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Rails 3 at RailsConf 2010: Code Goodness

By Steph Skardal · Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tags: conference, ecommerce, ruby, rails, spree

At RailsConf 2010, popular technical topics this year are Rails 3 and NoSQL technologies. My first two articles on RailsConf 2010 so far (here and here) have been less technical, so I wanted to cover some technical aspects of Rails 3 and some tasty code goodness in standard ecommerce examples.


Bundler, a gem management tool, is a hot topic at the conference, which comes with Rails 3. I went to a talk on Bundler and it was mentioned in several talks, but a quick run through on its use is:

gem install bundler
gem update --system  # update Rubygems to 1.3.6+

Specify your gem requirements in the application root Gemfile directory.

# excerpt from Spree Gemfile in the works
gem 'searchlogic',            '2.3.5'
gem 'will_paginate',          '2.3.11'
gem 'faker',                  '0.3.1'
gem 'paperclip',              '>='
bundle install  # installs all required gems
git add Gemfile  # add Gemfile to repository

In Spree, the long-term plan is to break apart ecommerce functional components into gems and implement Bundler to aggregate the necessary ecommerce gems. The short-term plan is to use Bundler for management of all the Spree gem dependencies.


ActiveRecord has some changes that affect the query interface. Some ecommerce examples on new querying techniques with the idea of chaining finder methods:

recent_high_value_orders = Order
  .where("total > 1000")
  .where(["created_at >= :start_date", { :start_date => params[:start_date] }])
  .order("created_at DESC")

An example with the use of scope:

class Order << ActiveRecord::Base
  scope :high_value_orders where("total > 1000")
    .where(["created_at >= :start_date", { :start_date => Time.now - 5.days )])
    .order("created_at DESC")
class SomeController << YourApplication::AdminController
  def index
    orders = Order.high_value_orders.limit(50)

  def snapshot
    orders = Order.high_value_orders.limit(10)

  def winner

The changes to ActiveRecord provide a more sensible and elegant way to build queries and moves away from the so-called drunkenness on hashes in Rails. ActiveRecord finder methods in Rails 3 include where, having, select, group, order, list, offset, joins, includes, lock, read only, and from. Because the relations are lazily loaded, you have the ability to chain query conditions with no performance effects as the query hasn't been executed yet, and fragment caching is more effective because the query is executed from a view call. Eager loading can be forced by using first, last, and all.

Router Changes

Some new changes are introduced with Rails 3 in routing that move away from hash-itis, clarify flow ownership, and improve conceptual conciseness. A new route in a standard ecommerce site may be:

resources :users do
  member do
    get :index, :show
  resources :addresses
  resources :reviews
    post :create, :on => :member

Another routing change on named routes allows:

get 'login' => 'sessions#new'   # sessions is the controller, new is the action


Some significant changes were changed to the ActionMailer class after a reexamination of assumptions and the decision to model mailers after a Rails controller instead of a model/controller hybrid. An example of use with ActionMailer now:

class OrderCompleteNotifier < ActionMailer::Base
  default :from => "customerservice@myecommercesite.com"

  def order_complete_notification(recipient)
    @recipient = recipient
    mail(:to => recipient.email_address_with_name,
         :subject => "Order information here")

And some changes in sending messages, allowing the following:

OrderCompleteNotifier.signup_notification(recipient1).deliver  # sends email
message = OrderCompleteNotifier.signup_notification(recipient2)


A few talks about Rails 3 mentioned the use of RailTies, which serves as the interface between the Rails framework and the rest of its components. It accepts configuration from application.rb, sets up initializers in extensions, tells Rails about generators and rake tasks in extensions, gems, plugins.

Rails 3.1

DHH briefly spoke about some Rails 3.1 things he's excited about, including reorganization of the public directory assets and implementing sprite functionality, which I am a big fan of.

Rails 3 Resources

A few recommended Rails 3 learning resources were mentioned throughout the conference, including:

There are tons of resources out there on these topics and more that I found as I was putting this article together. Go look and write code!