KnockDocs

Batch function

A batch function collects notifications that have to do with the same subject, so you can send fewer notifications to your users.

Batch functions are helpful when a recipient needs to be notified about a lot of activity happening at once, but doesn't need a notification for every single activity within the batch. Commenting is a common use case. If a user leaves ten comments in a page in fifteen minutes, you don't want to send the user ten separate notifications. You want to send them one notification about the ten comments they just received.

How batching works

Here's a step-by-step breakdown of how a batch function works:

  • When a given per-recipient workflow run hits a batch step, the batch function will stay open for an interval of time provided by you (the batch window).
  • While that interval is open, the batch function aggregates any additional incoming triggers for that recipient. If a batch key is provided in your batch step, the incoming triggers for that recipient will be will be grouped into separate batches based on batch key.
  • Any aggregated workflow triggers are appended to a group of batch workflow variables that you can use to format your notifications. You can read more in the "using batch variables" section of this guide.
  • When the batch window interval closes, the workflow continues to the next step, with the data collected in the batch.

In the example below, the batch key is page_id, meaning notifications will be batched according to the page_id on which they are left. Remember that this takes place for each recipient sent to the workflow.

Using the batch function to batch new comment notifications by page.

Using the batch function to batch new comment notifications by page.

Selecting a batch key

A batch function always batches incoming notifications per recipient. If you do not provide a batch key, your batch function will just batch per recipient. If you do provide a batch key, your batch function will batch by recipient and then by your batch key. A batch key resolves to a value in your data payload by which to group incoming notifications.

As an example, in a document editing app where a recipient is receiving notifications about activity across different pages, you can provide a batch key of page_id and the user will receive different batch notifications about each page that was included in the batch.

Here's a detailed walkthrough of how this example might work in practice:

  • You have a new-comment workflow that includes a batch step.
  • You send six notify calls to that workflow: three about page A and three about page B. The notify calls are all for the same recipient Elmo.
  • If your batch step does not have a batch key, Elmo will receive a batched notification about six activities.
  • If your batch step includes a batch key of page_id, Elmo will receive two notifications: one for the three activities about page A and one for the three activities about page B.

Setting the batch window

The batch window can be a set duration (e.g. 30 minutes for each batch), or it can be a dynamic window.

The "batch for a fixed window" option waits for an interval of time (provided by you in the workflow editor) and then proceeds to the next step.

Setting a fixed batch window.

Setting a fixed batch window of 15 minutes for a workflow batch step.

This fixed interval is useful for most batching functions, however if you want to set when your batch window will close dynamically, you can use the "batch for a dynamic window" option.

Setting a dynamic batch window.

Setting a dynamic batch window to look at the `batch_duration` key of the notify `data` when this workflow is triggered.

The "batch for a dynamic window" option waits for an interval of time provided by you in the data of your notify call under a key you set when you create your workflow. The key you specify in the workflow editor can be dot-delimited (nested.path.to.window) to reach nested attributes. When this workflow step runs, Knock will use this value to set when your batch window will close.

This value can be either an ISO-8601 timestamp (e.g. 2022-05-04T20:34:07Z), or it can be a relative duration in the following format:

Using batch variables

Another important aspect of batch functions is that they generate state that can be used in your templates. Let's continue the commenting example we used above. In this scenario, we'll want different copy in our notification for when a batch includes one item ("Jane left a comment") v. when a batch includes more than one item ("Jane left n comments").

We can address use cases like this by referencing the total_activities variable within our workflow. Here's an example of a message template that uses this variable to determine what type of copy to use:

Here's a list of the variables that you can use to work with batch-related state.

  • total_activities. The number of activities included within the batch. (An example: In the notification "Dennis Nedry left 8 comments for you", the total_activities count equals eight).

  • total_actors. The number of unique actors that triggered activities included within the batch. (An example: In the notification "Dennis Nedry and two others left comments for you", the total_actors count equals three, Dennis plus the two others you mentioned in the notification).

  • activities. A list of up to ten of the activity objects included within the batch, where each activity equals the state sent across in your notify call. The activities variable lists the first ten activity objects added to the batch. Each activity includes any data properties you sent along in the notify call, as well as any user properties for your actor and recipient(s). You can use the activities variable to create templates like this:

  • actors. A list of up to ten of the unique actors included within the batch, where each actor is a user object with the properties available on your Knock user schema. The actors variable lists the first ten actors added to the batch.

Using workflow cancellation with batches

If you want to remove an item from a batch (example: a user deletes a comment), you can use our workflow cancellation API to cancel a batched item, thereby removing it from the batch.