Expected Exceptions

Code, Software, and things that interest me

Xando pt. 3 - JSON

Posts in series:

  1. Xando pt. 1 - Down the rabbit hole of CQRS and Event Sourcing
  2. Xando pt. 2 - Events, Commands and State
  3. Xando pt. 3 - JSON

Previously we looked at events and commands, and this time we’ll look at converting events (primarily) to and from JSON. The code can be used for commands too (with really minor modifications), but it’s primarily made for dealing with events.

First, let’s take a look at the code used to represent events again:

type Event =
| Registered of mail: Email * username: string * password: Password * reason: string
| PasswordChanged of password: Password * reason: string
| EmailChanged of mail: Email * reason: string
| Deleted of reason: string

Here we have 4 different events. In EventStore, an event has a separate “name” and “data” field. This means that for a “registered” event, I’m going to end up with an event in EventStore with the name user:registered and the data:

  "mail": "<mail>",
  "username": "<username>",
  "password": "<password>",
  "reason": "<reason>"

The user:-prefix is caused by the EventType attribute (categoryName is a literal with the value "user"). So, how do we get from my JSON representation to an instance of Event and back again?

Event Data

Before we start looking at converting to and from event data, we need to define what event data actually is. I’m not using the types provided by the EventStore client package, because they are made for C# and I don’t like them. Therefore, I’m creating my own F# record for event data, and a simple conversion between my event data structure and the one used by EventStore:

type EventData<'data> = internal {
  streamId: string
  id: Guid
  number: int
  created: Instant
  value: 'data

The Instant type is from Noda Time. Now, the EventStore client uses 2 different representations of events depending on whether they are read from the database (RecordedEvent) or if they are to be written to the database (EventData). This means that the conversion will be asymmetric. Another key difference in my representation is that it’s generic. Whereas the RecordedEvent from EventStore has a binary blob of data, I instead have a 'data generic representation. This means that in order to go from a RecordedEvent to a EventData<'data>, I actually have to parse the JSON within that blob.

Another thing that I like to do is hyphenate names. This means that I want the event PasswordChanged to be named as user:password-changed. This may well be vanity on my part, but it’s still something I like to do, and thus I am going to do so here as well. So, let’s get on to some code shall we?

Converter Types

First thing we need to do is define the EventType attribute you’ve already seen. Another attribute is EventName which allows overriding the event name of a specific union case. This is quite straight forward and just looks as the following:

type EventTypeAttribute private (name: string option) =
  inherit System.Attribute ()
  new (name: string) = EventTypeAttribute (Some name)
  new () = EventTypeAttribute (None)
  member __.name = name

type EventNameAttribute (name: string) =
  inherit System.Attribute ()
  member __.name = name

It allows for specifying a prefix, and allows for not specifying a prefix. It also allows for null literals. This is important, because the attribute API in .NET returns null if no attribute is present. We could get around this with a custom API that returns an option instead, but it’s simpler just to allow EventTypeAttribute instances to be null. The same goes for EventNameAttribute instances.

Next, I have a private representation of a JsonConverter. This is not to be confused with the one from Newtonsoft.Json, but is instead a record that knows how to convert a single union case to and from JSON. This means that we’ll have one instance for Event.Registered, one instance for Event.PasswordChanged etc. The JsonConverter record looks like this:

[<NoComparison; NoEquality>]
type private JsonConverter = {
  name: string
  toJson: obj -> JObject
  ofJson: JObject -> obj }

The name is the converted name of the union case (like user:registered), the toJson is a function that takes an instance of the union case (like EmailChanged ("foo@bar.com", "No reason")) and produces a JObject from Newtonsoft.Json, and ofJson is the reverse of toJson.

