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Been playing with the API and see how to query for a result set but not the appropriate way to get a result set and update it batch style(over 4000 contacts in this case).

My goal is to gather all contacts with an empty custom field value and copy the text value for 'current employer' into that field.

This is in php using the 'class.api.php'. If there is a more appropriate way to achieve this I am open to suggestions.

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I think you can use chain api to do this. Try using below snippet

$result = civicrm_api3('Contact', 'get', [
  'sequential' => 1,
  'return' => ["current_employer_id"],
  'custom_1' => ['IS NULL' => 1],
  'employer_id' => ['IS NOT NULL' => 1],
  'api.Contact.create' => [
    'id' => "\$value.id", 
    'custom_1' => "\$value.current_employer_id"
  ],
]);

(Replace custom_1 with custom field id from your system.)

HTH

Pradeep

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