9 Design Patterns Translated Into Java 8′s Lambdas

LAMBDAS!

There’s been a lot of hype around lambdas getting introduced in Java 8, and I have a good theory on why: hype is often born out of anticipation, and we’ve been anticipating lambdas in Java for a LONG time.

Lambdas?

A lambda spray paint pattern, the same design as in Half-LifeThe funny thing is that lambdas don’t, by themselves, do anything new. They’re just a succinct form for turning a block of code into an object that can be passed around – syntactic sugar. Some of us have been doing this for a while without the succinctness and we call it… object-oriented programming! Yes, passing blocks of code (aka functions) around as objects (aka values) is also core to functional programming, but certainly not unique to it.

Patterns!

Somewhere that this idea of “passing code around” is heavily utilised is in Continue reading

RxJava Threading Examples

I recently used RxJava while creating an add-on for Stash, the Git repository management tool from Atlassian. The plugin’s called “Who’s the Expert?” and it analyses commits to a repository to help answer two questions:

  1. “Who has contributed the most to this project over the past few years?” and
  2. “Who has made the most significant changes in recent months?”

A Problem Worthy of RxJava’s Attention

This picture of water drops on the threads of a spider web reminded me of the bubble diagrams the RxJava team uses to explain how values move through the libraryIn order to achieve this, the plugin has to process a lot of data: it pulls all commits on the default branch for the last 2.5 years and analyses the content of every single one. I knew two things about this code in advance: first, there were going to be a lot of steps to go from a repository name to a leaderboard of the most influential committers, and second, I was pretty certain I’d need some multi-threading mojo in order to get it to perform in an acceptable time frame. Continue reading

Notes from YOW! 2013: Michael T. Nygard on ‘Five Years of DevOps: Where are we Now?’

I attended Day 1 of YOW! Sydney 2013 and thought some people might get something useful out of my notes. These aren’t my complete reinterpretations of every slide, but just things I jotted down that I thought were interesting enough to remember or look into further.

Small child in a field looking into the distance with binoculars, as someone surveying the current state of DevOps probably wouldn't do.Michael T. Nygard (@mtnygard) is probably best known as the author of the 2007 book ‘Release It!‘, which teaches developers how to look beyond just getting their code working and instead design it from the outset to handle the harsh conditions of production environments. He has since become a DevOps luminary and now works at Cognitect. He spoke at YOW! 2013 about ‘Five Years of DevOps: Where are we Now?’.

Michael started off setting the timeline by pointing out that Chef and Puppet were preceded by CFEngine in about 1993!

He explained how his own experience has contributed to his DevOps insight: he worked as a Dev in Ops for some time, showing the Ops team how to solve some of their problems with Dev-like approaches, but also finding lots of problems with the way Devs created software, which was the chief inspiration for his book. Continue reading

Quick Response to “Test-induced Design Damage”

David Heinemeier Hansson wrote an interesting critique of Test Driven Design two days ago. I understand where he’s coming from with his concern that mindlessly shaping all design around tests can (will?) lead to poor design in some areas. It was interesting, and I like to be challenged and think about these things. Personally, I think his extrapolation to proposing “TDD is Dead” is hyperbole. Here are my thoughts on the bits of his blog that jumped out at me…

“But the testing pyramid prescribes that the unit level is where the focus should be, so people are sucked into that by default.”

It’s probably true that some people are sucked into always defaulting to the unit level. The problem with that is the “always”, but the unit level is where the focus should be. Why? Because that is where the complexity lives – in each unit. The reason we separate code into units is to separate complexity into simpler, composable parts. Testing exhaustively at non-unit levels (i.e. by integrating components) requires a combinatorial explosion of tests… or not testing exhaustively (might be a viable option at  your work, but not at a payments company). We use integration tests as well, but I don’t typically use them to prove all facets of functionality, instead only to prove the components integrate correctly and can deliver the core functions.

