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From Jason Smith <>
Subject Re: Entity Relationships in CouchDB
Date Tue, 14 Apr 2009 13:44:08 GMT
Wout Mertens wrote:
>> 3. Couch is different from App Engine WRT (at least) transactions and 
>> indexing.  Most people can use App Engine somewhat quickly because 
>> there is still a facility for transactions involving several objects.  
>> (It's not a RDBMs but you can still do it.)  Whereas with CouchDB, the 
>> unit of atomicity is the document.
> Do you think the document should touch on that? In these simple 
> examples, there's nothing to transact :-/. Maybe there should be a 
> recipe book for transaction avoidance? (like using a running sum on bank 
> account transfers)

I actually don't think this document needs to dwell on transactions or 
performance because it is a clear enough introduction to probably the #1 
FAQ question for Couch users: "How do I JOIN?"

How much of the App Engine document translates to Couch?  Well, with 
lists, App Engine indexes not only all elements in a list, but all 
elements *between* lists, which adds up very fast[1], and there is an 
index size cap which is why they vaguely discourage lists of keys. 
CouchDB has no such limitation which is why I would prefer the "list of 
keys" method with Couch until you can explicitly rule it out due to 
performance or conflict issues.

Specifically, I am not sure if the following statement from the page 
still holds with CouchDB: "You would use this method when there is 
potentially a large number of contacts in a group and a large number of 
groups. In that case embedding a list of keys could result in huge 
documents so we have to resort to writing out the list in many documents."

This sentence derives from that vague Google discouragement due to their 
indexing limitations.  I don't think "huge" documents (thousands of IDs 
is still only a few KB) documents are a big worry.  Perhaps write 
conflicts are more important.  What if the document said the following 

   "You would use this method if you modify the key list frequently 
(i.e. if you get more conflicts than is acceptable), or if the key list 
is so large that transferring the document is unacceptably slow. 
Relationship documents enable frequent changes with less chance of 
conflict; however, you can access neither the contact nor group 
information in one request.  You must re-request those specific 
documents by ID, keeping in mind that they may change or be deleted in 
the interim.

(The above paragraph is first-drafty; and I hasten to add it to the wiki 
without input from others; but I think it identifies the CouchDB 
considerations more clearly.)


Jason Smith
Proven Corporation
Bangkok, Thailand

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