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From Robert Newson <>
Subject Re: Even more fine-grained ETag support when querying views?
Date Tue, 13 Sep 2011 08:46:31 GMT
My joke about bloom filters was apparently misunderstood but the
notion above, which sounds a lot like a Merkle tree, seems lucid to

As for the strong vs. weak ETag variants, I think views need strong
ETags in all cases, given the declared semantics for them in 13.3.3


On 12 September 2011 23:28, Paul Davis <> wrote:
> In general the idea is intriguing. Using a combining hash would allow
> you to get a specific hash value for a given range. Unfortunately,
> bloom filters are not a good solution here because they require an a
> priori guess of the number of keys that are going to be stored. On the
> other hand, CRC32 appears to be combinable.There are a couple issues
> though. The first of which is whether this is a strong enough hash to
> use for an ETag. There are two types of ETags with slightly different
> semantics, so we'd have to figure out what we can do and where this
> falls on that spectrum. Secondly, computing the range ETag would
> require the equivalent of a reduce=false view call in addition to
> streaming the output if validation matched which has performance
> implications as well.
> On Mon, Sep 12, 2011 at 6:50 PM, Alon Keren <> wrote:
>> Disclosure: I don't know much about e-tags, CouchDB internals (or bloom
>> filters).
>> How about maintaining an e-tag for each sub-tree in the view, similar to the
>> way (I think) reduce works?
>> When a row gets updated, its e-tag would be recalculated, and then its
>> parent's e-tag would be recalculated, and so on. The e-tag of an internal
>> node could be the hash of all its children's hashes.
>> The actual e-tag that a view-query receives: the e-tag of the common
>> ancestor of all involved rows.
>> The next time you query the same keys, you would supply the e-tag you've
>> just received.
>>  Alon
>> On 10 September 2011 16:41, Andreas Lind Petersen <
>>> wrote:
>>> Hi!
>>> Background: I'm working on a web app that uses a single CouchDB database
>>> for
>>> storing data belong to 400000+ users. Each user has an average of about 40
>>> documents that need to be fetched in one go when the frontend is launched.
>>> I
>>> have accomplished this by querying a simple view with ?key=ownerID (with a
>>> fallback to /_alldocs?startkey=<ownerID>_...&endkey=<ownerID>~
if the view
>>> isn't built). Since the data for each user rarely changes, there's a
>>> potential to save resources by supporting conditional GET with
>>> If-None-Match, which would amount having the web app backend copy the
>>> CouchDB-generated ETag into the response sent to the browser.
>>> However, I just learned that CouchDB only maintains a single ETag for the
>>> entire view, so every time one of my users changes something, the ETag for
>>> everyone else's query result also changes. This makes conditional GETs
>>> useless with this usage pattern.
>>> I asked about this on #couchdb and had a brief talk with rnewson, who was
>>> sympathetic to the idea. Unfortunately we weren't able to come up with an
>>> idea that didn't involve traversing all docs in the result just for
>>> computing the ETag (my suggestion was a hash of the _revs of all docs
>>> contributing to the result). That would be a bad default, but might still
>>> work as an opt-in thing per request, eg. slowetag=true.
>>> Newson said I should try raising the discussion here in case someone else
>>> had an idea for a cheaper way to calculate a good ETag. So what does
>>> everyone else think about this? Is my use case too rare, or would it be
>>> worthwhile to implement it?
>>> Best regards,
>>> Andreas Lind Petersen (papandreou)
>>> Here's our chat transcript:
>>> [11:46] <papandreou> Does anyone know if there are plans for issuing even
>>> more granular etags for view lookups? When you only look up a small range
>>> or
>>> a specific key it would be really great if the ETag only changed when that
>>> subset changes rather than the entire view.
>>> [11:47] <papandreou> In the application I'm working on I'll hardly ever
>>> able to get a 304 response because of this.
>>> [...]
>>> [13:51] <+rnewson> papandreou: unlikely.
>>> [13:52] <papandreou> rnewson: So the best thing I can do is to fetch the
>>> data and compute a better etag myself? (My use case is a backend for a web
>>> app)
>>> [13:53] <+rnewson> papandreou: You might be able to set ETag in a list
>>> function? If you can't, I'll gladly change CouchDB so you can.
>>> [13:54] <papandreou> rnewson: I thought about that, too, but that would
>>> cause a big overhead for every request, right?
