mderk mderk - 6 months ago 15
Javascript Question

Promises for promises that are yet to be created without using the deferred [anti]pattern

Problem 1: only one API request is allowed at a given time, so the real network requests are queued while there's one that has not been completed yet. An app can call the API level anytime and expecting a promise in return. When the API call is queued, the promise for the network request would be created at some point in the future - what to return to the app? That's how it can be solved with a deferred "proxy" promise:

var queue = [];
function callAPI (params) {
if (API_available) {
API_available = false;
return doRealNetRequest(params).then(function(data){
API_available = true;
continueRequests();
return data;
});
} else {
var deferred = Promise.defer();
function makeRequest() {
API_available = false;
doRealNetRequest(params).then(function(data) {
deferred.resolve(data);
API_available = true;
continueRequests();
}, deferred.reject);
}
queue.push(makeRequest);
return deferred.promise;
}
}

function continueRequests() {
if (queue.length) {
var makeRequest = queue.shift();
makeRequest();
}
}


Problem 2: some API calls are debounced so that the data to be sent is accumulated over time and then is sent in a batch when a timeout is reached. The app calling the API is expecting a promise in return.

var queue = null;
var timeout = 0;
function callAPI2(data) {
if (!queue) {
queue = {data: [], deferred: Promise.defer()};
}
queue.data.push(data);
clearTimeout(timeout);
timeout = setTimeout(processData, 10);
return queue.deferred.promise;
}

function processData() {
callAPI(queue.data).then(queue.deferred.resolve, queue.deferred.reject);
queue = null;
}


Since deferred is considered an anti-pattern, (see also When would someone need to create a deferred?), the question is - is it possible to achieve the same things without a deferred (or equivalent hacks like
new Promise(function (resolve, reject) {outerVar = [resolve, reject]});
), using the standard Promise API?

Answer

Promises for promises that are yet to be created

…are easy to build by chaining a then invocation with the callback that creates the promise to a promise represents the availability to create it in the future.

If you are making a promise for a promise, you should never use the deferred pattern. You should use deferreds or the Promise constructor if and only if there is something asynchronous that you want to wait for, and it does not already involve promises. In all other cases, you should compose multiple promises.

When you say

When the API call is queued, the promise for the network request would be created at some point in the future

then you should not create a deferred that you can later resolve with the promise once it is created (or worse, resolve it with the promises results once the promise settles), but rather you should get a promise for the point in the future at which the network reqest will be made. Basically you're going to write

return waitForEndOfQueue().then(makeNetworkRequest);

and of course we're going to need to mutate the queue respectively.

var queue_ready = Promise.resolve(true);
function callAPI(params) {
  var result = queue_ready.then(function(API_available) {
    return doRealNetRequest(params);
  });
  queue_ready = result.then(function() {
    return true;
  });
  return result;
}

This has the additional benefit that you will need to explicitly deal with errors in the queue. Here, every call returns a rejected promise once one request failed (you'll probably want to change that) - in your original code, the queue just got stuck (and you probably didn't notice).

The second case is a bit more complicated, as it does involve a setTimeout call. This is an asynchronous primitive that we need to manually build a promise for - but only for the timeout, and nothing else. Again, we're going to get a promise for the timeout, and then simply chain our API call to that to get the promise that we want to return.

function TimeoutQueue(timeout) {
  var data = [], timer = 0;
  this.promise = new Promise(resolve => {
    this.renew = () => {
      clearTimeout(timer);
      timer = setTimeout(resolve, timeout);
    };
  }).then(() => {
    this.constructor(timeout); // re-initialise
    return data;
  });
  this.add = (datum) => {
    data.push(datum);
    this.renew();
    return this.promise;
  };
}

var queue = new TimeoutQueue(10);
function callAPI2(data) {
  return queue.add(data).then(callAPI);
}

You can see here a) how the debouncing logic is completely factored out of callAPI2 (which might not have been necessary but makes a nice point) and b) how the promise constructor only concerns itself with the timeout and nothing else. It doesn't even need to "leak" the resolve function like a deferred would, the only thing it makes available to the outside is that renew function which allows extending the timer.