Thursday, July 4, 2013

Code Smells: Rigidity

I was recently preparing a small talk about several code smells, as discussed by Robert C. Martin in his famous 'Clean Code' book. I've decided to share my notes - it's nothing revolutionary, a bit of copy-paste from well-known resources and a bit of my personal comments and understandings.

The one for today is rigidity. Rigidity literally means "the inability to change or be changed to fit changed circumstances". And that nicely fits what the smell is about: "The software is difficult to change. A small change causes a cascade of subsequent changes". We all know it - some tasks that sounded easy at the beginning became a few weeks of bug hunting or turned out to be too difficult to finish without destroying everything around.

When it happens?

  • When the code is written in procedural style - a.k.a. "everything in one place" - with a lot of very narrow and specific, possibly unrelated conditions and special cases handling included directly in the "main" method,
  • When there is a lack of abstractions - meaning that the code operates on the low level of technical details instead of focusing on more real-life concepts, like bit flags fiddling to check for object's characteristics instead of having it available as a method or a property,
  • When the code implements some general concepts, but defines it with details specific to particular use case - like a code to render an HTML table from the general matrix that also decides the table header has dark background,
  • When a single responsibility is spread between many classes or code layers - like checking user's permissions on every layer from the data access layer up to the UI layer,
  • When components need to know a lot of details about each other to communicate properly (leaky abstractions).

How to avoid it?

  • Thinking in general terms, wrapping the implementation details into abstractions that are understood on less technical levels,
  • Creating code with satisfying the requirements first in mind, not what API's we're using or the constraints we have around,
  • Using object-oriented techniques and SOLID - with its small classes, single responsibilities and open design,
  • Encapsulating the code in the logical pieces, defining a clear boundaries and interfaces between them - if you can't tell what is the border of responsibilities, it's probably done wrong,
  • Depending upon abstraction, not implementation.

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