[Doc-SIG] going awry

Tony J Ibbs (Tibs) tony@lsl.co.uk
Thu, 29 Mar 2001 10:16:55 +0100

Ken Manheimer wrote:
> Darn.  We've had a number of occasions where the doc-sig has
> launched into an effort to formulate doc string conventions,
> and took a turn to invent a new language - which gets lost in
> the ether.  You seemed to be getting some good progress on
> fixing the flaws in an existing language - structured text
> - but it sounds eerily like you're heading towards throwing
> that out the window, and inventing a new language.  I think
> that's a shame.

I make this the third time round. It normally falls apart soon after a
Spam meeting, which is *very* frustrating for those of us who can't get
to them (and were involved in the debate that seemed to be so productive
just before the meeting).

> I think a large part of guido's objections to structured text
> have to do with battling painful implementation bugs, part to
> do with lack of predictability, and part do with an expectation
> that rich-text markup style is going to take over the world,
> even day-to-day communications.

I tend to agree. I'm also disturbed that we seem to have to rehash some
of the same arguments each time round the loop - it gets rather wearing.
Although Guido's points are undoubtedly sensible, they are *also* points
that have been made at least twice before.

It doesn't help that I don't understand (myself) why people object to
context sensitivity in markup in something like ST - what on earth is
wrong with a single quote in the middle of a word being different than a
single quote at the start of a word, or just before punctuation? We're
all good at reading text - that means we don't even *see* such
constructs AS SUCH - they're part of the "scanning interface" we run
over lines. I mean, a person presented with 'this isn't difficult'
doesn't have a particular problem with discerning that the middle quote
is different than the others, and whilst I wouldn't propose *allowing*
that as a quoted string in our format, it's nastier than the fringe
cases people *are* worrying about.

> I think the implementation-specific problems can be fixed by
> the efforts we were seeing.

There are some specific things about ST that *would* be nice to fix, and
being free to do that (by dictatorial fiat) is a Good Thing. But I think
throwing out the whole thing is not - it's been 5 years, dammit.

> (Perhaps i'm overstating it - maybe what's happening now is more about
> trimming down from a successful example, which should not be
> near as prone to getting off track.)

Maybe. I suspect this week will tell.

> I think the expectation for use of rich-text markup style is
> misguided.

It's meant to look like the sort of thing that one already sees people
typing in email, to my mind. That means that '*' is a natural character
for emphasis, a quote (of some sort) needs using for quoting (and that
really means single quote, since it's less used for speech), list items
need to *look* like list items (although there's some freedom for
playing with that), and so on.

> I hope, if you do try to invent a new language, you'll
> exploit some of the economies and principles that
> structured text has demonstrated...

Personally, I don't think ST is far off. I think that it has been
trapped by some early assumptions - big deal. More in other messages...


Tony J Ibbs (Tibs)      http://www.tibsnjoan.co.uk/
"How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive
continuity of ducks." - Dorothy L. Sayers, "Gaudy Night"
My views! Mine! Mine! (Unless Laser-Scan ask nicely to borrow them.)