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DCI in Rails

This is a stripped version of Rails application to show why, where and how we may use Interactions. Generally, Interactions (and DCI by itself), is not a religion, but a handy tool to keep legacy codebase mantainable, to separate business actions for MVC codebase, to make both developers, managers and stakeholders speak in the same language. This is the part of documentation stack I made for an existing project which is still active and has up to 50M views monthly.


Interactions are the way to improve the messy MVC logic, by extracting business-actions into a separated Ruby classes, following name conventions, combining DCI and DDD ideas to make application development more agile.

[!] Interactions are the place for business logic.

Basic Ideas

Controllers should not change Models attributes directly (but not always, but most of the time - read clarifications below), instead they should call Interaction methods to perform business actions. No business logic should be placed in Models, Models should implement simple ORM, and should provide data consistency.

      |             |
   +--+---+  +------v-----+
   | View |  | Controller <--------+
   +------+  +------------+        |
   +-------------+                 |
   | Model (Data)|<--+             |
   +-----+-------+   |     +-------v-----+
         |     ^     |     | Interaction |
      +--v--+  +--+  |     +-------------+
      | ORM |     |  |             ^  +
      +--+--+     |  +-------------+  |
         |        |                   |
    +----v-----+  |                   |
    | Database |  |   +----------+    |
    +----------+  |   |Business  |    |

These are examples of business logic that should find its place in Interactions:

  • When admin invites a sub-account to join sub account
  • When we need to add some user’s acctio to log
  • When new process of Contacts import started, and we need to add a new Event
  • When sub-account confirms his join
  • When Contact receive a new value for Open/Click Rate attribute
  • When Email Message sent to Test

[!] Interactions are little bit more than just a pieces of code. Interactions are the way to make you think like a user, of suit. It is the way to talk on the same language and use same business-oriented terms, instead of programmer’s mambo-jambo. As the final result you’ll have stronger and less blured informational channel between all participants.

These are examples of data consistency validations and logic, that should be placed in Models:

  • Message must have a reference to Sub-account.
  • Account status can have only one of predefined values.
  • When new Message, has updated Link Open rate (a simple data denormalization).

Just a good old Ruby class

Interaction is a class responsible for a set of related business methods. It takes subject(s) in a constructor, all the method-related parameters are passed as method arguments.

Class Naming

Interaction class name has following structure:


  • <Subject> is a name of a business object being manipulated, usually (but not necessarily ActiveRecord model), examples: Message, SubAccount, Account.
  • <ActionsGroup> is a noun describing scope of actions implemented in this Interaction. It is stated in business terms, do not use technical and catch-all words.
  • Interaction is a mandatory suffix for all Interactions to devide them from other Ruby classes.


Action groups may include:

  • Creation - create new instance
  • Update - update of visible object parameters that can be explicitly modified by user, such as title, description, email, time zone, etc. But it doesn’t handle update of internal parameters like status, various flags, etc.
  • <your_action_name> (for example, Logger) - feel free to use a resonable action name depending of situation. For eample: UserLoggerInteraction to store date connected with User’s information (agent, IP…) during logging in



SubAccountCreationInteraction # methods for new developer creation or application


  • SubAccountCreation - No interaction suffix
  • MessageReviewingAction - Where possible use nouns instead of -ing form and stick with Interaction as the suffix
  • UsersInteraction - No action group defined

Method Naming

Interaction method name describes single action it performs in business terms. Again, be specific and don’t use technical and catch-all words. Do not use bang in method names, we all know that Interaction raise errors in case of failed validation, so there is no reason to create unnecessary noise. Do not repeat subject name in method name, e.g. use MessageTestInteraction#send instead of MessageTestInteraction#send_test_message since it’s already clear that we are taking action on Message to test it.

Interaction Class

All interactions inherit from BaseInteraction class. Base interaction has two responsibilities:

  • Provide validation helpers (see next section).
  • Get optional performer object into constructor.

Each interaction accepts performer (Role object) - which performs this action. By default it’s nil, and it means that this actions is treated, as performed by system and ignoring authorization. If you create a custom constructor in your interaction, don’t forget to accept performer and call super with it.


class AdminCreationInteraction < BaseInteraction
    :email, :full_name, :about
  # @param attributes [Hash]
  # @return Admin
  def create(attributes)
    Admin.new(attributes.slice(*APPLICATION_ATTRIBUTES)).tap do |admin|
      # actions you need to do with Admin before save,
      # like assign attributes, calculations and so on.
      # After this, actual object save happens:
      # After save you can perform additional actions you previously had,
      # for example, in observers
      NotificationInteraction.notify_admin_created(admin, 'New admin created!', Time.zone.now)
  rescue ActiveRecord::RecordInvalid => e
    raise InteractionValidationError.new(e.record)


In case of validation error interaction raises InteractionValidationError or specific error inherited from this one. There is a number of helpers (validate!, validate_presence!, etc.) to check input parameters and initial object(s) state. See InteractionValidationHelpers module for details. To validate final object(s) state, use bang versions of model update methods (update_attributes!, save!) and catch ActiveRecord::RecordInvalid. As for error messages, they should start with capital letter and end without punctuation.

Thus structure of a typical interaction method is:

def <action_name>(...)
  validate! ...
  validate! ...

  # perform main action: update subject object(s) state with bang methods (e.g. save!)

  # perform additional operations (send notifications, call other interactions, etc.)

rescue ActiveRecord::RecordInvalid => e
  raise ValidationError.new(e.record)

You can collect several validation errors to send at once using validate_all! method with a block. Inside the block you can use all the same validations. You can combine groupped an ungroupped validations. For example, common case is to split validations in two parts: Initial state validation (can requested transition be done with this object at all). If this validation fails there is no reason to show other validation messages, because user can’t fix it anyway. Submitted data validation (new fields, new state validation) - these validations should be groupped, because it is much more usable to show all form validation errors at once.


def approve(attributes)
  # initшal state validation
  validate! object.status == :pending, message: 'Object has to be pending'

  # instead of validating attributes passed, you can assign them to model to perform
  # type conversion, etc. and then validate model attributes
  object.as_system.attributes = attributes.slice(*ALLOWED_ATTRIBUTES)

  # data validations
  validate_all! do
    validate_presence! attributes[:comment], message: {comment: 'You have to specify a comment'}
    validate! object.date >= Time.zone.today, message: {date: "Can't be in the past"}
    validate_model! object

  # ...


Spec has following structure:

describe <InteractionClass> do
  describe "#<action_name>" do
    # specs for success path

    context "validations" do
      context "<error_case_1>" do
        # specs for validation errors (usually included via shared examples)

      # etc.

Controller Usage


def reject
  render json: {redirect: foo_path}
rescue Interaction::ValidationError => e
  render json: {errors: e.errors}