[Medium] Never forget to check your references, or Campbell’s soup

Published at Medium.com: Never forget to check your references, or Campbell’s soup


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It looks like you are researching razors. I think you are about to go off on a yak-shaving endeavor, and I cannot let you do that, Dave.

What I would really like my DWIM
agent to do. That, and to stop calling me Dave.

Being lazy and impatient, I like an idea of an IDE. The ease of things like autocompletion, refactoring, code search, and graphical debugging with evaluation are, for the lack of a better word, are good.

I like Eclipse in particular — force of habit/finger memory; after all, neurons that pray together stay together. Just like all happy families are alike, all emacs users remember the key sequence to GTFO vi (:q!) and all vi users remember the same thing for emacs (C-x C-c n) – so they can get into their favorite editor and not have to “remember”.

So, recently I thought that it would be good for a a particular DSL I am using to have an auto-completion feature (because why should I remember ). So I thought, great, I’ll maybe write an Eclipse plugin for that… Because, hey, I’ve made one before, how bad could it be?

Well, obviously I would only be solving the problem for Eclipse users of the DSL in question. And I have a suspicion I am pretty much the only one in that group. Moreover, even I would like to use some other text editor occasionally, and get the same benefit.

It seems obvious that it should be a separation of concerns, so to speak:

  • Provider-side: A language/platform may expose a service for context-based auto-completion, and
  • Consumer-side: An editor or shell may have a plugin system exposed to take advantage of this.

Then a little gluing is all that is required. (OK, I don’t like the “provider/consumer” terminology, but I cannot come up with anything better — I almost named them “supply-side” and “demand-side” but it evokes too much association with AdTech that it’s even worse).

And indeed, there are already examples of this.

There is a focus on an IDE paradigm of using external programs for building, code completion, and any others sorts of language semantic functionality. Most of MelnormeEclipse infrastructure is UI infrastructure, the core of a concrete IDE’s engine functionality is usually driven by language-specific external programs. (This is not a requirement though — using internal tools is easily supported as well).

  • Atom defines its own API

And so I thought – wouldn’t it be good to standardize on some sort of interaction between the two in a more generic way?

And just as I thought this, I learned that the effort already exists: Language-server protocol by Microsoft.

I actually like it when an idea is validated and someone else is doing the hard work of making an OSS project out of it…