On Sun, Jun 06, 2004 at 09:36:25AM +0900, Sean O'Dell wrote:
> This is the solution I am going with now.  In fact, if Ruby itself had this 
> sort of "interface identification" built-in, it would suit me perfectly.  I 
> don't believe that respond_to? really tells you much about an object's 
> interface.  Two objects can respond to the same method name, but do 
> COMPLETELY different things.  Duck typing doesn't work, and checking 
> respond_to? doesn't work.  The only way to REALLY know if an object 
> implements a certain interface is if you can positively identify it directly.  
> Somehow, the object has to say "I implement the hash interface."  Whether 
> that's just a simple flag, or if Ruby can somehow match it's methods to an 

A protocol imposes constraints to the acceptable behavior of the object, so
as you correctly pointed out, the signatures alone can't suffice. I
believe the current state of the art can discover many implicit
invariants in the code, but it can't infer them all. Even if it could,
at some point you might have some invariants that hold only due to the
particular implementation used, it is still up to the programmer to
specify whether some invariant belongs to the interface or is just a
coincidence.

Therefore, what you seem to want still requires the programmer to tag the 
objects somehow. 

Once we get to this point, we can think of ways to do it. There's two
things to consider: tagging objects and checking for some tag.
One can trivially use Ruby's mix-in mechanism to declare conformance
with a given interface, and then use some magic to allow

def_typed :my_method, HashProtocol, FooProtocol do |foo, bar|
  ... foo, bar have been declared to satisfy HashProtocol & FooProtocol
end

or something like 
	typesig HashProtocol, FooProtocol	# Types for next defined method
	def my_method(foo, bar)

The latter (and many other ways to do type checking) is implemented in
http://people.freebsd.org/~eivind/ruby_types/types.rb .

Regarding including this in the language:
I have argued above that ruby wouldn't be able to do internally much more
than the current solutions (in particular, it is also possible to make
sure that method redefinition doesn't break conformity with a declared
interface in pure-Ruby/C-extension solutions). If it won't be any more
powerful, the possible advantages that could justify including it I can
think of are
 (1) convenience
 (2) speed
 (3) sanctioning this practice as belonging to "the Ruby way"

Regarding (3), it is up to matz to define what is and what isn't Ruby,
so we can't comment.

As for (1), Ruby's syntax is "extensible" thanks to blocks, as shown
in http://blade.nagaokaut.ac.jp/cgi-bin/scat.rb/ruby/ruby-talk/99660 .
We'd have to compare syntaxes at some point, but it's not clear a-priori
that a sanctioned syntax in the core must be necessarily better (i.e.
a good solution doesn't necessarily require changes in the parser).

Finally, as far as speed is concerned:
in [85895], matz explains that he doesn't know how to make interface checking
efficient. In [85888] you proposed an interesting interface checking
system and concluded that "Performance hit at runtime is merely a very short
interface table lookup". However, I believe you didn't consider the
following:
* per-object conformity tables are very expensive, memory-wise: one
  additional word per object pointing to the table (if you don't put
  it in the R* structure and store it in the iv_table instead, it'll be
  slower) , plus the table itself.
* per-class conformity tables would have a lower mem. impact, but make
  singleton classes a bit more complex to handle and most importantly
  would make interface checking slower cause you'd have to walk up the
  inheritance chain (caching couldn't be as effective as method caching
  cause there's more objects than distinct methods)

In other words, there's no real way to implement interface checking
much faster than http://mephle.org/StrongTyping/.

That being said, in the future it might be possible to do constraint
propagation (+ partial evaluation) at compile/parse time + method
specialization, which could make everything significantly faster.


Summarizing, there's arguably little gain in adding this sort of interface
checking to Ruby's core _as of now_. There's a number of solutions that
work fairly well and some that are as fast as you can get today.

You have stated before on this thread that tagging objects is a "kludge";
I cannot agree with that, or more precisely, I don't see it as any
worse than the proposed modifications to Ruby we've seen in the past,
since tagging is about as efficient as they would be, and the available
"interface tagging" implementations have pretty convenient syntaxes
(although that's somewhat subjective, but I think we can agree on the fact
that the "best" syntax doesn't necessarily involve changes in the parser).

> interface description, or whatever, I don't care.  All I want to know is if 
> an object implements a certain interface.  I don't care about ancestry, what 
> methods it responds to, and I don't like just calling the object's methods 
> and crossing my fingers.  Errors slip through quietly like that, and except 
> for people who don't really care about that sort of thing, it doesn't work.  

If you need a solution that badly, I'd recommend that you use types.rb
(more flexible) or StrongTyping (faster) for the time being.
I don't think Ruby will do this "natively" for some time...

> It just doesn't.

It is my understanding that some large systems have been implemented in
Smalltalk; I'd like to know if they solved those problems through
interface declaration + checking, more stringent procedures or some
other technical solution.

PS: I am personally more interested in concrete type discovery (for speed)
than in generic type inference.

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