My Secret Life as a Spaghetti Coder
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Something's been bothering me lately. It's nothing, really. ?, ?, null, nil, or whatever you want to call it. I think we've got it backwards in many cases. Many languages like to throw errors when you try to use nothing as if it were something else - even if it's nothing fancy.

I think a better default behavior would be to do nothing - at most log an error somewhere, or allow us a setting - just stop acting as if the world came to an end because I *gasp* tried to use null as if it were a normal value.

In fact, just because it's nothing, doesn't mean it can't be something. It is something - a concept at the minimum. And there's nothing stopping us from having an object that represents the concept of nothing.

Exceptions should be thrown when something exceptional happens. Maybe encountering a null value was at some time, exceptional. But in today's world of databases, form fields, and integrated disparate systems, you don't know where your data is at or where it's coming from - and encountering null is the rule, not the exception.

Expecting me to write paranoid code and add a check for null to avoid every branch of code where it might occur is ludicrous. There's no reason some sensible default behavior can't be chosen for null, and if I really need something exceptional to happen, I can check for it.

Really, aren't you sick of writing code like this:

string default = "";
if(form["field"] != null and boolFromDBSaysSetIt != null
  and boolFromDBSaysSetIt)
    default = form["field"];

when you could be writing code like this:

if(boolFromDBSaysSetIt)
    default = form["field"];

I think this is especially horrid for conditional checks. When I write if(someCase) it's really just shorthand for if(someCase eq true). So why, when someCase is null or not a boolean should it cause an error? It's not true, so move on - don't throw an error.

Someone tell me I'm wrong. It feels like I should be wrong. But it feels worse to have the default path always be the one of most resistance.

What do you think?

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