NOTE - below is the pre-meeting prospectus. See:
NIST Python Workshop, Software Mgmt Session Report
for the post-workshop report! ken, 21-Nov-1994.
Subject: Python Software Mgmt Session Prospectus
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ken Manheimer)
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Wed, 2 Nov 94 09:12:36 EST
Organization: National Institute of Standards and Technology
Python Software Mgmt Session Prospectus
Python has an extraordinary "dynamic range", as someone on the mailing
list recently phrased it. The language is well suited for
implementation of large, elaborate systems, as well as small, simple
scripts. This session is aimed at identifying what python needs to
fill out support for managing software, large scale and small, and how
best to accomodate these needs.
I think we should take the opportunity, at this early stage, to try to
focus on what inherent features may be lacking, or need refinement, in
the language foundation, looking for intrinsic hooks or features whose
incorporation would provide the most leverage as a foundation for
further development. We may need to identify priorities for
higher-level layers, in order to direct our focus on what is necessary
at the primitive level...
Here are some potential items:
1: Modularity: faculties which promote large-grain code modularity
(* at the file, not function, level) (import)
2: Intrinsic documentation: features which enable code assessment and
organization (e.g., doc-string-style annotation, topical
categorization, code finding tools), so that the language can
itself be employed to help assess and organize code
3: Programmer interface: more generally, the faculties necessary to
facilitate entering, editing, and controlling application of code
(emacs interface for editing and debugging, obj/env browsers,
refinements of the interpreter loop)
4: Package Customization Interface: facilities by which packages can
offer the user customization options, preferably without requiring
the user to load or edit the module itself.
(: Ramifications of other sessions - eg., of persistent code objects;
compilation/optimizations; http widgets for programmer interface,
[* Fine-grain function level scoping is more of a fundamental language
issue than one of software mgmt.]
Here are a few of my ideas on these subjects...
1: Large-grain modularity - import
I have on several occasions tripped over a constraint in import, which
can be remedied by a small change, and guido has brought up an issue
which suggests another change.
I occasionally need to import a specific module from a specific
directory, but import does not give me direct control over that.
While i can adjust the sys.path value to target the specific file,
that would require at least two distinct statements. I think that
path-specific import should be implemented as an atomic operation.
Along a separate line, guido has pointed out that it would be useful
to be able to affiliate and treat suites of related modules
monolithically. I have a proposal for a simple extension of the
import function that would conform well with the current paradigms,
and provide some aspects of association of groups of modules
(including a common interface) without preventing them from being used
separately. I'll detail this separately.
2: Intrinsic documentation: While much can be done with a
discriminating code-browsing interface, purely on the basis of
language (and comment) syntax, some properties that can be
incorporated directly in objects would promote the benefits of
applying the language, itself, to explore and handle python code.
: Doc strings, as in emacs lisp, to enable meaningful apropos-style
(and better) searches;
: Generally, hooks by which the language can be used to do the
manipulation - it may be appropriate to ask, "how do the language
structures need to be extended, if at all, to make internal object
features exposed to procedures of language itself?"
3: Programmer interface: I am referring to low-level hooks necessary
for use by higher-level mechanisms, like the extensions guido added
to enable the bdb and profiling interfaces.
It's important to pay attention here to the leverage we can get from
existing (or prospective) tools.
- Eg, the emacs "Global Universal Debugger" (gud) interface is very
powerful, and it might not take much change to python, if any, to
enable hookup to it.
- Similarly, what prospects in our GUI plans should we seek to
capitalize upon for programmer interfaces? There's no point in
duplicating those efforts!