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Eager and Lazy Properties

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Eager and Lazy Properties

Take a look at this question that was submitted about property spam in Python, and the two options presented to handle it.

· Open Source Zone ·
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See this:

Dear Pythonista lazyweb: If I have a property spam and the attribute that backs it is _spam, what do we call that? The "backing attribute"? The "original property"? Something else? Is there an official term for this?

- Al Sweigart (@AlSweigart) January 29, 2019

My answer was -- frankly -- vague. Twitter being what it is, I should have written the blog post first and linked to it.

The use case is this.

class X:
    def __init__(self, x):
        self._value = f(x)
    def value(self):
        return self._value

We've got a property where the returned value is already an instance variable.

I'm not a fan.

This reflects an eager computation strategy. f(x) was computed eagerly and the value made available via a property. One can justify the use of a property to make the value read-only, but... still nope.

There are a lot of alternatives that make more sense to me.

Option 1: We're All Adults Here

Here's an approach I think is better.

class X:
    def __init__(self, x):
        self.value = f(x)

It's read-only because -- really -- if you change it, you break the class. So don't change it.

This is my favorite. Read-onlyness is sometimes described has a way protect utter idiots from breaking a library they don't seem to understand. Or. It's described as a way to prevent some Evil Genius Programmer (EGP) from doing something intentionally malicious and breaking things.


It's Python. They have access to the source. Why mess around breaking things this way?

Option 2: Laziness

Here's an approach that hits at the essential feature.

class X:
    def __init__(self, x):
        self.x = x
    def value(self):
        return f(self.x)

This seems to hit at the original intent without an explicit cached variable. Instead the caching is pushed off into another space. (I'm writing a chapter on decorators, so this may be a bit much.)

The idea, though, is to make properties lazy. If they're expensive, then the result should be cached.

There may be other choices, but I think lazy and eager cover the bases. I don't think eager is wrong, but I don't see the need for a property to hide the attribute created by an eager computation.

python ,open source ,web dev ,attribute ,property ,function

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