Rehabilitation of Object-Oriented Paradigm

The foundation I have sadly followed the slow corrosion of the OO-knowledge in general. What I want to achieve is the full rehabilitation on OO-technology. I am utterly convinced that Object Paradigm is the highest achievement in the theory of application development. My long working experience support completely this convictions. I am now referring to the great work from ParkPlace Smalltalk though the dawn of OOA by Grady Booch, Jim Rumbaugh, Perter Coad, Rebecca Wirfs-Brock …and many many other. The core of the great invention is crystallized in Grady Booch’s Object-Oriented Design (1991) (pages 15 and 16) says:

Actually, this is a trick question, because the right answer is that both views are important: the algorithmic view highlights the ordering of events, and the object-oriented view emphasizes the agents that either cause action or are the subjects upon which these operations act.` However, the fact remains that we cannot construct a complex system in both ways simultaneously, for they are completely orthogonal views. We must start decomposing a system either by algorithms or by objects, and then use the resulting structure as the framework for expressing the other perspective. Our experience leads us to apply the object-oriented view first because this approach is better at helping us organize the inherent complexity of software systems, just as it helped us to describe the organized complexity of complex systems Object-oriented decomposition yields smaller systems through the reuse of common mechanisms, thus providing an important economy of expression. Object-oriented systems are also more resilient to change and thus better able to evolve over time, because their design is based upon stable intermediate forms. Indeed, object-oriented decomposition greatly reduces the risk of building complex software systems, because they are designed to evolve incrementally from smaller systems in which we already have confidence. Furthermore, object-oriented decomposition directly addresses the inherent complexity of software by helping us make intelligent decisions regarding the separation of concerns in a large state space.

The following illustration is a picture of these two views that Booch talks:

Procedural and collaboration

Functional decomposition Agents’ collaboration The fundamental reason, why the model becomes so much simpler even it is containing the same semantic, is the close similarity to reality. We humans understand reality as massive collection of 3D functional entities – I will use here a term agent for those entities. These are autonomous things that interact with their neighbours. As we analyze world this way the functionality and thus also the responsibilities of these agents will naturally remain quite small and compact as long as the model is humble and honours the reality. In fact this is the only way -that at least I know- where every function of a big collaborative community of agent becomes defined exactly ones. This is actually the essence of the goal of all “reuse” even it is often badly formulated.

OO Application development process

If we try to model this way a big and complex application implementation, which of course finally have to be very detailed, we will end up to unmanageable complex models. This was just the mistake we did in early day of OO. But this growth of complexity can be restricted and finally managed with clever organisation of artefacts. To start to solve this problem the first thing to notice is the separation of concerns:

  1. Business logic.
  2. User interaction and the user’s workflow.

These aspects are naturally quite orthogonal (they are from the same world but at the same time they are rather independent from each other). The solution to this problem has two equally important parts: •

Logical 3-tier architecture to separate the concerns 

Start the design with first creating the abstract domain model representing the business logic and all times keep this completely unaware of the rest of the world. If you look at the literature mentioned above, you find that they are not doing either or if they have the first point they start with application requirements. This is an error that leads into exponential complexity growth. According to my experience only very small minority of people deeply understand the contents and true meaning of the concepts “abstract” and “abstraction”. Very briefly abstraction is reduction of details of a concept. This reduction is not however an easy one, because we should remove less important aspects from the concept. The tricky question however is which elements are less important. The selecting criterion here is the context on which we are considering the concept. When we limit the search strictly into domain, the important concepts will emerge relatively easily. Much more difficult it is to decide the abstract responsibilities of these concepts. Here the stress is on word abstract. The aim is to get the behaviour as equally distributed into the network of concept as possible. Here we have two guidelines as well. We have to try to reflect the reality and at the same time lift the level of abstraction by placing the behaviour in objects that have most resources available in them selves or very near to reduce unnecessary communication between object. After this the reality and the model are not one-to-one. The end result of this is a object model (class diagram and a set of collaboration diagrams), that describes the whole business behaviour on chosen level of abstraction and thus give us a simulation model of the business core. Now we have reached a point we the middle tier analysis is done:


As I already emphasised, the dependences here are asymmetric. A very important point is that the middle layer is completely independent from the outer layer, but these are heavily dependent on middle layer. The business logic tier contains only the assimilated aspect of business rules derived from business objectives. This leaves a lot room for the application layer to implement this abstraction. All dependencies to user interface or environment technologies are handled in application layer. The third layer is purely technical isolation of the persistence and could be argued to be left out of this picture completely.

Development process

Development process


The sequence of the application development is following: In the second phase we will implement the abstract domain model to required detail. In most cases this means adding all the required attributes and the persistence which in a case of new database is quite strait forward. In the third phase we start to look the whole from user’s point of view. We define the processes and the use cases and finally implement them utilising now the services from our domain. The iterative and incremental (in one word agile ) nature of the implementation of the application layer is illustrated in the follow diagram: Each use case can be considered as one cycle here. First we have to design the work process. This starts from designing the use cases. Then each use case can then be developed as part of the application very independently from the others. The implementation uses the domain model from previous phase as it is. When the work proceeds additions, refinements and correction will be made into the implementation domain model. It will mature during the application development. It is necessary to question and doubt its content and structure and change as often as a new aspect appears.


One Response

  1. Hi Jukka: my feelings are twofold.
    I’ve been exposed to OOP early in my life, and I think OO most of the time when I approach software development challenges. Yet I had to acknowledge that I am part of a minority with respect to the whole range of software developers. OO is a powerful and complex paradigm which adds some degrees of flexibility on top of procedural programming. Some developers feels comfortable with that, others are forced to make many more choices than they’d like to. Generally these are the choices that lead to non maintainable and utterly complex quasi-OO software systems. Or to expensive procedural systems developed on an OO platform.

    In very large systems you have basically no hope to build a clean OO application (you might have some notable exceptions, anyway), the pragmatic wise choice is to carefully choose where you need all the special care needed for elegant OO solution, and where you can go for dirtiest solutions.

    I don’t think Use Cases are to blame, they’re still some of the most powerful tools around (if used wisely). The risk of turning them into a procedural spec is always behind the corner, but I think it must be addressed at a project ecosystem level.

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