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Code refactoring - NULL check (Part 2)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

In my last post we played a little with how we can check if an object is null or not. What I forget to mention in the post is the way how you can construct the object that can be null.
In the given case the constructor of the object was pretty complicated and you could not create the object without initialize a lot of items around him. As Tudor mention in a comment we could use the “Null Object Pattern”.
Let’s see how the code would look like if we could create an instance of the object. The “Null Object Pattern” is based on a neutral object that is considered the equivalent for NULL. This object contains all the default value of the properties that are exposed.
Using an object like this we don’t need to check if our item is null or not. We can directly access a property of it. During the lifetime of an application we should have only one instance of our object (Null Object) – the instance can be stored in a static field.
Using this solution we would end up with this:
public class SomeFoo
  public int A { get;set; }
  public string B { get;set; }
  public int C { get;set; }

  private static SomeFoo _nullInstance = new SomeFoo()
      A = 0,
      B = null,
      C = -1
  public static SomeFoo NullInstance 
      return _nullInstance;

public class Foo
  SomeFoo _some = SomeFoo.NullInstance;

  public int GetA()
    return _some.A;

  public string GetB()
    return _some.B;

  public int GetTotalX()
    return _some.A + _some.C;

This will work great if we don’t have cases when for the property “A” or “B” we need to return 0 and for a method that calculate “A”+”B” we need to return -1. But in the general case this solution works great.
In the next post we will see how we can implement this pattern when we are working with interfaces.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


  1. I would call this 'Empty object pattern'. It is a lot more useful for languages where you can have objects on the stack (C++), making the default value (filled in by calling the default constructor) the "Empty Object". Checks, in this case, are natural; you check against an empty object; having such an object as a static member of your class is also easy to implement.
    Using it as a replacement for null tries to avoid the precise programming mistake that the null initialization tries to signal: the fact that a variable is uninitialized. This pattern, having a valid object where we would otherwise have a null pointer exception (or a Segmentation fault) may obscure errors that would have been triggered by the exceptional conditions of having a null object.

    Suggestion: please remove all the captchas, they discourage dialogue :)

    1. captchas - For a limited period of time I removed them but I had 10-15 spam messages that were not removed by the spam filter of Google

    2. I think that this 'null object pattern' is useful in those cases where null is an expected value and has a certain meaning - instead of having to add comments on what null means for a certain method, sometimes we can replace it with a derived class with an appropriate name (like CustomerNotSpecified), embed in it's methods the specific logic and make the code more elegant in this way. This has nothing to do with avoiding null ref exceptions or input validation, when null would be an invalid argument.

    3. I understand the purpose of an 'empty object' but I wouldn't use the 'null' name and I wouldn't name it 'a pattern' (unless we're ready to call 'if' a binary conditional operation selection pattern and a 'switch' a multiple conditional operation selection pattern). That would be rather silly.
      Or not.


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