monkey patch it to the abstract ApplicationRecord class so that the concerns is automatically included on all models and that the include statement is not required.
  2. I’d like to be able to pass a &block to #notify instead of the handler job symbol because then you could eliminate that disgusting eval in the protected #handler_callback
  3. There is a bug in this concerns regarding the class variables the concerns. Because the class variables are stored at the class level, and not the ‘consuming’ class using the concerns, the handlers were being overwritten between models (which means that each model most use the same handler symbol). Fortunately, in the project that uses this, the conformity of all the notification handler jobs using the suffix ‘HandlerJob’ was deemed preferred anyway so it was not seen as a big problem. Alas, I’d very much like to fix it one day.

Social Network Aggregate API Factory Design Pattern in Ruby

I worked on a project which allowed users to authenticate using oauth with several well known social media platforms. After users had linked all their social media presences; we wanted to import the posts for each user from each platform. This is a (redacted) sample of how I accomplished this:

First, I have a neat little module that allows me to encapsulate a list of handler objects and a notification method that can trigger the correct handler based on how the handler has subscribed itself in the factory. This is a little confusing, but basically, each provider class will initialise itself into the factory object, having subscribed itself to a particularly type of social network which it is able to process (handle). I simply abstracted this code because I thought it might be very handy for other projects which follow a similar pattern to this:

module EventDispatcher
def setup_listeners
@event_dispatcher_listeners = {}

def subscribe(event, &callback)
(@event_dispatcher_listeners[event] ||= []) << callback

def notify(event, *args)
if @event_dispatcher_listeners[event]
@event_dispatcher_listeners[event].each do |m|*args) if m.respond_to? :call

Next we need to develop the Factory object to encapsulate our handler objects. It contains all the configuration attributes of our social network platform API keys and secrets, etc. It instantiates with a hash which has a static method #load to read a specified file (or by default a file in /config/social_network_configuration.json) which returns an instance of itself with the contents of the configuration file passed into the constructor:

require File.expand_path('../../event_dispatcher', __FILE__)

module SocialNetworking
class SocialNetworkFactory
include EventDispatcher
attr_reader :configs

def initialize(data)
@configs = {}
data.each {|n, o| n.downcase.to_param.to_sym, o}

process(network, user)
notify(network, user)

# Reads client configuration from a file and returns an instance of the factory
# @param [String] filename
# Path to file to load
# @return [
# Social network factory with API configuration
def self
.load(filename = nil)
if filename &&
search_path = File.expand_path(filename)
filename = nil
filename == nil
search_path ||= File.expand_path("#{Rails.root}/config")
if File.exist?(File.join(search_path, 'social_network_configuration.json'))
filename = File.join(search_path, 'social_network_configuration.json')
elsif search_path == '/' || search_path =~ /[a-zA-Z]:[\/\\]/
raise ArgumentError,
'No ../config/social_network_configuration.json filename supplied ' +
'and/or could not be found in search path.'
search_path = File.expand_path(File.join(search_path, '..'))
data =, 'r') {|file| MultiJson.load(}

The configuration file (/config/social_network_configuration.json) looks something like:

"Facebook": {
"oauth_access_token": "...",
"expires": ""
"SoundCloud": {
"client_id": "..."
"Twitter": {
"access_token": "...",
"access_token_secret": "...",
"consumer_key": "...",
"consumer_secret": "..."
"YouKu": {
"client_id": "..."
"YouTube": {
"dev_key": "..."
"Weibo": {
"app_id": "..."

The last part is to create a different handler object for each social network (as each social network has its own specific API for interfacing with the platform. Its pretty basic:

module SocialNetworking
module Providers
class NetworkNameProvider

def initialize(factory)
# you can access the configurations through the factory
@app_id = factory.configs[:network_name]['app_id']

# instruct the factory that this provider handles the
# 'network_name' social network oauth. The factory will
# publish the users authorization object to this handler.
factory.subscribe(:network_name) do |auth|

# Do stuff ...



So an example of a Weibo Provider class might look something like this:

require File.expand_path('../../../../lib/net_utilities', __FILE__)
require 'base62'
require 'httpi'

module SocialNetworking
module Providers
class WeiboProvider
include NetUtilities

def initialize(factory)
@token = get_token
@app_id = factory.configs[:weibo]['app_id']

factory.subscribe(:weibo) do |auth| " Checking Weibo user '#{auth.api_id}'"

