Red Squirrel Reflections
Dave Hoover explores the psychology of software development

Dave Hoover
dave.hoover@gmail.com

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Fri, 24 Mar 2006

Using Rails as Javascript Scaffolding

I'm working on something that I'm not talking about yet, but I can say it's a Rails app. I'm likely a bit behind the times, but I thought I'd mention a habit emerging in my Rails/Ajax development that I haven't read about in any of the blogs I follow.

After I started playing with Behaviour, I grew to appreciate keeping my markup free of Javascript. At the same time, I enjoy using Rails JavaScriptHelper methods to do the dirty work for me. So what I end up doing is writing the Rails code and get everything working the way I want it. Then I view source in my browser, copy the Rails-generated HTML and Javascript and paste over the Rails code in my template. Then I'm free to separate everything into the appropriate places. Styles can get pulled up into a CSS file, onFoo methods can get extracted into Behaviours, and HTML elements can be formatted and identified the way I want. I just went through this routine with the marvelous script.aculo.us autocomplete and it worked like a charm.

It feels so right, I wonder if it's wrong. I suppose I'm making my code more susceptible to breaking with future Rails/Scriptaculous upgrades. But it also feels like a smaller incarnation of the Rails scaffolding philosophy. So I'm wondering if I'm just doing something many others have silently practiced before me or if I'm violating an unspoken rule of Rails development.

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