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A month of clean code

Jason McCreary
I build things with my hands. The human behind Shift - https://laravelshift.com, master of Git - https://gettinggit.com, and author of "BaseCode" - https://basecodefieldguide.com
Updated on ・3 min read

Each week over the past month, I have posted before and after code samples calling out ways to clean up code. The response has been amazing, many receiving hundred of likes. While I will continue to share these weekly clean code samples, I wanted to collect the previous ones into a single post.

Breaking up long methods

In this first tweet a developer submitted a long Laravel controller action they wanted to clean up. At a high level the controller action handled a course enrollment request. At a low level the code had two paths for enrolling the user.

Before and after code cleanup of a long method

The main question to ask when evaluating a long method is who is responsible for this section of code? The answer to this question will help determine if the code can be moved elsewhere. In this case, the creation of the user could be moved to the model. We could also streamline the two paths by creating a private, conditional method. This method performs the branched logic of creating the user when necessary.

The result is a much smaller method. Some may argue we've simply moved the code. Nevertheless, the intent of our original method is more concise and its component parts are easy to follow. Both improve communicates - which is the measurement of clean code.

As pointed out on Twitter, the after code did have some mistakes, such as missing parameters to createUserIfUnauthenticated. However, these are trivial mistakes which do not change the clean up.


Leveraging objects

The second tweet was a Laravel controller action submitted by a developer. At a high level the controller action handled storing image uploads. At a low level the controller did everything itself - validation, image manipulation, storage.

Before and after code cleanup introducing objects

To clean this code, the strategy is to leverage other objects to handle all the things. A Laravel Form Request object could be used for the validation. We could adopt the Repository Pattern to introduce an object to coordinate the storage of an image.

Similar to before, the result is a smaller method. What's different in this case is leveraging existing objects available in the framework. We also applied a pattern that fit our code. Too often developers do this in reverse - fitting the code to a pattern. Letting a pattern emerge from the code is a far cleaner approach.


Cleaning conditional code

The third tweet focused on cleaning up the conditional code that forms most of our codebase. This has been the most popular cleanup so far. Likely because the fundamental code allows it to apply to many languages.

Before and after code cleanup of conditional code

Most of these cleanups fall under the third Writing Clean Code practice - avoid nested code. Anytime you want to clean up conditional code as yourself two questions:

  1. Can I return the condition directly?
  2. Does inverting the conditional logic improve communication?

Spotting primitive obsession

The fourth tweet focuses on spotting Primitive Obsession. Our obsession with using primitive data types often results in duplication of related code. It's not the exact same code which makes it harder to spot. Over time this code leaks through the system and becomes harder and harder to cleanup.

Before and after code cleanup of primitive obsession

The tips do not draw out some additional characteristics of these value objects. Almost as important as the encapsulation there provide is the fact that they are immutable. This limits state, making them relatively lightweight to add and even easier to maintain. For more detail and examples on Range, read RangeObject by Martin Fowler.

And yes, I would absolutely refactor limit() to utilize array filtering. This would be the next clean up:

function limit($items, Range $range)
{
    return array_filter($items, function ($item) use ($range) {
        return $range->includes($item);
    });
}
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Want more cleanup tips? Follow me on Twitter to get weekly tips or sign up for my upcoming field guide.

Discussion (44)

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einenlum profile image
Yann Rabiller

Thanks for your article. I agree with most of your refactoring except the first one. I really disagree with the idea of a method User::createFromCourseEnrollmentRequest.

1/ It's just 4 values that are usually used to create a User (first name, last name, email, password). We can assume there is nothing special related to the context of the Course Enrollment.

2/ It binds your model to a specific Request (so I can imagine to the Laravel Framework) which is IMO a very bad idea. Here it's just moving some code to hide it in the Model, it's not refactoring. Actually, in my opinion, it will lower the reusability and maintenance of your code.
What if you want to use something else than Laravel tomorrow?

For these reasons I would prefer the Before version. But I like the idea of a method to return a User (created or fetched) :).

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

To be clear, there is no actual Model/Request coupling. It's just coincidence that we pass the same object. To your point, we could easily use $request->only() to pluck these values out to pass down to the model.

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eimihar profile image
Rahimie Ahmad

as for me this static method doesn't introduce a new behaviour to the user model. design pattern wise, it basically uses static factory method (i actually like it), although i preferred to have some sort of EnrollmentRegistrationService for this.

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rafalpienkowski profile image
Rafal Pienkowski

Nice article. Good that you're pasting examples. You clean controllers code but in my opinion for the big picture you should add code snippet for places where the code is moved to. I think that could be very useful otherwise it looks like you're moving code in other places.
Examples with methods refactoring suit me.
Don't give up with refactoring. Fingers crossed 😁

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datashaman profile image
datashaman

IMO, it's better to mirror the use of the collection method inside Set::contains() instead of using in_array, since items seems to be a Collection object. You get more functionality that way and it's more Laravel-ish.

return $this->items->containsStrict($item);
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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

I see your suggestion. However, it's important to remember an array is a collection. No need to introduce an entire framework just to use one method.

