Treat an array of objects and a singular object uniformly as a collection of objects. Especially useful in processing REST Web Service API JSON responses in a functional approach.
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README.md

to_collection v1.0.0

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Treat an array of objects and a singular object uniformly as a collection of objects. Especially useful in processing REST Web Service API JSON responses in a functional approach.

Introduction

Canonicalize data to treat uniformly whether it comes in as a single object or an array of objects, dropping nils out automatically.

API: object.to_collection(compact) where compact is a boolean for whether to compact collection or not. It is true by default.

Example:

city_counts = {}
people_http_request.to_collection.each do |person|
  city_counts[person["city"]] ||= 0
  city_counts[person["city"]] += 1
end

Wanna keep nil values? No problem! Just pass false as an argument:

bad_people_count = 0
city_counts = {}
people_http_request.to_collection(false).each do |person|
  if person.nil?
    bad_people_count += 1
  else
    city_counts[person["city"]] ||= 0
    city_counts[person["city"]] += 1
  end
end

Instructions

Bundler / Rails

gem 'to_collection', '~> 1.0.0'

Plain Ruby

require 'to_collection'

Note

Code above enables #to_collection method on all classes inheriting from Object. See options below in case you prefer to manually include in certain classes only.

Background

I'm sure you've encountered REST Web Service APIs that operate as follows:

HTTP Request: =>

GET /people

<= 1 person JSON Response:

{"first_name":"karim","last_name":"akram","city":"Dubai"}

HTTP Request: =>

GET /people

<= 3 people JSON Response:

[{"first_name":"karim","last_name":"akram","city":"Dubai"}, {"first_name":"muhsen","last_name":"asaad","city":"Amman"}, {"first_name":"assaf","last_name":"munir","city":"Qatar"}]

How do you work with the varied JSON responses in Ruby?

One approach for an app that needs to count people in cities:

city_counts = {}
json_response = people_http_request
if json_response.is_a?(Hash)
  city_counts[json_response["city"]] ||= 0
  city_counts[json_response["city"] += 1
elsif json_response.is_a?(Array)
  json_response.each do |person|
    city_counts[person["city"]] ||= 0
    city_counts[person["city"]] += 1
  end
end

Not only is the code above repetitive (unDRY) and complicated, but it also breaks common Ruby and object oriented development standards by relying on explicit type checking instead of duck-typing, polymorphism, or design patterns.

A slightly better version relying on duck-typing would be:

city_counts = {}
json_response = people_http_request
if json_response.respond_to?(:each_pair)
  city_counts[json_response["city"]] ||= 0
  city_counts[json_response["city"] += 1
elsif json_response.respond_to?(:each_index)
  json_response.each do |person|
    city_counts[person["city"]] ||= 0
    city_counts[person["city"]] += 1
  end
end

A slightly clearer version relying on design patterns (Strategy) and parametric polymorphism (functional) would be:

city_counts = {}
city_counting_strategies = {
  Hash: -> { |json_response|
    city_counts[json_response["city"]] ||= 0
    city_counts[json_response["city"] += 1
  },
  Array: -> { |json_response|
    json_response.each do |person|
      city_counts[person["city"]] ||= 0
      city_counts[person["city"]] += 1
    end
  }
}
json_response = people_http_request
city_counting_strategies[json_response.class].call(json_response)

A more radical version relying on object-oriented polymorphism and Ruby open-classes would be:

Hash.class_eval do
  def process_json_response(&processor)
    processor.call(self)
  end
end

Array.class_eval do
  def process_json_response(&processor)
    each(&processor)
  end
end

city_counts = {}
json_response = people_http_request
json_response.process_json_response do |person|
  city_counts[person["city"]] ||= 0
  city_counts[person["city"]] += 1
end

This version is quite elegant, clear, and Ruby idiomatic, but aren't we using a Nuclear device against a fly that sometimes comes as a swarm of flies? I'm sure we can have a much simpler solution, especially in a language like Ruby.

Well, how about this functional solution?

city_counts = {}
[people_http_request].flatten.each do |person|
  city_counts[person["city"]] ||= 0
  city_counts[person["city"]] += 1
end

Yes, hybrid functional/object-oriented programming to the rescue.

