Model the Verbs, Not the Nouns

Architecture, Distributed Systems, General Coding, Improvement, Techniques

For most of my career, the “best practice” has been to build applications from the data up. You model the database and then everything will be happy. Its just the way you do it. There is no other way.

So what’s the problem? You end up building applications around what data you need to display and what data you will update. So you show the user all of the data they might need, because you don’t know what they need. You ask for all sorts of data, because you might need it for some scenario. You build screens that they can use to enter any changes that might occur with this data, no matter why those changes are required.

The problem with this approach is there is no “why?”. Why are you showing the user this data? Why are they updating it? What is it that they are really trying to do? You end up with a lot of very obtuse code that is hard to follow, because its only concern is pushing data to the screen from the database, or vice versa. It flows through a lot of logic that you might need in case of various scenarios, but its impossible to know what rules apply to what scenarios, because there is nothing about your code to imply intent.

Back when I started in this field, I was building applications to allow users to put paper forms into databases. There really wasn’t much more logic than that. I was not alone in this – its what most applications did back in the early 90’s. We were trying to build the paperless office, after all.

We can do so much more now. In fact, our users expect it. In order to do so, though, we need to think about the behavior that is expected. What is the user trying to accomplish? Why? What is the intent?

If we examined the behavior, the verbs of the system, instead of just the data (the nouns), we’d have a better understanding of what it was we are trying to build. Our code would be more obvious. The user’s intent would become clear. And then we could build the system the users actually want to use, the one that helps them get their work done in a more efficient fashion. The one that they don’t constantly complain about (OK, that might be a stretch…).

Model behavior by thinking about the verbs. The nouns will follow.

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2 thoughts on “Model the Verbs, Not the Nouns

  1. @mattsonlyattack,
    Sure, just for you, I’ll do a part 2 later this week. 🙂

    Seriously, I guess I did kind of leave it hanging. I will take care of it with another post.

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