What's New in RDF.rb 0.3.0

2010/12/30 by Arto

It has now been nine months since the initial public release of RDF.rb, our RDF library for Ruby, and today we're happy to announce the release of RDF.rb 0.3.0, a significant milestone.

As the changelog attests, this has been a long release cycle that incorporates 170 commits by 6 different authors. The major new features include transactions and basic graph pattern (BGP) queries, as well as the availability of robust and fast parser/serializer plugins for the RDFa, Notation3, Turtle, and RDF/XML formats, complementing other already previously supported formats. In addition, many bugs have been fixed and general improvements, including significant performance improvements, implemented.

RDF.rb 0.3.0 is immediately available via RubyGems, and can be installed or upgraded to as follows on any Unix box with Ruby and RubyGems:

$ [sudo] gem install rdf

In all the code examples that follow below, we will assume that RDF.rb and the built-in N-Triples parser have already been loaded up like so:

require 'rdf'
require 'rdf/ntriples'

# Enable facile references to standard vocabularies:
include RDF

RDFa, N3, Turtle, and RDF/XML Support

While RDF.rb 0.3.0 continues with our minimalist policy of only supporting the N-Triples serialization format in the core library itself, support for every widely-used RDF serialization format is now available in the form of plugins.

Thanks to the hard work of Gregg Kellogg, the author of RdfContext, there are now RDF.rb 0.3.0-compatible plugins available for the RDFa, Notation3, Turtle, and RDF/XML formats, complementing the already previously-available plugins for the RDF/JSON and TriX formats. See Gregg's blog post for more details on the particulars of these plugins.

We are also pleased to announce that Gregg has joined the RDF.rb core development team, which now consists of him, Ben Lavender, and myself. This merger between the RDF.rb and RdfContext efforts is a perfect match, given that Ben and I have been focused more on storing and querying RDF data while Gregg has been busy single-handedly solving all RDF serialization questions.

To facilitate typical Linked Data use cases, we now also provide a metadistribution of RDF.rb that includes a full set of parsing/serialization plugins; the following will install all of the rdf, rdf-isomorphic, rdf-json, rdf-n3, rdf-rdfa, rdf-rdfxml, and rdf-trix gems in one go:

$ [sudo] gem install linkeddata

Similarly, instead of loading up support for each RDF serialization format one at a time, you can simply use the following to load them all; this is helpful e.g. for the automatic selection of an appropriate parser plugin given a particular file name or extension:

require 'linkeddata'

For a tutorial introduction to RDF.rb's reader and writer APIs, please refer to my previous blog post Parsing and Serializing RDF Data with Ruby.

Query API: Basic Graph Patterns (BGPs)

The query API in RDF.rb 0.3.0 now includes basic graph pattern (BGP) support, which has been a much-requested feature. BGP queries will already be a familiar concept to anyone using SPARQL, and in RDF.rb they are constructed and executed like this:

# Load some RDF.rb project information into an in-memory graph:
graph = RDF::Graph.load("http://rdf.rubyforge.org/doap.nt")

# Construct a BGP query for obtaining developers' names and e-mails:
query = RDF::Query.new({
  :person => {
    RDF.type  => FOAF.Person,
    FOAF.name => :name,
    FOAF.mbox => :email,

# Execute the query on our in-memory graph, printing out solutions:
query.execute(graph).each do |solution|
  puts "name=#{solution.name} email=#{solution.email}"

Executing a BGP query returns a solution sequence, encapsulated as an instance of the RDF::Query::Solutions class. Solution sequences provide a number of convenient methods for further narrowing down the returned solutions to what you're actually looking for:

# Filter solutions using a hash:
solutions.filter(:author  => RDF::URI("http://ar.to/#self"))
solutions.filter(:author  => "Arto Bendiken")
solutions.filter(:updated => RDF::Literal(Date.today))

# Filter solutions using a block:
solutions.filter { |solution| solution.author.literal? }
solutions.filter { |solution| solution.title =~ /^SPARQL/ }
solutions.filter { |solution| solution.price < 30.5 }
solutions.filter { |solution| solution.bound?(:date) }
solutions.filter { |solution| solution.age.datatype == XSD.integer }
solutions.filter { |solution| solution.name.language == :es }

# Reorder solutions based on a variable:
solutions.order_by(:updated, :created)

# Select particular variables only:
solutions.select(:title, :description)

# Eliminate duplicate solutions:

# Limit the number of solutions:

# Count the number of matching solutions:
solutions.count { |solution| solution.price < 30.5 }

BGP-capable storage adapters should override and implement the following RDF::Queryable method in order to provide storage-specific optimizations for BGP query evaluation:

class MyRepository < RDF::Repository
  def query_execute(query, &block)
    # ...

