Handling Error Without Exceptions

Functional programming in Scala

The following set of sections represent the exercises contained in the book "Functional Programming in Scala", written by Paul Chiusano and Rúnar Bjarnason and published by Manning. This content library is meant to be used in tandem with the book. We use the same numeration for the exercises for you to follow them.

For more information about "Functional Programming in Scala" please visit its official website.

The Option data type

Exercise 4.1:

We're going to look at some of the functions available in the Option, starting by map, that applies a function f in the Option is not None:

def map[B](f: A => B): Option[B] = this match {
  case None => None
  case Some(a) => Some(f(a))

Let's try it out:

def lookupByName(name: String): Option[Employee] =
  name match {
    case "Joe" => Some(Employee("Joe", "Finances", Some("Julie")))
    case "Mary" => Some(Employee("Mary", "IT", None))
    case "Izumi" => Some(Employee("Izumi", "IT", Some("Mary")))
    case _ => None

 We can look for our employees, and try to obtain their departments. We will assume that we won't find any errors,
 and if it's the case, we don't have to worry as the computation will end there. Try to use `map` on the result of
 calling `lookupByName` to create a function to obtain the department of each employee. Hint: to access the
 optional employee, use Scala's underscore notation. i.e.:

 _.getOrElse(Employee("John", "Doe", None))

 Employee is defined as:

 case class Employee(name: String, department: String, manager: Option[String])
def getDepartment: (Option[Employee]) => Option[String] = res0

getDepartment(lookupByName("Joe")) shouldBe Some("Finances")
getDepartment(lookupByName("Mary")) shouldBe Some("IT")
getDepartment(lookupByName("Foo")) shouldBe None

We can also implement flatMap, which applies a function f which may also fail, to the Option if not None:

def flatMap[B](f: A => Option[B]): Option[B] = map(f) getOrElse None

Try to find out who is managing each employee, if applicable:

def getManager: (Option[Employee]) => Option[String] = res0

getManager(lookupByName("Joe")) shouldBe Some("Julie")
getManager(lookupByName("Mary")) shouldBe None
getManager(lookupByName("Foo")) shouldBe None

The function getOrElse tries to get the value contained in the Option, but if it's a None, it will return the default value provided by the caller:

def getOrElse[B >: A](default: => B): B = this match {
  case None => default
  case Some(a) => a

orElse returns the original Option if not None, or returns the provided Option as an alternative in that case:

def orElse[B >: A](ob: => Option[B]): Option[B] = this map (Some(_)) getOrElse ob

Check how it works in the following exercise:

def getManager(employee: Option[Employee]): Option[String] = employee.flatMap(_.manager)

getManager(lookupByName("Joe")).orElse(Some("Mr. CEO")) shouldBe res0
getManager(lookupByName("Mary")).orElse(Some("Mr. CEO")) shouldBe res1
getManager(lookupByName("Foo")).orElse(Some("Mr. CEO")) shouldBe res2

Finally, we can implement a filter function that will turn any Option into a None if it doesn't satisfy the provided predicate:

def filter(f: A => Boolean): Option[A] = this match {
  case Some(a) if f(a) => this
  case _ => None

Test it out by discarding those employees who belong to the IT department:

lookupByName("Joe").filter(_.department != "IT") shouldBe res0
lookupByName("Mary").filter(_.department != "IT") shouldBe res1
lookupByName("Foo").filter(_.department != "IT") shouldBe res2

Exercise 4.2:

Let's implement the variance function in terms of flatMap. If the mean of a sequence is m, the variance is the mean of math.pow(x - m, 2) for each element in the sequence:

def variance(xs: Seq[Double]): Option[Double] =
  mean(xs) flatMap (m => mean(xs.map(x => math.pow(x - m, 2))))

Exercise 4.3:

Let's write a generic function to combine two Option values , so that if any of those values is None, the result value is too; and otherwise it will be the result of applying the provided function:

def map2[A, B, C](a: Option[A], b: Option[B])(f: (A, B) => C): Option[C] =
  a flatMap (aa => b map (bb => f(aa, bb)))

Exercise 4.4:

Let's continue by looking at a few other similar cases. For instance, the sequence function, which combines a list of Options into another Option containing a list of all the Somes in the original one. If the original list contains None at least once, the result of the function should be None. If not, the result should be a Some with a list of all the values:

def sequence(a: List[Option[A]]): Option[List[A]] = a match {
  case Nil => Some(Nil)
  case h :: t => h flatMap (hh => sequence(t) map (hh :: _))

After taking a look at the implementation, see how it works in the following exercise:

sequence(List(Some(1), Some(2), Some(3))) shouldBe res0
sequence(List(Some(1), Some(2), None)) shouldBe res1

Exercise 4.5:

The last Option function we're going to explore is traverse, that will allow us to map over a list using a function that might fail, returning None if applying it to any element of the list returns None:

def traverse[A, B](a: List[A])(f: A => Option[B]): Option[List[B]] = a match {
  case Nil => Some(Nil)
  case h :: t => map2(f(h), traverse(t)(f))(_ :: _)

We can also implement traverse in terms of foldRight:

def traverse_1[A, B](a: List[A])(f: A => Option[B]): Option[List[B]] =
  a.foldRight[Option[List[B]]](Some(Nil))((h, t) => map2(f(h), t)(_ :: _))

We can even re-implement sequence in terms of traverse:

def sequenceViaTraverse[A](a: List[Option[A]]): Option[List[A]] = traverse(a)(x => x)

