1. Overview
  2. Core Concepts
  3. Configuration
  4. Services & Adapters
  5. Kernel Methods
  6. Graph
  7. Nodes
  8. Edges
  9. IDs
  10. Notifications
  11. Signals
  12. Hooks
  13. Handlers & Injectables
  14. ACL (Access-Control Lists)
  15. Project Directory
  16. More Resources...

1. Overview

Written in PHP7, Phở Kernel is a programmable interface, as well as a configuration, events broker for distributed micro social graphs.

Phở Kernel is not static, which means you can run multiple kernel instances in a thread, and you can halt and reboot each thread as many times as needed.

Here is a sample bootstrap script for pho-kernel:

$configs = array(
        "database" => "redis://",
        "storage" => "filesystem:// /tmp"
$kernel = new Pho\Kernel\Kernel($configs);
$network = $kernel->graph();
$founder = $kernel->founder();
array_walk($network->members(), function($key, $item) {
  printf("A %s node with id: %s", get_class($item), $item->id());

In a nutshell;

  1. Firstly, we form the kernel object by passing a configuration variable that holds all our preferences and server-related settings.
  2. Secondly, we boot it up. Optionally you can pass the founder object as a parameter, which would initialize the kernel (for a single time) with that user as the founder. This may be useful if you have a custom Actor node.
  3. Finally, we start playing with it by calling graph() and founder() methods.

2. Core Concepts

Phở Kernel allows you to launch and manage social graphs. Just like any other graph, social graphs are also formed by "nodes" and their relationships identified by "edges".

In Phở's GAO model, a social network cconsists of three type of entities:

  • Graphs
  • Actors
  • Objects


Each of these types have their own particular characteristics which we will discuss in the chapters 5, 6 and 7.

Both edges and nodes are "entities" and they're represented in the database with a cryptographically secure unique identifier in the form of: "4a406464850849e9b13ac38d0a67c157". For more information on Pho IDs, check out section 9.

The figures below illustrate a mini social network, inspired by the movie Matrix where nodes are represented by:

  • Squares => Graph,
  • Triangles => Actor,
  • Circles => Object

and edges by arrows.

This is what the figure looks like with the Actor/Write edges: Matrix movie social network

And this is what it looks like with the Actor/Subscribe edges: Matrix movie social network

This tiny social network consists of:

  • 5 characters (aka Actor): Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, Agent Smith and Spoon Boy.
  • 2 graphs: Matrix (the network itself) and a group called Resistance Hovercraft, created by Morpheus.
  • 4 objects:
    • "Everything begins with a choice" a status update by Morpheus transmitted to the Matrix network,
    • "Resistance is futile" a comment by Agent Smith in response to Morpheus' blog post,
    • "We must save Morpheus" a blog post by Neo transmitted to the Resistance Hovercraft group after Agent Smith captures Morpheus,
    • and "Kiss me" a private message by Trinity transmitted to Neo before she dies.

The examples above should give you an idea about how Actor, Graph and Object nodes behave.

3. Configuration

The list of all the configuration variables you can play with can be found in pho-microkernel's defaults.php file.

      "services" => array( 
          // The adapter to use, and uri the service options.
          "database" => "apcu:", 
          "logger" => "stdout:", 
          "storage" => "filesystem:", 
          "events" => "local:", 
      "tmp_path" => sys_get_temp_dir(), // Tmp folder to store files (e.g. uploads)
      "root_path" => __DIR__,
      "adapter_path" => __DIR__ . DIRECTORY_SEPARATOR ." Services" . DIRECTORY_SEPARATOR . "Adapters",
      "namespaces" => array(
          "root" => __NAMESPACE__,
          "predicates" => __NAMESPACE__."\\Predicates\\",
          "services" => __NAMESPACE__."\\Services\\",
          "nodes" => __NAMESPACE__."\\Nodes\\",
          "edges" => __NAMESPACE__."\\Edges\\",
      "log_level" => "WARNING", // INFO
      "database_key_separator" => "/",
      "default_objects" => array(
        "graph" => Standards\Graph::class,
        "founder" => Standards\Founder::class,
        "space" => Standards\Space::class,
        // "actor" => ... // not set here.
        "editors" => Standards\VirtualGraph::class

4. Services & Adapters

Kernel services are defined in pho-microkernel. You can access a service by calling $kernel->$service_name() where $service_name is the name of the service in lowercase. Currently standard services on Pho-Kernel are:

Service Type Description Base Adapter Distributed Adapter Cloud Adapter Implements
Database As a proof of truth and to store fundamental graph information. APCU Redis DynamoDB ...
Events To make the kernel more flexible with event-driven programming. Local ZeroMQ ... ...
Index To make search and database query easier and faster. MySQL ElasticSearch ... ...
Logger To log for errors or debug information. Stdout or File Scribe ... ...
Storage To store and retrieve plaintext or binary files such as photos, videos, zip files etc. Filesystem OpenStack Swift AWS S3 ..

