Flask-SocketIO Notifications

In the previous post I explained about configuring Flask-SocketIO, Nginx and Gunicorn. This post includes integrating Flask-SocketIO library to display notifications to users in real time.

Flask Config

For development we use the default web server that ships with Flask. For this, Flask-SocketIO fallsback to long-polling as its transport mechanism, instead of WebSockets. So to properly test SocketIO I wanted to work directly with Gunicorn (hence the previous post about configuring development environment). Also, not everyone needs to be bothered with the changes required to run it.

class DevelopmentConfig(Config):
    DEVELOPMENT = True
    DEBUG = True

    # If Env Var `INTEGRATE_SOCKETIO` is set to 'true', then integrate SocketIO
    socketio_integration = os.environ.get('INTEGRATE_SOCKETIO')
    if socketio_integration == 'true':
        INTEGRATE_SOCKETIO = True
    else:
        INTEGRATE_SOCKETIO = False

    # Other stuff

SocketIO is integrated (in development env) if the developer has set the INTEGRATE_SOCKETIO environment variable to “true”. In Production, our application runs on Gunicorn, and SocketIO integration must always be there.

Flow

To send message to a particular connection (or a set of connections) Flask-SocketIO provides Rooms. The connections are made to join a room and the message is sent in the room. So to send message to a particular user we need him to join a room, and then send the message in that room. The room name needs to be unique and related to just one user. The User database Ids could be used. I decided to keep user_{id} as the room name for a user with id {id}. This information (room name) would be needed when making the user join a room, so I stored it for every user that logged in.

@expose('/login/', methods=('GET', 'POST'))
    def login_view(self):
        if request.method == 'GET':
            # Render template
        if request.method == 'POST':
            # Take email and password from form and check if 
            # user exists. If he does, log him in.
            login.login_user(user)

            # Store user_id in session for socketio use
            session['user_id'] = login.current_user.id

            # Redirect

After the user logs in, a connection request from the client is sent to the server. With this connection request the connection handler at server makes the user join a room (based on the user_id stored previously).

@socketio.on('connect', namespace='/notifs')
def connect_handler():
    if current_user.is_authenticated():
        user_room = 'user_{}'.format(session['user_id'])
        join_room(user_room)
        emit('response', {'meta': 'WS connected'})

The client side is somewhat similar to this:

<script src="{{ url_for('static', filename='path/to/socket.io-client/socket.io.js') }}"></script>
<script type="text/javascript">
$(document).ready(function() {
    var namespace = '/notifs';

    var socket = io.connect(location.protocol + "//" + location.host + namespace, {reconnection: false});

    socket.on('response', function(msg) {
        console.log(msg.meta);
        // If `msg` is a notification, display it to the user.
    });
});
</script>

Namespaces helps when making multiple connections over the same socket.

So now that the user has joined a room we can send him notifications. The notification data sent to the client should be standard, so the message always has the same format. I defined a get_unread_notifs method for the User class that fetches unread notifications.

class User(db.Model):
    # Other stuff

    def get_unread_notifs(self, reverse=False):
        """Get unread notifications with titles, humanized receiving time
        and Mark-as-read links.
        """
        notifs = []
        unread_notifs = Notification.query.filter_by(user=self, has_read=False)
        for notif in unread_notifs:
            notifs.append({
                'title': notif.title,
                'received_at': humanize.naturaltime(datetime.now() - notif.received_at),
                'mark_read': url_for('profile.mark_notification_as_read', notification_id=notif.id)
            })

        if reverse:
            return list(reversed(notifs))
        else:
            return notifs

This class method is used when a notification is added in the database and has to be pushed into the user SocketIO room.

def create_user_notification(user, action, title, message):
    """
    Create a User Notification
    :param user: User object to send the notification to
    :param action: Action being performed
    :param title: The message title
    :param message: Message
    """
    notification = Notification(user=user,
                                action=action,
                                title=title,
                                message=message,
                                received_at=datetime.now())
    saved = save_to_db(notification, 'User notification saved')

    if saved:
        push_user_notification(user)

def push_user_notification(user):
    """
    Push user notification to user socket connection.
    """
    user_room = 'user_{}'.format(user.id)
    emit('response',
         {'meta': 'New notifications',
          'notif_count': user.get_unread_notif_count(),
          'notifs': user.get_unread_notifs()},
         room=user_room,
         namespace='/notifs')
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