Delegates as Type Aliases

C# delegates can simplify your code by acting as type aliases for methods. Here I refactor a Factory class to use pattern.

Matthew Butt · 23 Nov 2017

In this post I will walk through how to refactor a Factory, moving from a sequence of ifs to a dictionary implementation, and using delegates as a type alias for my object creation methods.

Here is a naive implementation of the Factory. You can see the series of if statements, and the direct construction and returning of the created object from the body of each:

public class MessageFactory : IMessageFactory
{
    private readonly IArtifactApi _artifactApi;
    private readonly ITarballReader _tarballReader;

    public MessageFactory(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader)
    {
        _artifactApi = artifactApi;
        _tarballReader = tarballReader;
    }

    public IMessage Create(string id, DateTime timestamp, string fileType, Payload payload)
    {
        if (fileType == FileTypes.AnalyticInstrumentsXml)
        {
            return new XmlMessage(_artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.BrokersXml)
        {
            return new XmlMessage(_artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.EconomyXml)
        {
            return new XmlMessage(_artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.OrdersXml)
        {
            return new XmlMessage(_artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.UsersXml)
        {
            return new XmlMessage(_artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.TradeTarball)
        {
            return new TarballMessage(_artifactApi, _tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        throw new NotImplementedException();
    }
}

I want to separate my conditional logic from my object construction, so I Extract Method for each of the constructor invocations:

public class MessageFactory : IMessageFactory
{
    private readonly IArtifactApi _artifactApi;
    private readonly ITarballReader _tarballReader;

    public MessageFactory(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader)
    {
        _artifactApi = artifactApi;
        _tarballReader = tarballReader;
    }

    public IMessage Create(string id, DateTime timestamp, string fileType, Payload payload)
    {
        if (fileType == FileTypes.AnalyticInstrumentsXml)
        {
            return CreateXmlMessage(_artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.BrokersXml)
        {
            return CreateXmlMessage(_artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.EconomyXml)
        {
            return CreateXmlMessage(_artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.OrdersXml)
        {
            return CreateXmlMessage(_artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.UsersXml)
        {
            return CreateXmlMessage(_artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.TradeTarball)
        {
            return CreateTarballMessage(_artifactApi, _tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        throw new NotImplementedException();
    }

    private static IMessage CreateXmlMessage(IArtifactApi artifactApi, string id, DateTime timestamp, Payload payload)
    {
        return new XmlMessage(artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
    }

    private static IMessage CreateTarballMessage(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader, string id, DateTime timestamp, Payload payload)
    {
        return new TarballMessage(artifactApi, tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
    }
}

I want to convert my chain of conditionals into a Dictionary, but to do so, I need my methods to have the same type signature. I add a dummy parameter to CreateXmlMessage:

public class MessageFactory : IMessageFactory
{
    private readonly IArtifactApi _artifactApi;
    private readonly ITarballReader _tarballReader;

    public MessageFactory(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader)
    {
        _artifactApi = artifactApi;
        _tarballReader = tarballReader;
    }

    public IMessage Create(string id, DateTime timestamp, string fileType, Payload payload)
    {
        if (fileType == FileTypes.AnalyticInstrumentsXml)
        {
            return CreateXmlMessage(_artifactApi, _tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.BrokersXml)
        {
            return CreateXmlMessage(_artifactApi, _tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.EconomyXml)
        {
            return CreateXmlMessage(_artifactApi, _tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.OrdersXml)
        {
            return CreateXmlMessage(_artifactApi, _tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.UsersXml)
        {
            return CreateXmlMessage(_artifactApi, _tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        if (fileType == FileTypes.TradeTarball)
        {
            return CreateTarballMessage(_artifactApi, _tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
        }
        throw new NotImplementedException();
    }

    private static IMessage CreateXmlMessage(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader, string id, DateTime timestamp, Payload payload)
    {
        return new XmlMessage(artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
    }

    private static IMessage CreateTarballMessage(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader, string id, DateTime timestamp, Payload payload)
    {
        return new TarballMessage(artifactApi, tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
    }
}

