I'm working on a LinqEnumerable class (reviewable here), and I'm no Big-O expert and I'm pretty bad with algorithms, so I wonder what the complexity is for what I've implemented here, and whether it could be improved.


Correlates the elements of two sequences based on matching keys.

Private encapsulated As New Collection
Option Explicit
Public Function Join(ByVal inner As LinqEnumerable, _
                     ByVal outerKeySelector As Delegate, _
                     ByVal innerKeySelector As Delegate, _
                     ByVal resultSelector As Delegate) As LinqEnumerable

    Dim result As New LinqEnumerable

    Dim outerValue As Variant
    Dim outerKey As Variant

    Dim innerValue As Variant
    Dim innerKey As Variant

    Dim innerList As System.List
    Set innerList = inner.ToList

    For Each outerValue In encapsulated
        outerKey = outerKeySelector.Execute(outerValue)

        For Each innerValue In innerList
            innerKey = innerKeySelector.Execute(innerValue)
            If outerKey = innerKey Then
                result.Add resultSelector.Execute(outerValue, innerValue)
                innerList.Remove innerValue
            End If

    Set Join = result

End Function

I've been told this might be \$O(log(n))\$, but since innerList.Remove is \$O(n)\$ I'm not sure. Could it be?


The complexity here is much more than \$O(\log{n})\$. Let's go though it...

There's one \$O(o)\$ loop, where \$o\$ is the size of the outer List.

Now, for each outer loop, we then loop through all the members of innerList. If that has size \$i\$, the combined complexity is now \$O(o \times i)\$.

Inside that inner loop you then remove members of the innerList. The remove operation is horribly expensive too. First, it starts at the beginning of the list, and searches for the item to remove. When it finds it, it then goes through each remaining item in the list, and shuffles them forward one position, to 'remove' the item.

The resulting complexity that I can see here is.... \$O(o \times i^2)\$ which means, if the inner and outer data sets are about the same size (worst case), you have complexity of \$O(n^3)\$ where \$n\$ is the size of each list.

Now, that is tempered somewhat by the fact that you only do the inner remove if it actually matches something, and when it does, it makes the inner data list smaller. I don't believe this affects the complexity all that much though.

If you are looking for performance improvements, there are a few I can see.

First up, convert all the inner-member values to the key outside the outer loop and store them in a dictionary:

Dim innerKeyDict As Scripting.Dictionary

For Each innerValue In innerList
    innerKey = innerKeySelector.Execute(innerValue)
    innerKeyDict.Add innerKey, innerValue

Then, this will save you having to recalculate the keys many times, and it also converts the lookup, and remove both to O(1) operations.

I believe, if you do this you end up with a \$O(n)\$ operation where \$n\$ is the combined size of inner and outer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yup. Iterates inner once (to build the dictionary), and then outer once. O(n) sounds right :) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 15 '14 at 22:02

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