Another record we need is one for looking up UnionCaseInfo based on either the name (like user:registered) or an instance of the union type. I call this a UnionCaseLookup and it looks like this:

[<NoComparison; NoEquality>]
type private UnionCaseLookup = {
  byName: string -> UnionCaseInfo
  byInstance: obj -> UnionCaseInfo }

Then we need the encoding with which to convert JSON strings to and from the binary data stored in EventStore, as well as caches for the two records above.

let private encoding = System.Text.UTF8Encoding (false, true)
let private converterCache : ConcurrentDictionary<UnionCaseInfo, JsonConverter> = ConcurrentDictionary ()
let private nameCache : ConcurrentDictionary<Type, UnionCaseLookup> = ConcurrentDictionary ()

Dealing with names

The last part of the utility setup I’m going to add is the hyphenate method, which takes a string like FooBarBaz and turns it into foo-bar-baz. There are probably plenty of ways to implement something like this, but I’ve gone the regex route:

let private hyphenate =
  let regex = Regex ("[a-z][A-Z]", RegexOptions.Compiled ||| RegexOptions.CultureInvariant)
  fun (str: string) ->
    let str =
      let ch1 = str.Substring (0, 1)
      let ch1 = ch1.ToLowerInvariant ()
      ch1 + str.Substring 1
    regex.Replace (str, fun (m: Match) ->
      let v = m.Value.ToLowerInvariant ()
      v.Substring (0, 1) + "-" + v.Substring (1))

It’s not the most elegant code out there, but it works as intended for my case. The next piece of code takes a UnionCaseInfo and gets the event name associated with it.

let private getName (case: UnionCaseInfo): string =
  let namePrefix =
    let t = case.DeclaringType
    match t.GetCustomAttribute<EventTypeAttribute> () with
    | null -> failwithf "Type '%s' not decorated with EventType attribute" t.FullName
    | attr when attr.name = None -> ""
    | attr -> Option.get attr.name + ":"

  match case.GetCustomAttributes typeof<EventNameAttribute> with
  | [||] -> namePrefix + hyphenate case.Name
  | [| attr |] -> namePrefix + (attr :?> EventNameAttribute).name
  | _ -> failwith "multiple name attributes on union case"

As you can see from this method, I require all event types to be decorated with EventType attributes. This is not required of cause, but I like to be explicit about what is an event type this way. Another thing to notice is that I only do hyphenation on event names that are based on the actual type names, not if provided by a EventName attribute.

The next piece of the puzzle is creating a UnionCaseLookup from a event type. This is a function that takes a Type, and returns a UnionCaseLookup that can be used to get UnionCaseInfos from either instances of the type, or event names (from the database). The result is then cached in the nameCache we defined above. This code is also not too hard, but it does use some functional composition which can be confusing, so I will go through explaining what it all does:

let private getNameMap (t: Type) =
  let swap f a b = f b a

  let makeMap (t: Type) =
    // TODO: Specially deal with Choice<> types
    if not (FSharpType.IsUnion (t, true)) then failwith "Only supported for type unions"
    let tagLookup = FSharpValue.PreComputeUnionTagReader (t, true)
    let cases = FSharpType.GetUnionCases (t, true) |> List.ofArray
    let byName =
      |> List.map (fun case -> getName case, case)
      |> Map.ofList
    let byTag =
      |> List.map (fun case -> case.Tag, case)
      |> Map.ofList

    { byName = (swap Map.find) byName
      byInstance = tagLookup >> (swap Map.find) byTag }

  nameCache.GetOrAdd (t, makeMap)

As you can see from the “TODO” comment, I plan to improve this later to support working with things like Choice<User.Event, Group.Event> in which case I get all of the events, but that has yet to be implemented. So for now, let’s go through the code above and look at what it does.

The first part is a utility function. swap takes a function f: a -> b -> c and returns the same function with it’s arguments swapped: f: b -> a -> c. This is useful, because it means I can take the Map.find function which takes the map as a second parameter, and turn it into a function which takes the map as the first parameter and then partially apply it. The second part, the makeMap function is called by nameCache.GetOrAdd if the type t is not already in the cache. The real functionality is inside the makeMap function.

