One of the most interesting features provided by Phoenix Live Dashboard is the ability to define your own pages, so that you can quickly and reliably extend a Live Dashboard instance with sections that are tailored to your application domain.

While working on Tune, I found a use case suitable for a custom live dashboard page: a debugging view where I can check open sessions and inspect the underlying processes.

On the use case

I would encourage you to read Tune's README to understand the use case in more detail, but I'll quote the relevant architectural section:

Tune assumes multiple browser sessions for the same user, which is why it defines a Tune.Spotify.Session behaviour with Tune.Spotify.Session.HTTP as its main runtime implementation.

Each worker is responsible to proxy interaction with the Spotify API, periodically poll for data changes, and broadcast corresponding events.

When a user opens a browser session, TuneWeb.ExplorerLive either starts or simply reuses a worker named with the same session ID.

Each worker monitors its subscribers, so that it can shutdown when a user closes their last browser window.

This architecture ensures that:

  • The amount of automatic API calls against the Spotify API for a given user is constant and independent from the number of user sessions for the same user.
  • Credential renewal happens in the background
  • The explorer implementation remains entirely focused on UI interaction

In other words:

  • For each Spotify account connected, there can only be one session (a Tune.Spotify.Session.HTTP process named with the session ID).
  • For each session, there can be many open clients (i.e. browser windows or TuneWeb.ExplorerLive process).


Our dashboard page will include:

  • A table with session IDs, PIDs and count of open clients
  • Ability to sort by session ID or clients count
  • Search by session ID
  • Support multiple nodes

Gathering the necessary data

To populate the dashboard table, we first need to find a way to get a list of all active sessions, along with their clients count.

The simplest way is to leverage the fact that each Tune.Spotify.Session.HTTP process is started with a name managed via a Registry, with the session ID as a key. Registration is in place to guarantee that there can only be one session process with the same ID on each node.

We can use to query the registry and receive back all session IDs and PIDs:
  [{{:"$1", :"$2", :_}, [], [{{:"$1", :"$2"}}]}]

Which returns:

[{"claudio.ortolina", #PID<0.565.0>}]

In the example above, we use a match specification to capture the registry key (the session ID) and the registered PID.

It's important to understand straight away the constraints associated with this approach:

  • A Registry is normally split into a variable number of partitions, so this query has to visit all partitions to return its results. While this is not a problem at this stage (the application has very little load), it can become a bottleneck once the number of registered processes grows.
  • As data is partitioned, it's not possible to apply sort order or limit the results without concatenating them all first, which means that both operations will need to be done by the caller.
  • Results only apply to the current node, which works well with Phoenix Live Dashboard's general structure, which always operates on one node at a time.

Given the registry query above, we can implement a function that provides the data necessary to populate an unfiltered, unsorted version of the table:

defmodule Tune.Spotify.Supervisor do
  # omitted
  def sessions do
    |>[{{:"$1", :"$2", :_}, [], [{{:"$1", :"$2"}}]}])
    |> {id, pid} ->
      subscribers_count = Tune.Spotify.Session.HTTP.subscribers_count(id)
      %{id: id, pid: pid, clients_count: subscribers_count}

The resulting data structure is a map with the necessary data:

[%{clients_count: 1, id: "claudio.ortolina", pid: #PID<0.565.0>}]

Dashboard page structure

To build a dashboard page, we need to:

  1. Create a module that implements the use Phoenix.LiveDashboard.PageBuilder behaviour.
  2. Mount that module into the Live Dashboard configuration defined into our application router.

What follows is a minimal implementation that shows the data we need, with the following limitations:

  • no searching, sorting or limiting capabilities
  • works only on a single node
defmodule TuneWeb.LiveDashboard.SpotifySessionsPage do
  @moduledoc false
  use Phoenix.LiveDashboard.PageBuilder

  @impl true
  def menu_link(_, _) do
    {:ok, "Spotify Sessions"}

  @impl true
  def render_page(_assigns) do
      columns: columns(),
      id: :spotify_sessions,
      row_attrs: &row_attrs/1,
      row_fetcher: &fetch_sessions/2,
      rows_name: "sessions",
      title: "Spotify Sessions"

  defp fetch_sessions(_params, _node) do
    # returns [%{clients_count: 1, id: "claudio.ortolina", pid: #PID<0.565.0>}]
    sessions = Tune.Spotify.Supervisor.sessions()

    {sessions, length(sessions)}

  defp columns do
      %{field: :id, header: "Session ID", sortable: :asc},
        field: :pid,
        header: "Worker PID",
        format: &(&1 |> encode_pid() |> String.replace_prefix("PID", ""))
      %{field: :clients_count, header: "Clients count", sortable: :asc}

  defp row_attrs(session) do
      {"phx-click", "show_info"},
      {"phx-value-info", encode_pid(session[:pid])},
      {"phx-page-loading", true}

The main ingredients of this implementation are:

  • The use Phoenix.LiveDashboard.PageBuilder directive, which adopts the behaviour with the same name and imports some convenience functions useful for building pages (e.g. encode_pid/1).
  • The menu_link/2 callback, which is used to define the name of the page and its label in the top navigation bar.
  • The render_page/2 callback, which has to return a valid component - in this case via the table/1 function.

