Fine control over method validation in Bean Validation... or not!

I need your feedback on whether or not you need fine controls on method validation.

Some context

Bean Validation 1.1 introduces the idea of method validation. When the method is called, parameters and return value can be validated. The constraints are of course defined as Bean Validation constraint annotations.

I am working on the chapter describing how interceptor technologies like CDI, EJB, Spring, Guice, AspectJ should integrate it.

We have decided to convert most of the recommendations into mandatory rules. In particular, methods annotated with constraints should be validated by the integration technology by default.

Early in the design we have introduced an annotation @MethodValidated that lets you control a few things:

  • which group should be used for validation (defaulting to Default)
  • what part should be validated: parameters, return value, both or none

This annotation made sense when validation was not on by default but I am now questioning its usefulness.

I have a bunch of questions for you. I tried to keep them short and to the point so feel free to answer them one by one. They also go from easy to more convoluted. Are you up for the challenge?

Note that I have added a bonus question in the end.

What's your use case for disabling method validation?

Why would you want to disable method validation on a given method or a given class?

public class UserService {
    @MethodValidated(validationMode=NONE)
    public void createUser(
        @NotEmpty @Email String email,
        @Valid Address address ) {
        ...
    }
}

If you have a use case, would it be fulfilled with the @MethodValidated annotation as described?

What's your use case for changing the default group?

@MethodValidated(groups=Heavy.class) let's you change validation from the Default group to the group of your choice - in this case Heavy.

Provided that we will offer support for group translation when cascading http://beanvalidation.org/proposals/BVAL-208/

public class UserService {
    public void createUser(
        @NotEmpty @Email String email,
        @Valid @ConvertGroup(from=Default.class, to=BasicPostal.class)
        Address address ) {
        ...
    }
}

do we really need the ability do decide which group to use to validate a given method? What would be the use case?

To me it seems that it could makes sense to validate one group over another based on:

  • some environmental consideration say a newbie user has more constraints on how it enters data than an advanced user hence different groups
  • the caller say a branch of the code wants to apply different rules than an other

In both case, it does not make sense to define the group via an annotation on the method to be validated. This would need to be a rather container specific behavior to let people inject the right group for the right context.

When would you want to only validate parameters or return values?

@MethodValidated.validationMode let's you validate both method parameters as well as return value, or either one of them or none at all.

@MethodValidated(validationMode=PARAMETERS)
public class UserService {
    @Valid
    public User createUser(
        @NotEmpty @Email String email,
        @Valid Address address ) {
        ...
    }
}

Do you have a use case in mind for such need?

What inheritance rules make sense for @MethodValidated?

Assuming we have @MethodValidated, we need to define the overriding rules.

We could decide that @MethodValided must be placed on the method to be validated (no overriding rule), or we could try and add some or all of the following rules:

  1. @MethodValidated definitions on a method overrides the ones on a class
  2. @MethodValidated definition on a subclass overrides the ones on superclasses

Here is an example

//example of rule 1
@MethodValidated(validationMode=PARAMETERS)
public class UserService {
    @MethodValidated(validationMode=BOTH)
    @Valid
    public User createUser(
        @NotEmpty @Email String email,
        @Valid Address address ) {
        ...
    }
}

Interfaces make things harder as there would be no magic rule to decide which definition has precedence over another in case of conflict.

We could consider that methods of a class implementing an interface inherit the interface hosted @MethodValidated definition (unless overridden). And in case two interfaces define the same method, overriding the @MethodValidated definition would be mandatory.

I can live with rule 1, I can support rule 2. but I feel that the rules related to interfaces make things quite complex and not especially readable. Plus I don't see why you would want to add @MethodValidated on an interface. Not surprising as I don't see why one would do it on a class method anyways ;)

What do you make of that?

You are a convinced @MethodValidated fan? What about the name?

We have never found a good name for this annotation anyways. If you like and want this annotation, how should it be named?

Yep that's the bonus question, sorry.

Conclusion

I realize that it must look like I am having a @MethodValidated mid-life crisis but better now than later :D