Friday, October 03, 2008

Who loves lamdas?

I finally started a project where I can use all the new fanciness. How would you process a list of names so that each name is printed out 'i' times?

int i = 5;
IEnumerable<string>() names = new List<string>() { "Alan" };
names.ForEach (n => i.Times().Apply(j => Console.WriteLine(n)));

All your lambdas are belong to us!


Anonymous said...

Please tell me you're not actually writing code like that. I'd hate to be the one who has to maintain it after you're gone.

Lambdas are great, but they should be used sparingly.

RednaxelaFX said...


ForEach() would have been a good name, but if your wrote your own version that doesn't return void, it's not gonna keep the semantics of Array.ForEach<T>() and List<T>.ForEach(), both of which return void and thus stops method chaining.
That's why a few people who's done almost the same uses the name Process() or the like, which returns IEnumerable<T> to allow the calls to be further chained, like:

list.Process( i => Console.WriteLine( i ) )
    .Where( i => 0 == i % 2 );

But there's a pitfall if you're using IEnumerable<T> like this: the whole query doesn't execute until MoveNext() is called for the first time. So you'd have to force a query to execute with some other calls, like:

list.Process( i => Console.WriteLine( i ) )
    .ToList( )
    .Where( i => 0 == i % 2 );

Not pretty, though.

If you're interested in reading exotic lambda stuff, you might like this post I wrote a few days ago:
It's in Chinese, but the code says it all. The post is about emulating local variables and statements with lambdas, which would be possible to be converted into Expression trees. It's nothing near production code stuff, but I'm sure it's fun to push the limits of lambda.

- RednaxelaFX

Chris Howie said...

Honestly I would not use .ForEach there. Then again it took me about two minutes just to unwrap that one statement in my head. Try this:

foreach (var n in names)
i.Times().Apply(j => Console.WriteLine(n));

Much easier to read. Note that any use of delegates like this will result in a loop over a call to a function pointer. This operation cannot be easily or safely optimized.

What would be nicer is either a language construct "do ... n times" or an IEnumerable<object> that returns null for every element, but provides n elements:

static IEnumerable<object> Times(int n)
for (int i = 0; i < n; i++)
yield return null;

As well as a construct "for (x)" where x : IEnumerable, which would iterate and not even query the enumerable for a value, effectively discarding it. Then we have:

foreach (var n in names)
for (Times(i))

Which would you rather maintain?

David said...

In Haskell:

let i = 5
names = ["Alan"]
mapM_ (mapM putStrLn . replicate i) names

RednaxelaFX said...


The method call syntax takes some getting used to, but if the maintainer knows other languages that allow functional style of programming, he/she would have no trouble with code like this. Anyone familiar with Ruby would be very familiar with such syntax, not to mentions real functional languages like Haskell and ML families.

With upcoming technologies like PLINQ, we might see more and more looping code written in method call syntax rather than for/foreach loop statements. It's more declarative, and give the runtime more freedom to do optimizations such as parallelization.

public static class System.Linq.ParallelEnumerable {
    public static void ForAll<T>(
        this IParallelEnumerable<T> source, Action<T> action);
    ... the other standard query operators ...

Amber said...

o me, the legibility problem is in the variable 'i'. Simply replace that with the literal 5, will you:)

I prefer to be verbose in cases like this. Howver, I *never in my life* have to write code that does f for any i:I repeated n times. The f will always be defined in a way just a little bit smarter than just do that 5 times. When does *that* come in handy?

Perhaps in printing the banner to your 19k2 Bulletin Board Server hahahahaha

Lennie De Villiers said...

Hi, Here is the ForEach method for C++:

Alan said...

@Anonymous: Well, there's no reason why I shouldn't write code like this. It's less prone to error. I heard the same arguments when generics came out. "Don't abuse generics, it's too complex to maintain". Of course, you shouldn't look at any of my MonoTorrent code then. It's filled with anonymous delegates. Though personally i find it makes the code much easier to understand.

@Amber: Yeah, i could've used the literal '5', but I wanted to demonstrate a point that I could execute something an arbitrary number of times really easily.

@Chris: Well, since i'm only starting with lambdas, i want to do as much as possible in as few lines as possible ;) Yeah, the line is complicated, but it's AWESOME!

bart said...

It's funny to see people getting so excited about stuff which does exist for 50 years now!

(mapc #'(lambda(name)
(dotimes(i 5)
(format t "~A" name)))

which could be translated into

mapc(names, (n =>
() => Console.WriteLine(n))));

or names.mapc ... if you want.
It's a pitty I can not put


Takis said...

Lennie De Villiers:

I found your for_each definition a bit weird, as your for_each wasn't doing the iterating. And, you limited the type of containers you can iterate over to vectors, while you can get it to work for other containers rather easily:

template <typename T>
void for_each(T &v, void (*apply)(typename T::value_type &))
for (typename T::iterator i = v.begin(); i!=v.end(); i++)

Ofcourse, there's no real point in implementing this as it is already available in STL :-)

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