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README.md

Vuu

Vuu is a messaging solution with 8 key features:

User Authentication

Users are able to register for an account, sign in, and sign out.

Username validation

username is required to be unique, lowercase alphanumeric only to ensure consistency across the site

class User < ApplicationRecord
  # ...
  validates :username,
            format: {
              with: /\A[a-z0-9_]+\Z/,
              message: "can only have lowercase alphanumeric characters"
            },
            length: { maximum: 16 }
  # ...
end

Password encryption

Plain passwords are not stored in the database. Vuu uses BCrypt to securely encrypt and store passwords

class User < ApplicationRecord
  # ...
  def valid_password?(password)
    BCrypt::Password.new(self.password_digest).is_password?(password)
  end

  def password=(password)
    @password = password
    self.password_digest = BCrypt::Password.create(password)
  end
  # ...
end

Unique session tokens

Using SecureRandom, users are ensured to have a unique session_token, identifying that the session belongs to the correct user. This session_token is reset on sign in and on sign out.

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Live Chat

Live communication is enabled using Action Cable, the default solution to WebSockets in Rails 5.

Live Chat

Messages are relayed on creation

Vuu front end creates messages by sending POST requests to the server. When each request hits the server, it creates a message in the database:

class Api::MessagesController < ApplicationController
  # ...
  def create
    @message = Message.new(message_params)
    @message.user = current_user
    if params[:channel_id]
      @context = Channel.find(params[:channel_id])
    elsif params[:room_id]
      @context = Room.find(params[:room_id])
    end
    @message.context = @context
    @message.save
  end
  # ...
end

Note: message is polymorphic. A message belongs to a context and this context can either be a channel or room (room is the same as Direct Message).

After a message is created in the database, it is then broadcasted to all users in the context of the message (be it a Channel or a Direct Message).

class Message < ApplicationRecord
  # ...
  after_commit { MessageRelayJob.perform_later(self, self.context) }
  # ...
end
class MessageRelayJob < ApplicationJob
  def perform(message, context)
    message_json = Api::MessagesController.render(
      partial: 'api/messages/message',
      locals: { message: message }
    )

    user_json = Api::UsersController.render(
      partial: 'api/users/user',
      locals: { user: message.user }
    )

    if message.context_type == 'Channel'
      context_json = Api::ChannelsController.render(
      partial: 'api/channels/channel',
      locals: { channel: message.context }
      )
    else
      context_json = Api::ChannelsController.render(
      partial: 'api/rooms/room',
      locals: { room: message.context }
      )
    end

    context.users.each do |user|
      ActionCable.server.broadcast(
      "user_#{user.username}",
      message: JSON.parse(message_json),
      users: { message.user.id => JSON.parse(user_json) },
      message.context_type.downcase => JSON.parse(context_json))
    end
  end
end

This pattern enables the front end to have only 1 WebSockets channel open at all times. This pattern puts less work on the front end and is more secure than having a WebSockets channel open for each Channel/DM.

On the front-end, a client subscribes to a WebSockets channel as soon as a user is signed in:

export default class CurrentUser extends React.Component {
  componentDidMount () {
    const { setSocket, currentUser } = this.props;
    setSocket(currentUser.username);
  }
  // ...
}

This setSocket function is a thunk action-creator, mapped to the CurrentUser component using React-Redux:

// ...
const mapDispatchToProps = dispatch => ({
  // ...
  setSocket: username => dispatch(setSocket(username))
});
// ...
export const setSocket = username => dispatch => {
  if (window.App.channel) {
    removeSocket();
  }
  addSocket(username, dispatch);
};

// helper
const removeSocket = () => {
  window.App.cable.subscriptions.remove(window.App.channel);
};

// helper
const addSocket = (username, dispatch) => {
  window.App.channel = window.App.cable.subscriptions.create({
    channel: 'UserChannel',
    username
  }, {
    connected: () => {},
    disconnected: () => {},
    received: (data) => {
      if (data.message) {
        dispatch(receiveMessage(data.message));
      }
      if (data.users) {
        dispatch(receiveUsers(data.users));
      }
      if (data.channel) {
        dispatch(receiveChannel(data.channel));
      }
      if (data.room) {
        dispatch(receiveRoom(data.room));
      }
      if (data.currentUser) {
        dispatch(receiveCurrentUser(data.currentUser));
      }
    }
  });
};

This pattern sets up the WebSockets subscription to have direct access to the Redux store on the front end, manipulating it based on whatever data is coming from the server in real time. In other words, this enables data from the server to manipulate the Redux store in real time, enabling live messaging and other live features referenced below.

Channels

Channels are public. Anyone can create a Channel, and anyone can join a Channel. Channels enable live communication between all members in the same Channel. Users can create a Channel using the plus symbol () in the Channels section. When creating a Channel, channelname is required and has to be unique, while displayname is not required and does not have to be unique. Users can search through existing Channels by clicking 'Join a Channel'. A user can leave a Channel anytime by clicking the settings icon next to the Channel.

