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[Caml-list] two unrelated questions
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Date: 2001-04-26 (16:53)
From: Mark Seaborn <mrs35@c...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] two unrelated questions
Chris Hecker <checker@d6.com> writes:

> 1.  What is the right "functional pattern" for early-outing on success
>     while using an iter/map/fold type function?  Say I'm using iter to
>     search for something in an opaque datastructure.  Should I throw
>     an exception to get out, or is that bad style?  I guess this
>     question only makes sense for iter, since map/fold produce results
>     that you theoretically want to preserve.  So, the question is
>     really, given an iter-style interface to a datastructure (one that
>     takes an ('a -> unit)), how do you tell it to stop iterating?  I
>     guess if the function was ('a -> bool) you could do it that way,
>     but most iters aren't ((List|Array|Hashtbl).iter, for example).
>     Is throwing an exception the best bet?

Wrapping up the exception-throwing method with a function that
provides an escaping continuation function is something you might
prefer stylistically.

Another way of doing it is to CPS-convert the fold function to get
something like:

let rec foldc kons knil l = match l with
  | [] -> knil
  | x::xs -> kons x knil (fun rest -> foldc kons rest xs)

Then `reverse' and `map' can be defined by:

let reverse l = foldc (fun x xs c -> c (x::xs)) [] l
let map f l = foldc (fun x xs c -> (f x)::(c xs)) [] l

(Notice that `foldc' can be used to traverse the list from
right-to-left as well as left-to-right by calling the continuation
function at a different time.)

A function to return the first value satisfying a predicate in a list
and break out of the fold operation can be defined by:

let first_such pred l =
  foldc (fun x _ c -> if pred x then Some x else c None)
    None l

This is more powerful than fold, but also harder to understand, and
easier to use wrongly if you forget to call the continuation function.

Also, if you re-order the arguments of foldc and pass it a return
continuation you get something you can use to thread multiple values
through (which is possibly more efficient in OCaml?), instead of just
using one collector value (and putting a tuple in it):

let rec foldc' kons l c knil = match l with
  | [] -> c knil
  | x::xs -> kons x (fun rest -> foldc' kons xs c rest) knil

for example:
  foldc' (fun x c l1 l2 -> c (x::l1) (x::l2))
    [1;2;3;4] (fun a b -> (a,b)) [] []
  ([4;3;2;1], [4;3;2;1])

You can use this to stop a fold operation and restart it later, and
for building lazy lists out of any collection that provides a `foldc'
operation.  However, it starts to get difficult to understand the
order of evaluation, so I'm not sure whether this is very useful in
practice (it probably gets to the point where you may as well use a
lazy language instead) or whether it's just a handy way of obfuscating
your programs.

         Mark Seaborn
   - mseaborn@bigfoot.com - http://www.srcf.ucam.org/~mrs35/ -

          ``Anyone foolish enough to predict the outcome of
               this match is a fool'' -- Fred Trueman
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