How do I get info on an exception ?

Raymond Hettinger vze4rx4y at verizon.net
Tue Jul 22 19:59:48 CEST 2003


[Cameron Laird]
> >> But unsatisfying--at least to me.
> >
> >Submit a patch.
> .
> .
> .
> I deserved that.

It wasn't a jab.
Truly, if you see a way to clarify the docs, submit a patch.
If everyone finds it helpful, it will be accepted.  That's how
the docs improve over time.  I've personally written or
accepted over a hundred of these in the past year.


> There was more to my post, of course.  Part of what I was trying to
> express is that exception interfaces are almost always relegated to
> a footnote, with only a generalized description, even in the frequent
> case that a method's exceptions are more complicated than its invoca-
> tions.

No doubt, exceptions often get less explanation than everything else.
However, in this case, the docs seemed reasonably clear to me.

The part that could be improved is where it talks about returning a
message or a tuple, as if either one but not both could occur at any
time.  It would be more accurate to say, that in all cases an exception
instance is returned; the instance has a __str__ method so it can be
printed as if it were a string; the instance has an attribute "args" which
is the tuple (errno, errmsg); and the instance has a __getitem__ method
so the args tuple can be directly unpacked as if the instance had been
the tuple itself.

OTOH, that is long-winded and distracts from the flow of knowledge
about sockets.  It is also how all exception instances work.


> So, Raymond, do you have general guidelines for how you think excep-
> tions should be documented?

Unless there are interesting values being returned, it is probably
sufficient to name the exception, state what it represents, and
describe where it fits in the class structure (i.e. socket.herror is a
subclass of socket.error).  When you think about it, why have
three paragraphs on an exception whose code is as simple as:

    class xyzException(Exception): pass     # raised when xyz occurs

When interesting values are returned, describe the meaning of
each element in the instance's arg tuple (i.e.  (errno, errmsg)).
Afterall, the code behind it may be as simple as:

    raise socket.herror(errno, errmsg)  # reveal the packet's error information

Elsewhere in the docs, functions descriptions should list the names
of the exceptions they can raise unless it is obvious or pertains
to a whole collection of functions (i.e. all high-volume socket
operations can potentially raise a timeout).

In general, I like the documents to be as specific as possible without
replicating the code or locking in a particular implementation.  However,
there is a competing force to keep module documents centered on how
to use the module.  For example, I found the unittest documentation to
be highly specific and thorough, yet unsatisfactory because you practically
had to read a book on the subject to be able to make basic use of the
module.  To fix it, I added a new introductory section that covers
(in one page) the 5% of the module that will meet 95% of your needs
(enough to get you up and running).


Raymond Hettinger






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