I am currently rewriting a todo app from java to clojure. This is my first "real" clojure project so I'm not sure that what I write is idiomatic clojure code. I have just finished rewriting the domain module and I'd like to know how can I improve on it to have something which is idiomatic.

I had some simple classes in my original java project:

  • Box <-- Represents a Box in the EisenhowerMatrix
  • BoxBlurbsProvider <-- provides name and description labels for a Box
  • EisenhowerMatrix <-- represents the matrix itself
  • Importance <-- enum holding the possible importance values
  • Urgency <-- enum holding the possible urgency values
  • Task <-- represents a Task in an EisenhowerMatrix Box

My original classes are these (note that I omitted documentation from my code):

public class Box {

    private final Urgency urgency;
    private final Importance importance;
    private final String name;
    private final String description;
    private final Set<Task> tasks = new LinkedHashSet<>();

    public void addTask(final Task task) {

    public void removeTask(final Task task) {

public interface BoxBlurbsProvider {
    String getNameFor(Urgency urgency, Importance importance);
    String getDescriptionFor(Urgency urgency, Importance importance);

public class EisenhowerMatrix {

    @Value(staticConstructor = "of")
    private static class BoxKey {
        private final Urgency urgency;
        private final Importance importance;

    private final Map<BoxKey, Box> boxes = new LinkedHashMap<>();

    private final String name;

    private EisenhowerMatrix(String name, BoxBlurbsProvider boxBlurbsProvider) {
        this.name = name;
        for (Importance importance : Importance.values()) {
            for (Urgency urgency : Urgency.values()) {
                boxes.put(BoxKey.of(urgency, importance), Box.builder()
                        .name(boxBlurbsProvider.getNameFor(urgency, importance))
                        .description(boxBlurbsProvider.getDescriptionFor(urgency, importance))

    public static EisenhowerMatrix of(String name, BoxBlurbsProvider boxBlurbsProvider) {
        return new EisenhowerMatrix(name, boxBlurbsProvider);

    public List<Box> getBoxes() {
        return new ArrayList<>(boxes.values());

    public void addTask(final Urgency urgency, final Importance importance, final Task task) {
        boxes.get(BoxKey.of(urgency, importance)).addTask(task);

    public void removeTask(final Task task) {
        boxes.values().forEach(box -> box.removeTask(task));

    public List<Task> getTasks() {
        return boxes.values().stream().flatMap(box -> box.getTasks().stream()).collect(Collectors.toList());

public enum Importance {

public enum Urgency {

@RequiredArgsConstructor(staticName = "of")
public class Task {
    private final String name;
    private final String description;

My resulting clojure code is in two namespaces. One for records and one for protocols:


(ns eisentower.domain.records
  (:use [eisentower.domain.protocols]))

(def urgencies [:urgent :not-urgent])
(def importances [:important :not-important])

(defn- combine-keywords [& keywords]
      (fn [k0 k1] (str (name k0) (name k1)))

(defrecord Box [urgency importance name description tasks]
  (add-task-to-box [box task]
    (update-in box [:tasks] conj task))
  (remove-task-from-box [box task]
    (assoc box
      (remove #(= (:name %) (:name task)) (:tasks box)))))

(defn- create-boxes []
  (for [u urgencies i importances]
    (->Box u i (get-name-for u i) (get-description-for u i) [])))

(defrecord Task [name description])

(defrecord EisenhowerMatrix [boxes name]
  (get-tasks [matrix]
    (into [] (mapcat #(:tasks (val %)) boxes)))
  (get-boxes [matrix]
    (:boxes matrix))
  (add-task-to-matrix [matrix urgency importance task]
    (let [box-key (combine-keywords urgency importance)
          box (get-in matrix [:boxes box-key])]
      (assoc-in matrix [:boxes box-key] (add-task-to-box box task))))
  (remove-task-from-matrix [matrix task]
    (loop [box (:boxes matrix)]
      (if (contains? (:tasks box) task)
        (let [box-key (combine-keywords (:urgency box) (:importance box))]
          (assoc-in matrix [:boxes box-key] (remove-task-from-box box task)))))))

