Friday, February 01, 2008

Design Patterns Course

The following series of posts deal with a design pattern course I conducted for a few colleagues of my team who insisted that I knew enough to conduct such a course(I don't). One of the problems I had faced while attending the design patterns course conducted by probably the best Technical Manager I've worked under (Homi Bharda) was that practical examples were hard to come by, where you could see the usefullness and though the Design patterns book by Erich Gamma did point to some examples they almost always dealt with GUI heavy , stateful , highly object oriented programs while at that stage I dealt with mostly stateless CRUD web based applications.
I resolved that any course I took would show practical examples and what better example than the Java API which was quite familiar to my colleagues. I also had a lot of problem differentiating between patterns. Some of the Factory patterns looked alike. Some of the patterns like Command and Strategy looked alike. I resolved to have some comparisons at least.

What these notes dont have is my bitterly cynical comments e.g. of people who code such that all their classes have a suffix which is pattern e.g. ObjectCommand uses an ObjectFacade uses an ObjectFactory creates an ObjectService which uses an ObjectDAO and returns an ObjectAdapter which wraps an ObjectDecorator which wraps a ObjectDTO (Disclaimer I have done this too). This literally is the developer's cry look Im a designer , I use patterns , I even know their names! But ask them Give me some examples of design patterns in the Java SDK and we have a) Blank Stares b) Singleton c) A very very few Decorator.
So anyway other than the above rant , very few cynical comments

General Notes
What is a pattern ?
A Name, A Recurring problem with context, A recommended Solution(or way ahead), Consequences and Alternatives
The bit a lot of people miss out is the Context and the Consequence. A pattern cannot be used irrespective of the context . This causes problems like 'Singletonitis'. A pattern always has some consequence. A pattern probably does have alternatives which are to be evaluated.
A pattern need not always be up front design, you can arrive at many patterns with a judicious use of refactoring and some simple principles notably DRY.
Patterns are also sometimes subsumed by the language or the platform (e.g. Factory in Visual Basic COM and Iterator in java) and some people refer to patterns as deficiency in the language / platform ( I dont agree!).
Anyone who does anything with Design Patterns has to refer to Erich Gamma's et al book , and thats what I have based this on including the organisation of the patterns as Creational, Behavioral and Structural. Its quite difficult for novices (like me) to differentiate what between what constitutes a behavioral or structural pattern so dont bother right now.
Also note that any Object oriented system has available to it the mechanisms of Polymorphism and Inheritance (Implementation of Interface). Therefore all diagrams of Design patterns will look similar in a lot of case. it is necessary to understand the nuance and differences and context.
And lastly in a web project , differentiate between building a framework and solving a problem at hand. Its very easy to get carried away and over engineer and its as easy to under engineer, and it's also simple to shout TDD, refactoring , agile. Ultimately experience is what you use to decide whether you need a pattern upfront or later, Refactor or not. And anyone who tells you otherwise is either a manager or a consultant.

1 comment:

Pearl said...

Good words.