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Full text search module for Ruby on Rails

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README
SodaSearch full text indexing module for Ruby on Rails
Copyright (C) 2006 Networked Knowledge Systems, Inc.

This library is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
modify it under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public
License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either
version 2.1 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This library is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  See the GNU
Lesser General Public License for more details.

You should have received a copy of the GNU Lesser General Public
License along with this library; if not, write to the Free Software
Foundation, Inc., 51 Franklin Street, Fifth Floor, Boston, MA  02110-1301  USA

== Revision History
  - original 7/21/06 by Paul Legato (plegato |at| nks.net)
  - Revised 7/22/06 by Paul Legato (plegato |at| nks.net)

== Overview


Soda Search is a medium-performance full-text indexing system. It is
loosely based on the same principles as Xapian (http://www.xapian.org/).

The system is relatively simple. It consists of two database tables
per class being indexed, plus some ActiveRecord extensions shared by
all classes that use the Indexer.

The database tables are deliberately NOT normalized completely, to
cut back on the computational overhead required to do searches and
updates.

This system is quite useable as it is, but the index format it
provides is also the foundation for a much more robust searching
system. We will eventually implement phrase matching, term weighting, Boolean term
combination, etc. This can all be accomplished with the current index
format; all that needs to be done is modify the searching code.

==Setup

Install this directory into your vendor/plugins/ directory.

The required tables per indexed class are <class>_terms and <class>_indices, where
<class> is the name of your model class.

=== <class>_terms structure:

    id primary key,
    term text not null uniq

    Index on term.


=== <class>_indices structure:

    id primary key,
    term_id int not null FK references <class>_terms(id)
    position int not null,
    owner uuid not null FK references users(id), -- not normal
    public boolean not null default false, -- not normal
    indexee_id uuid not null FK references <class>(id)

    Index on term_id.

You are responsible for creating these tables, and for creating
ActiveRecord classes for them. When you call acts_as_soda_search in
whatever you are indexing, pass these two classes to it.

You must implement two ActiveRecord model classes (one for each newly
created table), and pass the Class objects to acts_as_soda_search:
indices_class and terms_class.

We hope to add a migration generator for these items in the future. If
you would write one and contribute it back to the project, we'd
appreciate it!


== Usage
Read this, and read the comments in acts_as_soda_search.rb. We hope to
have better docs here soon. Please feel free to contribute patches
with improvements to this documentation.

== Consequences of Not Being Normal

The two not-normal fields (owner and public) would normally be
retrieved via a join on <class>_id to the original <class> table, but
we don't do this so that we can avoid touching the <class> table
altogether when we are only interested in searching for things owned
by a certain user, or for things marked public (to implement public
vs. private searches.) The names of the index
tables also encode important data (i.e. which class is being indexed),
for speed.

The flipside is that it is possible for the data here to become
outdated/corrupted if the owner of a <class> instance changes, or if
the public status of an item changes.

Both of these situations can be taken care of by adding triggers on
the referenced table that propagates such updates to the
<class>_indices table. A less painful method, albeit one that does not
ensure integrity at the database level, is to handle this with
ActiveRecord model hooks; such a setup is "wrong" insofar as a
database schema should not allow for the possibility that it even can
become corrupted - it should be impossible to put any situation into
the database that would be corrupt by definition. Database level
triggers do that, AR hooks don't.

ActiveRecord::Base is extended with an index() method. This returns an
Array of terms present in the object in order. How to determine what
terms to include is up to each object.

The ordering (held inherently in the Array at the Ruby level, and
held in the "position" column at the database level) is used so
that when users do searches, terms close together can be given more
weight than terms farther apart. This method will allow quoted exact
phrase searches, once those are implemented in the retrieval code.

ActiveRecord::Base also gets two class methods, reindex() and
search(). 



== Blunt Reindexing

=== Of a whole class:
To reindex a given class, call <class name>.reindex(<type>),
e.g. "Comments.reindex(:all)".

Currently valid types are :all and :unindexed.

:all erases all existing indices and reindexes every record. This can
take a long time if there are a lot of records to be reindexed, and
it will put significant load on the database while this is happening.

:unindexed just indexes records that have no index data stored in the
database. Note that any partially indexed records will NOT be completed by
running :unindexed, since the test is a simple Boolean check.


=== Of one instance of a class:

Instances are provided with an "index()" instance method.

The first argument, what_to_index, is an array. It can be either an
array of strings or of procs. In the string version, the strings are
the text to be indexed.

In the proc version, each proc is called in sequence. It may return
either a String or another Proc (which should return a
String). Currently, only 2 levels of proc nesting are supported --
someday, we'll rewrite it to be infinitely recursive (although Ruby as of
now has tail recursion stack issues.)

The second argument, clear_old, is an optional Boolean that defaults
to false. If set to true, it will erase all entries for the instance
before indexing what_to_index and inserting it. Use this only when the
app is running in single-user mode (i.e. during a maintenance window,
from the console.) If you run it while in multi-user mode, there is a small chance
that there is another thread somewhere which will start a
transaction to insert data into the index after/during the transaction
that clears the old data. This could potentially corrupt the
database through a race condition.

For example, a website user adds a new comment to a thread in a
forum. (Assume that for some reason the thread is indexed as a whole.)
The app code auto-indexes the new message and adds it to the database
in Transaction A. A half-second before that, you start up an index()
on the thread with :clear_old == true, initiating Transaction B. B is
given the contents of the message as its first argument, which was
created before A committed.  It deletes the old data from the index
and writes new index data for the messages it knows about, which do
not include the page added in A. The new index will thus not include
any data from A.

There may be other scenarios. We can abate this through locking at
either the database or app level. Serialized transactions would work
too, but the app must know to retry them. This is still a TODO. For
now, only do :clear_old == true in a maintenance window, or risk doom.

See also http://www.postgresql.org/docs/8.1/static/mvcc.html for more
information.


== Advanced Reindexing

Suppose that part of a large indexed object changes; for example, one
message in a thread which is indexed as a whole is changed. We have
added a subsource_url text field to the index, so that individual
chunks of index data can be referenced independently of one another according
to whatever scheme makes sense in your case.
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