Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Turn that If into a When

I've been absent for a few months now. The thing is, I'm spending my little free time writing a non-trivial Android app. Of course, I'm also taking thousands of notes on software design, ready for a comeback :-). Anyway, staying away from my blog so long is kinda painful :-), so here I am with a short post, inspired by a very simple design choice I had to make.

When you start my little app for the first time, you get an EULA screen. If you accept the agreement, I'll initialize an internal database with some data and bring you the main screen. Ouch, did I say "if"?

Object-oriented programming was supposed to save us from switch/cases (replaced by polymorphism), and an if/else is a switch/case by another name. However, things like "if you accept the agreement" don't fit so well with polymorphism. You can make them fit, but it's not their natural shape. So we end up with just another (fat) controller.

On the other hand, perhaps I'm just saying it wrong. What if I change it into "When you accept the agreement..."? I don't know about you, but that instantly speaks "event" to me. Now, once we stop thinking about "conditions" and we think about "events", a few things happen:

- We can actually implement the concept on top of events if our language/library is event-based.

- We can fall back to the inner interface idiom, if we're in Java-land.

- We may even think aspect if we're bold enough.

Indeed, back in 2008, I wrote a post about reasoning in aspects and then implementing in objects (Can AOP inform OOP (toward SOA, too? :-) [part 1]). The idea was exactly that in some cases (cross-cutting business rules) an event-based implementation could be a poor man's alternative to an aspect-based interception (the subsequent post delved a bit more into some obliviousness issues and into the concept of cross-cutting business rules as candidate aspects).

Of course, we have to recognize the opportunity for an aspect (or event) based design. Sometimes, changing the words we use to describe [ourselves] the problem makes that easier. Next time you're facing an if, try changing it into a when. It won't always work, but it's worth trying :-).

That's it for now. Time to hit the road (snow actually :-). Places to go, clients to meet. Next time, I'm probably going to start a new series here, "life without a controller", because yeah, controllers ain't OO.

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