To illustrate, you can access database with; $kernel->database(), and logger with; $kernel->logger().

5. Kernel Methods

5.1 boot

Once you create the kernel object, you need to boot it up with:


Or if you have a custom founder (based on a non-standard Actor object) and you're running the kernel for the first time, you should pass it here:


If this is not the first time the kernel is booted up, the argument will be ignored.

5.2 space & graph

Once the kernel is booted up, you can query the outer and inner graphs as follows:

$space = $kernel->space(); // returns the outer graph.
$graph = $kernel->graph(); // returns the actual graph that all your nodes will become part of.

The outer graph, or "space" is a super-graph that has one and only one element, that is the graph.

5.3 gs

To query a node, you just use the kernel's gs() method, which is similar to UNIX' filesystem. You must know the ID of the node.

To retrieve a node with the given id:

$node = $kernel->gs()->node("aa406464-8508-49e9-b13a-c38d0a67c157");

Similarly, you can retrieve an edge with its ID using $kernel->gs()->edge("edge-id")

5.3 Services

You call a service with $kernel->$service_name where $service_name represents the service keyword in lower case. For more details, see Chapter 4.

5.4 Creating new nodes

To create a node in the graph, you just need to create the object by passing the kernel ($kernel) as its first argument. By default:

  • Actor objects have a minimum of two constructor arguments; $kernel and $context (must implement \Pho\Framework\ContextInterface, for example: $kernel->space() which is the outer graph or $kernel->graph() which is the inner graph)
  • Object and Graph nodes may be created with at least three constructor arguments; $kernel, $context and $creator (which is an Actor object, the creator of this object). However, please note, graphs and object nodes shall not be created manually. The recommended way to create such nodes is via formative edges, which we will see later.

6. Graph

Graph contains objects that implement NodeInterface interface, such as Node and Subgraph, but not Edge.

Method Parameter(s) Description Returns
id Always returns "." as ID obj. ID
add [*] NodeInterface $node Adds a new node void
count Counts the # of member nodes. int
contains ID $node_id Checks if a node is a member bool
get ID $node_id Fetches a member NodeInterface
remove ID $node_id Removes a member void
members Lists members in object form array\<NodeInterface>
toArray Lists member ref.s in ID form array\<ID>
loadNodesFromArray array $nodes Array of NodeInteface objects void
loadNodesFromIDArray array $node_ids Array of node IDs in string void

7. Nodes

Nodes(aka Particles) implement the following API:

Method Parameter(s) Description Returns
id Retrieves its ID ID
label Returns the class name string
isA string $class_name Validates object class bool
attributes Returns the attributes class AttributeBag
destroy Readies object for destruction void
toArray Lists member ref.s in ID form array
edges Retrieves the EdgeList object that interfaces its edges. EdgeList
context Retrieves its context GraphInterface
inDestruction Reserved to use by observers to understand the state of the node. bool

Nodes (or Particles) have three sub-types:

7.1 Graphs (aka SubGraphs)

Graphs contain other nodes. This is their one and only function. A social network itself is a Graph. We call it the "Network". Another typical type of Graph that most social networks have is Groups.

7.2 Actors

Actors can do three things;

  1. Read
  2. Write (forming new objects or editing them)
  3. Subscribe (to get Notification from nodes)

In social network context, social network members are the Actors. To illustrate this, take the example of Facebook. Facebook itself is a Graph. The groups and friend lists on Facebook are also Graphs (micro graphs). And you, as a Facebook member or the pages you own are Actors, because they like (subscribe) and respond (write) objects.

7.3 Objects

Objects are what social networks are centered around. They are the fundamental units of sharing. A photo or status update can be examples of object. The only edge that originates from Objects is Edge, which does the exact opposite of Subscribe, e.g. sending Notifications.

8. Edges

An Edge (aka lines or arcs in graph theory) are used to represent the relationships between Nodes of a Graph. Therefore it is a fundamental unit graphs.

Method Parameter(s) Description Returns
id Retrieves its ID ID
label Returns the class name string
isA string $class_name Validates object class bool
attributes Returns the attributes class AttributeBag
destroy Readies object for destruction void
toArray Lists member ref.s in ID form array
tail Retrieves the tail node of the edge. TailNode [*]
tailID Retrieves the tail node's ID. ID
head Retrieves the head node of the edge. HeadNode [*]
headID Retrieves the head node's ID ID
predicate Retrieves the predicate PredicateInterface
connect NodeInterface $head Connects the edge to a head node. void
orphan Checks if the edge fails to possess a tail or a head bool

9. IDs

Pho IDs are immutable and come in the format of cryptographically secure, similarly to UUIDv4, though not the same.

