Say we have two kinds of posts, the first we'll call A and the second we'll call B. Both of them share columns, such as the submission date, etc. but also have distinct ones. Posts can also be replies - they have a parent_id, which can either be null (doesn't reply to anything) or an id which refers to another post.

What I'm having trouble with is understanding the optimal solution to model such a system.

The obvious method would be to just put all of them inside a single table, which would work fine but you'd also get a ton of null values (e.g. an entry of type A will have NULL in every field of type B).

Another method, which I'm currently thinking about, would be to use inheritance, so something like this:

              post_id                     SERIAL PRIMARY KEY,
              submission_date             TIMESTAMP NOT NULL,
              FOREIGN KEY (parent_id)     REFERENCES post(post_id)

) INHERITS (post)

) INHERITS (post)

The problem with this approach is that from an entry in table A I'd have no way of finding the parent_id (since it could either refer to B or A), so (to my knowledge) for every lookup I'd have to join all the tables and do it that way, which seems suboptimal.

I'm not sure if I'm missing something, any pointers to a potentially better solution would be much appreciated, thank you.

  • 1
    Why do you want to avoid NULL values?
    – matigo
    May 25, 2021 at 14:36
  • 1
    Put posts in one table, replies in another. No fields would have to be null and you can optimise storage for both, FK replies to posts.
    – Gurmokh
    May 25, 2021 at 14:40
  • How many columns do both tables have, and how many do they share? May 25, 2021 at 14:49
  • matigo, I don't have a particularly good reason, just seems like there would be a better alternative is all, I'm very unfamiliar with databases so I'm trying to get a feel for "the way of doing things", if that makes sense :D Vynl, I'm not sure I understand correctly but wouldn't that be almost identical to the approach I posted about in the first solution? Laurenz, there are 4 shared columns, and A has 1 extra, while B has 2 (for the time being). May 25, 2021 at 15:01

1 Answer 1


If you really want to avoid NULLs, go with the inheritance.

Unless you want to query all posts with all replies all the time, I think joins won't be a problem if you index your tables.

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