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When the user switches to a particular panel, I'd like to start regularly polling my backend (database) - say every 60 seconds. And, then later, when the user switches away from that panel, I want to stop that polling.

First, What Not To Do

Please be sure to read How Do I Load On Mount?

An Answer

We'll create an effect. It will be general in nature.

It will start and stop the timed/scheduled dispatch of an event. For this FAQ, we want an event dispatched every 60 seconds and each event will trigger a backend poll, but the effect we are about to create will be useful well beyond this narrow case.

We'll be creating an effect called, say, :interval. So, event handlers will be returning:

  {:interval  <something>}

So now we design the <something> bit. It will be a data format (DSL) which allows an event handler to start and stop a regular event dispatch.

To :start a regular dispatch, an event handler would return data in this format:

{:interval  {:action    :start
             :id        :panel-1-query     ;; my id for this (so I can cancel later)
             :frequency 60000              ;; how many ms between dispatches 
             :event     [:panel-query 1]}} ;; what to dispatch 

And to later cancel the regular dispatch, an event handler would return this:

{:interval  {:action    :cancel
             :id        :panel-1-query}}   ;; the id provided to :start  

With that design work done, let's now implement it by registering an effect handler:

(re-frame.core/reg-fx        ;; the re-frame API for registering effect handlers
  :interval                  ;; the effect id
  (let [live-intervals (atom {})]                 ;; storage for live intervals
    (fn [{:keys [action id frequency event]}]     ;; the handler
      (if (= action :start) 
        (swap! live-intervals assoc id (js/setInterval #(dispatch event) frequency)) 
        (do (js/clearInterval (get @live-intervals id)) 
            (swap! live-intervals dissoc id))))))

You'd probably want a bit more error checking, but that's the (untested) sketch.

A Side Note About Effect Handlers and Figwheel

Figwheel provides for the hot reloading of code, which is terrific.

But, during development, as Figwheel is reloading code, effectful handlers, like the one above, can be get into a messed up state - existing timers might be lost (and become never-stoppable).

Stateful things are grubby in the face of reloading, and all we can do is try to manage for it as best we can, on a case by case basis.

One strategy is to put all your grubby effect handlers into their own separate namespace effects.cljs - one that isn't edited often, removing the trigger for a Figwheel reload.

OR, you can code defensively for reloading, perhaps like this:

(defonce interval-handler                ;; notice the use of defonce
  (let [live-intervals (atom {})]        ;; storage for live intervals
    (fn handler [{:keys [action id frequency event]}]     ;; the effect handler
      (condp = action
         :clean   (doall                ;; <--- new. clean up all existing 
                     (map #(handler {:action :end  :id  %1}) (keys @live-intervals))
         :start   (swap! live-intervals assoc id (js/setInterval #(dispatch event) frequency))) 
         :end     (do (js/clearInterval (get @live-intervals id)) 
                      (swap! live-intervals dissoc id))))

;; when this code is reloaded `:clean` existing intervals
(interval-handler {:action :clean})

;; now register            
(re-frame.core/reg-fx        ;; the re-frame API for registering effect handlers
  :interval                  ;; the effect id

Key takeaway: every effect handler is statefully grubby in its own special way. So you'll have to come up with strategies to handle Figwheel reloads on a case by case basis. Sometimes there's no escaping an application restart.