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Re^2: A Melancholy Monkday

by BrowserUk (Pope)
on Jan 19, 2014 at 15:32 UTC ( #1071184=note: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??


in reply to Re: A Melancholy Monkday
in thread A Melancholy Monkday

The fact that say reverse 'foo' doesn't reverse the string (even though reverse is the recommended way to reverse a string) is just wrong.

IMO the fact that you consider context to be a flaw rather than a strength is indicative of the reason why Perl5 has seen a decline in absolute popularity(*) over the past 10 years.

Instead of celebrating Perl's unique characteristics; explaining their utility and exploring their merits; highlighting and contrasting the effective productivity that results from having a language and language constructs that favour the concise and simple construction of algorithms for the common cases over the theoretical niceties of full orthogonality; the Perl community has become apologist for not being like every other language -- verbose, laborious and painstaking in putting the desires of the grammar theorists over and above the requirements for code development and the needs of the developers.

The pedants and purists have done far more damage to the prospects of Perl, than all of the discontinuities they perceive, put together.

If language is defined as a means of capturing and communicating complex ideas; then there is simply no need for a language -- computer or otherwise -- to comply with, nor be constrained by, any grammatically perfect set of definitions or rules.

Take any natural language. They all have their anomalies and discontinuities. They have homographs, and homophones, and heteronyms, and heterographs, and synonyms, and polysemes. They have ambiguities and contextualities and disorthoganalities. They are flexible and fluid and living, evolving entities. Indeed, it is the anomalies of natural languages that we human beings most delight in and celebrate.

When was the last time you saw one of those verbose and tortuous amalgamations, of boiler-plate phrases with prescribed meanings, studiously devoid of proscribed constructs, so beloved of the law-making and law-enforcing professions; win awards or plaudits for its construction?

In fact, it is exactly the opposite of those that we celebrate. Poetry and prose in all its diverse forms would be almost non-existent if it all had to comply with some set -- whichever set, assuming you could get agreement on a single set -- of formally defined rules of grammar.

What I see over the last 10 years is that instead of explaining, justifying, and indeed, celebrating that we use a language that favours capturing the semantic needs of the common case, with concise and efficient syntax; we've become collectively apologetic for the disorthoganalities that arise from the pragmatic favouring of utility and practicality, over academic nicety and theoretical purity.

Perl5 has its great strengths -- born of its unique qualities not despite them. And the way to reinvigorate Perl as a language and development environment is to embrace those strengths not deny them. To explain, teach and laud those unique qualities; and to build upon them whilst staying true to the original design philosophy of the language.

(*Absolute versus relative).

As the number of programmers grows -- especially through the creation of entirely new markets for software; eg. mobile/tablet/SmartTV/SmartDash apps -- the relative proportion of Perl programmers has fallen due to there being no viable Perl presence -- nor possibility for it -- in those market places. That's further weakened by the near absence of Perl in the cloud market place; mostly due to Google preferring Python to Perl.

I perceive that there is also a fall-off in the absolute number of Perl programmers. In part this is due to there having been some proportion of people using Perl that came to it because it was the in-thing at the time. They've since migrated away to RoR or PHP; then Objective-C or Java; and will shortly be looking to GO or Dart or whatever else they think will make up for their inabilities as programmers.

In part it is because Perl(5) reached a point where it was due for an upgrade; but despite the coming and going of many Christmases, that upgrade has never arrived. The result is that Perl5 first stagnated; then started a phase of trying to evolve through a) prosthetics: the rapid adoption of ill-designed and badly integrated stick-ons; and b) comb-overs, wigs and plastic surgery: cosmetic makeovers designed to flatter and conceal rather than modify the underlying nature of the beast.

Like sticking a side-car on a motor bike and calling it a car; or wrapping over a 40 year-old veedub chassis in a plastic facsimile of a GT40 and calling it a race car; both forms of 'evolution' are transparent failures.


With the rise and rise of 'Social' network sites: 'Computers are making people easier to use everyday'
Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
"Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.


Comment on Re^2: A Melancholy Monkday
Re^3: A Melancholy Monkday
by moritz (Cardinal) on Jan 19, 2014 at 19:03 UTC
    IMO the fact that you consider context to be a flaw rather than a strength is indicative of the reason why Perl5 has seen a decline in absolute popularity(*) over the past 10 years.

    I do not think that context is a flaw in Perl 5. I believe that reverse's context dependence in particular a flaw.

    Perl's usual approach is to have different operators for different functionalities. + for numeric additions, . for concatenating strings. lt for string comparisons, < for numeric comparison. But reverse for list reversal and reverse for string reversal clearly breaks that pattern. Instead of coming up with a different name for one of the operations, it abuses context, even though it's perfectly reasonably to want to reverse a string and use it in list context.

    Context is well and good, as long as we stick to the principles. reverse doesn't, and that surprises newbies regularly and seasoned perl programmers occasionally.

