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Make subscription management easy and entity-based.

Project Description

Django Entity Subscription uses the power of the Django-Entity framework to make managing subscriptions easy and powerful, for you and your users.


This django app, includes four models:

  • Subscription
  • Unsubscribe
  • Medium
  • Source

all available from within the package entity_subscription.models.

By creating objects in these models, you and the users of your application can have fine grained control over how users are notified and about what they are notified. The entity_subscription app is agnostic about how users are actually notified about the subscriptions that are set up, but is designed to be a dependency of whatever notification system is put in place. It is assumed that the consumer of this library already has some idea of what notifications are going to be sent, and what delivery methods are going to be used to send the notifications.

Once subscription information is stored in those models, the entity_subscription app also provides some methods to make it easier to reason about and act on the stored subscriptions.

  • Subscription.objects.mediums_subscribed
  • Subscription.objects.is_subscribed

Sources and Mediums

The entity_subscription app creates a strong boundary between the “source” of notifications from within an application and the “medium” used to deliver the notification to the users of the application.


From a user of your application’s perspective a “source” is a category of notifications that they can subscribe to, or unsubscribe from. It could be something like “New Products” or “Important Site Changes”.

For any given source, users may want to receive notifications over different mediums (like “Email”, “In-site”, “text-message”). By dividing notifications into different sources, users can choose to receive that type of notification over whatever medium they prefer.

To achieve this within an application a “source” of notifications is an object that describes where in the app a notification came from. Pieces of code that originate events which lead to notifications will want to own a Source object, or at least know the name of one, so that they can clearly communicate the source of the notifications they are originating.

The actual source objects in the database are fairly simple, and are created through the standard objects.create interface. They have a unique identifier, a user friendly display name, and a longer form description.

from entity_subscription.models import Source

    display_name='New Products',
    description='Tells you whenever a new item is available in the store.'


From a user of your application’s perspective a “medium” is a way in which they can be notified. Your site may support a variety of different mediums for notifying your users of different happenings. Examples could include Email, Text Messages, a News-Feed, or a In-site Notification center.

Users will likely want to receive notifications through some combination of the available mediums, but only for certain categories of notifications. They may want some notifications that they view as somewhat important to go to their email, notifications that are very important to go to email and text-message, and all the rest to go to an in-site notification center. By distinguishing between mediums in a subscription library, users can decide how each “source” of notifications is delivered to them.

The pieces of the application that handle actually sending notifications will want to own a Medium object that describes them, or at least know the unique name of one. This enables the code sending notifications to handle subscriptions appropriately.

As with sources, The actual medium objects in the database are fairly simple, and are created through the standard objects.create interface. They have a unique identifier, a user friendly display name, and a longer form description.

from entity_subscription.models import Medium

    display_name='In Site',
    description='Notifications available in the Accounts/Notifications tab.'

Source and Medium Considerations

Both Source and Medium objects can be effectively used as static records that are setup as initial data for an application, or as dynamic records that change as the various sources and mediums for notification change. It is important to consider, however, that excessively dynamic sources and mediums will make it difficult for individual entities to control their subscriptions.

Subscriptions and Unsubscribing

Entities and groups of entities can be subscribed to notifications. Once subscribed, individuals, mirrored as entities, can choose to unsubscribe from notifications for a given source and medium.


Subscriptions will most often be created by the application, for an entire group of entities. In this case, all the entities will receive the notification, unless they later opt out. Subscriptions can also be created for an individual entity to receive a certain type of notification, as an opt-in subscription.

This library includes the table Subscription, available from entity_subscription.models.Subscription. Creating a Subscription object is straightforward, assuming the relevant Source and Medium objects have been created (See “Sources and Mediums” above), and the entities to be subscribed and their group are appropriately mirrored. From there, we can use the standard objects.create interface.

Given the sources and mediums created above, and a relationship between MyUser and MyGroup in a given application, the following is a subscription for all the users in a particular group:

from my_app.models import MyUser
from my_app.models import MyGroup

from entity.models import Entity, EntityKind
from entity_subscription.models import Subscription, Source, Medium

super_entity = MyGroup.objects.get(name='product_group')
    medium = Medium.objects.get(name='in_site'),
    source = Source.objects.get(name='new_products'),
    entity = Entity.objects.get_for_obj(super_entity),
    subentity_kind = EntityKind.objects.get(name='myuser')

Each Subscription object stored in the database only subscribes the group of entities to a single combination of a Source and Medium. To create subscriptions for delivering notifications from the same source over different mediums, a new Subscription object must be created for each source/medium combination. This allows the application developer and the users to have detailed control over what the users are notified about, and how those notifications are delivered.


Individual users of your application may wish to remove themselves from receiving certain types of notifications.

