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It depends on the situation.

First of all, if I have a regular structure, I can document it with long descriptive variable names. For instance $orders_by_user_by_month is going to be a hash of hashes of arrays. And the keys to use to access it are documented in the name.

Secondly if a structure gets too complex, don't be afraid to hide details behind objects. For instance in the previous example, an order might well be an object with lots of data about the order. So I really had a hash of hashes of arrays of hashes.

Thirdly unless I really need it, I get very scared of positional data. Because it is easy to mix it up. Which means that I either don't use it, or I try to limit the use of it to a small portion of code. For instance in your data structure I dislike the positional information in means and variances.

So in your case I'd suggest something like this:

[ { original => { mean => $original_mean, variance => $original_variance, values => { $id => $value, ... }, }, changed => { mean => $changed_mean, variance => $changed_variance, values => { $id => $value, ... }, }, ... ]
and then (depending on how it is used) I'd hide the details of the original and changed data structures behind an object. After which you could choose to have it calculate the mean and variance on the fly. Also you'd probably come up with some opportunities to clean up the code which produces it.

In reply to Re: How to document complex data structures? by tilly
in thread How to document complex data structures? by w-ber

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