Implementing Linked List with PostgreSQL Recursive CTE
I’ve been working on a book/storytelling pet project recently. Dealing with book events and keeping them in order was a task that was to be tackled sooner or later. While both frontend and backend of the app could deal with linked and ordered data, database might be just about the best place to do so.
What you might need a linked list for
You have a set of chronological events. The set is not complete at the beginning and position of events might be changed (e.g. their neighbouring events might change in time).
Linked list is a perfect structure for such a case (see Wikipedia). You can keep your data in tact using just id and previous/next id.
CREATE TABLE public.events ( id integer generated always as identity primary key, previous_id integer ); COPY public.events (id, previous_id) FROM stdin; 7 \N 10 5 5 1 1 3 3 8 8 9 9 2 2 6 6 4 4 7 \.
Generating the list of events in the right order is the matter of running one recursive CTE query.
WITH RECURSIVE evt(id) AS ( SELECT id, previous_id FROM events WHERE previous_id IS NULL UNION SELECT e.id, e.previous_id FROM events e JOIN evt ON (e.previous_id = evt.id) ) SELECT * FROM evt;
It gathers the first event (the one having the previous pointer set to
NULL) and iteratively adds the following ones. Note that this version is actually the reverse implementation of the linked list, pointing to the previous instead of the next event. All it would take to change that, would be finding the event id not present in
previous_id column as the first one instead of
WHERE previous_id IS NULL.
With the data coming properly sorted to the client, all it has to do is rendering the list.