Working with associations was the most difficult part of building Central Perk, my Ruby on Rails application.
belongs_to relationships made sense, but the addition to many-to-many—
has_many through—relationships are where it got weird. I ran into several issues while building my application and this is how I solved them.
For my project, I planned on three models. Users (baristas), orders and menu items (products). The relationship would like this:
With those models, programmatically, I wanted to be able to do the following:
Create a new order and automatically associate it with a user.
Be able to see all orders that belong to a user.
See all menu_items (products) in a specific order.
After setting up my models, everything seemed to be working up until
order.menu_items. Currently, an Order with an attribute of
:menu_items could only have one value. Meaning, one MenuItem per Order. Can you imagine if you had to get back in line and start a new order for each item you wanted to buy at a coffee shop?
This is where a
has_many :through relationship came in.
If I wanted more than one menu item, per order, the result of
order.menu_items needed to be an array. This is where the OrderItem model comes in.
OrderItem acts as a join table, with foreign keys to the Order and MenuItems models. In this example, think of each OrderItem record has a transaction instance, representing one Order and one MenuItem at a time.
An Order would essentially be a colletion of all OrderItem records with the same
:order_id. I was a step closer to figuring out what I needed.
At first, an OrderItem model made sense.
Until, it didn’t.
Would I need to call
order.order_items.menu_items to see all the items in that order? My app had a User model too. How do you build a
has_many through a relationship when there are more than three models?
has_many through only works with three models. But, through other associations, it extends the functionality of those models. If I wanted to know how many MenuItems were in the first order, created by a specific user I could call something like this:
Visually, I thought of the relationships between the four models as looking like this:
This was making sense!
I would not need to reference OrderItems directly. ActiveRecord does that work for me. Since an Order has many OrderItems, referencing the Order would gives me direct access to MenuItems.
My updated models now looked like this:
class User < ApplicationRecord has_secure_password has_many :orders end class Order < ApplicationRecord belongs_to :user has_many :order_items has_many :menu_items, through: :order_items end class OrderItem < ApplicationRecord belongs_to :order belongs_to :menu_item end class MenuItem < ApplicationRecord has_many :order_items has_many :orders, through: :order_items end
With the associations complete, I needed a form to create the Order object. At first, everything seemed to be working. But after looking closer at the console, I realized the transaction was getting rolled back and Order was not saving to the database.
I noticed the
:menu_items_id key was listed in my strong params, but I was getting a :menu_items_ids is not permitted error.
To try and resolve this, I worked in the console, testing things out, bit by bit until I could pinpoint where I was getting stuck. In the console, I could successfully do the following.
Create an order.
order = Order.create(user_id: 1, name_for_pickup: "Rachel", menu_item_ids: [1,2,3])
View the value of menu_items.
order.menu_items # [1,2,3]
Add an item to an order.
order.menu_items << item
Save the order.
Then it hit me.
Ruby was right in not permitting the
menu_item_ids param. I thought I needed to create an order. Instead, I needed to create an order, find the menu items by id (menu_items_id, which was the unpermitted params) and shovel them into the array. I updated my create order method.
def create @order = Order.create(order_params) if @order.save redirect_to order_path(@order) else render :new end end
def create @order = Order.create(order_params) items_to_add = params[:order][:menu_item_ids] items_to_add.each do |item_id| if item_id != "" item_id = item_id.to_i item_to_add = MenuItem.find_by_id(item_id) @order.menu_items << item_to_add end end if @order.save redirect_to order_path(@order) else render :new end end
And it worked!
In summary, if you are running into issues with object relationships, try the following:
Typos can instantly cause object creation to fail. Pluralization like
menu_item_ids are also something to look out for. All params are strings, which may cause downstream effects if you are expecting an integer or boolean.
Strong params help to prevent users from injecting harmful data into your database via the form. If strong params lists only
:password can be submitted in a User model, the transaction will fail (and not write to your database, yay!) if an attribute of
:not_a_hacker was within your params.
create! will give more information into what validations may be causing errors. For example, in my app, an Order must have as User (barista)
id associated with it. Running
Order.create() in the console would not tell me much, but running
Order.create!() would print out an error like
A User must exist.
An object may be updating, but, is it saving properly to the database? For example, if
Order.create() (an empty object, which will not validate because there is no
.valid? will return false.
Model associations can be difficult and frustrating, but not impossible!
The post Debugging Has Many, Through Relationships in Ruby on Rails appeared first on Shannon Crabill's Blog.
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