A Documentation-first Approach for APIs

Zachary Flower points out the importance of proper documention in his article “API Design: A Documentation-first Approach ” and even encourages a “documentation-first approach”.

He also cautions us against a “build-first” approach, utilizing existing architecture:

When designing an API, it is often desireable to take a “build first” approach, especially when utilizing the architecture of a pre-existing product. Unfortunately, this mindset doesn’t follow the standard usability practices that we follow when building apps with graphic interfaces. It is extremely important that we take a user-centric approach to API design, because we are developing a product to be consumed by other developers. If we can’t empathise with their needs and frustrations, then who can we empathise with? This user-centric focus is an important reason to start by writing your API documentation, rather than just designing it. When you create good documentation, good design follows, but the reverse isn’t necessarily true.

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A “synchronized method” bug

In Java, a synchronized method is not thread safe if it reads from and writes to one or more static member variables.

Consider:

and assume the access to someCounter is somehow thread safe because of the synchronized keyword on doSomething.
As soon as you call doSomething concurrently on multiple SomeClass instances, it will not print unique numbers. This is because the all instance share the same static member variables. Between the increment of someCounter and printing it, its value might have already changed by another instance.

That particular bug was a bit hidden because a “SomeClass” instance was “cached” in a JEE stateless session bean. Of course the JEE container creates multiple instances of the session bean and hence multiple instances of SomeClass.