Defaulting to Transducers
Transducers are great. I've been defaulting to write transducers as opposed to the lazy-seq operations for the past two years at work. To me, transducers are better building blocks to compose Clojure programs for their many benefits that come with reasonable drawbacks/obstacles. And, you know what, though I don't always like recommending people to do things one way or another: you should default to write transducers, too.
Here are the reasons:
Reason 1 - Eagerness is almost always what you want
The article "Clojure's Deadly Sin" by Oleksandr Yakushev explains the laziness feature in Clojure and, more importantly, the cost of laziness in Clojure. The article is fantastic and of high quality as many other articles on the website, and I highly recommend them all.
The truth is, when I programmed in Clojure at work for the past 4 years, I rarely relied on laziness (apart from the one time when it made sense for the code organization reason, which I'll come back in.) When I wrote:
(->> data (map some-function) (filter some-predicate-fn))
I almost always wanted the data to be mapped and filtered right away. I never intended to return a lazy sequence and let the consumer force its evaluation.
lazy-seq is a pretty nice abstraction for a source of an infinite stream of data, but the usage for laziness pretty much ends there. If a software process can be split into three parts: a) pulling, b) transformation, and c) pushing, then pulling is the only place where laziness makes sense because a process could be pulling from an infinite source of data. I've never seen a place where I need my transformation stage or pushing stage to be lazy.
Lazy transformation can cause the issue with reactive deref in lazy-seqs in Reagent, which almost all ClojureScript front-end dev I worked with (myself included) had to face at some point in their career. The lesson learned here is that you always want to eagerly evaluate the
lazy-seqs in the Reagent component's rendering function.
Lazy pushing isn't ideal, either. Although mapping a side-effect function over a sequence is almost certainly an anti-pattern, sometimes there are use cases for it. However, laziness in such cases might make you scratch your head for hours until you realize why the side effect never happened.
Reason 2 - Performance
Quote the example and numbers from the performance overhead numbers from Clojure's Deadly Sin:
;;;; Lazy map (time+ (->> (repeat 1000 10) (map inc) (map inc) (map #(* % 2)) (map inc) (map inc) doall)) ;; Time per call: 410.22 us Alloc per call: 480,296b ;;;; Transducers+into (time+ (into  (comp (map inc) (map inc) (map #(* % 2)) (map inc) (map inc)) (repeat 1000 10))) ;; Time per call: 43.95 us Alloc per call: 6,264b
In this example, the transducer version isn't that much different (visually) from the lazy map version (such that you can almost glance over it without realizing it is using transducers.) It's a bit ridiculous that the performance of the transducer version (with
clojure.core/into) is almost 10 times faster than the lazy map version and produces almost 80 times less memory usage on the heap. Yes, we are getting into the territory of premature optimization. However, considering how much code we Clojurians write is about functional transformation like this and how little friction it is to use transducers, I think transducers should be the default for most cases for most people instead of the other way around.
Reason 3 - On-demand laziness
This reason number 3 is teased in: there was one instance at work where I still required some level of laziness because of the code organization like the following:
;; (ns a) (defn s [db] ,,,) ;; (ns b) (defn b [db] (into  ;; transformation: t-b (comp (map ,,,) (filter ,,,)) (a/s db))) ;; (ns c) (defn c [db n] (into  ;; transformation: t-c (comp (map ,,,) (filter ,,,) (take n)) (a/s db)))
adefines a data source
a's data source and does some transformation
t-brequires the full set of data source
a's data source and does some transformation
t-conly requires the first filtered
ndata points from
Now, imagine some common transformation,
t-0, that both
t-c depend on, such as some data normalization logic. In this case,
a would be the ideal place to host this logic. We don't want to transduce the data source
t-0 in ns
c does not need the rest of the data to be transformed after the
n+1 data point. Therefore, the problem is this: how do we bind the transformation
t-0 to the data source
s early but hold off the evaluation later? If that sounds like laziness to you, congratulations! You are correct that this is laziness again. However, there is a different type of laziness that doesn't cost us performance.
