What are Data Update Scripts?

Data Update Scripts were introduced in this PR and allow us to run any data updates we might need. For example, if we added a column to the database and then wanted to backfill that column with data, rather than going and manually doing it in a console, we would use a DataUpdateScript. Another example might be adding a new attribute to Elasticsearch. We could then use a DataUpdateScript to reindex all of our models.

How it works

First off, we added a DataUpdateScript model to Rails and a corresponding database table. This table is what we use to keep track of what scripts have been run and which ones have not/still need to be.

To create a script you can use our custom Rails generator:

rails generate data_update BackfillColumnForArticles

This will create a simple Ruby class like below and all you have to do is fill in the code it will run.

module DataUpdateScripts
  class BackfillColumnForArticles
    def run
      # Place your data update logic here
      # Make sure your code is idempotent and can be run safely
      # multiple times at any time

Once your script is in place then you can either run rails data_updates:run manually or you can let our setup and update scripts handle it. In our local bin/setup and bin/update scripts you will see we have added an additional task to "Update Data". This kicks off the rake task data_updates:run for you.

The rake task itself will check the lib/data_update_scripts folder to see if there are any new scripts that need to be run. It does this by reading all of the files and then checking to see if they have a corresponding database entry. If they do not, then we create a new one and run the script. If a database entry already exists and it indicates the script has been run, then we skip that script.

In production

DataUpdateScripts are also run automatically when a production deploy goes out. However, to ensure the new code they need to use has been deployed we use a DataUpdateWorker via Sidekiq and set it to run 10 minutes after the deploy script has completed.