Planet vs. the new package system

:: Racket

Recently I’ve shared some new libraries using the new package manager, but not uploaded them to Planet.

What about my existing Planet libraries? Yesterday Danny Yoo pointed out a bug in the Dynamo module of my Amazon AWS library on Planet.

The bug wasn’t present in my GitHub repo—I’d neglected to go through the steps of making a new version and uploading to Planet.

By contrast, with the new package manger, it would have been automatically up-to-date.

So I did two things:

  1. Updated the aws and http packages on Planet to fix that bug.

  2. Decided to use the new package manager instead, going forward.

I suppose I’ll update a Planet library if there’s some really ugly bug. But when adding functionality to existing libraries, or for new ones, I plan to use only the package manager. I’m not enthusiastic about juggling both.

The new package manager

I really like the new package manager, because overall it’s a “lighter” and faster experience. I like the way it delegates to other systems such as GitHub (or whatever you prefer).

My only two quibbles aren’t very serious:

  1. Making subdirs. A “package” is “one or more collections”. The “or more” part means you need to move the collection into a subdir. So most of what you had in project gets moved into a new subdir, project/project. (What’s left up top is basically just the, your .gitignore, and an info.rkt for the package manager.) Although this is a small nuisance (and so is doing stuff like cd ../../foo/foo at the command line) it’s not that big a deal in my opinion.

  2. One thing I like about Planet it that it hosts the Scribble documentation for a library, if any. Reading the doc for a lib—or indeed seeing if it has any doc at all—helps me decide how much to rely on a lib. The new package manager doesn’t host docs like Planet, because it doesn’t host files—it points to something like GitHub which has the files. However, you can do

scribble --markdown manual.scrbl

in the latest version of Racket to generate a Markdown format file. GitHub will display that file nicely. There’s your hosted doc. With some caveats: It’s one file, which may be unwieldy for huge libraries. You don’t get the extensive hyperlinking you get in Scribble HTML output. Even so, it conveniently addresses the question, how to host documentation.1

Going forward

The status quo situation with Planet and the new package manager is fine. Technically the package manager is still in beta.

At some point, the existence of both will probably become a liability. Eventually it would be more beneficial to have a simple, clear message for folks who want to contribute as well as use libraries.

  1. Of course you could also generate the usual HTML files and host them using GitHub Pages for your project. Personally, I find it awward to juggle the special gh-pages branch. But it might be worth it for some projects.