This is the use case for
clojure.core/eduction. It gives you a different type of laziness - a pushing type of laziness (whereas the lazy map/filter is the pulling type of laziness.) This allows us to bind the data source with some transformation early. This early-bounded transformation
t-0 would only be invoked until this Eduction object is being transduced.
;; (ns a) (defn s [db] ,,,) (defn s-normalized [db] (eduction (map normalize) ; transformation t-0 (s db))) ;; (ns b) (defn b [db] (into  ;; transformation t-b (comp (map ,,,) (filter ,,,)) (a/s-normalized db))) ;; (ns c) (defn c [db n] (into  ;; transformation t-c (comp (map ,,,) (filter ,,,) (take n)) (a/s-normalized db)))
Things to consider
Here are a few things to consider that may or may not be obstacles for you:
Shapes of the program can be a bit tricky
Consider the shape of the code from this example that most Clojure devs are familiar with and how to rewrite it using transducers:
;; Variation #1: Lazy map (->> (repeat 1000 10) (map inc) (map inc) (map #(* % 2)) (map inc) (map inc) doall) ;; Variation #2: Transduer+into (into  (comp (map inc) (map inc) (map #(* % 2)) (map inc) (map inc)) (repeat 1000 10)) ;; Variation #3: Transducer+into+thread-last (->> (repeat 1000 10) (into  (comp (map inc) (map inc) (map #(* % 2)) (map inc) (map inc))))
I personally tend to write variation #3 for its resemblance to the lazy map variation. However, notice that the code is wider, and the indentation level is deeper now. Instead of all vertically aligned at 5 spaces in variation #1, the inner-most transducers (the mappers inside the `comp` form) in variation #3 are now indented with 17 spaces. I like the aesthetics of variation #1 the most, to be honest, but I've convinced myself to write variation #2 or #3 for their benefits.
Imperative programming for fully customized transducers
This obstacle will probably throw many die-hard functional programmers off. However, we Clojure programmers are practical, and it's okay to throw in some local states in a controlled manner. At work, I needed a partitioning logic that partitions the data using the running total so each partition has a running total of less than a given limit while maintaining the order of the data.
This problem fits the use cases for transducers well, even though I don't really care about integrating it with
core.async at the moment, but I know the option is open to the future. I implemented this with a custom transducer function that accepts the limit number (and a few other key functions) and returns a transducer. The implementation itself isn't that hard to figure out with the help of the
clojure.core/partition-by source code. Below is the simplified implementation of the
partition-by-running-total custom transducer (note that this simplified version doesn't handle an initial value that's larger than the limit gracefully, but I want to burry you with too many details):
(defn partition-by-running-total [limit] (fn [rf] (let [a (java.util.ArrayList.) total (volatile! 0)] (fn ( (rf)) ([result] (let [result (if (.isEmpty a) result (let [v (vec (.toArray a))] (.clear a) (unreduced (rf result v))))] (rf result))) ([result input] (let [total-val @total] (if (<= (+ total-val input) limit) (do (.add a input) (vswap! total + input) result) (let [v (vec (.toArray a))] (.clear a) (let [ret (rf result v)] (when-not (reduced? ret) (.add a input) (vreset! total input)) ret))))))))) (into  (partition-by-running-total 10) [2 5 5 5 2 2 2 5]) ;; => [[2 5] [5 5] [2 2 2] ]
The implementation of this custom transducer undoubtedly requires writing imperative code to keep track of and mutate the internal states. However, this is the only case in the past 4 years where I needed to implement the transducer from the ground up. Chances are that the
clojure.core already has you covered.
I think you should default to compose transducers for all the sequence transformations. Transducers are more optimized for speed and memory. You can opt-in for laziness when needed. And they are as easy to compose. If you are not already writing transducers as your default, please give them a try.