Skip to content
Go to file

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time


A library for managing a standardized set of seed data for applications in a non-production environment.


  • Rails
  • Postgresql (This library currently only works with the Postgresql database)


Include the gem in your Gemfile

group :development do
  gem 'application_seeds'

You should add this gem to any environment group that would need access to the seed data (like an "integration" environment, for example).

Create a shared data set

This library operates on a set of YAML files that represent your shared data set. The dataset can be provided two different ways.

Via a gem

In order to easily share the seed data between apps, you can package the YAML files into a gem. The gem should have the following directory structure:

 +-- seeds/
      |-- seed_data_set_1/
      |    |-- some_data.yml
      |    +-- some_other_data.yml
      +-- seed_data_set_2/
           |-- some_data.yml
           +-- some_other_data.yml

The gem may contain any number of datasets. The above example has two datasets, seed_data_set_1 and seed_data_set_2. The YAML files are located in the dataset directories.

You will need to include the gem containing your seed data in your Gemfile.

Use the data_gem_name API method to specify where your seed data is located.

ApplicationSeeds.data_gem_name = "my-seed-data-gem"
Via the filesystem

The dataset may also exist on the filesystem. The directory structure should be identical to what is described above in the "Via a gem" section, but the lib diretory is not required.

 |-- seed_data_set_1/
 |    |-- some_data.yml
 |    +-- some_other_data.yml
 +-- seed_data_set_2/
      |-- some_data.yml
      +-- some_other_data.yml

Use the data_directory API method to specify the path to your seed data on the filesystem.

ApplicationSeeds.data_directory = "/path/to/seeds"

Create a rake task to create data model objects from the seed data

The application needs to create objects from the common seed data. To do this, you will need to create a Rake task (such as the one below) for your application that reads the seed data, and uses it to create the objects in the application's own data model.

ApplicationSeeds provides an API to allow for the easy retrieveal of seed data. See below for more information about the API.

namespace :application_seeds do
  desc 'Dump the development database and load it with standardized application seed data'
  task :load, [:dataset] => ['db:drop', 'db:create', 'db:migrate', :environment] do |t, args|
    ApplicationSeeds.data_gem_name = "my-seed-data-gem"
    ApplicationSeeds.dataset = args[:dataset]


  def seed_campaigns
    # If we do not need to change the attirbute hash, we can just create
    # the object with the attributes that are specified in the seed data
    # file.
    ApplicationSeeds.campaigns.each do |id, attributes|
      ApplicationSeeds.create_object!(Campaign, id, attributes)

  def seed_line_items
    # If we need to reject attributes from the attribute hash, or
    # only use specific attributes, we can use the select_attributes or
    # the reject_attributes helper methods.
    ApplicationSeeds.line_items.each do |id, attributes|
      ApplicationSeeds.create_object!(LineItem, id, attributes.reject_attributes(:some_unused_attribute))

  def seed_some_objects
    # If we need to modify attribute names, we can do so using the
    # map_attributes helper method.
    ApplicationSeeds.some_objects.each do |id, attributes|
      ApplicationSeeds.create_object!(SomeObject, id, attributes.map_attributes(
        :old_name1 => :new_name1, :old_name2 => :new_name2))

  def seed_some_other_objects
    # If we need tighter control over how the object is created, we can
    # simply create it ourselves.
    ApplicationSeeds.some_other_objects.each do |id, attributes|
      x = attributes['param1'],
                              param2: attributes['param2'],
                              param3: attributes['param3']) = id!

Run the rake task

bundle exec rake application_seeds:load[your_data_set]

You must specify the seed data set that you would like to use. The dataset name is simply the name of the directory containing the seed YAML files.

Or, run the capistrano task

Add the following line to your deploy.rb file:

require "application_seeds/capistrano"

Then, you can seed a remote database by running the following:

bundle exec cap <environment> deploy:application_seeds -s dataset=your_data_set

The Datasets

The application_seeds library supports multiple datasets within the same source (place on the file system, gem, etc). The user specifies which dataset to load when beginning to work with the seed data.

ApplicationSeeds.dataset = "my_data_set"

Nested Datasets

Datasets can be structured so that child directories can inherit the seed data files that are stored in the parent directories. For example, let's look at the following directory structure:

 +-- parent_data_set/
      |-- companies.yml
      +-- child_data_set/
          |-- departments.yml
          +-- grandchild_data_set/
              +-- people.yml

In this example, if the grandchild_data_set is loaded, you will have access to the seed data files in grandchild_data_set, child_data_set, and parent_data_set. Because of this, data from people.yml, departments.yml, and companies.yml can be loaded.

If child_data_set is loaded, you will have access to the seed data files in child_data_set and parent_data_set, but not grandchild_data_set. This includes the departments.yml and companies.yml data files.

Merging Data Files

It is possible to have files for the same data type scattered throughout the dataset hierarchy.

 +-- parent_data_set/
      |-- companies.yml
      |-- people.yml
      +-- child_data_set/
          |-- departments.yml
          |-- people.yml
          +-- grandchild_data_set/
              +-- people.yml

In this example, when data is loaded from the people dataset via call to ApplicationSeeds.people, then the result will contain the data from all three files.

