Tag Archives: Serialize

Seriliasing Interfaces in JSON (or using a JsonConverter in JSON.NET)

Imagine that you have the following interface:

    public interface IProduct
    {
        int Id { get; set; }
        decimal UnitPrice { get; set; }
    }

This is an interface, and so may have a number of implementations; however, we know that every implementation will contain at least 2 fields, and what type they will be. If we wanted to serialise this, we’d probably write something like this:

        private static string SerialiseProduct(IProduct product)
        {
            string json = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(product);
            return json;
        }

If you were to call this from a console app, it would work fine:

        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            IProduct product = new Product()
            {
                Id = 1,
                UnitPrice = 12.3m
            };

            string json = SerialiseProduct(product);
            Console.WriteLine(json);

Okay, so far so good. Now, let’s deserialise:

        private static IProduct DeserialiseProduct(string json)
        {
            IProduct product = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<IProduct>(json);

            return product;
        }

And let’s call it:

        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            IProduct product = new Product()
            {
                Id = 1,
                UnitPrice = 12.3m
            };

            string json = SerialiseProduct(product);
            Console.WriteLine(json);

            IProduct product2 = DeserialiseProduct(json);
            Console.WriteLine(product2.Id);
            
            Console.ReadLine();

        }

So, that runs fine:

Newtonsoft.Json.JsonSerializationException: ‘Could not create an instance of type SerialiseInterfaceJsonNet.IProduct. Type is an interface or abstract class and cannot be instantiated.

No.

Why?

The reason is that you can’t create an interface; for example:

That doesn’t even compile, but effectively, that’s what’s happening behind the scenes.

Converters

Json.Net allows the use of something called a converter. What that means is that I can inject functionality into the deserialisation process that tells Json.Net what to do with this interface. Here’s a possible converter for our class:

    class ProductConverter : JsonConverter
    {
        public override bool CanConvert(Type objectType)
        {
            return (objectType == typeof(IProduct));
        }

        public override object ReadJson(JsonReader reader, Type objectType, object existingValue, JsonSerializer serializer)
        {
            return serializer.Deserialize(reader, typeof(Product));
        }

        public override void WriteJson(JsonWriter writer, object value, JsonSerializer serializer)
        {
            serializer.Serialize(writer, value, typeof(Product));
        }
    }

It’s a relatively simple interface, you tell it how to identify your class, and then how to read and write the Json.

Finally, you just need to tell the converter to use this:

        private static IProduct DeserialiseProduct(string json)
        {
            var settings = new JsonSerializerSettings();
            settings.Converters.Add(new ProductConverter());

            IProduct product = JsonConvert.DeserializeObject<IProduct>(json, settings);

            return product;
        }

By using the settings parameter.

References

http://www.jerriepelser.com/blog/custom-converters-in-json-net-case-study-1/

Serialise and De-Serialise Helpers for ObservableCollection

I recently came across a need to serialise and de-serialise an ObservableCollection from an MVVMCross application. To achieve this, I created a couple of helper methods which I’d like to share.

Both use the MVVM Cross File plug-in.

Serialise

        public static void Serialise<T>(ObservableCollection<T> collection, string fileName)
        {
            var file = Mvx.Resolve<IMvxFileStore>();
            var fileData = file.OpenWrite(fileName);

            DataContractSerializer serializer = new
                        DataContractSerializer(typeof(ObservableCollection<T>));
            serializer.WriteObject(fileData, collection);
            fileData.Flush();
        }

De-serialise

        public static ObservableCollection<T> DeSerialise<T>(string fileName)
        {
            var file = Mvx.Resolve<IMvxFileStore>();
            if (!file.Exists(fileName))
                return null;

            var fileData = file.OpenRead(fileName);
            if (!fileData.CanRead || fileData.Length == 0)
                return null;

            DataContractSerializer serializer = new
                        DataContractSerializer(typeof(ObservableCollection<T>));

            ObservableCollection<T> data = (ObservableCollection<T>)serializer.ReadObject(fileData);
            return data;
        }

The Serialise method can be wrapped in an extension method, too:

        public static void Serialise<T>(this ObservableCollection<T> collection, string fileName)
        {
            Helpers.SerialiseHelper.Serialise(collection, fileName);
        }

Obviously, the `DeSerialise` cannot, as it would change the object that you are extending.