@token = auth.token unless auth.token.nil? # || auth.token_expires <
request = ''
request.query = {source: @app_id, access_token: @token, screen_name: auth.api_id}
response = HTTPI.get request
if response.code == 200
result = MultiJson.load(response.body)
weibos = result['statuses']

weibos.each {|post|

... do something with the post

auth.checked_at =!
rescue Exception => e
Rails.logger.warn " Exception caught: #{e.message}"
@token = get_token


auth = Authorization.where(provider: 'weibo').where('token_expires < ?',
auth = Authorization.where(provider: 'weibo').order(:token_expires).reverse_order.first if auth.nil?
raise 'Cannot locate viable Weibo authorization token' if auth.nil?

id.to_s[0..-15].to_i.base62_encode.swapcase + id.to_s[-14..-8].to_i.base62_encode.swapcase + id.to_s[-7..-1].to_i.base62_encode.swapcase


Of course there are a lot of opportunities too refactor and make the providers better. For example a serious argument could be made that the API handshake should be abstracted to a seperate class to be consumed by the provider rather than the provider doing all the API lifting itself (violates the single-responsibility principal) – but I include it inline to give better idea on how this factory works without getting too abstracted.

The last piece of this puzzle is putting it all together. There are a lot of different ways you could consume this factory; but in this example I am going to do it as a rake task that can be regularly scheduled via a cron task.

Dir["#{File.dirname(__FILE__)}/../social_networking/**/*.rb"].each {|f| load(f)}

namespace :social_media do
'Perform a complete import of social media posts of all users'
task import: :environment do
factory = SocialNetworking::Atlas::SocialNetworkFactory.load
# Instantiate each of your providers here with the factory object. factory factory

# Execute the Oauth authorizations in a random order.
Authorization.where(muted: false).shuffle.each do |auth|
factory.process(auth.provider.to_sym, auth)

I wouldn’t do this in production though, as you may encounter problems if the task gets triggered when the previous iteration is still running. Additionally, I would recommend leveraging ActiveJob to run each handler which would give massive benefits to execution concurrency and feedback on job successes/failures.

Also, you could get really clever and loop over each file in the /providers directory and include and instantiate them all at once, but I have chosen to explicitly declare it in this example.

As you can see this is a nice little pattern which uses some pseudo-event subscription and processing to allow you to import from multiple APIs and maintaining separation of responsibilities. As we loop over each authorization record, this pattern will automatically hand the auth record to the correct handler. You can also chop and change which providers are registered; as any authorization record that doesn’t have a registered handler for its type, will simply be ignored. This means that if the Weibo API changes and we need to fix our handler; it is trivial to remove the handler from production by commenting it out, and all our other handlers will continue to function like nothing ever happened.

This code was written many years ago; and should work on Ruby versions even as old as 1.8. There are probably many opportunities too refactor and enhance this code substantially using a more recent Ruby SDK. Examples of possible enhancements would be allowing the providers to subscribe to the factory using a &block instead of a symbol and allowing the factory to pass a block into to #process method to give access for additional processing to be executed in the context of the provider; but abstracted from it.

Nevertheless, I hope that this pattern proves useful to anyone needing a design pattern to have a handler automatically selected to process some work without complicated selection logic.

Decorating Devise (current_user) with Draper

Devise is a wonderful and amazing gem to handle user authentication and provides a number of extremely useful utility helpers throughout your Rails application. Draper is an equally amazing gem, which provides a framework for using the decorator pattern in your Rails applications.

The model that encapsulates your User is usually one of the objects most in need of the decorator pattern, however, the current_user object provided by Devise returns the undecorated version of the user model. However, a simple method placed in your base ApplicationController class can solve this more elegantly that constantly calling current_user.decorate throughout your code:

def current_user   
UserDecorator.decorate(super) unless super.nil?

Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software (Hardcover)
Design Patterns is a modern classic in the literature of object-oriented development, offering timeless and elegant solutions to common problems in software design. It describes patterns for managing object creation, composing objects into larger structures, and coordinating control flow between objects. The book provides numerous examples where using composition rather than inheritance can improve the reusability and flexibility of code. Note, though, that it’s not a tutorial but a catalog that you can use to find an object-oriented design pattern that’s appropriate for the needs of your particular application–a selection for virtuoso programmers who appreciate (or require) consistent, well-engineered object-oriented designs.

This book is the bible.  If you’re a developer and dont have this book buy it now!  Ina  startup world, where abstraction, scale and writing re-usable code is paramount.  This book will give you the tools you need to do it.