[Python-ideas] stdlib upgrades

Jesse Noller jnoller at gmail.com
Wed Jun 2 03:33:43 CEST 2010

On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 9:22 PM, Brett Cannon <brett at python.org> wrote:
> On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 11:13, Ian Bicking <ianb at colorstudy.com> wrote:
>> Threading will probably break here as I wasn't on the list for the first
>> email...
>> My concern with the standard library is that there's a couple things going
>> on:
>> 1. The standard library represents "accepted" functionality, kind of best
>> practice, kind of just conventional.  Everyone (roughly) knows what you are
>> talking about when you use things from the standard library.
>> 2. The standard library has some firm backward compatibility guarantees.  It
>> also has some firm stability guarantees, especially within releases (though
>> in practice, nearly for eternity).
>> 3. The standard library is kind of collectively owned; it's not up to the
>> whims of one person, and can't be abandoned.
>> 4. The standard library is one big chunk of functionality, upgraded all
>> under one version number, and specifically works together (though in
>> practice cross-module refactorings are uncommon).
>> There's positive things about these features, but 4 really drives me nuts,
>> and I think is a strong disincentive to putting stuff into the standard
>> library.  For packaging I think 4 actively damages maintainability.
>> Packaging is at the intersection of several systems:
>> * Python versions
>> * Forward and backward compatibility with distributed libraries
>> * System policies (e.g., Debian has changed things around a lot in the last
>> few years)
>> * A whole other ecosystem of libraries outside of Python (e.g., binding to C
>> libraries)
>> * Various developer toolkits, some Python specific (e.g., Cython) some not
>> (gcc)
>> I don't think it's practical to think that we can determine some scope of
>> packaging where it will be stable in the long term, all these things are
>> changing and many are changing without any particular concern for how it
>> affects Python (i.e., packaging must be reactive).  And frankly we clearly
>> do not have packaging figured out, we're still circling in on something...
>> and I think the circling will be more like a Strange Attractor than a sink
>> drain.
>> The issues exist for other libraries that aren't packaging-related, of
>> course, it's just worse for packaging.  argparse for instance is not
>> "done"... it has bugs that won't be fixed before release, and functionality
>> that it should reasonably include.  But there's no path for it to get
>> better.  Will it have new and better features in Python 3.3?  Who seriously
>> wants to write code that is only compatible with Python 3.3+ just because of
>> some feature in argparse?  Instead everyone will work around argparse as it
>> currently exists.  In the process they'll probably use undocumented APIs,
>> further calcifying the library and making future improvements disruptive.
>> It's not very specific to argparse, I think ElementTree has similar issues.
>> The json library is fairly unique in that it has a scope that can be
>> "done".  I don't know what to say about wsgiref... it's completely
>> irrelevant in Python 3 because it was upgraded along the Python schedule
>> despite being unready to be released (this is relatively harmless as I don't
>> think anyone is using wsgiref in Python 3).
>> So, this is the tension I see.  I think aspects of the standard library
>> process and its guarantees are useful, but the current process means
>> releasing code that isn't ready or not releasing code that should be
>> released, and neither is good practice and both compromise those
>> guarantees.  Lots of moving versions can indeed be difficult to manage...
>> though it can be made a lot easier with good practices.  Though even then
>> distutils2 (and pip) does not even fit into that... they both enter into the
>> workflow before you start working with libraries and versions, making them
>> somewhat unique (though also giving them some more flexibility as they are
>> not so strongly tied to the Python runtime, which is where stability
>> requirements are most needed).
> I can only see two scenarios that might be considered acceptable to
> address these issues.
> One is that when new modules are accepted into the stdlib they are
> flagged with a ExpermintalWarning so that people know that no
> backwards-compatibility promises have been made yet. That gets the
> module more exposure and gets python-dev real-world feedback to fix
> issues before the module calcifies into a strong
> backwards-compatibility. With that experience more proper decisions
> can be made as to how to change things (e.g. the logging module's
> default timestamp including microseconds which strptime cannot parse).
> Otherwise we shift to an annual release schedule, but alternate Python
> versions have a language moratorium. That would mean only new language
> features every two years, but a new stdlib annually.

I'm actually partial to this idea - the stdlib, by it's very existence
has to evolve more quickly than the language itself, and it should
fundamentally see more releases to stay up to date, and slightly


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