Welcome!

ColdFusion Authors: Yakov Fain, Maureen O'Gara, Nancy Y. Nee, Tad Anderson, Daniel Kaar

Related Topics: ColdFusion

ColdFusion: Article

Implementing a Nested Set Model in ColdFusion

Building and using a flexible categorization system

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):

 
  1. CategoryID is your primary key and has a data type of text with a field size of 40.
  2. Category has a data type of text with a field size of 255.
  3. Lpos has a data type of number and a field size of long integer.
  4. Rpos has a data type of number and a field size of long integer.
The first method of our component is called new (see Listing 1: categories.cfc)). This method is designed to simply create an empty query containing the columns defined within our table. A row is then inserted and a value set for categoryID, which is a ColdFusion UUID. When building components structured to return queries, I always add this method. The primary function of this method is to make it easier to build a form to update the database. Later we will cover building this form, at which time the purpose of this method will be more obvious.

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
We will discuss later how this method is implemented within your application.

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.

 

Conclusion
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.

More Stories By Brian Rinaldi

Brian Rinaldi, a member of the Editorial Board of CFDJ, is a web developer at Hasbro. He is also a member of the Adobe Community Experts program, the manager of the Boston ColdFusion User Group and an Advanced Certified ColdFusion MX Developer, as well as a Microsoft Certified Professional. Brian is most well known for his efforts promoting open-source projects in ColdFusion, especially for maintaining the ColdFusion open-source list as well as the weekly updates, both of which you can find via his web site at remotesynthesis.com.

Comments (1)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SOA Software, an API management leader, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SOA Software is a leading provider of API Management and SOA Governance products that equip business to deliver APIs and SOA together to drive their company to meet its business strategy quickly and effectively. SOA Software’s technology helps businesses to accelerate their digital channels with APIs, drive partner adoption, monetize their assets, and achieve a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue business and deliver exceptional experiences to their customers.
SYS-CON Events announced today that AgilePoint, the leading provider of Microsoft-centric Business Process Management software, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 2nd International @ThingsExpo which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. AgilePoint is the leading provider of Microsoft-based Business Process Management (BPM) software products, has 1,300+ on-premise and cloud deployments in 25+ countries and provides the same advanced BPM feature set as J2EE vendors like IBM and Appian for the Microsoft .NET native environment. AgilePoint customer...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., will show what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He will discuss opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and tec...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Utimaco will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Utimaco is a leading manufacturer of hardware based security solutions that provide the root of trust to keep cryptographic keys safe, secure critical digital infrastructures and protect high value data assets. Only Utimaco delivers a general-purpose hardware security module (HSM) as a customizable platform to easily integrate into existing software solutions, embed business logic and build s...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, will describe an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people’s real needs and desires.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TeleStax, the main sponsor of Mobicents, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TeleStax provides Open Source Communications software and services that facilitate the shift from legacy SS7 based IN networks to IP based LTE and IMS networks hosted on private (on-premise), hybrid or public clouds. TeleStax products include Restcomm, JSLEE, SMSC Gateway, USSD Gateway, SS7 Resource Adaptors, SIP Servlets, Rich Multimedia Services, Presence Services/RCS, Diame...
Samsung VP Jacopo Lenzi, who headed the company's recent SmartThings acquisition under the auspices of Samsung's Open Innovaction Center (OIC), answered a few questions we had about the deal. This interview was in conjunction with our interview with SmartThings CEO Alex Hawkinson. IoT Journal: SmartThings was developed in an open, standards-agnostic platform, and will now be part of Samsung's Open Innovation Center. Can you elaborate on your commitment to keep the platform open? Jacopo Lenzi: Samsung recognizes that true, accelerated innovation cannot be driven from one source, but requires a...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, will discuss how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money! Speaker Bio: Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, has spent 16 years as a marketing, product management, and busin...
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, will address the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. How important are public, private, and hybrid cloud to the enterprise? How does one define Big Data? And how is the IoT tying all this together?
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...
SYS-CON Events announces a new pavilion on the Cloud Expo floor where WebRTC converges with the Internet of Things. Pavilion will showcase WebRTC and the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices--computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.
The only place to be June 9-11 is Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo 2015 East at the Javits Center in New York City. Join us there as delegates from all over the world come to listen to and engage with speakers & sponsors from the leading Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data companies. Cloud Expo & @ThingsExpo are the leading events covering the booming market of Cloud Computing, IoT & Big Data for the enterprise. Speakers from all over the world will be hand-picked for their ability to explore the economic strategies that utility/cloud computing provides. Whether public, private, or in a hybrid form, clo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual Controller™ Technology (SVCT) to eliminate the I/O blender effect and accelerate applications Gridsto...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Red Hat, the world's leading provider of open source solutions, will exhibit at Internet of @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Red Hat is the world's leading provider of open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to reliable and high-performing cloud, Linux, middleware, storage and virtualization technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. As the connective hub in a global network of enterprises, partners, a...
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 Internet of @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Group, will discuss how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, senso...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is making everything it touches smarter – smart devices, smart cars and smart cities. And lucky us, we’re just beginning to reap the benefits as we work toward a networked society. However, this technology-driven innovation is impacting more than just individuals. The IoT has an environmental impact as well, which brings us to the theme of this month’s #IoTuesday Twitter chat. The ability to remove inefficiencies through connected objects is driving change throughout every sector, including waste management. BigBelly Solar, located just outside of Boston, is trans...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, will examine three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics...
Internet of @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley announced on Thursday its first 12 all-star speakers and sessions for its upcoming event, which will take place November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in California. @ThingsExpo, the first and largest IoT event in the world, debuted at the Javits Center in New York City in June 10-12, 2014 with over 6,000 delegates attending the conference. Among the first 12 announced world class speakers, IBM will present two highly popular IoT sessions, which will take place November 4-6, 2014 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, Calif...
From a software development perspective IoT is about programming "things," about connecting them with each other or integrating them with existing applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Yakov Fain, co-founder of Farata Systems and SuranceBay, will show you how small IoT-enabled devices from multiple manufacturers can be integrated into the workflow of an enterprise application. This is a practical demo of building a framework and components in HTML/Java/Mobile technologies to serve as a platform that can integrate new devices as they become available on the market.