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From: Robert Ramey (ramey_at_[hidden])
Date: 2006-05-21 17:35:38

David Abrahams wrote:
> Hi Robert,
> Once again I find myself confounded by the true concept requirements
> for archives. Once upon a time, the truth-as-we-knew-it was that the
> following (copied from the library docs) was part of the input archive
> requirements.
> All input archives should be derived from the following template:
> template<class Archive>
> detail::common_iarchive;

The above state isn't correct - as you've discovered. it seems to me
that it should say something like"

"archives included as part of the library have been derived
from the following template:

template<class Archive>

In order to factor out common code to fewer modules."

> But, as I just discovered: polymorphic_iarchive doesn't meet those
> requirements.

Note that polymorphic_?archive is an abstract base class. Hence,
it cannot perform the operations required by the archive concept.
So I would say only a derivation from polymorphic_?archive
can fulfill the archive concept. All derivations from polymorphic_?archive
included with the library do in fact also derive from common_?archive.

Actually, the application of "Concepts" in the context of an abstract base
class is a little ambiguous to me. I would have to think about it.

> Since you have struggled with how to write the concept requirements
> for archives, I have a brilliant suggestion: create concept checking
> classes and archetypes using Boost.ConceptCheck, and use those to
> formulate and validate your concepts. Then you can simply copy the
> concept checking classes into your documentation and add a description
> of semantic constraints. You can't go wrong if you do that; the
> compiler will check your work for you, and make sure your code is
> consistent with your documentation.

This is an idea that has occurred to me before - actually during our
memorable discussion regarding documentation of the serialization library.

Actually until that time I had only the barest notion of the utility and
usage of the the "Concepts" concept. When I looked at it more
carefully, I saw the utility of building and maintain the concept
classes during library development. This would help a lot in
maintaining a consistent view, avoid dead ends, etc, etc. And of
course it would help the documentation.

I resolved to look into it when I had some time.

That opportunity presented itself when I had occasion to use the
multi-array library. I tried to use the concepts included to check
my code deriving from this class which didn't work out for me.
Then I dug deeper and found that although the concepts were
included, the code was written in terms of specific classes
rather than templates which used type arguments checked with
the concepts. Oh and there were some compiler dependent
quirks. All in all it seemed that the concept checking classes were
added on at the end to satisfy some documentation requirement.
They weren't really used as far as I could tell. So, all in all, I was
very disappointed. My general impression was - great concept -
but not quite ready for "the rest of us"(r).

I do see much merit in the idea of developing the library, concepts
and documentation skeleton in parallel. When I made the serialization
documentation, I followed the boost pages regarding how to
make boost documentation and they didn't (don't) mention anything
about concepts and how to use them.

What is really needed is a tutorial/example on making a very small boost
which would show how this is done. Starting with a small idea
and showing how each change ripples through the library, concepts,
skeletal documenation, compile - only tests - for testing the concepts, and
runtime tests - for programming errors.

> [I have recently upgraded the ConceptCheck library to allow some nicer
> but as-yet-undocumented syntax. When (if?) you decide to do this,
> I'll give you the quick skinny]

By the time I get to something like this, I would expect that the
required information will have migrated into boost documentation.

Robert Ramey

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