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datashaman profile image
datashaman

Ah, I see that the other calls are to the Set class size and contains. I misread - I thought it was calling those on items. My bad. You are correct.

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pabuisson profile image
Pierre-Adrien Buisson

Very interesting, I'll keep on reading your posts, thanks! This is actually one of the area I want to improve these days so your posts come in handy. Just one detail: you should make your screenshot bigger, because they're really hard to read like this, even full-size.

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

Thanks!

Unfortunately, as commented, this is a limitation of dev.to and their image upload functionality. View the original tweets for a better resolution.

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pabuisson profile image
Pierre-Adrien Buisson

Oh I'm new to dev.to and didn't know that, sorrry for the useless comment. I'll follow up on twitter as well, thanks for the heads up!

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magnetik profile image
Baptiste Lafontaine

Too bad the screenshots are way to small, they seem really well edited.

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

This is a limitation of dev.to. View my original tweets for a higher res image.

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magnetik profile image
Baptiste Lafontaine

Awesome, thanks.

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meanin profile image
Paweł Ruciński • Edited

For me it looks like a great introduction into usage of Boy Scout Rule.

That's not mine, but read more maybe here

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

Indeed, I've written about this many times.

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fdutey profile image
Florian Dutey • Edited

1) To do clean code, you must stop using php
2) Models should not implement every possible way of instanciating them
3) Transfer from one account to another without transaction? This should be in a service.
4) The basic minimum for clean code is to have tests for them. I don't see any
5) No comments?

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

I stopped reading your reply after your first point… Clean code is not exclusive to any one language.

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biros profile image
Boris Jamot ✊ /

Either your first point is a troll, either it discredits you as a good developer.

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danielgc profile image
Daniel Gutierrez C.

Excellent article, problem with screencaptures is the (automated?) generated cloudinary image of 880px max width; a lightbox would be great (the zoom mouse cursor tricks us to think that the image file will open in a modal window) or a link to original image would be highly appreciated instead of manual editing the link. What I did was to convert res.cloudinary.com/practicaldev/im... into thepracticaldev.s3.amazonaws.com/i... and similarly in every image in order to watch your nice programming standards.

Who can we contact to express these drawbacks of dev.to?

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gcdcoder profile image
Gustavo Castillo

Awesome article and thanks for sharing it.

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

For sure! Glad you enjoyed it. Follow me on Twitter to see more next week.

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bgadrian profile image
Adrian B.G.

I was actually looking for Open Source code to write some refactoring articles, but I couldn't found one :/
I will share your work with my cadets.

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

Awesome. Be sure to share back once you write something up!

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sarmaaditta profile image
Aditta Chakraborty

This is a really awesome blog. I love this blog. I wanna translate it in Bangla & post in my organization website. Would you like to give me permission to translate & repost it?

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

Sure. Send me the link when you're done.

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sarmaaditta profile image
Aditta Chakraborty

Can you give me your email address for opening an account of you? I will give the post Author you.

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sarmaaditta profile image
Aditta Chakraborty

Thank you very much. I will create an account for you. Then I will send you everything. Give me your email address.

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jochemstoel profile image
Jochem Stoel

I hate to sound stupid but these lines with comment blocks, I can only assume you are generating these? Using what? Or did you only manually do them for the sake of example?

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author • Edited

Yes, I added them to a screenshot of the code for the sake of example.

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jochemstoel profile image
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paveltrufi profile image
Pavel Razgovorov

The screenshots are a little bit hard to see (too small) :(

Will try later from my phone xD

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biros profile image
Boris Jamot ✊ /

Hi, great article on such a simple concept!

It seems that the $request argument is missing on line 7.

Thanks!

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

You are absolutely correct. Unfortunately it's an old screenshot and I'm too lazy to redo it. :)

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hamdirizal profile image
Hamdi Rizal • Edited

Really, the only complaint I have in this post is the screenshots are too small. I barely able to read them.

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webwizo profile image
Asif Iqbal

Ah, great article.

Nice tips for cleaning your code and it is readable with comment on each line.

Thanks.

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axetrodome profile image
Axel Mhar

Nice Article

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saviobosco profile image
Saviobosco

Thanks for the wonderful tips.

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josephemmanuel profile image
joseph emmanuel kayode (iemarjay)

Great Article
IMO clean code is not just about architectures... a code is also cleaner when it can communicate it's intention without the use of comments. like example one

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gbkhellohello profile image
GBKSOFT

Thanks for your article, Jason.

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nicolaecasir profile image
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manjuanand021_20 profile image
Manjuanand

Thanks Jason. These tips really helped me.

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

Great. Check out BaseCode for even more practices.

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johhnyalmi91 profile image
Johhnyalmi91

What's the code editor on screenshots? Vim or atom?

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gonedark profile image
Jason McCreary Author

Atom with the default theme.

Forem Open with the Forem app