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From: Brian McNamara (lorgon_at_[hidden])
Date: 2003-11-15 05:57:19

On Fri, Nov 14, 2003 at 03:16:50PM -0800, Mat Marcus wrote:
> --On Friday, November 14, 2003 2:29 PM -0500 Brian McNamara
> >I think what you are asking is "whose responsibility is it to write
> >lines (3) and (4)--the author of Clonable or the author of Foo"?
> This is more or less what I was asking. One possible difference is
> that when I think concept I think of a *multi-sorted* specification
> (that a collection of types and operations might model). It is useful
> to discuss your simple (e.g. single sorted) examples.

So, does "multi-sorted" just mean "concepts involving more than one
type" (like your DragDropable example below)?

> > - "Clonable comes before Foo"
> >
> >Imagine that Clonable is a type class in the "standard library".
> >Today you write Foo. If Foo is a Clonable, then you (the author of
> >Foo) also write the instance declaration.
> How would this work for DragDropable when Foo and, say, Bar and a pair
> of operations are together DragDropable but the interfaces for Foo,
> bar, etc. are loosely coupled and come packaged in different headers.

If I understand your question, it would simply be

   import FooModule
   import BarModule
   import DragDropModule

   instance DragDropable Foo Bar where
      -- get_icon :: Foo -> Bar -> Icon
      get_icon f b = {- ... -}
      -- drop :: Foo -> Bar -> Void
      drop f b = {- ... -}

but I think I am missing what you are asking.

> > - "Foo comes before Clonable"
> >
> >Take the specific case where Foo is "Int", for example. The author
> >of Clonable, who "invents" the type class some time after a number of
> >instances have already been invented, should do his best to write
> >instance declarations for existing types (like Int) which could
> >easily conform. (As more time passes, the "gaps" will get filled
> >in.)
> I worry whether this could lead to fat interfaces of loosely related
> boilerplate declarations. Does it in practice?

I'm not sure what you're asking here (perhaps it gets answered below).

> And can you, for example, declare that a pointer to any type is a model
> of Dereferanceable in one fell swoop?

Yes. For example

   instance (Clonable x)=> Clonable [x] where
      clone l = map clone l -- recall: "map f l" applies f to each
                              -- element of list l

makes a "list of T" be declared to be Clonable for all Clonable T.

> > - "Clonable and Foo were developed separately"
> >
> >Suppose they come from two different vendor libraries, and today you
> >decide to use those two libraries together. You, the client of these
> >libraries, will have to write the instance declaration. In the
> >implementation you may have to "smooth over" the interface: we can
> >imagine that perhaps Foo natively provides a "duplicate" method, so
> >you have to write
> > instance Clonable Foo where
> > clone aFoo = aFoo.duplicate() // using C++ syntax to
> >illustrate idea
> >
> >Etc. There are probably other scenarios, too.
> Yes, I've also been wanting this in C++. The ability to rename/remap
> operations to allow achieve conformance seems highly desirable. But

Well, you can already do this in C++ (using the age-old "any problem in
computer science can be solved by adding an extra layer of

> somehow if the map is the identity map I don't want to manage the
> declaration. But I am still digesting your strong typing/weak typing
> analogy so this may change.

Aha! There is an important, yet subtle, point looming here that deserves
to be brought to light.

When the concept precedes the model (which is the "ideal", and probably
also the most common case), there is no need for any map at all. That
is, if someone had long ago defined

   namespace cool_container {
      template <class CoolContainer>
      typename cool_iterator_traits<CoolContainer>::iterator_type
      begin( CoolContainer c );

      template <class CoolContainer>
      typename cool_iterator_traits<CoolContainer>::iterator_type
      end( CoolContainer c );

so that the standard idiom for iterating over a container was

   C c; // some cool_container
   typedef cool_iterator_traits<C>::iterator_type I;
   for( I i = cool_container::begin(c);
                   i != cool_container::end(c); ++i )
      whatever( *i );

then no one would ever write begin()/end() functions/methods for
user-defined data types like "list" or for builtin types like arrays.
Instead people would _specialize_ the _existing_ begin()/end()

That is, there is no reason to write your own function named foo() and
then specialize FooConcept::foo() to call your foo(). You only
specialize the existing name, since you are modeling the concept.

