Presenting By Proxy

06 Dec 2013 by Parker Selbert

The mediator pattern is an essential technique for cleanly stratifying any data-driven system into layers with distinct responsibilities. The concept is simple, take an object and wrap it in another object. When methods are called on the wrapping object it, selectively overrides the method to process the original object’s data, or it just passes the method call through to the original object. That description doesn’t do the pattern justice, and probably confused you if you already implement mediator pattern style presenters. Let’s illustrate the concept with some Ruby code:

require 'delegate'

Model =, :title)

class Presenter < SimpleDelegator
  def slug
    title.downcase.gsub(/\s+/, '-')

model =, 'Presenters Rule')
presenter =

presenter.title # 'Presenters Rule'
presenter.slug  # 'presenters-rule'

Implementing the presenter pattern in Ruby is almost free because of the Delegate module from the standard library. It is a fairly thin wrapper around Ruby’s dynamic method dispatch, method_missing. Whenever an unknown method is sent to a delegate it dynamically checks whether the object it is delegating to has that method and calls that instead. In the instance above the delegator is being elevated to a presenter by manipulating the data slightly.

What about languages that don’t have method_missing? One such language is JavaScript. There isn’t any standard tracked method for handling method calls dynamically. Fortunately, JavaScript is highly malleable, allowing for dynamic assignment instead. Let’s take a shot at a JavaScript presenter:

var Presenter = function(model) {
  this.model = model;

  for (key in model) {
    if (model.hasOwnProperty(key) && !this.hasOwnProperty(key)) {
      this[key] = model[key]

Presenter.prototype.slug = function() {
  return this.title.toLowerCase().replace(/\s+/, '-');

model = { id: 100, title: 'Presenters Are Fun!' };
presenter = new Presenter(model);

presenter.title  // 'Presenters Are Fun'
presenter.slug() // 'presenters-are-fun'

That was a bit more work wasn’t it? Not only that, it has some major pitfalls.

First, there is the issue of uniform access principal. In Ruby every message sent to an object with . is a method call, whether that particular method returns a static value or is a proper method definition. That isn’t the case in JavaScript. Calling a method on an object with . will always yield the value of that object. That means if the value of an object is a function you’ll get a [Function] reference back, not the evaluated function. This is evident in the call to presenter.slug() above—it required the trailing () to invoke the function, whereas the call to presenter.title did not.

There is also the issue of duplicating all of the data from the model onto the presenter. For trivial applications or models with only a few attributes duplication isn’t much of an issue. When you have hundreds or thousands of models with nested objects or sizable data the duplication is entirely wasteful. In addition, as soon as the model’s data changes the presenter will be out of sync. Referencing the example above:

console.log(,; // 100, 100 = 101;
console.log(,; // 101, 100

It turns out that ES6 Harmony proposes a clean solution to our presenter problem. As of Firefox 18.0, Chrome 24.0 there is a new Proxy API, allowing objects to be created and have properties computed at runtime. This is an ideal tool for a presenter. Here is a simple example of how the Proxy object behaves:

var handler = {
  get: function(target, name) {
    return name in target ? target[name] : 'missing';

var data  = { id: 100 },
    proxy = new Proxy(data, handler);

console.log(; // 100
console.log(proxy.title); // 'missing'

Three objects are interacting together here: a data object, a handler, and the proxy itself. There is a wealth of what are called traps available to the handler object. The example above uses the get trap to determine how to respond to property access. This is exactly what we need for a proper presenter!

var Presenter = {
  present: function(model) {
    return new Proxy(model, this.handler);

  handler: {
    get: function(target, name) {
      var value = name in target ? target[name] : this[name];

      return typeof value == 'function' ? value(target) : value;

    slug: function(target) {
      return target.title.toLowerCase().replace(/\s+/, '-');

var model = { id: 100, title: 'Proxy Presenter' },
    presenter = Presenter.present(model);

console.log(, presenter.slug); // 100, proxy-presenter

model.title = 'Dynamic Presenter';
console.log(presenter.slug); // dynamic-presenter

This version holds all of the benefits of a presenter with none of the drawbacks enumerated before.

  1. The handler’s get trap uniformly handles values from the model and methods from the presenter.
  2. There is no data duplication.
  3. The data will always be in sync, as it is dynamically retrieved during runtime. There is no need to observe the original object or keep properties synchronized with events.

Unfortunately, as with any new web technology, there is the adoption hurdle. Proxy isn’t available in many browser’s, even in Chrome without explicitly enabling javascript harmony. Until the shiny future where the vast majority of browsers support Proxy you will need to provide a hybridized version using feature flags. That is precisely what I’ll be doing for my MVP needs.