Classy Tasks with Celery

This will be a short article, I just want to share something I learned this week.

If you work with Python and chances are you've ran into celery at least once, hopefully more than once, depending on how complex the projects you've worked on are.

If you don't know it yet, Celery is a task scheduling library that lets you schedule heavy tasks to be ran later, for example, resizing an image, sending an email or posting data to a 3rd party service, those are things that can be done later so you don't have to keep your users waiting online for something to finish and could actually fail.

Celery lets you delay the execution of those tasks and put retry policies in place so you can re-run them after a given time under certain conditions, for example, a 3rd party service returned 500 or 502, you might want to retry after, let's say, 20min to see if the issue is gone.

This won't be an in depth tutorial, you can check Celery here if you don't know it yet.

Let's see this example in Flask

def process_image(image_url):
        image = download_image(image_url)
        resized = resize_image(image)
    except Exception:
        return 'Failure, please try again'
    return 'Success'

This is a very basic example, full of bad practices and code like this shouldn't be pushed to production but it serves to illustrate what I need to explain.

Normally, what you might do is just call those three functions inside a task and just call the task.delay() from the request handler, something like:

def process_image(image_url):
    return 'Success'

from celery.task import task

def process_image(image_url):
    image = download_image(image_url)
    resized = resize_image(image)

But, those three functions are not supposed to be called synchronously, so, I don't want them laying in some module waiting for someone to call them outside a task. Reason being that, as said before, these are heavy processes that might keep my web server busy and prevent it from taking new requests for a while and also keep my users waiting on a loading screen for a long time, which isn't a good user experience.

I could delete them and copy all the code in my task function but it will lead to a potentially long function which will do a lot of things, it will be difficult to read and difficult to maintain, so... bad idea.

Celery's @task decorator, actually works as an object factory of Task objects, and what it does is, it puts the decorated function in the run() method, so, I could take advantage of the object oriented paradigm to encapsulate all that logic inside a task avoiding the risk of having those functions called synchronously.

It would look something like this

from celery import Task

class ProcessImage(Task):
    ignore_result = True

    def run(self, image_url):
        image = self.download_image(image_url)
        resized = self.resize_image(image)

    def download_image(image_url):
        # Code to download the image from a given url

    def resize_image(image):
        # Code to resize the image

    def upload_image(image):
        # Code to upload an image to a certain location

# We need an instance we can call delay() on
process_image = ProcessImage()

And done, we can implement also a notification logic to inform the user if there's any issue processing the image after retrying and that kind of things, but I'll leave that for another post.

By doing a class based task for complex background jobs, we can produce cleaner code which is easier to maintain and to read and keep those heavy tasks encapsulated so no one calls them directly from a controller or a django view.

I know this is not the best way to implement this use case, we could have done it with a TaskTree or with callbacks, but I wanted to show how to use classes to define tasks. I'll explain those approaches in future posts. :-)