Thursday, December 11, 2014

‌Bad Smells in Code

Duplicated Code

If you see the same code structure in more than one place, you can be sure that your program will be better if you find a way to unify them.

Long Method

The object programs that live best and longest are those with short methods.
There is still an overhead to the reader of the code because you have to switch context to see what the sub procedure does. Development environments that allow you to see two methods at once help to eliminate this step, but the real key to making it easy to understand small methods is good naming. If you have a good name for a method you don't need to look at the body.

Large Class

When a class is trying to do too much, it often shows up as too many instance variables. When a class has too many instance variables, duplicated code cannot be far behind.

Long Parameter List

In our early programming days we were taught to pass in as parameters everything needed by a routine. This was understandable because the alternative was global data, and global data is evil and usually painful. Objects change this situation because if you don't have something you need, you can always ask another object to get it for you. Thus with objects you don't pass in everything the method needs; instead you pass enough so that you the method can get to everything it needs.

Divergent Change

Divergent change occurs when one class is commonly changed in different ways for different reasons.

Shotgun Surgery

Shotgun surgery is similar to divergent change but is the opposite. You whiff this when every time you make a kind of change, you have time to make a lot of little changes to a lot of different classes. When the changes are all over the place, they are hard to find, and it's easy to miss an important change.

Feature Envy

The whole point of objects is that they are a technique to package data with the processes used on that data. A classic smell is a method that seems more interested in a class other than the one it actually is in.

Data Clumps

Data items tend to be like children; they enjoy hanging around in groups together. Often you'll see the same three or four data items together in lots of places: fields in a couple of classes, parameters in many method signatures.Bunches of data that hang around together really ought to be made into their own object.

Primitive obsession

You use primitives in the system to pass data, rather than objects, and it gets in the way of understanding the code. Eg. passing arrays everywhere.

Switch Statements

One of the most obvious symptoms of object-oriented code is its comparative lack of switch (or case) statements. The problem with switch statements is essentially that of duplication. Often you find the same switch statement scattered about a program in different places.The object-oriented notion of polymorphism gives you an elegant way to deal with this problem.

Parallel Inheritance Hierarchies

Parallel inheritance hierarchies is really a special case of shotgun surgery. In this case, every time you make a subclass of one class, you also have to make a subclass of another. You can recognize this smell because the prefixes of the class names in one hierarchy are the same as the prefixes in another hierarchy.

Lazy Class

Each class you create costs money to maintain and understand. A class that isn't doing enough to pay for itself should be eliminated. Often this might be a class that used to pay its way but has been downsized with refactoring. Or it might be a class that was added because of changes that were planned but not made. Either way, you let the class die with dignity.

Speculative Generality

You get it when people say, "Oh, I think we need the ability to this kind of thing someday" and thus want all sorts of hooks and special cases to handle things that aren't required. The result often is harder to understand and maintain.

Temporary Field

Sometimes you see an object in which an instance variable is set only in certain circumstances. Such code is difficult to understand, because you expect an object to need all of its variables. Trying to understand why a variable is there when it doesn't seem to be used can drive you nuts.

Message Chains

You see message chains when a client asks one object for another object, which the client then asks for yet another object, which the client then asks for yet another another object, and so on. You may see these as a long line of getThis methods, or as a sequence of temps. Navigating this way means the client is coupled to the structure of the navigation. Any change to the intermediate relationships causes the client to have to change.

Middle Man

One of the prime features of objects is encapsulation—hiding internal details from the rest of the world. Encapsulation often comes with delegation. You ask a director whether she is free for a meeting; she delegates the message to her diary and gives you an answer. All well and good. There is no need to know whether the director uses a diary, an electronic gizmo, or a secretary to keep track of her appointments.
However, this can go too far. You look at a class's interface and find half the methods are delegating to this other class. After a while it is time to use Remove Middle Man and talk to the object that really knows what's going on.

Inappropriate Intimacy

Sometimes classes become far too intimate and spend too much time delving in each others private parts. We may not be prudes when it comes to people, but we think our classes should follow strict, puritan rules.

Data Class

These are classes that have fields, getting and setting methods for the fields, and nothing else. Such classes are dumb data holders and are almost certainly being manipulated in far too much detail by other classes. In early stages these classes may have public fields. If so, you should immediately apply Encapsulate Field before anyone notices.

Refused Bequest

Subclasses get to inherit the methods and data of their parents. But what if they don't want or need what they are given? They are given all these great gifts and pick just a few to play with. The traditional story is that this means the hierarchy is wrong.


Don't worry, we aren't saying that people shouldn't write comments. In our olfactory analogy, comments aren't a bad smell; indeed they are a sweet smell. The reason we mention comments here is that comments often are used as a deodorant. It's surprising how often you look at thickly commented code and notice that the comments are there because the code is bad. Comments lead us to bad code that has all the rotten whiffs we've discussed in the rest of this chapter.
If you need a comment to explain what a block of code does, try Extract Method. If the method is already extracted but you still need a comment to explain what it does, use Rename Method. If you need to state some rules about the required state of the system, use Introduce Assertion.

Summary of the "Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code"