Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lean on the Compiler

I've been thinking a lot lately about dynamic typing  about how it supposedly sets you free from the bonds of the compiler and makes you 10x more productive. Some blog posts even go so far as to claim that dynamic typing will replace strong typing due to the increase of unit testing. The advocates rightly point out that just because a program compiles does not mean it is correct. Unit tests are therefore a better safety net. Now, granted the code has full coverage, I agree that we can probably do without compile-time checking.

But is а fully-covered code base a reality? Not likely. Especially when you're working with legacy code.

Today at work I was doing quite a bit of signature changes to my methods  adding and removing parameters to several methods in many different classes. In situations like this, I'm glad to have the compiler to make sure I don't miss anything, even before I have a chance to run what tests I do have. "Lean on the compiler" is the phrase Michael Feathers uses in Working Effectively with Legacy Code. Great read, by the way.

Today I realized that this is one technique that I really miss in dynamically typed languages. Rather than holding me back, in this case the compile-time checking provided confidence to make changes quickly.

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