Recurring events are hard
It was almost a month ago when I announced the development of Calendar.social. Since then I’m over some interesting and some less interesting stuff; (web) development, after all, is just a recurrence of patterns. Speaking of recurrence, I arrived to a really interesting topic: recurring events.
My initial thought was like “oh, that’s easy! Let’s insert all future occurences as a separate
Event object, linking to the original one for the details. That makes handling exceptions easy, as I just have to update/delete that specific instance.” Well, not really. I mean, an event repeating daily forever would fill up the database quickly, isn’t it? That’s when I decided to look how other projects do it.
As it turns out, my first thought is about the same as everyone else has their mind, with about the same reasons. Then, they usually turn down the idea just like I did. And instead, they implement recurrence patterns and exception patterns.
My favourite is this article so far. The author suggests to use the recurrence patterns specced by RFC2445 (the spec for the iCalendar format). The interesting part in this solution is how to query recurring events: you simply store the timestamp of the last occurence of the events (or, if the event repeats forever, the greatest timestamp your database supports.)
Choosing the maximum date seemed to be the tricky one, but it turned out both Python and popular SQL backends support dates up to the end of year 9999.