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Etorrent coding conventions


Every programmer has their own view on what counts as reabable code and they are all wrong. This document is my way of blessing the world with a set of rules outlining the one true way.

Prefix module names

Module names should always be prefixed with etorrent_. If the module can be considered to be a member of a logical group of modules the name should also be prefixed with the name of the group. An example of such a grouping is etorrent_io_.

Suffixing module names

Module names should always contain a suffix if the behaviour or purpose of the module falls into a general class of modules. The suffix should be short and descriptive suffix.

Examples of such suffixes is _sup and _proto.

Not suffixing module names

If the module name does not fall into one of those general classes of modules a suffix should not be invented because this makes module suffixes meaningless.


Grouped exports

Separate export directives should be used to group the type of functions that a module exports If a module implements an OTP behaviour the callback functions should always be grouped into one export directive. If a module exports functions for working with entries in the gproc registry these should also be grouped into another export directive.

Verical exports

Functions in an export directive should always be separated by line breaks. This makes it easier to scan through the list of functions while also making it easier to spot what has been modified when viewing the changes in a commit.

%% gen_server callbacks

%% gproc registry entries

Function specifications

All functions should be annotated with a type specification. This helps communicate what values a function expects and returns. Maximizing the chances of dialyzer finding embarassing bugs is always a good thing. Function specifications should also be provided for internal functions.


Defining records

Fields in record defenitions should be separated by line breaks. All fields in a record defenitions should include a type specification. Default values should be ommitted if the record is only constructed in a single function, this is the common case with state records.

Ommitting the default values in the defenition and assigning each field a value when creating a record saves readers from having to go back to the record defenition to find out what the final result is.

Matching on records

Fields and variable bindings should be separated by line breaks when a record is used on the left side of the match operator. If only one or two fields are matched a one-liner may be used.

        remote_pieces=Pieceset} = State,

    #state{info_hash=InfoHash, remote_pieces=Pieceset} = State,

Updating fields in a record

The same rules as matches on records apply.

    NewState = State#state{

    NewState = State#state{info_hash=NewInfohash, remote_pieces=NewPieceset},

Records in function heads

Matches on records in function heads should be avoided if it's possible. In the case of gen_server state the first expression should be to unpack only the values in the state record that are necessary for the clause.

When to use records

A record should be used for all composite data types. For small and short lived groupings of values, such as returning two values from a function or gen_server calls use of records is discouraged. Use of other data structures where a record would have sufficied is discouraged.

Including records

A record defenition should never be shared by two modules. To prevent cases of this from slipping through the cracks records should never be defined in header files.

Variable names


Variable names should not be more camelcased than is absolutely necessary.

Infohash over InfoHash NewState over Newstate

Never use underscores in the middle of variable names.


Variable names should not be abbreviated more than necessary. Ensuring that lines don't get to long by using cryptic variable names is almost always the wrong way to adhere to the line length limit.

State over S Index over Idx Infohash over Hash

Recursive functions

Use of recursive functions where a list comprehension or a foldr would have sufficed is discouraged. Recursive functions with multiple parameters that are updated on each call is also discouraged, try to find a more straight forward way to implement the same function.

Explicit return values

If the return value of a function is the result of complex expression or the return value is tagged the returned value should be assigned to a variable prior to the last expression. This makes it easier for readers to visually determine where the function body ends.

InitState = #state{

InitState = #state{
{ok, InitState}.

Nested case expressions

Case expressions should not be nested if it isn't absolutely necessary. Assigning the result of a case expression and later matching on that is preferrable since it helps communicate the purpose of the case statement.

Do not be clever

Saving lines of code by nesting expressions or being clever with formatting will make anyone who is reading your code have to second guess the final values of function parameters and results of expressions.

Polymorphic functions

Functions that accepts values of multiple types are a pointless abstraction if they are too generic. An example could be amodule encapsulating the persistent state of etorrent.

    -type persistent_entity() :: {infohash(), bitfield()} | {dht_nodes, list()}.       
    -spec etorrent_persistent:save(persistent_entity()) -> ok.
    -spec etorrent_persistent:query(entity_match()) -> [persistent_entity()].

This type of interface scatters the operations that are performed on the persistent state all over the codebase. A better alternative is to explicitly export these operations from the etorrent_persistent module

    -spec etorrent_persistent:save_valid_pieces(infohash(), bitfield()) -> ok.
    -spec etorrent_persistent:get_valid_pieces(infohash()) -> {ok, bitfield()}.

    -spec etorrent_persistent:save_dht_nodes(list()) -> ok.
    -spec etorrent_persistent:get_dht_nodes() -> list().

Domain specific wrappers

Although the datatypes provided by the standard library is sufficient to support the implementation of any non trivial program it is often a good idea to wrap them in a module that provides a more specific interface. If none of the datatypes in the standard library provides the necessary functionality, consider using a wrapper module to compose two or more of them.

Module summaries

A summary of the purpose and implementation of a module should be included if the module is anything non trivial. Not doing so is the same as wasting the time spent designing the module.

Inline EUnit tests

I prefer separating modules containg unit tests from the module implementing the interface that is being tested because it emphasises that unit tests should cover the public interface of a software component.

A reasonable tradeoff is to include the unit tests in the module implementing the interface but restrict the tests to making fully qualified calls.

In these cases it's good to provide a short module name alias over hardcoding the module name or using the ?MODULE macro because it makes the test code look less contrived.

False test coverage

Unit tests should contain as many assertions as possible without going overboard. This is to avoid situations where a part of the code is covered by a test but the effect that the code has on the result is never verified to be correct.

Reasonable tests

It's a known fact that unit tests are more prone to be deprecated by design changes than integration tests or system tests. The conclusion that should be drawn from this isn't that unit tests are a waste of time to write.

A unit test that is quick and dirty is always better than one that would have adhered to all of the rules if it was ever written.

Line lengths

Lines should not exceed 80 characters. This limit is imposed because it is difficult to read wide code, therefore it makes sense to make exceptions to this rule if the alternative is more difficult to read.

Separating functions and function clauses

  • Two blank lines should be used to separate function defenitions.
  • One blank line should be used to separate function clauses.

Header files

The use of header files is discouraged because it burdens the reader with having to keep multiple files in mind when reading a module.