I don't need a method to function

June 5, 2012

Instance methods are always associated with a particular object that may or may not exist. This means that before we can call a method we must first check if an object is null. This becomes especially tedious if you have nested objects. For example if we have a following situation:

    users.getUser("foo").getAddress().getStreet();
 
the above code would be unsafe, since every single method call could potentially lead to a null pointer. This means that we have to instantiate and check each object individually:
    String street = null;
    User user = users.getUser("foo");
    if (null != user)
       Address address = user.getAddress();
       if (null != address)
           street = address.getStreet();
 
Not only is this tedious and error prone, but it's also one more thing that you actively have to think about.

Let's compare this situation to the functional approach. In a functional language functions exist independent of data, much like static methods in OO. This means that we can't get a null pointer while calling a function. The author of the function can do all the error checking in the function once, and the user does not need to worry about it. When you chain such functions together, the null values can bubble up as the result:

    (:street (:address (:foo users)))
 
This code will not throw any null pointer exceptions, and instead a null value will be returned. It has less noise, it's less error prone, and it's easier to read.

Copyright © Dmitri Sotnikov

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