Where Instead of Using Functional Bind, I Create an Expressive Model


The other day, I wrote a post about bind() and the >>= operator and how it can help chain function calls together. The example was a bit too contrived and making it fit the requirements left us with really bad code. I came up with an even better implementation: use plain Swift objects and express your intent carefully.

Let’s have a look what we left of with last time.

In order to chain functions with bind(), the incoming parameters of one function define a contract which the function before has to satisfy through its return value.

The end result looked quite slick:

withdrawCash(amount, fromAccount) 
  >>= depositCash(toAccount)
  >>= addTransferToLog

But Recall what the final functions looked like for this to work, put into an order o you can see the dependencies:

func addTransferToLog(amount: Money, from: Account, to: Account) { ... }
func depositCash(to: Account)(amount: Money, from: Account) 
    -> (Money, Account, Account)? { ... }
func withdrawCash(amount: Money, from: Account) 
    -> (Money, Account)? { ... }

Returning a tuple is possible in Swift, but it’s far from elegant.

There are is an alternate versions which I like better. The good old Builder.

Using a Builder, Uncovering API Mistakes

One of the original Gang of Four Design Patterns.1 Using a Builder object, the result can become:

if let transfer = TransferBuilder()
  .build() { ... }

The build method can obviously fail when not all parameters off a transfer are met.

For so simple a data structure, an initializer will work just as well.

struct Transfer {
    init(amount: Money, fromAccount: Account, toAccount: Account) { ... }

Worse, though, this model unveils a mistake in the original code. There, we chained two events for the sake of showing what bind can do: withdrawing and depositing cash.

I found I cheated when I made depositCash require a fromAccount parameter just to pass it along. Cash depositing does not require such things. Money transfers do.

Using no Builder but Expressive Objects

Please Clean Up Your Mess sign
Photo Credit: Please Clean Up Your Mess by Allen Goldblatt. License: CC-BY 2.0

So while the Builder and the value type initializer now better capture my real intent, I see that I miss cash withdrawal and depositing. The behavior is missing.

The Builder design pattern and bind() work well to create and transform data, respectively. They don’t express behavior, though. That’s something you don’t learn from patterns. But Domain-Driven Design has taught me well, so here’s a different approach to cash withdrawal.

Turning to explicit modeling practices, cash withdrawal becomes a process with quite a few actors involved:

extension Account {
    func withdrawCash(amount: Money, 
        usingCashMachine cashMachine: CashMachine,
        clock: Clock) -> Result<Payout, InsufficientFunds> {
        if !amountWithdrawalIsWithinAllowance(amount) { 
            return .Failure(InsufficientFunds(account: self, 
                balance: currentBalance))
        let payout = Payout(account: self, amount: amount, time: clock.now())
        cashMachine.performPayout(payout) // infrastructure: shell out real cash

        return .Success(payout)

The original functions looked cool. But I picked a bad example: one where sensitive information is involved and transactions have important invariants. Modeling a real object is more versatile and closer to the problem domain.

My takeaway is this: don’t “functionalize” just everything only because the pattern is cool. Look for really good use cases for bind (like data transformations) and stick to explicit and intent-revealing objects for the main part of the work.

Photo Credit: Please Clean Up Your Mess by Allen Goldblatt. License: CC-BY-2.0.

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