When Object Oriented Programming (OOP) becomes Programming fOr Others (POO)

Something that has certainly been engrained in my programming brain is that code should be as easy to reuse as possible, and this is done through the use of objects in what is known as object oriented programming. In my very first programming class I used Java and most of the academic programming that I have done since that point has also been in Java. Java is a self-described “general-purpose, concurrent, strongly typed, class-based object-oriented language.” As a result of its object-oriented nature, one cannot learn to program effectively in Java without learning how to program in an object-oriented manner. While object-oriented programming can often allow for the efficient reuse and maintenance of code, it may also overcomplicate things in certain instances. Knowing when and where to step away from an object-oriented approach to programming can be important to creating something that is easy for others to understand and build from.

In a Coding Horror post titled “Your Code: OOP or POO?” from March 2007, Jeff Atwood explains why programming in a way that considers fellow programmers who may work with your code after you is more important than mindlessly creating objects for the sake of creating them. Atwood goes on to explain why it is the principles of object-oriented design that are truly important. These are things like encapsulation, simplicity, and the reusability of your code. Atwood stresses that if you attempt to “object-ify” every concept in your code, you will often be introducing unnecessary complexity. He uses an interesting metaphor that compares adding objects to adding salt to a dish – “a little goes a long way.”

It must be made clear that Jeff Atwood and all of the other programmers that he mentions in his post are not against OOP. Rather, they are against the abuse and misuse of OOP by those who do not understand where and when creating objects is beneficial and where it is simply cumbersome or clumsy. Object-oriented programming is an extensively powerful tool for creating projects that are reusable and easily maintained or changed. What is important to take away from Atwood’s post is that it is the way that new programmers are being brainwashed into thinking that every piece of code that they write must somehow become an object lest it be poor programming is what actually causes problems. Although never directly stated, I took Atwood’s post as a call to educate new programmers about the potential pitfalls of writing overly complex object-oriented code in place of a simpler alternative that does not involve objects.

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