Django Models & Mixins for cleaner code

Published on Sept. 26, 2012, 3:28 p.m.

django mixins programming python

I've been using Mixins lately to DRY-ly make certain behavior available to several different Django models. If you're not familiar with mixins, there's a great discussion over on StackOverflow.

Here's a simple example to illustrate what I've been doing. In building Work for Pie, we've got a UserProfile model that looks something like this:

class UserProfile(models.Model):
    user = models.OneToOneField(User)
    tagline = models.CharField(max_length=140)
    biography = models.TextField()
    avatar_url = models.URLField(max_length=256)

    # several other things, too...

But, we also have a number of other models that are associated with User objects, such as a Score:

class Score(models.Model):
    user = models.ForeignKey(User) 
    score = models.IntegerField()

    # some other stuff

Now, there are a number of scenarios where you might want to display a User's Score, and that's not too difficult to do using the ORM. In fact, we've got a Manager method, latest, that lets us get the most recent Score associated with a User.

score = Score.objects.filter(user__username='bkmontgomery').latest()

However... that soon starts to feel redundant if you want to include a user's score elsewhere—in an other app or a somewhat unrelated model, for example. Image that we also have comments:

class Comment(models.Model):
    user = models.ForeignKey(User, help_text="The comment's author") 
    content = models.TextField()

What if you always wanted to show a users score next to their comments? You might do something like this in a template (assume comment is a Comment instance):

<span class="score">{{ comment.user.score_set.latest }}<span>

Likewise, if you wanted to link back to the user's profile, you might do something like this:

<a href="{{ comment.user.userprofile.get_absolute_url }}">view profile<a>

This works, but it's fairly verbose.

Save some effort...

Here's where a Mixin can save you some work. First, let's assume that we want to be able to access a user's score on any model that also has a ForeignKey to User. You could build a ScoreMixin class like the following:

class ScoreMixin(object):
    """Mixin to another class to provide access to a User's ``Score``."""
    def score(self):
        """Get the latest score for the User who saved this Job."""
        if not hasattr(self, "_score"):
            self._score = self.user.score_set.latest()
        return self._score

Keep in mind: this code assumes any model that inherits from this class will have a user attribute.

We can now augment our Comment class as follows, which will give all Comment instances a score attribute:

class Comment(ScoreMixin, models.Model):
    user = models.ForeignKey(User, help_text="The comment's author") 
    content = models.TextField()

Now, our template can be a bit more concise:

<span class="score">{{ comment.score }}<span>

I've found that simple cases like this, let me easily reuse some behavior for models that already have a common attribute or field.

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