Tell, Don’t Ask

Tell objects what you want them to do; do not ask them questions about their state, make a decision, and then tell them what to do.

The problem is that, as the caller, you should not be making decisions based on the state of the called object that result in you then changing the state of the object. The logic you are implementing is probably the called object’s responsibility, not yours. For you to make decisions outside the object violates its encapsulation.

Sure, you may say, that’s obvious. I’d never write code like that. Still, it’s very easy to get lulled into examining some referenced object and then calling different methods based on the results. But that may not be the best way to go about doing it. Tell the object what you want. Let it figure out how to do it. Think declaratively instead of procedurally!

It is easier to stay out of this trap if you start by designing classes based on their responsibilities, you can then progress naturally to specifying commands that the class may execute, as opposed to queries that inform you as to the state of the object.

http://pragprog.com/articles/tell-dont-ask

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