At this point, I can create a Dictionary to map from fileType to my creation methods:

public class MessageFactory : IMessageFactory
{
    private readonly IArtifactApi _artifactApi;
    private readonly ITarballReader _tarballReader;

    private readonly Dictionary<string, Func<IArtifactApi, ITarballReader, string, DateTime, Payload, IMessage>> _factories =
        new Dictionary<string, Func<IArtifactApi, ITarballReader, string, DateTime, Payload, IMessage>>
        {
            {FileTypes.AnalyticInstrumentsXml, CreateXmlMessage},
            {FileTypes.BrokersXml, CreateXmlMessage},
            {FileTypes.EconomyXml, CreateXmlMessage},
            {FileTypes.OrdersXml, CreateXmlMessage},
            {FileTypes.UsersXml, CreateXmlMessage},
            {FileTypes.TradeTarball, CreateTarballMessage}
        };

    public MessageFactory(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader)
    {
        _artifactApi = artifactApi;
        _tarballReader = tarballReader;
    }

    public IMessage Create(string id, DateTime timestamp, string fileType, Payload payload)
    {
        return _factories[fileType](_artifactApi, _tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
    }

    private static IMessage CreateXmlMessage(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader, string id, DateTime timestamp, Payload payload)
    {
        return new XmlMessage(artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
    }

    private static IMessage CreateTarballMessage(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader, string id, DateTime timestamp, Payload payload)
    {
        return new TarballMessage(artifactApi, tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
    }
}

This is looking nicer, except for the type signature of the Dictionary, which is fairly gruesome:

private readonly Dictionary<string, Func<IArtifactApi, ITarballReader, string, DateTime, Payload, IMessage>> _factories =
        new Dictionary<string, Func<IArtifactApi, ITarballReader, string, DateTime, Payload, IMessage>> {/*...*/};

Now, later in my refactoring I would want to remove the primitive obsession around fileType by using either an enum or, preferably, a class with behaviour. But at the moment I’m focusing on internally refactoring this Factory.

I would also like to remove the data clumps passed into the creation functions. Again, I might find an appropriate type to contain the data, and this might lead me to a more polymorphous implementation.

But right now, I want to make my code a little more succinct and semantically clearer, so I use a delegate as a type alias for Func<IArtifactApi, ITarballReader, string, DateTime, Payload, IMessage>:

public class MessageFactory : IMessageFactory
{
    private readonly IArtifactApi _artifactApi;
    private readonly ITarballReader _tarballReader;

    private readonly Dictionary<string, CreateMessage> _factories =
        new Dictionary<string, CreateMessage>
        {
            {FileTypes.AnalyticInstrumentsXml, CreateXmlMessage},
            {FileTypes.BrokersXml, CreateXmlMessage},
            {FileTypes.EconomyXml, CreateXmlMessage},
            {FileTypes.OrdersXml, CreateXmlMessage},
            {FileTypes.UsersXml, CreateXmlMessage},
            {FileTypes.TradeTarball, CreateTarballMessage}
        };

    public MessageFactory(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader)
    {
        _artifactApi = artifactApi;
        _tarballReader = tarballReader;
    }

    public IMessage Create(string id, DateTime timestamp, string fileType, Payload payload)
    {
        return _factories[fileType](_artifactApi, _tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
    }

    private static IMessage CreateXmlMessage(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader, string id, DateTime timestamp, Payload payload)
    {
        return new XmlMessage(artifactApi, id, timestamp, payload);
    }

    private static IMessage CreateTarballMessage(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader, string id, DateTime timestamp, Payload payload)
    {
        return new TarballMessage(artifactApi, tarballReader, id, timestamp, payload);
    }

    private delegate IMessage CreateMessage(IArtifactApi artifactApi, ITarballReader tarballReader, string id,DateTime timestamp, Payload payload);
}

It is interesting that neither of the methods explicitly implements this delegate: it’s sufficient for the signatures to coincide. This is one of those areas of C# where functional programming patterns creep into an otherwise fairly object-oriented idiom (type aliases or abbreviations are commonplace in F#, for example). I would be wary of exposing this delegate outside the class in which it is declared, and would choose a more object-oriented approach if I wanted to extract different creation behaviours, but I like the succinctness and clarity that this technique gives me within a single class.


Image credit: Venetian Carnival Mask by gnuckx is licensed under CC0 1.0 / cropped and resized from original


This post was cross-posted to my personal blog.

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