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good_migrations

This gem prevents Rails from auto-loading app code while it's running migrations, preventing the common mistake of referencing ActiveRecord models from migration code.

Usage

Add good_migrations to your Gemfile:

gem 'good_migrations'

And you're done! That's it.

Prerequisites

This gem requires that your app uses either of these autoloader strategies:

  • The classic ActiveSupport::Dependencies autoloader (e.g. config.autoloader = :classic), which is going away with Rails 7
  • Version 2.5 or higher of the Zeitwerk autoloader (e.g. config.autoloader = :zeitwerk) If your app uses an earlier version of zeitwerk, you'll see a warning every time db:migrate is run

Background

Over the life of your Ruby on Rails application, your app's models will change dramatically, but according to the Rails guides, your migrations shouldn't:

In general, editing existing migrations is not a good idea. You will be creating extra work for yourself and your co-workers and cause major headaches if the existing version of the migration has already been run on production machines. Instead, you should write a new migration that performs the changes you require.

That means that if your migrations reference the ActiveRecord model objects you've defined in app/models, your old migrations are likely to break. That's not good.

By adding this gem to your project's Gemfile, autoloading paths inside 'app/' while running any of the db:migrate Rake tasks will raise an error, explaining the dangers inherent.

Some will reply, "who cares if old migrations are broken? I can still run rake db:setup because I have a db/schema.rb file". The problem with this approach is that, so long as some migrations aren't runnable, the db/schema.rb can't be regenerated from scratch and its veracity can no longer be trusted. In practice, we've seen numerous projects accumulate cruft in db/schema.rb as the result of erroneous commits to work-in-progress migrations, leading to the development and test databases falling out of sync with production. That's not good!

For more background, see the last section of this blog post on healthy migration habits

Adding to an existing app

If you add good_migrations to an existing application and any of those migrations relied on auto-loading code from app/, then you'll see errors raised whenever those migrations are run.

You have several options if this happens:

  • If you're confident that every long-lasting environment has run the latest migrations, you could consider squashing your existing migrations into a single migration file that reflects the current state of your schema. This is a tricky procedure to pull off in complex apps, and can require extra coordination in cases where a high number of contributors are working on the application simultaneously. The squasher gem may be able to help.
  • You can rewrite those past migrations to inline any application code inside the migration's namespace. One way to do this is to run migrations until they fail, check out the git ref of the failing migration so the codebase is rewound to where it was at the time the migration was written, and finally inline the necessary app code to get the migration passing before checking out your primary branch. Rewriting any migration introduces risk of the resulting schema diverging from production, so this requires significant care and attention
  • If neither of the above options are feasible, you can configure the good_migrations gem to ignore migrations prior to a specified date with the permit_autoloading_before option, which will effectively disable the gem's auto-loading prevention for all migrations prior to a specified time

Configuration

To configure the gem, call GoodMigrations.config at some point as Rails is loading (a good idea would be an initializer like config/initializers/good_migrations.rb)

GoodMigrations.config do |config|
  # Setting `permit_autoloading_before` will DISABLE good_migrations for
  # any migrations before the given time. Don't set this unless you need to!
  #
  # Accepts parseable time strings as well as `Date` & `Time` objects
  # config.permit_autoloading_before = "20140728132502"
end

Working around good_migrations

The gem only prevents auto-loading, so you can always can explicitly require the app code that you need in your migration.

If needed, it is possible to run a command with good_migrations disabled by running the command with the env var GOOD_MIGRATIONS=skip.

Acknowledgements

Credit for figuring out where to hook into the ActiveSupport autoloader goes to @tenderlove for this gist. And thanks to @fxn for implementing the hook necessary for zeitwerk support to be possible.

Caveats

Because this gem works by augmenting the auto-loader, it will not work if your Rails environment (development, by default) is configured to eager load your application's classes (see: config.eager_load).

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Prevent Rails from auto-loading app/ code when running database migrations

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