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2 points by rocketnia 2482 days ago | link | parent

Yeah, I like being able to reference a function before it's defined. (Macros annoy me a little for not allowing that.) For me it's a matter of the concept of "definition" being an ambient thing, where something counts as being defined if it's defined anywhere, even later on. It's like how, in a mathematical proof or prose argument, a broad claim may be reduced into a bunch of littler inferences, some handled one-by-one systematically and some left to the reader to fill in. I've read (or tried to read) a bunch of mathematical papers or books that start out building lemma after lemma and climax in a theorem, and those might even be in the majority, but sometimes I have to approach them backwards, and then I have to backtrack to figure out what their terminology means, and it's pretty frustrating.

In education, lots of the time new topics are built upon the foundations the old topics provided, but sometimes they're built upon established motivations and provide all-new foundations, like an analysis course justifying the calculus courses that came before it, or a mechanics course casting Newton's laws in a new light.

For me, the motivation comes pretty early on relative to the implementation. I could decide to put the main control flow algorighm at the top to set the stage for the rest, or I could decide to arrange things according to the order they'll be applied--or in fact I might like having them in the reverse order, the order in which they're needed to get the result from more and more convenient starting positions. That last strategy is probably closest to dependencies-come-first coding, but I don't want to be limited to it, even if I risk choosing a frustratingly haphazard strategy.



1 point by akkartik 2482 days ago | link

Yeah, I agree: I like to see the 'business end' of code up front. aw's article made some good points I'm still mulling over[1], but upgrading things seems like such a rare event compared to the day-to-day use of code. Especially if I manage to keep up my resolution[2] to never rely on any libraries :)

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[1] http://github.com/awwx/ar now keeps tests in a separate file. Does that weaken the case for defining things before using them? Perhaps you could define your tests bottom-up but write your code top-down, or something.

I still want to try out a test harness that analyzes dependencies and runs tests bottom-up: http://arclanguage.org/item?id=12721. That way you could write your tests in any order and they'd execute in the most convenient order, with test failures at low levels not triggering noisy failures from higher-level code.

[2] http://arclanguage.org/item?id=13219

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3 points by aw 2482 days ago | link

http://github.com/awwx/ar now keeps tests in a separate file

Not by design, as it happens. I wrote some new tests for code written in Arc, and stuck them into a separate file because I hadn't gotten around to implementing a mechanism to load Arc code without running the tests.

Though I do view writing dependencies-first as a form of scaffolding. You may need or want scaffolding for safety, or because you're working on a large project, or because you're in the midst of rebuilding.

Does that mean that you always need to use scaffolding when you work on a project? Of course not. If you're getting along fine without scaffolding, then you don't need to worry about it.

Nor, just because you might need scaffolding in the future, does it mean that you have to build it right now. For example, if I had some code that I wanted to rebase to work on top of a different library, and it wasn't in dependency order, and it looked like the rebasing work might be hard, I'd probably put my code into dependency order first to make the task either. But, if I thought the rebasing was going to be easy, I might not bother. If I ran into trouble, then perhaps I'd backtrack, build my scaffolding, and try again.

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1 point by rocketnia 2482 days ago | link

Especially if I manage to keep up my resolution to never rely on any libraries :)

I have effectively the same resolution, but only 'cause of Not Invented Here syndrome. :-p Nah, I use plenty of libraries; they just happen to be the "libraries" that implement Arc. I use all kinds of those. :-p

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http://github.com/awwx/ar now keeps tests in a separate file. Does that weaken the case for defining things before using them?

That file is loaded after the things it depends on, right?

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...you could write your tests in any order and they'd execute in the most convenient order, with test failures at low levels not triggering noisy failures from higher-level code.

I'm not sure I understand. Do you mean if I define 'foo and then call 'foo in the process of defining 'bar (perhaps because 'foo is a macro), then the error message I get there will be less comprehensible than if I had run a test on 'foo before trying to define 'bar?

