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Permissions explored, a practical way exists

This is from a discussion about permissions on OpenACS' irc (names changed) that took place sometime circa 2005.

ryan: How do I create a group containing other groups? 
dave: composition_rel 
ryan: For instance, I have 30 admin groups, and instead of adding user A to each one manually, I want to add her to one group, and thus all 30. 
dave: what are you trying to accomplish? 
dave: you can't do that 
ryan: crap. 
dave: it it totally non-intuitive 
dave: here is why :) 
dave: we have the Super Admin group 
dave: wait. dave: no it doesn't work 
ryan: So what is a composition_rel? I thought parties were supposed to be a super-set of groups. 
dave: let me explain :) 
dave: no 
ryan: ok, thanks :) 
dave: here is how it works. 
dave: Super Admin 
dave: then we have admins_a which is a component of super admins 
dave: maybe it can work. 
dave: question is dave: can a group dave: have a composition_rel to more than one other group 
ryan: So what is the definition of a component? 
dave: lets find out. 
dave: a component 
dave: so if Admin A is a component of Super Admin 
dave: then every member of A is a member of Super 
dave: which is NOT what you want. 
dave: you want ever member of super to have permission over all the groups "inside" it right? 
dave: but in this case every member of A would have permission over all the other components etc. 
dave: group are NOT for permissions. 
dave: that is the design weirdness 
ryan: huh? 
ryan: Now I am completely confused. 
dave: you can't use groups the way you want 
ryan: isn't the whole point of groups to avoid permissioning on individual users? 
jim: but you should be able to build a page that asks for a user and puts the user into the 30 groups 
dave: ryan, yes. 
dave: you they don't inherit the way you think 
ryan: so you set permissions on a group with a set of objects, then just add/remove users from the group, right? 
dave: its backwards to what you are thinking. 
dave: yes dave: that works 
dave: perfectly 
jim: so you can get what you want (convenience, non-tedium) but have to do it another way 
dave: but composition_rels dave: behave backwards 
dave: they are not useful for org chart models 
ryan: ah ok. 
dave: but I think it can work 
ryan: What is an application of composition_rels? 
dave: here is what you would do 
dave: if it works 
dave: create all your groups 
dave: Admin A, Admin B etc 
ryan: done. 
dave: then make one group 
dave: and give it a composition rel to all of those groups. 
dave: its upside down. 
dave: then if I am in the one group, i am in all of those other groups 
jim: so you're putting the one group into all the groups 
jim: that should work :) 
dave: yes d
ave: b/c its not _in_ 
dave: its a component. d
ave: i think that will trigger the correct permissions. 
ryan: how do components work in the data model - I want to understand this better. 
dave: well jim: it' dave: then I recommend you 1) read the acs-kenrel sql files 
jim: s a special kind of acs_rel 
dave: 2) run alot fo experiments in psql 
dave: 3) find a bug in the triggers 
dave: :) 
dave: that is how I figured it out. 
dave: sucks huh. 
dave: seriously the comments in the SQL files in acs-kernel are very illuminating. 
dave: also have you read permissions tediously explained? 
ryan: but you're it'll work? ryan: Yes. d
ave: i am not sure it'll work 
dave: but jim: we think it will work r
yan: but I could re-read it a fourth time 
dave: i don't see any rule 
dave: that disallows a group being a component of more than one group 
dave: if there is such a rule, it won't work. 
ryan: but compositions typically extend 'up' the chain of groups? 
dave: yes dave: that is what its for 
dave: so for example 
ryan: what is a practical example? 
dave: I have Main Subsite 
dave: and several other subsites 
dave: wait 
dave: actually this is an example of why it doesn't work :) 
dave: hmmm actually I have to check 
dave: not sure if susbsite groups are components of main subsite or not. 
dave: .... 
ryan: You see, I want to create this super group and then let the client admin the members... 
dave: ok there are no rel_constraints on a default install. so that should be safe. 
dave: yes d
ave: but its really a sub-group 
jim: try it with two groups and another group be a component of both groups... give each of the first two groups two different permissions... put a user into the component group... 
dave: a super group would not work the way you want. 
dave: here i what you do 
jim: see if the user has both perms 
dave: 1) create two groups 
dave: 2) create another group 
dave: 3) make the third group a component of the first two 
dave: 4) add someone to the third group 
dave: 5) check if they are a member of 1 and 2 
dave: for extra credit 
dave: apply a permission to 1 and 2 
dave: check if the members of 3 have permission on those things 
dave: if this works 
jim: 1-4 and the extra credit are what I just sed :) 
dave: i just solved the oldest OpenACS 4 riddle 
joe: As a topical aside, we changed the way we use groups in our subsites for dotcommunity. One for admins and one for members (so we don't use admin_rels). Then we use a composition rel to make admins of top level sites also admins of lower level sites, and to compositions in the opposite direction to make members of lower level sites members of the higher level ones too. 
dave: jim, yes :) 
jim: 5 is a good idea too 
ryan: ok, sounds good. Will test and get back to you. That would be very cool if it could work both ways. Obviously it is important to be able to have groups of groups... 
dave: joie: you could still use admin_rels to do that 
dave: it would work the same way. 
dave: ryan, yes if that works the way I expect it would be cool. 
dave: joie, so is the lower level admin group a component of the higher level admin group? 
joe: The problem with admin rels was that an admin of a subsite became an admin of the supersite, which isnt what we wanted. 
dave: or the other way around? 
dave: joie: yes dave: that is what I just said 
dave: the component rels go the wrong way 
dave: than what you would think intuitively 
dave: although mathematically they work correctly as specified. 
dave: damn PhDs 
dave: basically we need to write high-level functional wrappers over all this crap 
joe: So we have a composition rel going "down" for admins, and "up" for members. So the supersite admin group is a component of the subsite's admin group, and the subsite's members group is a component of the supersites members group. 
dave: so you can just call a tcl proc that tells you what happens (instead of what is does in the database) dave: joie: ah so it _does_ work. that is just what I told ryan-g to do 
dave: we need to write a tcl api to do that that is clear what is happening. 
jim: so members of the subsite become also members of the supersite 
dave: yes dave: which makes sense 
joe: Indeed. Then we frigged the acs-subsite members pages to do the "right thing". 
dave: but then admins of the subsite become admins of the supersite (if you use admin_rels) 
dave: which is why you don't want to do that. 
dave: joie: but you are right 
dave: and openacs is wrong 
dave: except I doubt there is an upgrade script that would work 
dave: damn PhDs 
dave: joie: 
why the hell didn't you tell us this before? :) 
dave: i have been trying to figure that out for 4 years 
joe: We have an upgrade script that does it somewhere. Rob wrote it. 
dave: you rock. 
joe: We weren't sure the new way was "right". 
dave: yeah dave: it is dave: b/c it makes sense dave: well 
dave: except dave: no its right. 
joe: We then got rid of admin_rels completely. 
joe: and only use membership_rels 
dave: b/c everyone expects it to work that way 
dave: yeah see 
dave: the problems is 
dave: all this stuff was experimental 
dave: and no one every finished it jim: you would need to be careful when deleting certain objects 
dave: except you did. 
dave: so now we can say "this is the way its supposed to work' We can say that because that is the way every one has expected it to work, but it never did 
dave: wow 
jim: make sure to remove all rels first then delete 
dave: i am so surprised. 
joe: The code is in the dotCommiunity download on The upgrade scripts aren't there though. 
dave: this is so cool. 
dave: get them! 
dave: :) 
joe: Heh. I'll talk to Rob about it tomorrow, as not sure what he implemented.


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