Socket.io & nodejs: at a medium pace

Tuesday, February 15. 2011
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In my last blog entry, I shared some nodejs-code to read CouchDB's _changes feed and publish the data to a website. In order to update the page in a continous fashion, I used socket.io which provides a nifty abstraction across server- to client-side transports — for example, websockets and ajax longpoll.

Full-throttle

When we tested the code for a few days over the weekend, the largest issue we ran into was that the stream moved too fast. In fact it moved so fast, we couldn't read anything and were at risk of getting a seizure when we watched the page for too long.

Certainly awesome from one point of view — people are using the website — but it also led to the next objective: I had to find a way to throttle broadcasting to the client. Here's how!


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node.js & socket.io fun

Wednesday, February 2. 2011
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I recently had the extreme pleasure to use node.js and socket.io on a project. Here are some insights.

Objective

So the objective of the project was to read data from the _changes feed of our CouchDB cluster (hosted by Cloudant) and publish the data to a widget which we can use to display a constant stream of "what are people doing right now".

The core of the problem we faced was not just taking this stream of data and feeding it on to a page, but since we'll deploy this widget to our homepage we needed to make sure that no matter how many clients see it, the impact on the database cluster is minimal; for example, it would be a single client (or down the road up to three for failover) who actually read data from the cluster.

After shopping around for a technology to use, it became obvious that we needed some sort of abstraction because of how the different technologies (e.g. comet, websockets, ajax longpolling, ...) are implemented in different browsers. We decided to build this project on top of socket.io — pretty much for the same reasons most people go to jQuery, prototype or dojo these days.


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