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Naresh Jain's Random Thoughts on Software Development and Adventure Sports
     
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The I Naming Convention

I don’t like the I<something> naming convention for interfaces for various reasons.

Let me explain with an example. Lets say we have IAccount interface. Why is this bad?

  • All I care is, I’m talking to an Account, it really does not matter whether its an interface, abstract class or a concrete class. So the I in the name is noise for me.
  • It might turn out that, I might only ever have one type of Account. Why do I need to create an interface then? Its the speculative generality code smell and violating the YAGNI principle. If someday I’ll need multiple types of Accounts, I’ll create it then. Its probably going to be as much effort to create it then v/s doing it now. Minus all the maintenance overhead.
  • Let’s say we’ve multiple types of Accounts. Instead of calling it IAccount and the child classes as AccountImpl1 or SavingAccountImpl, I would rather refer to it as Account and the different types of account as SavingAccount or CreditAccount. It might also turn out that, there is common behavior between the two types of Account. At that point instead of having IAccount and creating another Abstract class called AbstractAccount I would just change the Account interface to be an abstract class. I don’t want to lock myself into an Interface.

Personally I think the whole I<something> is a hang-over from C++ and its precursors.

Some people also argue that using the I<something> convention is easy for them to know whether its an interface or not (esp. coz they don’t want to spend time typing new Account() and then realizing that its an interface).

The way I look at it is good IDEs will show the appropriate icon and that can help you avoid this issue to some extent. But even if it did not, to me its not a big deal. The number of times the code is read is far more than its written. Maintaining one extra poorly named Interface is far more expensive than the minuscule time saved in typing.

P.S: I’m certainly not discouraging people from creating interfaces. What I don’t like is having only one class inheriting from an interface. May be if you are exposing an API, you might still be able to convenience me. But in most cases people use this convention through out their code base and not just at the boundaries of their system.

In lot of cases I find myself starting off with an Interface, because when I’m developing some class, I don’t want to start building its collaborator. But then when I start TDDing that class, I’ll change the interface to a concrete class. Later my tests might drive different types of subclass and I might introduce an Interface or an Abstract class as suitable. And may be sometime in the future I might break the hierarchy and use composition instead. Guess what, we are dealing with evolutionary design.


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