Ruby Science

Uncommunicative Name

Software is run by computers—but written and read by humans. Names provide important information to developers who are trying to understand a piece of code. Patterns and challenges when naming a method or class can also provide clues for refactoring.


  • Difficulty understanding a method or class.
  • Methods or classes with similar names but dissimilar functionality.
  • Redundant names, such as names that include the type of object to which they refer.


In our example application, the SummariesController generates summaries from a Survey:

# app/controllers/summaries_controller.rb
@summaries = @survey.summarize(summarizer)

The summarize method on Survey asks each Question to summarize itself using a summarizer:

# app/models/survey.rb
def summarize(summarizer) do |question|

The summarize method on Question gets a value by calling summarize on a summarizer, and then builds a Summary using that value.

# app/models/question.rb
def summarize(summarizer)
  value = summarizer.summarize(self), value)

There are several summarizer classes, each of which respond to summarize.

If you’re lost, don’t worry: You’re not the only one. The confusing maze of similar names makes this example extremely hard to follow.

See rename method to see how we improve the situation.


  • Rename method if a well-factored method isn’t well named.
  • Extract class if a class is doing too much to have a meaningful name.
  • Extract method if a method is doing too much to have a meaningful name.
  • Inline class if a class is too abstract to have a meaningful name.
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