I’ve been given Clean Code, by Robert C. Martin to read as part of my training before I start work next week. Overall, I feel like I’ve been learning a lot. In particular aspects of code I understood, but not well enough. That usually comes of listening to a person who has spent their full time job thinking about these ideas, and is able to describe them well.
There’s a few ideas that he has though which I don’t feel he should be saying are entirely correct. I might pick out one or two and make individual blog posts about them as I find time.
Chapter 6, on Objects and Data Structures, discusses what Robert calls “train wrecks” but within jQuery circles gets called “chaining”. And I think it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the syntax.
It’s how we build sentences in real life. We’d say “get all of #nav_ul’s list items, and hide them”. One sentence, that’s easily readable (and self documenting) in one line. It’s a very quick activity, that probably isn’t the main purpose of the function, so why shouldn’t the nuances of it be hidden away?
Robert would have split our sentences into shorter, more explicit sentences. “You know that list item? Yes, #nav_ul lets call it
nav_ul. Well, it has a bunch of children which are lists. Yup, lets call them
nav_ul_children. Hide each item within
nav_ul = $('#nav_ul');
nav_ul_children = nav_ul.children('li');
A lot more of a mouthful… You also lose a lot of the assumed information; although it doesn’t look like it, nav_ul is actually a jQuery object. We usually instantly know that when we see one because of the distinctive $(), but if we assign it to a variable, we lose that. This is a chunk of code I would expect to be commented, so it’s lost its self documenting ability.
I agree though, that if you are chaining heavily you need to take a step back and ask “am I relying on the internals of the objects I’m touching too much?” If the object changes the way it produces its output, will you be tripped up? In this case Demeter does need to be taken into account, and Robert is entirely correct. Remember though, if a rule is stopping you from making your application better, just ignore it.