Boost logo

Boost :

Subject: Re: [boost] [review] Conversion review starts today
From: Vicente J. Botet Escriba (vicente.botet_at_[hidden])
Date: 2011-09-03 03:47:03

Le 03/09/11 00:58, Jeffrey Lee Hellrung, Jr. a écrit :
> On Fri, Aug 19, 2011 at 9:45 PM, Gordon Woodhull<gordon_at_[hidden]>wrote:
> * Do you think the library should be accepted as a Boost library? Be sure
> to say this explicitly so that your other comments don't obscure your
> overall opinion.
> To be honest, I'm very ambivalent. I'm hoping we can come to a consensus on
> whether this library is appropriate for Boost or not.
> Of course, "informal reviews" and discussion are also welcome.
> Let me first say that the primary reason for deciding against outright
> acceptance at the moment is purely philosophical and may be entirely
> misguided. It seems to me that Conversion offers a generic solution to a
> problem that rarely (if ever?) arises in generic contexts. This makes me
> question its utility. Vicente, I would love to see an example where
> Conversion solves a real conversion-between-unrelated-types problem (that
> couldn't be solved in an equally simple or simpler way) within a generic
> context; it's just difficult for me to imagine this, which might be entirely
> my own mental block problem.
My expectations were maybe simpler than yours. If two types T1 and T2
provided by 3rd party libraries model the same concept, I want to be
able to convert array<T1,N> and array<T2,N>. My motivating example was
to find ugly one interface as

array<time_t,N> tt_arr;
array<chrono::timepoint<system_clock,chrono::milliseconds>,N> ctp_arr;

ctp_arr =make_chrono_timepoint_system_clock_milli_array(tt_arr);

which will call to a function make_chrono_timepoint_system_clock_milli
for each one of the array elements.

I have not needed to call to generic conversions inside other algorithms
than implementing extrinsic convertions.

Comming back to string<->type conversions. These kind of conversions can
not be used with the library as a string and a type doesn't model the
same concept. We need to interpret the string in a certain way to make
an instance of a type and vice-versa. Coerce and Lexical Cast give some
answers to this problem. One of my errors was to try to respond with my
library to this problem through a generic conversion.

An alternative I didn't considered while writing this library, as you
and others have suggested, is passing a functor that knows how each one
of the needed conversion can be performed. While this solves the ODR
issue, it forces the user to build the functor which could not be an
eassy task for an end user. I need to take sometime to experiment with
this design in oder to see its advantages and liabilities.

> I think my perspective has been colored by my own experience in trying to
> solve this problem. I, too, needed a framework within which to convert
> unrelated (numeric) types, and built a framework similar (but, of course,
> simpler) to what Conversion offers. Upon reevaluation, though, I concluded
> that this framework was too inflexible and a visitor-based solution would be
> more appropriate *for my application*. For me, I needed additional
> *context* to convert between certain types, and I also wanted to support the
> flexibility of different conversion *implementations*. In applications
> requiring conversions between unrelated types, context and varying
> implementations seem to me to be features that would at least occasionally
> be desired, and there isn't really a convenient way for Conversion to
> support that. Sure, you can wrap your "from" objects to tag them to select
> the desired conversion implementation or to bundle them with the desired
> context, but I wouldn't consider that very convenient and it certainly
> reduces genericity (much better to have the implementation and context
> dictated by the functor).
The kind of conversion I needed to apply didn't had any need of a
context. I don't like the grap idea too much and I have not used it in
concrete examples.

When a context is needed, it is clear that we need a converter object as
it is done for example on Boost.Numeric. There is the converter class
which is able to store a context and make specific conversions and the
numeric_cast function which uses a default converter.
> Aside from my philosophical objections, Conversion has the potential to
> promote ODR violations, and this just seems like a Bad Thing. Sure, there
> are other extendable operations (e.g., operator< or operator==) that could
> cause ODR violations if defined for unrelated types by some 3rd party, but
> Conversion seems unique in the sense that it provides an extension point for
> an operation that *inherently* must operate with two unrelated types, with
> the typical case that this operation is defined by some 3rd party
> disassociated from the involved types. I don't think education is
> sufficient to adequately mitigate this problem. But I don't know, maybe I'm
> taking a corner-case problem and blowing it up into a big issue...
Of course, I agree with the ODR violation promotion, and the library
can't provide a clean mechanism to avoid it.
I guess this will be at least useful to show that this kind of issue can
be promoted by other libraries as well (e.g. libraries that need to make
concept maps, ...)
> I apologize for not really discussing this earlier in the review, but I did
> allude to it earlier in the week and I've really just been spending a lot of
> time thinking if the above issues are real problems or not. I can't
> convince myself that they aren't yet :/
Don't worry, this was already discussed before. As I said in another
post it tooks to me a lot of time to decide to go ahead with the proposal.
> I'll try to give specific comments related to the documentation and
> interface sometime later, in case it is decided that Conversion should be
> accepted.
Thanks Jeff and all thoese that have participated in this review for
your comments.


Boost list run by bdawes at, gregod at, cpdaniel at, john at