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About Mihai Andronache

Mihai Andronache
Mihai is an experienced Java and JavaEE developer. His main interests are: clean OOP, code maintainability and testing. He is the creator of http://comdor.co and http://charles.amihaiemil.com"

Logic Should Hide In Plain Sight

I’m sure you’ve heard the words “dig in the code” before. It’s the first second thing a developer does when they are new on a project. They open the IDE, look for the app’s entry point and start ctrl+clicking until they find the “business logic”. Then, they start reading the code in order to understand how the puppets in the codebase are brought to life.

It’s a common practice, it’s also what I usually do, there’s no way around it in today’s mainstream practices. However, I realised that there should be no such place in an object-oriented application or package. Let’s see where that business logic is actually gone.

Everything you read on this blog so far is incompatible with the idea of a “service layer” or “business classes”. Once objects are alive and taking care of their own business, there is simply no point in having 3rd parties trying to tear them apart. All your classes should be small, represent something and do a little piece of work for you, while your code overall should look like a tree of objects and you should see the new operator much more often than in a traditional application.

The difference in this approach is that, when you ctrl+click from one method to the other, the business logic does not become clearer; to the contrary, you should find yet another abstraction and so on, until you find the lowest abstraction (e.g. opening of a File) which may have nothing to do with the big picture.

So if all the digging only yields further abstractions, how can we understand how everything works together? The answer is: by taking a step back and observing how objects are instantiated. In object-oriented programming, business logic should not be visible in a method of a Service. Instead, it should be visible in how some objects are being composed/decorated together with other objects! The code in a method should never be enough to understand too much of the business. I believe, if that is the case, then some refactoring is needed: new implementations should be added, some of that object’s work should be delegated etc.

Take a look at the following class (ctor omitted):

public final class Hello implements Knowledge {

    private Knowledge notHello;

    @Override
    public Steps start(final Command com, final Log log) {
        final Steps resolved;
        if("hello".equalsIgnoreCase(com.type())) {
            resolved =  new GithubSteps(
                new SendReply(
                    String.format(
                        com.language().response("hello.comment"),
                        com.author()
                    )
                ),
                com
            );
        } else {
            resolved = this.notHello.start(com, log);
        }
        return resolved;
    }
}

It’s one of the knowledges of a chatbot, at some point it will say “hello”. But what are the overall steps, what does it do further, or what happens if the command is not “hello”? Going deeper into the this.notHello.start(...) will just lead you to the Knowledge interface. Even more, why is the method’s name start? Frustrating. However, if you go back a little, you should see how this object is used:

final Conversation talk = new Conversation(
    new Hello(
        new RunScript(
            new Confused()
        )
    )
);
talk.start(command);

It is very much a matter of naming, but not only that: in other to achieve this effect we, as programmers, need to shift our way of thinking from methods to classes and objects. The first thing we should think about is how an object will be used, what is its place in the scheme: an object should be a component which integrates seamlessly with other objects, not a service to which other objects come and ask for something.

From the above idea we can conclude that each and every object should have a clear purpose. Thus, there should never be any object that “isn’t worth testing” (like a get/set model, for instance): if a piece of code isn’t worth testing, then it means it has no real place in the architecture and should not exist.

If I would have designed the bot in a traditional way, the construct above would probably be replaced by the following:

/**
 * Fetch the steps for different situations.
 \*/
public class StepsService {

    public Steps getHello(final Command com) {
      //...
    }

    public Steps getRunScript(final Command com) {
      //...
    }

    public Steps getConfused(final Command com) {
      //...
    }

}

Aside the procedural code that this class is creating (now it’s up to the client to figure out what steps they need and when), we have another issue: we don’t know who is using the above “logic” in the application – any client could inject it somewhere and if we change any line of code in any of the 4 get* methods, some clients might have problems.

So, you see, it’s better to keep our objects small and cohesive while letting them build up the business logic for us, in the way they work on top of each other. All those objects will be covered by tests so there is no way (or it’s certainly harder) to change a bit of something and to not realise that something is broken.

Published on Java Code Geeks with permission by Mihai Andronache, partner at our JCG program. See the original article here: Logic Should Hide In Plain Sight

Opinions expressed by Java Code Geeks contributors are their own.

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Skip Reith
2 years ago

I agree, but you gloss over an important point. As systems get large, the number of classes also becomes large and that will lead to confusion. Someone coming in from the outside will see a huge number of classes, objects coming and going, unclear pathways to a particular functionality, and what would appear as a pile of spaghetti. Hierarchy becomes a critical tool in keeping the system simple to both test and maintain. Java’s package feature greatly supports a powerful hierarchy structure, but the packaging structure is one of those features of the language that does not get addressed that… Read more »

Mihai Andronache
2 years ago
Reply to  Skip Reith

> Java’s package feature greatly supports a powerful hierarchy structure, but the packaging structure is one of those features of the language that does not get addressed Indeed, people are forgetting about package structure. But if all the classes are in a single package, the biggest problem is that the devs might have forgotten about a big part of Access Control. So the problem is bigger than just the fact that it’s hard to understand the project structure from in the IDE: it could mean, for instance, that the devs forgot about package-protected methods and missed many opportunities of elegant… Read more »