I have certainly have thought that developing a library along these lines
is a good idea for many years!


On Sun, Mar 6, 2022 at 9:47 AM Alexis King <lexi.lam...@gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello,
> As a user of the Racket contract system, I sometimes find myself thinking
> about the potential utility of “coercing” or “canonicalizing” contracts. In
> Racket programs, we often idiomatically allow values to be provided to a
> function in a non-canonical form for the sake of convenience. One example
> is the commonly-used path-string? contract, which is morally equivalent
> to using path? but allows the caller to omit an explicit use of
> string->path. Another example is the commonly-used failure-result/c
> contract, which allows the caller to omit wrapping non-procedures in a
> thunk.
> While this idiom does make life easier for one party to the contract, it
> ultimately just transfers the burden of canonicalizing the value to the
> other party. This is unfortunate, because it results in a duplication of
> both logic and work:
>    -
>    Code to canonicalize the value must be written separately and kept in
>    sync with the contract, which is error-prone.
>    -
>    The value ends up being inspected twice: once to determine if it
>    satisfies the contract, and a second time to convert it to canonical form.
> (In the nomenclature of a popular blog post I wrote a few years ago, these
> contracts are validating, not parsing
> <https://lexi-lambda.github.io/blog/2019/11/05/parse-don-t-validate/>.)
> In theory, it is perfectly possible to implement a canonicalizing contract
> using the current contract system. However, such a contract has several
> practical downsides:
>    -
>    It is necessarily an impersonator contract, not a chaperone contract.
>    This prevents its use in places that demand a chaperone contract, such as
>    the *key* argument to hash/c.
>    -
>    It moves actual logic into the contract itself, which means using the
>    uncontracted value directly is less convenient. This encourages placing the
>    contract boundary close to the value’s definition to create a very small
>    contracted region (e.g. via define/contract), even though blame is
>    generally more useful when the contract boundary corresponds to a boundary
>    between higher-level components (e.g. via contract-out).
>    -
>    There is no way to write such contracts using the combinators provided
>    by racket/contract, so they must be implemented via the lower level
>    make-contract/build-contract-property API. This can be subtle to use
>    correctly, and it makes it unlikely that contract violations made by the
>    contract itself will be blamed properly according to the “indy” blame
>    semantics used by ->i.
> All this is to say that the current contract system clearly discourages
> this use of contracts, which suggests this would be considered an abuse of
> the contract system. Nevertheless, the coupling between validating values
> and converting them to a normal form is so enormously tight that allowing
> them to be specified together remains incredibly compelling. I therefore
> have two questions:
>    1.
>    Has this notion of “canonicalizing” contracts been discussed before,
>    whether in informal discussions or in literature?
>    2.
>    Is there any existing work that explores what adding such contracts to
>    a Racket-style, higher-order contract system in a principled fashion might
>    look like?
> Thanks in advance,
> Alexis

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