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Lasagna code -- object oriented code with way too many layers

First and foremost, not too much zeal
 ~ Talleyrand advice to young diplomats

The term was coined by Joe Celko in 1982. the common definition was provided by Roberto Waltman: "The object-oriented version of spaghetti code is, of course, 'lasagna code'. Too many layers."

Most people use the term Lasagna Code as derogative, trying to point out the dangers of the excessive object-oriented hierarchical decomposition and futile attempts to create a perfect system of objects. Some view it as an object oriented version of spaghetti code where the lack of programming talent is compensated by blindly following a programming fashion in this case OO-fashion.

Lasagna code is often used to describe the code with many unnecessary layers of abstraction, which  make code completely unmaintanable without excessive efforts and probably some rewriting.

Introduction of additional layers often is dictated by the desire to make classes more generic and in most case it is far from optimal solution for the simple reason that most code will never be reused.

In other words Lasagna code is a slippery slope down that many programmers fall  due to their  urge to create the perfect system objects.  It can be called object oriented over-composition.  It leads to huge code bloat often three to five times more LOC even in small projects.

Eliminating an excessive layer can be a large undertaking with huge risks and small payoff.

While inheritance can be useful, itís important to use it in moderation. Developers who use inheritance without restraint can bloat hierarchies unnecessary to  adding redundant two, three, four or even five layers.

The problem with deep hierarchies is that they tend to be brittle, meaning that a seemingly minor change can cause the whole thing to fail.

Restructuring a deep class hierarchy due to a requirements/design change can also be incredibly painful. Often it is better to use Composition instead of Inheritance and use interfaces instead of hierarchy of objects.

Verbosity of code and the level of the language

One of the most visible and well understood problems with the usage of "production level" OO languages such as Java in large projects is verbosity.  This is the problem that programmers coming from other languages to large Java projects invariably complain about.

In general the level of language is correlated with the number of lexical tokens that are required to program some well defined problem.  For example, if we code AWK or other simple language interpreter in languages A, B and C, then the language in which program has less lexical tokens would be higher level language for this application domain. 

The number of lexical tokens in Java that you need to write for any sizable program is as big as in C and bigger then in C++. In other words Java is more verbose then older languages. While this fact is language specific it suggest some generic weakness of class-based OO languages. Of course other object models exists and Javascript, for example, suffers less from this problem but its object model is much less popular  than Simula 87 derived model.

Lasagna coding make this  problem far worse bloating the codebase several times over.

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[Jun 07, 2021] What is your tale of lasagna code- (Code with too many layers)

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... unncessary thick lasagne ..."
"... I think there's a very pervasive mentality of "I must ..."
Jun 07, 2021 |

The working assumption should "Nobody inclusing myself will ever reuse this code". It is very reastic assumption as programmers are notoriously resultant to reuse the code from somebody elses. And you programming skills evolve you old code will look pretty foreign to use.

"In the one and only true way. The object-oriented version of 'Spaghetti code' is, of course, 'Lasagna code'. (Too many layers)." - Roberto Waltman

This week on our show we discuss this quote. Does OOP encourage too many layers in code?

I first saw this phenomenon when doing Java programming. It wasn't a fault of the language itself, but of excessive levels of abstraction. I wrote about this before in the false abstraction antipattern

So what is your story of there being too many layers in the code? Or do you disagree with the quote, or us? Bertil MuthDec 9 '18

I once worked for a project, the codebase had over a hundred classes for quite a simple job to be done. The programmer was no longer available and had almost used every design pattern in the GoF book. We cut it down to ca. 10 classes, hardly losing any functionality. Maybe the unncessary thick lasagne is a symptom of devs looking for a one-size-fits-all solution. Nested SoftwareDec 9 '18 "¢ Edited on Dec 16

I think there's a very pervasive mentality of "I must to use these tools, design patterns, etc." instead of "I need to solve a problem" and then only use the tools that are really necessary. I'm not sure where it comes from, but there's a kind of brainwashing that people have where they're not happy unless they're applying complicated techniques to accomplish a task. It's a fundamental problem in software development... Nested SoftwareDec 9 '18

I tend to think of layers of inheritance when it comes to OO. I've seen a lot of cases where the developers just build up long chains of inheritance. Nowadays I tend to think that such a static way of sharing code is usually bad. Having a base class with one level of subclasses can be okay, but anything more than that is not a great idea in my book. Composition is almost always a better fit for re-using code.

[Jun 06, 2021] Lasagna Code by lispian

Notable quotes:
"... Lasagna Code is layer upon layer of abstractions, objects and other meaningless misdirections that result in bloated, hard to maintain code all in the name of "clarity". ..."
"... Turbo Pascal v3 was less than 40k. That's right, 40 thousand bytes. Try to get anything useful today in that small a footprint. Most people can't even compile "Hello World" in less than a few megabytes courtesy of our object-oriented obsessed programming styles which seem to demand "lines of code" over clarity and "abstractions and objects" over simplicity and elegance. ..."
Jan 01, 2011 |

Anyone who claims to be even remotely versed in computer science knows what "spaghetti code" is. That type of code still sadly exists. But today we also have, for lack of a better term" and sticking to the pasta metaphor" "lasagna code".

Lasagna Code is layer upon layer of abstractions, objects and other meaningless misdirections that result in bloated, hard to maintain code all in the name of "clarity". It drives me nuts to see how badly some code today is. And then you come across how small Turbo Pascal v3 was , and after comprehending it was a full-blown Pascal compiler, one wonders why applications and compilers today are all so massive.

Turbo Pascal v3 was less than 40k. That's right, 40 thousand bytes. Try to get anything useful today in that small a footprint. Most people can't even compile "Hello World" in less than a few megabytes courtesy of our object-oriented obsessed programming styles which seem to demand "lines of code" over clarity and "abstractions and objects" over simplicity and elegance.

Back when I was starting out in computer science I thought by today we'd be writing a few lines of code to accomplish much. Instead, we write hundreds of thousands of lines of code to accomplish little. It's so sad it's enough to make one cry, or just throw your hands in the air in disgust and walk away.

There are bright spots. There are people out there that code small and beautifully. But they're becoming rarer, especially when someone who seemed to have thrived on writing elegant, small, beautiful code recently passed away. Dennis Ritchie understood you could write small programs that did a lot. He comprehended that the algorithm is at the core of what you're trying to accomplish. Create something beautiful and well thought out and people will examine it forever, such as Thompson's version of Regular Expressions !

... ... ...


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[Jun 07, 2021] What is your tale of lasagna code- (Code with too many layers) Published on Jun 07, 2021 |


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Last modified: June 07, 2021