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Discussion on: Don’t pay the for-loop tax

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adambrandizzi profile image
Adam Brandizzi

The for(;;) construct is error-prone but I feel "going functional" in JavaScript is hardly a good solution.

Take for example the sum() function from the post. In Haskell, it would be defined this way:

sum' l = foldl (+) 0 l

Or here it is in Scheme:

(use-modules (srfi srfi-1))
(define (sum l)
    (fold + 0 l))

The sum' function is quite concise because the (+) operator is already a function. Even Python (where such a function would be frowned upon) could make it clearer:

import operator
from functools import reduce

def sum(l):
    return reduce(operator.add, l)

So, when we go to JavaScript, we got this very weird line (total, current) => total + current, where there is a total, and a current, and they are added up. Now I have a bit more to understand here. The for(;;) loop is brittle, but why not this?

const sum = (array) => {
    let result = 0;
    for (let i in array) {
        result += array[i];
    }
    return result;
}

Or, better, this?

const sum = (array) => {
    let result = 0;
    for (let v of array) {
        result += v;
    }
    return result;
}

There is a mutable variable but it is clearer what is going on. The JavaScript syntax is helping me here. Do you disagree?

I find trying to optimize for sum() functions problematic. sum() is a solved problem, whatever the solution you choose. But get another code where one calls, let us say, map() inside the function given to reduce(). It is surprising confusing. Given the trend to avoid naming functions in JS, it will become a mess.

Also, many functional patterns are helpful in functional languages, or specific situations, but not in all places. Many JS programmers write apply(compose(fn1, fn2.bind(arg)), value) because they think it is as good as f1 . (f2 arg) $ value. But is it? I don't think so. JavaScript didn't make this construction clear, as Haskell did.

Functional patterns make sense a lot of times. If you have an algorithm which can be reused except for one part, it will be great to pass the function (instead of, let us say, a Strategy pattern house-of-cards). Functions as values are a cornerstone for asynchronous code. I even like the each()/forEach() methods, so I do not have to discover if it uses a[0], a.get(0), a.item(0).

However, in general, a "more functional" JavaScript code will not be better than one that uses some loops. Trying to get better code by being "more functional" is very much like improving by being "more OO." And we know the result: how many Command pattern instances we found that should have been a function?

Now I wonder the same about lambdas that could be a for(of) block.

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danhomola profile image
Dan Homola Author

Thanks for the reply, it is an interesting view. While I understand that the for..of cycles remedy some of the problems I have with cycles, I still prefer the reduce.

I admit that for something so simple as a sum there is a little advantage, but this was chosen as an illustration for the problem exactly for the simplicity of the problem.

What I wholeheartedly agree with you on is that the all the operators (including the function call operator) in JavaScript should be functions as well.