Erlang re docs
Lloyd R. Prentice
Sat Jan 30 20:32:51 CET 2021
Sorry guys, I do understand regular expressions well enough to use them the rare times when I need them. I have read PCRE docs and various others and I would say that they are generally better written and presented than the re reference doc. And I do understand that regular expressions and Erlang are two completely different languages.
If the community is satisfied with the docs as they are then there’s nothing more to say.
But I do contend that there’s a problem. Software docs need to be fit for purpose. In-line code comments, library references, tutorials, and technical white papers are all different formats with different functions and conventions. A language needs them all to attract and sustain a robust community. My read is that the re doc conflates these functions in a confusing and distracting text that well may discourage folks new to Erlang.
— Erlang is a tool.
— The value of a tool is the efficiency and effectiveness with which it solves real-world problems.
— As programmer, time is our most precious asset.
— A software library that is inadequately documented likely wastes our time when we first strive to understand why and how to use it, when we seek to refresh our memory of how to use it, and when we wish to extend it’s functionality.
When I turned to re to solve a problem at hand, the re doc was 90 percent a waste of my time. And that, sorry to say, diminishes the value of Erlang for me as a tool.
I’m wondering how many others may have had the same experience. And how many of those have rejected Erlang as too much bother to learn.
Sent from my iPad
> On Jan 30, 2021, at 1:22 PM, Igor Clark <igor.clark@REDACTED> wrote:
> Hi Lloyd, tbh it sounds like you’re mostly having problems with regular expressions rather than the erlang docs for it. It’s a pretty dense subject, and unless you’ve already got a way up the learning curve, the syntax can appear arcane. Not only that but the way they are used and implemented in different systems is complex and unpredictable.
> Thing is once you’ve got your head round the basics by working through some regex-specific docs, then the docs dealing with the specifics of a given language’s implementation will make a lot more sense.
> I don’t think it’s really fair to criticise the erlang re docs without really grasping the meat of the subject it’s discussing, because it’s not there to teach regular expression purpose and syntax, rather the way to use it in the erlang re library. You wouldn’t criticise a Haines VW Golf manual for not explaining what a carburettor is :-)
> I’d suggest the “quick start” at https://regular-expressions.info/ to get you off the ground, and the site is a great reference later on as well. The classic book to get if you want a really clear non-screen version is the O’Reilly “Mastering Regular Expressions” by Jeffrey Friedl - in spite of the title it starts from the ground up and doesn’t assume any prior knowledge. Many happy hours spent poring over that tome!
>>> On 30 Jan 2021, at 17:43, Lloyd R. Prentice <lloyd@REDACTED> wrote:
>> Hi Dieter,
>> Thanks for the question.
>> I don’t like to criticize without having something constructive to contribute. Let me start by saying that I do understand that documentation of software is difficult for many reasons. Nevertheless, here are crucial questions we must ask when we set out to write documentation, indeed, write anything:
>> — Why am I writing this?
>> — Who am I writing this for?
>> — What is the context in which this will be read?
>> — What would I like my readers to gain by reading this work?
>> — What do my readers already understand?
>> — What style/formatting conventions do my readers expect?
>> — Have I structured my work logically?
>> — Have I drafted my work as clearly and concisely as I know how?
>> — Will my readers understand the technical terms or trade jargon that I’m temped to use?
>>> ...it has a nice interface, just a few functions with clear names.
>> My guess, Dieter, is that the re doc works for you because you already have enough knowledge and experience to understand, say, when, where, and why you would want to compile a Regexp or run a (Subject, re). So, you scan down and see compile/1 and your needs are met. But you did have to scan down through some 14 blocks of dense text to find compile/1|2. But— given your need to refresh your memory about use of the compile/1|2 functions, did you really need to scan over the second and third paragraphs under Description? Maybe these should be a footnote.
>> As one who comes to Erlang re with less experience— I’m totally baffled by compile/1, inspect/2, and run/2|3. What in the world are they? How can they be useful to me? I can kind of sus replace/3|4 and split/2|3, but geez man, all that fine print is brain numbing. And most of the text from Perl-Like Regular Expression Syntax on down looks to me like a tutorial and densely written at that. Do I really need to know that stuff to program, say, an Erlang markdown interpreter?
>> I could say much more. But my take is that the re doc tries to convey much more information than warranted by a reference doc. This suggests, perhaps, the need for additional documentation such as a cookbook-like re tutorial for Erlang noobies and a technical white paper or some such for folks who need to get their hands greasy with internals.
>> As I scan down through the list of Erlang standard libraries I see any number of which I’d apply the same critique. So an offer to standard library doc writers: Show me when, why, and how to use your library, and I’ll do my best to help you write clear documentation.
>> Sent from my iPad
>>> On Jan 30, 2021, at 12:30 AM, Dieter Schön <dieter@REDACTED> wrote:
>>> Good morning,
>>> I just looked at the erlang re documentation and I think it has a nice interface,
>>> just a few functions with clear names.
>>> I always have trouble to remember which of python's re.match and re.search does what.
>>> For my taste, there are also enough examples included. Just the PCRE options are a bit overwhelming.
>>> It would help if you could elaborate on the areas where you have problems.
>>> Kind regards,
>>>>> On 28.01.21 23:26, Lloyd R. Prentice wrote:
>>>> I’ve used regular expressions including Erlang regex off and on over the years—enough to get the job done but barely enough to claim competence.
>>>> But I’m sorry— the documentation for re is total inside baseball. Can’t make heads nor tails.
>>>> Can someone please please suggest or write a tutorial with lots of examples for mortals who just want to get the job done?
>>>> Happy to collaborate but can only contribute my ignorance.
>>>> All the best,
>>>> Sent from my iPad
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