What I really want is error-shielding interfaces
December 22, 2005
Recently (for my version of 'recently'), the blogosphere had a little tiff about 'humane' versus 'minimalist' APIs, starting with Martin Fowler's article and continuing onwards (there's a roundup here). To caricature the positions, the minimalist side feels that APIs should have only the basic building blocks, and the humane side feels that APIs should have all of the commonly used operations.
(Part of the fun of the whole exchange is that it got framed as a Ruby versus Java issue, due to the examples picked.)
I come down somewhere in between, because I am nervous about the large APIs that humane design creates but I think that minimalist APIs offload too much work to the programmer. What I like is APIs with basic building blocks and routines to do the common operations that are easy to get wrong. Unfortunately I have no snappier name for this approach than 'error-shielding interfaces'.
For example, getting the last element of a list. Something like
Similarly, I think that Python's
In Python, there's another reason to add common operations to
extension module APIs: an extension module can often implement a
common operation significantly more efficiently than Python code
can. For example, the Python equivalent of
(There's also Ian Bicking's contribution, more or less on interface design in general here, which is well worth reading and thinking about.)
* * *
Atom feeds are available; see the bottom of most pages.