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Re: [ddlm-group] Technical issues with Proposal P. .

On Thursday, February 24, 2011 7:51 AM, Herbert J. Bernstein wrote:

>   The Python cooked strings are something many people are familiar with.

That is indisputable, but not directly relevant.  What matters in there is how familiar CIF stakeholders are with Python cooked strings.  I daresay that developers as a group are far more familiar with it than general users, but I have no basis for judging what proportion of either subgroup has any familiarity whatever.  However, over the past decade or so I have discovered that personally, I tend to *over*estimate crystallographers' technical proficiency.  Certainly it is not on average what it once was.

> Any use of the treble quote is something new to CIF, with implications for both users and developers.


>  Use of the straight python versions should reduce the learning curve for both communities and the costs of data conversion for CIF 1.1 data to CIF2.

I see little basis for that evaluation.  Use of the straight Python version would reduce the learning curve for those developers and users who are already proficient (not merely familiar) with Python, but it would increase the curve for everyone else.  As long as we're pulling estimates out of the air, I say that on average, proposal P will increase the learning curve significantly.

Proposal P does not change the difficulty of data conversion in the general sense.  ALL existing well-formed CIF 1.1 delimited data values can be converted to CIF 2.0 by expressing them in semicolon-delimited form.  Existing multi-line values must already be in that form, and require no changes.  To the extent that it is desired specifically to convert CIF 1.1 values to triple-quoted CIF 2.0 form, proposal P will require more changes to lexical values than any other proposal on the table.  It is thus extremely generous even to attribute to it parity with the other alternatives in this regard.

>  I don't deny that there can be better ways to do the same thing.  This reminds me of when IBM came up with a better keyboard for computers, shifting a few keys.  It drove everybody nuts, not because there was anything wrong with it, it just was sufficiently different to slow down typing in creased the error rate.  Somebody totally new to typing on a computer keyboard had not problem, but it certainly was not worth the costs involved for people who had established habits.

I accept that adopting Python triple-quote syntax wholesale would be of some benefit to some stakeholders.  It would be an obstacle to many others, however, and a substantial one to developers in particular.  It is and always has been a judgment call, and my judgment remains that the benefits of proposal P would not come close to balancing its costs.

John C. Bollinger, Ph.D.
Department of Structural Biology
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

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