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🎑 A simple, promise-based, worker framework.
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Worker Framework

A simple, promise-based, worker framework.


yarn add @thinkmill/node-worker


Argument Type Description
label String A label that describes the worker (used in logs, errors, etc)
payload Function A promise-returning function that is executed on schedule (received the run ordinal)
options Object Options controlling how the worker should behave


The payload function represents the main body of the worker, where the real work is done. It should return a promise that resolves or rejects withing the timeoutMs provided to it.

The payload is invoked according to the following schedule:

  • 1000 ms after the worker.start() function is called
  • If the promise rejects or returns a truthy value, the worker will sleep for it's configured sleepMs period before invoking the payload
  • If the promise returns a falsey value the worker will sleep for 1000 ms before invoking the payload

When invoked, the payload will be provided with a single argument; an object containing the following:

Property Type Description
label String The worker label that was provided on construction
ordinal Number An integer indicating how many times the payload has been executed
timeoutMs Number The number of milliseconds the worker will wait for this invocation to return


The options can contain:

Property Type Description
sleepMs Number How long do we pause between runs? (in milliseconds)
timeoutMs Number How long do we wait (in milliseconds) for the run promise to resolve/reject? See important notes below!

Note that the timeoutMs provided forces the end of a cycle (and allows the next run to be scheduled) but does not (and cannot?) terminate the still-running promise. If the promise returned by the payload function has errored internally (without resolving or rejecting) then that's OK; the schedule timeout will prevent the worker from stalling forever. But if the promise returned is still doing work, there's the possibility we'll end up with multiple instances of the payload executing in tandem. This is almost certainly a Bad Thing, but that's up to you.

The take away:

  • Make sure your worker promises always resolve
  • Probably set a fairly long timeoutMs value

Instance methods

Method Description
start() Start the worker after a short delay.
stop() Stop the worker. The currently running job will be allowed to compete but the worker will not restart afterwords.
scheduleRunInMs(delayMs, onceOff) Schedule a run in delayMs milliseconds. If onceOff is true this will trigger an extra run rather than rescheduling the next run. If the worker has been stopped this will have no effect.



A simple example:

const Worker = require('@thinkmill/node-worker');

const myWorker = new Worker(
  ({ label, ordinal, timeoutMs }) => {
    return new Promise((resolve, reject) => {
      const takeMs = 4000 + (Math.random() * 1500);
      console.log(`Run #${ordinal} ..
        will take ${takeMs} ms`);
      setTimeout(() => {
        console.log(`Run #${ordinal} ..
      }, takeMs);
  }, {
    sleepMs: 5000,
    timeoutMs: 5 * 1000,


A more realistic/interesting example, processing items in a queue:

const Worker = require('@thinkmill/node-worker');
const debug = require('debug')('workers:dequeue-things');
const Model = require('../models/queuedThings');

// Manage the dequeuing of things
const payload = async ({ label, ordinal, timeoutMs }) => {
  const runForMs = timeoutMs - 1000;
  const runUntil = new Date( + runForMs);

  debug(`Running for ${runForMs} ms (until ${runUntil.toISOString()})`);

  let processedCount = 0;
  let queueEmptied = false;
  let nextThing;

  do {
    await knex.transaction(async (trx) => {

      // Get the next thing from the queue
      nextThing = await Model.query(trx).findOne('isReady', true).whereNull('processedAt').orderBy('queuedAt');

      // The queue is empty; exit early
      if (!nextThing) {
        queueEmptied = true;

      // Do whatever it is that things do
      // ..

      // Record that we've processed this thing
      await Model.query(trx).update({ processedAt: new Date() }).where({ id: });

      // Inc. our count
  while (new Date() < runUntil);

  // Output some debug info
  const summaryMsg = `DONE: ${processedCount} things processed, leaving the queue ${queueEmptied ? 'EMPTY' : 'NOT EMPTY'}`;
  // Resolve with a boolean indicating whether the payload should be re-invoked soon or after the normal sleep
  return queueEmptied;

// Create the worker instance and start it
const worker = new Worker('dequeue-things', payload, { sleepMs: 60 * 1000 });

You can also request a once-off worker run from some other action. For example, if you have a worker sending emails which processes a queue every 10 minutes, you might want to trigger that worker after a successful account creation.

class AccountCreator {

	onCreateSuccess () {
		// Tell the email worker to run so the user receives email promptly.
		const onceOff = true;
		require('../email-worker').scheduleRunInMs(200, onceOff);


We use the debug package internally. Entries scoped to workers:${label} (where label is that supplied on construction). It's probably helpful to follow this pattern in your own payload functions.

Output can be enabled by supplying a scope (or list of scopes) to output in the DEBUG env var. This can include wildcards. Eg

# All worker debug
DEBUG=workers:* yarn start

# Debug for a specific worker
DEBUG=workers:send-notifications yarn start

# Debug for several specific workers
DEBUG=workers:send-notifications,workers:send-emails yarn start


BSD Licensed. Copyright (c) Thinkmill 2018.

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