Writing and speaking about your code might actually make it better

I like to think I’m a smart guy, but I know there are many people out there who are smarter than I am. Sometimes, just thinking about Kathy and Julian showing us what we can do in Java in 10 Lines or Less helps one tighten up some code. Other times, sitting down to write about a code problem or a solution might actually make your code better.

Our workflow application builds a list of approvers at each step that’s built from three fields on the workflow step configuration document. That list is stored on the document being approved so that we don’t have to do a lookup to determine who can take action. Sometimes, the approvers might be in more than one of those fields and thus, with sloppy coding, end up in the approver list more than once. The workflow step configuration allows us to choose which of those three fields is used to notify approvers (it could even be all three fields). Since we recently decided to keep track of who is notified, since they are the primary approver(s), the workflow code is now recording the names of those notified as it sends the message. Because the system is already used in 15 projects and will be used in 70+ projects at time in the future, it must be a highly configurable workflow.

My coding challenge was simple. I wanted to display on the XPage the primary approver(s) and the other (proxy) approvers, as separate lists. This is probably a two-minute exercise for someone who knows what they’re doing, so it took me an hour.

Because I worried about the duplicates, I didn’t use the remove method of the java.util.Vector, which would only take out the first instance of the duplicate. I lamented this, since playing with arrays is a little more involved. Basically, I decided to build the array by looping through looking for matches. Then, I was puzzled about how to find array elements in a Vector, but I got over that when I realized that I could use @Unique to clean both and make them both arrays! OK, not the best idea, but it worked.

<xp:label id="recipientListLabel">
	<xp:this.value><![CDATA[#{javascript:
var recipients=procureDoc.getDocument().getItemValue("RecipientList");
return "Approvers: " + @Unique(@Name("[CN]",recipients)); }]]></xp:this.value>
</xp:label>
<xp:label id="proxyListLabel">
	<xp:this.value><![CDATA[#{javascript:
var recipients = @Unique ( procureDoc.getDocument().getItemValue("RecipientList") );
var allApprovers = @Unique ( procureDoc.getDocument().getItemValue("TSWFCurApprovers") ); 
ar proxies = [];
for ( approver in allApprovers ) { 
	if ( @IsNotMember( allApprovers[approver], recipients) ) { 
		proxies.push ( allApprovers[approver] ); 
	}
} 
var proxyList = @Implode(@Name("[CN]",proxies),", "); 
return "Proxy Approvers: " + proxyList; }]]></xp:this.value>
</xp:label>

I was pretty happy with that, because I thought it would take me a lot of extensive looping and nonsense (since a quick search hadn’t revealed an array minus array code snippet.

But, as I sat down to write about this and see if someone could better it (assuming that it would take someone two minutes), I returned to the documentation. I just wanted to double-check that remove was a “method” and that I wasn’t being foolish and calling it a “function” instead. So, then, I saw it. The code simplifier. removeAll was exactly what I was looking for and, I’d bet, something every Java coder worth their salt could have slapped on the problem in an instant. Learning curve.

<xp:label id="proxyListLabel">
	<xp:this.value><![CDATA[#{javascript:
var recipients:java.util.Vector = procureDoc.getDocument().getItemValue("RecipientList");
var allApprovers:java.util.Vector = procureDoc.getDocument().getItemValue("TSWFCurApprovers");
allApprovers.removeAll(recipients); 

var proxyList = @Implode(@Name("[CN]",allApprovers),", ");
return "Proxy Approvers: " + proxyList; }]]></xp:this.value>
</xp:label>

It’s always good to learn. When I was a Scoutmaster, one of the things I told the older Scouts was that by teaching skills, they ended up learning them even better themselves. So, as I sat down to write this, more to share the experience than to teach, I ended up learning more. It forced me to research a little, to make sure I was covering my bases and allowed me to cut some inelegant code from 8 lines to 5 (though I imagine the daring would simply cut it to 2 lines).

So, next time you or your boss thinks there’s no time for writing up your thoughts on coding, or no time to speak at conferences, or no time to share your ideas at the local user group meeting, remember that you’re likely to end up with better code even if you’re the only one who contributes. The process forces it on you.

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Categories: Java, Server-Side Javascript, Xpages | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Writing and speaking about your code might actually make it better

  1. Pingback: NotesIn9 | NotesIn9 183: Thinking Different In XPages

  2. For future fiddling with Arrays, Lists et al have a look at the underscore library: http://underscorejs.org/

    It contains a lot of very nice stuff for those tasks. And if you like to use underscore in SSJS: I ported it to SSJS, see here: http://julianbuss.net/underscore-javascript-library-fur-xpages-serverside-javascript-ssjs/

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