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From Marvin Humphrey <>
Subject [lucy-dev] List context
Date Sun, 25 Mar 2012 18:01:26 GMT

One idiosyncracy of Lucy's Perl interface is the consistent avoidance of list
context.  Ordinarily, we would want to embrace such a host language idiom,
but for a couple reasons, we have not.

The biggest problem is that it is not possible to provide a bulletproof
type mapping between a Clownfish method which returns a VArray* and list
context in Perl.  A method which returns a VArray* might return any of the

    1. NULL
    2. A VArray with no elements.
    3. A VArray with some elements.

List context conflates NULL with an empty array -- but those are not always
the same, since NULL might signify an uninitialized state.  If we map to a
Perl arrayref, though, we can properly represent all possible return states,
solving the problem.

Historically, at one point our only choices were an autogenerated binding
returning an arrayref vs. hand-rolled XS returning a list, and so some
interface design sacrifices were made in order to get rid of error-prone
hand-rolled XS code.  For instance, Schema#all_fields used to return a list,
but if I recall correctly it was changed to return an arrayref when Schema was
ported to C so that it wouldn't be necessary to write a hand-rolled XS binding
and so that Lucy would present a consistent interface across the whole library
when returning arrays.

Looking forward, it might be nice to allow for our bind_method() routine to
support list context, allowing methods such as Schema#all_fields to return

Current usage:

    for my $field ( @{ $schema->all_fields } ) {

Possible binding spec change:

    my $binding = Clownfish::CFC::Binding::Perl::Class->new(
        parcel     => "Lucy",
        class_name => "Lucy::Plan::Schema",
        alias        => 'all_fields',
        method       => 'All_Fields'
        list_context => 1,

New usage:

    for my $field ( $schema->all_fields ) {

The reason I bring this up now is because I saw that Nick had bound a couple
methods within CFC to return in list context.  I was initially concerned by
the inconsistency, but times have changed since the initial port of Lucy to C,
and after thinking things over, avoiding list context no longer seems

FWIW, there are a number of other methods within CFC that arguably ought to
return a list.  However, I was kind of looking forward to shrinking CFC.xs and
lightening our maintenance burden once we port CFC's test files to C, so
making those changes when CFC isn't public in any case seems like a low-yield

Marvin Humphrey

On Thu, Mar 22, 2012 at 11:46 AM,  <> wrote:

> +void
> +get_source_dirs(self)
> +    CFCHierarchy *self;
> +    size_t n = CFCHierarchy_get_num_source_dirs(self);
> +    size_t i;
> +    EXTEND(SP, n);
> +    for (i = 0; i < n; ++i) {
> +        const char *value = CFCHierarchy_get_source_dir(self, i);
> +        PUSHs(sv_2mortal(newSVpv(value, strlen(value))));
> +    }
> +

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