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Subject: Re: [boost] [range] [general] making member functions SFINAE-friendly
From: Andrey Semashev (andrey.semashev_at_[hidden])
Date: 2013-02-18 09:33:56

On Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 5:17 PM, Jonathan Wakely
<jwakely.boost_at_[hidden]> wrote:
> I challenge you to implement something like std::allocator_traits
> without "introspecting" the template arguments. What I want to do is
> a fairly normal generic programming technique, maybe you've heard of
> the <type_traits> header, what do you think it's for?

Yes, I'm aware of type traits. It's one thing to do tests/transforms
on types and another to test for methods presence and behavior. It's
doable but it is much more fragile and dangerous, as you have already
discovered with iterator_range.

>> Well, the post doesn't give any rationale behind the choice, just that
>> it was decided that way. Personally, I don't think that O(N) size() is
>> invalid, however slow it may be. You do have list::size(), after all.
> Apparently you've missed that std::list::size() is required to be O(1) in C++11.

Hmm, you're right, I've missed it.

>> I agree that it may seem strange that iterator_range::size() is
>> present when it's not working but it is no less stranger that it
>> doesn't work when it could. IMHO, the right solution in this case
>> would be to fix iterator_range::size() to work in terms of
>> std::distance.
> Do you also suggest that std::vector::push_front() should be defined,
> because it can easily be implemented in terms of v.insert(v.begin(),
> x) ?

I don't.

> There is a general design principle in the STL that members functions
> are only defined on containers if they are more efficient than doing
> the same thing using the more general interfaces. So vector has
> push_back() but not push_front(), deque and list have both.
> forward_list doesn't have size() or back().

vector::size() doesn't provide any benefits compared to std::distance.
Should it be removed as well? Is empty() also excessive because the
same can be achieved by begin() == end()?

I understand your point regarding other container operations but
acquiring the size of a range is a fairly typical operation and not
having it for some iterator types is rather limiting. It's a matter of
a common interface for all ranges and convenience. Having to dispatch
between std::distance and T::size() in the user's code is not an
upside of the iterator_range interface.

> boost::iterator_range has size() but it results in a compile-time
> error. This is the worst of all combinations. It would be better to
> not define it at all, since users can always use std::distance on its
> iterators, which will be optimal for RA iterators anyway.

Again, it's a matter of convenience. Compare:



  std::distance(r.begin(), r.end());

Of course, the convenience is ruined in generic code if you have to
dispatch between the two variants depending on the iterator type. My
point is to always use the first one and be happy.

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