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[OSR] OCaml Standard Recommandation Process
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Date: 2008-01-28 (21:12)
From: Gerd Stolpmann <info@g...>
Subject: Re: [Caml-list] [OSR] OCaml Standard Recommandation Process

Am Montag, den 28.01.2008, 18:30 +0100 schrieb David Teller:
> So do we agree on the OSR process as I've described it or does anyone
> believe we should first change it ?

Well, the discussion has already taken a strange direction, and this
might have to do with ... hhmmm ... some missing guidance. We first
should make clear what we are talking about, and then there is the
question of how to come to an agreement.

First of all, I think OSR can only be about giving users more choice.
For example, there are several XML parsers, and all use a different
representation of XML. I think this is basically good, because every
representation has its pros and cons, and the users can choose among
several options. But it would be even better if all XML parsers agreed
on an _additional_ representation they share, so the user has the
additional option to use the common XML representation, which makes it
very easy to switch between several parsers (e.g. sometimes the fastest
parser is preferred, and sometimes the parser with the best error
messages). I think this is the area for a user-driven process, because
there are a lot of views on such practical problems, and the result will
profit from knowing all of them.

As it was mentioned, we cannot modify OCaml itself. We can ask here and
there for changes, e.g. when core APIs could be improved so user add-ons
have an easier life. But the OCaml language itself is only a matter of
INRIA. It is still a cathedral, not a bazaar (I don't see any change
here - except that the cathedral is now completely built). So any
discussions about changing the language (try finally) or the stdlib are

What we can do is to improve the infrastructure around the OCaml core.
The example of the XML parsers shows that there is a lot to do (although
these parsers might not be the most urgent question). I don't like it to
talk about things others would have to implement, so I think OSR is
mostly addressed at library/tool authors. Of course, it is important to
also hear opinions from the users of the libraries, but I think the
implementers should finally decide on what they recommend. We should
avoid to set standards that are ignored.

As an example of OSR, there is the I/O channels effort:

This is basically an agreement between library implementers. As there
were only 3 parties involved, it was a good and fruitful debate, and I
think the result is convincing. Most importantly, the recommendation was
implemented, and the users have finally more options. E.g. they can now
transform a Camomile channel by an OCamlnet channel filter.

Of course, OSR could also be about new libraries, but I think this is
less important. Everybody can create a new library anyway, so there
might be no point in discussing that.

What I don't like to discuss is everything in the "what is good style"
area. This is fruitless, because there are real reasons for preferring
different coding styles to solve different problems, and discussing that
will only lead to flame wars.

Gerd Stolpmann * Viktoriastr. 45 * 64293 Darmstadt * Germany
Phone: +49-6151-153855                  Fax: +49-6151-997714