Tech Blog by Ruddra

Django: Save Unknown Object in Database

Suppose you are dealing with a poorly written API, which returns different type of objects at different scenarios. For example, sometimes it returns a string(ie. abcd), sometimes it returns a list(ie. [1,2,3,4]), or maybe None. Now, you are suppose to save that data, which you can’t predict. As you can’t predict the data type of object, you can’t design your Django Model accordingly. How are you suppose to take care of that?

Convert to Byte Data

As you don’t know which data type you will be dealing with, so its safer to convert it to a common data type, which can be Byte Data. For that, you can use pickle. For example:

import pickle

byte_data = pickle.dumps(obj)
obj = pickle.loads(byte_data)

Using BinaryField to Store in DB

You can use BinaryField to store the byte data created using pickle. For example:

import pickle

class Parameter(models.Model):
    _value = models.BinaryField()

    def set_data(self, data):
        self._value = pickle.dumps(data)

    def get_data(self):
        return pickle.loads(self._value)

    value = property(get_data, set_data)

Usage Examples

You can use the value from the example Model given in last step like this:

In: b = Foo.objects.create(value=1)

In: b.value
Out: 1

In: b = Foo.objects.create(value={1:1,2:2})

In: b.value
Out: {1: 1, 2: 2}

In: b = Foo.objects.create(value=[1,1])

In: b.value
Out: [1, 1]

Known Issues

There are some known issues you need to know about. For example:

  1. You can’t make queries in this approach. Means you can’t do Foo.objects.get(value=1) or Foo.objects.filter(value=1) or any other DB query.

  2. Also, you need to be careful about not abusing BinaryField. From Django Docs:

Although you might think about storing files in the database, consider that it is bad design in 99% of the cases. This field is not a replacement for proper static files handling.


You can look into my Stackoverflow Answer regarding this problem.