Is Dependency Injection dead? - Part 3: Anti-Patterns
Is Dependency Injection dead? - Part 3: Anti-Patterns

Is Dependency Injection dead? - Part 3: Anti-Patterns

2022, Oct 02    

Welcome back to the third part of the Dependency Injection series! Last time we talked about Services registration and lifetime configuration.

Today instead we’ll see 2 very common anti-patterns in DI world.

Let’s start from the basics. The first anti-pattern is called Control Freak. Let’s see some code first:

public class Foo {
    private Bar _baz;

    public Foo() {
        _baz = new Bar();
    }
}

What do you see there? Well, there are a few things here that make my skin crawl:

  • no dependencies are injected
  • class members are instantiated directly
  • no use of abstractions

What does it mean for us? Well, it’s easy to say: Foo is a Control Freak.

It has absolute control over its own dependencies, which means that we can’t switch from one Bar implementation to another unless we update the code directly.

Imagine that Bar is a Repository pulling data from a SQL DB. What if we need to move to MongoDB instead? You could argue that only Foo needs to be changed. Fine. What if I tell you that if you use a Repository in a single place, probably you don’t need DI altogether? In big projects, it is extremely rare that a Repository instance is used in a single place. If all the references are Control Freaks then you’re going to have a hard time for sure.

Moreover, unit testing Foo is very hard. You can’t mock Bar and if it talks to external resources, every test will try to access them.

Let’s now move to the second anti-pattern, the Service Locator:

public class Foo {
    private IBar _baz;

    public Foo(IServiceLocator locator) {
        _baz = locator.GetService<IBar>();
    }
}

at first might look like a good idea. I mean, you’re asking a service to find and instantiate for you an implementation of IBar. It looks DI-ish, right ?

Well… nope. Let’s see what’s wrong with it. First of all, it doesn’t communicate clearly what are the dependencies for Foo. Which means that unless you inspect the class sources, you will never have a clue of how it actually works.

But let’s get to the juicy part: if you forget to register an implementation for IBar in your Composition Root, you get a runtime exception.

Things will only get worse if by any chance the Service Locator instance is static and therefore not injected:

public static ServiceLocator
{
    public static ServiceLocator Instance;
}

public class Foo {
    public Foo() {
        _baz = ServiceLocator.Instance.GetService<IBar>();
    }
}

You will have no idea of what dependencies Foo needs, neither Visual Studio will (probably). Which also means that you’ll never get build errors if the hidden dependencies change for any reason. It’s a slippery road to

Last but not least, unit testing now is just way harder because you’re relying on a static class, which means that it’s internal state is shared between all the tests you’re running. And that is very bad.

Let’s see another anti-pattern now, the Fat Class:

public class Foo {
  public Foo(IBar bar, IBaz baz, IDee dee, IGee gee, IMeh meh){
    // do something with all of that 
  }
}

As you can see, this class is fat: has a lot of dependencies, and most likely, they are not used in every method. Which means that this class is definitely doing too much and therefore breaking the Single Responsibility Principle. Fat Class is much rather a code smell than an anti-pattern. But still, it’s extremely common, especially in large, legacy codebases. So beware!

That’s all for today! Next time we will continue talking about Design Patterns and see more real-world scenarios.

Ciao!

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