    The same could be said the x operator (which does different operations based on the argument syntax, not based on name or context) or the bitwise operators.

      ... it abuses context ...

      It uses, not abuses it.

      ... even though it's perfectly reasonably to want to reverse a string and use it in list context.

      Perfectly reasonable; and perfectly doable, and perfectly simple:

      print scalar reverse 'this and that';; taht dna siht

      It is also perfectly reasonable (and simple) to want to reverse a list;

      print reverse 'this', 'and', 'that';; that and this

      (I know you know that but ... see below.)

      In both cases, 'reverse' is the proper description of the process, so which operation would you invent some other term for? And what would that term be? (And why would you do that when it isn't necessary?)

      The problem here is simply one of education. Once you understand the concept of context, it becomes obvious and trivial. Maybe you, like me, made that mistake once or twice when you started Perl; but now it doesn't even cause me pause for thought. Why do you think that others won't 'get it' just as quickly?

      Ditto for the other things you cite. It's just a matter of education.

      For me, the rot set in with the publication of PBP. Behavioural modification through proscription has always been a slippery slope to a hiding to nothing. It is not that (some of) the justifictions for the guidelines weren't good reasons for paying close attention to the constructs proscribed. Just totally naiveté that the guidelines would not be seen as rules by some; and be used as rod with which to beat Perl by those an ax to grind or lacking the wit to understand the whys and benefits. It was all so predictable. (And predicted!)

      We could argue forever about whether backtofront() or maybe juxtapose() or some other word could have been chosen for one of (which?) those two reverse operations; but that is to try to rewrite history. Too little; too late. (And IMO, completely unjustifiable.)

      Besides, Perl6 that you promote, works hard (via both class-based namespaces and multi-methods) to permit the re-use of operation names (methods) explicitly to avoid the old-style need to invent unique names for similar operations being applied to different datatypes.

      I'm not sure exactly when reverse made it into the language, but it has been there for a very long time, and far too long to consider 'correcting it' now. Doing so now would not spark a revival in Perl(5)s fortunes, so it is a pointless discussion.

      What might help would be a good exploration and discussion on the benefits of context. Along with same of the many other widely misunderstood unique elements of Perl. Open discussion, examination and education of the merits and strengths that come from multi-paradigm programming languages rather than trying to hide those differences under a thin veneer of appeasing uniformity.

      For example. Perl's threading -- and in particular, its only-explicitly-shared data methodology -- has come, and continues to come under widespread misunderstanding and fire from those unfamiliar with iThreads (or perhaps, over-familiar with the implcitly shared everything of raw kernel threads in other languages).

      Their unfamiliarity leads to statements/questions like this from a recent threads thread here (and worse):

      I understand that Perl wants to emulate the threads as heavy processes.... I wonder what were the initial motivations to introduce a such exotic thread model at the first place.

      Widely misunderstood and characterised as "bad", the explicitly-shared-only memory model is gaining [con(sic)]currency. If you can bear it, read Concurrency in the D Programming Language; Chapter 13. In particular, 13.3 Look, Ma, No (Default) Sharing.

      If you want to revive Perl(5)'s fortunes we should be celebrating its unique features; explaining dis-orthogonality; and shouting about the benefits that accrue from them. Not hiding them away like we were ashamed of them.

      (Sorry for the rant. I know you are one of the good guys. I just happen to really like Perl. The real, whole, unadulterated Perl that is; not some watered down, easy to digest, apologetic subset of it.)


      With the rise and rise of 'Social' network sites: 'Computers are making people easier to use everyday'
      Examine what is said, not who speaks -- Silence betokens consent -- Love the truth but pardon error.
      "Science is about questioning the status quo. Questioning authority".
      In the absence of evidence, opinion is indistinguishable from prejudice.
      I do not think that context is a flaw in Perl 5. I believe that reverse's context dependence in particular a flaw.
      The flaw is not, in my humble opinion, that it depends on context but that does both depend on its own context and suggest by its name that it reverses either a string or a list, whatever is passed. Another weird context thing is:
      scalar qw(this is a list); # returns 'list', but: scalar map { $_ } qw(this is a list); # returns 4 # map construct an anonymous array kind of thing # and an array returns the number of the contained items # in scalar context. But user-defined subroutines again: sub func { qw(this is a), shift } scalar func("foo"); # returns "foo" out of the list returned # by func subroutine
      The flaw is that the degree of context vs. valence dependence is rather arbitrary comparing different list operators and subroutines. It is like in German and some other indoeuropean languages, learners must memorize which word is of which gender.

        It is like in German and some other indoeuropean languages, learners must memorize which word is of which gender.

        Um, as someone who speeks some of those languages -- its nothing like that ; gender doesn't change a verb to a noun (and vice versa), or subject to object(sentence structure ), or emmentaler to fahrvergnügen

        The same is true in perl, if you don't grasp the basics, its all greek to you, even german

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