Repository API: Transactions

The repository API in RDF.rb 0.3.0 now includes basic transaction support:

# Load some RDF.rb project information into an in-memory repository:
repository = RDF::Repository.load("http://rdf.rubyforge.org/doap.nt")

# Delete one statement and insert another, atomically:
repository.transaction do |tx|
  subject = RDF::URI('http://rubygems.org/gems/rdf')

  tx.delete [subject, DOAP.name, nil]
  tx.insert [subject, DOAP.name, "RDF.rb 0.3.0"]

As you would expect, if the transaction block raises an exception, the current transaction will be aborted and rolled back; otherwise, the transaction is automatically committed when the block returns.

Transaction-capable storage adapters should override and implement the following three RDF::Repository methods:

class MyRepository < RDF::Repository
  def begin_transaction(context)
    # ...

  def rollback_transaction(tx)
    # ...

  def commit_transaction(tx)
    # ...

The RDF::Transaction objects passed to these methods consist of a sequence of RDF statements to delete from, and a sequence of RDF statements to insert into, a given graph. The default transaction implementation in RDF::Repository simply builds up a transaction object in memory, buffering all inserts/deletes until the transaction is committed, at which point the operations are then executed against the repository.

Note that whether transactions are actually executed atomically depends on the particulars of the storage adapter you're using. For instance, the RDF::DataObjects plugin, which provides a storage adapter supporting SQLite, PostgreSQL, MySQL, and other RDBMS solutions, will certainly be able to offer ACID transaction support (albeit it has not been updated for that, or other 0.3.x features, just yet.)

On the other hand, not e.g. all NoSQL solutions support transactions, so storage adapters for such solutions may choose to omit explicit transaction support and have it supplied by RDF.rb's default implementation.

Performance & Scalability Improvements

In earlier RDF.rb releases, our focus was strongly centered on defining the core APIs that have enabled the thriving plugin ecosystem we can witness today. The focus was not so much, therefore, on the performance of the bundled default implementations of those APIs; in some cases, these implementations could have been described as being of only proof-of-concept quality.

In particular, the in-memory graph and repository implementations were suboptimal in RDF.rb 0.1.x, and only somewhat improved in 0.2.x. However, reflecting the increasing production-readiness of RDF.rb in general, matters have been much improved in RDF.rb 0.3.0.

Of course, performance improvements are an open-ended task, and I'm sure we'll see more work on this front in the future as need arises and time permits. But it's likely that RDF.rb 0.3.0 now offers a sufficient out-of-the-box performance level for many if not most common use cases.

Scalability has also been addressed by making use of enumerators throughout the APIs defined by RDF.rb. That means that all operations are generally performed in a streaming fashion, enabling you to build pipelines for hundreds of millions of RDF statements to flow through while still maintaining constant memory usage by ensuring that the statements are processed one by one.

RSpec 2.x Compatibility

Lastly, RDF.rb 0.3.0 has been upgraded to use and depend on RSpec 2.x instead of the previous 1.3.x branch. This requires minor changes to the spec/spec_helper.rb file in any project that relies on the RDF::Spec library. The most minimal spec_helper.rb contents are now as follows:

require 'rdf/spec'

RSpec.configure do |config|
  config.include RDF::Spec::Matchers

Kudos to Our Contributors

In tandem with the soon 10,000 downloads of RDF.rb on RubyGems.org, a very positive sign of all the interest and ongoing work around RDF.rb is our growing contributor list. We thank everyone who has sent in bug reports, and in particular the following people who have contributed patches to RDF.rb and/or an RDF.rb plugin; in alphabetical order:

C─âlin Ardelean, Christoph Badura, John Fieber, Joey Geiger, James Hetherington, Gabriel Horner, Nicholas Humfrey, Fumihiro Kato, David Nielsen, Thamaraiselvan Poomalai, Keita Urashima, Pius Uzamere, and Hellekin O. Wolf.

(My apologies if I have inadvertently omitted anyone from the previous, and please let me know about it.)

Looking Forward to Hearing From You

As always, if you have feedback regarding RDF.rb please contact us either privately or via the public-rdf-ruby@w3.org mailing list. Plain and simple bug reports, however, should more preferably go directly to the issue queue on GitHub.

Be sure to follow @datagraph, @bendiken, @bhuga, and @gkellogg on Twitter for the latest updates on RDF.rb as they happen.

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