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Vigilante is a plugin that will offer database stored authorisation, and offers the ability that certain permissions have a limited scope/extent.

All permissions can be managed from an admin-interface. If permissions are changed, they will be used on the next login.


  • context: the current context, the object(s) we want to see/visit
  • scope : term from activerecord, to allow scoping a query (adding conditions).
  • extent : permissions have an extent; permissions are only valid in a certain context.


Suppose we have a site like blogger -> multiple blogs, a blog can have multiple author, a blog can have limited access.

So we have something like

class User
  has_many :posts

class Post
  belongs_to :author, :class_name => User
  belongs_to :blog

class Comment
  belongs_to :post
  belongs_to :commentor, :class_name => User

class Blog
  has_many :posts

What we want to be able to express is that certain users are

  • blog-admins: they can add authors, and can manage the entirety of the blog
  • authors: they can manage their own posts (which they wrote), and they can manage the comments on their own posts
  • commentators: they can read a blog, and create comments. They can only edit the comments they created

This should be expressable in our system ...

Therefore there are two concepts we introduce:

  • the extent: which scopes the permission to certain contexts. A context is user-defined, in our case a blog. Permissions are only valid on certain blogs.


First, add the Vigilante gem to your Gemfile:

gem 'vigilante'

Then, do bundle install, and run the generator:

rails g vigilante:install

This will add a configuration-file (so you edit it) and will add example glue code to the ApplicationController. This will also add a number of needed migrations.

What needs to be configured

For starters we need some kind of user-model. You can call it User, Operator, ... But because the permissions will be specified (in the database), we need only one model (and no models based on a role or permissions for the user). A user (operator, ...) just needs to be able to log on. Use Devise, Authlogic, or roll your own. The Vigilante needs to know how the user model is called, and it needs to be able to reach the currently logged on user.

Inside that class, you have to add a single line:


This will add extra methods and properties to your User/Operator model.

Next up, we need some extra glue code, which is configured inside the vigilante_config.yml. You will need to set the following values:

  • current_user_method: the method that needs to be called from within the controller context to retrieve the current user. If you are using Devise, this would be something like current_<devise-model>, e.g. current_user or current_operator.
  • current_user_class: the class of the user/operator
  • application_context: what method will give us the current context (e.g. current blog)
  • application_extent_id_from_object : get_context_id_from_context_object
  • application_context_from_nested_resources: find_context_by_context_id

I will give an example later to make this more clear.


  • improve documentation


Based on original code written by Bart Duchesne. Copyright © 2011 Nathan Van der Auwera, released under the MIT license


Context-based authorisations, stored in the database







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