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Class Structure and the Treatment of Parameter Values

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BACKGROUND:  Please find below a portion of a PHP class used to create an RSS feed.  Included are only the constructor function and the function used to create the actual document.  All other functions have been omitted so as to focus on the question at hand.  My reason for posting this code is to better understand the proper way to create a class.

As you can readily see from the __construct( ) function of this class each new instance of the class requires six parameter values. Although the author lists these parameters at the beginning of the class definition, he comments them out, rather than initializing them.

QUESTION:  Is this standard practice?  What is to be gained by not declaring them outside of the __construct( ) function?  It appears to create an unnecessary repetitious use of the pseudo $this variable.

<?php
/**
 * rss_feed (simple rss 2.0 feed creator php class)
 *
 * @author     Christos Pontikis http://pontikis.net
 * @copyright  Christos Pontikis
 * @license    MIT http://opensource.org/licenses/MIT
 * @version    0.1.0 (28 July 2013)
 *
 */
class rss_feed  {
 
  /**
   * Constructor
   *
   * @param array $a_db database settings
   * @param string $xmlns XML namespace
   * @param array $a_channel channel properties
   * @param string $site_url the URL of your site
   * @param string $site_name the name of your site
   * @param bool $full_feed flag for full feed (all topic content)
   */
  public function __construct($a_db, $xmlns, $a_channel, $site_url, $site_name, $full_feed = false) {
    // initialize
    $this->db_settings = $a_db;
    $this->xmlns = ($xmlns ? ' ' . $xmlns : '');
    $this->channel_properties = $a_channel;
    $this->site_url = $site_url;
    $this->site_name = $site_name;
    $this->full_feed = $full_feed;
  }
 
  /**
   * Generate RSS 2.0 feed
   *
   * @return string RSS 2.0 xml
   */
  public function create_feed() {
 
    $xml = '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>' . "\n";
 
    $xml .= '<rss version="2.0"' . $this->xmlns . '>' . "\n";
 
    // channel required properties
    $xml .= '<channel>' . "\n";
    $xml .= '<title>' . $this->channel_properties["title"] . '</title>' . "\n";
    $xml .= '<link>' . $this->channel_properties["link"] . '</link>' . "\n";
    $xml .= '<description>' . $this->channel_properties["description"] . '</description>' . "\n";
 
    // channel optional properties
    if(array_key_exists("language", $this->channel_properties)) {
      $xml .= '<language>' . $this->channel_properties["language"] . '</language>' . "\n";
    }
    if(array_key_exists("image_title", $this->channel_properties)) {
      $xml .= '<image>' . "\n";
      $xml .= '<title>' . $this->channel_properties["image_title"] . '</title>' . "\n";
      $xml .= '<link>' . $this->channel_properties["image_link"] . '</link>' . "\n";
      $xml .= '<url>' . $this->channel_properties["image_url"] . '</url>' . "\n";
      $xml .= '</image>' . "\n";
    }
 
    // get RSS channel items
    $now =  date("YmdHis"); // get current time  // configure appropriately to your environment
    $rss_items = $this->get_feed_items($now);
 
    foreach($rss_items as $rss_item) {
      $xml .= '<item>' . "\n";
      $xml .= '<title>' . $rss_item['title'] . '</title>' . "\n";
      $xml .= '<link>' . $rss_item['link'] . '</link>' . "\n";
      $xml .= '<description>' . $rss_item['description'] . '</description>' . "\n";
      $xml .= '<pubDate>' . $rss_item['pubDate'] . '</pubDate>' . "\n";
      $xml .= '<category>' . $rss_item['category'] . '</category>' . "\n";
      $xml .= '<source>' . $rss_item['source'] . '</source>' . "\n";
 
      if($this->full_feed) {
        $xml .= '<content:encoded>' . $rss_item['content'] . '</content:encoded>' . "\n";
      }
 
      $xml .= '</item>' . "\n";
    }
 
    $xml .= '</channel>';
 
    $xml .= '</rss>';
 
    return $xml;
  }

}
?>

 

 

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What he's listing in the comment are the function parameters, not the class properties. However, he hasn't declared the class properties in the class definition. Although PHP might let that slide, it's not a good idea. You should declare class properties outside of the constructor.

For XML based applications I would recommend against using strings for it. I use DOMDocument to generate XML for me.

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I regret not having asked this question sooner, but when you do not know anything, you have to begin by believing in something. Then, try it out, and see if it works.  The DOMDocument class does appear to be a good deal more solid, and I will certainly make use of it in the future.  Already I have included it in my notes.

For the moment I do not have time to familiarize myself with an entirely new PHP class, and would be very happy, if I could simply improve upon what I already know within the indicated class.  I do not wish to be a bad student, but need to begin earning money quickly, else there will be nothing to support my further study and implementation.  I am dangling on a financial thread that is wearing down both my spirit and health.  Please be understanding.

