I'm rewriting my books to include new material and target Scala 3. I'm opening sponsors so you can encourage me to finish faster.
Function programming is based1; that is, based on principles that allow a systematic and repeatable process for creating software. In this post I'm going illustrate this process with an example of summing the elements of a list, inspired by this conversation. We'll mostly be looking at algebraic data types and structural recursion (which often uses pattern matching, but is not synonymous with it).
For me, a working functional programmer, this process is one of the main advantages of FP. It means I can spend my mental cycles on understanding the problem, knowing that once I have done so the implementation follows in a straightforward way. The inverse also holds: if someone uses these principles to write code I can easily work out what problem it solves.
In this article I'm going to go through the process of improving some code. I'm mentoring a new developer who is applying for their first job. They were asked to complete some tasks on Codility as the first step of the interview process. To get used to the platform they did the first example task, and I advised them on some changes. I'm writing up here the progression from their code to (what I think is) better code. (Since this is the example task, not a task used to assess applicants, I think this is ok to publically post.)
"I was three when the elephants ate the house next door," opens a paragraph on page 108 of my copy of Enough, the new book by Dr Cassandra Coburn. It encapsulates a lot of what I like about this book: it deals with important issues but it's also a lot of fun.
Building an understanding of code is one of the main tasks in software development. Whenever we want to answer a question about code—what is this doing? why doesn't it work? how can we make it faster?—this is what we're doing. I have found it valuable to consciously surface the strategy I use to answer these questions, and have categorized my approaches into three groups:
In this post I will discuss these different ways of understanding code and their benefits and drawbacks.