Posted on Tue 30 July 2013

Thoughts from Reading Code - Foreman

I read a lot of open source code in my free time to make myself a better engineer. Here are some of my notes from reading foreman's cli.rb.

Code Style - Raising Exceptions with a Bang

You might occasionally encounter code that looks like this:

def start(process=nil)
  raise MyException, 'oops' unless some_condition
  if some_other_condition
    puts "meaningful error message"
    raise AnotherException, 'oops'
  end
  do_something_useful
  do_some_other_useful_thing
end

This seems perfectly normal - start validates a few conditions (possibly derived from the context or environment), and decides if it is OK to continue with the operation. However, such validations get in the way of readability, and are often duplicated in other methods. To keep things SOLID and DRY, let's extract these out into private methods.

def start(process=nil)
  check_some_condition
  check_some_other_condition
  do_something_useful
  do_some_other_useful_thing
end

Much better. The code is a lot easier to read, but the helper methods have masked their side effects. (In this case, exceptions are raised and output is printed when some conditions are not met.) This can be confusing as the code base grows and becomes more complicated. A new team member would take a longer time to go through the code and learn that the check_* methods have potential side effects. To fix this, let's add a ! to the end of their names.

def start(process=nil)
  check_some_condition!
  check_some_other_condition!
  do_something_useful
  do_some_other_useful_thing
end

With this edit, the start method's purpose and operations become immediately apparent.

Technique - Loading Configuration Files

Using Thor, one can easily create a command-line interface by defining options for tasks and accessing arguments via the options hash. For example,

method_option :color, type: :boolean
def start()
  # …
end

adds a start task that accepts a --color option. It is often useful to allow the user to specify frequently used configuration options with a configuration file, such as .rspec and .yardopts. With Thor, the options getter method provides a convenient place to merge options from the configuration file and from the command-line.

def options
  original = super                                 # get original options hash
  return original unless File.exists? CONFIG_FILE
  defaults = ::YAML::load_file(CONFIG_FILE) || {}  # read from config file
  defaults.merge(original)                         # merge
end

Note that options provided on the command-line override the options given in the configuration file.

Category: Software

Tags: ruby, reading

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