Friday, March 11, 2011

Querying the Operations Database

Querying for lists of individuals matching a set of criteria is a fundamental functionality of the OperationService. Because the arbitrariness of kinds of entities and of their complexity, querying should be fairly generic, yet intuitive and simple enough to perform from client-side JavaScript. 

The /op/list URL is going to be used to query for a list of entities. The criteria are specified as a query parameter named 'q'. The result is a JSON array of individuals. The query itself is too a JSON object that serves both to specify the selection criteria and the content of the result. The query object specifies a pattern to be matched and completed for each entity found at the back-end. It is inspired the MQL query language developed by MetaWeb for the Freebase semantic database. For more on MQL itself, consult the MQL Manual

In our implementations of those ideas, we won't follow MQL exactly because our meta model is OWL, which is different from their meta model. We will implement various features as the need arises. 

This approach to querying is generally known as query-by-example, or pattern-matching. An alternative would be to specify a logical query expression, with logical operators and or not. Constructing query expressions is usually harder than providing a pattern. However, even with the pattern-matching approach we may need some logical operators. When matching a list of values of the same property for example, we may need to specify whether we want any (an OR operation) or all (an AND operation) of those values to be matched. For a functional property, the interpretation can only be any, but when a property can actually have multiple values, as is common in OWL, a choice has to be made. Perhaps the "ignored prefix idea" from MQL (see example below) can be adapted with meaningful property prefixes, e.g. { "either:prop" : value1, "either:prop" : value2 }.

More on this to come as we make progress....

Some Examples

Here is how to obtain all inquiries (service requests) submitted by a particular user and that are still open:

query = { "type" : "Inquiry",
"submittedBy" : "user123",
"1:hasStatus" : "ServiceRequestInProgress", "2:hasStatus" : "ServiceRequestStarted",
"submittedOn" : null,
"lastUpdatedOn" : null,
"title": null

queryResult = opService.get("/list", {q : query});

$(queryResult).each(function (x) {
document.write(x.title + ", " + x.hasStatus + ", " + x.lastUpdatedOn);

The code above will obtain all inquiries (note that the type criterion also matches subclasses of Inquiry) submitted by user123 with one of the listed statuses and will return a JavaScript array where each entity has the properties listed in the query. When a property is listed with a value null, that simply means that we want that property returned as part of the query results.  Note that the hasStatus property appears twice, with different prefixes 1: and 2:. Those prefixes are ignored, they are simply a device to list the same property name more than once. 

1 comment:

  1. I like to make friends with you,haha.

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