Alfonso Noriega

VIND - COMPLEX FIELDS WITH SIMPLE CODE
November 13, 2017 by


Vind - Complex Fields with simple Code

In our previous post, Vind - Information Discovery for Java, we have already had a glimpse of how to build a basic search application with Vind and how its guts look like. Most of the basic custom search scenarios would be covered by a simple implementation as the one described before but, what happens when we face a not-as-dumb use case?

Complex Fields? flatify them!

Those used to build search applications would have faced already the difficulty of storing complex models into a search index. Lets take an example based on previous post and add more complexity to it. Instead of having just search on blog posts, we want to extend the fulltext search on the post comments.

1. Model extension

This comment class contains not just the comment text but also other features such as the user or the date.

class Comment {
  //the comment unique identifier
  private String id;

  //the comment text which we want search in
  private String comment;

  //flag property to give more relevance to the Comment
  private Boolean featured;

  //user who posted the comment
  private String userName;

  //date of the comment
  private ZonedDateTime commentTime;

  public String getComment() {
    return this.comment;
  }

  public Boolean getUserName() {
    return this.userName;
  }
}

And add to the original post a list of comments:

class Post {

  // The @id annotation is obligatory for the post identification within Vind
  @Id
  private String id;

  // The fulltext annotation means: 'use this for fulltext search'.
  // The language enables a language specific handling on indexing an query
  //time. The boost leads to a a better ranking if (parts of) the title matches
  //the query.
  @FullText(language = Language.English, boost = 1.2f)
  private String title;

  // The @Facet annotation enables faceting and filtering on this value
  @Facet
  private String category;

  // A field which is not annotated is not used for fulltext search but
  //stored, so it can be used for sorting
  private ZonedDateTime created;

  //new property storing the comment objects attached to a post
  private List<Comment> comments = new ArrayList<>();
}

2. Complex fields

The model is ready but Vind does not know how to index a field of type Comments.class, as it is not one of the basic types supported. We need to assist the library by providing an annotation which specifies how to index the complex field.

Time to decide how to use this comment information to search has arrived! as starter lets suppose that the target is just to do fulltext search on blog contents and comment texts. To do so we will instruct Vind to index the comment field as a fulltext Vind field by adding the following annotation:

//Definition of a complex field 'flatification'
@ComplexField(
    fullText = @Operator(
      function = FunctionHelpers.GetterFunction.class, 
      fieldName = {"comment"}
    )
)
private List<Comment> comments;

This will result in an index with a flattened structure, in which the property comment of the complex field has been indexed as the fulltext value of the post comments field, allowing us to do full text searches in both blog and comments at the same time.

3. Advanced Filters

What about filtering those posts which have a featured comment? By default Vind does filtering on the facet values of a field, but this can be problematic in the case of complex field as we may want to facet by a different value of the complex field. To allow so, the advanceFilter option has been added to the annotation. This advance filter defines a filter scope which can be specified on query time.

//Definition of a complex field 'flatification'
@ComplexField(
    fullText = @Operator(
      function = FunctionHelpers.GetterFunction.class, 
      fieldName = {"comment"}
    ),
    facet = @Operator(
      function = FunctionHelpers.GetterFunction.class,
      fieldName = {"userName"}
    ),
    advanceFilter = @Operator(
      function = FunctionHelpers.GetterFunction.class, 
      fieldName = {"featured"}
    )
)
private List<Comment> comments;

With the previous annotation it would be possible to facet the post based on the user who had commented on them and filter out those post without featured comments.

A dive in the @ComplexField annotation

What else can you do with the complex fields? Lets have a look in detail to the  @ComplexField annotation. It supports a set of options which mostly match with the existing basic Vind annotations: store, facet, suggestion, fullText and sort plus the advanceFilter option.

@ComplexField(
  fullText = @Operator(
    function = FunctionHelpers.ConcatFunction.class,
    fieldName = {"name", "synonym"}
  ),
  facet = @Operator(
    function = FunctionHelpers.GetterFunction.class,
    fieldName = {"name"}
  ),
  advanceFilter =  @Operator(
    function = FunctionHelpers.GetterFunction.class,
    fieldName = {"id"}
  )
)
private Concept topic;

Those options allow us to describe, through the annotation, how the complex field will be indexed in any of the possible search use cases (i.e. in the previous annotation example we specify to index the topic name and its synonym for fulltext search and just the name for faceting on the topics).

For each of the aforementioned use cases a way to calculate a value is provided by the following three options:

  • function: it specifies a method to obtain the value to be indexed. Vind includes two functions: GetterFunction and ConcatFunction. The first one returns the value of the field specified in fieldName and the second the concatenation, blank space separated, of the values of the fields listed. To add your own function it is as easy as implementing java.util.function.Function or extend Vinds ParameterFunction.
  • fieldName: a list of names where the function will be applied. Default value is an empty list.
  • returnType: The expected return type of the function, default is String.

Real case scenarios

Vind with its complex fields in particular is a backbone for Information Discovery within the Red Bull Media House Digital Asset Management System and other internal Red Bull Media House information systems. If you want to have a look at other use cases where Vind and complex fields are in place visit the Billiltii website and download the app.

billitii logo

In the Billitii app-model a thread (triggered by a user question) holds a set of answers which have been flatified in order to be able to find an already existing thread containing an answer fitting a new question being asked. This way the incoming question may be inmediatly redirected to a thread where it has been answered.

Written on November 13, 2017 by

with : VIND

< back