4. Fetching the data


In last part of this series we tidied up our HomeView component and split our render method into much smaller and manageable components thanks to react. In this part we’re going to mock the data fetching from server and learn more about IMA.js object container.

Mocking REST API

We won’t go into building a REST API server with an actual database storing the guestbook posts - that is beyond this tutorial and IMA.js. To give you the idea of fetching data from the server, we’ll create a more simple alternative.

We’ll start by creating the app/assets/static/api directory and the app/assets/static/api/posts.json file with the following content (copied from our home controller and modified):

[
  {
    "id": 4,
    "content": "Never mistake motion for action.",
    "author": "Ernest Hemingway"
  },
  {
    "id": 3,
    "content": "Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.",
    "author": "Henry Ford"
  },
  {
    "id": 2,
    "content": "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.",
    "author": "Aristotle"
  },
  {
    "id": 1,
    "content": "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.",
    "author": "Albert Einstein"
  }
]

Notice how we added the id field - as mentioned previously, in a real world application, you should rely on the primary keys provided to you by your backend instead of generating them yourself.

Now that we have our data ready, we just need some way to actually fetch it from the server. To do that, we’ll introduce 4 new classes into our project: an entity class, a factory class, a resource class, and a service class.

Entity Class

The entity class represents a typed data holder for our data (which is useful for debugging) and allows us to add various computed properties without having to modify our API backend.

Let’s create the app/model and app/model/post directories and then a new file app/model/post/PostEntity.js with the following content:

export default class PostEntity {
  constructor(data) {
    this.id = data.id;
    
    this.content = data.content;

    this.author = data.author;
  }
}

We’ve just created a new class, exported it, and that’s it, no more is currently required. Our new entity class extracts the data obtained from a data object (for example obtained from a deserialized JSON) and sets it to its fields.

Factory Class

So, with our entity class ready, let’s take a look at the factory class. The factory class will be used to create new entities from data objects and arrays of data objects - but in our case, the latter will suffice for now.

Create a new app/model/post/PostFactory.js file with the following content:

import PostEntity from './PostEntity';

export default class PostFactory {
  static get $dependencies() {
    return [];
  }

  createList(entities) {
    return entities.map(entityData => new PostEntity(entityData));
  }
}

Our new factory class has just one method named createList(). The method takes an array of data objects and returns an array of post entities.

Resource Class

We have our entity and factory, now we need a resource class. The resource class represents our single point of access to a single REST API resource (or entity collection, if you will). The sole purpose of a resource class is to provide a relatively low-level API for accessing the REST API resource. Create a new app/model/post/PostResource.js file with the following contents:

import PostFactory from './PostFactory';

export default class PostResource {
  static get $dependencies() {
    return ['$Http', PostFactory];
  }

  constructor(http, factory) {
    this._http = http;

    this._factory = factory;
  }

  getEntityList() {
    return this._http
      .get('http://localhost:3001/static/api/posts.json', {})
      .then(response => this._factory.createList(response.body));
  }
}

We defined the getEntityList() method in our resource class which we’ll use to fetch the posts from the server. In a real-world application we would use configuration to set the URL to the resource instead of specifying it like this, but that is beyond the scope of this tutorial.

The _http.get() method returns a new promise that resolves to the response object of a GET HTTP request sent to the specified URL, with the provided query parameters (the second parameter currently set to an empty object). The method also automatically parses the JSON in our response body.

We then post-process the parsed response data using the Promise’s then callback which uses our factory to create an array of post entities.

You may have noticed that we have the http and factory parameters in our constructor. This is how we provide the resource with the HTTP agent provided by IMA.js, and our post entity factory. We’ll take a look at how to do this properly in a moment.

Service class

You now may be wondering what is the point of the service class. It isn’t that useful in our tutorial, but it would be essential in a bigger application. The resource should handle only sending requests and processing responses without any high-level operations. The service class is there to take care of the high-level stuff. For example, should we have a REST API that provides us with paged access to posts and we would want to fetch all posts since a specific one, this would be handled by the service. The service would fetch the necessary pages from the REST API, construct the result and resolve to the constructed sequence of post entities.

In our case, however, the service will be very plain. Create a new app/model/post/PostService.js file with the following content:

import PostResource from './PostResource';

export default class PostService {
  static get $dependencies() {
    return [PostResource];
  }

  constructor(resource) {
    this._resource = resource;
  }

  getPosts() {
    return this._resource.getEntityList();
  }
}

Now that we have our entity, factory, resource and service, you may be thinking that this is a little too much code for something so simple. Well, that depends on many things. If you can expect mostly uniform data from your REST API with little modifications required, you may want to use a reflection-powered solution that requires you only to specify a single configuration item (API root URL) and to create entity classes. The solution shown here is more robust and flexible, allowing you to make slight adjustments to suit every resource you are working with as required.

