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Static Classes Are Evil, Make Your Dependencies Explicit

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Static Classes Are Evil, Make Your Dependencies Explicit

According to one developer, static classes are evil. Click here to learn more about one dev's approach to static classes and keeping dependencies explicit.

· Java Zone ·
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In spite of some languages, e.g. PHP or Java, some languages don’t have (top-level) static classes. However, the concept is still present. A class consisting entirely of static methods is effectively the same thing as a static class.

Besides, static classes are procedural, and their clients are untestable — well, there are some hacks in Java and PHP, but I don’t want to mention them. Because they have even more issues.

Classes Tend to Go From Big to Huge

Since classes with static methods have nothing to do with objects, they don’t know who they are, what they should do, and what they should not do. The boundaries are blurred, so we just write one instruction after another. It’s hard to stop until we’re done with our task. It is inevitably an imperative and non-OOP process.

Dependencies Are Hidden

Code is also less readable. What’s in the class? Database queries, some intense calculations, email sending? You just don’t control how many of them are in one class. One static method here, one there — and here it is, our new God object. And when you realize that, it’s already too late.

Low Cohesion

Hence, the class is getting less and less cohesive. If the class has a lot of dependencies, chances are that it does more than it should. For the sake of justice, I should say that the possible reason for a large number of dependencies is that they are at lower abstraction levels. Composing dependencies in higher-level abstractions could be the way to go.

Tight Coupling

Static methods mean that they can be called from anywhere. They can be called from a lot of contexts. They have a lot of clients. So, if one class needs some little special behavior to be implemented in a static method, you need to make sure that none of the other clients get broken. So, such reuse simply doesn’t work. I can compare it with my noble (and failed) attempt to compose and reuse microservices. The resulting classes are too generic and completely unmaintainable. This results in the whole system being tightly coupled.

Example

As an example, let’s consider a client’s financial balance from my posts about Super PSP architecture. It has all mentioned drawbacks and looks like this:

class FinancialBalanceUtils
{
    static public void reserveBalance()
    {
        if (!shouldReserve()) {
            return;
        }
        assertAllConditionsAreMet();
        queryFinancialBalanceForCurrentClient();
        boolean result = checkFinancialBalance();
        if (!result) {
            return false;
        }
        reserveFinancialBalanceForCurrentClient();
    }
}


So, let’s inspect it from the beginning.

We are not sure where it is called from, as it can be called from absolutely anywhere. So, we need to make sure that this method really should be executed through the  shouldReserve() method.  We are not sure where it is called from, once again! Are all preconditions satisfied? No one knows, so we absolutely must verify this with the  assertAllConditionsAreMet() method. 

Then, we get financial balance by tons of parameters from a database with the  queryFinancialBalanceForCurrentClient() method, as the query and database table serve the needs of every client who needs financial balance.  However, we are still not sure if the financial balance is fine. We need to check what’s in there using the method  checkFinancialBalance().

Now, finally, we reserve the balance with  reserveFinancialBalanceForCurrentClient(). I omitted logging, error handling, and minor code quirks and kept only the essentials. And, it’s already too big.  This class is a hidden dependency itself, and it, therefore, consists of hidden dependencies. How much database queries are executed in this method? I don’t know. 

Try OOP, Instead

Do you still have any doubts that this class does more than it should?  Was it worth it to allegedly avoid copy-paste, which resulted in completely unmaintainable, super-generic code that is difficult to edit? Let's try OOP, instead.

  • Identify your objects. Focus on “what,” not “how.” Focus on objects, not procedures.
  • When objects are identified, make all your dependencies explicit first and limit their number. Limit it to five per method. Why five? I don’t know, it just sounds reasonable. Six feels like too much already. When there are more than five, your class wants to do more than it should. Or, probably, the abstraction level of those dependencies is too low. Anyway, explicit dependencies give you a chance to make your design more solid.
  • Don’t generalize too early, remember the Rule of Three. Implement only some specific scenarios first.
Topics:
java ,static method ,oop ,coupling ,cohesion ,static class

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