The entertaining and amusing winky99 recently tweeted at me.

@realistschuckle Should we quit saying MVC when most implementations are MVP? Or agile when actually it is scrum? Communication > purity

— Scott Stevenson (@winky99) February 28, 2012

This came from a comment that he made regarding a post by Rob Conery. I have to disagree with his assertion that “communication > purity” primarily because precise communication is pure communication. We develop specialized languages with unambiguous terms just so we can communicate with one another clearly.

Since Rob sparked our short-lived debate, I went to look at Rob’s site.

Rob Conery strikes an impressive figure. Take a look at this guy. He’s this dude.

Rob Conery

He likes “Kitchen Nightmares.” He has at least 18 GitHub projects. He has a podcast named “This Developer’s Life.” Rob Conery is a rock star. So, why did he have to write the following?

A RESTful API is in the eye of the beholder

You know how I feel about REST, since I’ve written at length about it. I think that such inaccuracy highlights the difference between computer scientists and computer programmers.

I tend to live in the computer scientist camp, a practitioner and theoretician, a measurer and mentor.

I think Rob lives in the computer programmer camp, a practitioner and pragmatist, an implementor and mentor.

He thinks REST does not have a precise definition. I disagree. I’m sure that he’d accuse me of adhering to a purist viewpoint. I’d accuse him of diluting a term that has a specific meaning as outlined by its creator.

I bring up this context of well-defined terms because I had a conversation regarding the definitions of “framework” and “toolkit,” recently. I think that when most people say “framework” they really mean “toolkit.”

For a while, I’ve used the terms very specifically. A “toolkit” helps me build an application by providing reusable components to reduce the complexity of my code. This includes socket libraries, UI widget libraries, and AJAX/DOM scripts. A “framework” does most of the heavy lifting of the application and, when I want specific behavior, I implement some well-defined contract and plug it into the framework, somehow.

For something to act as a framework, I’ve borrowed Marc Clifton’s three dimensions of a framework:

Wrappers : Wrappers exist to simplify access to complex technologies, reduces or eliminates boiler-plate code, and increase flexibility of the management of its entities through the open-close principle.

Architectures : Architectures manage collections of discrete objects that implement a specific and recognizable set of design elements.

Methodologies : Methodologies enforce a consistent design and implementation approach by preventing closely-coupled classes that ignore the single-responsibility principle.

If you don’t trust Marc because you think he’s a little kooky, then how about the apostolic Gang of Four. From Design Patterns:

When you use a toolkit, you write the main body of the application and call the code you want to reuse. When you use a framework, you reuse the main body and write the code it calls.

Not only can you build applications faster as a result, but the applications have similar structures.They are easier to maintain, and they seem more consistent to their users. On the other hand, you lose some creative freedom, since many design decisions have been made for you.

If applications are hard to design, and toolkits are harder, then frameworks are hardest of all. …Any substantive change to the framework’s design would reduce its benefits considerably, since the framework’s main contribution to an application is the architecture it defines. Therefore it’s imperative to design the framework to be as flexible and extensible as possible.

How much more could you ask for an explanation for the difference between a framework and a toolkit. So, I try to speak purely and without ambiguity when I use those terms. I encourage you to separate the difference in your mind so you know what you’re writing, what you’re using, and what you’re talking about.

There’s nothing wrong about refining your craft and, part of that maturity, should include sharpening your thoughts and words about the concepts that we programmers use in our daily lives.