Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Republic of Perl

A while ago I read everything I could find about Perl 6. After all, they have a lot of experience in large-scale software development.

But, oh the humanity, is this language weird. Just as one example, there's an operator, <=== IIRC, that lets you build something like pipelines of function calls.

Like the previous versions of Perl, stuff like this leads to a language where no one, not even the "designer", can tell exactly what a given expression will actually do, without evaluating it. And that's arguably even worse than a bolted-on object system.

To quote from Apocalypse Now!,
"They told me that you had gone totally insane and
that your methods were unsound."

"Are my methods unsound?"

"I don't see any method at all, sir."
But maybe there's a method behind the madness... If you load your language with all sorts of weird, crazy features that other languages don't have, you're increasing the potential that the language will develop a cult of equally crazy followers.

People will be so brain-damaged by your "innovations", that they will come to depend on them, learn their ways around their uncountable sharp edges, and miss them in other languages. Your language has become a world unto itself, a republic.

Furthermore, I can see how such features create a sense of community. After all, once you've invested significant brainpower in memorizing irrelevant crap, you're exhausted and like to hang around with other people who've shot their feet off, and chat and joke, and proudly call your language a Swiss army chainsaw.

Take Scheme as an anti-example. Scheme was, until R5RS, designed by unanimous vote. Thus Scheme has only generally-approved features, but lacks character. Maybe, that's why the "Scheme community" is often put into scare quotes.

So, if you'd like a cult following for your language, maybe you should go Perl's way of adding whatever crazy idea lurks in the dark recesses of your language-designer's reptile brain.

The horror, the horror.

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