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Limit your abstractions: Commands vs. Tasks, did you forget the workflow?

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Limit your abstractions: Commands vs. Tasks, did you forget the workflow?

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On my last post, I outlined the major abstractions that I tend to use in my applications.
  1. Controllers
  3. Entities
  4. Commands
  5. Tasks
  6. Events
  7. Queries

I also said that I like Tasks much more than Commands and I’ll explain that in the future. When talking about tasks, I usually talk about something that is based on this code. This give us the ability to write code such as this:

public class AssignCargoToRoute : BackgroundTask
  public Itinerary Itinerary { get;set; }
  TrackingId TrackingId { get;set; }

  public override void Execute()

On the face of it, this is a very similar to what we have had before. So why am I so much in favor of tasks rather than commands?

Put simply, the promises that they make are different.  A command will execute immediately, this is good when we are encapsulating common or complex piece of logic. We give it a meaningful name and move on with our lives.

The problem is that in many cases, executing immediately is something that we don’t want. Why is that?

Well, what happen if this can take a while? What if this requires touching a remote resource (one that can’t take part of our transaction)? What happen if we want this to execute, but only if the entire operation have been successful? How do we handle errors? What happen when the scenario calls for a complex workflow? Can I partially succeed in what I am doing? Can you have a compensating action if some part fail? All of those scenarios basically boil down to “I don’t want to execute it now, I want the execution to be managed for me”.

Thing about the scenario that we actually have here. We need to assign a cargo to a route. But what does that means? In the trivial example, we do that by updating some data in our local database. But in real world scenario, something like that tends to be much more complex. We need to calculate shipping charges, check manifest, verify that we have all the proper permits, etc. All of that takes time, and usually collaboration with external systems.

For the most part, I find that real world systems requires a lot more tasks than commands. Mostly because it is actually rare to have complex interaction inside your own system. If you do, you have to be cautious that you aren’t adding too much complexity. It is the external interactions that tends to makes life… interesting.

This has implications on how we are building the system, because we don’t assume immediate execution and the temporal coupling that comes with it.


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