To unsubscribe an individual from from receiving notifications of a given source/medium combination is as simple as creating an Unsubscribe object. Assuming that “Robert” was subscribed to New Product notifications in the subscription object above, unsubscribing him from these notifications looks like:

from my_app.models import MyUser

from entity.models import Entity
from entity_subscription.models import Unsubscribe, Source, Medium

Robert = MyUser.objects.get(name='Robert')

    entity = Entity.objects.get_for_obj(Robert)
    medium = Medium.objects.get(name='in_site')
    sorce = Source.objects.get(name='new_products')

With this object created, the rest of the group will receive these notifications still, however “Robert” will no longer see them.

Subscriptions and Unsubscribing Considerations

Separating subscriptions and unsubscriptions into separate tables allows for groups of entities to be subscribed with a single object in the Subscription table. This is useful for subscribing large groups of users to a notification by default.

If a given notification may only have a few users interested in receiving, it may make more sense for it to be an opt-in notification, where a Subscription object is made for each single entity that wishes to opt in (that is, a Subscription object with a subentity_kind=None). This may make more sense then subscribing large groups to this notification and having most of them unsubscribe.

Checking Subscriptions

Once your sites subscriptions are stored as shown above, you will want to use those subscriptions to decide to deliver (or not deliver) notifications. The entity_subscription app provides a couple methods to make it easier to find who is subscribed to what.

The SubscriptionManager

The following methods are available from the manager of the Subscription model.

mediums_subscribed(source, entity, subentity_kind=None)

Return a queryset of all the mediums the given entity is subscribed to, for the given source.

If the optional subentity_kind parameter is given, return every medium that any of the given entity’s sub-entities, of the given EntityKind, is subscribed to.

is_subscribed(source, medium, entity, subentity_kind=None)

Return a Boolean, indicating if the entity is subscribed to the given source on the given medium.

If the optional subentity_kind parameter is not None, return True if any of the entity’s sub-entities, of the given type, are subscribed to the given source on the given medium.

In the common case, checking for subscriptions involves looking at the mediums a single entity is subscribed to. In this case both mediums_subscribed and is_subscribed should behave exactly as expected. Their exact behavior is described in more detail below, in the section “Checking if an individual entity is subscribed”.

The implications of including a subentity_kind argument are somewhat more subtle. These implications are described in more detail below, in the section “Checking if anyone in a group is subscribed”.

Checking if an individual entity is subscribed

Before sending notifications to users, your application wants to make sure that it’s sending those notifications to users who have been included through a subscription, and not excluded themselves by unsubscribing.

To check the subscription status of a single entity, simply call mediums_subscribed if you want a list of all the mediums an entity is subscribed to, for a given source, or call is_subscribed if you want to check if that entity is subscribed to a particular medium for a given source. When checking the subscription status of a single entity, the subentity_kind argument should be left as None.

When mediums_subscribed or is_subscribed are called without a subentity_kind argument, the behavior of these methods is straightforward. They will return a medium, or return true for that medium, only if:

1. The entity is part of a individual subscription, or is part of a group subscription for the given source.

  1. The entity is not unsubscribed from that source and medium.

Once you have checked that an individual entity is subscribed to a given source/medium combination, you can be confident in delivering that notification.

Checking if anyone in a group is subscribed

In some cases, your application may have an event that applies to a group of individuals, and you may wish to check if any of those individuals are subscribed to receive notifications for that event.

Both mediums_subscribed and is_subscribed can also take an optional parameter subentity_kind which will change their behavior fairly significantly. In this case, the provided argument, entity, is assumed to be a super-entity, and these functions return values based on what any of the sub entities are subscribed to.

So, passing in a super-entity, and subentity-type to either mediums_subscribed or is_subscribed can provide a useful start for delivering notifications.

Note that this is only an approximation of what individuals in the group are subscribed to. Before actually delivering a notification to any subentity, the application must check that each user is actually subscribed to receive that notification.

Filtering entities based on subscriptions

Given some number of entities, that may or may not be subscribed to notifications from a given source and medium, it could be complicated to determine all the possible entity relationships, and the relevant subscriptions and unsubscriptions to check exactly which of those entities should be notified. The entity-subscription framework provides a method, Subscription.objects.filter_not_subscribed that will take the list of entities and return only those that should definitely recieve the notification.

entities = [entity_1, entity_2, entity_3]
subscribed_entities = Subscription.objects.filter_not_subscribed(source, medium, entities)

This method returns a queryset of entities to be notified. It takes into account all possible group subscriptions the entities may belong to, as well as removing entities that are unsubscribed from these notifications.

It does, require, however, that all the entities provided are of the same entity_kind.

Release notes

  • 0.4.0

    • Migrated Django Entity Subscription to use the EntityKind model for specifying
      different kinds of entities. This was a new addition in Django Entity 1.5. Schema migrations are provided that remove the subentity_type ContentType variable from the Subscription model and add the subentity_kind EntityKind variable. Note that it is up to the user to write the appropriate data migration for converting entity types to entity kinds.
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