|By Brian Rinaldi||
|January 13, 2004 12:00 AM EST||
When building applications, from content management to product catalogs, your project will typically be impacted by the method you choose for categorization. Designing code that is flexible enough to allow for ease of reuse, but simple enough to allow for ease of implementation, can often tie a developer in knots. The nested set model can help you fulfill both those goals.
This article will cover a simple implementation of this model, and draws extensively from two sources, Joe Celko's SQL for Smarties and Benjamin Elmore's Dynamic Publishing with ColdFusion MX. Both are recommended reading for a more in-depth look at the nested set model.
What Is the Nested Set Model?
In order to better understand the advantages of the nested set model in representing category trees within relational databases, we will first look at an alternate, commonly used method, the adjacency list model. The standard adjacency list model can be comprised of simply a categoryID, category, and parent field (see Figure 1).
Using the adjacency list model, a root node - a category that has no parent - is signified by a null value in the parent field (from here on out, node and category will often be used interchangeably). A leaf node is a category that has no children and can be determined through the use of a simple query. Determining the immediate parent or children of a given category also requires only a simple query. However, any function that would require traversing the tree beyond either the immediate parent or children of a given category would require complex recursive queries that are difficult to code, particularly when the depth of the tree is unknown. Similar problems occur when you wish to create functions for removing a sub tree. As adjacency list models are quite common, most experienced developers are well aware of their many deficiencies.
Rather than depend upon explicitly defined parents, the nested set model uses a set of left and right position integers to establish any given category's position within the tree structure. The left and right positions establish a range within which the left and right positions of any children will fall. The range between the left and right positions can easily be expanded to accommodate growth of the tree, and can be contracted just as easily when nodes are removed. In addition, determining the parents or children of a given node within a tree or even determining a given node's depth within the tree is a simple process regardless of the total depth of the tree.
In order to visualize this concept, let's take a root node (i.e., a node that has no parent) named "Macromedia," which is assigned the left and right positions of 1 and 20 respectively. A child of Macromedia called "ColdFusion" could have a left position of 2 and a right position of 9. Furthermore, a child of ColdFusion called "MX" could have a left position of 7 and a right position of 8, in which case it would be automatically recognizable as a leaf node given that the difference between the left and right positions is 1. See Figure 2 for a visual representation of a nested set model.
Building the CFC
Before I begin delving into the code of our component, I would first like to cover some assumptions I used in building it. Although the code is based upon examples from Dynamic Publishing with ColdFusion MX and SQL for Smarties, it has been modified in part to allow for compatibility with an Access database and also so that all public methods of the component return queries. While there are certainly benefits to using a more object-oriented approach within your components, and this component could be easily modified to meet that goal, I am choosing to return queries as I believe this makes the component easier to understand and implement for beginners and advanced users alike.
Before using this component, you first must create a table named "categories" in your database. If you are using Access, you would structure it as follows (see Figure 3):
- CategoryID is your primary key and has a data type of text with a field size of 40.
- Category has a data type of text with a field size of 255.
- Lpos has a data type of number and a field size of long integer.
- Rpos has a data type of number and a field size of long integer.
The save method is fairly straightforward as it simply determines whether to call the Add or the Edit method depending on whether the categoryID sent already exists in the database.
The add, edit, and delete methods are fairly standard representations of their SQL counterparts (insert, update, and delete respectively), except for a few important points that we will cover. The first is that before a category is inserted, either the createRootNode or the createChildNode method must be called depending upon whether a parent category ID has been sent, keeping in mind that a root node is a node without a parent. We will discuss both methods in more detail later, but it is important to note that they both return a structure containing the left and right position integers.
Second, you should be aware that the edit method only allows changing of the text in the category field. This is because, as we discussed before, one of the few drawbacks of the nested set model is that it is extremely difficult to move a sub tree. Therefore, for simplicity's sake, this component simply disallows moving a category once it has been created.
Third, you will note a series of queries within the delete function called CloseGap 1, 2, 3, and 4. To understand the reason for these queries, you must first understand the logic behind including them, which is that, rather than delete a node (category) along with its entire subtree, I have chosen to promote the child nodes of any deleted node. For instance, let's take a category tree containing Grandpa Abe, which has a child, Homer; and Homer has three children, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. Should something befall Homer, say an accident at the nuclear plant, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie would be adopted by Grandpa Abe. Thus the CloseGap queries are designed to do just that, close any gaps in the left and right position fields within the database, thereby promoting any children of the deleted node.
