I finally subscribed to Rick Strahl's blog because an inordinate number of my Googling ends up there. It's a little freakish the number of times I've hit his blog and had it solve the exact obscure problem I'm having.

After subscribing and going through some recent posts, I stumbled on his very own Ajax Toolkit. Having had my fill of Ajax libraries of late, I scanned through it and noted it for later reference, paying particular attention to the JSON Serializer, a problem I was trying to tackle at the time. But again, I was kind of averse to frameworks so I moved on.

Fast forward a few hours. I had been fighting with some client-side stuff dealing with a collection of items that I had planned to magically get from the server in JSON form and the time had come to actually implement that. The first attempt was courtesy of Scott Guthrie who outlined how to do it pretty specifically. At the end, he mentions the DataContractJsonSerializer class as a replacement for JavaScriptSerializer and I go about implementing it. Didn't get too far but wouldn't you know it, a Google for implementing DataContractJsonSerializer brings up Rick's blog on the first page and gosh darn if his explanation succeeded where others failed.

But immediately, things start to look funny with the use of DataContractJsonSerializer. All of a sudden I have to start decorating all my domain objects with [DataContract] and [DataMember] attributes. But I started down the path because if I could justify adding attributes for that, it's not so hard to extend the argument to use ActiveRecord which I kind of got excited about because it would make things go that much faster.

So I cut and pasted [DataMember]s until the bovines migrated to the abode and eventually got the sucker writing out a JSON string for my collection as advertised. Then I added an NHibernate mapping to the class...

Until then, I had been playing with everything on the client only and I was dealing with an empty and unpersisted collection of objects. Now it was time to start dealing with persistence so the NHibernate mapping had to be done. It was then that I ran into the problem outlined here. Namely, even when you make the relevant NHibernate types known to the serializer, it still has problems deserializing using DataContractJsonSerializer. And even if it didn't, even someone as loose with attributes as I am has trouble justifying a reference to NHibernate from my domain project strictly so that the sucker can be converted into a string.

At that point, I recalled Rick's West Wind Ajax Toolkit and the JSON Serializer within. And I'm happy to report that it works smashingly. No [DataContract] and [DataMember] attributes. No references to NHibernate from my domain. No workarounds to serialize NHibernate classes. It just plain works. So far at least. Though I'll admit that I had to turn off lazy loading on my object to make it work. A compromise I'm willing to live with for the moment because the collection I'm serializing consists of value objects so there's not much chance of getting too deep into the hierarchy.

And the jury's still out on whether JSON is an easier format to deal with. Yes, it has advantages when dealing with it in client code. But the number of hoops I'm jumping through to get it into that format had better be worth it.

Kyle the Circus Lion