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I'm Jason, a web applications developer in the San Francisco Bay area.


Strong Parameters with Spree Extensions

I’m currently working on an extension for Spree, an e-commerce solution for Ruby on Rails applications. The developer documentation for Spree is very helpful, letting developers know that they should use certain Ruby meta-programming methods to extend the functionality of the Spree system. The extension I’m working on was setup under a version of Spree that used Rails 3.

Now that Spree v2.2.1 uses Rails 4.0.4, I’m having to refactor some parts of this extension to adapt to new practices.

From Accessible Attributes to Strong Parameters

Under Rails 3, you have to use #attr_accessible to ensure that attributes of a model can be updated via methods such as #update_attributes. This was implemented to protect models from mass assignment vulnerability. In Rails 4, this functionality re-implemented as a convention at the controller level, in a feature known as Strong Parameters. This Rails 4 Quick Look: Strong Parameters article explains this clearly.

Rails 3 Decorators

Under Rails 3, a Spree extension could introduce new columns to Spree models via a migration, and then simply introduce a decorator like this one to make the new attributes available for mass assignment updates.

Spree::Order.class_eval do
  attr_accessible :my_extensions_attribute, :my_extensions_attribute2
end

But now with Rails 4, I have to create a decorator for Spree::Api::OrdersController instead. I imagined that this decorator will have to somehow apply a call to the #permit method on the ‘params’, allowing my extension attributes to be updated as well.

After some searching online I realized that the best solution to this problem is to specify an alias_method_chain inside my decorator. We don’t have control over the Spree code, and there is no option for using ‘super’ because inheritance isn’t involved here. So this is definitely a situation where we should use an alias method chain.

Spree Controller Helpers for Strong Parameters

I just noticed however that the Spree::Api::OrdersController#order_params method has a more complex method for permitting the attributes than I expected. In this case the order attributes are provided by #permitted_order_attributes, which makes a ‘super’ call that refers to the parent controller Spree::Api::BaseController. The BaseController doesn’t have a #permitted_order_attributes method defined, however it does include Spree::Core::ControllerHelpers::StrongParameters. which defines #permitted_order_attributes. If you follow the dependencies further, you’ll see that all these methods in Spree::Core::ControllerHelpers::StrongParameters rely on Spree:PermittedAttributes.

So all that is necessary to define a new Spree::Order attribute is to define a Spree::PermittedAttributes decorator like so:

# lib/spree/permitted_attributes_decorator.rb
Spree::PermittedAttributes.class_eval do
  @@checkout_attributes.push(:my_extensions_attribute, :my_extensions_attribute2)
end

I’ll have to test this out, but it seems like the plausible approach. I hope this helps any other developers.

Update

I just went back to a StackOverflow article on this subject that I had seen before - Rails 4 - strong parameters concept involvement in spree-2.1. It turns out that they referenced a simpler approach by simply placing the following into an initializer.

Spree::PermittedAttributes.user_attributes.push :first_name, :last_name

I don’t think this is the best approach however, because an initializer has to be installed into the application via a generator. A generated initializer cannot be maintained either.