Whenever I met someone new and talked about business analysis, requirement gatherings or happy customer; I used to narrate the following story from Tales of Tenali Raman which I read in my school days. The story has many variations but the crux is the same. It is about the king who promises to Tenali Raman that he can keep any one in this world happy as he has the powers and resources to achieve that. Tenali Raman challenges that it is impossible and brings a kid to the palace.

The King sits beside the kid and tells him that he will get him anything to keep him happy. The kid immediately asks for an elephant and gets it. He goes on a joy ride on the elephant around the town along with the King. They stop when the kid gets excited on seeing a pottery ware house and asks the King to get a fancy looking pot for himself. The King obliges and orders for a pot. Now the kid asks the elephant to get into the pot and the pot breaks. The kid lets out a loud wail that the pot is broken. The King to keep up his promise, orders one more pot and the same thing happens. It keeps on happening until all the pots are broken and the kid continues to cry. Having watched all this, the kid’s mom rushes in with a small toy elephant and convinces the kid that the toy is so good that it fits into her basket and they can take it home. The kid gets convinced and leaves for home happily with his mom leaving the embarrassed King behind.

Why I narrate this story is, we are right now moving our days through information overload and the idea of the whole system never gets painted in our mind. We always tend to think problems to be linear and little do we give a thought about how small actions can have long term effects. In the above story the King never asked the intentions of the kid when he asked for a pot after getting the elephant, had the king known that before he could have talked the kid out of buying the pot by explaining before the kid lost his cool. Similar situations happen in day to day work especially when requirements are collected iteratively; but the situations are not so easily visible to our eyes like the elephant & the pot story and end up with rework because of trying to achieve something as a result of completing it by parts.

We need to acknowledge that there exists a system which is not linear and the whole system is much more than just the simple sum of the parts. Also wish to introduce a term from the book Patterns of Software, by Richard P Gabriel

Organic Order – the kind of order that is achieved when there is a perfect balance between the needs of the parts and needs of the whole.

Hamcrest matchers provided a good way of expressing the assertion in the tests. Combined with the method name and the way you write your assertion it becomes expressive. Bringing it into the middle of development phase when all the other tests have been written using regular assertions was not so desired. So restricted that to starting something from scratch.

Java programmers would have gone through the boring ‘for loop’ and collections manipulations for any applications. Both in the tests and production code it was almost necessary to transform view objects (a necessary evil) to and from models or go through a list and collect the just the names etc. CollectionUtils from apache provided a good way to work through the mundane for loops and do most of that stuff. CollectionUtils.collect(list, new Transformer() {<transformer code>}),  CollectionUtils.select(list, new Predicate() {<predicate code>}) did good help to reduce remove the for loops out of sight.

I then moved on to Groovy which is when I got smitten by the ease at which we can use collections. All we need to do was to call .each or .collect on the collection and put the respective code in the closure. Having tasted this going through the CollectionUtils in java was suddenly looking like an eye sore on the code. I discussed with another developer (incidentally his name is the same as mine) about the problem. He immediately jumped in and said that he had used LambdaJ and it uses Hamcrest matchers. We immediately explored through the code and started replacing Collections.sort to LambdaJ alternative. The code

Collections.sort(personList,new Comparator() {

//comparator code


changed to Lambda.sort(personList, on(Person.class).getAge())

Once we tasted success with the first replacement, we went scouting through the code for “for loops & CollectionUtils” and ended up having interesting looking self explanatory code like

Lambda.filter(having(on(Student.class).getAge()) ,is(greaterThan(20)),studentsList)

On doing the static import, the Lambda prefix also disappears. The power of Hamcrest matchers and LambdaJ’s thoughtfully made collection utilities help in making Java code more easy to read. It also has brought closure support to Java (Limited somewhat due to Java’s nature) which looks promising but I am yet to explore its full potential.

As more and more people are getting their hands on other programming languages and switching back to Java due to client requirements are making Java more and more readable and easy to use with these kind of APIs. You can spend more time thinking about the functionality, design rather than getting bored with boilerplate stuff. What else is in store from polyglot programmers?

When I first had a look at the wrapper Boolean data type in Java a funny thought came to my mind about the tri-state nature of a boolean (Why null becomes a possible value?). Later applied the thought to any other data type which is nullable and got funny analogies. Since Object Oriented Programming was related directly to real world, I came up with the following analogy.

Every morning you get your newspaper delivered at your doorstep. The paper boy rings the bell and leaves the paper at your doorstep. Let us assume that the door bell is the function call and newspaper is the object you receive. What happens if you wont get the newspaper delivered?; quite obvious, the paper boy either won’t arrive or will come to your doorstep and communicate why the paper is not delivered.

What would happen if instead of the above scenario the paper boy arrives at your doorstep and delivers a null newspaper? You must receive the newspaper & assert that it is not null and decide to do some other activity, else your day ends abruptly because a null pointer is thrown when you tried to read the newspaper. Now let us not limit this to just newspaper, what about the need to worry about nulls every where? Would not you be driven crazy that you will have to worry about null mails, null phone calls, null water bottles?

This is what happens with many Java programmers where there is some point in their life they had dealt with a sticky, messy null pointer exception caused by some one who had made use of null for a boolean as a logic flow alternative to the true and false state. More worse is the SQL boolean data type having unknown and null as possible values.

So much of code has been written with guard clauses to prevent these nasty null pointer exceptions from getting in and eventually cost 3 extra lines of code in almost all critical business logic methods. Lately I have seen a positive trend among peers in the way we treat nulls. I have seen many consiously avoiding nulls and replacing them with empty objects, Null object pattern or special instances to handle ambiguities. When we move to newer (I would say newly adopted) languages I believe null will cease to exist.