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Subject: Re: [boost] [OT][RFC] standardized compile-time reflection
From: Julien Nitard (julien.nitard_at_[hidden])
Date: 2012-04-23 11:03:51


On Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 6:11 PM, Matus Chochlik <chochlik_at_[hidden]> wrote:


> Thanks in advance for any (negative or positive) feedback.

I am interested a lot in introspection in C++. I have been using
another approach (and extended) boost.reflect.

I'd like to participate in the effort. The document is rather lengthy
though and I am not done reading (I've been away the past few days).
Here are a few comments though:

- Globally you start with the complex stuff. Yes what you did is very
powerful and complete, but please consider the user point of view
I am a user for reflection data and here is what I'd like to see when
I am thinking about introspection in C++:

#pragma reflect // generate metadata for the next language element
sturct Reflected
    int a;
    string b;
    double c;

vector<Reflected> myData;

for (auto& entry: myData)
    CsvWriteLine(myFile, entry);

All the meta programming is very clever but has (IMHO) a smaller
target audience, it's the mean, not the purpose. I believe you should
start with the purpose then explain how you did it.
So as a first piece of advice, I'd show how to reflect a POD (only
data members) then a class (methods, static members) then a template
and a template instance (if that is possible didn't check yet).

 - I think you are neglecting the aspect on how the user can choose
the types that are going to be reflected. I believe not all types
should have their metadata generated, at least to save on compile time
on large projects. The way I did it in my preprocessor was using a
pragma directive but it was much simpler than Mirror since it was only
intended for classes. There migth be other ways, though, but it should
be made more explicit. If reflection makes it into the standard, there
shouldn't be any tools to generate the metadata besides the compiler.
For the standard library, I guess that including a given header or
using reflect operator would bring in the metadata.

- I am not sure whether the "reflect" operator is a good idea. First
I'd change the name to mirror since reflection is usually employed
when the objects know their own metadata, which is not the case here.
Then i guess that the operator should return a type, not a value, for
easier use in metaprograms.

#pragma mirror // (or reflect)
struct S { … };

// defines a function that only accepted mirrored types
template <class T>
typename std::enable_if<mirror(T)::is_defined>::type
f(T& t);

If a new operator is too much, then a lot could be achieved using only
template specialization, but that would not work with namespaces
( mirror<T>::is_defined ...). It's probably Worth mentioning in a proposition.

- I guess the "mp" namespace is something in the lines boost::mpl but
there's no such thing in the standard yet. You should try to show use
cases that are more accessible to main stream programmers and that
show useful features without having to write and document a full page
of code.

Everything is still a bit messy, sorry if I said anything stupid, it's
a bit late here. Despite all the criticism, please be assured that I
appeciate the huge effort you've been pulling, I have focused on what
I think could be improved ;). I'll make more comments later on, when
I'll have digested your library a bit better.



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