Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Axis of e-Ville

Having looked at how we can use derived and conditional expressions in our class diagrams, we are now ready to consider a construct so powerful that I shudder to think of what could happen if Iran, North Korea, or Microsoft should get hold of it. In fact, I'm taking a huge risk in revealing it here today. If this is my last post, it's a good bet that I'm in the hands of foreign agents trying to force me into assisting with a diabolical plot involving germs, radiation, and Tomcat 5.5.

Yes, today you are ready to learn about (cue some suitably momentous music) query expressions! Wait! Where are you going? Come back. I'm tellin' ya. Query expressions are some serious mojo!

Let us feel their power together by returning again to our consideration of the Arms4Less online superstore ("where you don't need to spend a lot to destroy a lot"). Sarge explains to us that they don't sell to just anybody. "For the really good stuff, you gotta be somebody we trust -- either somebody we know, or a friend of at least two people we know." We easily capture this notion of who's trusted as follows.

We add a Customer entity with an association, friends, referencing customers who are a customer's friends. We give Customer a boolean attribute, isSomebodyWeKnow, and as well as a derived attribute, isTrusted. The value of isTrusted is derived from the expression:

isSomebodyWeKnow or #friends[isSomebodyWeKnow] >= 2

The []-brackets enclose a selection expression. friends[isSomebodyWeKnow] selects all of the friends of some customer where isSomebodyWeKnow is true. The #-sign is a shorthand for "count". So, we can see that isTrusted will evaluate to true if the customer is somebody we know or if they have at least 2 friends we know.

When next we meet, we'll delve into the notion of query expressions more fully. In the meantime, beware of North Koreans toting pirated UML editors....

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