GSoC Proposal - Active Resource Discovery


I submitted a proposal for the GSoC about adding a discovery file for ActiveResource. This discovery file will allow developers to explore (through an API) the resources that are available on a REST service. I will also add a set of rake tasks for adding automatically generating the REST clients.

This idea was originally posted on the rails GSoC wiki. Do any of you guys have any ideas on anything else that can be made by adding a discovery procedure to REST services?

Hi carlosk,

I really like the idea of being able to expose an API of REST services automatically. Can you post your proposal here?

Here are some of my suggestions for things you can think about. Some of them may be hit or miss. I imagine you could utilize something like rake routes to generate possible services. However, I wonder how you would handle before_filters that limit access to some services. For example if a service required user credentials. Some other things to consider would be the type of communication being used. Some services may use any combination of xml, json, etc... Think about how you might figure out which protocol is used for consumption and publication. Also, what kind of information does the API require to be sent to it for a particular service? The model might be a good place to look for this, but it may not have all the information you need. Lastly, what rules determine if a resource is included in the API? Is there some place that you can restrict resources from being included in the API?

Thanks for the Reply Allen. I'll try to add some of your suggestions to my proposal. This is the original proposal that I submitted:

Abstract: Currently ActiveResource requires developers to know the domain of the REST service. The only way of knowing if a resource is available is if the service includes some documentation. This project will develop a standard resource discovery procedure for Rails. With this new standard developers will be able to add code that can dynamically work with the resources exposed through REST. As an example set of rake tasks for generating REST client classes would be created.


About Me: My name is Carlos Kirkconnell and I'm a Fulbright Scholar from Honduras. I'm currently getting a Master in Software Engineering at Kansas State University. I made my undergrad degree in Honduras and I studied Computer Science. After graduating, I worked both as a university professor and as project manager. I developed software for around 5 years.

Most of my work on the industry was done using the .net Framework. With every successive release of the .net framework, I saw how things were getting more complex and I completely disliked how Visual Studio encourages developers to write bad code.

Around 2 and a half years ago, I heard about a new framework called rails. I investigated about it and I fell in love with it. The code was so clean! Design patterns were encouraged! I finally felt I was really working on an MVC pattern. Database migrations turned to be the final solution for the constant headache we were experiencing at my job. I adapted a rails project to one of our .net solutions, and used migrations to keep multiple databases up to date. This implementation was a success. I've been using rails since that then.

I quitted my job after I got the Fulbright scholarship. Currently on my spare time I'm working a web application that integrates with basecamp.

Why do you use Rails? How would you like to see it improve?

Rails is the best framework that I've ever used for developing web applications. I like the freedom that a dynamic language like ruby gives me. That combined with rails turns developing web applications a fun experience.

One thing about rails that I would like to see improve is the process of communicating with other apps. The default approach requires the coder to know the names and structures of all the resources published by a web site. I believe that a more streamlined approach could be made in order to ease the job of developers that want to communicate through REST between web apps.

Why is this important to the Rails community at large? Why is this important to you?

This project is important for the Rails community for two reasons:

It will allow developers to explore the resources available through REST and, in most cases, without needing any special documentation about the resources, information about the resources would be available. Developers would be able to automate the creation of REST client classes by using a rake task, reducing the amount of code required to write. This change will allow applications to be able to dynamically "explore" websites searching for resources.

This project is important for me because, for my graduation project, my research area is going to be distributed web application. This project will be a great experience for my research area.

List a clear set of goals/milestones you'll hit during the summer. Be specific.

For this project I pretend to accomplish the following milestones:

Discovery File for REST: My first goal would be to use the information found in the routes.rb file to generate either an XRDS file (XRDS - Wikipedia) or an RDF file (http:// I would probably have to discuss with my mentor what's the best option. Discovery API: After creating the Discovery File, I would create an API that will read that information and present it to developers as a useful data structure that could be explored. Rake Tasks: Finally I will create rake tasks for both automating the creation of ActiveResource client classes and to inform developers about the resources found on REST server. Namespaces for ActiveResource: Since the names of the resources on other sites might conflict with the classes of your domain, I will need to assign the REST clients to a namespace.

Give a rough timeline for hitting these milestones.

Discovery File for REST: June 12 Discovery API: July 3 Rake Tasks: July 30 Namespaces: Aug 7 Wrapping Everything Up: Aug 21

How will you measure progress? How will you handle falling behind?

I will use basecamp to keep track of my milestones. In the event of falling behind I will talk to my mentor to find the best solution to solve the problem that is stopping me.

What are the "unknowns" in this project for you? What kind of pitfalls could you run into?

I've never made a rails plugins, but I know there are tons of tutorials out there about how to make one. Another challenge might be how to read the routes.rb file. I would need to investigate about how routes work internally in rails.

Hey Carlos,

I'm currently doing a school project where we are creating two rails applications that are going to talk to each other. When I was researching some stuff I found some basic auth stuff that was build into rails. I think this is a very viable way to handle authentication when requesting protected resources. You may already know about this, but here are some links that explain it better:

The comments here are useful Simple step by step video on how to set it up for a controller

XRDS is in the process of being obsoleted, to be replaced with XRD. Although the spec is not complete, new applications would be well served by moving to XRD. It's been blogged extensively here: