Musings by @thedevel

Data Binding From The Ground Up, Part II

768 words · 21 Sep 2011

Follow along with the examples on jsFiddle:

This is a continuation from the first article on writing a data binding implementation in JavaScript.

To review where we left off, here are the outstanding issues left over from the initial article:

  • The view abstraction is poor, but actually not terrible (aside from form fields, there aren't many other typical ways of interfacing with a DOM element). There should be more encapsulation and similar APIs like what Backbone Models provides us (ahem.. Backbone View).
  • An extension of the first point, the interface for each DOM element should be able to be specified. For example setValue assumes to set the innerText for non-form fields. What if the data is HTML? innerHTML should be able to be specified instead (or at least detected).
  • For those with a keen eye, you may have noticed bindViewToModel depends on the fact that model.attributes is filled, meaning if it wasn't, no elements in the view would have been bound. Thus we need support for either dynamically bound views (on every change event, the view is setup for new attributes) and/or the ability to explicitly define which data attributes to be setup for ahead of time.
  • Migrate element binding to use the more common data-bind attribute by default, but provide the option to define alternate means of targeting the elements.

State Of The Code

Note this has been updated to use data-bind by default per update from the first article.

function setValue(elem, value) {
    elem = $(elem);
    if ('input, textarea')) {
    } else {

function createChangeHandler(view, attr) {
    return function(model, value, options) {
        view.find('[data-bind=' + attr + ']').each(function(i, elem) {
            setValue(elem, value);

function bindViewToModel(view, model) {
    var attr, value, event;
    for (attr in model.attributes) {
        event = 'change:' + attr;
        handler = createChangeHandler(view, attr);
        model.bind(event, handler);
        // mimic set trigger to populate initial data
        model.trigger(event, model, model.get(attr), {});

Thus given a template:

<div id="detail-template">
    <h1 data-bind="title"></h1>
    <em>Published by <span data-bind="author"></span> on <span data-bind="pubDate"></span></em>
    <div data-bind="summary"></div>

and some data:

var data = {
    title: 'Secrets of a JavaScript Ninja',
    author: 'John Resig',
    pubDate: 'Duke Nukem Forever baby..',
    summary: 'The untold secrets of the elite JavaScript programmers distilled for intermediate JavaScript programmers, bringing them completely up to speed with the challenges of modern JavaScript development. Explores specific techniques, strategies, and solutions to developing robust, cross-browser, JavaScript code.'

we can have an auto-updating view:

var model = new Backbone.Model(data);
var detailView = $('#detail-template');

bindViewToModel(detailView, model);

Great! Let's move on.

Encapsulation and Common API

Up to this point, it has been assumed our view is a document fragment (or single element). Going back to the original definition of per Wikipedia:

Data binding is a general technique that binds two data/information sources together and maintains synchronization of data. --Wikipedia

A view is one type of data source, but what if the other data source was a secondBackbone.Model instance? Our bindViewToModel breaks down slightly in that createChangeHandler is a fixed function that assumes handling our traditional view.

The end goal of this is not having to worry about which two sources are interfacing, only that they are able to. Based on the current types we support, we can create interfaces for them.

  • ModelInterface - interface for Backbone.Model instances
  • ElementInterface - interface for DOM elements (via jQuery)
    • InputInterface - sub-interface specific to input-like elements
    • ... other specialized element interfaces
  • FragmentInterface - sort of a pseudo-interface since it's merely a proxy for it's descendent elements (we have been doing this for all examples up to this point).
  • ViewInterface - something new, the interface for Backbone.View instances which encapsulate some DOM element. This also is basically a proxy to either FragmentInterface or ElementInterface

An interface must be able to perform certain operations including the ability to notify when it's data changes and the ability to observe other sources' data. A high-level interface stub may look like this:

var InterfaceStub = {
    notify: function(interface, ...) {
        // .. sets up a communication channel from this interface to the target
        // 'interface'

    observe: function(interface, ...) {
        // .. sets up a communication channel from the target 'interface' to
        // to this interface

These two methods are conceptually identical with the exception of directionality, thus we should be able to do this:

// hypothentical interface classes for the sake of example
var modelInt = ModelInterface(model),
    fragInt = FragmentInterface(detailView);

// functionally equivalent