[pdftex] Re: TeX and friends and literate programming (was Re: [pdftex] pdftex compression -- proposed addition to manual)

M. Wroth mark at astrid.upland.ca.us
Thu Sep 13 21:30:01 CEST 2001

At 01:17 PM 9/13/01 -0400, Ed L Cashin wrote:
(in response to my question, the end of which is below)
> > decided that such rhetoric would be counterproductive.  What do you
> > think the maintainers (and developers) of pdftex should do?
>In short, I am suggesting that structured code is more descriptive of
>the problem, solution, and implementation than English (or any
>conversational language) will ever be and that pdftex would be more
>flexible, maintainable, and simple if LP were avoided.

While there's always a certain amount of "YMMV", I respectfully disagree -- 
in part.  I am very skeptical that code alone will ever be a good 
description of the problem that the code is intended to solve.  I am 
somewhat less skeptical, but still not persuaded, that the code alone can 
be as informative of the intended solution and its implementation than a 
well constructed mixture of conversational language and code.

But it seems to me that a root of our disagreement is that you appear to 
believe that "structured code" and "literate programming" are in some way 
incompatible.  That has not been my experience, although I will certainly 
admit that one *can* write unstructured code using literate programming 

>LP mixes code and conversational language in a highly-technical way
>that few people have the skill to pull off as program-writer or to
>appreciate as program-reader.

Here we are in agreement.  To do the job right, the author (team) needs to 
have the skills of a good programmer, for the design of the code, and a 
good technical writer, for the documentation (including identifier 
names).  Not many of us have both skills.

It is also true that working a literate program adds one or two layers of 
complexity to the code, in that in addition to the code itself, one has the 
documentation (and its markup) and the necessary markup for the combination 
of the two.  For this group, where familiarity with LaTeX is a reasonable 
assumption, I would not consider the documentation language much of an 
issue, but it certainly doesn't simplify the coding process mechanically.

>--Ed Cashin                   PGP public key:
>   ecashin at terry.uga.edu       http://www.terry.uga.edu/~ecashin/pgp/

Mark B. Wroth
<mark at astrid.upland.ca.us>

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