Things I Learnt The Hard Way - The Function Documentation Is Its Contract

1 minute read Published: 2019-06-21

When you start the code by writing the general flow as steps and making each step a function, you're actually making a contract (probably with your future self): I'm saying this function does this and this is what it does.

Remember that the documentation must be a clear explanation of what your code is doing and why it exists; remember that good messages will make reading the code only by the function documentation should be clear.

A function called mult, documented as "Get the value and multiply by 2" but, when you look at the code, it does multiply by 2, but also sends the result through the network or even just asks a remote service to multiply the incoming result by 2, is clearly breaking its contract. It's not just multiplying by 2, it's doing more than just that, or it's asking someone else to manipulate the value.

Now, what happens when this kind of thing happens?

The easy solution is to change the documentation. But do you know if people who called the function expecting it to be "multiply value by 2" will be happy for it to call an external service? There is a clear breach of "contract" -- whatever you initially said your function would do -- so the correct solution would be to add a new function with a proper contract -- and probably a better name.

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