Put another way, it is rare in Haskell for an instance declaration to
just define functions which "forward the work elsewhere". Instead, what
usually happens is that the instance declarations are the one and only
place where the "work" is defined.

I feel like I am being long-winded and I am not sure if I am
communicating what I am trying to say. I guess my point is, if you find
yourself having to "manually specify the identity map" (or any "map",
for that matter), then somewhere along the line you have probably already
dropped the ball. Instance definitions are meant to be _the_
definitions, not just a common storehouse for a map to the real
definitions which are scattered elsewhere.

> > - the first client to ever try to use two separate libraries (one
> >which defines foo(), and the other which defines T) together
> >he will not, because someone "upstream" will have already done it
> >for him.
> What about the second client of the two separate suppliers (of foo()
> and T)? Presumably the first client will not want to intrude on the
> headers supplying foo and T. Does the first client supply a new header
> that establishes the desired name conformance?

Yes. In the extremely likely case that the interfaces do not match
exactly, he also write the "glue code" to massage the interfaces
accordingly (that unfortunate "map" we were discussing above). (This
is all the intrinsic penalty we suffer for lack of design omniscience.)

> Does the second client add to this file?

No, he #includes it.

> What then are the dependencies?

   Clonable Foo
        \ /

Looks ugly, eh? Tough! :)

Really, the point is, this problem is _intrinsic_to_the_situation_.
This is not a side-effect of "declaring conformance using a type-class
like mechanism". No. It is a side-effect of "wanting to use two
independently developed libraries together when the libraries do similar
things but use different interfaces". The only way to avoid complex
dependencies like this is to either (1) refactor or (2) have had more
foresight from the outset.

> >>In practice this would seem to lead to users avoiding generic
> >>functions, just as the need to write helper functions to use STL
> >>today is one barrier to acceptance (which is why we like lambda).
> >
> >Indeed, "instance declarations" must be as succinct as possible.
> Locality of declaration may also be important.

I dunno if I agree, since it begs the question, "local to whom"?

If we want to say
   instance DragDropable Foo Bar ...
are you saying this should be "local" to DragDropable? Foo? Bar?
Clearly it must be "downstream" of all of them.

> >The framework I'm envisioning succeeds in the cases where the
> >concept precedes the model. In those cases, the author of the model
> >declares conformance to the concept using inheritance:
> >
> > // To say that "list_iterator models ForwardIteratorConcept",
> > // write code along the lines of
> > class list_iterator : public forward_iterator_tag { ... };
> And also input_iterator_tag, etc.?

Ah, oops; my code above probably should have said
"bidirectional_iterator_tag" (or whatever the appropriate "most refined
concept(s)" is(are)).

> How do you establish your concept hierarchy?

I dunno, something like

   template <class T>
   class DerivedConcept : public refines<BaseConcept<T> > { ... };

maybe? When I said above "The framework I'm envisioning", it is by no
means a "concrete" vision.

> Also I don't yet see how this scales to the multi-sorted case.

In the case of
   instance DragDropable Foo Bar ...
I imagine that the best way to express it would be along the lines of
   class Foo : public drag_dropable_tag<_1,Bar> { ... };

However in more complex cases, such as
   -- Foo can be DragDrop-ed onto any Quxable type
   instance (Quxable q)=> DragDropable Foo q ...
I think we'd have to fall back on template specialization:
   class Foo { ... };
   template <class Quxable>
   struct DragDropableConcept<Foo,Quxable> {
      static const bool value = QuxableConcept<Quxable>::value;

(If your point is "no matter how you try to implement this in current
 C++, it will turn into a horrible ugly mess", then consider the point
 well-taken. :) )

-Brian McNamara (lorgon_at_[hidden])

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