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Re: [ddlm-group] Space as a list item separator

See comments below:

On Fri, Nov 27, 2009 at 3:09 PM, Nick Spadaccini <nick@csse.uwa.edu.au> wrote:
Timely email, come in just after the one I sent.

My position is if we specify the syntax then we encourage its correct use but acknowledge that there may be cases where one might be able to recover intent. But I wouldn’t encourage those cases.

Absolutely, which is why I would like to elevate space-separated list items to be correct syntax rather than 'wrong but intent is clear' syntax.

You could say that token separator in lists are a or b or c, but that just adds a level of complexity for very little gain. The choice of comma makes it seamless to translate from the raw CIF data straight in to most language specific data declaration. The only language I know that accepts one or the other or both is MatLab.

Re ease of translation: you speak as if a viable approach to a CIF data file is to take whole text chunks and throw them at some language interpreter, without doing your own parse.  Quite apart from being a rather unlikely approach, this is impossible, as without parsing you won't know where the list finishes.  If you do do your own parse, you can populate your datastructures directly during the parse, and what list separator was originally used in the data file is completely irrelevant.

Re complexity: not sure how you are planning to deal with whitespace in the formal grammar, but consider the following, where I have assumed that each token 'eats up' the following whitespace.

<dataitem> = <dataname><whitespace>+<datavalue>
<datavalue> = {<list>|<string>}<whitespace>+
<listdatavalue> = {<list>|<string>}<whitespace>*
<list> = '[' <whitespace>* {<listdatavalue> {<comma><whitespace>*<listdatavalue>}*}* ']'

If we make comma or whitespace possible separators, the last production becomes:
<list> = '[' <whitespace>* {<listdatavalue> {<comma or whitespace><listdatavalue>}*}* ']'

This looks like no extra complexity, and from a user's point of view whitespace as an alternative separator is simple to understand and consistent with space as a token separator used everywhere else in CIF.  Anyway, if reduction of grammar complexity is your goal, you can just completely exclude commas as list separators!

Some questions about how commas behave:
1: is a trailing comma e.g. [1,2,3,4,] a syntax error?
2. are two commas in a row a syntax error? E.g. [1,2,3,,4]

Note the above productions assume that the answer to both is yes.

What big advantage to a language is there to specify you can use a comma or whitespace as a token separator? Will you be happy with the first person who interprets this as being ok

  _severalvalues 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 # these being the 7 values of severalvalues

Note sure what you are getting at here: I am proposing the following:

_nicelist      [1 2 3 4 5 6 7]

being the same as

_nicelist      [1,2,3,4,5,6,7]

 Don't see how this relates to loops.


On 27/11/09 11:41 AM, "James Hester" <jamesrhester@gmail.com> wrote:

Dear All: looking over the list I posted previously of items left to resolve, I see only one serious one outstanding: whether or not to allow space as a separator between list items.  Nick has stated:

" I will propose it has to be a comma, but make the coercion rule that space
separated values in a list-type object be coerced into comma separated
values. That is, read spaces as you want, but don't encourage them."

I would like to counter-propose, as Joe did originally, that whitespace be elevated to equal status with comma as a valid list separator.  I see no downside to this.  Would anyone else like to speak to this issue before we vote?  In particular, I would be interested to hear why Nick doesn't want to encourage spaces.



Associate Professor N. Spadaccini, PhD
School of Computer Science & Software Engineering

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