Feeds

10 ways to improve your code

Think outside the curly brackets

The essential guide to IT transformation

SD West 2008 Neil Ford's Software Development West presentation, 10 Ways to Improve Your Code, was aimed at Java programmers, but Ford's "advanced code hygiene" discussion had wisdom for coders of many stripes.

Ford is a senior application architect and "meme wrangler" at ThoughtWorks, an IT consultant that specializes in development and delivery of software, and that is home to object-oriented development, refactoring and agile authority Martin Fowler. Ford's talk covered a lot of territory, from test-driven development to advice on "good citizenship."

Ford advised attendees to:

1. Write the tests before writing the code. TDD stands for "test-driven development," but Ford believes it's more useful to think of it as "test driven design." "If you're rigorous about doing it, it has beneficial side effects on the design of your code that has nothing to do with testing," he said. Among those benefits: it discourages embedded object creation, forces mocking of dependent objects, and forces the earliest possible object interaction decisions.

2. Use static analysis tools. "If you're paying the static-typing tax in Java and C# anyway, you should take advantage of that in static analysis tools," Ford said. He cited two categories of these tools: byte-code analysis tools, such as the FindBugs open source tool; and source-analysis tools, such as PMD.

3. Practice "good citizenship" by paying attention to how well your objects interact with the outside world. "Never let them exist in an invalid state," Ford advised. "Mutations should always move from one known good state to another known good state." He also advised you should avoid the singletons, because they mix responsibilities by mixing static and state.

4. Avoid indulging in speculative software development. "The goal should be to build the simplest thing we need right now," he said. The practice increases software entropy, he added, which is a measure of code complexity.

5. Simplify essential complexity and kill accidental complexity. "It's the difference between, 'the problem we have is hard,' and 'we've made the problem we have hard,'" he said.

6. Challenge programming conventions, such as writing long, unreadable test names, and blindly following the JavaBean specification to the detriment of your code.

7. Embrace single level of abstraction principle (SLAP). The idea is based on advice from Kent Beck's book Smalltalk Best Practices and Patterns, Ford explained, which states that every public method should be as short as possible, and should consist of steps, each one of which is a private method. "Don't make abstraction leaps in your code," he said.

8. Leverage existing platforms with languages targeted at specific problems and applications. "This notion that there's this one true language that you should write everything in is melting away," Ford said. Coders should think in terms of "polyglot programming," because it takes advantage of "looming opportunities/ problems," such as massively parallel threading.

9. Learn every nuance of the languages you're using. If you're using Java as your everyday language, Ford said, there are a lot of "back alleys" worth investigating. For example: Java's reflection mechanism and regular expressions, which are widely misunderstood.

10. Change your perspective and consider "antiobjects." An antiobject is a kind of object that appears to do the opposite of what we think it should do, Ford explained. The object metaphor sometimes impedes the solution "by making us try to create objects that are too inspired by the real world."®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
BBC: We're going to slip CODING into kids' TV
Pureed-carrot-in-ice cream C++ surprise
China: You, Microsoft. Office-Windows 'compatibility'. You have 20 days to explain
Told to cough up more details as antitrust probe goes deeper
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.