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Simple code: Contracts

Code works around contracts and contracts should be carefully thought and crafted.

What are contracts


A High abstraction level of contracts for code are API's. They define a interface that is basically a contract that the producer and consumer of the API agree to use to communicate with each other. Two common forms of API's are libraries that are used in code and external API's  that are used via HTTP, RPC etc.

When thinking in a bit deeper contracts consist firstly of functions, methods or external endpoints and secondly of data, more precisely on data models and data types within the models.
 

Defining contracts


Contracts should always be defined with careful thought. I've come accross few times to someone saying that "this is for intenal use only so it doesn't need to defined and/or documented as thoughtfully as a public API would be" but I disagree with that. The same care should be be given to internal and external contracts because the contracts are defined to used by other code and most likely by other developers. Contracts are a key incredient in developer experience.

Tests love contracts


Contracts also work as a base for testing whether it's unit, integration or acceptance testing they are all implemented against a some sort of contract. Without properly defined contracts testing would be nearly impossible because of all the possible variations a badly designed API would enable.

Formats of contracts


One incarnation of data model contracts are schemas. Those who have worked long enough in the industry can remember SOAP, XML Schemas and WSDL, after XML came JSON and *drum roll* JSON schemas that are probably most often seen in Open API specifications. Some of the newer formats for defining contracts for code are e.g. Apache Avro and Protobuf. 

They're all basically the same thing just defined in a bit different format and they all address the same issue of defining a contract of what the input and ouput data must look like and some of the definitions also define transport protocols.

Contracts appear in many ways and the trick is to understand that they are actually contracts. Not just some random bits of code that can be whipped together without a second thought but something that deserves attention.

Next part


In the next part I'll be writing about a special thing, immutability.

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