If the files contain conflicting labels, then precedence is given to data at the lowest level (grandchild_data_set in this example).

The Seed Files

The seed files contain the data that the Rake task works with to populate the database. The seed files look and work much like Rails fixtures files.

Here is an example from the people.yml file in this library's test suite:

  first_name: Joe
  last_name: Smith
  company_id: mega_corp
  start_date: <%= 2.months.ago.to_date %>

  first_name: Jane
  last_name: Doe
  company_id: mega_corp
  start_date: <%= 10.months.ago.to_date %>

Seed data must contain a label that is unique to the file.


Seed files may contain ERB snippets to support more dynamic data, or data that may change over time.

Establishing relationships

Relationships can be established between seed data files using labels. One piece of seed data can specify a belongs_to relationship with another piece of seed data by specifying the other data's label in the _id field.

In this example, ApplicationSeeds will look in the companies.yml file for a seed data element with the label mega_corp.

  company_id: mega_corp

If the _id field does not share a name with the file that the corresponding seed data can be found, you can specify the name of the seed file, like so:

  employer_id: mega_corp (companies)

Many to Many

Many to many relationships can be specified using arrays. The name of the field must end in ids or uuids.

  company_ids: [mega_corp, ma_and_pa]

If the _ids field does not share a name with the file that the corresponding seed data can be found, you can specify the name of the seed file, like so:

  employer_ids: "[mega_corp, ma_and_pa] (companies)"

Here, the array must be enclosed in a string, to prevent the YAML parser from erroring out due to invalid YAML syntax.

Hard coding IDs

By default, ApplicationSeeds will generate a unique ID for each piece of seed data based on the name of the file containing the data and the data's label. The IDs will not change, as long as the name of the file containing the seed data and the labels do not change.

If you need to specify a specific id for a piece of seed data, you can specify the id in the list of attributes.

  id: 123
  first_name: Joe
  last_name: Smith
  company_id: mega_corp
  start_date: <%= 2.months.ago.to_date %>

ApplicationSeeds will not generate an ID for you if one has been specified.


See spec/seed_data/test_data_set for more examples of seed data files.

Config Values

Since the YAML files are first run through ERB, you are able to sprinkle ruby code throughout your seed data files. This allows you to do some interesting things:

<% 10.times do |x| %>
company_<%= x %>:
  name: Company_<%= x %>
<% end %>

But 10 here is a magic number. It would be better if we had a variable that better communicated its use.

ApplicationSeeds allows you to place a _config.yml file in each dataset directory. The data in this file is loaded, and made available via the ApplicationSeeds.config_value API.

Take the following _config.yml:

num_companies: 5
num_people: 1
num_departments: 3

You can fetch these values by calling ApplicationSeeds.config_value:

=> 5

=> 1

=> 3

And use them in your seed files:

<% ApplicationSeeds.config_value(:num_companies).times do |x| %>
company_<%= x %>:
  name: Company_<%= x %>
<% end %>

Merging config value files

If you are using nested datasets, then all of the appropriate _config.yml files will be loaded, and all data in those files will be available. Config values defined in the lower levels are given precedence if there is a naming conflict, allowing the lower levels to override values specified in the upper levels.


The ApplicationSeeds module can generate integer or UUID ids. You can use the config method to tell ApplicationSeeds which id type you would like to use.

ID types can be specified at the global level (to be applied to all seed data types)...

ApplicationSeeds.config = { :id_type => :uuid } the data type level (if some types have UUID primary keys and other have integer primary keys)...

ApplicationSeeds.config = { :people_id_type => :uuid, :companies_id_type => :integer }

...or a combination of both (if every type uses integer primary keys except for one, for example)

ApplicationSeeds.config = { :id_type => :uuid, :companies_id_type => :integer }

integer is the default id type.

config needs to be called before the dataset is specified using dataset=


The ApplicationSeeds module provides an API that enables the programmatic retrieval of seed data, so the rake task can easily access all the seed data necessary to build the data object.

Specify the name of the directory containing the seed data

ApplicationSeeds.data_directory = "/path/to/seeds/directory"

Specify the name of the directory that contains the application seed data.

Specify the name of the gem containing the seed data

ApplicationSeeds.data_gem_name = "my-seed-data-gem"

Specify the name of the gem that contains the application seed data. Defaults to application_seed_data if this method is not called.

Specify the dataset to be loaded

ApplicationSeeds.dataset = "name_of_your_dataset"

Specify the name of the dataset to use. An exception will be raised if the dataset could not be found.

Checking if a seed file exists in the dataset


Returns true if campaigns.yml exists in this dataset, false if it does not.

Fetching all seeds of a given type

ApplicationSeeds.campaigns  # where "campaigns" is the name of the seed file

This call returns a hash with one or more entries (depending on the contents of the seed file). The IDs of the object are the keys, and a hash containing the object's attributes are the values. An exception is raised if no seed data could be with the given name.

Fetching seed data by label

ApplicationSeeds.campaigns(:some_campaign)  # where "campaigns" is the name of the seed file, and :some_campaign is the label of the campaign

This call returns a hash containing the object's attributes. An exception is raised if no seed data could be found with the given label.

