Rails 3 responders, JQuery 1.4 and empty json results

30 Mar 2010

[ Rails , Jquery , Javascript ]

 So, I have been playing with Rails 3 for a while, and it is really great! One of the new things I’m liking on it is the concept of responders. It helps to thin your controllers and encapsulate same logic on the same place.

Rails 3 responders have a default behavior to deal with api formats, like xml and json, so you don’t have to create a responder to deal with that. This week I was programming a tool in which I would use Rails 3 and JQuery 1.4 and json communication. The ideia was that the user would be able to create, edit and destroy items on the same page with ajax, not a big deal. My problems started when I was creating the update form. Rails was, for some reason, responding with an empty json during updates. On create functions, respond_with returns the model attributes jsonified.

As Rails was returning an empty json object, I was having problems on the Jquery side, as Jquery 1.4 does a strict parse of a json object. That means that an empty string does not parse to a json object, and so Jquery throws an error, and as I was using $.ajax function, I falled on the error callback instead of the success callback.

After a while I discovered that Rails does that on purpose (at least for now). On the Rails source file /actionpack-3.0.0.beta/lib/action_controller/metal/responder.rb, on line 154, the api_behavior method defines returns for gets, posts, and errors, and everything else just returns an empty :ok header. I did not have an answer for why the Rails team has made it this way, but I have found a possible motive.

Anyway, for this to work, I think there are two possible solutions. One would be to create a custom responder that would respond with an empty json object. The other one is to filter the response on Jquery side. For now I’m filtering the response with this:

$.ajax({ url: '/my_url', type: 'POST', data: form.serialize(
  dataFilter: function(data,type) {
    if(!data || $.trim(data) == "") return "{}"; return data;
  success: function(data, status, req) { //success behavior },
  error: function(req, status, error) { //error behavior }

That’s it, maybe this can help someone else :)