MVC is actually MVA or You're not controller anymore

I’m reading a book of Yegor Bugayenko “Elegant Objects”. Yegor has strong opinion that names ending with -er are really bad for your objects. The first one that came to my mind was… Controller.

I remember how it was confusing to me when I switched to MVC pattern a long time ago. Model-View-Controller. What it tries to control and how? Now I finally have answer.

But let’s get back to the past and see where it comes from. Trygve Reenskaug introduces this pattern in 1979 while he was visiting Xerox PARC in Palo Alto. Since then this pattern was used primarily in UI, and was adopted by web community in the beginning of 2000.

It was said that controller manipulates the model. And user uses controller. Such a magic thing that controls, and can be used by users. Nobody explains how it can be used. In wiki it’s just mentioned “can be used”. Okay.

But let’s get back to -er. What we can improve here if we want to get rid of -er at the end?

Basically, controller is set of actions. Just a bunch of methods that can be executed. And that’s it, and should be nothing more. I don’t like wiki explanation that controller controls model. What does it mean - “controls model”? Changing something? Prohibiting from change? It’s unclear. If we can think this way, everything is controller, because there are a lot of places in our software, and each place “controls” another.

Yes, controller is crappy name. But if you replace it with “set of actions”, or just “actions”, it immediately becomes more clear. Look at this:

Model View Actions. How it sounds? Or even Models-Views-Actions. So it’s not MVC, it’s MVA.

If we name it this way, we already know that we have Models, we have Views, and we have Actions. Actions are just methods. And we already know what does it mean. There can be anything in our method. And our routing now sounds more clear:

For /users url, redirect request to UserActions. It’s fantastic, no more controllers, and we don’t even need to rewrite our software, just inherit your new Actions from your already existing Controller in your favorite framework and here you go!

Moreover, when we have actions, we can use use adjective to let others know about our intentions, something like UserPrivateActions or AuthenticatedUserActions.

When Trygve Reenskaug introduced MVC concept, I’m pretty sure he didn’t think too much about the name. It was okay just to call it some sort of way. But things are changing. Software design principles have changed over the years. We have million opinions about if TDD is dead or not.

But controllers still control us. It’s confusing if you’re not familiar with this concept. And even if you’re familiar with MVC, you can use your controller where it is not required. Let’s say you need to control something and add some validation. Yes, validation is about controlling. So let’s add validation to our controller! Right? Wrong.

Controller is taking to much. Don’t be confused by that. You can do validation with validation decorators, let’s say. And if you want to control how users access your website, do it in controller! Right? Not at all. When we have such a universal name it’s very easy to put everything in there and create a mess. To control how users access your website, just add FilteredActions. It sounds much better than FilteredController, right?

And this is my favorite:

class UsersActions < Rest


class UsersController < ApplicationController

What you can say about 1st example? It’s clear. How many restful actions we may have for resources? Golden seven. Not more than that. And what about second example? It says “controller”, allows you to have as many actions as you want, and encourages you to follow god-object anti-pattern.

Looking at the first line of first example we can say “users actions are rest actions, and there can’t be more than 7 of them”. Looking at the first line of second example we can say nothing, except “it’s controller and it controls users somehow”.

If we want to add more functionality to our /users url, we can do it this way:

class UsersActions < Rpc

What’s the difference between Rest and Rpc base classes you say instead of just having two files? One of the benefits - we can set up our static analyzer to accept only predefined public methods for UsersActions inherited form Rest.

-er is confusing. I want to thank Trygve for not naming MVC with something like “DataSaver-Presenter-Controller”. It would be awful name. Let’s make it clear now and join the movement! You’re not controller anymore, and you don’t control anything. I am developer, and I’m the controller here, so I gonna control how will I name you now: Actions.

Written on March 11, 2016