Entities and value objects are key concepts when talking about Domain Driven Design.

Entities are objects represented by its identity. For example, in our system we can have a User object with multiple attributes like name, password, etc. This object, regardless of its attributes, is going to be represented by an id. This means we can change any of the object’s attributes (name, password) and it will remain the same object. Example:

class User
  attr_accessor :name, :password
  def initialize(name, password)
    @name = name
    @password = password
user = User.new('pablo', 'password')
# <User:0x007fc0199c5028 @name="pablo", @password="password">
user.name = 'peter'
# <User:0x007fc0199c5028 @name="peter", @password="password">
second_user = User.new('peter', 'password')
# <User:0x007fc01a171c90 @name="peter", @password="password">
second_user == user # false

On the other hand we have value objects. These objects represent something that measures, quantifies or describes an entity, and they don’t have an identity. Value objects are described by its attributes. Following the previous example, a User can have an Address where the address is a characteristic of this user. Address is characterised by its street and postal code attributes. If we change any of these attributes, we get a different Address.

Since any change in its attributes turn value objects into different objects, value objects should be treated as immutable objects. When you change the Address of a User, you don’t change the attributes of the Address object, instead you create a new Address and assign it to the User.

As we can have multiple objects representing the same Address, a common practice when working with value objects is to override the equality and hash methods.

Value object example:

class Address
  attr_reader :street, :postcode
  def initialize(street, postcode)
    @street = street
    @postcode = postcode
  def ==(other)
    other.is_a?(Address) && street == other.street && postcode == other.postcode
  def hash
    [street, postcode].hash
  alias_method :eql?, :==
address = Address.new('my address', 'NW18NH')
#<Address:0x007fc35205aba0 @street="my address", @post_code="NW18NH">
second_address = Address.new('second address', 'NW28JH')
#<Address:0x007fc352051578 @street="second address", @post_code="NW28JH">
copy_address = Address.new('my address', 'NW18NH')
#<Address:0x007fc352049008 @street="my address", @post_code="NW18NH">
address == second_address # false
address == copy_address # true

This was my introduction to entities and value objects. I’m currently reviewing my knowledge about Domain Driven Design and I mean to write a series of posts about it. If you want to read more about value objects and entities, here are some resources: