Tutorial: Creating a click counter using carrot and celery


A click counter should be easy, right? Just a simple view that increments a click in the DB and forwards you to the real destination.

This would work well for most sites, but when traffic starts to increase, you are likely to bump into problems. One database write for every click is not good if you have millions of clicks a day.

So what can you do? In this tutorial we will send the individual clicks as messages using carrot, and then process them later with a celery periodic task.

Celery and carrot is excellent in tandem, and while this might not be the perfect example, you’ll at least see one example how of they can be used to solve a task.

The model

The model is simple, Click has the URL as primary key and a number of clicks for that URL. Its manager, ClickManager implements the increment_clicks method, which takes a URL and by how much to increment its count by.


from django.db import models
from django.utils.translation import ugettext_lazy as _

class ClickManager(models.Manager):

    def increment_clicks(self, for_url, increment_by=1):
        """Increment the click count for an URL.

            >>> Click.objects.increment_clicks("http://google.com", 10)

        click, created = self.get_or_create(url=for_url,
                                defaults={"click_count": increment_by})
        if not created:
            click.click_count += increment_by

        return click.click_count

class Click(models.Model):
    url = models.URLField(_(u"URL"), verify_exists=False, unique=True)
    click_count = models.PositiveIntegerField(_(u"click_count"),

    objects = ClickManager()

    class Meta:
        verbose_name = _(u"URL clicks")
        verbose_name_plural = _(u"URL clicks")

Using carrot to send clicks as messages

The model is normal django stuff, nothing new there. But now we get on to the messaging. It has been a tradition for me to put the projects messaging related code in its own messaging.py module, and I will continue to do so here so maybe you can adopt this practice. In this module we have two functions:

  • send_increment_clicks

    This function sends a simple message to the broker. The message body only contains the URL we want to increment as plain-text, so the exchange and routing key play a role here. We use an exchange called clicks, with a routing key of increment_click, so any consumer binding a queue to this exchange using this routing key will receive these messages.

  • process_clicks

    This function processes all currently gathered clicks sent using send_increment_clicks. Instead of issuing one database query for every click it processes all of the messages first, calculates the new click count and issues one update per URL. A message that has been received will not be deleted from the broker until it has been acknowledged by the receiver, so if the receiver dies in the middle of processing the message, it will be re-sent at a later point in time. This guarantees delivery and we respect this feature here by not acknowledging the message until the clicks has actually been written to disk.

    Note: This could probably be optimized further with some hand-written SQL, but it will do for now. Let’s say it’s an exercise left for the picky reader, albeit a discouraged one if you can survive without doing it.

On to the code...


from celery.messaging import establish_connection
from carrot.messaging import Publisher, Consumer
from clickmuncher.models import Click

def send_increment_clicks(for_url):
    """Send a message for incrementing the click count for an URL."""
    connection = establish_connection()
    publisher = Publisher(connection=connection,



def process_clicks():
    """Process all currently gathered clicks by saving them to the
    connection = establish_connection()
    consumer = Consumer(connection=connection,

    # First process the messages: save the number of clicks
    # for every URL.
    clicks_for_url = {}
    messages_for_url = {}
    for message in consumer.iterqueue():
        url = message.body
        clicks_for_url[url] = clicks_for_url.get(url, 0) + 1
        # We also need to keep the message objects so we can ack the
        # messages as processed when we are finished with them.
        if url in messages_for_url:
            messages_for_url[url] = [message]

    # Then increment the clicks in the database so we only need
    # one UPDATE/INSERT for each URL.
    for url, click_count in clicks_for_urls.items():
        Click.objects.increment_clicks(url, click_count)
        # Now that the clicks has been registered for this URL we can
        # acknowledge the messages
        [message.ack() for message in messages_for_url[url]]


View and URLs

This is also simple stuff, don’t think I have to explain this code to you. The interface is as follows, if you have a link to http://google.com you would want to count the clicks for, you replace the URL with:

and the count view will send off an increment message and forward you to that site.


from django.http import HttpResponseRedirect
from clickmuncher.messaging import send_increment_clicks

def count(request):
    url = request.GET["u"]
    return HttpResponseRedirect(url)


from django.conf.urls.defaults import patterns, url
from clickmuncher import views

urlpatterns = patterns("",
    url(r'^$', views.count, name="clickmuncher-count"),

Creating the periodic task

Processing the clicks every 30 minutes is easy using celery periodic tasks.


from celery.task import PeriodicTask
from clickmuncher.messaging import process_clicks
from datetime import timedelta

class ProcessClicksTask(PeriodicTask):
    run_every = timedelta(minutes=30)

    def run(self, **kwargs):

We subclass from celery.task.base.PeriodicTask, set the run_every attribute and in the body of the task just call the process_clicks function we wrote earlier.


There are still ways to improve this application. The URLs could be cleaned so the URL http://google.com and http://google.com/ is the same. Maybe it’s even possible to update the click count using a single UPDATE query?

If you have any questions regarding this tutorial, please send a mail to the mailing-list or come join us in the #celery IRC channel at Freenode: http://celeryq.org/introduction.html#getting-help