The table definition has a few moving parts:

  • An id (unique among other Live Dashboard pages).
  • A title, shown in the page.
  • A rows_name, interpolated in the short text blurb that details the total amount of results.
  • A columns attribute, which is a list of maps detailing the properties of each column. For each column, the id property has to map to a key in the data we will use to populate the table. The sortable property defines which column can be used for sorting (by clicking on the header chevron). Note that unless you specify a default_sort_by attribute for the entire table, you have to have at least one column with the sortable property defined, otherwise you will get a compile error. The format function takes the raw value for a cell in the column and transforms it to a string. It's useful to provide a string representation of the value that is suitable for an HTML table. In the code above, we copy the format function defined in the Processes Live Dashboard page.
  • A row_attrs function, which takes the data for each row and has to return a list of tuples representing the Phoenix LiveView attributes to apply to the table row itself. Defining attribute is necessary to enable functionality activated by clicking on the row itself. The implementation in this example lets you inspect the session PID in a modal overlay. Similar to the format function, we leverage encode_pid/1 to format the PID as string compatible with the show_info LiveView event.
  • A row_fetcher function, which takes the current params (search query, limit, sort key, sort direction) and the current node, and returns the data used to populate the table. The return value has to conform to a tuple shape where the first value is a list of sessions (in the shape of maps with the same keys used for column ids) and the second value is the total number of results (irrespectively of the limit). As we implemented Tune.Spotify.Supervisor.sessions/0 taking care of using the same key names, its return value perfectly fits the expectations of the row_fetcher function.

Mounting the dashboard page

To have the page up and running, we need to modify the live_dashboard/2 function inside the application router:

live_dashboard "/dashboard",
  metrics: TuneWeb.Telemetry,
  metrics_history: {TuneWeb.Telemetry.Storage, :metrics_history, []},
  additional_pages: [
    spotify_sessions: TuneWeb.LiveDashboard.SpotifySessionsPage

Filters and limits

We can now focus on implementing search, sorting and limits. Conceptually, we need to:

  • If specified, apply the search filter.
  • Always apply sort order.
  • Count the sorted elements, to return the correct total.
  • Always apply the limit clause to the sorted elements.

All of these operations have to be handled by the implementation of the row_fetcher function.

The params map has the following keys:

  • :search: the string representing the contents of the search input (or nil when empty).
  • :sort_by: the id of the column to sort by.
  • :sort_dir: the sort direction, expressed with the atoms :asc and :desc.
  • :limit: the integer value representing the amount of max items requested by the user.

The params map is very well thought out, as it has a fixed structure, applied defaults where available and values that play well with functions from the Enum module.

We can extend the fetch_sessions/2 function as follows:

defmodule TuneWeb.LiveDashboard.SpotifySessionsPage do
  # omitted

  defp fetch_sessions(params, _node) do
    sessions =
      |> filter(params)

    {Enum.take(sessions, params[:limit]), length(sessions)}

  defp filter(sessions, params) do
    |> Enum.filter(fn session -> session_match?(session, params[:search]) end)
    |> Enum.sort_by(fn session -> session[params[:sort_by]] end, params[:sort_dir])

  defp session_match?(_session, nil), do: true
  defp session_match?(session, search_string), do: String.contains?(session[:id], search_string)

As outlined above, we start by filtering by search, using a very simple logic that just checks if the session ID contains the searched string.

After search, we apply the sorting logic: the values of the :sort_by and :sort_dir perfectly fit using Enum.sort_by/3 (a really appreciated API design choice), making the implementation short and sweet.

When defining the returning tuple, we take care of applying the limit and returning the correct total count.

With these changes in place, the generated table behaves as expected:

A screenshot of the Spotify sessions table built in this blog post

Supporting multiple nodes

The last piece of the puzzle is making sure that we take into account the currently selected node.

Fortunately, we just need to make a very small change to fetch_sessions/2:

defp fetch_sessions(params, node) do
  sessions =
    |>, :sessions, [])
    |> filter(params)

  {Enum.take(sessions, params[:limit]), length(sessions)}

The OTP rpc module conveniently provides a call/4 function that takes a node name, module, function, and arguments, returning the exact same value of the remotely executed function.


To see the final version of TuneWeb.LiveDashboard.SpotifySessionsPage, you can open the file in the repo.