My Profile Photo

Lawrence Aberba

I design and code. Full stack engineer (UIX, React + Node.Js, D, PWAs, SaaS, Payments, Dashboards, Landing Pages, ...). Open Source contributor. Simplicity. Modern Web. Passionate about SaaS.

Why foo/bar/baz examples suck

No one

Its not uncommon to come across code like this:

foo(bar(baz(1), 2));

Now, this is just a basic example to illustrate the use of abstract names in example code. This habit has become so common to the point that some known languages use those in their official docs. This is very troubling and here are 3 reasons why.

1. Abstract and has no real meaning

Without using real names, examples require some level of cognitive effort to visualize and contextualize their use case. This cognitive load, even when small, adds up to the difficulty of understating the code. This is akin to using single letters as variable names in code. They are a mess to read and understand.

of course, with some very very very few exceptions

Try to understand this code:

int total = apples(2) + water(10)' // 😟 What ??

Hey, the names doesn’t really matter 🤷‍♀️ Focus on the idea 😉

2. Not beginner friendly

Coding is a very practical trade and reflects real-world problem solving, be it domain specific or generic. Using unreal names takes the reader far from this reality into total obscurity.

Foo sucks

This is a not a good experience for beginners. It’s not even good for seasoned developers either, except they might be able to get around it. In fact, it is an abomination to do this in official language docs.

Great docs (examples) sell, don’t make it a tough sell.

3. Boring and not interesting

Imagine reading a book, maybe a novel 😰, with foo, bar and baz all over the place. Every character in the book is either called foo, barorbaz. That’s a torture stake.

This a essentially what you are doing in code when you illustrate an idea or an algorithm with abstract variable, function or class names. Code that is hard to read without contextualizing those symbols to real world references.

Yes, writing real variable names involve work. However, unless you are writing foo, bar and baz for your personal use, you are passing on the tax to someone else.

Please use real meaningful names 🗣🎙