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Make Your Data Obey

Data is what programming is all about. Applications would be nothing without that beautiful i/o of data moving between modules, services, and data storage. But data is nothing if it’s not consistent.

Obey was developed specifically to address, and provide solutions for, data modelling and validation for modern web applications developed in JavaScript.**

Diving In

Let’s start with a simple example: validating a user account. There are some core data points we want to ensure, using Obey’s model method to create a model object is how we start:

import obey from 'obey'  const user = obey.model({     id: { type: 'uuid', required: true },     email: { type: 'email', required: true },     password: { type: 'string', require: true } })

The above should all be fairly easy to understand. Now let’s put it into action, using the validate method, passing the data object, then saving to a datasource. Let’s assume this is going into a datasource using a CRUD library, already setup, called db . Using the model above:

import db from './db'  user.validate({     id: 'fe6f80c6-c530-4f10-ad0c-89f0f68a879f',     email: 'jdoe@email.com',     password: 'p@55w0rd' }) // Assumes a db.create method which accepts an object as argument // and returns a promise .then(db.create).then(res => {     console.log('User Created!', res) }) .catch(err => {     console.log('Failed!', err) })

Overall pretty simple stuff. We validate the model, then create the user (or catch the error). But what about that id ? We probably want to have that generated automatically.

Creators

Obey supplies creators for generating data using methods that can be predefined. For the id we’ll use the node-uuid module. Let’s revisit the model, defining a creator using the method by the same name:

import obey from 'obey' // Import the node-uuid lib import uuid from 'node-uuid'  // Add a creator that returns a v4 UUID if one isn't supplied obey.creator('uuidCreator', uuid.v4)  const user = obey.model({     // The id now specifies that the creator 'uuid' should be      // used if no value is present     id: { type: 'uuid', creator: 'uuidCreator' required: true },     email: { type: 'email', required: true },     password: { type: 'string', require: true } })

So, now we just pass in the email and password and our id is auto-generated.

But that password is not cool; we don’t want to save that in plain-text…

Modifiers

Obey wasn’t just built for validation, but also to support coercion and modification. Modifiers allow for doing this in a clean, simple way. Let’s revisit the model again, using the modifier method to create one:

import obey from 'obey' import uuid from 'node-uuid' // Import the argon2 module import argon2 from 'argon2'  obey.creator('uuidCreator', uuid.v4)  // Add a modifier that returns md5 encrypted value const salt = new Buffer('somesalt') obey.modifier('encrypt', val => argon2.hash(val, salt))  const user = obey.model({     id: { type: 'uuid', creator: 'uuidCreator' required: true },     email: { type: 'email', required: true },     // Password now specifies the modifier 'encrypt' should be used to     // encrypt the password     password: { type: 'string', modifier: 'encrypt', require: true } })

Now not only does our validation method create a UUID, it also encrypts the password for us.

But what about that email property? Probably want to make sure it’s unique…

Types

Having that email property contain one that’s already in the datasource would be bad news, right? Some databases do provide uniqueness integrity checking, but there are a lot that don’t. Luckily, types are extensible with Obey, so we can add our own check:

import obey from 'obey' import uuid from 'node-uuid' import argon2 from 'argon2' // Here's our db reference again... import db from './db'  obey.creator('uuidCreator', uuid.v4)  const salt = new Buffer('somesalt') obey.modifier('encrypt', val => argon2.hash(val, salt))  // Add a type to ensure we have a valid, unique email obey.type('uniqueEmail', context => {     // Read from the 'db' datasource where email is the value     return db.read({ email: context.val }).then(res => {         // Fail if it already exists         if (res.length !== 0) context.fail('Email must be unique')         // Note: you'd also want to check that the email is valid!     }) })  const user = obey.model({     id: { type: 'uuid', creator: 'uuidCreator' required: true },     // Email is now set to type 'uniqueEmail'     email: { type: 'uniqueEmail', required: true },     password: { type: 'string', modifier: 'encrypt', require: true } })

Now when the validate method is run we do a read on the datasource and check that the email doesn’t already exist. Obey doesn’t need to be returned a value or true , if the context.fail method is not called it will simply move forward, adding the error to a collection which is included with any other errors.

What’s best is we do all of this at the data validation level . Yes, we’re still hitting the datasource (really no way around that), but all of our handling of an error condition is in the same place as the rest of the validation error handling.

The code above is also getting a bit unweildy and is probably better abstracted, but Obey is built for that; all of the modifiers, creators, and types can be added in an abstraction then called wherever you create a model. This makes it easy to share types, modifiers, creators, and the like across multiple models. This can be done by simply moving the methods to a file, we’ll call it obey-utils.js :

import obey from 'obey' import uuid from 'node-uuid' import argon2 from 'argon2' import db from './db'  obey.creator('uuidCreator', uuid.v4)  const salt = new Buffer('somesalt') obey.modifier('encrypt', val => argon2.hash(val, salt))  obey.type('uniqueEmail', context => {     return db.read({ email: context.val }).then(res => {         if (res.length !== 0) context.fail('Email must be unique')         // Note: you'd also want to check that the email is valid!     }) })

But wait, that custom type is asynchronous? Why yes it is. The creators and modifiers can be as well…

Embracing Asynchronicity

It’s simple to look at data modelling and validation as a synchronous thing; running through checks and moving on, but it should have more to it than just that. Addressing modelling and validation only on a synchronous level limits the power of this integral layer of application development.

With so much in data i/o being asynchronous, modelling is one area where asynchronous processing is not a nice to have , it’s a must have .

Let’s take a look at our whole model now, with the obey-utils abstracted into a separate file:

import obey from 'obey' import db from './db' import './obey-utils'  // Setting up the model const user = obey.model({     id: { type: 'uuid', creator: 'uuidCreator' required: true },     email: { type: 'uniqueEmail', required: true },     password: { type: 'string', modifier: 'encrypt', require: true } })  // Validation user.validate({     email: 'jdoe@email.com',     password: 'p@55w0rd' }) .then(db.create).then(res => {     console.log('User Created!', res) }) .catch(err => {     console.log('Failed!', err) })

By embracing asynchronicity everything runs through in the same fashion, using the same conventions and either moving forward as intended or throwing to the catch and being handled cleanly.

Summary

Obey was developed to support an area of development that oftentimes doesn’t get enough attention, or tackles validation by assuming a datasource will handle it for you.

We wrote Obey to centralize our data validation and modelling in one place, stop relying on after-the-fact error handling and injecting validation logic into places it shouldn’t be, but more than anything we wrote it to be flexible and easy to work with.

In addition to what is show above, Obey provides numerous other tools for modelling and validation:

  • Reusable, JSON-based schemas
  • Global validators such as min , max , allow and default which work with all types
  • Recursive types
  • Sub-type support for multiple formats
  • Individual rule definition
  • strict mode for enabling/disabling exact object matching
  • Highly extensible API

Your Feedback

While we’ve been dogfooding Obey and working out the pain points we saw in modelling and validation, we want to know what you see as issues or challenges commonly faced when working with data.

What areas have you felt other, similar libraries have been good or bad at addressing, and do you see things missing from Obey that we can add?

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