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Introduction

By definition, the OpenSocial spec supports extensions to its data model.  In Apache Shindig, implementing data model extensions requires familiarity with Java and Shindig's back-end and requires continued maintenance as extensions evolve.  This article documents how to enable arbitrary extensions in Apache Shindig's data model, circumventing the need for explicitly hardcoding and maintaining extensions.

For example, the following is an Activity from the Activity Streams API with arbitrary extensions:

How to Enable Arbitrary Extensions

Currently, Activity Streams support arbitrary extensions in Apache Shindig.  Additional data models may support arbitrary extensions with a very quick and simple change: the data model's interface must extend ExtendableBean, and the interface's implementing class must extend ExtendableBeanImpl.

For example, the following shows how to enable arbitrary extensions with Activity Streams.

ActivityEntry.java interface definitition:

ActivityEntryImpl.java class definition:

XML Limitations

I recommend using the JSON API when handling extensions.  The JSON API fully supports all CRUD operations with extensions "out-of-the-box" by simply extending ExtendableBean.  XML serialization requires a couple of extra steps and has a number of limitations due to Shindig's design and use of xstream.  Specifically:

  • To serialize extensions to XML, the extension's field name must be predefined in the parent POJO.  For example, to properly serialize the 'extensions' bucket in the Introduction example, the 'extension' property must be hardcoded in ActivityEntry.java (and the implementing class).  Fortunately, once the property is added, nested extensions within the bucket are supported to an arbitrary depth.
  • Very limited XML POST support.  This has been a longstanding limitation of Shindig.  Only the most basic XML POST requests succeed (only string key/value pairs, no Lists or Maps).
  • Serialization of extensions do not follow all OpenSocial conventions.  The following illustrates the serialization of a JSON extension which includes simple string key/value pairs, a list of strings, and a list of objects:

How It's Implemented

Here are some high-level implementation details of how arbitrary extensions are supported in Shindig.  It should be a helpful starting point for modifying or expanding this work.

First, ExtendableBean and ExtendableBeanImpl are nothing more than wrappers for Map and HashMap, respectively.  Thus, when a data object extends from ExtendableBean, it itself is a Map.

Next, when a JSON POST is received, the BeanJsonConverter is called to convert the raw JSON string to the appropriate target object type.  A simple check was added within BeanJsonConverter to determine if the target class type extends ExtendableBean.  If it does, the BeanJsonConverter will treat the object as a Map to initialize the Map's key/value pairs to represent the JSON object in addition to initializing the object normally (using its getters and setters).

When the data object is persisted on disk, the object is stored as a Map to retain all properties of the initial POST request, and vice versa.

To support XML serialization for GET requests, I wrote a custom converter and registered it with xstream.  The converter is named ExtendableBeanConverter, and it is registered with xstream within XStream081Configuration.java.

For more detail, check out the relevant source files for more comments: ExtendableBean.java, ExtendableBeanImpl.java, BeanJsonConverter.java, ExtendableBeanConverter.java

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