An object method may make a decision or change something

Lucs pushed me to start a small series of posts on programming dictums. I'm going to start with the one I thought up myself and post a few more as I think of them/get them written.

The first deals with OO. I do 90% of my coding in OO. In fact, one of my profs back in CEGEP commented that my assembler programs had an OO style.

So, first dictom is something I realised a few years ago: An object method may make a decision or change something.

I never quite got the hang of MVC because I couldn't understand what goes in the Controler, what goes in the Model. The answer, of course, is related to side-effects. Side-effects and decisions should not be mixed up in one method.

Ideally one should have one method per decision. If the method needs to load some data to make the decision, the loading code of course goes in a separate method. These methods may remember their decisions, but that's it as far as side effects go. I like to give these methods names like needs_barcode(), has_done_something(), is_ajax() but that's personal taste. These methods will tend to go in a Controller or be used by the Controller (if one is doing MVC, that is).

Methods that change something means any side effect: saving a file, setting a variable, munging some data. Ideally one wants to cut the side-effects up into small methods that handle related data. These methods will tend to go in a Model.

Done right, top level methods look like the following made up example.

if( $self->is_ajax ) {
else {
    if( not $self->has_sent_header ) {
    if( $self->is_streaming )

The benefits to dividing the code as I propose is when it comes to implementing sub-classes. Fine grain methods allow one to overload just the behaviour necessary, without (worse case) copying huge methods just to tweak a small part. It also makes it harder to stumble on hidden interdependencies and unintended consequences.

What's more, smaller methods are always a good thing. Small chunks are easier to stare at and prove to oneself that, yes they are doing what you intended them to do. They also improve readability, create a smaller units to build tests around and make refactoring code easier. What's more, I find that a good half of refactoring is taking large methods and cutting them up into smaller chunks.



Now the idea of the Fricktionless Scams has a new life in the Web 2.0 era: You write the code, users generate the content, advertisers pay the bills. Of course you then have to deal with the Greater Internet Fuckwad, spam and all the drama that an easy facsimile of anonymity brings. This last bit kind of raises the bar you have to leap over to create a web tool. What's more, you now need an smart phone app or three.

But still, with stories like that of Plenty of Fish, it's always tempting to dream of the easy money that would be Mine All Mine if only I could spend 3 months coding up a website that would run itself.

One market that for me hasn't been done right is cooking and recipes.

At one extreme you have cooking blogs. These are small well curated collections of recipes; often with first class food photography. Hooked on Heat is a good example: Excellent recipes, well written and you know they are going to work.

At the other extreme are shovelware sites like cooks.com and barnonedrinks.com. Cooks.com exists solely to place ads in front of you. The recipes are untried and unvetted, the formatting is painful, the site is useless to me. BarNoneDrinks is no where near as bad, and given that mixing up a cocktail takes all of 5 minutes, you won't loose out too badly if it turns out the recipe is a dud. But they have no way of searching for recipes that contain 2 specified ingredients, they have a lot of duplicate recipes and recipes that are basically what a few teens threw together from their father's liquor cabinet and yeah, bro, that's totally a Purple Panty Pooper! In other words, they lack curation.

In between the two are the lifestyle sections of magazines and cooking forums. Forums rely on the Googles to be able to find anything, you have to scan through all the threads to find out if the recipe is broken or not. And of course they all use Ultimate BBS which makes them a nightmare from a UI stand point.

From these examples, a list of what I want: curation or some form of vote or reputation mechanism that would rate a recipe, comments on the recipe and variations of the recipe. Slashdot's moderation system comes to mind, as does StackExchange where some uses can actually modify a question. As to variations, how about generating a table that would allow one to easily compare different related recipes. I mean, you'd be surprised by the variations I've found in the spice mix for pumpkin pie.

The one thing Barnonedrinks is good at is the fact that the ingredients are marked up. That is, they know that creme de menthe is an ingredient, not just some text. With this, you can do something like the Google Cookbook: cross index 3 ingredients you have on hand to find a recipe for supper.

But not only ingredients: techniques (creaming butter, kneading dough), quantities (is that a fluid ounce (30ml) or an ADP once (28g)? Do you want this recipe for 2 or 20 people? In metric or American customary units?), maybe even cooking style (Indian, South-Asian, Bengali and curry can all be inaccurately used as synonyms).

Ideally, one could also rearrange the recipe format. There's the One True Recipe format (a list of ingredients, followed by instructions), the Joy Of Cooking (ingredients are inline in bold with the instructions), and the one I'd like to see: a hybrid of the two (ingredients all in a list at the top, but grouped and linked to the relevant instructions.)

What's more, the instruction themselves could be brief (Cream the butter and sugar) or detailed (Bring the butter to room temp (don't melt!), beat it and the sugar in a mixer until it has a uniform consistency and light yellow texture. About X minutes. This is called creaming.)

These last 2 points (reformatting and instruction level) would mean a lot of markup is needed in a recipe. So my hypothetical CookingItRight.com would entail need a UI that made this a painless as possible.

Lastly you need a dictionary of ingredients and equivalents. What exactly is Chinese 5 spices? Is all wheat flour identical? Paprika is basically food colouring in the USA, but is smoky and spicy in Europe. Are prawns shrimps? Is a red pepper a capsicum?

Which brings us far far from our original goal: the Frictionless Scam.