(defn create-matrix [name]
    (into {} (map
               (fn [box]
                 {(combine-keywords (:urgency box) (:importance box)) box})


(ns eisentower.domain.protocols)

(defprotocol BoxBlurbOperations
  (get-name-for [urgency importance])
  (get-description-for [urgency importance]))

(defprotocol MatrixOperations
  (get-tasks [matrix])
  (get-boxes [matrix])
  (add-task-to-matrix [matrix urgency importance task])
  (remove-task-from-matrix [matrix task]))

(defprotocol BoxOperations
  (add-task-to-box [box task])
  (remove-task-from-box [box task]))

Some points I'm a bit puzzled with:

  • Can it be less verbose?
  • Can it be more readable?
  • Can I clean it up somehow?
  • Am I doing something wrong?
  • Isn't it too OOPy?
  • How can it be more idiomatic?

I started to write the java example as one-to-one mapping to clojure, but shortly realized that it's not entirely possible. The main reason that the original design is not sound for me.

So I was starting to think about the core concept and that can be summed up in one domain entity: the task.

Let's create a task.

(defn create-task
  [name desc urgent? important?]
  {:name name, :description desc, :urgent? urgent?, :important? important?})

Of course, it's a bit sloppy, so let's specify it properly. I'm using clojure.spec for this.

(s/def ::name (s/and string?
                     (comp not empty?)))
(s/def ::description string?)
(s/def ::urgent? boolean?)
(s/def ::important? boolean?)

(s/def ::task (s/keys :req-un [::name ::description ::urgent? ::important?]))
And let's specify the constructor function itself.

(s/fdef create-task
        :args (s/cat :name ::name, :description ::description, :urgent? ::urgent?, :important? ::important?)
        :ret ::task)

The box concept is not necessarily need any implementation. We are interested in the grouped tasks by boxes and this is what the group-by function is for.

(defn box-tasks
  (group-by (fn [{:keys [urgent? important?]}] [urgent? important?]) tasks))

(s/def ::tasks (s/coll-of ::task))
(s/def ::box-key (s/tuple ::urgent? ::important?))
(s/def ::box-tasks (s/map-of ::box-key ::tasks))

(s/fdef box-tasks
        :args (s/cat :tasks ::tasks)
        :ret ::box-tasks)

Side note: the ::box-tasks definition is odd, the default generator will generate inconsistent box-keys and tasks for it.

If you really need a matrix, you can define a simple constructor function for it.

(defn create-matrix
  {:name name, :tasks #{}})

(s/def ::matrix (s/keys :req-un [::name ::tasks]))

(s/fdef create-matrix
        :args (s/cat :name ::name)
        :ret ::matrix)

and some basic operations

(defn add-task    [m t] (update m :tasks conj t))
(defn remove-task [m t] (update m :tasks disj t))

(s/fdef add-task
        :args (s/cat :matrix ::matrix :task ::task)
        :ret ::matrix)

(s/fdef remove-task
        :args (s/cat :matrix ::matrix :task ::task)
        :ret ::matrix)
  • \$\begingroup\$ Consider (group-by #(select-keys % [:urgent? :important?]) tasks)). I'd be forever forgetting the order in the vector. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thumbnail
    Sep 26 '16 at 9:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ ::box-key defines this, but extracting a box-key function would help. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 27 '16 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think my suggestion resolves the problem you mention of " inconsistent box-keys and tasks". \$\endgroup\$
    – Thumbnail
    Sep 28 '16 at 0:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nope. It doesn't matter how you create your keys as far as the spec has no explicit knowledge about the connection between ::box-key and the related ::tasks described in the ::box-tasks spec. I have no idea it is even possible to describe this situation with spec or your only chance is to simple define a custom generator for it. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 29 '16 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I misunderstood what you meant by " inconsistent box-keys and tasks". And I thought, wrongly, that (s/fdef box-tasks ... :ret ::box-tasks) was invalid: I had misread the ::box-key spec. I was able to use the specs to discover my error. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thumbnail
    Sep 29 '16 at 16:57

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