I have a question regarding the design of my software.

There are four different data sets and three consecutive algorithms operating on the data sets and on the results from the previous algorithm runs.

Let D1 - D4 be the set of data sets, A1 - A3 the set of algorithms and R1 - R3 the set of results from the respective algorithms.

A1 uses data sets D1, D2 and D3 and has to run on n different parameters. A2 uses data sets D1 and D3 as well as R1_1 - R1_n. A3 uses data sets D1, D2 and D4 as well as R2.

  D1    D1    D1
  D2    D3    D2
  D3          D4

  |     |     |
  v     v     v

n*A1    A2    A3
     _     _
  |  /| |  /| |
  v /   v /   v

R1_1    R2    R3

Each of the results R1_1 - R1_n, R2 and R3 should have some output functionality.

So my question is how to organize the program and its classes. I guess I would want to create separate classes for each of D1 - D4, A1 - A3 and R1 - R3 and make the data and result objects attributes of the algorithm objects? Are there any reasons for or against creating n objects R1_1 - R1_n instead of one object R1 containing an array of n results?

Should the data classes include their own respective 'readFromFile' functions or would it be better to have a global utility class that reads all data from file and generates the data objects? The same goes for output functions, should they be placed in each of the result classes or should they be globally organized?

Kind regards!


3 Answers 3


The answer depend on details which is not mentioned in the question.

It will depend on the exact details of D1, D2, ..., A1, A2. Such detail may not be worthwhile to mention in your question, because it will make the question too localized, and few will read all of the details. It may still help to get a more tailored answer.

If you find my answer too simplistic, you should be adding more detail to your question.

How much code could be shared between each type of data handler?

It depends on how much commonality exists between each type of data. By commonality I mean the similarity in structure, or sub-structure.

For example, given that

  • Each PersonContactInfo contains one or more TelephoneContact record.
  • Each BusinessDepartmentContactInfo (also) contains one or more TelephoneContact record.

Then, if there is any code to be written for the TelephoneContact record, it can be reused between the two or more classes that uses it.

By similarity in structure, what I mean is not similarity in values or statistical distribution. I can point you to a counterexample.

Code reuse is applicable to all programming paradigms. Some paradigms and programming languages have specific syntax and library features to help with code reuse.

Choosing a programming paradigm for your problem.

The decision of what programming paradigm to use should come after:

  • You understand the size of data (order of magnitude) that you intend to handle.
    • If you need to handle billions of data, you may need to consider alternative paradigms, such as data-oriented design, database, or distributed processing.
  • You have a basic outline of what functionality needs to be in the software, but without going into too much detail.
  • You have a outline / preliminary plan of how you want your software to be structured.
  • You have identified the commonalities, as described above.

Deciding where to use POD (plain old data structure) or Objects.

If you have decided to use Java, it is recommended to use object-oriented design, as radarbob suggested above, because the advantage of using Java is lost if one do not take advantage of OOD.

It is assumed that you have finished with the Class-Responsibility-Collaborations step. In Object-oriented design, the result of CRC becomes your initial Java class design.

You can make further changes to your class design as you see fit, as in refactoring.

Writing code to read data from a file, and save results to a file.

There are many choices - so many that it is overwhelming.

Also, you may consider the following trade-off:

  • Space efficient - take up as little disk space as possible - often means binary data and non-human-readable.
  • Human-readable - use text as much as possible (XML or JSON), but which takes up more disk space
  • Human-readable combined with standard compression, such as GZIP. This is a balanced approach between space and readability.

Should I use a database?

Unfortunately I do not have much experience with database. Other people can contribute ideas.


This question may be better suited to be posted at programmers.stackexchange.com or codereview.stackexchange.com

However, here are some tips about when to break things into new classes: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/15917696/is-it-better-to-have-more-java-classes-or-have-fewer-classes-doing-more-work

If I were you, I would only keep three of the classes at most: A1, A2 and A3. Alternatively, you could make the three algorithms methods of the same class. To keep your code DRY, you want one method responsible for reading in files (and one for output), unless the input files are fundamentally different.

Every object you create has some overhead, so your performance would be better if you can create just one object to hold your results.


Should the data classes include their own respective 'readFromFile' functions or would it be better to have a global utility class that reads all data from file and generates the data objects?

Follow the Single Responsibility Principle (SRP).

Don't put data fetch in your data class(es).

Give your data class all the functionality it needs; for example implementing Comparable, Iterator, Equality as needed. Don't make the data-client have to brute force do these kinds of things to the data object.

Neither the algorithm nor data classes should not know how to read the data - it should ask some other class. Likewise the algorithm should ask the data class to sort itself (for example), not do it for the data class.

Minimize Coupling

Don't "new-up" your data objects inside the algorithm class, for example.

Loose coupling suggests you may have essentially a framework of sorts to drive the whole thing; perhaps a class to read data, one to build specific algorithm/data object combinations (Factory pattern), one to "get the data and algorithm together", one to coordinate algorithm execution, et cetera.

Think OO all the way down into details

Do not play a "more vs fewer" classes game. This is a simply wrong-headed. Design a good structure (class hierarchy) for your data that strongly adheres to SRP. That is, data of any complexity is likely to be a composite of other types each handling it's own behavior. Done well you will be amazed at how simple, clean, and small code becomes both in the containing data class and data clients.

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