Channels

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User Search

Enabled throughout Vuu is a User Search feature. It is accessible by clicking the 🔎👤 symbol in Direct Messages section.

User Search

Implemented on the model level

User Search functionality is enabled on the model level using SQL WHERE. ILIKE is preferred over LIKE for case-insensitive search.

class User < ApplicationRecord
  # ...
  def self.search(query)
    self.where("username ILIKE ? OR displayname ILIKE ?",
               "%#{query}%",
               "%#{query}%")
  end
  # ...
end

Sends Ajax requests to the server on idle

When a user types something into the input field, the component sets time out for 200 milliseconds. If no more input is given from the user within that 200 milliseconds, an Ajax request is sent to the server for the search. This avoids overloading the server with requests while still ensuring a smooth user experience.

export default class UsersSearch extends React.Component {
  searchUsers (e) {
    this.setState({
      query: e.target.value
    });
    clearTimeout(this.searching);
    this.searching = setTimeout(
      () => this.props.searchUsers(this.state.query),
      200
    );
  }

  // ....

  render () {
    // ...
    return (
      // ...
      <input
        ref='searchBox'
        type='text'
        placeholder='Search...'
        value={this.state.query}
        onChange={e => this.searchUsers(e)}/>
      // ...
    )
  }
}

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Direct Messages

To start a Direct Message with someone, simply click on their displayname or username, then click on 'Start Conversation'. You can access a list of users by invoking 'User Search', mentioned above, or you can click on any user you come across in a Channel or group.

Start a message by clicking on username

Direct Message

Vuu Redux store has a slice for ui.userShow

const initialState = { isOpen: false, userId: null};

const userShowReducer = (state = initialState, action) => {
  Object.freeze(state);
  switch (action.type) {
    case OPEN_USER_SHOW:
      return { isOpen: true, userId: action.userId };
    case CLOSE_USER_SHOW:
      return initialState;
    default:
      return state;
  }
};

Whenever a username is clicked, isOpen is changed to true and userId is updated to be the userId that was clicked on. At the top level of Vuu, there is a UserShowContainer that maps the Redux state to UserShow, which is only a Modal. This Modal opens and closes depending on the Redux state, allowing UserShow to be accessible anywhere.

export default class UserShow extends React.Component {
  // ...
  render () {
    // ...
    return (
      <Modal
        contentLabel='UserShow'
        isOpen={isOpen}
        style={modalStyle}>
        { user && (
          <div className='user-show'>
            <h1 className='modal-header'>
              <span>{ user.displayname || user.username }</span>
              <i
                className="fa fa-times"
                aria-hidden="true"
                onClick={closeUserShow}></i>
            </h1>
            {user.username}
            {dmButton}
          </div>
        ) }
      </Modal>
    );
  }
}

Through this Modal, the current user can start a DM.

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Group Messages

You can add more people to your Direct Message, making it a private group message. First, open a Direct Message, then simply by clicking on the people symbol (👥) on the top right of your Direct Message to access User Search. Through User Search you can find people by username or displayname to add to your Group.

Adding more users to the group

Group Chat User Search

Adding more users to the group uses the same search functionality as User Search mentioned above, but with a different UI. Through this UI, a user can send an Ajax request to the server to add another user to the group. When the request hits the server, the server sends out updated group information to all users in the same group, updating all users of the group in real time

class Api::RoomsController < ApplicationController
  def add
    @room = Room.find(params[:room_id])
    @user = User.find(params[:id])
    @room.users << @user
    RoomRelayJob.perform_later(@room, @room.users.to_a)
    # ...
  end
end

Leaving a group

A user can leave a group by clicking the 'Leave' button in settings. This sends an Ajax request to the server to modify the room, and subsequently broadcasting to all users of the same group about the new room status, updating everyone in real time.

class Api::RoomsController < ApplicationController
  def leave
    @room = Room.find(params[:id])
    @room.users.delete current_user
    if @room.users.empty?
      @room.delete
    end

    unless @room.users.empty?
      RoomRelayJob.perform_later(@room, @room.users.to_a)
    end
    CurrentUserRelayJob.perform_later(current_user)

    render json: params[:id]
  end
end

Group information is updated in real time

Group information is updated in real time using RoomRelayJob.

class RoomRelayJob < ApplicationJob
  def perform(room, users)
    room_json = Api::ChannelsController.render(
    partial: 'api/rooms/room',
    locals: { room: room }
    )

    users_hash = {}

    users.each do |user|
      users_hash[user.id] = JSON.parse(
        Api::UsersController.render(
          partial: 'api/users/user',
          locals: { user: user }
        )
      )
    end

    users.each do |user|
      ActionCable.server.broadcast(
      "user_#{user.username}",
      room: JSON.parse(room_json),
      users: users_hash
      )
    end
  end
end

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Notification

Notification

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Mobile Friendly

Mobile Friendly

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