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It Boiled Plate So You Don't Have To!

Params::Util - 2011-12-23

ref, reftype, overload, and isa

"The process_foos method accepts either something that does the Foo role, an arrayref of such things, or a callback that should return one of the previous options."

This kind of behavior is pretty common in Perl. It's pretty convenient, too! The problem is that it is incredibly ambiguous because Perl can behave in so many ways. We might write an implementation like this:


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sub process_foos {
  my ($self, $arg) = @_;

  return $self->_process_one_foo($arg) if $arg->DOES('Foo');
  return $self->_process_foo_arr($arg) if ref $arg eq 'ARRAY';

  return $self->process_foos($arg->()) if ref $arg eq 'CODE';
}

 

How many problems are there here, though? Well…

First off, that ->DOES call is no good. It will blow up if we pass in an arrayref, because you can't call DOES or isa (or any other method) on an unblessed reference. So, the incredibly unfortunate way people dealt with this in the past was:


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return $self->_process_one_foo($arg) if UNIVERSAL::isa($arg, 'Foo');
 

Notice how I devolved back from DOES to isa? That's because UNIVERSAL::DOES detects and objects to this kind of abuse – but it doesn't give you a safe way to check it in one step, so now the new incredibly unfortunate way people deal with this is:


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return $self->_process_one_foo($arg) if blessed $arg and $arg->DOES('Foo');
 

This is fine, if you really wanted a Foo object, but sometimes a class is just as good, if it has the right interface. The whole thing about classes and instances sharing the same set of methods is kind of its own problem… so let's just say "this is a mess" and keep going.

So, this one seems less obviously bad:


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return $self->_process_foo_arr($arg) if ref $arg eq 'ARRAY';
 

…but it's still not perfect. For one thing, some chucklehead might have blessed his object into ARRAY. Frankly, I think that if you've got that going on in your code base, you probably deserve what you get, but you can protect against it, any many do, with:


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return $self->_process_foo_arr($arg) if reftype $arg eq 'ARRAY';
 

Now we're really checking the underlying reference type, not just the return of ref, which has two jobs. That's better, except not really. See, reftype is bypassing ref – which seemed like a good thing when ref sometimes returned ARRAY but now it means we don't know whether the thing was blessed! So you have a couple options. One is:


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return $self->_process_foo_arr($arg)
  if ! blessed $arg and reftype $arg eq 'ARRAY';

 

Okay, that's not too, too bad. Let's stick with it for now.


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return $self->process_foos($arg->()) if ref $arg eq 'CODE';
 

Yup, this one has the same problem as the above. So, maybe you want to use the same solution!

  return $self->process_foos( $arg->() )
    if ! blessed $arg and reftype $arg eq 'CODE';

Unfortunately, the astute abuse-o-philes will remember, here, "Wait! What if you provided an object that is overloaded for &{}!?" And you know what? I'm going to take a step back and just say what I think: that isn't even abuse! Closures and objects are closely related concepts, and the idea that your object can behave like a closure – at least by providing a subref-like calling interface – is totally reasonable. I have done it, I enjoyed it, and I would do it again!

So, what did you really need to test for?


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( reftype($arg) || '' ) eq 'CODE'
||
blessed($arg) and overload::Method($arg,'&{}')

 

Yes. Of course I think it's ridiculous, too. Even better, you have to do it for the ARRAY bit above, because somebody might have overloaded @{}.

Help!!

Don't worry! There's help!

Params::Util provides a treatment for this madness.


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use Params::Util ':ALL';

sub process_foos {
  my ($self, $arg) = @_;

  return $self->_process_one_foo($arg)
    if _CLASSISA($arg, 'Foo') || _INSTANCE($arg, 'Foo');

  return $self->_process_foo_arr($arg) if _ARRAYLIKE( $arg );

  return $self->process_foos($arg->()) if _CODELIKE( $arg );
}

 

(Note that I had to use _CLASSISA, which as the name implies uses ->isa – Params::Util does not yet have _CLASSDOES.)

These funky, hard-to-miss functions encapsulate all these kinds of checks, but they do them the right way. There's _SCALAR to check for a plain, defined, unblessed scalar of nonzero length – and if you want a plain, defined, unblessed scalar length and have no problem with zero length, there's _SCALAR0. There are routines for hashrefs, non-empty hashrefs, or things that can act like hashrefs if you want. There are tests for numberness, positive integerhood, and non-negative integerhood. If you look at list of its routines, you can probably guess what almost all of them do, and you can start using them immediately, replacing the code you have that's just waiting to get tickled by some stupid edge case.

Here's that list:


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_STRING _IDENTIFIER
_CLASS _CLASSISA _SUBCLASS _DRIVER
_NUMBER _POSINT _NONNEGINT
_SCALAR _SCALAR0
_ARRAY _ARRAY0 _ARRAYLIKE
_HASH _HASH0 _HASHLIKE
_CODE _CODELIKE
_INVOCANT _REGEX _INSTANCE
_SET _SET0
_HANDLE

 

My only parting advice? Avoid _STRING. It accepts globs!

See Also

Gravatar Image This article contributed by: Ricardo Signes <rjbs@cpan.org>