A Prototype In-App Messaging System for XPages

Jul 9, 2012, 2:35 PM

Tags: xpages java

Sven Hasselbach's post about ApplicationListeners the other day and the notion of post-MVC methods of app architecture got me thinking about the notion of generic messaging/events inside an XPages app. The first example that comes to mind is a project-tracking database where there may be events like "new task created" or "delivery ready for review" - business logic stuff where the fact that it's a document being modified is an implementation detail. In my actual project-tracking database at work, I implemented this by creating "Notification Stub" documents with information about the event and having a scheduled agent process them. That's a fine Notes-y way to do it (and has its own advantages, like having another cluster member send the emails), but I want a way for the running XPages app to notice and react to these things without the immediate code knowing about every single concern.

I did a quick search and didn't find any such capability in basic JSF or XPages, but I realized it wouldn't be terribly difficult to implement it myself: have an application-scoped bean (maybe one per scope, if it's useful) with a methods to dispatch events and declare listeners. Then, other beans could attach themselves as listeners and the normal code would only be responsible for sending out its messages, to be received by zero or more unknown objects:

public interface XPagesEventDispatcher {
	public void dispatchEvent(XPagesEvent event);
	public void addListener(XPagesEventListener listener);

The actual event objects would be similarly simple: just a name and an arbitrary array of objects:

public interface XPagesEvent {
	public String getEventName();
	public Object[] getEventPayload();

Finally, listeners are the simplest of all, being responsible only for providing a method to handle an XPagesEvent (EventListener is the standard "tagging" interface for this kind of thing):

public interface XPagesEventListener extends EventListener {
	public void receiveEvent(XPagesEvent event);

However, after creating my gloriously clean set of interfaces, I ran into the ugly marsh of reality: application-scoped beans only exist after first use. That works fine for the dispatcher itself, but not for listener beans, the whole point of which is to not be referenced in code elsewhere. After a bit of searching, I came up with a solution that may work. When defining a managed bean, you can set properties, and those properties can be Lists. So, rather than creating two beans, I define just the dispatcher bean, but provide it a list of class names of listener beans to create at startup:


I gave my dispatcher implementation class a convenience methods to take a string and 0 or more objects and dispatch the event, so it could be used in code like:

applicationDispatcher.dispatch("home page loaded")
applicationDispatcher.dispatch("delivery submitted", [delivery.getUniversalID()])

So far, this setup is working pretty well. I plan to toy with it a bit and then try it out in proper use. Provided it works well (and it doesn't turn out that this capability already exists and I just missed it), I'll turn it into a project on GitHub/OpenNTF. As long as it keeps working, I'm excited about the prospects, especially when combined with XPages Threads and Jobs for non-blocking event handling.

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Stephan H. Wissel - Jul 10, 2012, 12:49 AM

Indeed interesting approach. You might consider two extensions/alternate approaches which make this even more generalized. One would be to use MQ to push out messages. In the Notes/Expeditor there's the microbroker you could use. This means that there is an OSGi compatible way to add a MQ. There seems to be a lot of info available on MQ and OSGi.

The second approach would be an implementation of Pubhubsubbub

Both approaches are very suitable for intra-application communication, but it might be already justifyable for in-app messaging since it leaves the option open to modularize you application easily

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