Hi,

there are quite a few solutions out there in the Zope world that 
allow the management of relations or references between objects. 
So I have been working with the reference engine provided by 
Archetypes (as part of Plone) for nearly two years now; and I 
also had a look at some proposals on zope.org and 
implementations that are available in the Zope 3 packages from
SchoolTool and CPSSkins.

I have to confess that I was not really happy with any of these 
proposals or solutions - a feeling that we may discuss in more 
detail, the main point being just that I wanted to have 
something simple that is nevertheless flexible enough to 
accommodate to various needs.

So I came up with the following stuff (mainly combining concepts 
by Jean-Marc Orliaguet and implementation ideas from Archetypes 
1.3) :

A relation is an object providing the IRelation interface. This 
has got two attributes ('first', 'second' - dyadic relation) or 
three ('first', 'second', 'third' - triadic relation). (You may 
ignore triadic relations if you don't think you need them.)

If I now create corresponding classes (DyadicRelation, 
TriadicRelation) I can assign the objects taking part in a 
relation directly to these attributes of the relation. (Note 
that the objects taking part in a relation are not touched at 
all.) In fact I create a class for each kind of relation (each 
relationship or predicate or whatever you like to call it)
I want to use.

So the question arises what to do with the relation objects? The 
point here is not so much where to store them but how to make 
sure that we can find them. So we need a registry for relations 
- interface IRelationsRegistry.

This has three methods:

- register(relation)
- unregister(relation)
- query(**kw)

The keyword arguments to the query() method may be:

- relationship=... - a relation class (we can also work with
                     named predicates - see below)
- first=... - an object
- second=... - an object
- third=... - an object

One can combine those arguments at will to search for all 
relations of the relation class specified (if given) with the 
given values for the attributes. The list may be extended if you 
use relation classes with additional attributes you want to 
search for.

(For details have a look at the README.txt and other files on 
http://svn.cy55.de/viewcvs/Zope3/src/cybertools/trunk/relation 
or check it out via 
svn co svn://svn.cy55.de/Zope3/src/cybertools/trunk/relation)

You see that this looks very much like a catalog search - so why 
not implement the relations registry as a subclass of 
zope.app.catalog.catalog.Catalog?

OK, so the RelationsRegistry class is derived from Catalog, and 
of course it is a local utility. The indexes are just FieldIndex 
objects, using an adapter to provide unique ids for the objects 
involved via the IntIds utility; the same is done for providing 
ids for the relation objects themselves. The relationship is 
mapped to the full module path + class name of the relation 
class.

An interesting consequence of this is that the relation objects 
are not explicitly stored somewhere, the only reference to them 
is via the IntIds utility. Thus you are free to store them in 
some container or even make them first class content objects if 
you want - but you needn't.

The whole stuff is flexible enough to be extended as needed, e.g. 
with special registry classes used via named utilities, 
additional attributes on relations (easily indexable in the 
registry); it could be wrapped in a richer and more 
application-oriented API, etc.

It is also possible to use named predicates (with URIs or strings 
like '_ is child of _') instead of different relation classes to 
represent relationships (this is shown by an example at the end 
of the README.txt).


So what do you think? - any feedback and suggestions welcome...

I'd also gladly write a proposal (if I get write access to the 
wiki ;-)) and of course change the license from GPL to ZPL if 
this would be considered useful.

Helmut
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