“Controllers are meant to be integration tested, not unit tested.”

I work in the Java world, not the Rails world, and I completely agree with this. When I started at Tyro, we were writing unit tests for controllers and integrated web tests for the presentation (i.e. JSPs)  of most features as well. The result? All controller code was tested twice. (It’s pretty hard to test a JSP without hitting its controller.) There’s a dirty word to describe this practice: waste. We ditched controller tests a long time ago now and no one has ever missed them. Controllers are still tested, just not by unit tests. From time to time, some logic in a controller might get a bit complex, resulting in more paths than are practical to web test. The solution is easy there: extract that complexity into another class, unit test the complexity, and web test the integration. Controllers should never be complex. A David points out, they are mostly just an adapter layer between models and views. Let any kind of business logic complexity live in there and it’s got two responsibilities. Your goal should be to make controllers so simple that they don’t need unit tests.

“Finally, the fear of letting model tests talk to the database is outdated”

Yes, and no. Yes, there should not be a fear of testing against the database. In fact, there should be a preference towards it. Not testing against real databases (the same ones you’ll use in Production) leaves a big fat layer of assumptions in your app. However, in large systems with lots of database interaction and great test coverage you can quickly max out the build time if you use the database everywhere. My thoughts: have a preference for DB-backed testing, but not at the expense of developer productivity. The team needs to be aware of when the preference is damaging their velocity and find the balance. I’ve written a lot of data-heavy, back-end Java, so mileage with Ruby on Rails may vary (maybe it never becomes a problem).

“Above all, you do not let your tests drive your design, you let your design drive your tests!”

I don’t think it’s this simple. One great advantage of using tests to drive design is that your desire for simple tests commutes to an implementation of simple classes. Yes, you can probably achieve similar outcomes by doing some more thinking or drawing, but test-first is also a useful tool for driving towards this goal. Not the only tool, or a required tool, but a useful tool. I write lots of simple code at home and rarely write tests for it, but recently I found one part I was writing was a bit gnarly so I decided to write a unit test for it. Upon starting to write the test, I found I wasn’t able to because of the design of the code, and when I thought about the design for a second I realised I was mashing several responsibilities into the one place. Tests can drive designs to bad places, but in my experience they more often drive them to good places.

I often re-iterate to my team that testing is primarily about building confidence in the code, and secondly about building a safety net for those who pass this way next. There is no mandate in TDD for writing tests that do not build confidence (do you TDD getter methods?), or for spending hours on tests that increase confidence by small fractions. I think David is right that there are probably zealots out there who are blindly going down these kinds of paths. Perhaps he’s right that some designs are bastardised by having stringent testability requirements, though I don’t recall seeing a lot of this in my travels. So, he’s right that mindlessly shaping all design around tests can have bad effects, but no software developer should be doing anything mindlessly. I think there is value in letting tests shape your design much of the time, so long as one keeps in mind that there will be occasions where the tests have to be shaped by the design instead.

Everything in moderation, right? Including moderation.

Notes from YOW! 2013: Hadi Hariri on ‘Refactoring Legacy Codebases’

I attended Day 1 of YOW! Sydney 2013 and thought some people might get something useful out of my notes. These aren’t my complete reinterpretations of every slide, but just things I jotted down that I thought were interesting enough to remember or look into further.

A stack of stickers showing the word 'refactor' in a stylised, death-metal-like font.Hadi Hariri is a Developer and Technical Evangelist at JetBrains. He spoke at YOW! about refactoring legacy codebases.

Hadi started by offering reasons for refactoring:

  • increase the understandability of the code
  • decrease the impact of change
  • reduce the cost of change

He described how refactoring relies on culture: Continue reading

Why You’ve Never Heard About Steve Jobs’ Skateboarding Prowess

… and the secrets of 7 other famously successful people.

