Shahzad Bhatti Welcome to my ramblings and rants!

January 18, 2009

Tips from Implementation Patterns

Filed under: Computing — admin @ 10:05 pm

I read recently read Kent Beck’s Implementation Patterns book. The book contains a number of low-level programming techniques for improving design of a program. Kent Beck is grand master of programming and a great communicator. If there is one thing you can learn from this book is to communicate design effectively with the code. The book is fairly concise and consists of ten chapters and 130 pages. Following are some of my favorite tips from the book:

Values, Principles and Patterns

Due to his pioneering work in design patterns, Kent uses patterns to identify common programming techniques and similar to his extreme programming style for agile development he divides those techniques into values, principles and patterns. The values focus on high level goals such as communication, simplicity, flexibility. The principles focus on local consequences (minimize side-effect), DRY, keeping data/logic together, symmetry, decalartive (annotations), rate of change (Reuse/Release Equivalency Principle).


The chapter 5 describes different ways of organizing the code using classes, interfaces, versioned interface, abstract class, value object, etc. Kent shows importance of dependency inversion principle of coding to interfaces. He provides trade-offs between interfaces and abstract class such as change in implementation and change of the interface itself. One of the hardest thing in real world is progression of interfaces with new behavior and Kent describes versioned interface for it. Kent also encourages use of value or immutable objects to make the program side-effect free as in functional languages. He bemoans procedural interfaces due to temporal depdency they impose. Inheritance is also most difficult to get right, so Kent gives a lot of advice on that to make sure subclasses follow Liskov Substition Principle. Kent describes discourages use of conditional logic and encourags delegation technique based on polymorphism. He also shows pluggable selector briefly to implement plugin like behavior. Finally, he discourages of use of library classes with static methods and encourages use of instance methods.


The chapter 6 describes patterns for state such as access, variables, parameters, initializations, etc. Unlike functional languages that don’t allow mutable state, imperative languages have to manage state that changes over time. Kent prefers indirect access to the state rather than direct especially when there is dependency between multiple pieces of data. Kent prefers keeping scope of variables local. This chapter also gives good advice on naming variables and parameters. Finally, this chapter describes techniques for eager and lazy initialization.


The chapter 7 describes patterns for control flow, methods and exceptions. In object oriented languages messages are fundamental mechanism for controlling workflow and communicating with the objects. Kent also describes technique for double dispatch (similar to visitor pattern) that provides polymorphic behavior but at the cost of additional coding and maintenance overhead. Other topics include providing guards, naming method and exception handling.


The chapter 8 describes how to divide logic into methods. The chapter describes composed method for calling other methods. It encourages use of symmetry and having same level of abstraction for called methods. Kent also shows use of Method object or Function object that mimics functional style of programming. This chapter also describes conversion methods, factory methods, getter/setter methods and advice of returning copy from the methods instead of internal references.


The chapter 9 describes collections such as arrays, lists, sets, map.

Evolving Framework

This chapter describes how to evolve frameworks without breaking the applications. Kent borrows a lot of his experience from JUnit framework and Eclipse (his buddy Eric Gamma). One of interestic topic is how to use objects and the chapter provides three styles including instantiation, configuration and implmentation. Kent shows how implementation technique allow clients to implement a framework interface and extend behavior. Kent also describes trade-offs of extending interfaces and using specialized interfaces as used by AWT (LayoutManager2). The chapter also offers advice on use of internal classes by clients and how they can be instantiated using constructors, factories, etc.


This book shows a lot of techniques and patterns that most experienced programmers knowingly or unknowningly use on daily basis. Nevertheless, it helps to review these techniques and some trade-offs for them. Though, I wish the book gave a lot more examples and described antipatterns as I often found most of the topics a bit dull.

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