[Distutils] Attempted summary of version number thread

Greg Ward gward@cnri.reston.va.us
Fri, 11 Dec 1998 18:49:04 -0500

I'm going to see if I can't make some sense out of the version-numbering
thread of the last couple of days.

First: if you've already said your two cents' worth in this thread,
please don't chime in again.  I think everyone has made their point
quite clear.  (However, if I misunderstood you and misrepresent you in
the summaries below, a brief correction to the list would be

It seems to me that there are four camps out there: the control freaks,
the anarchists, the middle-of-the-roaders, and John Skaller.  The
control freaks (me, Fred, and Konrad -- at least you two said you agree
with me!) are in favour of prescribing *syntax* for version numbers and
*suggesting* semantics.  The *proposed* syntax and semantics that I
posted are up for debate, but at least three of us like the idea of
imposing a little order on how version numbers look, and giving
developers some general guidelines -- which they are free to ignore! --
about what they should mean.

The anarchists are Greg Stein and Marc-Andre Lemburg; these two take a
"live and let live" approach to version numbers.  They seem to concede
that some very light syntactic requirements are necessary, but want
developers to be free to define their semantics however they like.  (Or,
Greg and Marc-Andre just want to write code to describe the existing
multitude of version number systems.)

I think Andrew Kuchling is the only middle-of-the-roader, and I might be
saying that just because I know Andrew's a pretty relaxed guy and not
prone to radical positions like anarchy.  Anyways, he posted an
anti-prescriptionist statement to the list right after my syntax and
semantics proposal.  Maybe Andrew is really our third anarchist.

Finally, John Skaller is out on his own.  As I read it, John has a much
wider definition of "version" than I (or the others who've posted on the
topic) do.  Or maybe it's more accurate to say: I started this thread to
talk about *version numbers*, and John is more concerned with software
versions *in general* -- all the things that can't be expressed in a
simple linear progression.

So: do any of you object to the above characterizations?  I'd be
interested to hear the opinions of anyone outside the above six,
especially if you feel there're more sides to this debate than "control
freaks", "anarchists", and "John Skaller".  (Gee, I hope John is back on
the list -- mailman disabled him because of excessive bounces, and I'd
hate for him to miss this.  ;-)

One possible way to resolve this is to provide a couple of standard
classes to implement version numbering systems.  I won't say any more in
detail right now, because I don't want to start another heated debate.
But think about it...

Greg Ward - software developer                    gward@cnri.reston.va.us
Corporation for National Research Initiatives    
1895 Preston White Drive                      voice: +1-703-620-8990 x287
Reston, Virginia, USA  20191-5434               fax: +1-703-620-0913