Build realtime web apps with RethinkDB and Dogescript

I’m Skyla, RethinkDB’s canine-in-residence. My vitally important responsibilities at the office include terrorizing the UPS delivery man, gazing intently at the team while they eat lunch, relentlessly gnawing stuffed animals, and pursuing the insidious red dot. I’ve recently taken up computer programming so that I can help the team build RethinkDB demos. In this tutorial, I will demonstrate how to build a realtime web application with RethinkDB and Dogescript.

Dogescript is a dynamic programming language designed to reflect the unique canine patois popularly associated with doges. The language transpiles to JavaScript, which means that users can take advantage of a large ecosystem of existing libraries and frameworks. You can adopt Dogescript today without giving up indispensable packages like left-pad.

My full-stack Dogescript demo uses Node.js on the backend. The frontend is built with the handlebars templating library and jQuery. The application, which is called Dogechat, displays a chat room with realtime messaging. It helpfully shows each message as a doge meme.

Such syntax

The Dogescript syntax is easy to read, replacing much of JavaScript’s arbitrary punctuation with clear and intuitive keywords. For example, you iterate over an array with the much keyword, invoke functions with plz, and define variables with very. A full introduction to Dogescript syntax is beyond the scope of this tutorial, but you can find a language reference in the project’s GitHub repository.

My application’s Node.js backend uses the RethinkDBDash client library to connect to the database. The following code example shows how to connect to the database and perform a query, displaying the results to the console:

so rethinkdbdash
very r is plz rethinkdbdash

plz r.table with 'dogechat'&
dose filter with {name:'Skyla'}&
dose then with much output
  plz console.loge with output

The query performs a filter operation on the dogechat table, looking for all of the messages sent by me. In Dogescript, the dose keyword allows chaining expressions. You can see the then method chained to the end of the query, with an anonymous function to execute when the query completes.

Much realtime

Let’s paws for a moment and discuss how my Dogechat demo uses RethinkDB changefeeds to propagate realtime updates. Changefeeds let you subscribe to a query, triggering a callback every time there’s new output. Instead of polling, you get a live stream of updates as your data changes. In my application, I attach a changefeed to the dogechat table and then broadcast new messages over

Changefeeds make it very easy to build scalable realtime applications. When you horizontally scale your application, every instance can setup a changefeed and get push updates from the database to relay to their connected frontend clients. You don’t have to rely on a message queue or other infrastructure to propagate the updates.

Humans think that they are super clever, but none of this is really new. If you’ve ever heard of the Twilight Bark, you know that dogs basically invented distributed messaging systems.

The following code example shows how I attach a changefeed to a table, broadcasting received updates over It also has some boilerplate to initialize the database table, creating it if it doesn’t already exist:

very makeTable is plz r.tableCreate with 'dogechat'
plz r.tableList&
dose contains with 'dogechat'&
dose not&
dose and with makeTable&
dose then with much
  very query is plz r.table with 'dogechat'&
  dose changes
wow& query
dose then with much feed 
  plz feed.each with much err change
    plz io.sockets.emit with 'message' change.new_val

On the frontend, my application uses the client library to handle incoming messages. When the frontend receives an incoming message, it uses a handlebars template to render it as HTML that jQuery can append to the page.

very template is plz Handlebars.compile with $("#template").html()

plz io&
dose on with 'message' addMessage

such addMessage much message
  very content is plz template with message
  plz $("#messages").append with content

Like most web developers, I like to use third-party cloud services to support key functionality that I’m too lazy to implement myself. For this demo application, I decided to rely on, a cloud platform that provides doge memes as a service. In my handlebars template, I simply reference a address to obtain a doge meme image for each message:

<script id="message-template" type="text/x-handlebars-template">
  <div class="message">
    <div class="user">{{name}}:</div>
    <div class="message">
      <img src="{{message}}.png?split=false"

Fetch amaze

I used Express to create a POST endpoint in my backend for sending messages. The request handler performs a query, inserting a new document in the database for each sent message:

plz with '/api/send' much req res
  very doc is {,message:req.body.message,} 
  plz r.table with 'dogechat'&
  dose insert with doc&
  dose then with much output
    plz res.send with output 

On the frontend, I use the HTML5 fetch API to perform the POST request whenever the user hits the enter key in the relevant input textbox. In the keyup handler, I use Dogescript’s rly keyword to see if the user hit the enter key.

such sendMessage much name text
  very doc is plz JSON.stringify with {name: name, message: text}
  very head is {'Content-Type':'application/json','Accept':'application/json'}
  plz fetch with '/api/send' {method: 'POST', headers: head, body: doc}&
  dose then with much output
    plz console.loge output

plz $("#message").keyup with much e
  rly e.keyCode is 13
    plz sendMessage with username is ''

The fetch API is one of my favorites. As a dog, I’m extremely good at fetch. Well, I’m actually just good at the part that involves maniacally chasing the ball and grabbing it with my mouth. I haven’t quite mastered the finer points of the second phase, the part that involves bringing the ball back so that someone can throw it again. Fortunately, the fetch API is more consistent where returning data is concerned.

U can haz moar doge

After mastering highly technical skills like “sit” and “shake”, I had no trouble figuring out RethinkDB. You can learn it too, just check out our ten-minute guide. You can also view my demo application’s full source code on GitHub.