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Mongo Schemas with Pokemon

bgschiller profile image Brian Schiller ・5 min read

Okay, so we're trying organize our pokemon. Build up our own little pokedex, if you will. And we're gonna use Mongodb because we gotta be web-scale; who knows how many pokemon there could be (I lost track after the first 151).

But we're not just gonna throw pokemon into mongo in a jumble! I said we were trying to organize the pokemon. We'll need a schema. Luckily, we're using MongoDB version 3.6, which supports JSON Schema.

The code at each step is available as the sequence of commits in bgschiller/pokemon-mongo-schemer. Check out the commit listing to jump around.

Let's get started. I'm looking at pokemon.json, which is based on ATL-WDI-Exercises/mongo-pokemon. I've added a few errors so that we can stress-test our schema. We don't want to let Gary pull a fast one on us by adding some pokemon that breaks the rules!

Here's our schema to begin with.

{
  type: "object",
  properties: {
    element: {
      type: "array",
      items: {
        type: "string",
        enum: [
          // probably there are more, but maybe we've only seen
          // the starters so far!
          "Grass",
          "Poison",
          "Fire",
          "Water",
        ],
      },
    },
    stats: {
      type: "object",
    },
    misc: {
      type: "object",
      properties: {
        sex_ratios: {
          type: "object",
        },
        classification: { type: "string" },
        // and some other properties...
      },
      additionalProperties: true,
    },
  },
  // we'll turn this off this later to make our schema more strict.
  // for now, it lets us get away with loading a partial schema.
  additionalProperties: true,
}
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Let's try it out with just one pokemon to start with. We'll use the following node script.

const { MongoClient } = require('mongodb');
const pokes = require('./pokemon.json');
const schema = require('./schema.json');

(async function () {
  const client = await MongoClient.connect('mongodb://localhost:27017');
  const db = client.db('pokedex');
  db.createCollection(
    'pokemon',
    { validator: {
        $jsonSchema: schema,
      },
    });
  const pokemon = db.collection('pokemon');
  try {
    console.log('gonna insert the first pokemon');
    const response = await pokemon.insertOne(pokes[0]);
  } catch (e) {
    console.error(e);
  }
  client.close();
}());
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Okay, so far so good. Now we have a bit of confidence that our schema at least didn't crash things. We can check that Bulbasaur was indeed added using the mongo shell.

Good documents succeed; bad docs are the true test

Is our schema even doing anything? Let's try adding something nonsense, to make sure.

// ...
 const response = await pokemon.insertOne({
   name: "Norberta",
   element: [
     "Flying",
     "Norwegian Ridge-back",
   ],
   stats: "no thanks",
 });
// ...
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Okay, if your setup is working, that should give you an error message: "Document failed validation". Sooo, our schema is (maybe?) working. But Mongo is not exactly forthcoming about what the issue is.

Luckily, because JSON Schema is a standard, we can use another tool to tell us what's wrong. There's a great schema validator called ajv. Using the command line interface illustrates our problem:

$ ajv -s schema.json -d norberta.json --errors=text --all-errors
norberta.json invalid
data.element[0] should be equal to one of the allowed values
data.element[1] should be equal to one of the allowed values
data.stats should be object
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Alright! That's a little more useful. It would be nice if we could get errors like that from mongo when validation fails. We would need to:

  1. Catch errors occuring from insert, insertMany, update, and updateMany operations.
  2. Pull the schema from the collection.
  3. Convert some mongo-specific schema entries into things ajv will understand (eg, bsonType, ObjectID, date).
  4. Figure out which document was failing validation (in the *Many cases).
  5. For an update, synthesize the document that would have been created if the operation had succeeded.

mongo-schemer enters, stage right

Actually, all that hard work is already done! At devetry, we made and open-sourced a library to do just that: mongo-schemer. Let's add it to our script.

const MongoSchemer = require('mongo-schemer');
// ...
const db = MongoSchemer.explainSchemaErrors(
  client.db('pokedex'), {
    onError: (errors) => console.error(errors),
  });
// ...
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Now let's run our Norberta script again. This time, it reports on the errors:

[ { keyword: 'enum',
    dataPath: '.element[0]',
    schemaPath: '#/properties/element/items/enum',
    params: { allowedValues: [Array] },
    message: 'should be equal to one of the allowed values' },
  { keyword: 'enum',
    dataPath: '.element[1]',
    schemaPath: '#/properties/element/items/enum',
    params: { allowedValues: [Array] },
    message: 'should be equal to one of the allowed values' },
  { keyword: 'type',
    dataPath: '.stats',
    schemaPath: '#/properties/stats/type',
    params: { type: 'object' },
    message: 'should be object' } ]
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Stricter Schema: stats

We're now confident that the schema is truly guarding our collection. Let's make it a bit more strict. How about starting with that stats property. A stat is a number between 0 and 255. We can define a "Stat" in our schema to mean just that. Each pokemon should have one for hp, attack, defense, spattack, spdefense, and speed.

// ...
  definitions: {
    Stat: {
      type: "number",
      minimum: 0,
      maximum: 255,
    },
// ...
  stats: {
    type: "object",
    properties: {
      hp: { $ref: "#/definitions/Stat" },
      attack: { $ref: "#/definitions/Stat" },
      defense: { $ref: "#/definitions/Stat" },
      spattack: { $ref: "#/definitions/Stat" },
      spdefense: { $ref: "#/definitions/Stat" },
      speed: { $ref: "#/definitions/Stat" },
    },
    additionalProperties: false,
  },
// ...
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And when we run this... it crashes! Maybe in the future it doesn't. Right now, with version 3.6, I get "MongoError: $jsonSchema keyword 'definitions' is not currently supported". Sooo, that's a bummer.

But all is not lost! A package called json-schema-ref-parser comes to our rescue this time. It does just what it says: takes any $references to definitions and *de*references them -- inlining the definition in each spot it's used.

const $RefParser = require('json-schema-ref-parser');
// ...
const inlinedSchema = await $RefParser.dereference(schema);
delete inlinedSchema.definitions;
db.createCollection(
  'pokemon',
  { validator: {
      $jsonSchema: inlinedSchema,
    },
  });
// ...
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That's more like it! Now if we run our script, we should get some errors saying things like "stats.attack should be number". Sure enough, take a look at Bulbasaur in pokemon.json: some of his stats are strings pretending to be numbers. If we fix those up, the errors go away.

We could keep making our schema more descriptive. For example, there are more elements (pokemon types) than the four we have listed here, and we could document the structure of the moves object. I'll leave those as an exercise for the reader.

MongoDB support for JSON Schema is useful, but has two big holes: it doesn't support definitions in the schema, and when something goes wrong it doesn't tell you what. Hopefully those will be added in a future version, but mongo-schemer and json-schema-ref-parser fill those gaps in the meantime.

Discussion

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pazzavlad profile image
Vlad Harbarchuk

It was very useful! Thanks!