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SimpleDelegator autoloading issues with Rails

Written March 2, 2014. Tagged Ruby on Rails.

Be aware that if you use SimpleDelegator with Rails, you may see autoloading issues.

The problem

Specifically, if you have something like

class MyThing < SimpleDelegator
class MyThing::Subthing

then that class won't be autoloaded. In a Rails console:

>> MyThing
=> MyThing
>> MyThing::Subthing
NameError: uninitialized constant Subthing
>> require "my_thing/subthing"
=> true
>> MyThing::Subthing
=> MyThing::Subthing

Both Rails (code) and SimpleDelegator (code) hook into const_missing. Rails does it for autoloading. Since the SimpleDelegator superclass is earlier in the inheritance chain than Module (where Rails mixes it in), this breaks Rails autoloading.


How do you get around this?

You could stop using SimpleDelegator.

An explicit require won't work well – I think what happens is that the Rails development reloading magic undefines the constant when the file is changed. An explicit require_dependency does appear to work:

class MyThing < SimpleDelegator
require_dependency "my_thing/subthing"

Or you could override the const_missing you get from SimpleDelegator to do both what it used to do, and what Rails does:

class RailsySimpleDelegator < SimpleDelegator
# Fix Rails autoloading.
def self.const_missing(const_name)
if ::Object.const_defined?(const_name)
# Load top-level constants even though SimpleDelegator inherits from BasicObject.
# Rails autoloading.
::ActiveSupport::Dependencies.load_missing_constant(self, const_name)

class MyThing < RailsySimpleDelegator

But keep in mind that this may vary with Rails versions and may break on Rails updates.

The ::Object.const_get(const_name) thing is explained in the BasicObject docs.

This is a tricky problem. Perhaps the best solution would be for Rails itself to monkeypatch SimpleDelegator. That fixes the autoloading gotcha but may cause others – I once had a long debugging session when I refused to believe that Rails would monkeypatch the standard lib ERB (but it does, for html_safe).

This blog post is mainly intended to describe the problem – I'm afraid I don't know of a great solution. If you have any insight, please share in a comment.