Coding Style

I’ve certainly acquired some strong tastes for coding style, probably primarily drawing from time spent reading code either through having to work with such code or through voluntarily reading in pursuit of knowledge (and taste acquisition).

Many of the resulting ideas are likely to be touched on elsewhere.

Small Footprints


Avoid Hourglass Code

Composition of Simplicity

A typical pattern is to consolidate behaviors using patterns that amount to consolidation of complexity. Very often this seems to result from combining multiple things together, for example creating a function that does foo and bar may be bundled up into a function doFooBar, but then there may further need to be the desire to only foo and not bar which would result in a parameter and branching added to that function to only do what is necessary or perhaps some additional logic to determine what should be done.

Very often it is far simpler and more flexible (and often dramatically easier to understand) to just define the smaller pieces and compose them as necessary. There is no difference in expression between doFooBar and separate invocations to foo and bar but the latter avoids consolidation of complexity. This general pattern can then be extended in assorted ways, making use of higher order constructs and patterns with the end result being that simple pieces can be composed together into simple structures rather rather than trying to force everything into increasingly amorphous super-buckets. Likely the clearest specific pursuit of this approach is that flexibility can be increased without a commensurate increase in complexity. When combined with practices such as polymorphism a fantastic range of functionality can be delivered with very little branching.

This seems to be a fairly common practice in mature APIs and aligns very naturally with common design principles such as SOLID but I very often see the opposite approach in practice where logic is increasingly and needlessly consolidated in functions seemingly driven by the idea that a single increasingly ungainly signature is a better interface for callers than multiple focused operations.

Chekhov’s Gun

Likely the most distinguishing factor is that I strive for code that I can most easily fully understand which is contrary to practices which may provide superficial understanding. A closely related notion is the dramatic principle of Chekhov’s gun: everything in code should be bound as closely as possible to the reasons for its existence. While this may sound fairly standard the additional refinement is that much code is written in ways that express how it may behave but is not sufficiently constrained to convey the precise which ways it does behave and therefore also clearly expressing what it does not do (which is left to inference from absence).

An example of this would be tightly scoped binding environments and avoidance of otherwise redundant lvalues. Some of these concerns may seem fairly trivial but when trying to understand the code it is far less of a lift on the prefrontal cortex to be able to read something and move on rather than have to keep some symbol floating around in the wings in case it is referenced further along.