Pho IDs are used to define all graph entities, e.g nodes and edges. It is 16 bytes (128 bits) long similar to UUID, but the first 8 bits are reserved to determine entity type, while the UUID variants are omitted. Hence, Pho ID provides 15 bytes and 8 bits of randomness.

The Graph ID defaults to nil (00000000000000000000000000000000), or 32 chars of 0. It may may be called with ID::root()

Even at scale of billions of nodes and edges, the chances of collision is identical to zero.

You can generate a new ID with $id_object = ID::generate($entity), where $entity is any Pho entity, and fetch its string representation with PHP type-casting; (string) $id_object.

Entity headers will be as follows:

  • 0: Graph
  • 1: Unidentified Node
  • 2: SubGraph Node
  • 3: Framework\Graph Node
  • 4: Actor Node
  • 5: Object Node
  • 6: Unidentified Edge
  • 7: Read Edge
  • 8: Write Edge
  • 9: Subscribe Edge
  • 10: Mention Edge
  • 11: Unidentified

10. Notifications

Notifications are the messages passed between notifiers and objects, or subscribers and their subscriptions. Notifications constitute a basic component of all social-enabled apps.

For more information, take a look at

to see how notifications works.

Notifications are called by the execute() method of the edges. Example: ObjectOut/Mention.php and ActorOut/Write.php

11. Signals

One of the best features of the Pho Kernel is that it is event-driven. Anytime a new node or edge is created, deleted, edited, a signal is emitted. If set, a listener object (a Callable) can process the signal in real-time.

Available events are:


  • node.added: when a new node is added to the graph.
  • modified: when the graph is modified with a node addition or removal.


  • modified: when the edge is modified either by connecting or by its attribute bag.
  • deleting: when the edge is being deleted.


  • modified: when the subgraph is modified by its attribute bag.
  • edge.created: when there is a new edge originating from this subgraph.
  • edge.connected: when the orphan edge of this subgraph is connected to a head.
  • deleting: when the subgraph is being deleted.


  • modified: when the node is modified by its attribute bag.
  • edge.created: when there is a new edge originating from this node.
  • edge.connected: when the orphan edge of this node is connected to a head.
  • deleting: when the node is being deleted.
  • edge.registered: (string $direction, string $class): called by particles when registering edges. This function may be used extra edges easily and independently, without extending the constructor itself.
  • notification.received: (AbstractNotification $notification): called when the actor received a notification.

Example usage:

$node->on("modified", function() use ($node) {

12. Hooks

Hooks allow developers to intercept certain functions that may benefit from hydration at higher-levels. Hydration takes place with persistent objects which, once deserialized, may lose some of their object associations.

To illustrate, when you persist a node object, its EdgeList object may turn into an array rather than a full-blown object, which would be hard and expensive to store. Then, in order to retrieve the edge list, you can use the IDs and tap into your database in separate calls, which would enhance the performance of your app. Lib-Graph's hooks come into play in such scenarios, because you can intercept these getter methods and inject value by leveraging the information stored in your database.

You can use hooks as follows:

$node->hook("get", function($id) use ($existing_node) {
   return $existing_node;


  1. The first argument is the hook key, in string format.
  2. The second argument is a PHP closure (you can pass it as a variable too).

Below you can see a full list of entities that support hooks and their keys.

Graph and SubGraph:

  • get(ID $node_id): called when get(ID $node_id) can't find the object in $nodes. Enables you to access $node_ids to fetch the object from external sources. The return value is NodeInterface.
  • members: called when members() can't find any objects in $nodes. Enables you to access $node_ids to fetch the objects from external sources. The return value is array (of NodeInterface objects).


  • head: called when head() can't find the head node. Enables you to access $head_id to fetch it from external sources. The return value is NodeInterface.
  • tail: called when tail() can't find the tail node. Enables you to access $tail_id to fetch it from external sources. The return value is NodeInterface.
  • predicate: called when predicate() can't find the predicate object. Enables you to access $predicate_label to recreate it or fetch from external sources. The return value is PredicateInterface.

Node and SubGraph:

  • context: called when context() can't find the context. Enables you to access $context_id to fetch it from external sources. The return value is GraphInterface.
  • edge(string $edge_id): called to retrieve an edge object from external sources. The return value must be an EdgeInterface
  • creator(): called when creator() can't find the creator. Enables you to access $creator_id to fetch it from external sources. This can be used with any particle; be it an Actor, Object or Graph. The return value is Actor.


