Designing Interfaces

Wed 07 August 2019 by Moshe Zadka

One of the items of feedback I got from the article about interface immutability is that it did not give any concrete feedback for how to design interfaces. Given that they are forever, it would be good to have some sort of guidance.

The first item is that you want something that uses the implementation, as well as several distinct implementations. However, this item is too obvious: in almost all cases I have seen in the wild of a bad interface, this guideline was followed.

It was also followed in all cases of a good interface.

I think this guideline is covered well enough that by the time anyone designs a real interface, they understand that. Why am I mentioning this guideline at all, then?

Because I think it is important for the context of the guideline that I do think actually distinguishes good interfaces from bad interfaces. It is almost identical to the non-criterion above!

The real guideline is: something that uses the implementation, as well as several distinct implementations that do not share a superclass (other than object or whatever is in the top of the hierarchy).

This simple addition, preventing the implementations from sharing a superclass, is surprisingly powerful. It means each implementation has to implement the "boring" parts by hand. This will immediately cause pressure to avoid "boring" parts, and instead put them in a wrapper, or in the interface user.

Otherwise, the most common failure mode is that the implementations are all basic variants on what is mostly the "big superclass".

In my experience, just the constraint on not having a "helper superclass" puts appropriate pressure on interfaces to be good.

(Thanks to Tom Most for his encouragement to write this, and the feedback on an earlier draft. Any mistakes that remain are my responsibility.)

Interfaces are forever

Fri 12 July 2019 by Moshe Zadka

(The following talks about zope.interface interfaces, but applies equally well to Java interfaces, Go interfaces, and probably other similar constructs.)

When we write a function, we can sometimes change it in backwards-compatible ways. For example, we can loosen the type of a variable. We can restrict the type of …

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Analyzing the Stack Overflow Survey

Mon 27 May 2019 by Moshe Zadka

The Stack Overflow Survey Results for 2019 are in! There is some official analysis, that mentioned some things that mattered to me, and some that did not. I decided to dig into the data and see if I can find some things that would potentially interest my readership.

import csv …
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Inbox Zero

Wed 15 May 2019 by Moshe Zadka

I am the parent of two young kids. It is easy to sink into random stuff, and not follow up on goals. Strict time management and prioritization means I get to work on open source projects, write programming books and update my blog with a decent cadence. Since a lot …

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Publishing a Book with Sphinx

Mon 08 April 2019 by Moshe Zadka

A while ago, I decided I wanted to self-publish a book on improving your Python skills. It was supposed to be short, sweet, and fairly inexpensive.

The journey was a success, but had some interesting twists along the way.

From the beginning, I knew what technology I wanted to write …

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A Local LRU Cache

Fri 29 March 2019 by Moshe Zadka

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a shared state in possession of mutability, must be in want of a bug." -- with apologies to Jane Austen

As Ms. Austen, and Henrik Eichenhardt, taught us, shared mutable state is the root of all evil.

Yet, the official documentation of functools tells …

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Don't Make It Callable

Wed 13 February 2019 by Moshe Zadka

There is a lot of code that overloads the __call__ method. This is the method that "calling" an object activates: something(x, y, z) will call something.__call__(x, y, z) if something is a member of a Python-defined class.

At first, like every operator overload, this seems like a …

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Staying Safe with Open Source

Thu 24 January 2019 by Moshe Zadka

A couple of months ago, a successful attack against the Node ecosystem resulted in stealing an undisclosed amount of bitcoins from CoPay wallets.

The technical flow of the attack is well-summarized by the NPM blog post. Quick summary:

  1. nodemon, a popular way to run Node applications, depends on event-stream.
  2. The …
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Checking in JSON

Tue 08 January 2019 by Moshe Zadka

JSON is a useful format. It might not be ideal for hand-editing, but it does have the benefit that it can be hand-edited, and it is easy enough to manipulate programmatically.

For this reason, it is likely that at some point or another, checking in a JSON file into your …

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Office Hours

Sat 08 December 2018 by Moshe Zadka

If you want to speak to me, 1-on-1, about anything, I want to be able to help. I am a busy person. I have commitments. But I will make the time to talk to you.


  • I want to help.
  • I think I'll enjoy it. I like talking to people …
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