DayPath Journal

Entity Framework and JSON.NET

Converting code-first, EF6 Entity models to JSON (with JSON.NET) is more complicated than I expected. First of all, Include() does not behave as I expected (after one level as suggested in “EF 6” or “.include with multiple levels”).

For me, there was no difference between this:

var segments = GetContext().Segments
    .Include(i => i.ChildSegments)
    .Where(i => (i.ParentSegmentId == null) && i.IsActive.HasValue && i.IsActive.Value)
    .OrderBy(i => i.SegmentName);

…and this:

var segments = GetContext().Segments
    .Include(i => i.ChildSegments)
    .Include(i => i.ChildSegments)
    .Where(i => (i.ParentSegmentId == null) && i.IsActive.HasValue && i.IsActive.Value)
    .OrderBy(i => i.SegmentName);

I did not bother run SQL Profiler and dissect the SQL but in both cases there were no “grandchild” segments. (By the way, it’s been a few years so I should help to mention that EF6 over SQL Server still does not support the Nullable extension method GetValueOrDefault(). So, for the example above, we see i.IsActive.HasValue && i.IsActive.Value in place of i.IsActive.GetValueOrDefault().)

So my need for these “grandchild” segments suggests (correctly) that my Segment type has a “parent” Segment. This “self-join” can cause JSON.NET to throw a circular-reference exception and/or an out-of-memory exception (as it travels from parent to children—and children of children). Moreover, the Segment has a Documents collection (where each Document has a Segment—faithfully duplicated by JSON.NET until it runs out of memory!) To address these issues I have this:

var documentSettings = new JsonSerializerSettings
    ContractResolver = new InterfaceContractResolver<IDocument>(),
    PreserveReferencesHandling = PreserveReferencesHandling.None,
    ReferenceLoopHandling = ReferenceLoopHandling.Ignore

What stands out is my InterfaceContractResolver<IDocument>, taking the guidance from Newton-King’s “Serialization using ContractResolver.” I’ve defined this resolver to ‘filter’ my Entity model Document through IDocument (which defines no parent-child relations):

public class InterfaceContractResolver<TInterface> : DefaultContractResolver where TInterface : class
    protected override IList<JsonProperty> CreateProperties(Type type, MemberSerialization memberSerialization)
        IList<JsonProperty> properties = base.CreateProperties(typeof(TInterface), memberSerialization);
        return properties;

This looks straight forward when you want to do something like this:

var rootDocuments = segment.ChildSegments.Select(k =>
    var rootDocument = context.Documents
        .Where(l => l.SegmentId == k.SegmentId)
        .Where(l => l.IsActive.HasValue && l.IsActive.Value)
        .Where(l => l.IsRoot.HasValue && l.IsRoot.Value)

    var documentJson = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(rootDocument, documentSettings);
    return documentJson;

But what I have here is an array of JSON strings—why did I do that? Well, it turns out that I cannot (it could just be me) configure JSON.NET to handle enumerationOfDocuments in this:

var json = JsonConvert.SerializeObject(new
    SegmentId = segment.SegmentId,
    SegmentName = segment.SegmentName,
    SortOrdinal = segment.SortOrdinal,
    CreateDate = segment.CreateDate,
    ParentSegmentId = segment.ParentSegmentId,
    ClientId = segment.ClientId,
    IsActive = segment.IsActive,
    ChildDocuments = enumerationOfDocuments,

Either it is not possible or I do not know how to extend DefaultContractResolver to deal with an object that has an IEnumerable<Document> property that should be ‘filtered’ into IEnumerable<IDocument>.

So I’m resorting to old-fashioned string manipulation tricks to get around this limitation of me—or of JSON.NET.