Returning to the original question, however, I agree that the author has listed the function's parameters, and we appear to agree that he should have first declared these parameters as class properties.  What then would have been the proper way to reference the properties' values in the appended strings to the $xml variable?

Roddy

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Your questions seemed to be about what is a good practice. I believe that's already answered. If that code is working for you then there's no need to change it.

The properties exist in his code and are being used correctly, the only problem is that he didn't declare them, which PHP seems to allow. The constructor is creating them using the arrow "->" syntax.

The only change necessary would be to declare those properties.

class rss_feed  {
  // Declare properties here:
  private $db_settings;
  private $xmlns;
  private $channel_properties;
  private $site_url;
  private $site_name;
  private $full_feed;

  /**
   * Constructor
   *
   * @param array $a_db database settings
   * @param string $xmlns XML namespace
   * @param array $a_channel channel properties
   * @param string $site_url the URL of your site
   * @param string $site_name the name of your site
   * @param bool $full_feed flag for full feed (all topic content)
   */
  public function __construct($a_db, $xmlns, $a_channel, $site_url, $site_name, $full_feed = false) {
    // Assign to properties here:
    $this->db_settings = $a_db;
    $this->xmlns = ($xmlns ? ' ' . $xmlns : '');
    $this->channel_properties = $a_channel;
    $this->site_url = $site_url;
    $this->site_name = $site_name;
    $this->full_feed = $full_feed;
  }

 

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Thank you for your continued clarification.

Now, had the properties been declared, as you have just done, would it have been necessary for the author to use the arrow operator in the second function as well?  I am referring in particular to the function called create_feed( ).  As I mentioned in my original post, it appears to me that by not declaring the variables at the beginning of the class, the author has compelled an inordinate use of the arrow operator.  Is this not true?  Or, have I misunderstood?

Roddy

 

 

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None of the syntax would have to change, he's already doing everything correctly. I assume that when PHP sees an assignment to an undeclared property it creates the property, from that moment onward everything's the same as if the property had been declared.

The only thing I notice that won't work is that he's calling a method get_feed_items() which doesn't exist.

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The method is there.  Simply I left it out, so as not to cause unnecessary clutter. 

Maybe I have misunderstood the use of the constructor function.

Until now I was under the impression that once the values of a constructor function's parameters are assigned to the declared properties via the $this->declared_property mechanism, they can be readily accessed in other methods of the class simply by inserting their respective variable names.

By way of example consider the following line of code taken from the create_feed( ) method.

 $xml .= '<title>' . $this->channel_properties["title"] . '</title>' . "\n";

Had the property $channel_properties been properly declared at the outset of the class definition, then its elements and their respective values could have been directly accessed from within the create_feed( ) and other class methods without having to make use of the pseudo $this variable and the arrow operator?  

In other words, rather than writing the above the author could simply have written

$xml .= '<title>' . $channel_properties["title"] . '</title>' . "\n";

Am I in error in this regard?

Roddy

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PHP doesn't work that way that I can remember, that's a Java thing. You can do an experiment to confirm.

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Oops!  I thought someone would know this, so that I could avoid the experimentation.

Roddy

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If you are referring to a property or method of a class, you always access it via a class or scope object ($this in the case where you are referring to a property or method inside the same non-static class).  That's how PHP knows you are referring to a class member and not a regular variable.

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I have never heard of a static class -- only static properties and methods of a class.  Do you mean by non-static class a class without static properties or methods?

If I have understood correctly, the purpose of the pseudo $this variable  is to distinguish between variables within a specific scope or class from regular variables -- these latter being variable that can be used anywhere except within a class or specified scope.  In effect, one can speak of three different kinds of variables:

1) regular variables -- variables defined and used outside of specific scopes and classes.

2) $this -> variables -- variables defined within a specific scope or class and  accessed from within the scope or class using the $this-> notation of from without using a class object and the -> operator.

3) global variables -- variables defined within a specific scope (not class) that can be accessed from without the scope as regular variables and presumably within the scope as same.

Is this assessment correct?  Have you anything to add?

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Do you mean by non-static class a class without static properties or methods?

More or less.  I was saying that if you are referring to a non-static member then you use $this to refer to the instantiated object, but you don't use $this when accessing static members.

There's some information in the manual about variables in general:

http://php.net/manual/en/language.variables.php

And about classes:

http://php.net/manual/en/language.oop5.php

Particularly these parts:

http://php.net/manual/en/language.oop5.properties.php

http://php.net/manual/en/language.oop5.visibility.php

http://php.net/manual/en/language.oop5.paamayim-nekudotayim.php

Using $this is how you refer to the instantiated object inside the code for the class.  When I refer to a static class I'm talking about a class that you don't instantiate, only define.

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Thank you.

I will add these links to my notes.

Roddy

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