[Baypiggies] Frequently Argued Objections

Stephen McInerney spmcinerney at hotmail.com
Sat Jun 21 05:28:09 CEST 2008


Interesting questions all, and based on the ensuing discussion it's a hard discipline to draw a
line between writing an FAQ answer, advocacy, evangelization, and drawing fair
(or unfair) comparisons with other languages, vs bashing or raging. And hard to be concise
at the same time, without sticking to one clear objective for an FAQ.* Coincidentally I was about to post this interesting-but-slightly-basic essay:
"Python & Java: A Side-by-Side Comparison", Stephen Ferg, Jan 2007

Criticizing the library-fn name System.out.println() is fair game but not a valid critique
of the entire language; but the comments on clunky things like auto-boxing and
needing intermediate variables for list insertions are fair.
In fact, Java has too many basic list and string types, but that's set in stone now.

* There is also the "Python IAQ (Infrequently Asked Questions)"
and this guy's comments: http://theironlion.net/blog/python-infrequently-asked-questions/
As per his comment, I think one central question is "are the preferred idioms
in this language design more expressive, productive, less error-prone and more
runtime-efficient than language Y"?
* and there are various other online pages critiquing language design ("Python warts"),

a lot of which is arbitrary, out-of-date or made moot by 3.0

* Case-sensitivity is a total non-issue, it's universal these days.
* Whereas the whitespace-and-no-braces policy is a legitimate question.
Even among my expert programmer friends, people tend to historically associate
rules on whitespace with generally being restrictive on programming style
(prime example: Fortran). Call it a preconception, but it's very prevalent.
Also, many editors, browsers, bulletin boards and websites totally mangle whitespace but not
braces, hence it is objectively harder to post and retrieve Python code online than PERL,C,Java.
vi's autoindent-with-noexpandtabs is also a prime culprit, especially for users with tabstops other than 4.
These are all legitimate points, except again I would treat them as caveats to be
 aware of when exchanging code, rather than "flaws".* When you talk about the move to Unicode as default in Python 3.0, users can still use traditional strings if they

(explicitly) choose, so that part at least should be easy for migrating existing codebases.
We want to clearly separate out moans about scoping 3.0 migration, versus fundamental
philosophy about where things should be going.
In 10 years' time, will people expect languages to use Unicode seamlessly by default? Almost surely.

>>Q5.  Why is Pep-8 hard to read?

>>Why don't Python docs link to sample code and a wiki?

>>Why aren't usual "gotcha's" pointed out in the Python documentation.

>[Charles] A5.  Because you haven't rewritten the Python documentation.

See above resources. Where would you suggest they be centrally linked from?
As per Charles' response, the question might best be rephrased as "Which parts of
Python documentation are most in need of volunteers (and how do I sign up)?"

PEP-8 is good but pretty dense; folks, is there yet an Eclipse or other plugin
that enforces (or flags) PEP-8 compliance, allowing me to opt out of some
giudelines? Now that would be awesome.

>Why isn't rgruet's quick reference guide part of the Python documentation?

A worthy question for Fred Drake and Richard Gruet.
As a sidenote, whichever documentation you rely on, you need volunteers
constantly actively monitoring it and suggesting changes for deprecated
features (e.g. methods of string objects). This is no small task.
Why not list us your top-ten of doc sections you would like to overhaul?
(I submitted a rewrite for the section on the 'with' keyword.)


> From: sjbrown at vmware.com
> I'm trying to compile a list of frequent objections against using Python
> and a rational response to each.  Basically the same format as an FAQ.
> It occurs to me that perhaps someone in the community has already come
> up with such a list.  So... any links?
> Shandy

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