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Easy activity tracking for models - similar to Github's Public Activity
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proudly made by Chaps

public_activity provides easy activity tracking for your ActiveRecord, Mongoid 3 and MongoMapper models in Rails 3 and 4.

Simply put: it can record what happens in your application and gives you the ability to present those recorded activities to users - in a similar way to how GitHub does it.

!! WARNING: README for unreleased version below. !!

You probably don't want to read the docs for this unreleased version 2.0.

For the stable 1.4.X readme see:

Table of contents

  1. About
  2. Setup
    1. Gem installation
    2. Database setup
    3. Model configuration
    4. Custom activities
    5. Displaying activities
      1. Activity views
      2. i18n
  3. Testing
  4. Documentation
  5. Common examples
  6. Help
  7. Upgrading


Here is a simple example showing what this gem is about:

Example usage



Ryan Bates made a great screencast describing how to integrate Public Activity.


A great step-by-step guide on implementing activity feeds using public_activity by Ilya Bodrov.

Online demo

You can see an actual application using this gem here:

The source code of the demo is hosted here:


Gem installation

You can install public_activity as you would any other gem:

gem install public_activity

or in your Gemfile:

gem 'public_activity'

Database setup

By default public_activity uses Active Record. If you want to use Mongoid or MongoMapper as your backend, create an initializer file in your Rails application with the corresponding code inside:

For Mongoid:

# config/initializers/public_activity.rb
PublicActivity.configure do |config|
  config.orm = :mongoid

For MongoMapper:

# config/initializers/public_activity.rb
PublicActivity.configure do |config|
  config.orm = :mongo_mapper

(ActiveRecord only) Create migration for activities and migrate the database (in your Rails project):

rails g public_activity:migration
rake db:migrate

Model configuration

Include PublicActivity::Model and add tracked to the model you want to keep track of:

For ActiveRecord:

class Article < ActiveRecord::Base
  include PublicActivity::Model

For Mongoid:

class Article
  include Mongoid::Document
  include PublicActivity::Model

For MongoMapper:

class Article
  include MongoMapper::Document
  include PublicActivity::Model

And now, by default create/update/destroy activities are recorded in activities table. This is all you need to start recording activities for basic CRUD actions.

Optional: If you don't need #tracked but still want the comfort of #create_activity, you can include only the lightweight Common module instead of Model.

Custom activities

You can trigger custom activities by setting all your required parameters and triggering create_activity on the tracked model, like this:

@article.create_activity key: 'article.commented_on', owner: current_user

See this entry for more details.

Displaying activities

To display them you simply query the PublicActivity::Activity model:

# notifications_controller.rb
def index
  @activities = PublicActivity::Activity.all

And in your views:

<%= render_activities(@activities) %>

Note: render_activities is an alias for render_activity and does the same.


You can also pass options to both activity#render and #render_activity methods, which are passed deeper to the internally used render_partial method. A useful example would be to render activities wrapped in layout, which shares common elements of an activity, like a timestamp, owner's avatar etc:

<%= render_activities(@activities, layout: :activity) %>

The activity will be wrapped with the app/views/layouts/_activity.html.erb layout, in the above example.

Important: please note that layouts for activities are also partials. Hence the _ prefix.


Sometimes, it's desirable to pass additional local variables to partials. It can be done this way:

<%= render_activity(@activity, locals: {friends: current_user.friends}) %>

Note: Before 1.4.0, one could pass variables directly to the options hash for #render_activity and access it from activity parameters. This functionality is retained in 1.4.0 and later, but the :locals method is preferred, since it prevents bugs from shadowing variables from activity parameters in the database.

Activity views

public_activity looks for views in app/views/public_activity.

For example, if you have an activity with :key set to "activity.user.changed_avatar", the gem will look for a partial in app/views/public_activity/user/_changed_avatar.html.(|erb|haml|slim|something_else).

Hint: the "activity." prefix in :key is completely optional and kept for backwards compatibility, you can skip it in new projects.

If you would like to fallback to a partial, you can utilize the fallback parameter to specify the path of a partial to use when one is missing:

<%= render_activity(@activity, fallback: 'default') %>

When used in this manner, if a partial with the specified :key cannot be located it will use the partial defined in the fallback instead. In the example above this would resolve to public_activity/_default.html.(|erb|haml|slim|something_else).

If a view file does not exist then ActionView::MisingTemplate will be raised. If you wish to fallback to the old behaviour and use an i18n based translation in this situation you can specify a :fallback parameter of text to fallback to this mechanism like such:

<%= render_activity(@activity, fallback: :text) %>


Translations are used by the #text method, to which you can pass additional options in form of a hash. #render method uses translations when view templates have not been provided. You can render pure i18n strings by passing {display: :i18n} to #render_activity or #render.

