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.

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