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SLAP Your Methods and Don't Make Me Think!

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SLAP Your Methods and Don't Make Me Think!

The Single Level of Abstraction principle and obeying the Don't Make Me Think rule of coding.

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In my recent post about creating a blogging platform I posted a piece of code like this:

 public MarkdownPost(Resource resource) {
        try {
            this.parsedResource = parse(resource);
            this.metadata = extractMetadata(parsedResource);
            this.url = "/" + resource.getFilename().replace(EXTENSION, "");
        } catch (IOException e) {
            throw new RuntimeException(e);
        }
    }

Never mind the smart constructor (which hasn't caused any problems so far!), there's an important rule that's been violated: the Single Level of Abstraction Principle.

Image title

The principle says that every statement in a method should be on the same level of abstraction. If we try to read this method top to bottom we get something like this:

  • Parsed resource is initialized by the result of parsing the resource (yay!).
  • Metadata is initialized by extracting metadata from the parsed resource.
  • URL is initialized by... STRING CONCATENATION WITH A REPLACE USING A CONSTANT AND A MAGIC EMPTY STRING.

That's not good. A method should read smoothly. Let's fix it:

public MarkdownPost(Resource resource) {
        try {
            this.parsedResource = parse(resource);
            this.metadata = extractMetadata(parsedResource);
            this.url = urlFor(resource);
        } catch (IOException e) {
            throw new RuntimeException(e);
        }
    }

    private String urlFor(Resource resource) {
        return "/" + resource.getFilename().replace(EXTENSION, "");
    }

Not sure if urlFor is the best name, but at least the original method looks and reads much better. But we're not done with levels of abstraction yet.

When reading solutions for Sam Atkinson's code challenges, I noticed that in most of them there's a missing level of abstraction! Most solutions for chemical challenge have some kind of isValid method, that does String operations all way long.

You may ask what's wrong with this — it's like 10 lines of code. I'll tell you what — it's 10 lines of decoding. I don't want to do that. I don't want to sit and think "what the hell did you mean?". I want to read a method and know what's happening in there right away, what was the intention, what are the business rules behind it!

This is an adaptation of Don't Make Me Think rule to coding. In the case of methods, it can often be achieved by introducing another level of abstraction. Let's look at another example.

You want to validate a newly submitted user account. The criteria is simple:

  • Username is unique
  • Password contains special characters
  • Email is in correct format
  • User is/claims to be adult

Let's write a method for it:

public boolean isValid(User user) {
        ...
    }

What do you expect inside isValid? A database call to check uniqueness? A regexp check for the email? Date calculations? Hopefully none of these.

public boolean isValid(User user) {
        return isUnique(user.username)
            && containsSpecialCharacters(user.password)
            && hasCorrectFormat(user.email)
            && isAdult(user.birthdate);
    }

Of course, the database call and other checks will have to be done just below this method. But if someone wants to check how a user is validated, the first thing he sees are clearly defined rules, all on the same level of abstraction. He won't have to think.

Now it's your turn to do the thinking and SLAP your methods! Despite my unwillingness to think, I still have to correct mine too ;)

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Topics:
methods ,abstraction

Published at DZone with permission of Grzegorz Ziemoński, DZone MVB. See the original article here.

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