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Easy activity tracking for models - similar to Github's Public Activity


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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.

Version notice

This documentation is for the unreleased 2.0 version. For the stable 1.4.X readme see:

Table of contents

  1. Example
  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. Help
  6. Upgrading


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

Example usage

Online demo

You can see an actual application using this gem here:

The source code of the demo is hosted here:


Ryan Bates made a great screencast describing how to integrate Public Activity in your Rails Application.


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::Config.set do
  orm :mongoid

For MongoMapper:

# config/initializers/public_activity.rb
PublicActivity::Config.set do
  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_activity is a helper for use in view templates. render_activity(activity) can be written as activity.render(self) and it will have the same meaning.

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.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.(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 a view file does not exist, then p_a falls back to the old behaviour and tries to translate the activity :key using I18n#translate method (see the section below).


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 wether 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


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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