Can Law Of Demeter Be Refactored Automatically

Thinking a bit about LawOfDemeter and LawOfDemeterExample I've come to think that existing code can be refactored automatically to fulfill LawOfDemeter:

Push all calls of the form x.foo().bar() into x.fooBar() moving arguments and parameters as needed.

Is this true?

If is is true, then the usefulness of the LawOfDemeter is questionable, because it is just a simple code-transformation like loop-unrolling, that might or migt not be done by a compiler/refactoring browser, but will not help the programmer/reader any bit.

That was the whole point of the DemeterProject? (they developed tools to perform such automated refactoring), which is where the LawOfDemeter came from in the first place. -- JonathanTang

Demeter has raised what we would know here as a CodeSmell to the level of a law. I take this clear overstatement to mean that the smell and its solution was the strongest pattern found by the Demeter project. Their law is to me only a hint. As such it is best applied with reason. When x.foo().bar() is the best expression of my intent then I am happy with it. When x.fooBar() is better I usually find that x was well suited to take on the fooBar() responsibility and might even have a better name for it. This is a judgement, best left to humans, though mechanical assist with specific refactorings is always appreciated. -- WardCunningham

Yes, but isn't this the case with all laws? The whole point is to produce working, maintainable, reasonably efficient software. If we have to break a zillion best practices to do so, why not? Demeter is no different from GotoConsideredHarmful or SingletonsAreEvil or LongFunctions: it's something to be aware of, not an absolute proscription.

TerryPratchett said it best: "The whole reason we have rules is so you think before you break them." -- JonathanTang

If you believe the solution to the LawOfDemeter is automatic combination of such methods, then automatic refactoring makes sense. If you believe the point of the LawOfDemeter is to make you think about TellDontAsk, then automatic methods cannot help you. --francis

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