pre-PEP generic objects

Carlos Ribeiro carribeiro at
Tue Nov 30 15:31:32 CET 2004

On Tue, 30 Nov 2004 22:30:21 +1000, Nick Coghlan <ncoghlan at> wrote:
> The proposed use cases sound more appropriate for a "named tuple" than any sort
> of dictionary. (This may have been mentioned in previous discussions. I wasn't
> keeping track of those, though)

I agree with it. I was involved in that discussion, and got the the
point of listing a few desired features. As I am currently involved
into other project, I left it as it was, but I'll resume working as
soon as I can. I really think that both (generic objects and named
tuples) are slighly different but still very similar approaches to the
same problem, so some sort of "unification" of the efforts may be

But there's something more important: while reading this document, and
some of the replies, it became clear that the main point is to
understand whether this proposed feature (in any possible
implementation) is in fact useful enough to deserve a place in the
standard library, and also if it represents a good coding style. With
some risk of being way too simplistic, it's something like this:

-- The people that is favorable to this implementation argue that one
should not be required to create a new class just to return a bunch of

-- The people that is against it point out that, as soon as you start
returning multiple values, it's probable that you'll need to implement
a class anyway, so it's better off to do it sooner and forget generics
(or named tuples) entirely.

I see some parallels between this discussion and another one about
polymorphism. It's considered good Python practice to rely on
interfaces, or protocols, when designing the call signature of a
function or method. So if you receive an arbitrary object, you should
not check if it's a descendand of some abstract parent type; that's
just too rigid, and forces people to deal with complex multiple
inheritance stuff, and that's really not needed in Python. There is a
better way: just check if it exposes the desired interface, or
protocol. The adaptation framework (as described by PEP 246, and
extended by the PyProtocols package) is a nice implementation of this

A "generic" return object is just like this, but for a different
scenario: an adaptable return value, that doesn't enforce a class
signature when assigning the return value of a function or method.
It's perfectly symmetrical to the usage of interfaces on call. I think
that's a better, and much more powerful argument for the
implementation of a generic class, and also, for some supporting
machinery for it.

Extending this reasoning, generic return objects (implemented either
as dictionary based, or as named tuples) could be seen as "adaptable"
return values. Upon return, one could get  such a temporary structure
and assign its members into another, more complex class, that would
accept fields of the same name, but possibly include other fields and
extra functionality. For example: a function that returns a complex
time structure does not need to return a "time class". It may return a
generic, or named tuple, which is in turn can be assigned to an object
that exposes a 'compatible' assignment interface. This assignment can
be done by a method of the generic clas itself, according either to
the names of the member of the generics, or the order of the tuple,
depending on the scenario.

For now, that's all that I have to contribute into this discussion.
There's also a lot of stuff in the archives regarding named
tuples and also generics that is surely worth checking.

Carlos Ribeiro
Consultoria em Projetos
mail: carribeiro at
mail: carribeiro at

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