  • edge(): called when edge() (in NotificationList.php) can't find the edge. Enables you to access $edge_id to fetch it from external sources. The return value is \Pho\Lib\Graph\EdgeInterface.

13. Handlers and Injectables


Handlers are virtual methods in use by particles. Virtual methods are created to handle setters and getters in respect to edges and fields. There are four (4) types of handlers:

These adapters can be replaced, or more can be added using handler adapters via registerHandlerAdapter(string $handler_key, string $handler_class) function. For example:



Objects that implement the InjectableInterface and use the InjectableTrait are easily extensible, with a plug-in variable architecture.

In order to inject a variable to an injectable object, just use

$obj->inject("key", $booster);

Then, the $obj will be able to use the $booster object internally via:


The use Injectable is discouraged, as it may represent security holes if not used properly. But you can use it when you must. Currently the only class that implements it by default is AbstractEdge.

14. ACL (Access Control Lists)

Acl stands for "access-control-lists". Pho handles access to nodes and graphs similarly to how UNIX handles access to files and folders, hence the name.

With Pho:

  • a node is the UNIX equivalent of a file.
  • a graph is the UNIX equivalent of a directory.

In terms of privileges;

  • read remains the same for both.
  • write reamins the same for both.
  • UNIX' execute is Pho's subscribe.
  • In addition, Pho introduces the "manage" privilege.

Due to this additional privilege (e.g. "manage"), Pho uses a hexadecimal system to manage privileges, in contrast to UNIX' octal.

Plus, in terms of privilege groups, Pho introduces an additional one, called "subscribers":

  • UNIX' u (users) remain the same. The u group is the owner of the object (or the actor itself, if it's an actor).
  • s (subscriber) is a new privilege group. It consists of all the subscribers of this node. The subscribers include the head nodes of any edge that extends the Subscribe edge.
  • g (graph) is same as UNIX' g (group). It is the group of actors that belong to the same context with the "u" of this node.
  • o (others) is same as UNIX' o. It is "others", meaning actors that belong to graphs not included by the context that the "u" belongs to.

Additionally, one can set up fine-grained privileges per actor and graph, using Pho's advanced access control lists, which is again, inspired by UNIX' access control lists, but slightly different.

Again, similarly to UNIX, Pho also has "sticky-bit" which ensures the privileges of an entity (or object) can only be changed by its owner, and not by the admins.

One can change a node's privileges with this simple command:


where the parameter is (from left-to-right):

  • 0x: is PHP's hexadecimal declaration. So it must be there.
  • 1: is the sticky bit. Similar to UNIX, it may be 0 or 1.
  • e: is the "u". This gives the u "manage" privilege, in addition to "read", "write" and "subscribe". So it's 1(subscribe) + 2(write) + 4(read) + 8(manage) = 15("e" in hexadecimal).
  • 7: is the "s". Subscribers can write to, read and subscribe to this node, but not manage it.
  • 4: is the "g". People in the same graph with this node.
  • 1: is the "o" -- outsiders.

So for example, if this $node was a group (like a Facebook Group), this means:

  • Only the group owner can edit or assign new privileges.
  • The group managers can do anything, except, see above.
  • The members (subscribers) of this group can post (write) and read anything.
  • The people who are part of this network can read and subscribe the contents of this group, which means it's a read-only public one.
  • The outsiders can only see the description of ../.

The permissions table is as follows;

Admin Read Write Execute (Subscribe)
Actor Manage profile See full profile. Edit profile Follow/become friends (or if friends already, react)
Object Manage reactions Read Edit Subscribe/react
Graph Moderate/profile Read contents Post content Subscribe

15. Project Directory

Pho is designed in microservices architecture. This is a directory of Pho stack projects; it starts with foundational packages and goes up to the user-level.

Github Description
pho-lib-graph General purpose graph library.
pho-framework A stateless framework that establishes the core principles of the Pho stack.
pho-microkernel Augments the framework with services and ACL (access-control-lists), rendering it stateful.
pho-kernel A basic implementation of the pho-microkernel
pho-cli Command-line interface to help compile graphql files and initialize projects.
pho-server-rest REST APIs that can interface with any programming language or via HTTP.

In addition, there are several repositories that help the aforementioned ones:

Github Description
pho-lib-graphql-parser General purpose GraphQL schema parser. Used by pho-compiler.
pho-compiler Compiles the GraphQL files into PHP interpretables. Used by pho-cli.

Last but not least, the REST API language-bindings can be found at Pho-microkernel service adapters can be found at Plus, a number of sample GraphQL implementations can be found under

16. More resources...

For a full list of Phở Kernel classes and methods, refer to:

  1. PHPDocumentor auto-generated reference.
  2. Pho-Lib-Graph docs
  3. Pho-Framework docs