There would be few adults in the western world who have not heard of Steve Jobs. A pioneer of personal computing, an entrepreneur of unrivalled clout, one-time owner of the world’s most successful digital animation studio, the man who took the helm of an almost bankrupt computer company and transformed it into the most valuable business in the world.

But have you ever heard about Steve Jobs’ skateboarding skills? Continue reading

Notes from YOW! 2013: Jeff Paton on ‘Safety Not Guaranteed: How Successful (Agile) Teams Ignore the Rules to Create Successful Products’

I attended Day 1 of YOW! Sydney 2013 and thought some people might get something useful out of my notes. These aren’t my complete reinterpretations of every slide, but just things I jotted down that I thought were interesting enough to remember or look into further.

Two people dressed as crash test dummies with their thumbs up. Does following Agile processes to the letter mean your team will be safe and succeed?Jeff Paton (@jeffpaton) is an independent consultant, teacher and Agile coach, and (I believe someone said) the inventor of Story Mapping. He spoke at YOW! about ‘Safety Not Guaranteed: How Successful Teams Ignore the Rules to Create Successful Products’.

Jeff started his talk by announcing that he hated agile development since the moment he first heard of it, but went on to explain that he doesn’t really hate agile now and that an important part of this has been to learn to pay a lot of attention to what he’s doing. Continue reading

Notes from YOW! 2013: Jeff Hawkins on ‘Computing Like the Brain: The Path to Machine Intelligence’

I attended Day 1 of YOW! Sydney 2013 and thought some people might get something useful out of my notes. These aren’t my complete reinterpretations of every slide, but just things I jotted down that I thought were interesting enough to remember or look into further.

A visual repesentation of machine intelligence as an incandescent brain with digital inputs and outputsKeynote, Day 1: Jeff Hawkins spoke about “Computing Like the Brain: The Path to Machine Intelligence

Jeff is an entrepreneur (he invented this slightly popular thing called the Palm Pilot) and scientist who co-founded Grok (formerly Numenta) to build technology based on theories of how the neocortex of mammalian brains works. Continue reading

Does Scala == Effective Java?

From the archive: Originally written in January 2011, this post from my old blog, Graham Hacking Scala, has been consistently popular ever since and I thought it deserved a new lease on life here…

'Effective Java (2nd Edition)' by Joshua Bloch. Many of its suggestions are redundant if coding in Scala.I started reading Joshua Bloch’s Effective Java last week. I’ll have to admit that I haven’t read it before, but only because I’ve been told by several people, “you already do most of what’s in there anyway.” Seeing as we tell all the new recruits to read it, I thought I should actually flip through it myself so I know what’s in there.

Books of best practices are always written in relation to domains that have many possibilities for bad practices (choosing otherwise would make for a very short book). Reading the first chapter of Effective Java, I was amused as I realised that, if you’re coding in Scala instead of Java, many of the book’s recommendations are either unnecessary, because Scala doesn’t permit the corollary bad practice, or built into the language of Scala, or made easier to implement than they are in Java. This isn’t a criticism of the book, but an observation that the state of the art is moving on, and Java is being left behind.

From the first 25 items in the book, here are my notes on practices that either become easier to follow or unnecessary if you are using Scala: Continue reading

Are Git and Mercurial Anti-Agile?

Drainage pipes running down the wall of a factory, branching and merging as they descend, similar to the disorganisation that branches can cause in Git and Mercurial.This is a question I’ve been asking myself for a while. It’s not a fully-thought out argument (that’s why it’s still a question), but it’s a train of thought that I think warrants some investigation. I’d love to get some opinions from people with good or bad experiences of using DVCS with Agile as to how this plays out practically.

So, here’s my train of thought…

Easy branching and merging is the killer feature of Git and Mercurial.

They improve on other centralised systems (Subversion, CVS) in many other ways, but branching and merging is the reason that’s always used to sell the switch. The question I want to raise is whether branching and merging are good tools for an agile development team, or a nuisance. Continue reading