Building Nested Hashes Lab

Objectives

  1. Build a nested hash.
  2. Access and manipulate data in nested hashes.

Code Along Challenge: Epic Tragedy

You're 16 years old and back in high school English class. Luckily for us, our teacher is kind of lazy and we get to watch the Romeo and Juliet movie from the '90s starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes.

But there's a Romeo and Juliet quiz our teacher has scheduled for us that we need to get ready for. We will definitely be required to answer some questions on the cast of characters and their attributes and relationships to one another. Let's map out that information:

What we have here is a nested data structure. There are different levels or tiers of information. On the top tier, we have the family names. Beneath that we have key characters, and beneath that we have their attributes. We have an additional layer of the hero/heroine's friends because there are multiple friends. Now that we have a sense of the structure that our collection of information is taking, we're going to build a nested hash that displays it in the same nested way. Our end result will look like this:


epic_tragedy = {
  :montague => {
    :patriarch => {  
      :name => "Lord Montague",
      :age => "53"
  },
    :matriarch => {
      :name => "Lady Montague",
      :age => "54"
  },
    :hero => {
      :name => "Romeo",
      :age => "15"
  },
    :hero_friends => [
      {
         :name => "Benvolio",
         :age => "17",
         :attitude => "worried"
      },
      {
        :name => "Mercutio",
        :age => "18",
        :attitude => "hot-headed"
      }
    ]
  },
  :capulet => {
    :patriarch => {
      :name => "Lord Capulet",
      :age => "50"
    },
    :matriarch => {
      :name => "Lady Capulet",
      :age => "51"
    },
    :heroine => {
      :name => "Juliet",
      :age => "15",
      :status => "alive"
    },
    :heroine_friends=> [
      {
        :name => "Steven",
        :age => "30",
        :attitude => "confused"
      },
      {
        :name => "Nurse",
        :age => "44",
        :attitude => "worried"
      }
    ]
  }
}

Notes:

  • You might notice that we are storing ages as strings. That is because the ages here are not numbers that we need to frequently do math with. If a hash value was a number that we needed to manipulate, then we would store it as an integer. For example, if it was the price of an item that we need to calculate the tax on, then the price would be stored as an integer. Otherwise, it is conventional to store information like a person's age as a string.
  • Remember that the key: value syntax is the same as the :key => value syntax used above. Get ready to see them both used in different applications and sources.

Instructions

This is a complicated data structure, so we're going to build it up one step at a time. In the upcoming code along challenge, we'll be stepping through the lab, one test at a time. Start by forking and cloning this lab. Then follow along with the walk-through below.

Code Along Challenge I: Family Names

In lib/first_challenge.rb, you're going to fill out the content of the epic_tragedy hash. The first level of our nested hash are the keys for the family names, "Montague" and "Capulet". We've made them symbols above, because symbols make better hash keys than strings.

  • Set the epic_tragedy variable equal to a hash with two key/value pairs. The keys should be symbols of the family names (:montague and :capulet) and the values should be empty hashes.

At this point, we have a hash that looks like this:

epic_tragedy = {
  :montague => {},
  :capulet => {}
}

Now it's time to fill out the second level of our hash—the collection of data that constitutes the value hashes of each family name key.

Code Along Challenge II: Character Roles

In lib/second_challenge.rb, you'll find the hash you built in the previous challenge.

Fill out the empty hash that is the value of the :montague key. There are four keys in this hash:

  • :patriarch
  • :matriarch
  • :hero
  • :hero_friends

The first three of these keys point to a value of an empty hash. The fourth key :hero_friends has a value of an empty array.

Then, do the same for the empty hash that is the value of the :capulet key. This time, your keys are:

  • :patriarch
  • :matriarch
  • :heroine
  • :heroine_friends

The values are the same as described above. Once you get this test passing, you should have a hash that looks like this:

epic_tragedy = {
   :montague => {
      :patriarch => {},
      :matriarch => {},
      :hero => {},
      :hero_friends => []
   },
   :capulet => {
      :patriarch => {},
      :matriarch => {},
      :heroine => {},
      :heroine_friends => []
   }
}

Now we're ready to fill out the empty hashes that constitute the values for the :patriarch, :matriarch and :hero/:heroine keys, nested inside the family name keys of our epic epic_tragedy hash.

Code Along Challenge III: Character Attributes

According to the diagram that we saw at the very beginning of this exercise, each character has a set of attributes. Matriarch and Patriarchs have a name and an age. The hero and heroine each have a name, age and a status.

In lib/third_challenge, you'll find the hash that you built in the previous challenge. Fill out the empty hashes that are the values of the :patriarch, :matriarch, and :hero/:heroine keys with the following key/value pairs.

  • The Montague :patriarch has
    • a :name of "Lord Montague" and
    • an :age of "53".
  • The Montague :matriarch has
    • a :name of "Lady Montague" and
    • an :age of "54".
  • The Montague :hero has
    • a :name of "Romeo",
    • an :age of "15", and
    • a :status of "alive".
  • The Capulet :patriarch has
    • a :name of "Lord Capulet" and
    • an :age of "50".
  • The Capulet :matriarch has
    • a :name of "Lady Capulet" and
    • an :age of "51".
  • The Capulet :heroine has
    • a :name of "Juliet",
    • an :age of "15", and
    • a :status of "alive".