Dependency injection

So how do we actually start using our post service? First we need to wire everything up, well we actually already did that. You may have noticed that in most of the classed we used some weird static getter called $dependencies, that’s how IMA.js built in dependency injection works.

IMA.js uses internally the Object Container class to handle all dependencies (you can read more about it in the documentation), but the basic usage is fairly easy. Every class that wants to use DI has to define static getter which returns an array of instances we want to inject to the constructor in the same order as defined in the array itself. Real world example would then look something like this:

import HttpClient from 'http';
import PostFactory from './PostFactory';

export default class PostResource {
  static get $dependencies() {
    return [HttpClient, PostFactory];
  }

  constructor(http, factory) {
    // http and factory contains instances of their respective classes
    this._http = http;
    this._factory = factory;
  }
}

The only condition to have DI working as expected is, that if you want to use any class as a dependency, it has to define static getter $dependencies. Even if it does not have any dependencies and returns empty array. Otherwise OC will not recognize this as valid class to inject and it won’t work.

Object container & bind.js

Object container offers more functionality than just defining DI in the $dependencies method. The app/config/bind.js offers full access to our Object container in the init method. This allows you to do some pretty amazing stuff. You can create aliases for classes, constants, inject dependencies and more.

The object container serves mostly the following purposes - configuring class constructor dependencies, setting default implementing classes of interfaces, creating aliases for classes, global registry of values and an instance factory and registry.

Just like an ordinary dependency injector, the Object Container is used to specify the dependencies of our classes, create and retrieve shared instances and create new instances on demand.

The object container allows us to:

  • Specify the dependencies of a class using the inject() method or by overriding the $dependencies() static getter on the class itself (the dependencies will be passed in the constructor).
  • Create string aliases for our classes using the bind() method (like the $Http alias we used to retrieve the HTTP agent provided by IMA.js).
  • Create named object container-global constants using the constant() method.
  • Specify the default implementation of an interface using the provide() method (this allows us to specify the interface as a dependency and switch the implementation everywhere in our application by changing a single configuration item).

We can only access the object container in this configuration file. After that it works behind the scenes, providing dependencies and managing our shared instances as needed. You can find out more about its API by studying the documentation or the source code.

Using PostServices in HomeController

Let’s take another look at the $Http alias among the dependencies of our post resource - as already mentioned, this is an instance of the HTTP agent (client) provided by the IMA.js. All utilities and services provided by IMA.js are bound to the object container via aliases and have their aliases prefixed with $ to prevent accidental name collisions, but most can be used without having to use aliases as dependency identifiers by specifying the classes and interfaces themselves as dependencies.

Next we modify the dependencies of the app/page/home/HomeController.js by adding the PostService dependency using the static getter syntax. The resulting code looks as follows:

import { AbstractController } from '@ima/core';
import PostService from 'app/model/post/PostService';

export default class HomeController extends AbstractController {
  static get $dependencies() {
    return [PostService];
  }

  constructor(postService) {
    super();

    this._postService = postService;
  }

  ...
}

This will push an instance of our post service as the first argument to the constructor of our home page controller. With the post service safely in our _postService field, we can use it to fetch the posts from the server in our load() method:

return {
  posts: this._postService.getPosts()
};

Finally, we can make use of our new post entities in the home controller’s view (app/page/home/HomeView.jsx). Let’s modify the _renderPosts() method to look like this:

return this.props.posts.map(post => {
  return <Post key={post.id} content={post.content} author={post.author} />;
});

Notice how we use the post.id as the react element key here. Now go ahead, refresh the page and you’ll see the posts still there, but this time fetched from the server! Or are they?

Server-side rendering

If you open your browsers’s developer tools, you may notice that the network log does not show any request to http://localhost:3001/static/api/posts.json.

You may remember that IMA.js is an isomorphic JavaScript application stack. This means that our application gets rendered at the server first, then it is sent to the client with a serialized state information, and then the application is “reanimated” at the client-side using the state information.

IMA.js caches the requests we make using the HTTP service at the server-side and sends the serialized cache to the client. The cache is then deserialized at the client-side, so the request to http://localhost:3001/static/api/posts.json we do in our post resource will be resolved from the cache, leading to no additional HTTP request being made.


Now that we are fetching posts from the server and fully understand how that works, let’s dive into writing new posts to our guestbook in the 5th part of this tutorial.