People would be spending all their time trying to gather groups of people to agree with them that functionality K is necessary.
And that would be a good thing, atleast in the specific case. Even if it is undebated that the feature (convert numbers into odd-sized byte strings) is desirable, the specific API needs careful consideration, since it cannot be changed easily after it has been added. So all these new features are a serious legacy if they later turn out to be ill-designed.
If it turns out that the feature is ill-designed, then there is a standard method of dealing with it: 1. Declare that it will be Deprecated in the future. 2. Start raising a DeprecationWarning for at least one major version of Python. 3. Remove the functionality
In the case of struct and this addition, if it is the case that this modification is catastrophic to Python (very unlikely), I would hope that someone would have said, "hey, this breaks applications A, B, C, D, ..., and it inclusion was the biggest mistake Python has ever made, even moreso than anyone ever responding to Josiah* in the first place."
* Me trying to be funny.
I'm not even saying that we should add a new module. I'm not even saying we should add a new function to a module. Heck, I'm not even asking for a new argument to a function that previously existed. I am, quite literally, asking for the equivalent of less than one bit in a flag (there are currently 22 format/endian characters, which are all orthogonal, which would require 5 bits, if they were flags).
Correct. Yet I would feel more comfortable if you had proposed a new module, or a new function to an existing module. The former would allow distribution independent of Python, and the latter would not put a burden on users of the existing functions.
For those who use struct as it is now, the proposed additional format codes raise a struct.error exception in older versions of Python. If people are relying on pack/unpack with characters 'g' or 'G' raising a struct.error exception, then something is definitely wrong with the way they have been using struct.
If people want to use the modifications with a previous version of Python, the changes are easily backported (I think one can even take structmodule.c from CVS and compile it with an older source tree).
Yes. The extension you propose probably does not cause backward compatibility problems. Strictly speaking, there are programs that break under this extension, but this is the case for any extension, and such programs likely don't occur in real life.
No. For such a change, we need to study whether there alternative APIs which achieve the same effect (which there are), and whether the new flag puts an additional learning burden on users of the existing API (which it does).
Tim Peters' alternative long2bytes and bytes2long looked quite usable, and indeed produces strikingly similar results, for single item packing and unpacking scenarios.
The learning curve of struct was claimed to be steep in the case of native byte alignments, or for those not familliar with C types or structs.
Since these codes are not native to any platform, it doesn't make the native byte alignment stuff any more difficult.
If people are having trouble understanding the concept of C structs, I don't believe that two new format characters are going to be significantly more difficult to swallow than the 17 others that already exist. Especially when the standard C type codes 'cbhilqspBHILQ' are likely sufficient for their needs. In the case of them not being sufficient, well hey, they would have another two options that may do it for them.
If every request to interpret a new flag required significant community involvement, goodness, would it take an act of Guido to get a commit done?
No, I have committed new features myself in the past. See the CVS log for details. It is this specific change I'm opposed to, at this point in time.
I was trying to be funny, to perhaps lighten the mood. Hence "act of Guido" rather than "act of God" (where the latter is a cliche).