Sunday, October 23, 2016

mJson 1.4.0 Released

It is with great pleasure that I hereby announce the official release of the mJson 1.4.0. There have been a few improvements and bug fixes which I list and explain, whenever explanations are needed, below. The next release will be 2.0, marking a move to Java 8 (a.k.a. the Scala killer).

I am also announcing a new sibling project: mjson-ext at The mjson-ext project will be sprinkled with modules implementing extras, including Java Beans serialization, integration with MongoDB, support for native JavaScript object in embedded browsers and whatever else comes up. If you have some alternative implementation of the mJson interfaces that covers your specific use case or you have some interesting module, I'd be grateful if you chose to share it so that others can benefit. Thanks!

Release Notes 

So, here is what mJson 1.4.0 is about.
  • Side-effect free property accessor - this is a case of a bad initial design, corrected after some soul searching. The property accessor is the, defaultValue) method, which returns the value of a property in a JSON object or the provided default value in case the property is absent. Prior to this version and when the object had no property with the given name, the accessor will not only return the default value, but it would also modify the object with set(name, defaultValue). The idea behind that decision is that the default value would be the same in a given context and whatever part of the code knows it should set it for other parts to peruse. And this works elegantly in many situations. But, as with all side effects, the charm of the magic eventually gave way to the dark forces of unexpected behaviors. In this particular case, JSON objects persisted in a database would be systematically polluted with all sorts of defaults that (1) make the objects bigger than necessary and (2) are actually invalid the next time around. And in general, there are cases where the default is valid in one context of use but not another. In sum, I can't believe I made this stupid decision. But I did. And now I'm taking it back. Apologies for the backward-subtly-incompatible improvement.
  • - The Json class is now so that applications relying on Java serialization don't hit a wall trying to use Json within a serializable class. This is useful for example when using mJson in a distributed environment that relies on serialization such as Apache Spark.
  • Parent references - better handling of enclosing/parent Json. In case you missed it, mJson keeps track of the parent of each JSON element. And there is an up() function to access it. That works well when there is always a single parent and the JSON structure is a mere tree. But when we have a more complex DAG structure, there can be multiple parents. This version handles this case better - the parent Json of an element will be an array in case there are multiple parents. Naturally, since an array member will have a Json array as its parent, that causes ambiguity with multiple parents: is my parent an array that is part of my structure, or do I have multiple parents? At the moment, mJson does not resolve said ambiguity for you, it's your own responsibility to manage that.
  • Merging - when you have two JSON objects X and Y and you want to copy Y ('s properties) into X, there are a lot of potential use cases pertaining to the copy process. It's a bit like cloning a complex structure where you have to decide if you want a deep or a shallow clone. It's of consequence for mutable structures (such as Json objects or arrays) - a deep copy guarantees that mutating the clone won't affect the source, but is of course more costly to do. In the case of merging, you have to also be mindful of what's already in X - do you want to overwrite at the top-level only (shallow) or do you want to recursively merge with existing properties of X. If X and Y are arrays, the use cases are more limited, but one important one is when the arrays are sorted and we want the resulting array to maintain order. All this is covered in an improved Json.with method that accepts a set (to be expanded, of course based on your feedback, dear user) of options driving which part of the tree (ahem, dag) structure is to be cloned or not, merged or sorted or not. Take a look at
  • Json.Schema - processing JSON schemas may involve resolving URIs. If all is good and all URIs actually point to schemas accessible on the web, things work. But often those URIs are mere identifiers and the schemas are elsewhere thus making it impossible for mJson to load a schemas that makes use of other schemas that make use of other schemas that may or may not make use of the one before, ok I stop. Hence, from now on you can roll your own URIs resolution by providing a Json.Function - yes, the same stuff Java 8 has, but we are staying with Java 7 for this release so we have a soon to disappear special interface just for that.
  • ...and of course there are some bug fixes, added OSGI packaging and previously private method now exposed, namely the Json.factory() method.
I love this little project. Always get positive feedback from its small user community. I will therefore share some extra goodies soon in the mjson-ext project and write some other fun functions in mJson itself to help with navigation and finding stuff.