Real-time Stores

Web applications based on real-time stores give users a level of immediacy not possible with traditional web applications, allowing them to see data as it changes. The Dojo object store interface, which is the data model foundation of Dojo applications, was designed to support real-time data updates. In this tutorial we will see how to leverage the notification system to interact with real-time widgets.

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Dojo Version: 1.7

Getting Started

In this tutorial we are going to build on what we learned in the introduction to Dojo object stores and the data modeling tutorial. In the data modeling tutorial we saw how to create a view renderer for query results that used the observe() method to monitor data changes. We can call the query() method on a store and get a query result set back; from there, we can call forEach on the query result set to iterate through the result set. We can also call observe() on the result set to listen for changes. This is the example implementation:

require(["dojo/dom", "dojo/dom-construct"],
	function(dom, domConstruct){
function viewResults(results){
	var container = dom.byId("container");
	var rows = [];

	// functions called within observe callback below
	function addRow(market, i){
		// insert row into DOM, and also into our internal array
		rows.splice(i, 0, domConstruct.create("div", {
			innerHTML: market.name + " index: " + market.index.toFixed(2) + " at: " + market.date.toLocaleTimeString()
		}, container, i));
	}
	function removeRow(i){
		// remove row from DOM and array (splice returns the removed items)
		domConstruct.destroy(rows.splice(i, 1)[0]);
	}

	// add initial items, and handle future changes
	results.forEach(addRow);
	results.observe(function(market, removedFrom, insertedInto){
		// this will be called any time a market is added, removed, or updated
		if(removedFrom > -1){
			removeRow(removedFrom);
		}
		if(insertedInto > -1){
			addRow(market, insertedInto);
		}
	}, true); // we can indicate to be notified of object updates as well
}

var results = marketStore.query({});
viewResults(results);

The essential entry point to monitoring data from a store is the observe() method, which is a method of the query results. The callback passed to observe() takes three arguments:

  • object: The object that was modified
  • removedFrom: The index in the result set where the removed or modified object existed before. A value of -1 for removedFrom indicates the object was added to the result set.
  • insertedInto: The index in the result set where the new or modified object should now exist. A value of -1 for insertedInto indicates the object was removed from the result set.

The observe() method belongs to the result set because the meaning of notifications is contextualized to the result set. A notification that indicates an addition to the result set does not necessarily imply that the object was just created; it could have been created or updated in such a way that it now belongs to the result set. The same is true of a removal; the object may have been updated or deleted to trigger removal from a query result set.

Note that the insertedInto index applies to the result set after the removedFrom index position has been removed (and the array may be shifted).

This functionality—providing notification of changes to the underlying data—is available in any store that provides an observe() method on its result sets. The easiest way to add this functionality to a store is to wrap it with the Observable method of dojo/store. As an example, we will create a data set, instantiate a new Memory store and wrap it using dojo/store/Observable:

require(["dojo/store/Memory", "dojo/store/Observable"],
		function(Memory, Observable){
	var data = [
		{"name": "Dow Jones", "index": 12197.88, "date": new Date()},
		{"name": "Nasdaq", "index": 2730.68, "date": new Date()},
		{"name": "S&P 500", "index": 1310.19, "date": new Date()}
	];
	// create the store with the data
	marketStore = new Memory({data: data, idProperty: "name"});
	// wrap the store with Observable to make it possible to monitor:
	marketStore = Observable(marketStore);
});
View Demo

Now whenever we locally initiate a modification to data via put(), add(), or remove() calls, notification will be delivered to the view renderer so it can automatically update the view.

Remotely-Initiated Notifications

Wrapping a store with Observable automates notifications when data updates are made to the store. However, if you are creating a Comet-style real-time application, you may also have notifications that have originated from other users and are being delivered from the server. In this case, it no longer makes sense to do put(), add(), and remove() calls—since these signify operations performed by the local user, which need to be sent to the server. With server-initiated calls, we don't want the update operation sent back to the server as the server already knows about the change, and suppressing these "echoes" can actually be somewhat challenging to implement on the server. Because of this, the Observable store wrapper provides a notify() method that is designed for notifying the store that a change has taken place from some other source. The primary different between a put() call and a notify() call is that a put() is requesting a change to take place, whereas a notify() is indicating that a change already took place.

With the notify() method, we have a single call target to use for data change notifications. The notify() method takes two arguments: the first argument is the object that was added or updated, and the second argument is the identity of the object that was updated or deleted. If only the first argument is provided, this indicates that a new object was created. If the first argument is undefined or null (and the second argument is included), then this indicates the referenced object was removed. If both arguments are included, this indicates an update has occurred. To notify of an updated object, we could call notify() like this:

marketStore.notify(
	{"date": "2008-02-29", "name": "Dow Jones", "index": 12197.88},
            "Dow Jones");

For our demonstration, we emulate remote trigger with a simple random setInterval function:

setInterval(function(){
	// choose a market randomly
	var market = data[Math.floor(Math.random() * 3)];
	// change it randomly
	market.index += Math.random() - 0.5;
	// update date
	market.date = new Date();
	// notify of the change
	marketStore.notify(market, market.name);
}, 1000); // every second
View Demo

Since the notify() method is commonly coupled with Comet-driven messaging, let's look at how we can use this with dojox/socket, for Comet-style communication based on WebSockets, with fallback to XHR long-polling. Briefly, dojox/socket allows us to connect to a server using WebSocket or XHR with long-lived connection, and asynchronously receive messages from a server when they are available. Here we will create a socket connection and use the messages from the server to notify the store of updates:

require(["dojox/socket"],
	function(Socket){
	var socket = Socket("/comet");
	socket.on("message", function(event){
	  var data = event.data;
	  switch(data.action){
		case "create": store.notify(data.object); break;
		case "update": store.notify(data.object, data.object.id); break;
		case "delete": store.notify(undefined, data.object.id); break;
		default: // some other action
	  }
	});
});

Implementing your own observe()

There may be situations where it is more efficient to directly implement your own observe() method. This can be important if you have specialized caching or notification schemes, or if you have implemented your own query() method. We implement the addition of the observe() method directly in our query() method. The basic implementation pattern would look like:

require(["dojox/socket", "dojo/store/Memory", "dojo/store/util/QueryResults", "dojo/_base/array"],
		function(Socket, Memory, QueryResults, arrayUtil){
	new Memory({
		idProperty: "name",
                data: data,
		query: function(query, options){
			// execute the query and get the results as an array
			var resultsArray = this.queryEngine(query, options)(this.data));

			// create a results object with standard iterative methods
			var results = QueryResults(resultsArray);

			// keep track of listeners
			var listeners = [];

			// add the observe method
			results.observe = function(listener){
				listeners.push(listener);
			};
			socket.on("message", function(event){
				// ... process event
				arrayUtil.forEach(listeners, function(listener){
					listener(object, insertedInto, removedFrom);
				});
			});
		}
	});
});

Conclusion

The observable pattern in the Dojo object store interface provides a powerful foundation for delivering real-time updates integrated with the data model. Data viewers can connect to query results without any knowledge of how the data changes. With a consistent API, viewers can respond to these data changes regardless of whether they were initiated locally or relayed via a service as the result of a remote operation.

Error in the tutorial? Can’t find what you are looking for? Let us know!