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In any case, aw's post mostly struck me as a summary of something I'd already figured out but hadn't put into words: If a single program has lots of dependencies to manage, it helps to let the more independent parts of the program bubble together toward the top, and--aw didn't say this--things which bubble to the top are good candidates for skimming off into independent libraries. If you're quick enough to skim them off, the bubbling-to-the-top can happen mentally.

Lathe has been built up this way from the beginning, basically. It's just that the modules are automatically managed, and it acts as a dependency tree with more than one leaf at the "top," rather than something like yrc or Wart with a number on every file.

I'm interested in making a proper unit test system for Lathe, so we may looking for the same kinds of unit test dependency management, but I'm not sure yet about many things, like whether I want the tests to be inline or not.

Well, Lathe has an examples/ directory, which I've ended up using for unit tests. It's kind of interesting. Lathe's unit tests have become just like its modules over time, except that they print things to tell you about their status. Being a module, an example automatically loads all its dependencies, and you can load it up and play around with the things defined in it at the REPL, which is occasionally useful for debugging the example itself. But it's pretty ad-hoc right now, and I don't, for instance, write applications so that they load examples as they start up, like you might do.

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3 points by akkartik 2482 days ago | link

"Do you mean if I define 'foo and then call 'foo in the process of defining 'bar (perhaps because 'foo is a macro), then the error message I get there will be less comprehensible than if I had run a test on 'foo before trying to define 'bar?"

If bar depends on foo (foo can be function or macro), and some tests for foo fail, then it's mostly pointless to run the tests for bar.

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"That file is loaded _after_ the things it depends on, right?"

Yeah well, you gotta load code before you can run the tests for it :)

My understanding of aw's point was this: if you load your code bottom-up, then you can test things incrementally as you define them, and isolate breakage faster. Defining the tests after their code is irrelevant to the argument because it's hard to imagine an alternative.

If you put your tests in a separate file and run them after all the code has been loaded, you can still order them bottom-up. So to answer my own question, no, keeping the tests in a separate file doesn't weaken aw's argument :)

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3 points by aw 2481 days ago | link

There is a small difference: if you've loaded only the code up to the point of the definition which is being tested when you run the test (either by writing tests in the same source code file as the definitions, or by using some clever test infrastructure), then you prove that your definitions aren't using anything defined later.

Of course you can probably tell whether code is in prerequisite order just by looking at it, so this may not add much value.

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1 point by aw 2482 days ago | link

whether I want the tests to be inline or not

Something I've been thinking about, though I haven't implemented anything yet, is that there's code, and then there's things related to that code such as prerequisites, documents, examples, tests, etc. The usual practice is to stick everything into the source code file: i.e., we start off with some require's or import's to list the prerequisites, doc strings inline with the function definition, and, in my case, tests following the definition because I wanted the tests to run immediately after the definition.

But perhaps it would be better to be able to have things in separate files. I could have a file of tests, and the tests for my definition of "foo" would be marked as tests for "foo".

Then, for example, if I happened to want to run my tests in strict dependency order, I could load my code up to and including my definition of foo, and then run my tests for foo.

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1 point by akkartik 2482 days ago | link

"the tests for my definition of foo would be marked as tests for foo."

In java or rails each class file gets a corresponding test file in a parallel directory tree. I find it too elaborate, but it does permit this sort of testing classes in isolation.

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1 point by evanrmurphy 2482 days ago | link

Nice summary of the different approaches. ^_^

One reason to favor the dependencies-first approach in Arc is that we have mutability.

If you're only doing single assignment and side effect-free programming, then your code doesn't have a significant order [1]. But insofar as your program is imperative and performing mutations, the order is significant.

A consequence of this is that if you want to be able to take advantage of imperative features, you're making it harder by ordering your code any other way. I say this because even if your code is purely functional right now, when you try to insert some imperative code later, the order is going to start mattering more. And it's going to start seeming tangled and confused if it doesn't build up in the order of execution (at least it does for me).

So dependencies-first programming plays especially well with imperative code. I'm also particularly interested in it at this moment because I'm working on a refined auto-quote mechanism that could be hard to take advantage of if you're not programming this way. ;)

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[1] Except for the macros wart you alluded to.

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