Once you get this test passing, you should have the following hash:

epic_tragedy = {
   :montague => {
      :patriarch => {name: "Lord Montague", age: "53"},
      :matriarch => {name: "Lady Montague", age: "54"},
      :hero => {name: "Romeo", age: "15", status: "alive"},
      :hero_friends => []
   },
   :capulet => {
      :patriarch => {name: "Lord Capulet", age: "50"},
      :matriarch => {name: "Lady Capulet", age: "51"},
      :heroine => {name: "Juliet", age: "15", status: "alive"},
      :heroine_friends => []
   }
}

We're almost done. Our hero and heroine have two friends each. That constitutes a collection of friends. Since they each have a collection of friends, it makes sense to collect those friends in an array. Since each friend will have his or her own attributes (name, age, etc), our array will be an array of hashes!

Code Along Challenge IV: Nesting Friends and Attributes

The values of the :hero_friends and :heroine_friends keys currently point to empty arrays. Why arrays? Well, we know that an individual person can be represented by a hash. However, our hero and heroine have multiple friends. So, we need a way to store their friends in list-form. Luckily for us, that's just what arrays are for. Before introducing the concept of hashes, if we told you to make a list of friends what data structure would you reach for? You'd reach for an array!

Fill out these empty arrays with a series of hashes that will contain key/value pairs describing these friends.

The hero's two friends are Benvolio and Mercutio. So, the :hero_friends array will contain two hashes. Each of these two hashes have the following three keys:

  • :name
  • :age
  • :attitude

The hero's first friend has

  • a name of "Benvolio",
  • an age of "17", and
  • an attitude of "worried".

The hero's second friend has

  • a name of "Mercutio",
  • an age of "18", and
  • an attitude of "hot-headed".

The heroine's two friends are Steven and Nurse. So, the :heroine_friends array will contain two hashes. Each of these two hashes have the following three keys:

  • :name
  • :age
  • :attitude

The heroine's first friend has

  • a name of "Steven",
  • an age of "30", and
  • an attitude of "confused".

The heroine's second friend has

  • a name of "Nurse",
  • an age of "44", and
  • an attitude of "worried".

Once you get this test passing, your hash should look like this:

epic_tragedy = {
   :montague => {
      :patriarch => {name: "Lord Montague", age: "53"},
      :matriarch => {name: "Lady Montague", age: "54"},
      :hero => {name: "Romeo", age: "15", status: "alive"},
      :hero_friends => [
         {name: "Benvolio", age: "17", attitude: "worried"},
         {name: "Mercutio", age: "18", attitude: "hot-headed"}
      ]
   },
   :capulet => {
      :patriarch => {name: "Lord Capulet", age: "50"},
      :matriarch => {name: "Lady Capulet", age: "51"},
      :heroine => {name: "Juliet", age: "15", status: "alive"},
      :heroine_friends => [
          {name: "Steven", age: "30", attitude: "confused"},
          {name: "Nurse", age: "44", attitude: "worried"}
      ]
   }
}

Bonus: Manipulating the Hash

In the previous lesson we learned that you can access a value in a hash like this:

hash = {first: "first value!", second: "second value!"}

hash[:first]
#  => "first value!"

To access the values in our nested hash, we simply tack on additional keys, until we have the last key that points to the value we want to access.

For example, to access the Montague patriarch's name, I use the hash name, epic_tragedy, followed by a chained list of all of the key names that precede the value of his name, enclosed in brackets:

epic_tragedy[:montague][:patriarch][:name]
#  => "Lord Montague"

We can even use this method to change the value of a particular key. If we wanted to reset the Montague patriarch's name to "Michael Jordan", we would do it in the following way:

epic_tragedy[:montague][:patriarch][:name] = "Michael Jordan"

puts epic_tragedy

#  =>
{
   :montague => {
      :patriarch => {name: "Michael Jordan", age: "53"},
      :matriarch => {name: "Lady Montague", age: "54"},
      :hero => {name: "Romeo", age: "15", status: "alive"},
      :hero_friends => [
        {name: "Benvolio", age: "17", attitude: "worried"},
        {name: "Mercutio", age: "18", attitude: "hot-headed"}
      ]
   },
   :capulet => {
      :patriarch => {name: "Lord Capulet", age: "50"},
      :matriarch => {name: "Lady Capulet", age: "51"},
      :heroine => {name: "Juliet", age: "15", status: "alive"},
      :heroine_friends => [
        {name: "Steven", age: "30", attitude: "confused"},
        {name: "Nurse", age: "44", attitude: "worried"}
      ]
   }
}

Bonus Code Along Challenge

In lib/bonus.rb you'll see our completed epic_tragedy hash. We're coming to the end of the epic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. At this point in the story, Romeo and Juliet are—as in every good tragedy—quite dead. Use the above method to change the status of our hero Romeo and our heroine Juliet from "alive" to "dead". These are bonus and if you're feeling comfortable with Hashes, feel free to move forward. Also, to enable these tests make sure to remove the x in front of the it block in spec/bonus_spec.rb.

View Code Along Exercise: Building Nested Hashes on Learn.co and start learning to code for free.

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