Updated Aug 11, 2012 to reflect current library versions.
Collections of items are amazingly pervasive in applications. Gmail deals with collections of emails. Twitter deals with collections of tweets. Facebook deals with collections of friends, updates, and apps. Very often these collections contain living data. The app may be constantly updating with new, changed, or removed items from the server. Maybe users are able to filter, sort, add, edit, or delete items and maybe they can do so from multiple views that need to be synchronized.
When the user clicks a remove button to remove an article from the feed, it’s easy enough for us to remove the article from the feed itself and the accompanying array of articles, but how do we update the counter? The most direct approach is to give the feed view a reference to the counter view. That way the feed can just call a function on the counter view to tell it to refresh itself, right? Noooooooooo! Sure, it might function, but that’s a very good way to couple our views and reduce our flexibility. Our views would know more than necessary about each other. In this case, the data should drive the views instead of the views driving each other. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for our data (the array of articles) to drive the view using a native array because the counter can’t “watch” the array for a removal of an article. Native arrays do not broadcast events when items are added or removed.
You’ll notice a great similarity between what I’ve written above regarding native arrays resulting in view coupling and what I wrote in my previous post about native objects resulting in view coupling. Indeed, there are a lot of similarities and they are both resolved by implementing the observer pattern within our data structures. Just as a native object can be wrapped by a Backbone model in order to broadcast attribute changes, an array can be wrapped by a Backbone collection to broadcast additions and removals. Continue reading »