Building a Custom Jackson Deserializer

A partner recently provided a useful HTTP-based API for me at short notice.

The API returned simple JSON representations of the current state of various events they had periodically ingested from our REST APIs.

A decision they made was to use "yes"/"no" values in the response, rather than booleans e.g.

  "exists": "yes",
  "has_ended": "no"

I had written a Spring Social-based API client to interact with their API but wanted to deserialize their API response representation into a POJO that followed Java convention.

Jackson is a great Java library for processing JSON data format. It’s quite straightforward to use it to solve a problem like the above with a custom JsonDeserializer.

Planning out the solution, there were a couple of things I wanted to incorporate:

  • the deserializer should be case-insensitive
  • a null value in the JSON document should be treated as false (due to autoboxing considerations around Java’s primitive (boolean) and Object-based Boolean representations)
  • an exception should be thrown if something other than "yes" or "no" was provided

Sketching out the JUnit test class, I needed a static inner class to represent the POJO that Jackson would deserialize to, an ObjectMapper to deserialize a sample JSON document, and test cases for the above conditions.

For the field that will use the custom deserializer, the @JsonDeserialize annotation is added, with the using parameter pointing at our implementation class.

For the implementation, we must override the JsonDeserializer.deserialize(JsonParser jp, DeserializationContext ctxt) method.

If Jackson has identified the field value token currently being deserialized as a String, it is case-insensitively checked for either a "yes" or "no" value, throwing a JsonMappingException with an explaination through the DeserializationContext.weirdStringException(String value, Class<?> instClass, String msg) method if an unsupported String value is received instead.

As Java supports both the primitive boolean and the Object Boolean, and can autobox between them, null values will be interpreted as false. To do this, JsonDeserializer.getNullValue() is overridden and returns Boolean.FALSE. Then within the deserialize method, the current token is checked if it is a JsonToken.VALUE_NULL and the getNullValue() method is called if it is.

Finally, an exception is thrown if the token is of any other type.