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[REBOL] Re: Why do 'append and 'repend return 'head series?

From: joel:neely:fedex at: 10-Aug-2002 9:09

Hi, Andrew, Andrew Martin wrote:
> Why do 'append and 'repend return the head of the series? >
> Would it be better for 'append and 'repend to return the 'series, > instead of the 'head of the 'series? >
... I have a conjecture on that, but let me define my terms first, for the sake of economy. (Forgive me in advance if I over-explain...) Functional languages encourage one to think in terms of the value an expression yields upon evaluation. Imperative languages encourage one to think in terms of changes to the state of the system (computer, data, I/O, etc.) that result from executing commands. REBOL does both. I have concluded that I must think of *both* the value of an expression and its "effect" to understand it fully. (I say "effect" instead of "side effect" because the latter term is used by functionally-minded cultures in a pejorative sense.) With those background ideas... The effect of APPEND, REPEND, INSERT, etc. is to mutate the sequence of values underlying a SERIES! argument. We can use these functions (as with many aspects of REBOL) in a very imperative-like style. However, REBOL presents itself as an Expression-Based language, which encourages us to use the value resulting from an evaluation in a larger expression. This means (for example) that I can "chain" a group of evaluations together as in append append append "fee" ", fie" ", foe" ", fum" where the result of the rightmost APPEND is suitable as an argument to the pending one to its left, and so on. In fact, for this kind of use, APPEND could have returned a series referencing *any* position within the sequence, as the pending APPEND still goes to the end. OTOH, if I wish to chain INSERT expressions, as in insert insert insert next find "ducks:" "Huey" "Dewey" "Louie" it is important for the rightmost INSERT to return a series that is positioned immediately past the newly-inserted value, so that successive INSERTions deposit values in the same order that we can see from the original expression. In short, the value (independently of the effect) appears to be chosen with a view to suitability for what might be useful within a larger expression. One might imagine that a natural thing to do following an APPEND would be to do another, or to check the length of the accumulating collection, in which case the total sequence is relevant. Just a guess.
> After all, if one has set the position in a series explicitly, > why should a function return the series at a different position? >
Let's distinguish between "value" and "effect" again. In the case of: foo: somepositionwithin someseries append foo bletch or (more expressionally): append foo: somepositionwithin someseries bletch the effect is what we would expect and the value is irrelevant. Our expression makes it clear that FOO still refers to the same position after the APPEND has done its work. If OTOH we had written foo: somepositionwithin someseries foo: append foo bletch or (more expressionally): foo: append somepositionwithin someseries bletch then our expression makes it clear that we want FOO to be set based on the *value* of APPEND *after* the *effect* of APPEND has been accomplished. So, REBOL lets us have our cake and eat it too (but we have to choose on a bite-by-bite basis! ;-) Just my $0.02 worth of conjecture... -jn- -- ; Joel Neely joeldotneelyatfedexdotcom REBOL [] do [ do func [s] [ foreach [a b] s [prin b] ] sort/skip do function [s] [t] [ t: "" foreach [a b] s [repend t [b a]] t ] { | e s m!zauafBpcvekexEohthjJakwLrngohOqrlryRnsctdtiub} 2 ]