The get function within our component has been customized to implement a variety of different common queries required when integrating the category system into your site. This method takes four arguments: categoryID, children, parents, and immediate, all of which are optional. Due to the structure of the if statement, the Boolean argument children takes precedence over the Boolean argument parents. In addition, the Boolean argument immediate relates specifically to the children argument but is ignored otherwise. The method is as follows:
- If children is true and a categoryID is supplied, then the component will retrieve the children of a given node
-If immediate is true, only the immediate children are returned (i.e., one level below the level of a given node), otherwise all children are returned
- If parents is true and a categoryID is supplied, then the component will return all parents of a given node
- If only a categoryID is supplied, then only the information for the specific node is returned
- If no arguments are supplied, then a raw query of all category data is returned
The getAllNodes method is a variation on the get method that returns all categories, with the difference being that getAllNodes returns a lvl column in the query that specifies the depth within the tree of any given node. For instance, given our example from earlier, the Bart category would have a value for lvl equal to 3, as it is three levels deep in the category tree. In addition, you can specify a lvl argument that will filter the returned results by a given depth. Again, using our previous example, specifying the value of 3 in the lvl argument would return only the categories of Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. Being able to retrieve the depth information for categories is a useful feature that you will find yourself using repeatedly throughout your application.
The remaining methods, createRootNode and createChildNode are both private methods, meaning they can only be called from inside the component. They are both designed to return the pos structure used within the add method as we saw earlier. The createChildNode method also updates the tree structure to make room for the node to be created.
Using the Component
Let's cover some basic implementations of the categories component by first looking at how to build a form to update the category tree. We will do this in the context of creating and organizing categories for Web site navigation. The form we will create is missing a lot of niceties, which I will leave for you to add at your leisure. For these examples to work, you must first create the database as explained earlier in this article and add that as a dsn within the ColdFusion administrator called CFDJ.
Our form is self-submitting and includes only two fields, one a text field to enter the name of the category and the other a select box to choose a parent category if applicable (see Listing 2: addCategories.cfm). The select box uses the lvl integer returned by the getAllNodes method to structure the list so that the depth within the category tree is visible (see Figure 4). The form is prefilled with either the value of a category determined by URL.categoryID or by the values returned by the new method, which is empty except for the categoryID. Note that when the form is prefilled with an existing category, the parent category select box is disabled because, as we discussed earlier, the component disallows changing the parent of an existing category.
When the form is submitted, we first run it through basic server-side error processing. Then we remove any empty values from the form structure so that they are not passed on to our component through the argumentCollection (this is simply a shortcut I prefer to use for submitting forms to a component). Finally, we call the save method, which, if you recall, determines whether the category should be added or edited.
Once submitted, you can view your category added to the tree within your select box, or view the test page, the basic code which I have also included (see Listing 3: index.cfm). The test page shows some standard uses for the different get methods within the component, such as getting the root level categories to propagate a category menu, getting the immediate children of a given category to propagate a submenu, and getting the parents of a given category to propagate breadcrumbs (see Figure 5). As you can see, all of these functions are exceedingly easy to use, as they require very little coding.
Using the nested set model, we have built a component and category structure that is flexible enough to use in a variety of applications with little to no modification. In addition, by abstracting this model into a component, we have made it portable enough to reuse relatively effortlessly.
|Abraham Lloyd 01/15/04 09:42:27 AM EST|
Having worked quite a bit with this model in the past, one point to note is that this model should only be recommended for hierarchies that are static (never change) or that infrequently change. Inserting new nodes or moving nodes require that all elements in hierarchy that are affected be renumbered and ordered.
If you have a hierarchy that contains several hundred/thousand rows, this could result in every record in the hierarchy being updated (which clearly is less than ideal). If your hierarchies are static, however, then this model will scale and perform well under heavy load.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Dec. 21, 2014 02:00 PM EST Reads: 2,336
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 21, 2014 01:00 PM EST Reads: 1,975
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
Dec. 21, 2014 11:30 AM EST Reads: 2,407
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
Dec. 21, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 2,142
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
Dec. 21, 2014 08:30 AM EST Reads: 2,265
ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...
Dec. 21, 2014 06:15 AM EST Reads: 2,107
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
Dec. 20, 2014 11:00 PM EST Reads: 1,340
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 20, 2014 08:00 AM EST Reads: 1,353
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Dec. 18, 2014 09:45 PM EST Reads: 1,212
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 18, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 1,371
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons. Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as...
Dec. 18, 2014 06:00 AM EST Reads: 911
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
Dec. 17, 2014 11:15 PM EST Reads: 1,407
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 17, 2014 11:00 PM EST Reads: 1,454
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 17, 2014 08:00 PM EST Reads: 1,447
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
Dec. 17, 2014 06:30 PM EST Reads: 1,380
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
Dec. 17, 2014 11:45 AM EST Reads: 1,558
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Dec. 16, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 1,400
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
Dec. 15, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 1,744
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Dec. 15, 2014 10:30 AM EST Reads: 6,918
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...
Dec. 15, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 1,990