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RE: variant filtering
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Date: -- (:)
From: Jacques Garrigue <garrigue@k...>
Subject: RE: variant filtering
From: Manuel Fahndrich <maf@microsoft.com>

> yes, I see that one has to be able to capture the row variable and it would
> be part of two different types. The work-around you suggest is fine when the
> number of variant cases is small and known. However, one nice thing about
> polymorphic variants is their openness. Thus, enumerating all the other
> cases is not really an option in many cases.

There are two different problems here. One of expressiveness (all
cases have to be known, clearly variants in ocaml are not as
expressive as in Wallace), and another of conciseness (the need to
explicitely write all cases).

I think that expressiveness is not the main problem. The added
expressive power is in my view too complex to be used in most
programs. And in general open pattern matching on variants is not a
good idea, beacuse it weakens the type checking (typos do not cause
type errors).

There are solutions for the conciseness problem, like allowing one to
write a name of variant type instead of the complete case list:

type failures = [`FailureA | `FailureB | `FailureC]

let g () =
  match f () with
    `Success s -> `Success 1
  | #failures as other -> other

Would it be enough?

Remark also that most examples that would use the extra expressiveness
of explicit row variables can also be rewritten in this formalism:

# let f0 = function
      `SuccessA x -> x
    | `SuccessB x -> x*2;;
val f0 : [<`SuccessA int|`SuccessB int] -> int

With row variables:
# let protect f x =
    match x with
      `FailureA -> -1
    | `FailureB -> -2
    | `FailureC -> -3
    | other -> f other;;
val protect : (['r] -> int) -> [<`FailureA|`FailureB|`FailureC|'r] -> int
# let g = protect f0;;
g : [<`FailureA|`FailureB|`FailureC|`SuccessA int|`SuccessB int] -> int

Without row variables:
# let handler x =
    match x with
      `FailureA -> -1
    | `FailureB -> -2
    | `FailureC -> -3;;
val handler : [<`FailureA|`FailureB|`FailureC] -> int
# let g = function
    | #success as x -> f0 x
    | #failures as x -> handler x;;
g : [<`FailureA|`FailureB|`FailureC|`SuccessA int|`SuccessB int] -> int

As you can see, the main difference is that you have to add some glue
by hand. This is less abstract than only applying a function, but the
advantage is that you stay at a simpler level of reasonning. In
practice I believe you do not get more verbose.

Jacques
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jacques Garrigue      Kyoto University     garrigue at kurims.kyoto-u.ac.jp
		<A HREF=http://wwwfun.kurims.kyoto-u.ac.jp/~garrigue/>JG</A>