Fetching seed data by ID

ApplicationSeeds.campaigns(1)  # where "campaigns" is the name of the seed file, and 1 is the ID of the campaign

This call returns a hash containing the object's attributes. An exception is raised if no seed data could be found with the given ID.

Fetching seed data by some other attribute

ApplicationSeeds.campaigns(foo: 'bar', name: 'John')  # where "campaigns" is the name of the seed file

This call returns the seed data that contains the specified attributes, and the specified attribute values. It returns a hash with zero or more entries. The IDs of the object are the keys of the hash, and a hash containing the object's attributes are the values. Any empty hash will be returned if no seed data could be found with the given attribute names and values.

Accessing attributes

A seed datum is a hash of attributes (with indifferent access):

campaign = ApplicationSeeds.campaigns(642)
campaign["description"] # => "Best pizza in Chicago"
campaign[:budget]       # => 10000

Creating an object

ApplicationSeeds.create_object!(Campaign, id, attributes)

This call will create a new instance of the Campaign class, with the specified id and attributes.

Rejecting specific attributes

ApplicationSeeds.create_object!(Campaign, id, attributes.reject_attributes(:unused_attribute))

This call will create a new instance of the Campaign class without the unused_attribute attribute.

Selecting specific attributes

ApplicationSeeds.create_object!(Campaign, id, attributes.select_attributes(:attribute1, :attribute2))

This call will create a new instance of the Campaign class with only the attribute1 and attribute2 attributes.

Mapping attribute names

ApplicationSeeds.create_object!(Campaign, id, attributes.map_attributes(
  :old_name1 => :new_name1, :old_name2 => :new_name2))

This call will create a new instance of the Campaign class, using the seed data for old_name1 as the attribute value for new_name1, and the seed data for old_name2 as the attribute value for new_name2. This method let's you easly account for slight differences is attribute names across applications.

Fetching the label for a specific seed

ApplicationSeeds.label_for_id(:people, 636095969)

This call will return the label (as a symbol) of the seed data entry that corresponds to the given seed type and id. ID or UUID may be used to identify the seed data entry. nil will be returned if no seed data entry could be found with the specified ID.

Reset id column sequence numbers


This method will reset the sequence numbers on id columns for all tables in the database with an id column. If you are having issues where you are unable to insert new data into the databse after your dataset has been imported, then this should correct them.

Defer referential integrity checks

ApplicationSeeds.defer_referential_integrity_checks do
  # Process some seed data

This method will defer the enforcement of foreign key contraints while the block of code is being executed. This is useful when creating chunks of seed data that have are dependent on each other's existance.

Fetch data from the _config.yml files


Fetch the value for the key named foo that is defined in the _config.yml config values files. Will return nil if no config value could be found by that name.

The Problem

Applications in a service oriented architecture (SOA) are often interconnected. One of the challenges with a SOA is that, since the applications are (and must be to some extent) all interconnected, the data sets used by the different applications must be in sync.

Applications will need to store keys to data in other applications that can be used to fetch more detailed information from the services that own that data. In order for one application to lookup data owned by another application, the key specified by the client must be in the server's data set, along with the other data associated with the key that the client is requesting.

Often, each application will have its own, siloed seed data, making inter-app communication impossible. In order to get all of the application data in sync, developers will often resort to populating their development databases with production data. Production data on a developer machine (especially a laptop) is bad business. Do you want to send the email to all of your customers telling them that their sensitive data was on a stolen laptop? I didn't think so.

The Goal

The goal of this project is to create a common set of seed data that can be used by all applications running in development. Re-seeding the applications in development with this shared seed data would put them all "on the same page", preparing them for inter-app communication.

The seed data would be in a general format, not formatted to any application's data model. Each application will have a script that mutates this seed data to confirm to its data model, and then persist it to its database.


Why not just stub calls to the respective services?

Easier said than done :) Yes, it would be fantastic if we could run an application in isolation, and everything just works. But maintaining the stubs can be difficult. Also, when you stub out service calls, you're not really testing the inter-app communication process. More importantly, stubbing out the calls really only works for read-only APIs. For APIs that create or mutate data, stubbing isn't an ideal strategy. What happens when the app tries to fetch data that it just created/updated on a remote service? How will you see the data you created/updated?

Doesn't this mean that I need all applications running, all of the time?

Not really. But, you will need to be running the applications that service API calls for whatever it is that you are developing/testing. This is where POW comes in. POW is a zero-config Rack server for OSX. After installing POW, your apps will be accessible via a .dev url, like No more remembering to start an application before you use one of its services. No more remembering which applications run on which ports. If your application is not currently running, POW will start it automatically on the fly.

Sounds great, what's the catch?

Making it easier for our applications to talk to one another does have some disadvantages. One being that it makes it easier to couple applications. The goal of a service oriented architecture is to prevent this. With great power comes great responsibility. Carefully consider the trade offs any time you introduce an API call to fetch data from a remote service.


A library for managing a standardized set of seed data for applications.




No packages published


You can’t perform that action at this time.