the annoying, verbose self

BJörn Lindqvist bjourne at
Sat Nov 24 00:38:24 CET 2007

On Nov 22, 2007 2:08 PM, Colin J. Williams <cjw at> wrote:
> bearophileHUGS at wrote:
> > Alexy:
> >> Sometimes I
> >> avoid OO just not to deal with its verbosity.  In fact, I try to use
> >> Ruby anywhere speed is not crucial especially for @ prefix is better-
> >> looking than self.
> >
> > Ruby speed will increase, don't worry, as more people will use it.
> >
> > Bye,
> > bearophile
> I don't see this as a big deal, but

The big deal is that "self." occupies important horizontal screen real
estate. That is, it is usually not self in itself that is problematic,
but the overflowing lines is. Take this silly vector class for

1    class Vector:
2        def __init__(self, x, y, z):
3            self.x = x
4            self.y = y
5            self.z = z
6        def abs(self):
7            return math.sqrt(self.x * self.x + self.y * self.y +
self.z * self.z)

Line 7 is 82 characters long which is, if you care about the
readability of your code, a very real problem because the line is to
long. So you break it:

7            return math.sqrt(self.x * self.x +
                              self.y * self.y +
                              self.z * self.z)

Better, but definitely not as nice as it would have been with a
shorter self prefix like you propose. And in my eyes, having to break
lines like this instantly makes the code much less attractive. There
is probably not a single language in existance in which wrapping lines
doesn't make the code uglier.

I also notice that the lines in your mail are nicely broken at about
column 45, probably because you are typing on a PDA or similar? In
those situations, where you require much shorter lines than the
standard 78 characters, for example when typesetting code examples for
a book, the problem with line breaks is even worse.

> suppose that the syntax were
> expanded so that, in a method, a dot
> ".", as a precursor to an identifier,
> was treated as "self." is currently treated?

I like that a lot. This saves 12 characters for the original example
and removes the need to wrap it.

7            return math.sqrt(.x * .x + .y * .y + .z * .z)

+1 Readability counts, even on small screens.

mvh Björn

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