[concurrency-interest] JCIP annotations: @GuardedBy

Tim Peierls tim at peierls.net
Sat Apr 5 11:13:44 EDT 2014

It's a fair cop, but society is to blame -- or rather, our sense that the
society of Java developers, at the time that JCiP was written, was not
ready for a more elaborate system of annotations than what we settled on.
(It's not that we weren't aware of such systems; Doug Lea had many, many
draft proposals.)

We were concerned back then that forcing a set of complicated semantics on
users would guarantee that no one except experts would use them. We
thought, and I still think, that there is pedagogical value in this
simplified set beyond even the obvious practical benefits of FindBugs

Remember, too, that although JSR 308 existed at the time, we couldn't rely
on its inclusion in the platform. (Good thing we didn't!)

The book's treatment of this subject is out of date, superseded by JSR 305.
It might be time to update the specs in javax.annotation.concurrent.
Purists would object, I'm sure, but just by expanding the syntactical
possibilities of the String value of @GuardedBy one could cover a lot of
ground with a minimum of fuss.


On Sat, Apr 5, 2014 at 10:08 AM, Philip Aston <philipa at mail.com> wrote:

> Does anyone use the JCIP annotations? What's your take on the following?
> We use the Java Concurrency In Practice annotations. This is mostly a
> documentation discipline, but it also helps findbugs<http://findbugs.sourceforge.net/manual/annotations.html>tell us not to be stupid.
> The class level @Immutable / @ThreadSafe / @NotThreadSafe are useful and
> self explanatory.
> Unfortunately, interpreted strictly according to JCIP Appendix A,
> @GuardedBy is less so. It is not expressive enough to cover common locking
> patterns. E.g. this might look right to the casual eye:
> class Foo {
>   @GuardedBy("bah")
>   final Collection bah = new ArrayList();
> }
> but @GuardedBy refers to the field bah, which is final so doesn't need a
> guard. There's no way to indicate access to the collection itself should be
> guarded - e.g. that you must hold the lock on bah before iterating over
> the collection.
> The JCIP book ignores this distinction. E.g. Listing 11.6, page 236. I
> find this a rare flaw in an otherwise very precise book. That "its obvious
> what was intended" is a poor defence since the whole point of the
> annotations is to specify intent.
> Maybe Java 8 / JSR 308 is the answer and I should write something like:
>     @Target({ ElementType.FIELD, ElementType.METHOD, ElementType.TYPE_USE
> })
>     public @interface GuardedBy2 {
>         String value();
>     }
>     final Collection bah = new @GuardedBy2("self") ArrayList();
> but I'm on Java7, so
>     final Collection bah = new /* GuardedBy("self") */ ArrayList();
> for now.
> Thoughts?
> - Phil
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