Three points Richard is missing are (1) the issue of what to do with the
values are you are assembling them. One of the arguments for the
create-set-call style that Richard is missing is that people don't like to
have to invent a bunch of local variables to hold the parameters if they
have to be computed in advance, or computed in a particular order. The users
in the study preferred to set them directly into the object as they are

Another issue (2) reported in the article is that the assumption that having
the parameters required at object creation time assures that the object is
always valid and that the implementer can then avoid checking things is
flawed, because programmers send in invalid values, or send in valid values
that become invalid later. So the object must always be checking its fields'
values at runtime anyway. So why not ALLOW users to create the object empty
and fill it up as values are calculated.

        o = new Obj(n: NIL; size: 0, name: "")


        o = new Obj(n: param1_val, ...);
        destroy param1_val;
        use o;

Finally, (3) the article (as well as our similar articles), discuss WHAT
REALLY HAPPENS in the field, and how people think, which is only somewhat
influenced by the particular language features. Thus, I disagree that the
study is not relevant to C#4.0 or other languages.

Brad A. Myers
Human-Computer Interaction Institute
School of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA  15213-3891
(412) 268-5150
FAX: (412) 268-1266

-----Original Message-----
From: Richard O'Keefe [] 
Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 10:10 PM
To: John Daughtry
Cc: Steven Clarke; Brad Myers; Raoul Duke; Ppig-Discuss-List
Subject: Re: studies of naming?

On 29/03/2012, at 1:50 AM, John Daughtry wrote:

> You introduced a third option. However, it is a deviation of the
implementation behind the interface as opposed to an alternative interface.

I introduced at least three alternative options.  The first of those was
what *in practice*
create-set-call seems to turn into.  I am not sure what you mean by "a
deviation of the implementation".
Can you rephrase that?
> Are you suggesting that every API study should consider all of the
limitless alternative implementations?

No.  The paper covered what it covered; it covered that pretty well; the
options you consider the harder (time, people, thinking, money) it gets to
an experiment.  What I'm saying is that a study with an extremely limited
range of alternatives gets to make extremely limited claims.

The idea of naming parameters in a call goes back to Algol 60, making the
at least fifty years old.  I note that modern languages with keyword
include Fortran 95 and >> C# 4.0 <<.

> Perhaps I misunderstood the design alternative you suggest as the third
> Your further discussion (e.g., initializer objects) supports the notion
that any attempt to achieve both usability and robustness is tedious and
laborious in dominant languages.

I just discovered that 'initializer objects' has a name already: Builder.
(It's not clear that they are the same, but the essential point that an
incompletely initialised object is never *exposed* remains.)

I am having a little trouble believing your claim that my discussion
supports the idea
that doing it right is 'tedious and laborious in dominant languages'. and C# 4 have keyword parameters and optional parameters.
To return to

>        new FileStream(String, FileMode, FileSystemRights,
>                FileShare, Int32, FileOptions)

it should be possible to do

        new FileStream(name: aString, mode: aMode, rights: someRights,
                        share: aSharing, bufferSize: anInt, options:

*if* the constructor had suitable documented argument names.  The arguments
be ordered freely (that's what keyword arguments are all about) and C# 4.0
optional parameters, so you only need to supply the ones with non-default
and all told, it is really REALLY hard to see how this could be in the
way justly called tedious or laborious.  Compare

        inp = new FileStream(
                name:       'foo/bar',
                mode:       FileMode.Open, 
                rights:     FileSystemRights.ReadData +
                share:      FileShare.None,
                bufferSize: 64*1024,
                options:    FileOptions.RandomAccess);


        inp = new FileStream('foo/bar', FileMode.Open);
        inp.SetRights(FileSystemRights.ReadData +

I am, of course, assuming for the sake of argument that C# counts as a
"dominant language".  I am no admirer of Microsoft or its works, and have
been sniggering happily at the reception of Windows 8.  But C# is very
definitely a better Java than Java.  (And of course it's a better C# (now)
than C# (was) -- the book I was learning C# from only covers C# 2.0.)

I definitely think that it is safe to say that a study that did not
cover a parameter style possible in C# 4.0 is no longer a good basis
for guiding API design in C#.  The presence of keyword arguments in a
language makes a *huge* difference to API design:  in particular a good
choice for a keyword name is _not_ necessarily a good choice for a local
variable holding the same information.  Prepositions can be good keyword
parameter names; seldom or never can they be good variable names.
(Yes, we are still on topic.)

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