re: Is “Defensive Programming” actually healthy? VIEW POST

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Thank you for responding. :) I’m a bit confused by this point though:

it's pretty clear that avoiding the fallthrough is simply not worth it.

Because it takes about 15 seconds to add any else/default case that throws an error. And if you have an assertUnreachable function around, then it takes the same time to get compiler time feedback.

I totally 100% respect your thoughts on measuring the cost— after all, modern software development and Agile is all about trade offs. But if you just make it a rule of thumb to never fall through... you’ve avoided a whole class of bugs and it only took you 15 seconds per switch statement.

As for the use of the word YAGNI, another commenter provided this wonderful quote that has helped clarify my thoughts. Martin Fowler says:

“Yagni only applies to capabilities built into the software to support a presumptive feature, it does not apply to effort to make the software easier to modify.”

And after using the never pattern (described in my article) for a few months now, I can tell you that it makes refactoring so much easier. And to your point, maybe the refactoring is never required, but I do feel a lot happier in the present when I take the time to pay it forward to future me.

Sorry, that was probably a miscommunication. Since the regular meaning of "fallthrough" (missing break; statement in a switch clasue that causes execution to fall through from one case to another) does not apply here, I interpreted "avoiding fallthrough in a switch case (as shown in the article) is YAGNI" as the original code - the one that not modifying it "respects YAGNI".

Of course the option that does not potentially cause a lethal accidents when new options are added is preferable...

But if you just make it a rule of thumb to never fall through...

A "rule of thumb" does not mean "never do this" or "always do that". What it means is "always consider this". You still need to apply your own judgment.

Martin Fowler says: ...

Best practices are treated too much like holy scriptures. A set of rules, set in stone, that everyone can quote, and whether or not they know the origin of a rule - the assume that it came from God and must never be broken. But for a law to always fit reality it has to be very elaborated, and these best practices usually try to be short and catchy proverbs. So wise sages (like Martin Fowler here) add more interpretations and clauses to make it fit real life cases.

I really disagree with this approach. Developers like Martin Fowler simply apply their own judgment to the rule for everyone to use, but I think every developer should be capable of thinking for themselves and using their own judgment. You don't need to find some sage to quote to support your judgment - you can provide your own reasoning. Even if you don't have your biography and achievements listed in Wikipedia.

Of course, if your favorite sage published an article or wrote a blog post with well-built arguments there is no shame in linking it. The point is that you should rely on the logic of the arguments - be them your own or from external sources - and not the holy wisdom of the arguer.

Yup absolutely. I only quoted him because j thought he expressed a nice sentiment succinctly and I think it’s important to cite people for their contributions. As for my own thoughts: I have yet to find a good, safe reason to have a default case that handles more than one state (I thought that was called the fallthrough case but my bad). I think (without anyone else telling me) that it’s better to throw an error (or better yet, create a compiler error like I show in the article) when a not-yet-discovered case is found in the default.

I was hoping that someone would provide a reason to avoid the “rule of thumb.” I like discovering when ideas are not absolutes. The fun is in the gray area. But until someone presents a compelling reason for a non-never default case, I’ll continue to make it a correction on code reviews that are submitted to me. Defense it is.

There is one case I can think of where you want a default clause that does not throw an error - handling keycodes:

switch (keyboardEvent.keyCode) {
    case KeyCode.LEFT:
        return goLeft();
    case KeyCode.RIGHT:
        return goRight();
    case KeyCode.Up:
        return goUp();
    case KeyCode.DOWN:
        return goDown();
    default:
        return doNothing();
}

(in no particular language)

Adding ~100 more case clauses for all the other key codes is too much, and you wouldn't want this to fail compilation just because someone updated KeyCodes to support some more keys.

Whadya know, an exception to the rule. Bravo! 👏

But yea, I think exhaustively checking every case in the KeyCode enum would be a waste of time and would be way too verbose. I gotta be honest, I wasn’t expecting someone to come up with something that made me think it was wise to avoid the never assertion, but you did. :) I guess that’s he beautify of seeking feedback.

That's why my best practice is to never blindly follow best practices to the letter and always apply your own judgment.

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