Saturday, January 27, 2007

Programming by Wishful Thinking

I'm currently reading an excellent book called Everyday Scripting. I'm really enjoying it as a nice primer on whipping things up with Ruby. When I hit chapter 7 the author began to discuss a programming style that I have used for a while now. I had no idea this simple technique had a name. Many of the things I've picked up throughout my career I've learned from books, articles, reading code, and still others I've devised from first principals. This particular practice I picked up while pair programming with this super smart guy Peter Seibel. Apparently it's called "Programming by Wishful thinking."

The idea is that when you have some code to write you first do so as if methods existed already to perform the high level operations. Say you want to write some code that tells you how many songs and albums you have by a given artist. Programming languages don't have methods do to this baked in but you pretend they do. An extreme example of the practice would be:

I came up with this example in about thirty seconds so I hope it isn't to opaque.

You may then go on to write the above methods in the same way:

and so on and so on. Anyway, don't know how many people out there use this style but I've found it really helpful when I need to keep focused on the task/flow at hand without getting to distracted by the details of an issue. Maybe it will help someone else too.