Let's try traverse out, by trying to parse a List[String] into a Option[List[Int]]:

val list1 = List("1", "2", "3")
val list2 = List("I", "II", "III", "IV")

def parseInt(a: String): Option[Int] =
  Try(a.toInt) match {
    case Success(r) => Some(r)
    case _ => None

traverse(list1)(i => parseInt(i)) shouldBe res0
traverse(list2)(i => parseInt(i)) shouldBe res1

The Either data type

Exercise 4.6:

As we did with Option, let's implement versions of map, flatMap, orElse and map2 on Either that operate on the Right value, starting with map:

def map[B](f: A => B): Either[E, B] = this match {
  case Right(a) => Right(f(a))
  case Left(e) => Left(e)

In the same fashion as Option, map allows us to chain operations on an Either without worrying about the possible errors that may arise, as the chain will stop if any error occurs. Let's try it out, by improving the employee lookup function we implemented before, to use Either instead of Option. Try to use map on the Either type to obtain the department of each employee:

def lookupByNameViaEither(name: String): Either[String, Employee] =
  name match {
    case "Joe" => Right(Employee("Joe", "Finances", Some("Julie")))
    case "Mary" => Right(Employee("Mary", "IT", None))
    case "Izumi" => Right(Employee("Izumi", "IT", Some("Mary")))
    case _ => Left("Employee not found")

def getDepartment: (Either[String, Employee]) => Either[String, String] = res0

getDepartment(lookupByNameViaEither("Joe")) shouldBe Right("Finances")
getDepartment(lookupByNameViaEither("Mary")) shouldBe Right("IT")
getDepartment(lookupByNameViaEither("Foo")) shouldBe Left("Employee not found")

flatMap behaves the same in Either as it does in Option, allowing us to chain operations that may also fail. Use it to try to obtain the managers from each employee. Note that when calling our getManager function, we can find two different errors in its execution:

def getManager(employee: Either[String, Employee]): Either[String, String] =
  employee.flatMap(e =>
    e.manager match {
      case Some(e) => Right(e)
      case _ => Left("Manager not found")

getManager(lookupByNameViaEither("Joe")) shouldBe res0
getManager(lookupByNameViaEither("Mary")) shouldBe res1
getManager(lookupByNameViaEither("Foo")) shouldBe res2

orElse works the same as in Options, returning the original Either when it contains a Right, or the provided alternative in case it's a Left:

def orElse[EE >: E, AA >: A](b: => Either[EE, AA]): Either[EE, AA] = this match {
  case Left(_) => b
  case Right(a) => Right(a)

Let's check out how it behaves. Let's assume that everyone inside our company ends up responding to a "Mr. CEO" manager. We can provide that logic with orElse:

def getManager(employee: Either[String, Employee]): Either[String, String] =
  employee.flatMap(e =>
    e.manager match {
      case Some(e) => Right(e)
      case _ => Left("Manager not found")

getManager(lookupByNameViaEither("Joe")).orElse(Right("Mr. CEO")) shouldBe res0
getManager(lookupByNameViaEither("Mary")).orElse(Right("Mr. CEO")) shouldBe res1
getManager(lookupByNameViaEither("Foo")).orElse(Right("Mr. CEO")) shouldBe res2

In the same fashion as with Options, map2 lets us combine two Eithers using a binary function. Note that we will use for-comprehensions instead of a chain of flatMap and map calls:

def map2[EE >: E, B, C](b: Either[EE, B])(f: (A, B) => C): Either[EE, C] =
  for {
    a <- this;
    b1 <- b
  } yield f(a, b1)

In this implementation, we can't report errors on both sides. To do that, we would need a new data type that can hold a list of errors:

trait Partial[+A, +B]
case class Errors[+A](get: Seq[A]) extends Partial[A, Nothing]
case class Success[+B](get: B) extends Partial[Nothing, B]

This data type is really similar to Scalaz' Validation type.

In any case, let's test map2 on the following exercise, to find out if two employees share a department by using an specific function:

def employeesShareDepartment(employeeA: Employee, employeeB: Employee) =
  employeeA.department == employeeB.department

  employeesShareDepartment) shouldBe res0
  employeesShareDepartment) shouldBe res1
  employeesShareDepartment) shouldBe res2

Exercise 4.7:

sequence and traverse can also be implemented for Either. Those functions should return the first error that can be found, if there is one.

def traverse[E, A, B](es: List[A])(f: A => Either[E, B]): Either[E, List[B]] = es match {
  case Nil => Right(Nil)
  case h :: t => (f(h) map2 traverse(t)(f))(_ :: _)
def sequence[E, A](es: List[Either[E, A]]): Either[E, List[A]] = traverse(es)(x => x)

We can attempt to obtain a record of employees names by looking up a list of Employees:

val employees = List("Joe", "Mary")
val employeesAndOutsources = employees :+ "Foo"

Either.traverse(employees)(lookupByNameViaEither) shouldBe res0
Either.traverse(employeesAndOutsources)(lookupByNameViaEither) shouldBe res1

As for sequence, we can create a List of the employees we looked up by using the lookupByNameViaEither, and find out if we were looking for a missing person:

val employees = List(lookupByNameViaEither("Joe"), lookupByNameViaEither("Mary"))
val employeesAndOutsources = employees :+ lookupByNameViaEither("Foo")

Either.sequence(employees) shouldBe res0
Either.sequence(employeesAndOutsources) shouldBe res1