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Sahil Gadimbayli
Sahil Gadimbayli

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Fetching ancestor/sibling nodes per locale in ActiveRecord

There are times when we need to work with parent records
within the database.

A practical example we will use today is Pages table with a
parent_id column, referencing another Page record.

This will be used in building page breadcrumbs(parents) and fetching
recommended pages(siblings).

pizza_recipe_page = Page.last

recipes_page = pizza_recipe_page.parent
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This builds up hierarchical structure, and we would most
probably need a way to fetch the page's parent or related pages
when working in our application.

pages_for_breadcrumbs = page.self_and_parent_nodes
recommended_pages = page.siblings
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For straightforward cases, we may opt out to use a gem such as
ancestry and be done
with the task. This will work, assuming you are using one column
such as parent_id to set a parent for the record.

class Page
  # assumes your parent record
  # reference is based only on a single column
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However, you would run into a slight inconvenience
if you are using multiple columns to set parents,
such as for different languages(parent_id_en, parent_id_es, parent_id_it).

Pages Field
parent_id_es Parent page for spanish locale
parent_id_en Parent page for english locale
parent_id_it Parent page for italian locale

Now, imagine querying for related pages per locale,
and generating breadcrumbs... Not so straightforward!

Thus, we have to build functionality on our own to enable fetching ancestors/siblings per locale.

PostgreSQL recursive queries for the rescue!

This assumes you are using Active Record. However,
you may use the same concept regardless of the ORM.

class Page
  # Starting with the direct parent
  # iterate through the chain, querying
  # parent of the found record as we go higher
  # terminating when nothing is found.

  # Maintains the correct order of results.
  # So, ids will be self_id, parent_node_id,
  # greatparent_node_id, greatgreatparent_node_id...

  # @returns ActiveRecord::Relation
  def self_and_parent_nodes(locale:)
    query = <<~SQL
        WITH RECURSIVE parent_nodes AS (
          SELECT id, parent_id_#{locale}
          FROM #{self.class.table_name}
          WHERE id = #{id}
          SELECT, c.parent_id_#{locale}
          FROM #{self.class.table_name} c
            JOIN parent_nodes p ON p.parent_id_#{locale} =
      ) SELECT id FROM parent_nodes;

    self_and_parent_node_ids =
                         .map { |record| record.fetch('id') }

    # Fetch AR objects from returned collection of ids

        .where(id: self_and_parent_node_ids)

  # Find records that share parent with self
  # @returns ActiveRecord::Relation

  def siblings(locale:)
        .where("parent_id_#{locale} = ? AND #{self.class.table_name}.id != ?",
               public_send("parent_id_#{locale}"), id)

  # Maintain order of results
  # @returns ActiveRecord::Relation

  def ordered_by_ids(ids)
    order_results_query = { |id, position| "WHEN #{id} THEN #{position}" }.join(' ')

    order_sql =
        "CASE #{self.table_name}.id #{order_results_query} ELSE #{ids.size} END, #{self.table_name}.id"

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Now you are able to fetch ancestor and sibling nodes per locale. Go ahead and create/test some records.

page = Page.create!(
  name: 'Test Page',
  parent_id_en: id_of_some_english_page,
  parent_id_es: id_of_some_spanish_page

pages_for_breadcrumbs =
  page.self_and_parent_nodes(locale: 'en')

recommended_pages_for_spain =
  page.siblings(locale: 'es')
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This post has also been published at ramblingcode

That's it for today! If you see an issue or have any question
please give me a shout.

Top comments (2)

cooldesigns profile image
Mehmet Aydoğdu

Recursive programming is the worst programming style. Don't do that. Use pre-balanced trees.

gadimbaylisahil profile image
Sahil Gadimbayli

Thanks for reading!

Care to elaborate pre balanced trees? Would love to know about it.

There isn't really an evil for all cases style, each has its own use case, same with recursion(extensively used in elixir, for instance).