GeoJSON is a powerful standard for expressing points, lines, polygons, and other shapes on a map. Node.js has particularly good support for geospatial analysis with GeoJSON because of the turf library. GeoJSON objects are deeply nested objects. For example, below is a polygon that roughly approximates the state of Colorado.

{
  "type": "Polygon",
  "coordinates": [[
    [-109, 41],
    [-102, 41],
    [-102, 37],
    [-109, 37],
    [-109, 41]
  ]]
}

Here's what this polygon looks like on a map. Click on the map for an interactive view.

However, to plug this GeoJSON polygon into the map builder at GeoJSON.io you'll want to use a GeoJSON FeatureCollection, which is an even more complex JSON object.

{
  "type": "FeatureCollection",
  "features": [
    {
      "type": "Feature",
      "properties": {},
      "geometry": {
        "type": "Polygon",
        "coordinates": [[
          [-109, 41],
          [-102, 41],
          [-102, 37],
          [-109, 37],
          [-109, 41]
        ]]
      }
    }
  ]
}

The hard part of GeoJSON is wrestling with how deeply nested the types are. Some tools, like turf, mostly accept GeoJSON Features and FeatureCollections as input. Other tools, like MongoDB's built-in geospatial queries, don't support Features or FeatureCollections at all.

Validating GeoJSON coming in over an HTTP API was one of the major reasons why we wrote Archetype. Building GeoJSON types for JSON schema or joi seemed like trying to paint the Mona Lisa with a rotting fish. Here's how GeoJSON casting and validation works in Archetype.

Coordinates and Polygons

Here's how a GeoJSON polygon would look in Archetype:

const Archetype = require('archetype');
const assert = require('assert');

const PolygonType = new Archetype({
  type: {
    $type: 'string',
    $required: true,
    // `type` must always be polygon, and will be set by default if not set
    $default: 'Polygon',
    $enum: ['Polygon']
  },
  coordinates: {
    $type: [[['number']]],
    $required: true,
    $validate: polygon => {
      // Throw an error if a coordinate pair doesn't have length 2
      polygon.forEach(ring => {
        ring.forEach(coordinatePair => {
          assert.equal(coordinatePair.length, 2,
            `${coordinatePair} must have length 2`)
        });
      });
    }
  }
}).compile('Polygon');

Archetype will attach a default type of 'Polygon' and automatically convert strings into numbers for you if you accidentally pass a number in the coordinates array. Note that Archetype will not accept NaN as a number, so if one of the coordinates is something that can't resolve to a number, Archetype will throw an error.

console.log(new PolygonType({
  // Will automatically add a `type` property with value `Polygon`
  coordinates: [[
    ['-109', 41], // Archetype will also coerce strings into numbers
    [-102, 41],
    [-102, 37],
    [-109, 37],
    [-109, '41']
  ]]
}));

Incorrectly formatted coordinates or an incorrect type will throw an error:

// Error: coordinates.0.0.1: Could not cast "not a number" to number,
// type: Value "MultiPolygon" invalid, allowed values are "[ 'Polygon' ]"
new PolygonType({
  type: 'MultiPolygon',
  coordinates: [[
    [-109, 'not a number'], // <- Error, not a number
    [-102, 41],
    [-102, 37],
    [-109, 37],
    [-109, 41]
  ]]
});

Archetype throws errors rather than returning errors, so new PolygonType({}) will throw an error because coordinates must be set and has no $default. This is for easier integration with async/await so you don't have to put if (err) { return err; } lines everywhere. Leave Go programmers to struggle with that sadistic anti-pattern. In server-side JavaScript, we consolidate error handling and shun rote boilerplate like that.

Features and Type Composition

Archetype has 3 key design tenants: it is designed to be composable, inspectable, and extendable. The "composable" principle is reflected in Archetype's custom types API, in that you can build up archetypes from smaller archetypes. For example, let's say you wanted to build a PolygonFeatureType that represents a GeoJSON Feature that contains a polygon. You can reuse the existing PolygonType:

const PolygonFeatureType = new Archetype({
  type: {
    $type: 'string',
    $required: true,
    // Must always be 'Feature'
    $default: 'Feature',
    $enum: ['Feature']
  },
  properties: {
    // `$type: Object` means `properties` is an arbitrary object. No casting
    // or validation is done on its properties.
    $type: Object,
    // `$default` can also be a function
    $default: () => ({}),
    $required: true
  },
  geometry: {
    // Perfectly valid. This is what we mean by "composable": an archetype
    // can contain properties whose values must conform to a different archetype.
    $type: PolygonType,
    $required: true
  }
}).compile('PolygonFeatureType');

Better yet, you can use a helper function to generate Feature types for the various GeoJSON types:

  • Point
  • LineString
  • Polygon
  • MultiPolygon
  • MultiLineString
const Feature = GeoJSONType => new Archetype({
  type: {
    $type: 'string',
    $required: true,
    // Must always be 'Feature'
    $default: 'Feature',
    $enum: ['Feature']
  },
  properties: {
    // `$type: Object` means `properties` is an arbitrary object. No casting
    // or validation is done on its properties.
    $type: Object,
    // `$default` can also be a function
    $default: () => ({}),
    $required: true
  },
  geometry: {
    // Perfectly valid. This is what we mean by "composable": an archetype
    // can contain properties whose values must conform to a different archetype.
    $type: GeoJSONType,
    $required: true
  }
}).compile(`Feature<${GeoJSONType.name}`);

Here's how you use the above Feature() function:

const FeaturePolygonType = Feature(PolygonType);

console.log(require('util').inspect(new FeaturePolygonType({
  geometry: {
    coordinates: [[
      [-109, 41],
      [-102, 41],
      [-102, 37],
      [-109, 37],
      [-109, 41]
    ]]
  }
}), { depth: 10 }));

The output looks like this:

Feature<Polygon> {
  geometry:
   Polygon {
     coordinates:
      [ [ [ -109, 41 ],
          [ -102, 41 ],
          [ -102, 37 ],
          [ -109, 37 ],
          [ -109, 41 ] ] ],
     type: 'Polygon' },
  type: 'Feature',
  properties: {} }

You can think of this Feature() function as generics for runtime type casting. The difference is, of course, generics are only for static type checking, whereas archetype is about runtime casting of potentially unsafe data.

Moving On

Archetype has been casting every API call for us for the last year. Time and again, its proven to be head and shoulders above every other Node.js validation library because of its principled expressiveness. Follow Archetype on Twitter for updates!

Found a typo or error? Open up a pull request! This post is available as markdown on Github
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