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Ride the Cable Car

When we made custom operations possible in CableReady, we saw an explosion of creative and powerful extensions. What we didn't expect was how people started to use operations in clever ways that we hadn't anticipated; the drugs kicked in hard the first time we saw someone calling CableReady.perform() inside an operation.

CableReady-the-Library - which was created for ActionCable - had become just one of several possible delivery mechanisms for CableReady-the-Format. (Convention? Protocol? Standard? Data structure?)

We have exposed the operation queueing API as Cable Car, making CableReady over Ajax a reality.

Introducing cable_car

The CableReady::Broadcaster Concern now provides a cable_car method (in addition to the familiar cable_ready method) which you can call anywhere in your application.

You use cable_car to chain together operations which will ultimately be converted into JSON that the CableReady client can process.

Unlike ActionCable Channels - which are delivered over WebSockets - Cable Car isn't opinionated about how you plan to use the JSON it creates. It doesn't have any broadcast capacity of its own, making it a perfect fit for controller actions responding to HTTP requests, ActiveJob scheduling and even persisting operations to your database.

Using cable_car is very similar to using the cable_ready method, except that there is no stream identifier ("no square brackets"). Instead of sending data with broadcast, you generate JSON with dispatch:

operations =
  cable_car.inner_html("#users", html: "<b>Users</b>").dispatch

operations is an Array that describes a batch of queued operations.

Wait, what's in that Array?!

The Array contains an Object for every operation currently enqueued. Each Object contains, at minimum, a key called operation which identifies the operation type. Depending on the operation, additional

{"innerHtml"=>[{"html"=>"<b>Users</b>", "selector"=>"#users"}]}

Each inner Hash has camelCased keys corresponding to the options passed to it when the operation was created. The server doesn't know what options any given operation is expecting, and any extra options will be passed to the client as extra information which can be accessed with an event handler (or Reflex callback method).

You can now convert the Hash to JSON using the to_json method and send it to the client via the mechanism of your choice:


Pass the JSON into CableReady.perform() and the operations will be executed, regardless of how they got to the the browser.

You can call cable_car and add operations multiple times, and it will continue to accumulate operations until you do something to clear the queue. Like the broadcast method, dispatch accepts an optional boolean keyword argument clear, which you can use to return the current JSON blob without clearing the queue.

Operations Renderer

One of the most exciting possibilities for Cable Car is to send operations in response to an Ajax request. We've made CableReady-over-Ajax even easier with the operations renderer:

class HomeController < ApplicationController
  include CableReady::Broadcaster

  def index
    render cable_ready: cable_car.console_log(message: "hi")

How cool is that? Next, we'll look at how to put this technique to work.

"Ajax Mode"

Accessing CableReady with fetch is a snap. We need a button to kick things off, and an empty DIV element named users to receive updates. The button calls go on a Stimulus controller:

<button data-controller="cable-car" data-action="cable-car#go">
  Cable Car

<div id="users"></div>
import { Controller } from '@hotwired/stimulus'
import CableReady from 'cable_ready'

export default class extends Controller {
  go () {
      .then(r => r.json())

No need to get fancy: we parse the String that comes back as JSON, and pass it straight into CableReady.perform.

On the server side, we need to make sure that the request is sent to the right controller:

Rails.application.routes.draw do
  get "ride", to: "home#ride"

Finally, we render the operations like a boss:

class HomeController < ApplicationController
  include CableReady::Broadcaster

  def ride
    render cable_ready: cable_car.inner_html("#users", html: "<span>winning</span>")

That's it! Honestly, the only way it could be easier is if you just used StimulusReflex. 😛

Operation Serialization

Earlier, we saw how calling dispatch on a cable_car method chain produces a Hash that represents all of your queued operations. What if you are not quite ready to send those updates, or want to save them in your database?

Released under the MIT License.