JSON schemas

Message bodies are JSON objects, that adhere to a schema. Message schemas live in their own Python package, so they can be installed on the producer and on the consumer.

In Fedora Messaging, we follow the JSON Schema standard, and use the jsonschema library.

Creating the schema package

Copy the docs/sample_schema_package/ directory from the fedora-messaging git clone to your app directory.

Edit the setup.py file to change the package metadata. Rename the mailman_schema directory to something relevant to your app, like yourapp_message_schemas. There is no naming convention at the moment. Edit the README file too.

Writing the schema

JSON objects are converted to dictionaries in Python. Writing a JSON schema with the jsonschema library means writing a Python dictionary that will describe the message’s JSON object body. Read up on the jsonschema library documentation if you have questions about the format.

Open the schema.py file, it contains an example schema for Mailman-originating messages on the bus. The schema is a Python class containing an important dictionary attribute: body_schema. This is where the JSON schema lives.

For clarity, edit the setup.py file and in the entry points list change the mailman.messageV1 name to something more relevant to your app, like yourapp.my_messageV1. The entry point name needs to be unique to your application, so it’s best to prefix it with your package or application name.

Schema format

This dictionary describes the possible keys and types in the JSON object being validated, using the following reserved keys:

  • id (or $id): an URI identifing this schema. Change the last part of the example URL to use your app’s name.
  • $schema: an URI describing the validator to use, you can leave that one as it is. It is only present at the root of the dictionary.
  • description: a fulltext description of the key.
  • type: the value type for this key. You can choose among: - null: equivalent to None - boolean: equivalent to True or False - object: a Python dictionary - array: a Python list - number: an int or a float - string: a Python string
  • properties: a dictionary describing the possible keys contained in the JSON object, where keys are possible key names, and values are JSON schemas. Those schemas can also have properties keys to describe all the possible nested keys.
  • required: a list of keys that must be present in the JSON object.
  • format: a format validation type. You can choose among: - hostname - ipv4 - ipv6 - email - uri (requires the rfc3987 package) - date - time - date-time (requires the strict-rfc3339 package) - regex - color (requires the webcolors package)

For information on creating JSON schemas to validate your data, there is a good introduction to JSON Schema fundamentals underway at Understanding JSON Schema.


Now edit the body_schema key to use the following schema:

    'id': 'http://fedoraproject.org/message-schema/fedora-messaging-tutorial#',
    '$schema': 'http://json-schema.org/draft-04/schema#',
    'description': 'Schema for the Fedora Messaging tutorial',
    'type': 'object',
    'properties': {
        'package': {
            'type': 'object',
            'properties': {
                'name': {
                    'type': 'string',
                    'description': 'The name of the package',
                'version': {'type': 'string'},
            'required': ['name'],
        'owner': {
            'description': 'The owner of the package',
            'type': 'string',
    'required': ['package', 'owner'],

Human readable representation

The schema class also contains a few methods to extract relevant information from the message, or to create a human-readable representation.

Change the __str__() method to use the expected items from the message body. For example:

return '{owner} did something to the {package} package'.format(
    owner=self._body['owner'], package=self._body['package']['name'])

Also edit the summary property to return something relevant.


Messages can also have a severity level. This is used by consumers to determine the importance of a message to an end user. The possibly severity levels are defined in the Message Severity API documentation.

You should set a reasonable default for your messages.

Testing it

JSON schemas can also be unit-tested. Check out the tests/test_schema.py file and write the unit tests that are appropriate for the message schema and the methods you just wrote. Use the example tests for inspiration.

Using it

To use your new JSON schema, its Python distribution must be available on the system. Run python setup.py develop in the schema directory to install it.

Now you can use the yourapp_message_schemas.schema.Message class (or however you named the package) to construct your message instances and call fedora_messaging.api.publish on them. Edit the publish.py script to read:

#!/usr/bin/env python3

from fedora_messaging.api import publish
from fedora_messaging.config import conf
from yourapp_message_schema.schema import Message

message = Message(
        "owner": "fedorauser",
        "package": {
            "name": "foobar",
            "version": "1.0",

Start a consumer, and send the message. Try to comment out the “owner” key and see what happens when you try to send a message that is not valid according to the schema.

Updating it

Message formats can change over time, and the schema must change to reflect that. When that happens, you need to copy the old class to a new class in the schemas package, make the changes you need to do, and import the new one in your publisher. You must also add a new entry in the entry_points argument in the schema package’s setup.py file. The name of the entry point is currently unused, only the class path matters.

However, be warned that messages published with the new class may be dropped by the receivers if they don’t have the new schema available locally. Therefore, you should publish the schema package with the new schema, update it on all the receivers, restart them, and then start using the new version in the publishers.

You should keep the old schema versions in the schemas package for a reasonable amount of time, long enough to make sure all receivers are up-to-date. To avoid clutter, we recommend you use a separate module per schema version (yourapp_message_schemas.v1:Message, yourapp_message_schemas.v2:Message, etc)

Now create a new version and use it in the publish.py script. Send a message before restarting the consume.py script to see what happens when a message with an unknown schema is received. Now restart the consume.py script and re-send the message.