>>> [13:55] <papandreou> rnewson: (Last time I tried views were slooow)
>>> [13:55] <papandreou> I mean lists
>>> [13:55] <+rnewson> papandreou: slower, yes, because couch needs to evaluate
>>> the javascript in an external process.
>>> [13:55] <+rnewson> how will you calculate the fine-grained ETag?
>>> [13:56] <+rnewson> Also we did recently make it slightly finer, before
>>> was view group scope and now it's the view itself (I think)
>>> [13:56] <papandreou> rnewson: Maybe something like a hash of the _revs
>>> all the documents contributing to the result?
>>> [13:56] <+rnewson> hm, that makes no sense actually. but we did refine
>>> recently.
>>> [13:57] <+rnewson> papandreou: that doesn't sound cheap at all, and it
>>> would
>>> need to be cheaper than doing the view query itself to make sense.
>>> [13:58] <papandreou> rnewson: There's still the bandwidth thing
>>> [13:58] <+rnewson> oh, you're working with restricted bandwidth and/or
>>> huge view responses?
>>> [13:59] <papandreou> rnewson: And it would be really nice to have something
>>> like this completely handled by the database instead of inventing a bunch
>>> of
>>> workarounds.
>>> [14:01] <+rnewson> If there's a correct and efficient algorithm for doing
>>> it, I'm sure it would be applied.
>>> [14:02] <papandreou> rnewson: I guess it depends on the use case. If the
>>> database is rarely updated I suppose the current tradeoff is better.
>>> [14:03] <+rnewson> I'm sure the only reason we have ETags at the current
>>> granularity is because it's very quick to calculate. A finer-grain would be
>>> committed if a viable approach was proposed.
>>> [14:04] <papandreou> rnewson: I have a huge database with data belonging
>>> 400000+ different users, and I'm using a view to enable a lookup-by-owner
>>> thing. But every time a single piece of data is inserted, the ETag for the
>>> view changes
>>> [14:04] == case_ []
>>> has quit [Read error: Connection reset by peer]
>>> [14:04] <+rnewson> yes, I've completely understood the problem you stated
>>> earlier.
>>> [14:05] <+rnewson> I can't think of a way to improve this right now but
>>> would spend the time to implement it if you had one.
>>> [14:06] <papandreou> rnewson: So right now the code path that sends a 304
>>> only needs to look at a single piece of metadata for the view to make its
>>> decision? That'll be hard to beat :)
>>> [14:07] <+rnewson> doesn't need to beat it, it just needs to be fast.
>>> [14:07] <+rnewson> but I don't see any current possible solutions, let
>>> alone
>>> fast ones.
>>> [14:07] <papandreou> rnewson: Well, thanks anyway for considering my
>>> suggestion. I'll let you know of I get an idea :)
>>> [14:08] <+rnewson> and it is now per-view and not per-viewgroup. so it's
>>> what I said first before I thought it was silly
>>> [14:08] <+benoitc> query + last seq returned maybe ....
>>> [14:08] <+rnewson> but obviously a change could affect one view in a group
>>> but not others
>>> [14:09] <papandreou> benoitc: The query is already sort of included since
>>> it's in the url.
>>> [14:09] <+rnewson> benoitc: ?
>>> [14:10] <+benoitc> i was meaning last committed seq,but it won't change
>>> anything ...
>>> [14:10] <papandreou> benoitc: I guess you'd also need to make sure that
>>> ETag changes if a document is deleted?
>>> [14:10] <papandreou> ah
>>> [14:10] <+rnewson> benoitc: we already use the update_seq of the #view,
>>> which is finer-grained that db's last committed seq
>>> [14:11] <+benoitc> rnewson: commited seq in the view group but anyway it
>>> won't work
>>> [14:12] <+rnewson> benoitc: right, that would be the pre-1.1.0 behavior,
>>> think.
>>> [14:12] <+rnewson> which is coarser
>>> [14:12] <+rnewson> we simply don't record the info that papandreou's
>>> suggestion would need to work.
>>> [14:12] <+benoitc> papandreou: easier solution would be to request each
>>> time
>>> on on stale view
>>> [14:13] <papandreou> rnewson: Another reason why my suggestion sucks is
>>> that
>>> it would require two traversals of the range, right? I'm guessing it starts
>>> streaming as soon as it has found the first doc now?
>>> [14:13] <+benoitc> and update after, think it would work. except if you
>>> want
>>> something strict
>>> [14:13] <+rnewson> papandreou: yes, we stream the results as we read them,
>>> we don't buffer.
>>> [14:14] <papandreou> benoitc: Hmm, so the theory is that stale=ok would
>>> increase the percentage of 304 responses?
