A quick note on APIs


While writing Picky, one thing occurred to me: If you have an (external) API, it will exert pressure on the internal APIs, or the design, the structure of your code.

Lowest energy state

If your internal structure is too complicated, it takes more energy from you – in maintaining, coding, testing.

A system will always push towards the lowest energy state.*

And I believe, this is true even for your code structure, even though it is actually something that is not alive when writing code. But invoking it periodically, by running tests, or the program itself, pressure will be exerted.

If information is not in the right place, the information needs to be passed around, adding more parameters, or more ugly looking method signatures.

You can try to package the parameters in a capsule object, to make it look neater, but by doing this you are merely “pushing the bubble in the carpet around”, which I will explain later.

Assuming you are running the code quite often, and looking at it, a system under your care will tend to become more beautiful, as a more ugly system will take up more energy.*

Simple illustration

Say you have an external API on class A, and this class calls B, which in turn calls a method in C, which then calls a method in B.

So, A → B → C → B

Let’s also say you use tests, integration or otherwise: It will be hard to set up nice tests.

Such a system will (most probably) tend to move towards this:

A → B → C

Yes, you could argue that C calls a callback on B, but then it would look most likely like this:

A → C → B

(Where B is passed into C by A)

What I am trying to say is: If the information makes detours, if it needs to be passed around, i.e. is not in the right place, it will gravitate towards the right place.

Pushing the bubble in the carpet.

One image I always get when working on APIs is the one where I push around bubbles in a carpet.

Picky for example is littered with TODOs. This does not mean that Picky is buggy, or parts of it cannot be used. A TODO is very often a location where I spotted a bubble in the carpet of Picky code.

It works, but somehow it’s a parameter that needs to passed through, and hasn’t yet found its rightful place.

From ball to snowflake

In the beginning, many systems tend to look like a clump, a ball of code.

Maybe you start with a more complex structure, but relative to the end, the beginning looks clumpy.

There are bubbles everywhere in the thing.

As they are pushed out – and by “pushed out” I mean, towards the edges, and hopefully removed – as they are pushed out, the ball-like structure tends to look more and more like a snowflake. A snowflake with an external API in the middle. A single or more method calls that tend to call multiple other methods, which use other methods, resulting in smaller, more detailed, fine-grained code.

The beauty

The beautiful thing about all of it is:

I don’t feel I am the conscious writer of all of it. It feels like it is the system itself that wishes I push the bubbles out.

The system is designing itself.

Like a statue under a chiseler’s care, yearning to escape the block of marble.


This assumes you want your code to use up the least amount of energy from you.

If you are somebody who pushes overly complicated code systems for job security reasons, all of the above does not apply.

Next Picky: Ignoring Unassigned Tokens