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Add a time period to an object to show when it is effective.

How it Works

Many facts are true only for a certain period of time. So an obvious way to describe these facts is to mark them with a period of time. For many that period is a pair of dates, however Range can be used here to make that date range an object.

Once defined, effectivity ranges are then used in queries to return the appropriate objects that are effective on a certain date.

The effectivity range if often updated directly, however it usually makes sense to provide an interface that better fits the need of the class. A creation method can take the start date of the effectivity period, and then use an open-ended Range to indicate there is no end date: this fits cases where something is set to be created on a certain date and is effective until further notice. When that further notice comes, you can have a method that indicates that the object is no longer effective and the date that occurs

Using the employment example suggested in the sketch, we have a person, Wellington. On Dec 12 1999 he begins employment with India Inc, which we represent by creating an employment object ( Figure 1). As time continues he starts a new employment with Peninsula Inc on April 1 and ends his employment with India Inc on May 1. Figure 2 shows the state of the objects after these events. Notice that this means that during April he was employed by both.

Figure 1

Figure 1: With a single employment

Figure 2

Figure 2: One employment ended, another begun

This update mechanism handles additive updates, that is updates that occur in the right order on the time line. In many cases additive updates are all you need. Sometimes, however, you need retroactive updates, effectively correcting mistakes in the timeline. Say we discover later that Wellington actually worked for Dublin Inc during May and didn't start with Peninsula Inc until June 1. We have to alter the effectivity on the employment for Peninsula and add a new employment for Dublin to yield the state described in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Figure 3: After adding the Dublin Inc employment

This usually requires a more primitive interface that allows employments have their effectivity ranges changes directly.

Supporting retroactive changes is often important, since people do make mistakes. We can add that by having direct access to the effectivity date range.

Adding bi-temporal support is, in a sense, pretty simple - you just add another date range. Of course the complexity is passed to the users of the class who now need to use both dates all the time in their queries and updates.

When to use it

Effectivity dating is the most common way to indicate temporality in modelling. It's simple and easy to understand its usage. It's principal disadvantage is that it requires the client to be aware of these temporal aspects and take them into account while processing. So any query that wants to look at current information needs to add a clause in its logic to test the effectivity range. While this is not a very onerous requirement it does make things more tricky, particularly when the temporal responsibility is not obvious from the domain.

It's possible to build structures that remove much of this responsibility and thus make the temporal issues more transparent - so that you only need to worry about them when you specifically need to. To do this for a property at a time you can use Temporal Property. To do this for a whole object you can use Temporal Object. Both of these more sophisticated patterns handle much of the temporal logic, reducing the burden on the clients of these objects.

So use Effectivity when you have a simple situation for temporal behavior, and it makes sense in the domain that those objects should be temporal. In an object implementation you should ensure you actually use Range for the effectivity range, as that is much easier than using pairs of dates.

Example: Employments (Java)

These code examples parallel the cases I talked about in the how it works section. I'll start with simple named object classes for person and company.

class NamedObject...
  protected String _name = "no name";
  public NamedObject ()  {}
  public NamedObject (String name)  {_name = name;}
  public String name ()  {return _name;}
  public String toString() {return _name;}
class Company...
class Company extends NamedObject{
  Company (String name) {
class Person...
class Person extends NamedObject{
  private List employments = new ArrayList();
  public Person (String name) {
  Employment[] employments() {
    return (Employment[]) employments.toArray(new Employment[0]);

The employment class is the one with the effectivity range. It's basic data is very simple

class Employment...
  private DateRange effective;
  private Company company;
  Company company() {return company;}
  boolean isEffectiveOn(MfDate arg){
    return effective.includes(arg);

Now let's add additive behavior. I add new employments by a method on person that creates a new employment, using the start date.

class Person...
  void addEmployment(Company company, MfDate startDate) {
    employments.add(new Employment(company, startDate));
class Employment...
  Employment (Company company, MfDate startDate) {
    this.company = company;
    effective = DateRange.startingOn(startDate);

I end an employment with a method on the Employment class.

class Employment...
  void end (MfDate endDate) {
    effective = new DateRange(effective.start(), endDate);

With this in place we can now add employments to a person and query them to find the appropriate ones for a particular day.

class Tester...
  public void setUp() {
    duke.addEmployment(india, new mf.MfDate(1999,12,1));
    duke.addEmployment(peninsular, new MfDate(2000,4,1));
    duke.employments()[0].end(new MfDate (2000,5,1));
  public void testAdditive() {
    assertEquals(2, duke.employments().length);
    Employment actual = null;
    for (int i = 0; i < duke.employments().length; i++) {
      if (duke.employments()[i].isEffectiveOn(new MfDate(2000,6,1))) {
        actual = duke.employments()[i];
    assertEquals(peninsular, actual.company());

A good object designer may wonder if that for loop should really be moved into a method on the Person class. Indeed it should, and that's the driver for the Temporal Property pattern. Well see the consequences of such a move there, so I'll continue to use the for loop in fragments for this pattern.

Now let's look at the retroactive changes. For these we need some more primitive behavior on employment and person.

class Person...
   void addEmployment(Employment arg) {
class Employment...
  void setEffectivity(DateRange arg) {
    effective = arg;
  Employment (Company company, DateRange effective) {
    this.company = company;
    this.effective = effective;

We can then make retroactive changes like this:

class Tester...
  public void testRetro() {
    duke.employments()[1].setEffectivity(DateRange.startingOn(new MfDate(2000,6,1)));
    duke.addEmployment(new Employment(dublin, new DateRange(new MfDate(2000,5,1), new MfDate(2000,5,31))));
    Employment april = null;
    for (int i = 0; i < duke.employments().length; i++) {
      if (duke.employments()[i].isEffectiveOn(new MfDate(2000,4,10))) {
        april = duke.employments()[i];
    assertEquals(india, april.company());
    Employment may = null;
    for (int i = 0; i < duke.employments().length; i++) {
      if (duke.employments()[i].isEffectiveOn(new MfDate(2000,5,10))) {
        may = duke.employments()[i];
    assertNotNull("null may", may);
    assertEquals(dublin, may.company());

Retrospective changes aren't always needed but they usually are - after all people are known for making mistakes. Making a retrospective change usually requires this kind of more primitive interface than an additive change, so there's an argument that you don't need the separate interface for an additive change. However I prefer to include it, as it makes it easier to do the most common additive changes. After all we're not looking for the smallest interface, but the easiest to use. Small helps ease of use (since there's less to learn) but it's only one factor, not the dominant one.

Significant Revisions

07 Mar 04: Imported into P of EAA tree