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Larry Garfield:
On empty return values
Mar 29, 2013 @ 09:15:59

Larry Garfield has posted some of his thoughts on return values and reminds you about consistent return types, regardless of the result.

Earlier today, I posted a brief tweet (isn't that redundant?) about return values in PHP (or really, any language). Originally it was about return values from functions (such an exciting topic, I know), but it ended up generating a fair bit of lively conversation, as well as a patch against Drupal 8. So lively, in fact, that I think it deserves more than 140 characters.

He proposes a new rule of thumb: "If your function returns a collection, its null value return must also be a collection." A more broad version of this might be: "make your return types consistent." It's all about predictability and the contracts you have between different parts of your code. If a user calls your method expecting to be able to loop over the results, they'll be disappointed with a "false". He talks some about using and throwing exceptions more effectively for error handling and answers several "but wait..." arguments for his return strategy.

tagged: empty return values opinion contract exception expected