Curtis "Ovid" Poe > Role-Basic-0.13 > Role::Basic::Philosophy

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NAME ^

Role::Basic::Philosophy - Why Role::Basic exists.

RATIONALE ^

Note: the words "trait" and "role" will be used interchangeably throughout this documentation.

After years of using roles, your author has found that many people would be happy to use roles but are not willing/comfortable with using Moose. This module implements roles and nothing else. It does so in a (relatively) simple bit of code. However, you should be aware that there are some differences between Role::Basic and Moose::Role.

Moose is a fantastic technology and your author is quite happy with it. He urges you to check it out and perhaps even consider Role::Basic a "stepping-stone" to Moose. However, after an informal poll with many respondents replying on blogs.perl.org, Twitter, Facebook and private email unanimously saying they wanted this module for roles and not as a stepping-stone to Moose, your author took the liberty of deciding to implement traits in a rather faithful fashion, rather than strictly adhere to the design of Moose::Role. For areas where we differ, Role::Basic intends to be more restrictive when syntax is the same. This allows an easier migration to Moose::Role when the time is right. Otherwise, Role::Basic will offer a different syntax to avoid confusion.

TRAITS ^

As most of you probably know, roles are the Perl implmentation of traits as described in http://scg.unibe.ch/research/traits/. (The name "role" was chosen because "trait" was already used in Perl 6.) In particular, we direct you to two papers, both of which are easy to read:

It is important to refer back to those papers because Role::Basic attempts to implements traits as described in the research, whereas Moose::Role attempts to implement something very similar to traits, but with more of a "Perlish" feel. This is not intended as a criticism of Moose::Role, but merely an attempt to alert the reader to key differences.

The Basics

Roles are simply bundles of behavior which classes may use. If you have two completely unrelated classes, your code may still require each of them to serialize themselves as JSON even though neither class naturally has anything to do with JSON (for example, Person and Order classes). There are a number of approaches to this problem but if you're here I'll skip the explanation and assume that you already understand roles and would like to know why we don't follow the Moose::Role specification.

As you already probably know, roles allow you to state that your class "DOES" some behaviour, and allows you to exclude or alias bits and pieces of the roles you're including. The original specification of traits made it clear that this was to be done in such a fashion that no matter how you grouped the traits or in which order you used them, the outcome behavior would be the same. That's why we have subtle but forward-compatible differences with Moose::Role.

Commutative

The formal model (http://scg.unibe.ch/archive/papers/Scha02cTraitsModel.pdf) states that trait composition must be commutative (section 3.4, proposition 1). This means that:

    (A + B) = (B + A)

In other words, it should not matter what order you compose the traits in. It is well known that with both inheritance and mixins, this does not hold (making refactoring a dicey proposition at times), but when method modifiers are used with Moose::Role, the same issues arises (from http://blogs.perl.org/users/ovid/2010/12/rolebasic---when-you-only-want-roles.html):

    {
        package Some::Role;
        use Moose::Role;
        requires qw(some_method);

        before some_method => sub {
            my $self = shift;
            $self->some_number( $self->some_number + 2 );
        };
    }
    {
        package Another::Role;
        use Moose::Role;
        requires qw(some_method);

        before some_method => sub {
            my $self = shift;
            $self->some_number( $self->some_number / 2 );
        };
    }
    {
        package Some::Class;
        use Moose;
        my @roles =
          int( rand(2) )
          ? qw(Another::Role Some::Role)
          : qw(Some::Role Another::Role);
        with @roles;

        has some_number => ( is => 'rw', isa => 'Num' );
        sub some_method { print shift->some_number, $/ }
    }
    my $o = Some::Class->new( { some_number => 7 } );
    $o->some_method;

If you run this code, it might print 4.5, but it might print 5.5. As with mixins and multiple inheritance, you have no way of knowing the exact behaviour which will be exhibited short of running the code. No introspection will help. This is not an issue with Role::Basic because we do not allow method modifiers. If you think you need them, please consider Moose.

Associative

The formal model (http://scg.unibe.ch/archive/papers/Scha02cTraitsModel.pdf) states that trait composition must be associative (section 3.4, proposition 1). This means that:

    (A + B) + C = A + (B + C)

Moose is associative if and only if you do not have multiple methods with the same name. In Moose, if a role providing method M consumes one other role which also provides method M, we have a conflict:

    package Some::Role;
    use Moose::Role;
    sub bar { __PACKAGE__ }

    package Some::Other::Role;
    use Moose::Role;
    with 'Some::Role';
    sub bar { __PACKAGE__ }

    package Some::Class;
    use Moose;
    with 'Some::Other::Role';

    package main;
    my $o = Some::Class->new;
    print $o->bar;

However, if the role consumes two or more other roles which provide the same method, we don't have a conflict:

    package Some::Role;
    use Moose::Role;
    sub bar { __PACKAGE__ }

    package Some::Other::Role;
    use Moose::Role;
    sub bar { __PACKAGE__ }

    package Another::Role;
    use Moose::Role;
    with qw(Some::Role Some::Other::Role);
    sub bar { __PACKAGE__ }

    package Some::Class;
    use Moose;
    with 'Another::Role';

    package main;
    my $o = Some::Class->new;
    print $o->bar;

This is because, in Moose, when you have two or more roles consumed, any conflicting methods are excluded and considered to be requirements.

See "Moose::Role composition edge cases" for more explanation: http://search.cpan.org/~drolsky/Moose-1.21/lib/Moose/Spec/Role.pod#Composition_Edge_Cases.

This makes roles easy to use at times, but it means that the following three groups of roles are not guaranteed to provide the same behavior:

 RoleA does RoleB, RoleC
 RoleB does RoleA, RoleC
 RoleC does RoleA, RoleB

Further, you as a developer have no way of knowing that we have had methods silently excluded without reading all of the code.

For Role::Basic there are no edge cases. If RoleA, RoleB, and RoleC all provide method M, you are guaranteed to get a conflict at composition time and must specifically address the problem. This addresses the associative issue because strictly speaking, a trait is merely a bundle of services provided, not its name. Thus, a trait with its foo method excluded is not the same as itself without the foo method excluded.

Benefits of associative and commutative behaviour

While we recognize that not everyone will be happy with the decisions we have made, we have several benefits here:

CONCLUSION ^

The primary goal of Role::Basic is to provide traits in a simple and safe manner. We are huge fans of Moose and Moose::Role and suggest that everyone check them out. The decision of Moose::Role to deviate from the "associative" and "commutative" deviations from the original traits model is, in our experience, less likely to occur with roles than with mixins and inhertance, so please do not take this as an indictment, but rather in the spirit of TIMTOWTDI.

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