Order of Operations

The TAO gives us 3 ways to handle Application Contexts using Intercept, Async and Inline Handlers.

These 3 modes were chosen specifically to provide us with enough power to handle any case as well as flexibility to keep our code decoupled.

Now that we understand what the TAO guarantees about each individual type of handler, to fully grasp how to utilize the 3 to their best, we want to understand the guarantees the TAO provides for how they all work together in the TAO.

Intercept > Async > Inline

Put simply, when an Application Context is set on the TAO, it will call all of the registered handlers in the following precedence:

  1. Intercept Handlers - all called before calling…
  2. Async Handlers - all called before calling…
  3. Inline Handlers - all called before setting all AppCons chained from Inline Handlers

In this context "all called" translates to all handlers of a given type (Intercept, Async, or Inline), no matter if the handler was added to a Concrete or Wildcard that matches the Application Context that was set on the TAO.

In essence, what the TAO is doing is:

First run a special set of handlers (Intercept) that can prevent both other handlers from being called as well as the execution of downstream TAO-Paths in the form of chaining to get the interrupt logic out of the way. Once the App has made it passed these checks, kick off all out-of-band operations before running all of the normal operations used to implement the desired effect of setting the Application Context.

In other words, Intercept Handlers are Inline Handlers with 2 differences, they run first and they have the power to stop execution. Inline Handlers cannot prevent any other handlers from being called. We have our special Inline Handlers as Intercept Handlers run first in order to provide guards that test the constraints of the App before making a state transition.

The Async Handlers are called in the middle (after constraint checks but before regular) so that we don't block the desired side effects of our transition by the normal flow of execution of the regular (Inline) handlers.

A further breakdown of the order of precedence (or operations) is that when the TAO is told that our App has entered a specific Application Context, it gives our App code:

  1. first, a way to prevent any further activity
  2. second, a way to kick off important operations that we want to occur without blocking
  3. finally, a way of executing the specific behavior we want to occur for this Application Context

ONLY Guaranteed Ordering by the TAO

This :point_up_2: represents the ONLY ordering guarantee provided by the TAO.

This is very important as it was specifically designed this way. Ordering amongst handlers of the same type (or mode) should not be relied upon as handlers can be added and removed dynamically throughout the course of our Apps executing.

To rely on order guarantees in our Apps, we use this stated ordering guarantee from the TAO and design/build our Apps to:

  • use the 3 different handler types to ensure ordered execution on a single Application Context
  • use different Application Contexts with chaining to ensure ordered execution of the desired flow of operations

Further Uses of Intercept Handlers

Because the only way to guarantee a handler will be called first (or in the first group) is to add it to the TAO as an Intercept Handler, we will use these often for utility beyond simply constraint checks.

An example is logging all Application Contexts set on the TAO during development. As a tool, we can simply add a Wildcard Intercept Handler like this when bootstrapping our App:

TAO.addInterceptHandler({}, (tao, data) => {
  console.log(`context set as {${tao.t},${tao.a},${tao.o}} with data:`, data);

Because this Intercept Handler returns nothing, it won't have any downstream affect on the execution of other handlers for all Application Contexts apart from the effect of logging to the console for each one.

In this way, Intercept Handlers provide a dual purpose on the TAO:

  1. Provide checks and guards (main intent)
  2. Allow injecting guarantee first execution for a handler

Inline Handlers are the Bread & Butter

That being said, Inline Handlers represent the bulk of what you want to be adding to the TAO. Most applications can be written with a very linear flow of operations which is what Inline Handlers were designed to tackle.

If you find yourself relying on Intercept Handlers to guarantee the order of operations, first ask:

Would it be better to split the Application Context into more than one, and use chaining to order the operations?

This is what chaining was designed to accomplish, and why TAO-based Apps are built with finer granularity of Application Contexts to represent states within an App than what most expect coming from other programming paradigms.

When it comes to Async Handlers, it's recommended to reserve their use to sets of operations which you want out of band from the expected flow in order to provide either:

  • a better User experience…
  • better performance…
  • an operation that isn't critical to the expected outcome of the specific Application Context.

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