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Objects on rails. ZOMG.

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Objectify is a framework that codifies good object oriented design practices for building maintainable rails applications. For more on the motivations that led to objectify, check out this blog post:

How it works

Objectify has two primary components:

  1. A request execution framework that separates the responsibilities that are typically jammed together in rails controller actions in to 3 types of components: Policies, Services, and Responders. Properly separating and assigning these responsibilities makes code far more testable, and facilitates better reuse of components.

    The flow of an objectify request is as follows:

0. Objectify actions are configured in the routes file:

    # config/routes.rb
    # ... snip ...
    objectify.resources :pictures

  Objectify currently only supports resourceful actions, but that's just a temporary thing.

1. The policy chain is resolved (based on the various levels of configuration) and executed. Objectify calls the `#allowed?(...)` method on each policy in the chain. If one of the policies fails, the chain short-circuits at that point, and objectify executes the configured responder for that policy.

  An example Policy:

    class RequiresLoginPolicy
      # more on how current user gets injected below
      def allowed?(current_user) 

  A responder, in case that policy fails.

    class UnauthenticatedResponder
      # yes, at some point we probably need a better interface
      # for handling responses, but this'll do for now.
      def call(controller, renderer)
        renderer.redirect_to controller.login_url

  Here's how you setup the RequiresLoginPolicy to run by default (you can configure specific actions to ignore it), and connect the policy with its responder.

    # config/routes.rb
    MyApp::Application.routes.draw do
      objectify.defaults :policies => :requires_login
      objectify.policy_responders :requires_login => :unauthenticated

2. If all the policies succeed, the service for that action is executed. A service is typically responsible for fetching and / or manipulating data.

  A very simple example of a service:

    class PicturesCreateService
      # the current_user and the request's params will be automatically injected here.
      def call(current_user, params) params[:picture]

3. Finally, the responder is executed. Following with our `Pictures#create` example:

    class PicturesCreateResponder
      # service_result is exactly what it sounds like
      def call(service_result, controller, renderer)
        if service_result.persisted?
          renderer.redirect_to service_result
          # this is the only way that you can pass data to the view layer
          # and you can only pass one thing. Hint: use a presenter.

          renderer.render :template => "pictures/edit.html.erb"
  1. A dependency injection framework. Objectify automatically injects dependencies into objects it manages based on parameter names. So, if you have a service method signature like PictureCreationService#call(params), objectify will automatically inject the request's params when it calls that method. It's very simple to create custom injections. More on that below.

What if I have a bunch of existing rails code?

Objectify has a legacy mode that allows you to execute the policy chain as a before_filter in your ApplicationController. You can also configure policies (and skip_policies) for your "legacy" actions. That way, access control code is shared between the legacy and objectified components of your application.

I completely rewrote our legacy authentication system as a set of objectify policies, resolvers, and services - I'm gonna package that up and release it soon.

Here's how to run the policy chain in your ApplicationController - it'll figure out which policies to run itself:

class ApplicationController < ActionController::Base
  include Objectify::Rails::ControllerHelpers

  around_filter :objectify_around_filter
  before_filter :execute_policy_chain

And to configure policies for a legacy action:

# config/routes.rb
MyApp::Application.routes.draw do
  objectify.defaults :policies => :requires_login
  objectify.policy_responders :requires_login => :unauthenticated
  objectify.legacy_action :controller, :action, :policies => [:x, :y, :z],
                                                :skip_policies => [:requires_login]

Then, you need to create an ObjectifyController that inherits from ApplicationController, and configure objectify to use that:

# app/controllers/objectify_controller.rb
class ObjectifyController < ApplicationController
  include Objectify::Rails::LegacyControllerBehaviour
# config/application.rb
module MyApp
  class Application < Rails::Application
    # ...snip...
    objectify.objectify_controller = "objectify"

Custom Injections

There are a few ways to customize what gets injected when. By default, when objectify sees a parameter called something, it'll first look to see if something is specifically configured for that name, then it'll attempt to satisfy it by calling If that doesn't exist, it'll try, which it'll then call #call on. If that doesn't exist, it'll raise an error.

You can configure the injector in 3 ways. The first is used to specify an implemenation.

Let's say you had a PictureCreationService whose constructor took a parameter called storage.

class PictureCreationService
  def initialize(storage)
    @storage = storage

  # ... more code ...

You can tell the injector what to supply for that parameter like this:

objectify.implementations :storage => :s3_storage

Another option is to specify a value. For example, you might have a service class with a page_size parameter.

class PicturesIndexService
  def initialize(page_size)
    @page_size = page_size

  # ... more code ...

You can tell the injector what size to make the pages like this:

objectify.values :page_size => 20

Finally, you can tell objectify about resolvers. Resolvers are objects that know how to fulfill parameters. For example, several of the above methods have parameters named current_user. Here's how to create a custom resolver for it that'll automatically get found by name.

# app/resolvers/current_user_resolver.rb
class CurrentUserResolver
  def initialize(user_finder = User)
    @user_finder = user_finder

  # note that resolvers themselves get injected
  def call(session)

If you wanted to explicitly configure that resolver, you'd do it like this:

objectify.resolvers :current_user => :current_user

If that resolver was in the namespace ObjectifyAuth, you'd configure it like this:

objectify.resolvers :current_user => "objectify_auth/current_user"

Why did you constructor-inject the User constant in to the CurrentUserResolver?

Because that makes it possible to test in isolation.

describe "CurrentUserResolver" do
  before do
    @user        = stub("User")
    @user_finder = stub("UserFinder", :find_by_id => nil)

    @resolver =

  it "returns whatever the finder returns" do{:current_user_id => 42}).should be_nil{:current_user_id => 10}).should == @user


Objectify has two major impacts on your views.

  1. You can only pass one variable from an objectified action to the controller. You do that by calling Then, you call objectify_data in the view to fetch the data. If it's not there, it'll raise an error. Use a presenter or some kind of other struct object to pass multiple objects to your views.

  2. You can reuse your policies in your views. require "objectify/rails/helpers" and add Objectify::Rails::Helpers to your helpers list, and you'll get a helper called #policy_allowed?(policy_name). Yay code reuse.


# Gemfile
gem "objectify", "> 0"

# config/application.rb
module MyApp
  class Application < Rails::Application
    require "objectify/rails/application"
    require "objectify/rails/controller"
    # only have to require this if you want objectify logging
    require "objectify/rails/log_subscriber" 
    include Objectify::Rails::Application


We're using this thing in production to serve millions of requests every day. However, it's far from being complete. Here are some of the problems that still need solving:

  • Support for all the kinds of routing that rails does.
  • Caching of policy results per-request, so we don't have to run them twice if they're used in views.
  • Smarter injection strategies, and possibly caching.
  • ???


  • Author: James Golick @jamesgolick
  • Advice (and the idea for injections based on method parameter names): Gary Bernhardt @garybernhardt
  • Feedback: Jake Douglas @jakedouglas
  • Feedback: Julie Haché @juliehache
  • The gem name: Andrew Kiellor @akiellor

The other objectify gem

If you were looking for the gem that used to be called objectify on, it's here:


Copyright (c) 2012 James Golick, BitLove Inc. See LICENSE.txt for further details.

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