20 Oct 2009 fxn   » (Master)

An Object-Oriented Design for FluidDB Interfaces


This post outlines the object-oriented design of Net::FluidDB.

This model may serve as a starting point to other OO libraries. Only the most important interface is documented, not every existing method. The purpose is to give a picture of how the pieces fit together.

Net::FluidDB is a Perl interface but there’s little Perl here. If you are interested in further implementation details please have a look at the source code. You can either download the module, or click the “Source” link at the top of each documentation page in CPAN.

Design Goals

Some design goals of Net::FluidDB:

  1. To offer a higher abstraction to FluidDB than the plain REST API.
  2. To find a balance between a normal object-oriented interface and performance, since most operations translate to HTTP calls.
  3. To provide robust support for value types keeping usage straightforward.

Goal (1) means that you should be able to work at a model level. For instance, given that tags are modeled you should able to pass them around. Users should be able to tag an object with a Net::FluidDB::Tag instance and a value, for example. For convenience they can tag with a tag path as well, but there has to be a complete interface at the model level.

Goal (2) is mostly accomplished via lazy attributes. For example, one would expect that a tag has an accessor for its namespace but it wouldn’t be good to fetch it right away, so we load it on-demand.

Goal (3) is Perl-specific and I plan a separate post for it. The problem to address here is that the FluidDB types null, boolean, integer, float, and string have no direct counterpart in Perl, because Perl handles all of them under a single scalar type.



FluidDB has a REST interface and thus you need a HTTP client to talk to it. Net::FluidDB in particular uses a very mature Perl module called LWP::UserAgent.

Calls to FluidDB need to set authentication, Accept or Content-Type headers, payload, … It is good to encapsulate all of that for the rest of the library:

Of course some defaults may be handy, like a default protocol, host, or environment variables for credentials. The constructor new_for_testing() gives an instance pointing to the sandbox with test/test for people to play around.


FluidDB uses JSON for native values and structured payloads, so you’ll need some JSON library. Net::FluidDB uses JSON::XS at this moment with a little configuration. That’s encapsulated in Net::FluidDB::JSON:

The actual class has a few more methods for goal (3), but that’s a different post.

Future Extensions

FluidDB may speak more protocols and serialisation formats in the future. When that happens it may be the case we need a few more abstractions to plug them into the library. But for the time being this seems simple and enough.



Objects, tags, namespaces, policies, permissions and users, need an instance of Net::FluidDB and of Net::FluidDB::JSON to be able to talk to FluidDB. We set up a root class for them:

(Labels in the previous diagram have no Net::FluidDB namespace because the image was too wide with them, but classes do belong to the Net::FluidDB namespace.)


Objects are:

The signature of the tag() method is quite flexible. For example, you can pass either a Net::FluidDB::Tag instance to it, or a tag path. You can tag with native or non-native values. Values may be either scalars plus options, or self-contained instances of Net::FluidDB::Value, not covered in this post. I plan to support tagging given a filename with automatic MIME type, etc.

In Perl and others it is fine to offer a single method like tag() whose behaviour depends on the arguments when the contract is clear and having a single method pays off. Some other programming languages may prefer to split tag() into multiple methods with different names or signatures.

The signature of the value() method also accepts a Net::FluidDB::Tag instance or a tag path.


Tags, namespaces, and users have a canonical object for them in FluidDB. You have its object_id, and a lazy object() getter. You would use this object for example to tag those resources themselves.

We factor the common functionality out to a Moose role. A role is like a Ruby mixin. A bunch of attributes and methods that can’t be instantiated by themselves, but can be somehow thrown into a class definition as if they were part of it:


Tags and namespaces also have some common stuff modeled as a role:

There’s an interesting bit here: Both name and path are lazy attributes.

Net::FluidDB::HasPath is thought to be consumed by classes that implement a parent() accessor. By definition, the parent of a namespace is its parent namespace, and the parent of a tag is its containing namespace.

In general, instances make sense as long as they have either a path, or a name and a parent. If you set a path instances will lazily sort out their name and parent if asked to. Given a parent and a name, instances may compute their path if needed. This is easily implemented thanks to the builtin support for lazy attributes in Moose.


Tags are modeled like this:

The namespace() reader loads the namespace a tag belongs to lazily.


Namespaces are similar to tags:

Again, the parent() getter loads the parent namespace on-demand.


Both policies and permissions have an open/closed policy, and a set of exceptions. Net::FluidDB::ACL provides stuff common to both:


With that in place policies are:


And permissions are:


Finally, users are pretty simple:


These cool diagrams are a courtesy of yUML.

Syndicated 2009-10-20 22:48:52 from FluidThinking

Latest blog entries     Older blog entries

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!