Translations should be put in your locale .yml files. To render pure strings from I18n Example structure:

    create: 'Article has been created'
    update: 'Someone has edited the article'
    destroy: 'Some user removed an article!'

This structure is valid for activities with keys "activity.article.create" or "article.create". As mentioned before, "activity." part of the key is optional.


For RSpec you can first disable public_activity and add the test_helper in the spec_helper.rb with

require 'public_activity/testing'

PublicActivity.enabled = false

In your specs you can then blockwise decide whether to turn public_activity on or off.

# file_spec.rb
PublicActivity.with_tracking do
  # your test code goes here

PublicActivity.without_tracking do
  # your test code goes here


For more documentation go here

Common examples

Set the Activity's owner to current_user by default

You can set up a default value for :owner by doing this:

  1. Include PublicActivity::StoreController in your ApplicationController like this:

    class ApplicationController < ActionController::Base
      include PublicActivity::StoreController
  2. Use Proc in :owner attribute for tracked class method in your desired model. For example:

    class Article < ActiveRecord::Base
      tracked owner:{ |controller, model| controller.current_user }

Note: current_user applies to Devise, if you are using a different authentication gem or your own code, change the current_user to a method you use.

Disable tracking for a class or globally

If you need to disable tracking temporarily, for example in tests or db/seeds.rb then you can use PublicActivity.enabled= attribute like below:

# Disable p_a globally
PublicActivity.enabled = false

# Perform some operations that would normally be tracked by p_a:
Article.create(title: 'New article')

# Switch it back on
PublicActivity.enabled = true

You can also disable public_activity for a specific class:

# Disable p_a for Article class

# p_a will not do anything here:
@article = Article.create(title: 'New article')

# But will be enabled for other classes:
# (creation of the comment will be recorded if you are tracking the Comment class)
@article.comments.create(body: 'some comment!')

# Enable it again for Article:

Create custom activities

Besides standard, automatic activities created on CRUD actions on your model (deactivatable), you can post your own activities that can be triggered without modifying the tracked model. There are a few ways to do this, as PublicActivity gives three tiers of options to be set.

Instant options

Because every activity needs a key (otherwise: NoKeyProvided is raised), the shortest and minimal way to post an activity is:

@user.create_activity :mood_changed
# the key of the action will be user.mood_changed
@user.create_activity action: :mood_changed # this is exactly the same as above

Besides assigning your key (which is obvious from the code), it will take global options from User class (given in #tracked method during class definition) and overwrite them with instance options (set on @user by #activity method). You can read more about options and how PublicActivity inherits them for you here.

Note the action parameter builds the key like this: "#{model_name}.#{action}". You can read further on options for #create_activity here.

To provide more options, you can do:

@user.create_activity action: 'poke', parameters: {reason: 'bored'}, recipient: @friend, owner: current_user

In this example, we have provided all the things we could for a standard Activity.

Use custom fields on Activity

Besides the few fields that every Activity has (key, owner, recipient, trackable, parameters), you can also set custom fields. This could be very beneficial, as parameters are a serialized hash, which cannot be queried easily from the database. That being said, use custom fields when you know that you will set them very often and search by them (don't forget database indexes :) ).

Set owner and recipient based on associations

class Comment < ActiveRecord::Base
  include PublicActivity::Model
  tracked owner: :commenter, recipient: :commentee

  belongs_to :commenter, :class_name => "User"
  belongs_to :commentee, :class_name => "User"

Resolve parameters from a Symbol or Proc

class Post < ActiveRecord::Base
  include PublicActivity::Model
  tracked only: [:update], parameters: :tracked_values

  def tracked_values
   {}.tap do |hash|
     hash[:tags] = tags if tags_changed?


Skip this step if you are using ActiveRecord in Rails 4 or Mongoid

The first step is similar in every ORM available (except mongoid):

PublicActivity::Activity.class_eval do
  attr_accessible :custom_field

place this code under config/initializers/public_activity.rb, you have to create it first.

To be able to assign to that field, we need to move it to the mass assignment sanitizer's whitelist.


If you're using ActiveRecord, you will also need to provide a migration to add the actual field to the Activity. Taken from our tests:

class AddCustomFieldToActivities < ActiveRecord::Migration
  def change
    change_table :activities do |t|
      t.string :custom_field

Assigning custom fields

Assigning is done by the same methods that you use for normal parameters: #tracked, #create_activity. You can just pass the name of your custom variable and assign its value. Even better, you can pass it to #tracked to tell us how to harvest your data for custom fields so we can do that for you.

class Article < ActiveRecord::Base
  include PublicActivity::Model
  tracked custom_field: proc {|controller, model| controller.some_helper }


If you need help with using public_activity please visit our discussion group and ask a question there:!forum/public-activity

Please do not ask general questions in the Github Issues.


Copyright (c) 2011-2014 Piotrek Okoński, released under the MIT license

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