One may wonder what to do if the response comes in as nil or includes nil values in an array. Well, this approach can scale to handle that too should ignoring nil be the requirement.

city_counts = {}
[people_http_request].flatten.compact.each do |person|
  city_counts[person["city"]] ||= 0
  city_counts[person["city"]] += 1
end

Can we generalize this elegant solution beyond counting cities? After all, the key problem with the code on top is it gets quite expensive to maintain in a real-world production app containing many integrations with REST Web Service APIs.

This functional generalization should work by allowing you to switch json_response variable and process_json_response proc anyway you want:

[json_response].flatten.compact.each(&:process_json_response)

Example:

[cities_json_response].flatten.compact.each(&:group_by_country)

How about go one step further and bake this into all objects using our previous approach of object-oriented polymorphism and Ruby open-classes? That way, we don't just collapse the difference between dealing with arrays of hashes vs hashes but also arrays of objects vs singular objects by adding. Note the use of flatten(1) below to prevent arrays or arrays from collapsing more than one level.

Object.class_eval do
  def to_collection
    [self].flatten(1).compact
  end
end

Example usage (notice how more readable this is than the explicit version above by hiding flatten and compact):

city_counts = {}
people_http_request.to_collection.each do |person|
  city_counts[person["city"]] ||= 0
  city_counts[person["city"]] += 1
end

A refactored version including optional compacting would be:

Object.class_eval do
  def to_collection(compact=true)
    collection = [self].flatten(1)
    compact ? collection.compact : collection
  end
end

Example usage of to_collection(compact) to count bad person hashes coming as nil:

bad_people_count = 0
city_counts = {}
people_http_request.to_collection(false).each do |person|
  if person.nil?
    bad_people_count += 1
  else
    city_counts[person["city"]] ||= 0
    city_counts[person["city"]] += 1
  end
end

You asked for "Elegant" didn't you? I hope that was what you were looking for.

How It Works

A super_module called ToCollection contains the #to_collection method and is included (mixed) into Object, providing #to_collection method to inheriting classes.

Options

Object.to_collection_already_implemented_strategy

Possible Values: "raise_error" (default), "keep", "overwrite"

Setting this option allows developer to configure handling of the case when Object#to_collection already exists before loading to_collection library.

"raise_error" (default)

For safety reasons, the library will raise AlreadyImplementedError by default to alert the developer and provide information about the other options. This prevents later surprises and puts control in the hand of the developer to responsibly decide what option to pick next.

"keep"

This keeps existing to_collection untouched, disabling this library.

"overwrite"

This overwrites existing to_collection method, fully enabling this library.

ENV['TO_COLLECTION_ALREADY_IMPLEMENTED_STRATEGY']

Possible Values: "raise_error" (default), "keep", "overwrite"

Same function as Object.to_collection_already_implemented_strategy. Environment variable takes precedence over class accessor variable though.

ENV['TO_COLLECTION_OBJECT_INCLUDE']

Possible Values: "true" (default), "false"

Must be set before requiring/loading library. When using bundler, ensure require option is set to false or nil.

ToCollection super_module is automatically included in Object except when ENV['TO_COLLECTION_OBJECT_INCLUDE'] is set to "false", providing developer with the option to manually include (mix in) ToCollection super_module into classes that need it.

Example:

Bundler would have gem require option as false:

gem 'to_collection', require: false

Ruby code would then set that environment variable manually before requiring library:

ENV['TO_COLLECTION_OBJECT_INCLUDE'] = false
require 'to_collection'
Hash.instance_eval do
  include ToCollection #enables to_collection method
end
Array.instance_eval do
  include ToCollection #enables to_collection method
end
response_data = people_http_request #returns single hash or array of hashes
response_data.to_collection.each do |person_hash|
  # do some work
end

Contributing

  • Check out the latest master to make sure the feature hasn't been implemented or the bug hasn't been fixed yet.
  • Check out the issue tracker to make sure someone already hasn't requested it and/or contributed it.
  • Fork the project.
  • Start a feature/bugfix branch.
  • gem install bundler
  • bundle
  • Commit and push until you are happy with your contribution.
  • Make sure to add tests for it. This is important so I don't break it in a future version unintentionally. Also, do not upgrade jeweler. It is intentionally at an old version that is compatible with running tests in Travis with older verison of Ruby as well as supporting Coveralls, Simplecov, and Code Climate.
  • Please try not to mess with the Rakefile, version, or history. If you want to have your own version, or is otherwise necessary, that is fine, but please isolate to its own commit so I can cherry-pick around it.

Copyright

Copyright (c) 2017 Andy Maleh. See LICENSE.txt for further details.