Fritz Grabo / Posts (RSS) / About

Introducing ob-dsq
Published 2022-04-10

Problem Statement

In my job, I'm part of a team that writes, and operates software. The operating part, more so than the writing one, involves working with sets of related data that exist in a variety of places and in a variety of formats: there are SQL databases, JSON files, CSV reports, the occasional spreadsheet, data fetched from online APIs, and many more.

Sometimes, if the usefulness justifies the effort, I manually create a handful of tables in an SQLite database, write a little code to extract data from various disparate sources into CSV files and then import those files into the database so I can run SQL queries against them.

As I research the data, I copy query results and my related notes into the Org mode file I use to document my work.

This gets the job done, but from a workflow perspective, (a) the manual setup of the database as well as (b) the back and forth between SQLite and Org mode are less than perfect.

Off to a great start with dsq

Some weeks ago, the newsletter featured dsq by Multiprocess Labs: a command line tool that allows for running SQL queries against multiple files of a growing number of supported types as database tables and for joining between them.

Oh wow, how cool is that!

$ cat scores.json
[{"name":"Fritz", "score":12},
{"name":"Elisabeth", "score":99},
{"name":"Noah", "score":8},
{"name":"Sarah", "score":5},
{"name":"Rainer", "score":9}]

$ dsq scores.json "SELECT name FROM {} WHERE score > 10"

I highly recommend checking out its introductory blog posts for an in-depth description of dsq's many features.

So that takes care of half the problem, right?

But wait, there's more!

Inspired by its usefulness and the ease of use, I wrote the ob-dsq Emacs package that integrates dsq with Org mode's Babel system for literate programming and reproducible research.

ob-dsq provides the expected wrapper around the dsq command line tool with the usual customization options around the presentation of the results, and, much more importantly, it allows for using Org references as data sources and in variable expansion.

That's a mouthful, so here's a demonstration to illustrate: continuing the scores.json example from above, consider this regular Org table called "Flags". (Elisabeth's high score looks kind of suspicious, right?)

#+name: Flags
| name      | value |
| Fritz     |       |
| Elisabeth | t     |
| Noah      |       |
| Sarah     |       |
| Rainer    |       |

Let's SQL JOIN this table with scores.json and query for the top three unflagged players, by score.

#+name: Top-3-Players
#+begin_src dsq :input scores.json Flags
SELECT, scores.score
FROM {0} scores
INNER JOIN {1} flags ON =
WHERE flags.value != 't'
ORDER BY scores.score DESC

#+RESULTS: Top-3-Players
| name   | score |
| Fritz  |    12 |
| Rainer |     9 |
| Noah   |     8 |

Note how both scores.json and the "Flags" table are listed as input arguments here without much fanfare: if ob-dsq detects an Org reference in its list of inputs, it silently exports that data to a temporary file and passes it to dsq.

Note also that "Flags" doesn't necessarily need to be an Org table. It could also be an Org example, an Org quote, a plain Org list, or, the most powerful option, an Org source block that evaluates to a list, tabular data, or anything else that dsq can handle.

The possibilities are seemingly endless here: you could do a shell script to grab pod details off of your Kubernetes cluster with kubectl get pods -o json, fetch data from an online API using the ob-restclient package, or use any one of the dozens of available Org Babel integrations.

While we're at it, let's use Org source blocks to illustrate Org Babel's variable expansion feature, which ob-dsq supports: consider this Org source block called "Disqualified-Players" that dynamically generates a list of names.

#+name: Disqualified-Players
#+begin_src elisp
(list "Fritz" "Rainer")

Let's inject this list of names into the SQL query using variable expansion in order to filter out disqualified players.

#+name: Winner
#+begin_src dsq :input scores.json Flags :var names=Disqualified-Players
FROM {0} scores
INNER JOIN {1} flags ON =
WHERE flags.value != 't' AND NOT IN ($names)
ORDER BY scores.score DESC

#+RESULTS: Winner
| name |
| Noah |

Neat; Congrats, Noah!

Closing thoughts

This post gave a whirl-wind tour of ob-dsq – if you're interested in trying it out yourself, check out the examples in its repo for a more detailed list of features.

Shoutout and much love to Multiprocess Labs, the creators of dsq and its awesome sibling product, DataStation.

Finally, if you find any of this useful or have ideas on how to make it better, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks!

Published 2022-04-10, last modified 2022-05-10.

All original content is licensed under a custom license.