[Twisted-Python] Proposal (almost) to switch from Lore to Sphinx

Glyph Lefkowitz glyph at twistedmatrix.com
Tue Nov 17 03:13:17 EST 2009

On Nov 16, 2009, at 5:37 PM, Kevin Horn wrote:

> On Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 3:11 PM, <exarkun at twistedmatrix.com> wrote:
> On 06:09 pm, kevin.horn at gmail.com wrote:
> >>
> >er, sorry, forgot to post the link...
> >
> >here it is:
> >http://twistedsphinx.funsize.net/
> Thanks.  It's good to be able to see (at least an early draft of) what
> the outcome of this proposal will be.
> I'm glad the reactions have been good so far, but I want to be a wet
> blanket for a moment and suggest that we try to avoid being influenced
> excessively by the "new look" effect.  
> Wet blanket away!  Every project needs a good "devil's advocate".

Well!  If it's time for criticism I've got some ;-).

I'd really like to see the stylesheets on this site adjusted to look as much as possible like the current Twisted style.  Use the verbatim stylesheets from twistedmatrix.com as much as possible.  I realize you'll have to have some custom elements, but it should be possible to at least avoid creating any new images and to stitch together the existing styles rather than make new ones wholesale.

If we ever have the resources to do a site redesign again (and I hope we do, it would be nice to get a fresh look every few years) I want to be able to re-style the _entire_ site.

We could do this with the Lore documentation too, but if we're going to make the investment I'd rather it be on something easier to maintain, as your conversion project promises to be.  I also suspect that it would be a lot easier to style the output from sphinx, as it is explicitly designed to be themable, and has actually been modified to have multiple, radically different stylesheets already.  Actually integrating this with the L&F of the rest of the Twisted site would go a long way towards demonstrating Sphinx's superiority in this area :).

On the "things to do" side, while the mere presence of this page is itself unintentionally hilarious - <http://twistedsphinx.funsize.net/projects/lore/howto/lore.html> - and it will likely be removed from the final output, it does contain a good enumeration of all the things that need to be converted in one place.  I suspect that if you made all those UNHANDLED_TAG output warts go away, we'd be most of the way towards converting all of the documentation.

> It would be easy to give the
> existing documentation a face lift without switching systems entirely -
> it's just a matter of editing the template and/or the css.  What are the
> other benefits of the Sphinx output, in particular, the ones which it
> would be difficult to achieve with Lore?
> Well, IMO, the absolute #1 benefit of using Sphinx over Lore is simply not having to maintain Lore, which has nothing at all to do with the actual output.

I agree.

> The next "tier" of advantages (again IMO) also have nothing to do with the output, those advantages being:
> - a more approachable document format (in the sense that I think there are probably more people familiar with the Sphinx dialect of RestructuredText than are familiar with Lore's subset of XHTML...and the number of Sphinx users is growing)

Actually, I think that this particular often-touted advantage is a wash.  The "approachableness" of ReST is questionable, especially once you get into the weird corner cases where the syntax just completely falls apart and turns into an incomprehensible line-noise jumble.  I mean, the syntax for tables reads like a joke about how trying to make the plain-text input look like the output is a bad idea: <http://docutils.sourceforge.net/docs/ref/rst/restructuredtext.html#tables>.  Consider trying to re-flow the contents of a table cell after adding text to it, for example.  Plus, a _lot_ of people know HTML -- still many more than know ReST, I would argue -- and lore adds relatively little to HTML.

However, the motivation for choosing HTML was that "any day now" there would be a good, commonly used, GUI editor for HTML documents and we could easily annotate the output of one of those with the extra metadata that lore wanted.  That hasn't happened.  What *has* happened is that despite the difficulty involved in parsing and emitting ReST as compared to something fairly regular like HTML or XML, tools like these have been emerging:


which let users edit ReST documents in a sort-of-wsyiwyg way, so you get immediate feedback when you put a "|" or a "`" in some obscure spot that makes your entire document disappear, rather than trying to hunt it down after an hour of writing.  Plus, docutils provides a document model for ReST so you can transform it programmatically and ignore its syntactic peculiarities.

Which all comes down to the fact that I'm mainly just restating this point as the primary advantage:

> - a much larger user base, and clear extension API, which allows us to take advantage of existing extensions, etc.

The active user community means that not only is somebody else mantaining the basics, lots of other people are working on *tools* that we can use for more intense usage.  I am personally looking forward to using some of those GUI tools for actually editing the documentation; it's a much more streamlined workflow than running the 'lore' commandline and reloading in a browser.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://twistedmatrix.com/pipermail/twisted-python/attachments/20091117/c3f6a947/attachment.htm 

More information about the Twisted-Python mailing list