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Static Code

Static code is considered a bad thing by developers. This is especially true when working with legacy code. The use of static code is often seen as a smell and should not be used.

This is not as black and white as it first seems. Static code can be problematic when global state is involved. Not only is it hard to change, static code is very hard to test in an automated fashion. Bad examples of static code include persistence, third party services, and out of process calls. These examples should avoid static code where possible.

One guideline that served me very well in my early days of TDD was treating static code as a death to testability. Unfortunately some developers don't move on from this guideline and treat any use of static code as bad.

In fact static code can have a benefit. If a method within a class can be promoted to a public static method (PSM) it shows that the code is stateless. This allows the "extract class" refactoring to be performed. Without a PSM such refactoring is much more difficult. IDEs can automate this step and if in a dynamic language you can simply lean on the runtime to catch issues.

The steps to perform this refactor are easy. If at any stage this is not possible the method contains state.

  1. Make the method public.
  2. Make the method static.
  3. Move the public static method to the new class.
  4. Update usage of the previous calls.
  5. Optionally remove the static modifier and update previous call sites.

If the code cannot be promoted to a PSM then state exists. Increasingly the code I write leads itself to a functional paradigm despite not be written in a strictly functional language. Small, focused classes that tend to be immutable. The use of PSM makes transition to this style of code easy. There is no reason to avoid the use of static code as an intermediate step to get to this position.


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