Detecting Recursion – JSON.Net Stack Overflow

Trying to save the game class of a game that I’m working on, I got a Stack Overflow error. I’m using MVVMCross, and my code looked like this:

        public void Save()
        {
            var jsonConv = Mvx.Resolve<IMvxJsonConverter>();
            string text = jsonConv.SerializeObject(this);
            FileHelper.SaveGameFile(text);
        }

The problem was that I got this error:

An unhandled exception of type ‘System.StackOverflowException’ occurred in mscorlib.dll

stackoverflow

I had a pretty good idea why. My game features a large population of “people”. Some of these people relate to each other; for example, they are parents, children, employers, etc. My guess was that I’d somehow messed up the creation routine and ended up with a recursive reference. (As it happened, far from messing it up, I hadn’t considered that a spouse relationship is recursive by definition!)

The Problem

The problem was that I had a starting population of 10,000 people. There are other ways to solve this: representing the reference between the classes as some kind of index, debugging the creation code, etc… However, I wanted to see if I could write a program to detect this.

My test program looks like this:

    class MyData
    {
        public MyData recursiveRef { get; set; }
        public string test { get;set; }
    }

    class Program
    {
        static void Main(string[] args)
        {
            List<MyData> data = new List<MyData>()
            {
                new MyData() {recursiveRef = null, test="non-recursive" },
                new MyData() {recursiveRef = null, test="recursive ref 1" },
                new MyData() {recursiveRef = null, test="recursive ref 2" },
                new MyData() {recursiveRef = null, test="recursive ref 3" },
                new MyData() {recursiveRef = null, test="recursive ref back to 1" }
            };
            data[1].recursiveRef = data[2];
            data[2].recursiveRef = data[3];
            data[3].recursiveRef = data[4];
            data[4].recursiveRef = data[1];

            SerialiseData(data);

            Console.ReadLine();
        }

        private static void SerialiseData(List<MyData> data)
        {
            JsonSerializerSettings settings = new JsonSerializerSettings()
            {
                ReferenceLoopHandling = Newtonsoft.Json.ReferenceLoopHandling.Serialize,
                DateFormatHandling = DateFormatHandling.IsoDateFormat,
            };

            var ser = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(data, Formatting.None, settings);
            Console.Write(ser);
        }

Quickly running this will error with a stack overflow (to clarify, slowly running it will result in the same error!).

Detection Routine

Here’s the functions that I wrote to detect recursion:

        /// Itterate the list and call method CheckElement to analyse each element
        private static bool DetectRecursion<T>(IEnumerable<T> data)
        {
            Type typeT = typeof(T);

            foreach (T element in data)
            {
                if (CheckElement<T>(typeT, element, typeT, element))
                {
                    Console.WriteLine("Recursion found - exiting");
                    Console.ReadLine();
                    return true;
                }
            }

            return false;
        }

        private static List<object> recursionChain;

        /// Method recursively traverses the object to determine if there are any recursove references
        private static bool CheckElement<T>(Type baseType, T baseElement, Type checkType, object checkElement)
        {
            PropertyInfo[] piArr = checkType.GetProperties();
            foreach (PropertyInfo pi in piArr)
            {
                Console.WriteLine("Checking {0}, type {1}", pi.Name, pi.PropertyType);
                if (pi.PropertyType != baseType)
                    continue;

                var val = pi.GetValue(checkElement);
                if (val == null) continue;

                Console.WriteLine("Value for {0} is {1}", pi.Name, val.ToString());

                Type piType = val.GetType();

                if (piType == baseType && val.Equals(baseElement))
                {
                    return true;
                }

                if (CheckRecursionChain(val, piType)) return true;

                if (CheckElement<T>(baseType, baseElement, piType, val))
                {
                    Console.WriteLine("Successfully found recursive element {0}, {1}", piType.ToString(), val.ToString());
                    return true;
                }
            }

            return false;
        }

        /// Check the static recursion chain for a match
        private static bool CheckRecursionChain(object val, Type piType)
        {            
            if (Program.recursionChain != null && Program.recursionChain.Contains(val))
            {
                Console.WriteLine("Successfully found recursive element {0}, {1}", piType.ToString(), val.ToString());
                return true;
            }

            if (Program.recursionChain == null)
                Program.recursionChain = new List<object>();

            Program.recursionChain.Add(val);
            
            return false;
        }

This is, admittedly, not a simple or short piece of code; having said that, it doesn’t do anything complex, once you’re happy with the reflection, the rest is just a recursive tree.

To use this, simply call `DetectRecursion` in the above test program before calling serialize (or instead of).

...
DetectRecursion(data);

//SerialiseData(data);

...