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FYI – Having fun with datagraphs

So most of our sample code on GitHub is a result of a developer’s question that we think has general interest that other developers may find useful. This usually ends up also being a small sample application that will show the result in a simple UI.

But, sometimes we do things just for fun. For today’s example, I decided to code up the excellent descriptions on the NoServer features page

You can access the source code for the sample application here.
You can access the sample application – complete with data, images and all here.

It is interesting that now that it is so easy to create an app with a backend, that one can create the code (couple of hours), wrap it in an app (less than a couple of hours) and then blog about it.

So what this app does:

This application uses a single Objecttype (Person) and a single Collection (Persons) to demonstrate just how powerful a datagraph representation can be, and how super efficient queries can be constructed to “walk” your datagraph to get what you want with a single call in your client.


First, defining the backend in FFDL takes only two lines of code!

CREATE OBJECTTYPE Person (firstName STRING, lastName STRING, gender STRING, mother REFERENCE /Persons, father REFERENCE /Persons, siblings GRABBAG /Persons, picture BYTEARRAY)

The REFERENCE associations above (mother and father), these can be considered “one to one” relationships between person objects.

The GRABBAG association (siblings) are essentially “one to many” relationships between person objects.

The system also creates reverse relationships for all of these automatically called BackReferences that provides an extremely powerful means of “walking” your datagraph.


The first example shows how to retrieve an object using a REFERENCE. We first get the Person with firstName “Bart” and then get the Person referenced by the object member “father”.

var bart, homer;
ff.getObjFromUri("/Persons/(firstName eq 'Bart')/father", function(response) {
homer = response;
//or, if bart has already been loaded on the client
homer = bart.father;
You can see References working here.

Grab Bags

This next example shows how to retrieve a set of objects from a Grab Bag by reference. We want to get all of Bart’s aunts on his mother’s side. To do this, we will first get the Person with firstName “Bart”, then get Marge from the “mother” member Reference, then get siblings from the Grab Bag referenced by the object member “siblings”.

var grabbags;
ff.getArrayFromUri("/Persons/(firstName eq 'Bart')/mother/()/siblings/(gender eq 'Female')", function(response) {
grabbags = response;
You can see Grab Bags working here.

Back References

This next example shows how to retrieve objects using Back References. There are three tests here – the first gets all BackReferences to “homer”. The second gets all the Person objects from the Grab Back that reference homer by the “siblings” Reference member. The third gets all the Person objects that refer to homer by the “father” Reference member.

var homer, allBackRefs;
ff.grabBagGetAll(homer, "BackReferences", function(response) {
allBackRefs = response;
var homer, allSiblingBackRefs;
ff.grabBagGetAll(homer, "BackReferences.Persons.siblings", function(response) {
allSiblingBackRefs = response;
var homer, allFatherBackRefs;
ff.grabBagGetAll(homer, "BackReferences.Persons.father", function(response) {
allFatherBackRefs = response;
You can see BackReferences working here.


This last example shows how to retrieve objects using some more advanced queries. There are five examples in this section. The first example will get all the Person objects that have a “father” Reference member (Note that the returned values are deduplicated). The second is basically the same, but uses the “mother” Reference member. The third example shows the use of a logical OR to get all of Bart’s granparents. The fourth example is similar, but adds another logical OR to get all of Bart’s grandparents. The last shows a complex query to get all of Ling’s cousins (the team’s favorite query).

var fathers;
ff.getArrayFromUri("/Persons/()/father"), function(response) {
fathers = response;
var mothers;
ff.getArrayFromUri("/Persons/()/mother"), function(response) {
mothers = response;
var grandfathers;
ff.getArrayFromUri("/Persons/(firstName eq 'Bart')/father or mother/()/father"), function(response) {
grandfathers = response;
var grandparents;
ff.getArrayFromUri("/Persons/(firstName eq 'Bart')/father or mother/()/mother or father"), function(response) {
grandparents = response;
var cousins;
ff.getArrayFromUri("/Persons/(firstName eq 'Ling')/father or mother/()/siblings/()/BackReferences.Persons.mother or BackReferences.Persons.father"), function(response) {
cousins = response;
You can see Queries working here.

Get the Entire Datagraph

Lastly, you can actually retrieve the entire datagraph in a single query by specifying the “depth” of the leaf-level items returned. This test will fetch the entire datagraph.

var datagraph;
ff.getArrayFromUri("/Persons/()?depthRef=3&depthGb=3", function(response) {
datagraph = response;
You can see the entire Datagraph here.

Final note: the source code includes a couple of Server Extensions that are used to populate/unpopulate the data for this app. You may find these useful samples, although they are rather brute force and inelegant in their current form.