>>> [14:14] <papandreou> rnewson: Right, yes, then it would take a serious
>>> [14:14] <+rnewson> papandreou: but we could add an option that reads the
>>> thing, builds an etag, and then streams the result. it would be slower, but
>>> for the times that we can send 304 we'd save bandwidth. It sounds a bit too
>>> niche to me, but you could raise it on user@
>>> [14:15] == Frippe [~Frippe@unaffiliated/frippe] has quit [Ping timeout:
>>> 240
>>> seconds]
>>> [14:15] <papandreou> rnewson: Would be awesome to have that as a
>>> configuration option
>>> [14:15] <+rnewson> papandreou: the view would not change, so neither would
>>> the ETag (with stale=ok)
>>> [14:15] <+rnewson> papandreou: I think it would be a runtime option
>>> ?slow_etag=true
>>> [14:15] <papandreou> rnewson: That would also be fine
>>> [14:16] <+rnewson> a better solution would not require two passes, though.
>>> [14:16] <+benoitc> papandreou: i would use stale=ok, then query the view
>>> async, save new etag & ...
>>> [14:16] <papandreou> rnewson: I really don't think it's that niche :).
>>> maybe ETag-nerds are rarer than I think, hehe
>>> [14:16] <+benoitc> rnewson: that could encourage pretty dangerous things
>>> [14:16] <+rnewson> benoitc: ?
>>> [14:17] <+benoitc> rnewson: cpu intensives tasks eacht time the call is
>>> done,
>>> [14:17] <+benoitc> rather than encouraging something async
>>> [14:18] <+benoitc> rahh I hate osx, it introduce be bad unicode chars in
>>> vim
>>> :@
>>> [14:23] == Frippe_ has changed nick to Frippe
>>> [14:23] <papandreou> benoitc: I'm not sure exactly how that would work?
>>> working on the backend for a web app, so the requests will be coming from
>>> multiple machines
>>> [14:24] <+benoitc> papandreou: call with stale==ok and have a process
>>> asking
>>> your deb for refresh from time to time
>>> [14:24] <+benoitc> s/deb/view
>>> [14:25] <+rnewson> benoitc: not sure I follow. doubling the number of view
>>> requests to achieve a finer etag is an ok solution, but shouldn't be the
>>> default, but I do think we'd need a better solution than that.
>>> [14:25] <+rnewson> benoitc: and you might be forgetting all the md5
>>> verification we do all the time.
>>> [14:27] <+benoitc> rnewson: you don't need to call each views though
>>> [14:27] <+benoitc> I don't see the arg about last one
>>> [14:27] <papandreou> benoitc: Ah, ok, I understand now. Won't work very
>>> well
>>> for me, though, the web app is a single page thing that only asks for this
>>> particular chunk of data once per session, so the ETag will probably have
>>> changed anyway unless we accept day-old data.
>>> [14:27] <+benoitc> anyway enotime to discuss about that , i'm on
>>> anotherthing
>>> [14:32] <papandreou> rnewson: But next step would be for me to raise the
>>> issue on the user mailing list?
>>> [14:33] <+rnewson> papandreou: on reflection, it's more a dev@ thing, but
>>> yes.
>>> [14:33] <+rnewson> post the suggestion about calculating an etag over the
>>> results and then streaming them, with the caveat that a better solution
>>> should be found.
>>> [14:34] <papandreou> rnewson: Ok, I will, thanks :). Btw. do you think
>>> there's a chance that this will be easier for key=... queries than
>>> arbitrary
>>> startkey=...&endkey=... ones?
>>> [14:35] <+rnewson> papandreou: yes. for key= we could use a bloom filter.
>>> [14:38] <papandreou> rnewson: Man, I've got some reading up to do :).
>>> Thanks! So dev@ it is?
>>> [14:39] <+rnewson> papandreou: yes.
>>> [14:40] <+rnewson> papandreou: 'bloom filter' is just how we handwave
>>> solutions these days, it just sounds vaguely plausible to for the keys=
>>> variant
>>> [14:40] <+rnewson> but doesn't make sense at all for startkey/endkey
>>> [14:40] <+jan____> haha, I'm sitting in an ""HTTP Architecture" session,
>>> and
>>> all the two speakers do is tell the audience how CouchDB gets it all right.
>>> [14:41] <+rnewson> at base, we'd want some cheap way to invalidate a range
>>> of keys in memory.
>>> [14:49] <+jan____> the answer must include bloom filters.

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