The first thing we do inside of makeMap is ensure that we’re actually working with a union type. I require all my events to be of a union type, and this code will throw an exception if that is not the case. Then, we precompute a tag reader. Now, this has to do with how discrete unions work in F#. When you compile a discrete union like the following:

type MyUnion =
| Foo
| Bar
| Baz

The F# compiler creates 4 classes. One named MyUnion, and a sub-class for each of the Foo, Bar and Baz types. Each of these sub-classes has a Tag property, which is how F# does pattern matching on the types. As far as I’ve understood there is a performance advantage to simply doing a int test (like myUnionInst.Tag = 0) instead of a type test (myUnionInst :? Foo). But why it’s done this way is of little importance to us, the important thing to know is that it does work this way. So a tag reader here is a function that takes an instance of our event type and returns the tag, which is a simple integer.

After getting the tag reader, we get a list of all the different union cases in our event type. This represents all the different event types. We then produce a map of type Map<string, UnionCaseInfo> and one for the tags of type Map<int, UnionCaseInfo>. Lastly, we turn these into lookup functions using our swap from earlier (and composing with the tag reader in the byInstance case) and then return it as a instance of UnionCaseLookup.

Converting to and from JSON

Most of the building blocks we need for converting to and from JSON is done now, what’s lacking is only the actual implementation of our converters. Remember, we store the converters too in a cache, so the function will have the same overall structure as the getNameMap one did, except the inner function will obviously be very different. So, without further ado, here is getConverter:

let private getConverter (case: UnionCaseInfo) =
  let makeConverter (case: UnionCaseInfo) =
    let fields = case.GetFields () |> List.ofArray
    let ctor = FSharpValue.PreComputeUnionConstructor (case, true)
    let reader = FSharpValue.PreComputeUnionReader (case, true)
    let props = fields |> List.map (fun prop -> hyphenate prop.Name, prop.PropertyType)

    let toJson o =
      reader o
      |> List.ofArray
      |> List.zip (List.map fst props)
      |> List.map JProperty
      |> JObject

    let ofJson (j: JObject) =
      |> List.map (fun (n, t) -> let token = j.GetValue n :?> JValue in token.ToObject (t, Json.serializer))
      |> List.toArray
      |> ctor

    { name = getName case
      toJson = toJson
      ofJson = ofJson }

  converterCache.GetOrAdd (case, makeConverter)

The first thing the makeConverter function does here is get a list of all fields of the union case. In the case of Registered for instance, that is the fields mail, username, password and reason. It then precomputes a constructor (which takes those 4 fields and returns a Registered instance) and a reader (which takes an instance of Registered and returns the values of the 4 fields). Then I create a toJson function which does the following:

  1. Read all the fields from the event. Assuming our event is EmailChanged ("foo@bar.com", "No Reason"), we would get the array [| "foo@bar.com"; "No Reason" |].
  2. Convert the array into a list.
  3. Zip the lists with the property names. We now have the list ["email", "foo@bar.com"; "reason", "No Reason"].
  4. Create JProperty instances for each item in the list.
  5. Create a JObject from the list of JPropertys.

The ofJson function does something somewhat similar:

  1. For each property (in the EmailChanged case this will be the list ["email", typeof<Email>; "reason", typeof<string>]) get the value of the property with that name in the JSON object (j.GetValue n), and then convert it to the correct type token.ToObject (t, Json.serializer). The Json.serializer here is my global JSON serializer to ensure the same settings are applied everywhere.
  2. Create an array of the values. In our case we’re back to [| "foo@bar.com"; "No Reason" |].
  3. Call the constructor.

We then construct and return a JsonConverter from the two functions and the name of the union case.

And finally we have a little utility function for doing parsing of the JSON, since that requires a name to figure out which union case to use:

let internal ofJson<'data> (json: JObject) (eventType: string) =
  let lookup = getNameMap typeof<'data>
  let case = lookup.byName eventType
  let converter = getConverter case
  converter.ofJson json :?> 'data

This function is really straight forward, and I’m not going to explain what the steps here are, since all of it should be covered earlier in this post. Now, I did plan to also write about converting to and from the EventStore representations of events, but this post has already gotten longer than I am comfortable with, so I’m going to end it here and leave that for another time. If you have any questions, and find any errors, please leave a comment down bellow.

« Xando pt. 2 - Events, Commands and State