[Distutils] [Catalog-sig] packaging terminology confusion

Rafael Villar Burke (Pachi) pachi at rvburke.com
Sun Jan 10 19:50:48 CET 2010

On 10/01/2010 18:46, Tarek Ziadé wrote:
> On Sun, Jan 10, 2010 at 5:01 PM, Brad Allen<bradallen137 at gmail.com>  wrote:
>> Yes, it's a big change but common usage is a strong tailwind which
>> could make it easier. It could start with a PEP and a survey link sent
>> to python-announce. Personally I strongly prefer the word 'package'
>> the way it is used today in the PyPI user interface. Using the word
>> 'distribution' all over that page just doesn't seem right...
> I think we just need to agree on a list of definition and update these
> two pages:
> - http://docs.python.org/dev/distutils/introduction.html#general-python-terminology
> - http://docs.python.org/dev/distutils/introduction.html#distutils-specific-terminology
> Rafael add the latest version here :
> http://wiki.python.org/moin/Distutils/Terminology  (with improvements
> I am going to coming)
> Maybe what you could do is propose your own terminology under this one
> in the wiki page,
> I'll do the same (mainly by copying Tres' definition)
I'm joining the list now and will try to help, so, hi all!

AFAICT, once the release and project terms are added to the list of 
definitions the terminology confusion revolves around the following options:

1) make package mean distribution and replace the current package term 
with a different one.
2) don allow package as synonymous of distribution and come with a nicer 
term than distribution with the hope that it will be more widely used 
than package and distribution.
3) somehow make legal the commonly-used-in-pactice but inaccurate 
package term as a synonymous of distribution.

I find 1 and 2 not very practical, as they try to fight a common and 
intuitive use of the a widespread word like "package" (excepting the 
accurate use made by people familiar enough with distutils which already 
don't have any problem with the existing terms). Also, the alternative 
terms have, IMHO, the drawback of not being as obvious as "package" in 
their meaning for indoeuropean language speakers (and probably for 
english speakers too).

I feel that part of the confusion about "packages" and its inaccurate 
use in informal language happens because packaging intuitively reflects 
both what we do with modules in proper packages and what with do with 
projects or software in what's called a distribution, by grouping 
separate content. The packaging word also has the advantage of alluding 
to an object you can manipulate (like in giving it to others), while 
distribution, AFAICT, hasn't much use as a common name (to denote an 
object) apart from the too technical "Linux distributions" use.

That's why I think 1) is easier and find very compelling John 
Gabrielle's idea of qualifying the terms "package" as "module package" 
and "(module) distribution" as "distribution package". These point to 
the two levels of packaging or grouping used, one for namespacing or 
grouping code and other for distribution or grouping software components 
for distribution.

The expanded terms would also allow the current formal terms as 
abbreviations (package vs distribution) and a more informal and general 
term (package) that could be further qualified when additional context 
for more precision is needed.

In any case, the problem with PyPI meaning "Python Project Index" or 
staying as it is now if package is "distribution package" would then be 
solved too.


Rafael Villar Burke

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