Swift Packages and the need for metadata

Right now, a Swift Package defines the sources and dependencies for successful compilation. The PackageDescription specifies items like the supported Swift version, linker settings, and so forth.

What it does not do is offer metadata. You won’t find email for the active project manager, a list of major authors, descriptive tags, an abstract or discussion of the package, a link to documentation, deprecation information or links to superceding packages upon deprecation.

For me, tags are especially important as they can drive discoverability on aggregators such as SwiftPackageIndex.com or SwiftPackageRegistry.com, among others, as they do in the various App Stores. However, all the other information I’ve mentioned can be equally valuable. The question is how this information should be stored and travel.

Extending SwiftPM’s PackageDescription is the most obvious way but the one with the greatest hurdles. Extending a specification means review, bikeshedding, and approval but is one that would produce the most rigorous and widely-applicable outcome:

let package = Package(
    name: "now",
    platforms: [
      .macOS(.v10_12)
    ],
    metadata: [
      .tags(["dates", "calendar", "scheduling", "time", "appointments"]),
      .maintainer("erica@ericasadun.com"),
    ],
...

Freeform tags are, as Mattt of three t’s pointed out to me, a folksonomy: a user-specified list that can be organized or freeform, sensible or not. Anyone familiar with the App Store will recall how its tags have both benefited developers and how its tags can be abused to drive traffic.

Of course, updating the PackageDefinition spec is not the only approach. The same information could be packaged into a second file cohosted with Package.swift. Perhaps it could be called Package.metadata (if stored as JSON, for example) or PackageMetadata.swift (if the information is SwiftPM-like with its own Metadata type and supporting package to better support automated validation and consumption).

Plain JSON has many advantages. It requires no secondary code development as PackageMetadata.swift would. It has an obvious place to live and can be just as easily omitted. The standard for contents could be community-sourced and Decodable developed specifically for it, plus the JSON could be validated according to that standard.

I am least enthused by PackageMetadata.swift with its high overhead and mimicking of Package.swift but it would certainly fit with the design and approach and lower the overhead for consumption.

What do you think? How would you design metadata delivery for Swift packages? The one file to rule them all expansion of SwiftPM itself, the simplicity of Metadata.json, or something else? Let me know.

2 Comments

  • Hi Erica

    Really that will be helpful, you can create ask for this feature here.

    https://github.com/apple/swift-package-manager

    I can suggest a simple solution. Put it on Info.plist of xcframework. Apple will not complaint about any additional stuff in Info.plist.

    Thanks
    Krish

  • Please not JSON.

    JSON is a great format for data interchange, but it’s not great for configuration files, or anything that has to be read or written by a human. For a start, there’s no ability to write comments in it.

    I think we should stick with a consistent set of syntax conventions. That means using Swift.

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