[Doc-SIG] Re: New PEP: reStructuredText Standard Docstring Format

David Goodger goodger@users.sourceforge.net
Tue, 26 Mar 2002 22:44:35 -0500

The updated PEP can be found at
until it's assigned a number.

Paul Moore wrote:
> I'd suggest that you add a "Benefits" section, explaining the
> advantages to the individual programmer - *not* to the community as
> a whole - of the proposal.

Good idea.  Your list of benefits added.  Any others?

> .. [1] Actually, it's arguable that the similarity to "existing
>        practice" makes getting the syntax right *harder*. I never
>        get footnote syntax right without checking (and I may have
>        got this lot wrong!) This may be because of all the recent
>        changes, but it is still something that probably needs
>        covering in a Q&A. "Q: Won't the superficial similarity to
>        existing markup conventions cause problems, and result in
>        people writing invalid markup (and not noticing, because
>        the plaintext looks natural)?"

Question & answer added (#9)

> Interestingly (and possibly relevantly) it's not clear to me that
> these benefits are overwhelming. It's more a case of the cost being
> minimal [4]_, and the potential benefits being reasonable.

I think it's a case of the benefits not being obviously significant,
until the standards and tools are there, and then we'll all wonder how
we ever lived without them!  Perhaps not *that* significant, but you
get my meaning.

> Maybe we need to focus more strongly on getting tools working.

Yes, of course, and any help is gladly appreciated.  The thing about
scratching itches, is that you never know where or how they'll

> Something on the level of "look - I generated a help file and some
> printed documentation, and pydoc produces well-formatted information
> - all without doing anything more than using reST in my
> docstrings". People respond better to demonstrations than to
> standards...

This is a classic chicken-and-egg situation.  Without tools, we can't
get acceptance, but in this case producing the tools is such a big job
that some form of acceptance up front is needed to keep up enthusiasm
(mine, if nobody else's).  One reason for putting this PEP out there
now, is that I'm at a point where I've put a lot of work into this
project, and it's starting to pay off, but I need some reassurance to
keep me going.  I want to know that I'm on the right track, that I'm
not wasting my time, and getting this PEP accepted would go a long way
in that direction.

Even if this PEP is rejected, that will be useful information.  If
accepted, then I can forget about supporting multiple markup parsers
in Docutils, at least for now.  If rejected, support for multiple
parsers may be its saving grace.

>        ... how forgiving is reST going to be of "not quite right"
>        constructs?

Added to the Q&A as part of the other question (#9).

> PS I just noticed that I manually numbered the footnotes in this
> message - even though I needed to renumber at one point. In
> practice, I don't think I'd ever use the ``[#]`` notation for
> auto-numbering. It's too hard to follow in "raw text" form. Just a
> data point...

That's where using labels helps.  Instead of plain ``[#]``, use
``[#a]`` or something more meaningful like ``[#subset]``.  You get
both automatic numbering and easy to follow references.

Thanks for the feedback.

David Goodger    goodger@users.sourceforge.net    Open-source projects:
 - Python Docstring Processing System: http://docstring.sourceforge.net
 - reStructuredText: http://structuredtext.sourceforge.net
 - The Go Tools Project: http://gotools.sourceforge.net